Saturday, 25 February 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “UrbanSitter Helps You Find and Book Babysitters Online”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “UrbanSitter Helps You Find and Book Babysitters Online”

UrbanSitter Helps You Find and Book Babysitters Online

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 07:01 PM PST

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: UrbanSitter

Quick Pitch: Find a babysitter through your friends and others’ recommendations.

Genius Idea: As any parent well knows, locking down a babysitter isn’t easy. Finding a babysitter in the first place is difficult, frequently leaving parents to trust their kids with strangers that were referred by friends, or friends of friends. And that babysitter won’t always be available, leaving parents to go through the discovery process all over again.

UrbanSitter is designed to make it easy for parents to find and schedule babysitters without picking up the phone, just as OpenTable makes it possible for diners to discover and reserve tables at restaurants, or StyleSeat enables people to locate and book beauty professionals. Parents can browse for sitters by location, availability, price range, experience, education and more. Using Facebook, parents can also locate sitters that their friends have used and recommended, or sitters that have watched children who attend the same school as their kids. Parents can request interviews with sitters ahead of time as well.

For babysitters, UrbanSitter is a way to better advertise their services, as well as organize their schedules and recommendations. Signing up is a simple process: Sitters can log in through Facebook, select the neighborhoods they’re willing to babysit in, and set their availability and hourly rate for one to four children. They’ll also have the ability to display the extent of their with each age group, and children with special needs. They can request reviews from parents they’ve worked for in the past to build up their credibility as well.

UrbanSitter raised $1.75 million in seed funding led by First Round Capital in January. The startup, which is based in San Francisco, has since expanded to New York, Chicago, San Diego, Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Seattle, Boulder, Lake Tahoe, Denver and St. Louis.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

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

Image courtesy of Flickr, oksidor

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

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Google to Test Driverless Cars on Nevada Roadways

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 06:28 PM PST

The roads in Nevada are ready for driverless robot cars. Earlier this month, Nevada’s Legislative Commission approved testing of autonomous vehicles on the state’s roadways. The cars will be identifiable by a red license plate.

In fact, any company can test its driverless system in Nevada; Google just happened to be the first to jump on the opportunity. Google’s system can be installed on any make of vehicle. The company has been working on their driverless car system for a while and received a patent late last year.

“Self-driving cars have the potential to significantly increase driving safety,” a Google spokesperson told Mashable. “We applaud Nevada for building a thoughtful framework to enable safe, ongoing testing of the technology and to anticipate the needs and best interests of Nevada citizens who may own vehicles with self-driving capabilities one day.”

Even though the cars are driverless, they cannot be tested without two operators inside. Once the vehicles are shown to be safely operated with just one driver, the cars will receive green license plates.

Tom Jacobs, chief public information officer at the Nevada DMV, said this driverless system is “like cruise control on steroids.” Jacobs said he did a radio interview recently in which he was asked if other drivers will ever feel the need to flip-off these cars. His response: no need.

“It had no bad habits,” he said of the system.

Jacobs said he rode in one of the driverless cars. When the road is not mapped ahead, the car may give control to the driver after a female voice says, “please drive.” If the driver does not take control, the car simply pulls over. There is also a display in front of the passenger seat that shows exactly what the car is seeing outside. This feature is for testing purposes only. Jacobs said the ride was so smooth, he couldn’t tell when the driver or car was operating the vehicle besides hearing the automated female voice.

“There will never be any crashes,” Jacobs said.

SEE ALSO: Tackling Self-Driving Cars' Biggest Questions [VIDEO]

In the future, it’s possible automakers will offer this system already installed in vehicles. Drivers without the system built-in may be able to have their cars retrofitted. Jacobs envisioned a world where one day you can press a button on your cell phone, have a car pull up to your house, put your dog in it and send it to the veterinarian.

Jacobs said Google is also testing its driverless cars “quasi-legally” in California, since there is no written rule specifically allowing or forbidding driverless cars. However, Jacobs clearly has a stake in ensuring Nevada is a hub of testing this budding technology.

Regarding the California testing, Google says, “We have received several opinions from outside counsels who are experts in transportation law. All indicated that the testing in California is 100% legal as the safety driver is in control of the car at all times and is responsible for the operation of the vehicle. The testing involves having two people in the car at all times.”

“Nevada is the first state to embrace what is surely the future of automobiles,” Department of Motor Vehicles Director Bruce Breslow said in a statement posted on the state’s DMV website on Feb. 15. “These regulations establish requirements companies must meet to test their vehicles on Nevada's public roadways as well as requirements for residents to legally operate them in the future.”

There are several other states that have pending legislation that would allow driverless cars on public roadways.

Would a driverless car make your life easier? How much would you pay for one? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Mlenny

More About: cars, driverless, Google, robotics

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Can Social Media Turbocharge NASCAR on TV?

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 06:14 PM PST

When most people think of tech-savvy social media users, they probably don’t picture fans of NASCAR. At this weekend’s Daytona 500, though, social media will play a central role in television coverage of the event.

Speed TV, which carries much of the Daytona 500 coverage and will broadcast Saturday’s final practice round, has imported its Social Garage to a live sporting event for the first time. The Social Garage began last year at as a digital dashboard on the network’s website to facilitate fan conversation with one another and broadcasters across Facebook and Twitter during coverage of an auto action. But for Daytona, the operation is taking physical form.

It functions as an on-site social and communications headquarters of sorts at the race, said Laura Gainor of GMR Marketing, which helps with Speed’s social strategy. Inside the space, Speed’s social media team provides live updates, works on behind-the-scenes features and guides the online fan conversation. Any time a fan tweets with the hashtag #Daytona500, the message is streamed through the Social Garage, where producers and on-air talent at Daytona respond to questions and comments and converse with fans. And as top auto racing analyst Rutledge Wood interviews drivers at Daytona, he can see a feed of fan questions he can then ask on-air with an accompanying graphic to credit the Twitter sender.

SEE ALSO: Pinsanity: How Sports Teams Are Winning on Pinterest

“This is by far our strongest effort and the biggest dedication of resources by the network of integrating social media into what our producers and reporters are doing to provide our audience with a high level of interaction,” Erik Arneson, Speed’s vice president of media relations, said in an interview.

When the network debuted the physical manifestation of its previously-virtual Social Garage at another car auction last month, viewer reaction and conversation was so positive that implementing it at Daytona wasn’t a tough decision, Arneson said.

NASCAR as a sport has had a rocky last few years on TV. Ratings increased last year by almost 5% for all coverage, but that followed three consecutive years of decline.

But Arneson said Speed didn’t see the same hits as other channels who broadcast the sport and that, while the Social Garage is a bid “make the network more sticky,” it’s also part of a natural evolution. Before social media became dominant, Speed viewers were encouraged to interact with broadcasts online — for example, by having viewers guess the final selling price of cars at auction through the Speed TV website.

Nonetheless, building a physical social headquarters at Daytona represents a significant step for the network, and one that Arneson said will definitely be considered for future live racing broadcasts.

“When you do something like this on the level that we’re doing it for Daytona, you have to step back and see what worked and didn’t work, but I don’t see it going backward,” he said. “I think we crossed a major hurdle this year, and now with viewers there’s an expectation that there will be higher level of interaction.”

Image courtesy of Speed TV

More About: Facebook, Social Media, sports, Twitter

Best Western International Hotels Adds Facebook Booking [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 05:45 PM PST

Best Western International reservations are going where the customers are: Facebook.

The hotel chain is the latest to let travelers book their stay on the top social media website. Hotel brands including Hilton and Trump have flocked to Facebook to cater to customer wants. Best Western’s Facebook booking options allows the company to better compete in the hotel market.

“More than ever, Best Western’s customers are integrating social media into every part of their personal and professional lives,” said Dorothy Dowling, Best Western’s senior vice president of marketing and sales in a statement. “It’s imperative that we answer the call from our customers to make it easy to research, book and share travel experiences through their preferred channels.”

SEE ALSO: How Hotels and Travel Companies Are Nailing Social Media

Travelers don’t have to Like Best Western’s Facebook page to reserve a room, but the company has still garnered 251,480 Likes. To compare, Trump has 5,187 Likes and Hilton Hotel & Resorts has 242,396 Likes.

Best Western has also had success with hotel booking on mobile apps.

Which online tools do you prefer to use to reserve a hotel? Tell us in the comments below.

More About: booking, Facebook, hotels, Video

Apple to Replace the iPhone’s Dock Connector? [RUMOR]

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 05:31 PM PST


Apple may be planning to replace the dock connector that’s been synonymous with iPhones, iPods and iPads for almost a decade with something new.

That’s the latest rumor from a smartphone enthusiast site, which says Apple is on the verge of ditching the familiar 30-pin jack for a smaller “micro dock.”

The site, iMore, claims Apple is looking to ditch the connector in its upcoming iPhone 5. The reason: to make room for more stuff on the inside.

Although the report is highly speculative — the site doesn’t say anything about its source — it is also based on an undeniable truth. Apple is considering a lot of extra tech in future mobile devices; they will require more space within the casing, and Apple needs to make room however it can.

The current dock connector isn’t unusually large, but it’s definitely bigger than the micro USB jack common on competing phones. While having a proprietary connector has been a key part of Apple’s product strategy — allowing it a large measure of control over any accessories made for iOS devices — a smaller proprietary connector would let it keep that control while getting back some space within those devices.

In other words, Apple users would simply have to pony up for a new dongle — and not for the first time. (Mini DisplayPort, anyone?)

As the report notes, technologies like 4G LTE, near-field communication (NFC) and better camera components are competing for limited space within phones and tablets — space that’s getting even more limited due to shrinking form factors. All these technologies eat up battery life, so you’re going to need more room for bigger and better batteries, too.

Most phones have adopted the micro USB standard over the past year or so. Apple’s dock connector — which first arrived in 2003 with the third-generation iPod — is looking downright archaic.

SEE ALSO: Will the iPhone 5 Have NFC? MasterCard Exec Hints at an Answer [VIDEO]

Could that mean the upcoming iPad 3 will be the first iProduct to sport the pretty new connector? It’s possible, but the iPad — as the largest iOS devices — has the least to gain from a smaller connector. More likely, Apple could be planning the so-called micro dock for the iPhone 5 later this year.

Since the most recent iPhone, the iPhone 4S, kept the same hardware as the previous iPhone 4, Apple is probably saving a more radical hardware revamp for this year’s new iPhone — a perfect chance to swap out the dock connector. That goes double if the iPhone 5 has some of those space-demanding techs like LTE or NFC.

Do you think Apple will ditch the dock connector? And is that a good thing or bad thing? Have your say in the comments.

BONUS: Gorgeous iPhone 5 Concept

iPhone 5 Concept by Ciccarese Design

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of iFixit

More About: apple, dock connector, ipad, ipad 3, iphone, iPhone 5, ipod

Pinsanity: How Sports Teams Are Winning on Pinterest

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 05:13 PM PST

Quickly shooting up the social media pyramid, image sharing network Pinterest has gained a reputation for largely being a repository for photos of wedding dresses and floral arrangements, due to its huge female user base.

But a budding trend shows that sports teams are hopping aboard the Pinterest bandwagon. Mashable spoke with marketing and engagement managers who say the network offers new ways to connect with and reward fans and provide different social opportunities. And they insist that Pinterest is not just a flash in the sports marketing pan.

“With all the indicators in terms of buzz, I have a hard time believing it won’testablish itself as a major player,” says Peter Stringer, the Boston Celtics’ director of interactive media.

Like most teams, the Celtics are very new to Pinterest, joining just in the past few weeks. A handful of other NBA teams have joined, too, along with some NFL and NHL franchises and a few college and women’s sports teams. More than 20 Major League Baseball teams have joined, although only a couple have active accounts. The Celtics have the largest follower count so far, with over 1,000.

Teams use Pinterest to showcase content from fans, display merchandise, create boards of photos from the past and present, and reflect team-associated culture and lifestyle trends. However, each team we spoke with is still considering the site’s female-centric audience.

“We’re looking at it as if it’s predominantly for women, but we’re not treating it as if it’s only for women.”

“What intrigued us initially was that the platform seemed to be dominated by women. We certainly thought it was a great way to engage with that demographic and offer a different type of content than can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+,” wrote Nilay Shah, director of digital media for the New York Giants, in an email.

Several teams feature boards solely to display women’s apparel or team-themed recipes, but Shah and others said they see Pinterest as more than just a tool for reaching female fans. “We’re looking at it as if it’s predominantly for women, but we’re not treating it as if it’s only for women,” says Stringer.

The Giants have a section dedicated to their supporters’ hearty tailgating culture. The Portland Trail Blazers have boards that collect team-themed wallpapers and photos of pets in Blazers gear. Most teams have boards displaying memorabilia and clothing for sale elsewhere online.

Because Pinterest isn’t a dialogue-heavy network and allows users to follow either a brand as a whole or just specific boards, teams are able to focus on particular niches of fandom. They’re also able to share things that wouldn’t be as feasible on Facebook or Twitter.

"In ’07 we were the first team to get on Twitter, and this feels similar to that. Success on Twitter didn’t happen for about two years. Follower counts weren’t in the tens of thousands at all until then.”

Melissa Marchionna, new media coordinator for the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, said constantly tweeting or sharing fan artwork on Facebook would likely become annoying to users. But a Pinterest board dedicated to Pens-inspired paintings and drawings, she said, “is a great opportunity to give back to our passionate, talented fans and showcase their work.”

In college sports, the University of Washington uses Pinterest to flaunt what it offers prospective student athletes. Boards called “Best 4 Years of Your Life” and “Seatown Swag” show off student culture and the university’s prime location. Assistant athletic director Carter Henderson said the school created those boards in part because they noticed that collections themed around travel destinations were already popular on the network.

Expect Pinterest’s influence to continue growing. Multiple team representatives say they plan to promote their boards more on official websites and other networks as soon as this weekend. A Golden State Warriors representative says that the franchise is investigating Pinterest strategies in anticipation of joining. Similar scenes are likely playing out in the marketing offices of several different leagues.

Dan Harbison, who directs interactive media and marketing for the Trail Blazers says he’s reminded of a different social network that is now ubiquitous in the sports world. “In ’07 we were the first team to get on Twitter, and this feels similar to that,” he says. “Success on Twitter didn’t happen for about two years — follower counts weren’t in the tens of thousands at all until then. We’re stil in the very baby stages of Pinterest, but I definitely see it being a different network than can gain some pretty good steam in sports.”

Do you think Pinterest is a useful platform for sports? Let us know in the comments. And check out the slideshow below for some examples of what teams are doing on Pinterest.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

The NHL's Penguins are among Pinterest's most-followed sports teams so far.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: features, Marketing, pinterest, sports

YouTube-Famous Fred Stars in Own Nick Show

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 04:49 PM PST

The quirky Fred Figglehorn, a high-pitched character who rose to fame on YouTube in 2008, has wiggled his way into a prime time TV slot on Nickelodeon.

Fred: The Show begins its regular Friday night rotation Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. ET, and Lucas Cruikshank — the 18-year-old actor who plays Fred — says viewers will get to see the character they knew as a 5-year-old boy now tackle life as a high school teenager.

“Over the years, he’s gotten more dimensional and not so one note,” Nebraska-raised Cruikshank told Mashable. “We toned a few things down, like Fred's voice, for the character's transition to TV but that's an organic shift since he's older now.”

The show premiered on President’s Day (see clips of the two 11-minute episodes below), and 3.1 million people tuned in. Viewers were introduced to a mischievous “Evil Fred,” whose misdeeds are blamed on Fred.

“Fred finds himself in even crazier scenarios in the series … there are talking cookies and awesome guest stars like Daniella Monet (from Nick show Victorious) and Rachel Crow (from X Factor) and much more,” Cruikshank exclaims.

For those unfamiliar with Fred, his YouTube videos caught fire in 2008 and often accumulated Justin Bieber-esque amounts of pageviews. “Fred Goes Swimming,” “Fred Loses His Meds” and “Fred Goes to the Dentist” have racked up 56 million, 35 million and 29 million views. The YouTube channel has 2.2 million subscribers.

“Fred resonates with audiences on the Internet and on TV because the character is relatable,” Cruikshank says. “Like Fred, kids feel awkward and out of place sometimes. Though Fred gets himself in exaggerated situations, he deals with them confidently. He knows he doesn't fit in with everyone and he's OK with that.”

Do you remember classic Fred from his early YouTube days? Will you be tuning in to catch his new show?

Evil Fred Pt. 1

Evil Fred Pt. 2

More About: Fred, humor, nickelodeon, TV, viacom, YouTube

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Good Karma Clothing Is a Netflix for Baby Clothes

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 04:24 PM PST

You can subscribe to just about anything on the web — toiletries, beauty products, organic snacks — and now, one mom has created an online subscription service for baby clothes, Good Karma Clothing.

“This wouldn’t work in a small community,” Sharon Schneider, Good Karma founder and CEO, told Mashable. “It’s the network effect that I need.”

Subscribers receive one seven-outfit bundle at a time, which they later return once their child grows. The outfits come at three different levels — basic, for $27.99 a month, better, for $45 a month, and boutique, for $75 a month. The prices are pegged at the cost of a single new outfit.

Schneider is in the process of developing a “Netflix-like” experience for subscribers, where they will tell her “loves monkeys” or “no princesses” and she will be able to recommend outfits based on user preferences.

Schneider, a mother of three, came up with the idea while she was boxing up her daughter’s old clothes to send to her sister, who had a younger daughter. She realized it would be great if there was a service that could connect moms with clothing for their quickly growing children.

SEE ALSO: Recycle Your Kid's Clothing Through the Mail with ThredUp Bags

Schneider hopes to follow Netflix’s lead, by setting up regional distribution centers across the country in what she calls “progressive cities” — Seattle, New York, Austin, Boulder and San Francisco. Shipping shorter distances is one of several the company’s ecologically-friendly plans.

Good Karma Clothing has also partnered with an environmentally-friendly baby detergent, ships clothing bundles in reusable nylon bags and has plans to upcycle damaged clothing.

Though Schneider assumes she attracts subscribers primarily for Good Karma’s convenience, she has a large overlap with diaper subscription services, suggesting to her that the low environmental impact is an important draw as well.

Good Karma recently won COMMON Pitch NYC, a social entrepreneurs competition during Social Media Week.

Are you a parent who would use a service like Good Karma? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: 20 Online Home Delivery Subscriptions

1. Amazon Subscribe & Save

The mother lode of subscription services, Amazon Subscribe and Save, lets you "subscribe" to household items like toilet paper, dishwashing detergent, diapers, toothbrushes, dog food, and more. You get an across the board 15% discount, the ability to cancel any time, and the choice to skip shipments or request additional shipments. I haven't shopped for toilet paper in two years -- that's a lot of time saved.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Children, parenting, Social Good, Subscription service

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Upset About AT&T Throttling Your Data? You May Be in for a Payday

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 04:11 PM PST

At last there’s some recourse for consumers upset about AT&T‘s decision to throttle their data: small claims court.

A precedent at least has been set by a California judge who ruled in favor on Friday of a man who sued AT&T charging its practice of slowing down data violated the terms of its “unlimited data” plan.

The man, an unemployed truck driver named Matt Spaccarelli, received $850 in the small claims court suit in Simi Valley, Calif. To AT&T, which posted revenues of $31.5 billion in its most-recent quarter, that’s pocket change, but Spaccarelli may soon have imitators.

According to a report by the Associated Press, about 17 million of AT&T’s customers with unlimited data plan could be subject to throttling, as Spaccarelli was. Under the terms of the contract, such users can’t band together in a class action lawsuit against AT&T, but they can sue them individually in small claims courts.

AT&T reps could not be reached for comment on whether the company plans to appeal the decision.

Spaccarelli’s case argues that his phone is being throttled after using 1.5 GB to 2 GB of data after the billing cycle starts. However, AT&T offers 3 GB of data to subscribers for the same fee Spaccarelli is paying — $30 per month.

AT&T’s customer contract outlines that consumers who win an award in arbitration will get at least $10,000. That was the amount that Spaccarelli sued for, but the judge in the case, Russell Nadel, calculated AT&T’s charge for every extra gigabyte over 3 GB ($10) across Spaccarelli’s remaining 10 months in the contract.

The telecom giant began throttling data for its top 5% of users this month to manage data usage on the network. AT&T’s not alone. Verizon is also throttling its top 5% and Sprint is slowing data for its top 1% of data hogs.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, geoadventures

More About: att, lawsuit, sprint, throttling, verizon

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iPhone App Keeps Your Group Pics Private — If You Trust Your Friends

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 03:58 PM PST

Trust: an essential quality for a good friend, especially if you’re sharing a private photo album with them via new app Popset.

The app launched late last week in the App store. It allows users at the same event to share photos and even mark certain albums private — unless someone wants to post those pics on Facebook.

One of the four co-founders, Jan Senderk, said Popset is like Path for photos. The cool thing about Popset is you can post photos you may not have wanted on Facebook, but still would like to keep and share with a small group of friends.

“We started this entire thing because we wanted to have it,” Senderk told Mashable. Senderk showed me some of his private photo albums — trips with friends and get-togethers.

There are myriad photo sharing apps, each with a twist on the user experience. Here’s why Popset’s cool: If you and other Popset users are all at the same event — a wedding, a private party, a networking event, etc. — you can instantly upload the photos and share with everyone at the event.

If you are the creator of the album, you can mark albums private, even though anyone tagged in the album can share the images on Facebook or via a link. Unless your public album gets into the “popular” section of the app, strangers can’t comment.

Popset could prove very useful for weddings. If the entire wedding party had Popset, everyone could deposit their photos into one album — rather than asking guests to share their photos via Facebook or email.

The app still has some flaws. Currently, you can only upload 10 photos to Facebook at a time. The founders hope to launch an Android app by the end of March when the team does its final unveiling at Y Combinator. Some filters will also be added to make photos a bit more snazzy, a la Instagram.

Popset is the brainchild of Phillip Wein, Jan Senderk, Nicolas Boes, and Daniel Wagner. It was created at Y Combinator in Palo Alto, Calif. and has YC's $20,000 in funding and $150,000 from StartFund.

The service began as Evee, but Senderk said the name was quickly changed after entering the Y Combinator incubator because no one could pronounce it.

What do you think of Popset? Will you use it? What photo sharing apps do you currently use and what do you like/dislike about those? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, vesilvio‬.

More About: apps, iOS, iphone, Photos, smartphone

YouTube’s 4 Examples of Great Political Videos

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 03:43 PM PST

What makes a great political video? YouTube is attempting to answer that question by posting four of its favorites in a collection titled “Political Case Studies.” The four videos are a mixture of videos from candidates running for office and issue campaigns.

In the first video, a pro-union group called “We Are Ohio” used YouTube videos to fight against Issue 2, a law that aimed to limit the collective bargaining rights of hundreds of thousands of unionized public workers in Ohio.

In the featured video, viewers watch a nurse, a teacher and a firefighter go to work in their communities, while a narrator says that people don’t go into these fields to get rich, but “you do it because you care about your community.” Issue 2 was not passed into law, thanks it part to social video.

The next video is from, a public education reform group. In the video, founder and former chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools Michelle Rhee takes questions and discusses issues about StudentsFirst and relevant policy.

In the video selected by YouTube, Rhee explains why StudentsFirst is against “last in, first out” teacher layoff practices. Rhee’s personality and charisma behind the camera makes her an excellent choice as the star of the organization’s YouTube campaign.

YouTube’s third video is a prime example of how hilarious a political video can be if a candidate lets his or her team have a little fun. “2 Legit 2 Quit,” which Mashable featured when it was released, is a spoof on an M.C. Hammer tune in favor of Ed Lee’s run for Mayor of San Francisco.

The video features The Hammer himself, includes cameos from a slew of tech stars, athletes and other local celebrities and is all-around funny.

Finally, YouTube picked a video from Roger Williams’ campaign for Congress. Entitled “The Donkey Whisperer,” the video spoofs Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan. Williams, a Republican is featured talking to a pack of donkeys, who represent Democrats.

Williams accuses his hungry donkeys of “wanting a handout” and says “these donkeys don’t live in the ‘United States of France,’ they live in ‘the United States of America.’” Williams’ video got 50,000 views in the first two days it was live.

What do you think of YouTube’s choices for great political videos? Sound off in the comments below.

More About: Politics, Video, YouTube

Tell Location-Based, Multimedia-Rich Stories With Moveable Feast

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 03:26 PM PST

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Moveable Feast

Quick Pitch: Arrange text, photos and videos on a map to create an immersive virtual tour.

Genius Idea: A new method of storytelling.

In 2003, Steve Schultz organized a walking tour of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, narrating the history and culture of the neighborhood through its various landmarks and lesser known treasures. A little less than a decade later, and Schultz is now developing tools for you to create, share, experience — and soon, monetize — multimedia-rich walking tours all over the world.

The New York-based company is called Moveable Feast Mobile Media in tribute to the set of Ernest Hemingway memoirs by the same title. The startup has developed two apps thus far: an app for the desktop web that enables you to create visual, location-based stories, or tours, and an iPhone app [iTunes link] that allows you to experience them.

The creation tool allows you to drop pins on the Google Maps interface. At each location, you can add text, audio, photographs and video from your personal files. After you hit publish, other app users will be able to download your tour, either experiencing it on-site or remotely.

In its current, early iteration, the app’s design is rather poor. It’s visually unattractive, and somewhat laborious to pull up all of the multimedia elements separately at each stop point. But conceptually, we think the app has promise. I can imagine New York magazine, for instance, turning its neighborhood shopping and dining guides into Moveable Feast walking tours, or the Jane Austen Centre touring users through the scenes of the more famous scenes in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey in Bath, England. There’s also potential to create something beyond tours, Schultz contends — for artists and filmmakers to tell location-based stories through multimedia, for example.

Schultz has mutliple ideas for revenue, spanning in-app purchases for premium tours (coming this month), location-based advertising along tours and premium tour-creation tools. There’s also opportunities for media companies such as National Geographic to license their content so that users could create high-quality visual tours you wouldn’t have to develop the material yourself. For now, the focus is on improving the existing product and bringing on content creators, as well as expanding to further platforms such as the iPad.

Try the app for yourself and let us known what you think.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

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

More About: bizspark, moveable feast media, spark-of-genius

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10 Things to Plan for When Developing a Mobile App

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 03:13 PM PST

David Tucker is a principal architect at Universal Mind. As the resident Apple and Adobe expert, he works closely with Universal Mind's clients to develop rich user experiences that leverage many of today's exciting new development platforms. Follow David on Twitter @mindmillmedia.

Many companies have mobile apps at the top of their to-do lists, but while churning out a quick app is fairly straightforward, developing a strategic application or digital "solution" is considerably more complex. Smart planning is essential.

Here are 10 things to consider before developing your app.

1. Agree on goals for the program.

When developing a digital solution strategy, first examine your organization's goals for the program. Are you looking to be seen as innovator, or fend off competition by showing progress in the space? Simply showing initial momentum and previewing the future roadmap can often place you ahead of the competition. Should your digital solutions help build customer loyalty and enable greater customer self-service, or is your highest priority to create new revenue streams? Once you've agreed on the goals, prioritize them so you'll know where to start.

2. Understand your target users.

The next step is to understand who your target users are, their goals and requirements, and the technologies they use. This process includes researching the platforms your users are most likely utilizing, then gaining an understanding of each user experience. Every device is different, and every user has multiple needs. For example, a person might typically use an online banking application to pay a bill, but he might use the bank's mobile application to find the closest ATM.

3. Build a user testing focus group.

Spending time with your target users is the only way to ensure you really understand what they are looking for in a mobile application. As you move through the process of discovery, you can discuss ideas with this group on a daily basis. Focus groups can provide value from the far beyond the initial discovery phase.

4. Identify a minimally viable solution set.

Don’t try to tackle the whole problem at once. Instead, companies should identify a minimally viable solution and start there. In other words, release a basic but functional app as a foundation, then take advantage of the efficient upgrade paths most devices offer to provide regular updates. This enables you to enter the market more quickly and refine as needed. Plus, periodically giving your users access to new developments ensures your organization stays top-of-mind.

5. Plan for multiple releases.

With mobile applications, releasing the initial version is only the beginning. Statistics show that many users will re-engage with your application when new features are added. Spread key functionality across the first handful of releases to keep your users engaged. Be careful not to release too often, lest users feel bombarded. In many cases, a 2-3 month window between major releases will keep your users engaged over a longer period of time.

6. Balance your users and your business.

Balancing business drivers with real user needs can be difficult. In many cases, the two are at odds with one another. Therefore, arm yourself with the right information to make smart tradeoffs. Collect research such as user studies, expert opinions, and business viability and technical feasibility studies. This body of data can then be weighed to achieve the best balance between user-centric solutions and business-value gains.

7. Know what is out there.

Spend time exploring apps in each of the platforms you plan to support. Each platform offers different interface paradigms and a different collection of applications. Experimenting with the most popular applications will help you understand not only what is possible on the platform, but also the user’s expectations. If possible, use a different mobile platform device during the exploration process.

8. Bring your IT team into the discussions early.

The far greater technical challenge is tying your backend business processes to a digital solution that encompasses smartphones and kiosks, for example. The technology infrastructure for a multichannel solution goes well beyond the platform you choose for front-end development. In order to be successful, companies must consider how to architect data delivery and API management as well as security, scalability, content aggregation, device optimization, API translation, etc. Bring your IT team into the discussion before you get too far down the planning path.

9. Decide on a technology you can live (and grow) with.

As the mobile space matures, there will be many more application develop choices. In many cases, your goals will help determine what you choose here. For example, if your goal is to reach as many users as possible across all platforms, you may choose an HTML framework with little hardware integration. If your goal is to provide deep hardware integration for augmented reality technology, then you’ll probably develop a native application. Decisions around technology can directly affect your app’s functionality.

10. Plan to analyze.

The final step in the process is determining how to measure success. With a morass of potential features, devices, platforms and technologies, success can be challenging to define, but it will affect your ultimate strategy. Consider the following questions.

  • Will this increase our transaction volume and, therefore, revenue?
  • Will this increase customer adoption and retention?
  • Will this increase our brand recognition and loyalty?
  • Will this decrease our costs?
  • How many people do we want using our app?
  • How do we want to integrate the solution with our social media program?
  • How will we integrate with our existing analytics tools?

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, TommyL, Nikada

More About: contributor, development, features, Marketing, mobile app development, mobile apps, startup

How Social TV is Taking Over the Oscars and How You Can Win [CONTEST]

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 02:57 PM PST

The Oscars are getting a big dose of social TV integration!

From the official Backstage Experience to special promotions and activities from entertainment checkin services and second screen companies, the biggest award show of the year is taking big steps towards being more social and digital.

Mashable will be getting in on the fun with our own live chat during the ceremony. We wanted to do a quick overview of some of the biggest social TV promotions related to the 84th Academy Awards. Be sure to read all the way to the end to find out how you can win a one-of-a-kind prize straight from the Red Carpet gift bags! and iOS Apps

The Academy Awards introduced its Oscar Backstage app last year. The experiment — one of the first true “second screen” iPad apps of its time, was a huge success, even winning an Emmy.

This year and the Oscar Backstage app are back and bigger than ever. Not only is the app free this year [iTunes link], the content is even more digitally focused.

During the show itself, users can watch while logged into or using the Oscars app for iOS and get their pick of different camera angles on the red carpet, access to the control room, see winners interviewed as they leave the podium and get an inside look at the Governor’s Ball.

Before the show, will also be running commentary and insights from across the world of entertainment. I was even lucky enough to participate in a few Oscar Dailies video chats myself! has the entire Oscar Sunday schedule rundown.


Social checkin service GetGlue is going all out for Oscar Sunday.

As the company details on its blog, users can checkin to the show in advance of the awards to earn stickers for watching nominated films, previews of the 84th Academy Awards and even a special Billy Crystal sticker for checking into some of his best known films.

On Oscar Sunday, fans can check-in throughout the night, starting at 7e/4p. Throughout the night GetGlue wants fans to continue the conversation and chatter around the ceremony on GetGlue itself.


Yahoo’s second screen app IntoNow has a few tricks up its sleeve for Oscar. Fans who use the iOS or Android app while tuned into the Oscar broadcast will be able to:

  • Rate red carpet looks with thumbs up/thumbs down buttons
  • Get information about nominees and take part in synchronized polls about the nominees and categories
  • Pick the winners
  • Connect with friends in real-time using the app’s chat functionality


Social TV startup Umami has made some updates to its iPad app just in time for the awards.

Users of the Umami app can now take FreezeFrame moments of the show they are watching and share those images with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Umami is likening this feature to Pinterest and it hopes that Oscar fans will get some big use out of it.

Umami has also rolled out is new “Dishboard” which is a social TV dashboard visualizing the conversation taking place around a show as it takes place. This show information such as how many people are talking about a program, what topics are trending and what tweets are more active.

Viggle and Bing

Viggle is a new iPhone app [iTunes link] that rewards users for checking into their favorite shows. The app is sort of a mashup between GetGlue and IntoNow because it uses audio-recognition software to check a user into a show but then gives the user points for their checkin. These points can be redeemed for items such as gift certificates to Amazon or iTunes, apparel and other swag.

Viggle is partnering with Bing to build a live event around the app and the Oscars.

Users who use the app can play along in a trivia contest to earn up to 10,000 bonus points. Users can also predict the winners in key categories and earn more points and they can rate the ads during the telecast.

The Bing partnership is particularly cool because users will be treated to a pre-populated search session to quickly get the answer to all of the trivia questions before time runs out.

Will You Connect With Social TV or Tune Out…Win an “Oscar-Worthy” Prize

With all of the various social TV activity taking around the Oscars, we wanted to know — will you engage socially while watching the awards or is all this stuff too distracting.

If you let us know what you think, you’re in for a treat and you can win a special one-of-a-kind reward! Motorola created a Special Edition “Red Carpet” Droid Razr Maxx. This limited edition phone will be delivered to select nominees and presenters.

This is a very limited edition model of the phone but Mashable has one and we’ll be giving away to one of our readers! Just let us know if you’ll be using social TV to watch the Oscars and why (or why note) and you’ll be entered to win.

How To Enter The Contest

  • Share your best answer in the comments below, OR
  • Tweet your story with the hashtag #grammymash, OR
  • Tout us your answer by sending us a short video clip.
  • Submit your answer by Sunday, Feb. 26 at noon ET
  • Please use your real identity in the submission so that we may credit you in the follow-up post.
  • We will announce the winner of the contest on Wednesday afternoon after reading all the submissions

Please see our full contest rules here.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, EdStock

More About: academy awards, contest, Droid RAZR, droid razr maxx, Oscars, second screen, social tv

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Facebook Unfriending and Reputation Woes on the Rise [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 02:36 PM PST

Facebook users have to work harder to keep their friend count up these days. A majority of adults on social networking sites have no bouts with deleting former “friends.”

Women more than men are restricting their profiles, deleting comments and tailoring their profiles due to privacy and reputation concerns, according to a new Pew Research Center’s Internet Project & American Life study. Researcher interviewed 2,277 Americans who were 18 or older on the phone to gain information about what the public thinks about social media privacy.

They found almost 70% of female respondents said they have unfriended individuals, compared to 58% of men who also said yes.

Overall, Facebook users are more cautious about who sees their information. About 58% choose to keep their profiles locked down with privacy settings, while only 20% of users maintain a completely public profile. About 19% of Facebook users keep their profile partially private.

This may be due to the fact that many young adults — doing most of the unfriending, untagging and deleting — are looking for jobs. Businesses and companies, more than ever, are looking at Facebook profiles for first impressions of applicants.

SEE ALSO: How to See When Someone Unfriends You on Facebook

Facebook users are also monitoring what content is associated with their profile — 44% have deleted comments from their profile and 37% have untagged photos. Men are more likely than women to regret posting something on their social media profiles.

Researchers believe profile pruning will continue to rise. Pew researchers believe this kind of research goes against mainstream ideas that say the public isn’t concerned with online privacy. The numbers show “privacy is important” to social media users.

The study also reported about half of people who use social media think managing privacy controls is somewhat difficult. College graduates are more likely to report difficulties with setting privacy controls than people with less education, Pew finds.

Tell us in the comments if you feel like you are taking actions to make your profile more private by unfriending people, untagging photos and deleting comments.

More About: Facebook, online privacy, study, Video

The World’s Largest Museum to 3D Print Copies of Priceless Artifacts [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 02:21 PM PST

A pair of model makers — Vincent Rossi and Adam Metallo — are taking on the task of digitizing the Smithsonian Institute’s 137 million-piece collection with high-tech scanners and 3D printing.

Once the process has been perfected, 3D printing will create close copies of artwork and specimens. The mammoth task of replicating and web archiving the almost two-century-old collection will allow the institute to display one-of-a-kind art at multiple locations and interactively on the web, according to a CNET report.

There’s only so much room for the art in Smithsonian locations and affiliate museums. An official statistic says, only 2% of the collection is on display at one time. Digitizing the art, making items viewable on the web, will help broaden the museum’s reach.

A printed replica of Thomas Jefferson at the National Museum of African American History in Washington D.C. was the first to be replicated.

The sculpture was the largest 3D printed museum quality historical replica on Earth, according to the institute.

The Thomas Jefferson model was pretty spot on ( see for yourself in the video above). But, Rossi and Metallo say there won’t be 100% accurate replicas until software is available to re-create geometrics of certain shapes. The process of 3D printing is essentially printing layers of material on top of layers.

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways Museums Are Reaching Digital Audiences

How did these two fine art model makers make the big-time in 3D printing — creating the largest collection of 3D scanned and replicated items ever? This isn’t the first big task to document artifacts, according to Spar Point Group. In 2010, the duo found themselves documenting finds at a prehistoric whale graveyard in Chile.

The 123D Catch and a Z Corp printer were used to print objects from scans. 3D replicas of 5-million-year-old whale fossils. The replicas were scaled down to a fraction of the actual size.

For the Smithsonian project, the two 3D digitization coordinators will work with RedEye on Demand — a third-party company that specializes in generating 3D prototypes and digital manufacturing.

What do you think about seeing replicas of original artwork and historic specimens in museums soon? Tell us in the comments below.

More About: 3d printing, art, Tech

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Mobile World Congress: A Preview of My Barcelona Adventure

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 02:03 PM PST

Mobile-World-Congress 2012

Barcelona is Spain's second largest city and, arguably, its most cosmopolitan. The busy port city is home to the Picasso Museum and a thrilling collection of Day-Glo colored Antoni Gaudi buildings that curve and weave toward the sky. At least this is what I've read and seen on sites like Pinterest.

Looking at my Mobile World Congress schedule, though, I wonder if I'll get to see any of it. The event kicks off this weekend, in Fira Montjuïc, near the heart of the bustling city, and as I'm running from press conferences to meetings and back, with brief layovers to write posts based on what I see and hear, I may glimpse some of the spectacular architecture — and, at least, smell some of the local food.

Still, what I'm really there to do is understand how the world's leading technology companies are redefining mobile.

Perhaps the best redefinition would be the acknowledgement that now everything is mobile. Maybe next year they'll rename the conference "Everything World Congress" or “Tech World Congress." I may suggest that. In the meantime, here's a brief overview of some of the companies I'll meet and innovations and products I'll see.

I arrive in Barcelona at 7 a.m. local time, which means I should be well-rested and ready for a fresh blast of mobile product goodness. My early meetings are private previews (so I can't share much). My only hope is that they have big carafes of coffee on hand.

Throughout the week I'll be attending press conferences for Intel, HTC, LG, Sony, Samsung , Texas Instruments, Nvidia and more. Most of these companies should be either unveiling new Android phones and tablets or discussing the technology inside of them.

LG has already tipped its hand, promising to introduce a new line of Optimus handsets. The 4X HD is running Nvidia's new Tegra 3, a quad-core ARM-based mobile CPU that Nvidia likes to call a "super-processor". Not surprising since NVidia also coined the term "super phone."

SEE ALSO: Nvidia: Here's What Ice Cream Sandwich Looks Like on a Tablet

Intel should show off some handsets running its new Ivy bridge mobile CPU, which will also offer a quad-core option. Speaking of speed and power, 2012 is the year of 4G — speeds, that is. I’m sure all MWC debutante handsets will be sporting it and cellular service providers should be promising more coverage than ever.

Microsoft will obviously tease some new Windows Phone handsets, likely from Nokia, its closest phone partner and has promised to unveil Windows 8 Consumer Preview. That may seem like an odd choice, since this is a mobile event, but Windows 8 is ARM-ready and should be running on some sexy new tablets at the show.

Google will be on hand and may give us a glimpse of Android 5.0 (also known as "Jelly Bean"). Still, with Google pushing its next I/O developers conference out to late June, it's unlikely we'll get anything more than a glimpse.

There will be tons and tons of mobile apps, games and services, offering everything from sleep aids (SleepRate), battery-life solutions and expense tracking, to contact management (TouchPal) and alternate mobile OSes (yes, even Mozilla is now trying to develop a new mobile platform). In fact, I expect there will be a lot of developers offering mobile innovations and app-building tools.

We'll also see a host of mobile content sharing, information-gleaning and, of course, cloud-based services.

Mobile World Congress has an impressive lineup of keynote speakers, though some may simply reiterate what we learn in the press and pre-briefings. Among the headliners are Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Ford's Executive Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. and Facebook CTO Bret Taylor.

There'll also be a trade show floor with 1,400 vendors. Who knows what goodies we'll find there. Whatever I do find, I promise to share on Mashable and via my Twitter stream. Be sure to start following along on Sunday.

More About: htc, LG, microsoft, Mobile, Mobile World Congress, samsung

Discovery Channel Adds Pop-Up Tweets to ‘Gold Rush’ Show [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 01:29 PM PST

Leading up to the season finale of popular mining reality TV show Gold Rush airing Friday night on the Discovery Channel, the network will be showing previous episodes with pop-up tweets from fans.

Gold Rush — which follows the ups and downs of miners in Alaska — has become popular among social media users, with many posting comments on sites such as Twitter as the episodes air. The Discovery Channel is curating some of the tweets and editing them into related parts of the episodes.

“With our fans taking to our fan site, Facebook, Twitter and GetGlue to share in the experience, we wanted to celebrate them by making their musings a part of the show,” David Shackley, Discovery Channel’s chief marketing officer told Mashable.

The move is a part of a growing trend to make watching TV more interactive and social. Shows such as The Voice have incorporated tweets into its pre-recorded and live broadcasts.

SEE ALSO: The Voice: How a TV Show Became a 24/7 Social Media Conversation | Science Channel Experiments With On-Air Tweets in Primetime

The second season of Gold Rush has averaged 4.5 million viewers over the past 15 weeks and has become the top program for men on Fridays across cable and broadcast.

The latest episode of Gold Rush airs on Friday at 9:00 p.m. ET, while two encore episodes of the show will run at 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. ET with added tweets.

More About: discovery, Entertainment, Social Media, social tv, TV, Twitter

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Happy Birthday, Steve Jobs: A Look Back at the Man Who Changed Tech

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 01:05 PM PST

Steve Jobs iPod

Today would have been the 57th birthday of Apple co-founder and visionary Steve Jobs, who died on Oct. 5, 2011, after a long battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer.

Social media users have been extremely active in wishing the late media mogul a happy birthday, and “Happy Birthday Steve Jobs” is currently trending worldwide on Twitter. A tweet from the official General Electric account this morning read, “Happy Birthday Steve Jobs. Innovation wouldn’t be the same without you.”

Another popular tweet from numerous users read, “3 Apples changed the world: Adam and Eve’s forbidden apple, Newton’s apple and finally Steve Jobs’s Apple. Happy Birthday Steve Jobs.”

We at Mashable would like to wish Steve Jobs a happy birthday by highlighting some of our favorite coverage of him throughout the years.

Happy birthday to the man who changed the face of technology.

Steve Jobs demos Apple Macintosh, 1984

Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh to the world. Computing would never be the same.

Click here to view this gallery.

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

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, EdStock.

More About: apple, features, steve jobs, Tech, trending

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Netflix on the BlackBerry PlayBook? Keep Dreaming

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 12:52 PM PST

Want to access Netflix from your BlackBerry PlayBook? Don’t hold your breath. In response to customer queries, the subscription streaming giant revealed that it doesn’t have plans to support BlackBerry devices — including the PlayBook.

As Reuters reported, the @NetflixHelps Twitter account broke the bad news to PlayBook and BlackBerry fans in a tweet on Thursday. In a follow-up tweet, Netflix tried to soften the blow writing, “While we don’t support BlackBerry today, our plans can change.”

The announcement comes just days after the PlayBook 2.0 software was released. PlayBook 2.0 added a number of new features, including native email and calendar features, better media support and enhanced social media integration.

As Mashable’s Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff noted in his review, however, the additions to PlayBook 2.0 aren’t enough for the the tablet to replace the iPad, Nook Tablet or Kindle Fire in the eyes of most consumers.

SEE ALSO: BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0: Much Better, Yet Not Good Enough

PlayBook’s biggest problem continues to be a lack of quality third-party apps. More apps are showing up in the BlackBerry App World all the time and RIM has made it easy for Android developers to package their apps to work on the PlayBook. Still, the feedback we consistently hear from developers is that trying to support the BlackBerry or the BlackBerry PlayBook becomes too complex. Should it be a native app or an Android port? Should the developer try to support both PlayBook 2.0 and BlackBerry OS 7, or just choose one?

Making matters more difficult is the fact that BlackBerry 10 smartphones are expected to launch this fall. BlackBerry 10 is going to be very similar to PlayBook 2.0 (they’re both based on QNX), and we expect RIM to merge the two OSes the way that Apple has with iOS. Still, for some developers, this has led to a “wait and see” approach before making a decision about BlackBerry.

For Netflix, a company that has a vested interest on supporting as many platforms as possible, the lack of plans for BlackBerry and PlayBook likely means that its own research has shown that the market demand exceeds the amount of work required for a port. Still, who knows? Maybe with BlackBerry 10, Netflix will re-evaluate some things.

Do Netflix’s plans (or lack thereof) make you less likely to purchase a BlackBerry PlayBook? Let us know.

More About: blackberry, blackberry playbook, netflix

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8 Free Apps for Planning Your Perfect Night Out

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 12:29 PM PST

1. Wendr - What's Going on Tonight?

Forget the endless text message conversations that start with "Are you going out tonight?" Wendr lets you declare your intentions for the night (going out, open to suggestions, staying in) and share them with your friends. You can then specify what you want your night to look like and see who is interested in joining.

Wendr is currently only available for the iPhone, but an Android version is in the works.

Click here to view this gallery.

The weekend is finally here, and you’re ready for a great time with your friends. We’ve assembled a list of free mobile apps to help you plan your perfect night out on the town.

SEE ALSO: 10 Free iPhone Apps You'll Use Every Day

From assembling your crew to catching a taxi ride home, these iPhone and Android apps will help make your night as fun and efficient as possible. Whether you’re in the mood for live music or late night dancing, these freebies should be on your smartphone.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, shironosov.

More About: android, Android App, apps, features, iphone, iphone app store, trending

Apple Close to 25 Billionth App Download, Offers $10,000 Gift Card

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 12:11 PM PST

Apple has launched a countdown to its 25 billionth app downloaded from the App Store, but more is at stake than the glory of a historic download.

The company is giving away a $10,000 gift card to spend in the App Store. Think of all the Zynga games — without the frequent pop-up ads of the free editions — you could by with that kind of money!

What’s strange about the giveaway is that you don’t need to download anything to enter the contest. You can fill out an online form to be entered to win.

The winner must agree to publicity, such as sharing your name, photo and some of your App Store picks with the Apple community. Yes, that means others will know that you’re spending your hefty gift card on several versions of Angry Birds.

What would you do with $10,000 from the App Store? Let us know in the comments what you would download.

BONUS: App Store Rewind — Apple’s Top Apps of 2011

1. Instagram

The most popular photo app to ever hit iOS, Instagram currently has 50 million users, and will soon launch on Android platforms.

Price: FREE

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apple, apple app store, apps

Pinterest Pins Are on 9% of the Top Online Retail Sites

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 11:53 AM PST

Consumers aren’t the only ones getting Pinterest fever. About 9% of the top online retailers are offering Pinterest pins on their sites, according to a researcher.

The Find, a vertical search engine, analyzed the top 300 online retail sites and found around 28 had Pinterest pins. Among the list, which was based on Internet Retailer magazine’s ranking, are Etsy, Tory Burch, Hanes, Barneys New York and Aeropostale. In each case, the pin appears when you click through to a specific item.

SEE ALSO: Pinterest: Everything You Wanted to Know About 2012′s Hottest Startup [INFOGRAPHIC]

In some cases, such as Hanes’, the pin is one of dozens of sharing options. But others such as Etsy put the pin in en elite group that includes Twitter, Facebook and email.

Siva Kumar, CEO of The Find, says the pins just started showing up on sites in November. Kumar says he thinks the pins are growing faster than Facebook’s Like button, introduced in 2010, did, “probably because people are much more comfortable adding buttons.”

To put Pinterest’s growth in perspective, some 60% of the top 300 sites have Facebook Like buttons and 20% have +1 buttons from Google.

If anything, the retailers’ addition of the Pinterest pins seems low. The site made headlines earlier this month when it reached 10 million visitors, making the now 2 year-old site one of the fastest-growing in history. In addition, there doesn’t seem to be a downside to adding a Pinterest pin since it will expose the retailers’ items to a larger number of people who presumably have an interest in the products.

BONUS: Popular Pinterest Users

Zoomsphere has released a list of the 10 most-followed users on Pinterest. Flip through this gallery to see what they share. We also encourage you to check out some of our favorite Pinterest users.

1. Jane Wang

118 Boards
13,921 Pins

Jane Wang is the single most-followed user on Pinterest -- an impressive feat, even if her son is a co-founder of Pinterest. Wang maintains 118 boards across a broad array of subjects. Among the more quirky: "Small things that work very well" and an entire board for "Octopus." (or octopi).

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: pinterest, retaile

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Apple’s iPad Trademark Dispute Comes to U.S.

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 11:43 AM PST

Apple’s iPad trademark dispute, previously limited to China, has crossed the ocean and landed in Santa Clara, Calif.

Proview International Holdings, which has been suing Apple in Chinese courts over the name of its tablet, filed a lawsuit Friday in a California court seeking to halt shipments of Apple’s iPad to China.

A Taiwan-based Proview branch sold Apple the rights to the “IPAD” name in December 2009. In the U.S. lawsuit, Proview claims that deal should be invalidated because an Apple affiliate made “false” claims during the negotiation process. According to Proview’s filing to the California Superior Court, Proview says that an employee of that affiliate used another person’s name while moving to purchase the “IPAD” trademark for approximately $55,000.

"This statement was false and untrue," said the filing, according to Bloomberg. Proview is seeking an unknown amount of damages from Apple.

Separately, Proview has asked China’s Customs Bureau to stop imports and exports of Apple’s iPad.

Proview once manufactured an “IPAD,” or Internet Personal Access Device. According to Apple, the company purchased the rights to use that name in 10 countries, including China. Proview holds that mainland China was never part of the deal, and has sued Apple in multiple Chinese courts to force Apple to stop selling its iPad in that country.

Apple has criticized Proview for failing to hold up its side of the arrangement. Apple also claims that Proview, which is struggling economically, is currently unable to produce and market its “IPAD,” voiding its claim to the copyright.

A Hong Kong court decided in Apple’s favor, but rulings in that city don’t apply to the rest of China. A separate court in Shenzhen sided with Proview, and Apple is appealing that decision. Yet another court in Shanghai is playing wait-and-see with the Shenzhen appeals court before proceeding further.

In China, Apple could face government fines of up to $38 million, while Proview is seeking as much as $1.6 billion in damages.

On Proview’s request, local authorities have removed Apple iPads from store shelves in some Chinese cities. However, iPads are still selling as quickly as ever in cities where they remain available. China is an extremely lucrative marketplace for Apple, and its iPad makes up more than 70 percent of tablet sales in the country.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, TommL

More About: apple, Apple iPad, china, ipad, proview

How to Hide From Annoying Friends on Facebook Chat

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 10:54 AM PST

1. Use the Lists Tool

The most efficient way to "hide" on Facebook Chat is to create a list of people you don't want to chat with.

From your homepage, click on the "More" link next to "Lists" on the left hand side of the screen.

Click here to view this gallery.

Are there people you’re friends with on Facebook who you’d rather not chat with? The good news is, you don’t have to. Facebook offers some handy advanced settings that mean you can control your online status before you sign into the chat service.

Whether you want to chat in secret from the boss, hide from your annoyingly talkative cousin or only appear as online to one special person, we can help you out.

SEE ALSO: How to Change Your Facebook Relationship Status Without Alerting Friends

Take a look through our super-simple walk-through in the gallery above. Let us know in the comments any other Facebook Chat tips and tricks you’ve discovered.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Stacy

More About: Facebook, facebook chat, features, How-To, Social Media, trending

Santorum Getting Most Social Media Buzz, But It’s Not All Favorable

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 10:12 AM PST

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is getting more social media attention than any other Republican presidential contender, according to a Crimson Hexagon analysis for MSNBC.

Crimson Hexagon looked at 1.2 million tweets and Facebook posts in February that displayed a clear opinion one way or the other about at least one of the candidates.

Before Rick Santorum won primaries in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, social media users were talking about rival candidate Mitt Romney six times as often as they were discussing Santorum, according to the analysis. But since Santorum’s triple wins in early February, 41% of posts expressing an opinion about a candidate were focused on Santorum.

After Rick Santorum won primaries in three states this month, he was catapulted to the front of the national discourse. Santorum’s success has cast him as the “rising star” of the four remaining candidates, and that status is bound to win a candidate increased attention.

But is all that new attention helping Santorum? Not so much — most of that attention is negative.

While plenty of people are talking about Santorum online, it’s not all roses and peaches for the former Pennsylvania senator. The majority of comments posted since a CNN debate on Wednesday were disparaging towards Santorum.

What’s driving this barrage of negativity?

Part of the explanation comes from Santorum’s controversial stances on social issues. 28% of the negative opinions about Santorum posted online mention his beliefs against gay marriage. Some social media users have also complained that Santorum is “too conservative,” according to Crimson Hexagon’s analysis.

The analysis also looked at Mitt Romney’s social mentions, finding that 36% of positive opinions about Romney were driven by a belief that he is the “most electable” candidate on the basis of his experience.

Conversely, many negative opinions about Romney accused him of being “out of touch” due to his financial wealth.

Of course, social media monitoring isn’t a scientific poll. According to Gallup’s latest national polling data, Rick Santorum leads Mitt Romney by 7 points.

What do you think about the online conversation revolving around the race for the Republican presidential nomination? Sound off in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Flickr, Gage Skidmore

More About: 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney, Politics, Rick Santorum

3 Things Retailers Can Learn from Mom and Pop Facebook Stores

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 09:50 AM PST

Christian Taylor is founder and CEO of Payvment and developer of the number-one Facebook ecommerce platform for brands, agencies and merchants, and the world's only Facebook Shopping Mall.

Recently, Gap and J.C. Penney closed their Facebook storefronts because the retailers weren’t seeing immediate traction. The move has sparked an interesting debate: whether Facebook commerce will actually take off.

Clearly, we are still in the very early days of Facebook shopping, but there is already ample evidence that social commerce is thriving. For every big brand that's failed in its initial social commerce attempt, there are thousands of smaller brands that are killing it with Facebook commerce (F-commerce).

Why have some large retailers stumbled with their initial F-commerce attempts, while many smaller retailers are seeing success? Here are three things smaller sellers can teach large retailers about Facebook commerce.

1. Start From Scratch

The first mistake many large retailers make is trying to build custom storefronts that are essentially clones of their .com websites, when they should attempt to truly integrate their presences into the social fabric of Facebook. Smaller sellers have the advantage here; most don't already maintain big ecommerce presences, so they can start from scratch with a social model.

Successful smaller sellers are also opting for commerce solutions that take full advantage of the Facebook platform, such as robust sharing, commenting and social expression features. They also typically have a smaller product catalog, which helps to focus sharing, promotions and wall posts, creating concentrated buzz and rapid fan and visitor growth to their storefronts.

2. Be Authentic

Successful smaller sellers engage in active, authentic communication and dialogue with their fans and shoppers on Facebook. It's very compelling to talk to an actual jewelry designer about his or her inspiration, or to the creator of the sustainable t-shirts you found through a friend. The passion of the smaller seller and the direct, honest dialogue makes for lifelong customers that subsequently spread the word throughout their social connections.

It's hard for a larger retailer’s marketing team to replicate this authenticity within its Facebook presence, but it's possible. Start by picking the right person to manage your Facebook presence – and make sure he has the time and resources to drive robust interaction and conversation with your fan base. Or try featuring guest posts from a supplier or designer to drive more conversation, especially if that person has an interesting, authentic point of view and is willing to engage in some back and forth discussion. Finally, don't make everything about sales and deals — there should be a balance between promotional posts and open-ended stories about the products you offer.

3. Join a Network

Large retailers have typically created custom tab storefronts on their Facebook Pages, which focus on selling to an existing fan base. This "island" mentality might work for .com destination stores, where SEO and email promotions drive the bulk of the traffic, but it doesn't work very well on Facebook, where social discovery drives traffic and exposure to a broad swath of the social and interest graph is key. With a stand-alone store, you're only as good as your "graph." In other words, you're limited to your existing fan base when it comes to product discovery and social sharing. Plus, you're limited to relationship-based graphs rather than the possible interest graphs generated by broader community data.

Smaller sellers that are part of a community dramatically amplify social discovery of their products. Examples of this include Pinterest and Yardsellr, each of which enables a seller to expose his or her products to a rapidly growing base of visitors connected both socially and through shared interests.

The fact that some larger retailers have recently shuttered their Facebook stores doesn't prove that social networks lack potential as sales channels. Chances are, many retailers will continue to experiment with the potential of these powerful social platforms.

When larger retailers move out of the .com paradigm and embrace a truly social model for their Facebook storefronts, they’ll discover a huge opportunity for success.

More About: community engagement, contributor, ecommerce, Facebook, features, Social Media

Why Stunts Drive Clicks for Gen-Y Auto Marketers

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 08:16 AM PST

The Digital Marketing Series is supported by HubSpot, an inbound marketing software company based in Cambridge, Mass., that makes a full platform of marketing software, including marketing analytics tools.

This year, Chevrolet‘s Super Bowl ad for its Sonic hatchback had its share of white-knuckle stunts. For those who missed it, the hatchback skydived, bungee jumped and executed a kickflip.

But those stunts were child’s play compared to the risk Chevy seemed to be taking. After all, the ad featured no actual reasons to buy the car, no mentions of gas mileage, pricing or even its iPhone/iPad compatibility. The only thing you could surmise from seeing the ad is that the car might be useful if you and it were ever flung out of a plane.

Yet Matt Scarlett, Sonic’s advertising manager, says the stunt-ridden ad was actually the safest choice. Canvassing consumers in the younger-skewing millennial demo revealed that their flashy approach got the strongest response by far. “We said, ‘OK, if you saw an ad like that, would you engage with the brand’s website to learn more?’” recalls Scarlett. “Pretty much everyone said they would, if only to see how the heck they did it.”

This is one way to market cars to Gen Yers. When your target demo lives on Facebook and zones out when you show them a standard car ad with stereotypical beauty shots and performance claims, you have to mess with the formula a bit.

That’s especially true if you’re an underdog brand. In some ways, the auto industry is like tech: There are brands like Apple, which can create buzz merely by teasing new releases. But those that lack this built-in sense of drama have to create their own trans-media narratives.

The progenitor of this approach is Audi‘s Art of the Heist, a 2005 campaign for the A3. The carmaker, working with New York agency Campfire, concocted a story about the car being stolen that included a game replete with online and offline clues about the car’s whereabouts. “Stunts have been a viable way of generating a lot of conversation with a relatively minimal investment thanks to social media,” says Jeremiah Rosen, president and partner of Campfire. “The difference between how we sell beer and how we sell automobiles is dramatically different — longer purchase consideration and longer ownership. Given that the purchase cycle for a car is famously long, starting the conversation with a spreadable, buzzworthy stunt is a very good way to drive attention. It starts the conversation and moves the consumer toward consideration.”

Agency 180LA made the same calculation. When it won the Mitsubishi account in mid-2010, the agency’s assignment was to generate buzz and show off the 2011 Outlander Sport compact crossover’s features. The agency’s solution was “Live Drive,” which was billed as the world’s first online test drive. The brand created a microsite where users could (after getting a code), remotely steer an Outlander Sport.

Mitsubishi followed that effort with an event in February 2011 that had the Outlander and Outlander Sport breaking Guinness World Records in arctic conditions in Ghost Lake, Canada. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” says Gavin Milner, creative director of 180LA. “We are outspent 10-to-one or 30-to-one by our competitors, so we had to do something different.”

Toyota‘s Prius doesn’t suffer under quite the same constraints. Yet, the brand launched its own record-breaking frenzy during two 10-hour webcasts in March 2011. Unlike Mitsubishi’s Guinness campaign, though, this record-breaking attempt was more about whimsy than product attributes. Among the records sought: “Most shadow animals made with Prius LED headlights in two minutes.”

Melissa Eccles, associated director of integrated productions for Saatchi & Saatchi LA, the agency that worked on that effort, says once again the usual claims about mileage and LED headlights would have likely fallen on deaf ears. “It grabs people’s attention and creates a different channel to connect with a generation that is turned off by traditional approaches to advertising,” she says of the effort. “It changes the conversation, giving people a means to participate in an experience, versus being advertised to.”

Not everyone agrees with that logic, though. Todd Turner, owner of Car Concepts, a Thousand Oaks, Calif., consultancy, points out that there are still lots of car brands that continue to emphasize product attributes in their advertising. Two other Super Bowl advertisers — Hyundai and the Ford Silverado — stuck to that formula this year. Turner says that’s smart.

“I think that all these companies [doing stunts] run the risk of devaluing their brands,” Turner says of Chevy Sonic and others. Turner notes that Volkswagen’s ads from the ’60s were lighthearted, but also provided good reasons to buy the cars, like reliability. “To build a car brand that ends up on people’s shopping lists, it has to be something that retains an image for them. That’s where [these brands] are lacking. There’s no definable reason to buy the product. They’re focusing too much on what goes viral, what gets teens’ attention.”

Scarlett, however, is happy for the moment to be getting attention for the Sonic. The Super Bowl ad has gotten almost 2 million views on YouTube at this writing and has about 100,000 more Facebook fans than the Ford Fiesta. Scarlett says when OK Go’s official video for “Needing/Getting” — the song featured in the Super Bowl ad — hit 10 million views in five days, “That’s when we knew we really hit it. We really connected with people.”

Whether they’ll go out and buy the car remains to be seen.

Series supported by HubSpot

The Digital Marketing Series is supported by HubSpot, an inbound marketing software company based in Cambridge, Mass., that makes a full platform of marketing software, including marketing analytics tools.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Secret London

More About: Advertising, automobiles, chevrolet, Digital Marketing Series, features, ford, mashable, Mitsubishi, volkswagen

Watch Paris Hilton’s Bizarre Leaked Music Video About Drunk Texts, Sexting

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 07:52 AM PST

Paris Hilton has a thing or two to say about drunk texts, sexting and Twitter. A video by the pop heiress has recently surfaced for a song called “Drunk Text” and… it’s quite strange. Somehow, it’s mesmerizing too.

The song, which is more spoken word than actual singing, discusses a range of tech topics and provides her perspective on communicating in the modern age. The premise of the song follows Hilton as she hangs out at a club — where she goes to “you know, dance with my bitches” — and responds to various text messages throughout the night.

SEE ALSO: Damn You Auto Correct Founder Picks 12 Funniest Texts Ever

“It’s a hot mess of misspelled obscenities,” Hilton says in the song, referring to drunk texts. “No one is safe in the Twittersphere anymore. If you take the word sex and mix it with texting, it’s called sexting. When you add drunk sexting, the words just don’t make any sense.”

Although it was originally thought that the song was a part of Hilton’s upcoming new album — in which she is collaborating with various artists, including Afrojack, Flo Rida and LMFAO — her spokesperson told Mashable that she recorded it a few years ago for fun.

“We can confirm that the video leaked today is not part of Paris Hilton's new album,” the spokesperson said. “This video was recorded over a year ago. The first single will be out in a few months, we will let everyone know when it's due for release.”

House DJ duo Manufactured Superstars — who is featured on the song — also weighed in about the video’s origin:

"Paris did this music video as a favor for us. It’s not a part of her new album,” Manufactured Superstars said. “This is an unfinished rough-cut, which was not ready for release. We’re looking into what happened and removing the illegal copies from the web. We’ve heard some songs from her new record which are incredible and are really going to surprise people."

The video was previously posted on YouTube and Vimeo, but it has since been removed. still has the video.

Paris Hilton learns a valuable lesson by the end of the song: “This is the last time I will ever drink and text,” she says.

What do you think of the song? Also, do you think you could come up with a better song about texting? If so, send it our way. We’d love to hear!

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post said that the song was released as a part of Hilton’s new album. The above text has been modified to reflect that. We regret the error.

Video courtesy of

More About: celebrities, sexting, smartphones, Social Media, texting, trending

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The Rise of the Startup Political Candidate

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 07:32 AM PST

Nick Przybyciel is a graduate degree candidate at Northwestern University’s Medill School, where he is studying the intersection of technology and journalism as an interactive publishing student. You can connect with him on Twitter @nicprz.

It wasn’t too long ago that Simon Ribeiro would have been considered an odd political candidate.

Ribeiro’s de-facto campaign nerve center is inside a classroom at Chicago’s Gordon Tech High School, where he is a rookie teacher, having finally scored a full-time job after six years of substitute teaching. The number of digits in his political war chest could be counted on one hand.

Press conferences? Forget it. He prefers one-on-one Skype sessions with bloggers, citizen journalists and other civic-minded, but non-credentialed commentators. Political ideology? He doesn’t really follow any set dogma, mixing equal parts Ron Paul and Harry Reid into a veritable mash-up of ambitious ideas.

What Ribeiro does have is a website, and a pretty good one, considering his $400 development budget.

"I realized that if I raised $10,000, or if I raise $500, it’s not really going to make much of a difference," says Ribeiro. "So, instead of wasting my time doing all of these fundraisers and all of this stuff, I’ll just say ‘Look, $10,000 is still a drop in the bucket compared to my competitor, so there’s no sense in even sweating it.’"

Ribeiro, who is hoping to upset the incumbent in Illinois’ 9th congressional district Democratic primary on March 20, is part of a new breed of politically unconnected, but digitally savvy citizens running their own campaigns this election cycle. He embodies the post-partisan — and post-big media — candidate.

Call Ribeiro the “social media candidate.”

Thanks to the explosive growth of social media users since the 2010 elections, especially among the holy grail of political demographics (baby boomers), the playing field may finally be leveled for startup candidates like Ribeiro.

"One of the fastest growing populations on Twitter are those 55-plus," said Karen Jagoda, president of the E-Voter Institute, a non-partisan organization that promotes the use of online tools in political and advocacy campaigns. "Everyone is more receptive to social media than two years ago."

The paradigm shift that began with President Obama’s bottom-up, online grassroots campaign in 2008 was only further cemented when the right embraced these tools during the conservative revolution two years later. Social media usage stats justified this shift in tactics. In 2008, only 29% of McCain voters were active users of social networking sites, compared to 44% of Obama supporters.

Fast-forward two years, and a Pew Internet & American Life Project report found that Republicans and Democrats used social media to gather or share political information at roughly equal rates in the midterm election cycle.

This shows that anyone — no matter his age or party affiliation — can launch a do-it-yourself, online-based campaign to reach his target audience.

"Online media gives those with little name recognition the ability to get into the game," says Jagod. "There’s not a guarantee that money will follow, but small contributors with a vested interest in a campaign can build huge grassroots support."

It’s not just the reach of social media that’s promising for DIY candidates. Digital mediums offer something that linear media can’t: engagement and credibility. A 2011 whitepaper published by SocialVibe found that 94% of social media users of voting age engaged by a political message watched the entire message. Moreover, 39% of these people went on to share that message with an average of 130 online friends.

Go back in time a decade and ask any K Street political consultant whether similar engagement metrics were even remotely possible by utilizing broadcast, mailers or any other traditional outreach tactic, and you would have been laughed out of D.C.

But now, robust interactive strategies are big business. Mega interactive agencies, like Washington D.C.-based Engage, provide consulting and management services for the few who can afford it. Their agency has helped brand and create digital strategies for, among others, MTV reality TV star Sean Duffy, who won Wisconsin’s 7th District House seat in 2010 thanks in part to a slick online campaign.

However, social media has a leveling quality to it. Candidates without major endorsements or million-dollar interactive agencies at their disposal can still utilize the same tactics as their well-funded competitors. Sure, their websites may not have undergone $50,000 in usability testing, or be loaded with Flash animation, but as long as they adhere to a few basics, they manage to reach their desired audiences with credible messaging.

Jagoda mentioned just a few of these tools that are accessible to anybody: email/SMS lists, an authentic Twitter feed, a Facebook presence with strong calls to action, and videos of campaign stops or behind-the-scenes footage, which can be posted on YouTube or Vimeo. And always, always cross-promote these properties on traditional outreach materials, like flyers or direct mailings.

Ribeiro has already invested in this approach, and it seems to be paying off. "I’m really trying to take advantage of the social networking sites, namely Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, just because I know these are good sites," says Ribeiro. "It’s free, it’s engaging, and it’s not just ‘Here’s a sound bite. Here’s a slogan.’ It’s really a discussion. It’s an interaction."

Aside from featuring his social media presence prominently on his campaign site, Ribeiro also plans to work with a filmmaker friend to add other media, such as viral videos. Generating and sharing this type of content is particularly important for the boomer generation.

"The older demographic is not using the social media tools in the same way as the younger is," says Jagoda. "They’re more likely to view photos and videos than to post [status updates], but also more likely to forward links."

But even if Ribeiro doesn’t get enough Likes, shares or comments to win this election, he’s ready for another run in 2014. "I’m building inroads to the future and getting my name out there," he says.

That’s an often-discounted upside to social media – long after the last political ad has aired, candidates that truly get the essence of social media will keep engaging and growing their communities, building momentum for the next go at it.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Pgiam, Flickr, LaMenta3

More About: 2012 election, campaign, contributor, features, Social Media

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