Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Meet the Team Behind Google Doodles [VIDEO]”


Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Meet the Team Behind Google Doodles [VIDEO]”

Meet the Team Behind Google Doodles [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 03:05 AM PST

Unlike most Google products, Google Doodles aren’t executed through algorithms. A team of living, breathing artists regularly dress up its logo.

A video released on Wednesday, embedded above, introduces them.

SEE ALSO: Where Do Google Doodles Come From?

Google made the video to promote its Google4Doodle initiative, which gives K-12 students in the U.S. an opportunity to redesign Google’s homepage logo. This year’s theme is “If I could travel, in time, I’d visit…”

The contest will accept submissions until March 23rd, and the winning design will be displayed on Google’s homepage May 18th. Four national finalists, as determined by Google employees around the country and an open online voting system, will win a $5,000 college scholarship. One national winner will win a $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 technology grant for his or her school.

Last year’s national winner, eight-year-old Matteo Lopez, drew a space scene in which the Google “G” turned into an alien that slurped juice out of the Google”O” Earth.

“It wasn’t him trying to be right,” Google Doodler Michael Dutton explains in the video, “it was just him having fun, and that definitely registered with us.”

More About: google doodle, Google4Doodle

For more Tech coverage:

Dennis Crowley: Every Map Should Have Foursquare Dots on It

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 02:31 AM PST

BARCELONA: At this morning’s keynote at the Mobile World Congress, three people that are shaping the future of the mobile industry sat together for an entertaining chat: Foursquare‘s Dennis Crowley, Nokia‘s Stephen Elop and HTC‘s Peter Chou.

Crowley was perhaps the most informative of the three, throwing a huge amount of Foursquare’s plans, ideas and strategies at the audience during his 15-minute opening speech. Throughout the keynote, he emphasized that Foursquare is more than a game where people collect cool badges.

‘We have an immense amount of data. We’re going through this data, and creating recommendations for the world,’ he said, likening the next step in Foursquare evolution to a smarter version of Microsoft Office’s animated assistant of old, Clippy.

‘Asking Siri where the nearest sushi bar — that’s not interesting. What’s interesting is asking your phone where one of your friends have last had dinner in the neighborhood, or having it recommend a cool paella place in Barcelona because it knows you eat paella all the time at home,’ said Crowley.

Ultimately, he sees Foursquare as an omnipresent layer of data which is open to other apps via its API – arguably its most important “feature”. “Anywhere you see a map, you should see foursquare dots on it,” he said.

In his part of the keynote, Chou was content to once again go through the features HTC’s new One line of products and the new Sense 4. Chou and Elop definitely provided the most amusing part of the keynote, having a little back and forth over which company produces the best camera on the phone. ‘We had the 16-megapixel camera on a phone, but I knew this guy (Elop) would get back at us,” he said.

Later, when asked about how HTC feels about Nokia’s tight relationship with Microsoft — given that HTC also manufactures Windows Phone devices — Chou said: “We are not a selfish or a close-minded company. We believe it’s beneficial to us.”

Stephen Elop focused on Nokia’s attempt at creating a third ecosystem, besides iOS and Android. It will be powered by the changes brought on by the users in the emerging markets, Elop thinks, and Nokia understands these markets well.

“The result of this shift will be in a distribution of profits from apps. Many people will make money from creating and distributing apps instead of just a few,” said Elop.

At the end of the keynote, when asked how he feels about all modern smartphones being similar, Elop said that design is very important for Nokia. However, when keynote host Rajeev Chand did a quick comparison of a white Nokia Lumia device and the white HTC One X — which definitely look very similar from afar — Elop could only laugh. “They’re different when you turn them on,” concluded Chand, and both Chou and Elop seemed to agree.

Crowded House

It was a packed house on the Mobile World Congress show floor.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: dennis crowley, Peter Chou, Stephen Elop

For more Mobile coverage:

Ads Worth Spreading: TED Announces Winners of 2012 Marketing Challenge

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 08:59 PM PST

CANAL+ - The Bear

Brand: Canal+

Agency: BETC

Click here to view this gallery.

TED, the non-profit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” announced the winners of its 2011-2012 “Ads Worth Spreading” challenge on Tuesday. The 10 winners were revealed at the TED2012 conference in Long Beach, Calif.

The non-profit stated on its website that the intention of this annual initiative is to find “ads that communicate ideas with consumers in the same way that TED wants to communicate with its audience.”

Agencies, producers and brands from 39 countries submitted to the 2012 challenge through an “Ads Worth Spreading” channel on YouTube. Six teams of two judges — each one made up of a TED speaker and a “rising star” from the advertising industry — worked together to nominate ads across six categories: talk, social good, cultural compass, creative wonder, brand bravery and storytelling. Additionally, 25 leading voices in the ad industry acted as “Advocates” to make nominations.

This year’s winners include Canal+, Chipotle, Engagement Citoyen, L’Oréal Paris, Mazda, Microsoft, NTT Docomo, Prudential, Rethink Breast Cancer and Sharpie.

“We sought out ads that were driven by ideas,” said TED Curator Chris Anderson in a press release. “At TED, we’ve seen the power of imagination and innovation. We want to reward companies that have invested in longer-form, beautifully crafted campaigns that value human attention and intelligence, and take the time to tell a thought-provoking story.”

In addition to being featured across, YouTube blogs and social media, the teams behind the winning ads will be honored at a special celebration co-hosted by TED and YouTube, which will take place in March at the Art Director's Club in New York City.

More About: Advertising, Business, features, Marketing, Social Good, TED, TED2012, TEDtalks

When Does It Make Sense to Outsource Your Software Development?

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 08:41 PM PST

Michael Schneider is CEO of Mobile Roadie, the leading self-service mobile app platform. With more than 16 million users, Mobile Roadie powers over 3,000 apps for some of the world's most popular artists and brands.

You don't need to own app development software — you just think you do.

Often a business encounters one of two scenarios: Either a company is hesitant to go with a development platform because it's so much cheaper than building an app from scratch. ("If it's so cheap, something must be wrong.”) They feel they need to "own" the app and source code. Or companies rely on in-house IT departments for development projects, even when they don’t need to.

When a brand new industry emerges (such as SaaS app builders), it takes time for companies to realize that, many times, it's not cheaper. Over time, this problem will correct itself, in much the same way that WordPress, Tumblr, Square Space and others have become acceptable solutions for building a website, despite their low costs.

On the other hand, 

IT departments that think they can do it all can actually be dangerous for the companies that employ them. If you're a technology company, meaning tech is your main business and not just a function within a larger organization, perhaps it does make sense to try and build in-house. But for most organizations, IT groups simply exist to serve the larger purpose of the business, likely something other than tech.

Saying no to an in-house IT department that wants to build mobile may take courage, but it may be in the organization's best interests. 

Or companies may insist: The price is right, IT agrees that it should outsource app creation, but they want to own the source code. This is equivalent to telling Microsoft that you want to use Windows, but that you need the source code to seal the deal. This often derails otherwise great use of app platforms, and causes the organization to build from scratch when, in reality, the organization does not need to own the source code.

Mobile moves at lightning speed. If you own the source code when Apple and Google come out with new versions of iOS and Android, it's up to you to build in new features and make sure your app is up to snuff. And with new phones and software versions coming out monthly, this can be a daunting and expensive task.

In these three instances, building an app from scratch makes sense.

  1. If it's your core business to be in the app market.
  2. If you're trying to build a game.
  3. If your needs that are truly, highly custom.

However, if your app is content-driven, there is no good reason to build something from scratch, or to own the source code. There are many impressive platforms on which to build content-based apps, with great viral sharing features, media, gamification and more — at a fraction of the cost and time it takes to build from the ground up. So, stop your IT department from trying to do it all.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, sndr

More About: contributor, development, features, Mobile, mobile apps

Gravity Personalizes Websites Based on Your Interests

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 08:01 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: Gravity

Quick Pitch: Personalize website homepages for each viewer through interest graphing technology

Genius Idea: Websites using Gravity can generated a personalized web page for each visitor based on the reader’s engagement with their website. Gravity’s interest mapping technology provides analytics for websites so they can better understand their readers’ interests — producing content readers want and increasing optimization.

MySpace might not be rising from the dead, but three of its former executives plan to take the web by storm this year with what you could call MyWeb.

Gravity, a Santa Monica-based startup, has been working for the past two years to up the ante on personalized web browsing.

Amit Kapur, Gravity’s CEO and former COO of MySpace, says there has been two major shifts in the way people consume the Internet. Website content was first organized by professionals. Well, it still can be organized by professionals, but Internet consumption has shifted to peer recommendations. Content shared by friends on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter shows another way people consume online content.

Kapur’s company has initiated a third way to filter through the content on the Internet — he calls it interest graphing. Gravity’s technology graphs your interests and then organizes website content based on what you’re most likely to be interested in viewing.

Getting an interest graph and webpage analytics is highly scientific. Big brains are behind Gravity including well-known linguistics, engineering, computer science and statistics professors from Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley, like Michael I. Jordan. The startup is backed by $10 million from David Hornick of August Capital and Geoff Yang of Redpoint Ventures.

Checkout the graphic above to see how the system completely works. Gravity “crawls, indexes and semantically analyzes web page, tweet, status update or post” to identify the stories going viral and then organizes content by interests, the website says.

Gravity has worked with 10 websites including news organizations such as the Wall Street Journal and TIME while developing its interest graph model and analytics. For news websites, Gravity recommends articles promptly based on the kinds of stories you have already read. Publishers already using the technology have said click through rates increased dramatically, Kapur said. Allowing users to sign in with social accounts increases accuracy in the interest technology. Kapur compared Gravity’s technology to how Pandora creates a personalized music playlist, or Netflix recommends movies. He said his startup is not doing the same task as Google Analytics.

“I think you hear a lot of about data science, but we are just scratching the surface of implementing it,” he said. “This type of technology has become increasingly necessary because of data overload.”

Take the Wall Street Journal for example. The site’s home page is individually organized by Gravity for each logged-in visitor who arrives. There are three layers to Gravity’s approach for organizing the WSJ — 1. There’s a section that shows you what stories are trending, which is shown to all viewers; 2. The personalized area shows stories matching your interests based on previous activity on the site; 3. If you sign in with Facebook or another social account, socially relevant content will appear based on what you “Like” and what you and your friends are talking about on social media.

Its product, usable with a browser widget or via Gravity’s application programming interface (APIs), is free and might even make websites a few bucks from shared supported content revenue. Sites that opt for API usage have access to deeper website traffic analytics. As Gravity grows, Kapur said the site will begin to show interest-targeted ads in the same way it chooses interest-based stories for website visitors.

Later this year, Gravity will become a self-serve system, but for now it is still working with partners. Kapur said he hopes the Internet becomes the personalized interest-driven web.

When you visit a webpage, do you want content to be organized specifically for you? Tell us in the comments below.

Graphics courtesy of Gravity.

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: api, bizspark, News, widget

Meet the Winner of Mashable’s Facebook Short Story Contest

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 07:31 PM PST

Facebook Story

What would you write on Facebook if you had endless space for creativity? Well, not endless, but it seems pretty close. Facebook greatly increased its character limit to 63,206, which is the equivalent of roughly 451 and a half tweets. The increase means you could do more than just blog there — you can write chapters of your upcoming novel.

Just for fun, we decided to see what you could fit in that character limit. The results included the U.S. Constitution (more than twice over), half of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and the final three episodes of Friends.

However, we wanted to see what you could come up with: Given 63, 206 characters in a Facebook update, what would you write? We received a range of responses, including prose, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and even someone who used Facebook to quit his job. But one suspenseful story stood out, and we’re happy to announce Dan Holden as the winner for his 15,084-character tale, “Taking Forever.”

We reached out to Dan to learn more about his story, his life and his writing.

Q&A With Dan Holden, Winner of Mashable‘s Facebook Short Story Contest

What do you do and what’s your background?

I was a business and tech journalist at the San Jose Business Journal and Electronic News back in the ’80s and ’90s, covering the semiconductor industry. I spent the last 20 years as an in-house public relations manager at various tech companies, including Altera, TSMC and Cadence Design Systems. I've been an avid participant in online communities for many years and began developing my social media skills at Cadence.

After Cadence, I worked as a freelance writer for various companies and publications, and connected with influencers in social media at events and webinars, mostly to up-level my skill set and build my network. Since last year, I have worked as a social media strategist and content developer under contract to Broadcom Corporation and other clients. I also write for the Social Media Club Journal and have a professional blog, SiliconCowboy, that I use to build community with friends and associates in the tech industry.

I have three little girls that I adopted as a single dad when they were infants. We have a horse, a cat and a dog.

How did you start writing? How often do you write? And do you think of it as a hobby or something more?

I have always been an avid reader and writer; I enjoy all creative forms. I started writing short stories and song lyrics in junior high. I graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor's degree in English and creative writing (’81) and a master's degree in journalism (’85). I received high praise for my creative writing and personality profiles in college.

I put my creative writing on hold for most of my career. My social media work has connected me with other writers, as well as a few actors, producers and filmmakers. This has rekindled my passion for creative writing. Today I spend a lot of time writing short stories and screenplays, primarily because I love it.

Because I'm also a single parent, I usually end up writing from about 10 at night until one or two in the morning. I write every day. I would love to see this blossom into a professional career — that's really what I have wanted to do all my life. I have two screenplays in development right now, and would love to share them with a good agent.

Where do you publish? And who do you generally show your work to?

I post my short stories and poetry to my creative writing blog, En Vidrio ("In Glass," because I write on my iPad), and share them with my Facebook network. I've considered submitting them to fiction journals, but haven't really explored that avenue.

My screenplays are copyrighted but unpublished. I have not shared them with anyone, really.

How, if at all, does social media influence your writing?

Social media absolutely influences my writing. For example, several of my short stories (“Tsukumogami,” “A Downey Thanksgiving” and others) were created using a crowdsourcing technique in which my Facebook friends give me a list of props – people, places and things – and I create a story around them. Additionally, without simple blog software like WordPress, I probably would not have shared any of my writing.

In a larger sense, social media has connected me with people in other countries. I've been to several countries just visiting friends I met through social networks. Those experiences have provided me with a lot of material for my stories and screenplays.

I think this experience pays dividends to my professional career as well. The ability to create, develop and share stories – whether they are fiction or corporate blogs – is a meld of art and science that draws people in and touches them, motivates them to react, share, do something meaningful — that is pure social media.

I'm now at the stage where I'm exploring the full multimedia canvas. For instance, I am working with a filmmaker in southern California on some short film concepts that could build a lot of audience interest and commitment. So, I'm stretching my skill set well beyond what I learned in college. I think a lot of kids who are social media natives have grown up with this stuff and are already well on their way.

Taking Forever – A Short Story by Dan Holden

I was sound asleep when my 8 year-old, ball-of-energy daughter came screaming into my room, bounding onto my bed and yelling frantically in my ear.

“There’s a boy in the kitchen with a knife in his mouth!!” she yelled.

“What?” I asked, popping awake.

“There’s a boy…in the kitchen,” she started, and then broke down in tears. As powerful and strong as my little Emmie is, she’s also totally sensitive, and if something touches her heart she falls apart completely.

Something really serious must have happened.

I jumped out of bed and pulled on a pair of jeans. I grabbed my cell phone off the nightstand and, shoving it into my back pocket, started to run out of my room and down the hall. I stopped at the door and Emmie ran into me from behind.

I turned around and crouched down to her face level.

“Stay here,” I said quietly but sternly. “Stay right here, don’t move. I will be right back, I promise.”

Emmie’s little body was trembling and tears were pouring out of her eyes, but she stuck her little fist in her mouth and nodded her head yes from the darkened doorway.

I turned and tip-toed to toward the kitchen. I didn’t know what was up.

It could be a kid or it could be a burglar. We live in a little old ranch house in the country, just me and my three little girls and our horses and cats. The nearest neighbor is just across the road, but there are no streetlights and the way is frequented by poor folk who sometimes steal pets and machinery to make a fast buck.

My hands curled into fists, I could feel my fingers digging into my palms and the muscles in my arms and shoulders tensed in anticipation. If there was a burglar in the house, and he had a knife, he had a distinct advantage over me. My objective was to get him out without any kind of altercation.

The light was on. If I rounded the corner, I would be in the kitchen. I could hear a faint sound like someone breathing quickly.

At the other end of the kitchen was a door that led outside. I wanted desperately to give this person an opportunity to leave that way.

“Get out, or I’ll fire!!” I yelled firmly, in a voice as deep as I could make it, “Vamanos! Pistola!”

Nothing happened.

Emmie walked into the hallway behind me, crying audibly again.

“He’s hurt, Daddy!” she said, and started crying again.

I took a deep breath, crouched down a bit and dashed across the entry to a point behind the kitchen counter, quickly scanning the room as I went.

I was shocked by what I saw.

There, in the middle of the kitchen, stood a slightly pre-teen boy, with tousled blond hair, baseball t-shirt, jeans and red sketchers, eyes wide open and hands flexing wildly at his side. He was shaking like a leaf and I saw a glint of metal in front of his face.

That’s when I realized what my daughter had tried to tell me: This kid had a 12-inch butcher knife stuck solidly in the back of his mouth, which was wide open, twitching from the effort required to keep his tender lips from the searing edge.

“It’s ok,” I said to him as calmly as I could, “I’m not mad at you. You are welcome here. We are going to help you.”

I moved slowly toward him, not wanting him to react in any way. I was terrified that the knife might be stuck in his spinal cord.

The boy dared not move or even utter a response. He just moaned softly and stayed as still as he could, for a kid who was shaking with fear.

Behind me, Emmie began walking down the hall toward me, still crying to the depth of her little soul. I saw the boy’s frame slump slightly at the sound; he was identifying with her misery.

I looked around quickly, trying to assess what I could do.

“Emmie,” I said, “go wake up Christina.”

At 12 years old, Christina is the oldest of my three daughters. She is smart, very perceptive and, most of the time, pretty cool under pressure. She broke her jaw earlier this year riding her horse in a competition. Except for the initial shock, she didn’t cry at all, even though the surgeons didn’t wire her up for four days. So I was hopeful that she could help me out here.

As Emmie ran to Christina’s room at the back of the house, I gently touched the boy’s shoulder and talked to him.

“My name is Dan,” I said. “This is my house. You are welcome here. I’m going to help you.”

His shaking slowed slightly and he took a heavy breath. Tears began forming at the edge of his eyes.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “We will take care of you.”

I walked slowly around him, looking him over carefully. He didn’t appear to have any bruises and as best as I could tell, there was no exit wound from the knife at the back of his head. I looked into his mouth; the blade was pointed toward his cheek but the point was embedded straight into the back of his throat. There was a steady trickle of blood running from the wound, and he swallowed involuntarily as it flowed. I had no idea how much blood he was losing, but as small as he was, it had to be a concern.

I grabbed a paper towel and tore a piece off. Folding it up, I placed it gently between the blade of the knife and the boy’s lip, so he could relax his mouth without cutting himself.

Then I gently touched his forehead; it was cold and sweaty. He was in shock.

I stepped back and pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. I called 9-1-1.

“911 please state your emergency.”

“There is a small child in my house, I don”t know who he is, but he has a knife stuck in his throat.”

“Where are you calling from?”

“San Martin, California.”

“This is your cell phone?”


“Do you know the address where you are located?”

I gave her my address.

“Is the patient conscious?”

“Yes, he is standing in front of me, he’s in shock. He’s cold and sweaty, shaking. He has a 12-inch knife stuck through his mouth and into his throat.”

“And you say you don’t know who he is?”

“No ma-” Suddenly Christina yelped behind me.

“Omigod!” she said, in a high, terrified voice. “It’s Jack!!”

“Is this a friend of yours?” I said to Christina, as calmly as I could, hoping to relay useful information to the 911 operator.

“We are sending an ambulance to your location now,” she said.

“Thank you,” I replied. “We may know who this is, hang on.”

“Yes I will,” said the operator, “and please stay on the line until emergency personnel get there. Also you should know this conversation is being recorded for training purposes.”

“It’s Jack,” said Christina at the same time. “He’s a boy in my science class. He goes to my school. What happened?”

“I don’t know,” I answered. “Emmie found him out here. Be gentle, he’s in shock. Don’t move him and don’t say anything upsetting.”

“Jack,” I said to the boy, “An ambulance is on the way, they will bring doctors who can help. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes, the fire station is a couple of miles from here.” I realized after saying so that it was more than 10 miles away.

He opened and closed his fingers in response.

“He’s saying ‘ok’,” said Christina. She moved to him and gently took his hand. He looked sideways at her, and tears began to stream from his eyes. Christina’s eyes welled up, too, but she smiled a trembling smile and squeezed his hand gently.

“It’s going to be ok,” she said sincerely. “My Dad knows how to help.”

Jack’s knees buckled slightly. His legs wobbled and I saw his eyes start to roll back. Before I could do anything, Christina had slipped behind him and put her arms around his chest. She held him close but not too tight, her face peeking out just above his slumping shoulder.

“I got him,” she said, looking up at me.

“He’s passing out,” I said to the operator.

“Don’t let him do that,” she said. “Talk to him, try to keep him awake. Is he on the floor?”

“No,” I said, “My daughter is holding him up. I don’t think it would be a good idea to move him at all.”

“The ambulance is on its way,” she said. “Can you get a pulse? Do you know how to feel for one?”

“Yes,” I said, hang on. I put my finger on his wrist and felt a weak, rapid pulse. Then I thought again and gently placed a finger to his neck. His pulse was even shallower there.

“He’s weak,” I said, “He has a pulse but it is rapid and fading.”

“Try to keep him warm,” said the operator.

“Emmie,” I said, “go get a blanket.” My little motorgirl whirled around and hopped into the living room, coming back momentarily with my favorite gray and black Mexican blanket. I spread it out in my arms and, moving behind Christina, wrapped it around both of them.

The boy suddenly reacted, grabbing the blanket in front of him and holding it close. I could feel their bodies relax in its warmth.

The faint sound of a siren came in through the window. A dog barked on a nearby property. The ambulance had to be at least a couple of miles away still.

“I wonder what he was doing here,” I said to myself. Nobody had an answer.

“It’s taking forever,” said Emmie, sobbing.

“Naw, it will be here soon,” I said. My eye caught my youngest daughter Angie, standing in the hallway half awake, gazing unknowing at the scene. I stepped in front of the boy and turned to her.

“Angie, why don’t you go find a movie to watch. Emmie, go help her.”

“I don’t want to,” said Emmie.

“Please,” I said, looking at her firmly. Emmie turned and grabbed Angie’s hand and walked her into the living room.

Behind me, Christina was still holding the boy. Wrapped in the same blanket and with their eyes closed, they almost looked at peace.

I realized I might need more help before the ambulance got here.

“Emmie!” I called.

“Yeah, Daddy?” she answered, running to me.

“Go get Lupita’s Daddy.”

“But it’s dark out!!”

“Oh yeah,” I said, looking out the window. “Never mind, help Angie.”

It occurred to me, duh, that whoever had stabbed this child might still be outside.

“Turn the light on,” I yelled to Emmie. As she did so, the sound of a Disney movie wafted into the kitchen.

I looked back. Christina and Jack were still standing, eyes closed. Their bodies were swaying ever so slightly, together, as if in a slow dance.

“Be careful,” I whispered to Christina.

“I’m not doing anything,” she said, her eyes still closed.

The siren was still way off, but more dogs were barking. I could see lights come on at the neighbor’s house across the street. Then I saw the father step out his front door and look up at the full moon. I skipped to my front door and opened it, flicking the light on at the same time.

“Manuel!” I yelled, “Come here quick, please!! Emergencia!”

He looked my way and waved. He closed the door to his house and trotted toward me.

Manuel is a wonderful man, a landscape architect who sees himself as an artist of sorts. He is a tall man with a soft Mexican accent, wears his gray hair long and sports woven wool Peruvian sweaters. Sometimes I think he is deeply spiritual, although I don’t know what his religious affiliation is. He has lived in this area all his life and once told me that he had wanted to buy my farm, but that I had gotten it first.

But I wanted to have my own ranch forever, and after saving forever and searching forever, taking my daughters through open house after open house, I was finally able to buy this one and happily moved my little family from Silicon Valley to enjoy a real ranch life.

“What’s up my friend?” he called, as he came near.

“One of Christina’s school friends, he is in my kitchen; why I don’t know. Anyway, he has a knife stuck in his throat. He’s bleeding internally,” I said, opening the front door.

“You called the ambulance?” he asked.

“Yeah, that’s them coming,” I said, pointing in the direction of the sound, which was coming nearer.

He swept by me into the house, looked at the scene in the kitchen and almost smiled. He walked lightly forward. When he reached the pair, he gently touched their shoulders through the blanket and closed his eyes.

“That ambulance is taking forever,” I muttered. The farms were alive now with barking dogs.

He nodded slightly in response, eyes still closed.

I realized I was still holding the phone.


“Yes,” I said, “I’m here.”

“Have the emergency vehicles arrived?”

“No,” I said dismally, “They are taking forever.”

“Is the patient responsive?”

“His eyes are closed, but he is awake,” I said, as Jack moved the blanket ever so slightly.

My eyes were distracted by red, yellow and blue flashes on the wall, and then I heard a muffled popping sound coming from where Jack and Christina stood.

I turned in time to see Jack’s knees failing again as an erie squealing sound came out of his mouth. His eyes flew open and then rolled back. He slumped, taking Christina down with him. Manuel’s hands hung empty in the air.

“He’s passing out again!” I said into the phone.

“It’s ok,” said Manuel flatly, “they are here.” He nodded toward the window, which was now filled with the lights of emergency vehicles.

Emmie flew to the door and opened it. Two sheriffs came through, low, with their guns drawn. They swept Emmie behind them and approached us cautiously.

“Let me see your hands,” said one. Manuel and I held up our hands.

“Daddy – ” cried Christina.

“He’s dying,” I said, “He needs help right away.”

“What happened here?” asked one of the cops, quickly scanning his eyes over to Christina and then Jack, who was lying on his back, the knife protruding horribly from his mouth. Christina looked up at me, shaking her head. He was gone.

I looked up to see emergency technicians coming through the front door with medical equipment in hand.

“Over here!” I said, motioning to where my daughter held the lifeless body. The other cop pointed his gun back at me.

“Don’t move, sir!” he said.

“This is my house,” I said, “I’m Dan, I – ”

“He stabbed this boy,” said Manuel calmly. “I saw it from across the street. I guess he thought it was a burglar. But he’s just a boyfriend of the daughter’s.”

“What?” I said incredulously.

“No!” said my daughter, rising with the blanket still around her.

Now both officers were pointing their guns at me. The EMTs stood back, waiting for the opportunity to work on Jack. Another officer took Christina and Emmie by the hand and walked them into the living room where a female officer was already sitting with Angie.

Suddenly, everything became a horrible, dizzy blur of sensory overload. My blood rushed to my head and I felt fuzzy and confused.

“This is just a precaution,” I heard an officer say, as he handcuffed me behind my back.

They walked me out of my house and toward the back of a patrol car. My girls ran out of the house after me, screaming and crying. Emmie, my powerful little one, wrapped me in a full bear hug and wouldn’t let go. Then they were all three wrapped around me, holding onto anything they could, trying desperately to keep me from being taken.

Several officers pulled them firmly away from me and led them to an unmarked van.

As I sat in the patrol car, half listening to someone reading me my rights, numbly staring out at the spectacle of my humble ranch house lit up with the gaudy, flashing lights of the ambulance and patrol cars, I realized that it wasn’t the emergency vehicles that had taken forever.

It was Manuel.

More About: contest, Facebook, Social Media, trending

Mobile World Congress: A View From Inside [PICS]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 07:01 PM PST

Crowded House

It was a packed house on the Mobile World Congress show floor.

Click here to view this gallery.

BARCELONA: Like all large tech events, Mobile World Congress is very similar to the last mega mobile event in Spain, but as with those previous events, each year brings a couple of surprises, as well.

Last year, Nokia and Microsoft were nearly absent from the show — this year they came back with a vengeance. Meanwhile, companies you’ve likely never heard of had the weirdest and the most interesting displays — exotic dancers, girls in superhero costumes, scantily dressed anime characters — we’ve seen it all (maybe too much).

There were also dozens of smaller booths hosting tiny mobile app companies, as well as companies that produce various accessories or technologies related to mobile. Weaving their way through all of them was an immense river of people in suits nosing about the gadgets, screens and handsets, and peppering company reps with questions.

Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing several galleries with interesting, unusual and wacky photos from the show. The first one, above, should give you a glimpse of the atmosphere in Barcelona this year.

Are you attending the MWC? Have you attended it in the past? What advice do you have for this year’s attendees? If you’re not at the MWC, what would you like to see photos of? Tell us in the comments.

More About: Events, Mobile, Mobile World Congress

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How Pinterest’s Female Audience Is Changing Social Marketing

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 06:39 PM PST

Curt Finch is the founder and CEO of Journyx, a company that offers time-tracking and resource management software. Connect with him and Journyx on Facebook and Twitter.

As the new kid in town, Pinterest is poised to make some major waves in the social media scene. Facebook, Twitter and Google+, watch your backs.

Launched in 2010, the site grew from 1.6 million visitors in September 2011 to a whopping 11.1 million visitors in February 2012.

A cursory examination of Pinterest site statistics reveals some interesting demographic information: Women are engaging on the social site with much more veracity than men. Currently, women make up about 82% of active users on Pinterest, according to Google Ad Planner.

As a general trend, women engage more on most social sites, including on Facebook and Twitter. Comscore says women are the majority of social networking users, and spend 30% more time on sites than men. Plus, mobile social network usage is 55% female, according to Nielsen.

SEE ALSO: 8 Strategies for Launching a Brand Presence on Pinterest

Is it the inherent nature of Pinterest that speaks to women? One might argue that Pinterest’s openness, its homepage feed an aggregate "board" of everyone's pins, allows users to follow friends' interests and plays to the female psyche. Many examinations have been made as to why this is the case. Some have proposed that women are simply more socially inclined than men, the posited difference being that men generally view social media as a tool — a means to gain information or access entertainment — while women more often use it to interact with others and build a community online.

Whatever the answer, the real question remains: What does all of this information mean for businesses using Pinterest as a marketing tool? After all, women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, everything from autos to health care.

Social consumption sites like Pinterest are particularly good marketing avenues for consumer products. Many businesses have established presences on Facebook and Twitter, using the unique properties of each platform to highlight their brands. Accordingly, individuals can Like or follow businesses they are interested in. However, it can be difficult to determine just how significant the draw of a product-centric environment for social media users on Facebook or Twitter. With sites like Pinterest, companies have a rich view into just such an environment.

Businesses use two primary marketing tactics to target women on Pinterest. The first, and perhaps most straightforward, is to use the platform to exhibit items or services that traditionally appeal to women.

In the case of Walkers Shortbread, Pinterest represents one of the company's very first forays into social media. While the company does have Facebook and Twitter profiles, it found a better fit for its product on Pinterest. Tom Kupfer, account supervisor for PMG Public Relations, says, "It makes sense. Pinterest and Walkers are both popular among females. Nothing makes people want to buy shortbread like delicious shortbread photos. It's a great way to reach others with an interest in food."

Companies can also use Pinterest to selectively market their products. Core Performance, a proactive wellness company that specializes in training elite athletes, takes the female demographic into account when posting to Pinterest — by focusing on nutrition and the latest weight loss trends and recipes. In addition, Core Performance hired Tia Albright from wedding site The Knot to oversee its content strategy and to ensure its flavor appeals to women in particular.

SEE ALSO: Pinterest Becomes Top Traffic Driver for Women's Magazines

Another tactic for successful marketing on Pinterest and other social consumption sites involves creating an environment that fosters positive associations with a company, rather than directly selling products and services. This has the added benefit of falling in line with "pinning etiquette," which maintains that shameless self-promotion is frowned upon.

Rachael Cook, founder of The Yogipreneur, uses this tactic in her marketing strategy. "If I were only to have links back to my site, it wouldn't work as well as if I also reveal my own likes and interests to the community," she says. By creating a communal environment, Cook can grow her personal brand while making potential clients feel welcome and comfortable. To her, this new wave of social sites is all about creating an experience and building a community rather than performing direct marketing. And by sharing other user's pins, she shows a willingness to reciprocate what she calls "mini-endorsements."

Are these marketers the cause or the result of the primarily female demographic on Pinterest? The answer is both. Women, who tend to be much faster at adopting new social media, set the trend. Then, marketers review site user demographics and tailor their approaches accordingly. Thus, these sites, though not inherently female, become a haven for women on the Internet, with products, content and images tailored specifically for them.

Looking forward, it would not be surprising to see these trends continue on the majority of social sites. Social media, and particularly marketing via social media, seem to be very influenced by the old mantra: Ladies first.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, fotosipsak

1. Hands

Pinterest via Edris Kim.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: contributor, features, Marketing, pinterest, women

Daydreaming on the Job? This Brain-Wave-Reading Helmet Knows [VIDEO]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 05:59 PM PST

A new helmet can monitor pilots’ brain waves to see if they are paying attention to flying — or if they’re daydreaming instead.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego put compact EEG brain scanning technology into a regular pilot’s helmet. It’s not a mind-reading device, but researchers can get a peek into brain activity.

Once the brain waves are read, the stats are sent to a tablet using Bluetooth technology. The brain wave feedback is processed and analyzed to figure out which parts of the brain are being engaged — and if a pilot is distracted or tired.

Worried that this technology appears a little too “big brother”? The researchers that created the helmet say the device can only monitor brain waves — not thoughts.

The head gear could be used to do much more than monitor pilots. These brain-wave-reading helmets could give researchers insight into autism, epilepsy, paralysis and fatigue.

Researchers and scientists around the world have been tinkering with the idea of mind-controlled technology for a variety of purposes. (Remember that mind controlled ball game that was popular a couple holiday seasons ago?) What was once a fantasy — controlling objects with your mind — is now a realistic goal for the near future. The implications for such a technology could give people with disabilities a newfound freedom.

What do you think about this technology? Does the potential good it could be used for outweigh the dangers of developing such a technology? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, GuidoVrola

More About: bluetooth, brain, Helmets, mind-reading

Aereo Gives New Yorkers Online Access to Live TV [HANDS ON]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 05:29 PM PST

Starting on March 14, 2012, New York City residents will have the option to stream live broadcast television to their PC, Mac and iOS devices. That is, rather than connecting an antenna to a TV or set-top box, users can simply log on and watch networks such as ABC, CBS and NBC live.

This new service, which represents a holy grail of sorts for cord cutters, comes by way of startup Aereo. We’ve been using Aereo in New York City for the last few weeks — and potential legal hurdles aside — we think the service shows a lot of promise.

The concept is brilliantly simple: Login to the Aereo service and watch live broadcast television just as if you were watching a traditional television set. Even better, the cloud based service allows users to set recording in advance or on the fly. The $12 monthly service includes a 40 hour dual-tuner DVR that is accessible from any authorized Aereo device.

Consumers have long yearned to have access to live broadcast television from the web but aside from select NFL games and the Olympics, most content has remained attached to a set-top box. A few cable companies, such as Cablevision, offer access to live content from an iPad or iPhone, but only when the user is inside their residence. The great part about Aereo is that while the service will initially be limited to New York City residents, access is location agnostic.

That means that I can enjoy live TV or cloud-based recording from my office in Manhattan or in my Brooklyn apartment.

A Question of Legalities

It’s a bit sad, and also very telling, that the after describing Aereo to various friends and colleagues, the gut reaction is “they are so sued.” Aereo, which has already raised $20 million in venture funding, led by IAC, is prepared for these challenges. CEO Chet Kanojia has joked that the funding is going towards infrastructure and legal fees.

In fact, Aereo appears to have been set-up to explicitly comply to the letter of current broadcast laws. Rather than sharing one broadcast signal with thousands of customers, Aereo has engineered miniaturized antennas the size of a dime to receive and deploy HD broadcast signals.

Users are connected to the antennas on a 1-to-1 basis. That means that an antenna is only transmitting a signal to one person at a time. Moreover, users can only view content from one location at a time. If two family members want to watch different programs on different devices simultaneously, they’ll need two Aereo accounts.

These limitations, along with the requirement that residents reside in New York City, are Aereo’s way of complying with various FCC statues regarding the distribution of over-the-air broadcast signals.

Kanojia told us that the company has been very transparent about its plans with content companies, including the local affiliates and national broadcasters. While no company has publicly come out against Aereo, one high-ranking broadcast executive told us that it was “going to sue the [expletive] of them.”

Using the Service

Legal questions aside, how does the service work? In my two weeks of testing the service, I’ve found that it works exceptionally well.

Logging in using my iPhone, iPad or Safari for Mac OS X has allowed me easy access to live programming as well as show recordings. The interface is clean and easy to navigate and it includes a searchable programming guide.

You can even set up recordings in advance by searching for shows and then setting Aereo to record once, new airings only or all broadcasts.

Aereo is a pure OTA (over-the-air) IPTV play — the company has no interest in taking the Boxee route and building its own box. Still, the company is actively looking to support as many devices and screen types as it can

iPhone and iPad users can AirPlay with Aereo, thus offering compatibility with Apple TV. Roku users can also access the service using a private channel. Though iOS 5 is the only supported mobile platform at launch, Android support should be coming soon.

Setup A Device

The first time you login from a new device, you can register that device with Aereo.

Click here to view this gallery.

This Could Force Cablers to Act

Aereo’s pricing model — starting at $12 a month — is a good fit for device agnostic access to live programming and cloud DVR recordings. While we wish the company had some sort of family or household option at launch, the pricing makes sense for users who might already have a Hulu Plus, Netflix or Amazon Prime account and simply want a hassle-free way to add live local programming.

Just as Netflix has forced cable networks and service providers to adopt a more expansive TV Everywhere approach to content, Aereo could help force the same sort of disruption in the broadcast space.

After all, cable providers are fighting to limit consumer access to OTA broadcast signals via the cable sockets in their walls. Boxee and other cord-cutting companies are fighting back, petitioning the FCC to recognize the harm to competition and public good that such a maneuver would make. Still, the cable companies clearly do not like the idea of losing control.

As I have long argued, cable could do a better job of retaining customers if it would increase the value proposition in a typical cable bundle. That means that in addition to having access to select On Demand content from the iPad or an Xbox 360, service providers and broadcast networks will recognize the need to let live programming become accessible to subscribers as well.

New Yorkers, Get Your Own Look at Aereo on February 29

Aereo is having an event on Wed. Feb. 29, 2012 from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. at General Assembly in New York City. The Aereo team will be on hand to demo the service, show how it was built and answer questions. Food and drinks will be provided.

The first 25 people to email with the subject line “Mashable” will get access to the event.

More About: Aereo, cord cutters, cord cutting, iptv, online television

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Bieber Fans Eye Social Media World Record for His 18th Birthday

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 04:54 PM PST

Boy wonder Justin Bieber reaches adult years on March 1 when he turns 18. As a gift, the pop star’s fans will try to break the Guinness World Records‘ mark for most social media messages sent in a 24-hour period.

AgencyNet, the creators of, are rallying Bieber Fever victims through a birthday landing page, which lets them RSVP via their Facebook accounts. The record attempt starts March 1 at midnight ET.

Bieber celebrated his fifth YouTube anniversary last month. His mom created his original account in January 2007 before rap star Usher signed him to a record label the following year. Since then, Bieber has taken the social media world by storm, attracting millions of followers across many networks. Bieber has 17.8 million Twitter followers and 40.8 million Facebook “Likes.”

Google Chrome recently chronicled Bieber’s impressive reach and presence on Google and YouTube in an ad below. The YouTube-star-turned-mega-celebrity most recently made a splash at the Consumer Electronics Show where he endorsed a gadget for robotic toys company TOSY.

SEE ALSO: Guys Scream Like Girls in New Justin Bieber Commercial [VIDEO]

Bieber is no stranger to making things go viral online. His official YouTube channel has 2.3 billion views. Previously, his bedtime tweets have attracted thousands upon thousands of replies and retweets.

But can the whizzes at AgencyNet and Bieber’s fans demonstrate the magic viral touch, too, and give Bieber a world record on his big 1-8? We’ll have to wait and see.

BONUS: The Road to Bieber Fever [INFOGRAPHIC]

For a quick glimpse at Bieber’s high-profile YouTube ride, check out the fun tidbits below thanks to Danish social media agency Crisp Social, that created the infographic for Mashable in January.

More About: celebrities, Entertainment, Facebook, guinness world records, justin bieber, Music, Social Media

The Rapid Rise of Pinterest’s Blockbuster User Engagement [CHART]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 04:26 PM PST

“Time on site” is one of the most valuable metrics for social networks, publishers and online marketers. More than mere follower counts or even pageviews, the amount of time users spend with your content is always top priority in the quest for user engagement.

Social network superstar Pinterest has enjoyed hockey stick growth in recent months, but it’s also worth noting that the time visitors spend browsing and pinning has also increased sharply.

SEE ALSO: Need More YouTube Views? Try Pinterest

Our friends at Statista have gathered a bit of data from comScore to illustrate just how engaged Pinterest users have become over time, and in comparison to other networks. In January 2012, users spent the same amount of time on Pinterest as they did on Tumblr — on average, 89 minutes per user.

Do you find yourself getting sucked into Pinterest for extended periods of time? Share your experience in the comments below.

Chart courtesy of

More About: chart, data, infographics, pinterest, Social Media, user engagement

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Electronics Resellers Flooded With Used iPads After Apple Announcement [STATS]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 04:09 PM PST

Owners of first- and second-generation iPads moved quickly to dispose of their used devices after Apple sent out press invites for a March 7 event Tuesday. The company is expected to unveil the iPad 3 and possibly the next iteration of Apple TV at that time.

NextWorth, a company that sells buys and resells used electronics, saw a 760% increase in the number of requests to sell used iPads in the five hours following Apple’s announcement, the company told Mashable. That’s on top of an 815% increase in iPad trade-ins from January to February. (For current resale values, see here.)

A similar service, Gazelle, saw a 500% increase in iPad trade-in applications between noon and 5 p.m. Tuesday. Gazelle told Mashable that the vast majority of those were iPad 2s (75%), which fetched an average price of $270. The company also witnessed a 550% increase in the number of Apple TVs up for resale. (For current pricing, see here.)

If you’re thinking about selling your used iPad and want to fetch the highest price, you’re better off doing it sooner than later, as this chart suggests.


Twitter was abuzz Tuesday after Apple revealed the invite to a March 7 event in San Francisco. The invite — teasing what will likely be a new iteration of the iPad — featured an image emblazoned with 10 words, "We have something you really have to see. And touch."

As if cued by a director, Twitter users immediately reacted in droves, catapulting "iPad 3" into Twitter's worldwide trending topics. People chimed in with jokes and more never-ending speculation.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, wdstock

More About: gazelle, ipad, iPad 2, ipad 3, nextworth

Police Arrest 25 Anonymous Hackers In Four Countries

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 03:44 PM PST

Police in Latin America and Europe have apprehended 25 people believed to be members of Anonymous, the international group of hackers and “hacktivists,” according to Interpol.

The arrests were made in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain, as reported by the BBC. Authorities in those countries also seized 250 pieces of computer equipment and cellphones.

The 25 arrested are suspected to have hacked Colombian and Chilean websites. Currently, Interpol’s own website appears to be under attack, perhaps in retribution for the arrests. The site loads, albiet very slowly.

The 25 suspects vary in age from 17 to 40 years old. According to Spanish authorities, one of the hackers arrested in Spain is believed to run Anonymous’ computer network in Spain and Latin America.

Two of those arrested in Spain remain in custody while another two, one a legal minor, were set free on bail.

On Monday, the secret-spilling organization WikiLeaks released a massive cache of emails from a private security firm. While WikiLeaks didn’t mention Anonymous in its release about the leak, Anonymous took credit for getting the emails and sending them on to WikiLeaks.

Interpol, which stands for the “International Criminal Police Organization,” works to coordinate international police activity. Given the widespread and global nature of hacker groups such as Anonymous, international communication is necessary in the identification and apprehension of those believed to have committed a crime.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RapidEye

More About: anonymous, wikileaks

Billy Corgan to Use SXSW to Announce Smashing Pumpkins ‘Album Experience’ [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 03:29 PM PST

Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan will use next week’s South By Southwest as a springboard to announce the band’s latest album, Oceania, which promises to be a “full online experience.”

“Our aim is to turn the ‘social’ into a new way to experience an album,” Corgan told Mashable. “By taking the medium one step further we will create an experience with Oceania online and off-line that transcends the single and the single mentality in all ways.”

Corgan plans to outline his vision of the album (plus the release date) during a session moderated by Altimeter Group Principal Brian Solis.

Corgan says that the Pumpkins plan to “[bring] back the album experience through fan engagement in a whole new way with Oceania.” He added that the band is, ‘Working closely with Superfans as gatekeepers to help interaction on a fan-to fan level by promoting their Smashing Pumpkins related blogs and enlisting their help in maintaining a few official Smashing Pumpkins social media sites.”

Corgan declined to be more specific and his publicist was vague about how, exactly, Oceania will be distributed.

“The concept that we’re not releasing this record like normal at all,” she said. “The key is that when we release the record, we’re not going to release single a viral video. You’re going to take the record a have a full online experience with it.”

When asked if that meant Oceania‘s tracks would not be sold separately on iTunes, Corgan’s rep declined comment.

This isn’t the first time that Corgan has experimented with new formats for his music. In 2009, he announced Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, a 44-track opus that he planned to make available for free on the Internet. According to reports, Oceania is an “album within an album” on Teagarden.

More About: Billy Corgan, Music, smashing pumpkins, sxsw 2012

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Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” Teased in TEDTalk From the Future [VIDEO]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 03:15 PM PST

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The crowd at TED got a glimpse into the upcoming Ridley Scott sci-fi film "Prometheus" on Tuesday, in the form of a video of a TEDTalk that takes place in 2023.

Although not a clip from the movie itself, the futuristic talk is given by Guy Pearce, who stars in the film, and offers some clues to the plotline. At one point, Pearce, who plays CEO of the fictitious Weyland Corporation in Prometheus, says, "At this moment in our civilization, we can create cybernetic individuals, who in just a few short years will be completely indistinguishable from us."

In an interview with TED, Luke Scott (Ridley's son), who directed the clip, explained the thinking behind the teaser. "Prometheus takes place in the future, but it's a movie about ideas, and I just felt like it would be really cool to have one of the characters from the movie give a TEDTalk. Obviously, since the movie is set in the distant future … wouldn't it be cool if it was a TED talk from a decade in the future? And what is a TEDTalk going to look like in 10 years?," he said.

Offering some further clues as to what the world of Prometheus might look like, the TED website offers a bio for Pearce's character, writing, "… It would be his dynamic break-throughs in generating synthetic atmosphere above the polar ice cap that gained him worldwide recognition and spawned an empire. In less than a decade, Weyland Corporation became a worldwide leader in emerging technologies and launched the first privatized industrial mission to leave the planet Earth."

The film is due out in June of this year. It was previously teased at Comic Con and already has 100,000 fans on its official Facebook page.

More About: Movies, prometheus, TED, TEDtalks

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Next Google Doodle Combines Leap Year and Rossini [PIC]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 03:02 PM PST

Leap Year and the 220th birthday of Italian composer Gioachino Antonio Rossini both fall on Wednesday. This doesn’t pose a dilemma for most people, but the team that puts together Google Doodles only has one shot at presenting a logo on Feb. 29.

It’s responded to the challenge by combining the two events into one multi-purpose Doodle.

The combo Doodle portrays a scene from Rossini’s most famous opera, The Barber of Seville, through a cast of illustrated frogs. In the scene, Count Almaviva masquerades as a music teacher in order to meet with a woman he’s admired from afar and attempted to court through anonymous serenade. Her name is Rosina, and her ward, Bartolo, has plans to marry her and keep her locked away. Figaro, the barber in the scenario, attempts to distract Bartolo so that Almaviva and Rosina can be left alone to declare their love.

SEE ALSO: Where Do Google Doodles Come From?

Google’s amphibian version of the scene is already live in Australia, and it will go live in the United States around 6 a.m. ET Wednesday morning.

The company has doubled up on its Doodle themes before. In 2009, it combined St. George’s Day and Shakespeare’s Birthday on its UK site. In 2010, it combined the 4th of July with Rube Goldberg’s Birthday in the U.S. It also paired Valentine’s Day with the Vancouver Olympics in a global Doodle that year.

What do you think of the Google Doodle team’s handiwork on tomorrow’s Doodle? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Google, google doodle, leap year

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YouTube Improves its Automatic Captions [VIDEO]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 02:46 PM PST

YouTube wants to be more widely heard by those without the ability to hear.

The video-sharing site announced Tuesday it is beefing up its ability to automatically caption videos in an effort to reach more viewers with hearing disabilities and language differences.

The number of captioned videos on YouTube has tripled since late July, and more than 1.6 million videos with captions have been uploaded to YouTube since the site started caption support in 2006. YouTube said it wants to improve the caption reading experience to comply with a law Obama passed last year that requires captioned TV shows to also have captions online.

The site will have automatic captioning abilities in three languages — English, Japanese and Korean — and non-automatic subtitles are available in 155 languages and dialects. In addition, YouTube users can search specifically for videos with captions. Font, color and size of the caption text can be changed to improve the viewer’s experience.

Lastly, YouTube allows broadcast caption support, so channel owners have the ability to insert a preferred video caption file into the video. This makes it so the captions appear within the video near the person who is speaking, instead of near the bottom. YouTube will now support more common caption file formats including .SCC, .CAP, EBU-STL, and others to make uploading to YouTube easier on channel owners.

Watch the video to learn how to modify your caption options. Tell us what you think of YouTube captioning in the comments below.

More About: captions, Video, YouTube

6 Tips for Better Facebook Parenting

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 02:31 PM PST

Monica Vila is co-founder of, an organization that provides technology education to families and helps moms connect with brands they can trust.

Recently, many people chimed in about the “Laptop Shooting Dad‘s" reaction to his 15-year-old daughter's Facebook posts. Not only is the subject of social media parenting popular, but his stunt has surpassed 30 million views on YouTube.

While it's evident that we live in a country of extremes — parents who use guns to make a point vs. parents that find this version of parenting horrific — the bottom line is that we all struggle to find the right balance when helping our kids through their tumultuous teen years.

During a recent #theonlinemom Twitter chat, nearly 400 parents weighed in with what they believed to be fitting alternatives to shooting nine bullets through a laptop. For instance:

  • Donate the laptop to a needy school.
  • Remove her privileges, like cellphone or allowance.
  • Impose an extended grounding.
  • Ask the 15-year-old to "clean the cleaning lady's home."

So what to do?

Fact #1: Parenting experts agree that a child who feels emotionally and intellectually connected to her parents is likely to make better decisions during puberty and adulthood.

Fact #2: 90% of teens with a social networking account have one on Facebook, and 7.5 million kids under 13 are using Facebook to connect and share experiences with friends and family.

Conclusion: Embrace the platform.

Here are a few useful tips to keep in mind, whether your child is just getting started or is already a Facebook power user.

  1. Jump in. If your teen is an avid user and you are not familiar with Facebook, open an account yourself and become familiar with the environment. Ask your teen to help you, to teach you the basics and the settings and to explain why she likes to use Facebook. Remind your teen you'll be showing her how to drive a car soon — there's a great quid pro quo!
  2. Understand the importance of the platform. Facebook is not just a teen fad; it has also become an essential business tool. Your kids will need to be extremely savvy using and navigating social networks to stay competitive in the new economy.
  3. Do not post on her wall. If she decides she's going to friend you, refrain from any comments, offline or online. Do not comment to her friends when they pop by the house. Be respectful of the online space she has created with her friends.
  4. Learn to connect with friends and family. If your teen sees that you are genuinely using Facebook as a way to connect with others, she will be impressed and proud of your ability to embrace a new medium. And believe me, you might just enjoy it!
  5. Keep up. Facebook makes constant changes to settings, formats and even basic design, so stay involved and be aware of the changes. Embrace new apps by discussing them with your child. She will be able to relate to you on this level too.
  6. Talk about it. Talk about Facebook at dinner — it makes for a great conversation. For instance, discuss how Facebook is as big as the third largest country in the world; how different people use it; what constitutes a friend; the FarmVille and Mafia Wars mania; the company's IPO; where it may be headed, etc.

As your child’s parent, only you can provide perspective that he or she will learn to trust over the years. Treat Facebook as a new environment you can both explore together.

Do you have other tips to share? Add to the conversation in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, absolute-india

More About: contributor, Facebook, features, Kids, parenting, Social Media

Primary Night in Michigan and Arizona: A Social Media Snapshot

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 02:19 PM PST

It’s primary day in America, folks: citizens in Michigan and Arizona are headed to the polls Tuesday to vote for their preferred Republican candidate to go up against President Obama in November. As we’ve seen in the past, the social web is aflame with posts, tweets and videos from the political battlegrounds.

According to sentiment analysis company Topsy, social media users are split on the Republican candidates. Throughout Tuesday, each candidate has seen about 30% positive sentiment and 30% negative sentiment on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. However, Rick Santorum has a slight edge over the others and Mitt Romney is in dead last in the sentiment battle. Santorum’s also winning the battle of Google searches:

Meanwhile, the candidates are trying to get their message heard and gather support. Reporters embedded with the campaigns are using the web to get up-to-the-second updates to their readers. And voters, caught in the eye of the political storm, are talking about what they like — and loathe — about each candidate.

As Tuesday night’s primaries unfold, Mashable is sharing the best examples of social media’s use during the showdown. Follow along to see how politicians, journalists, and citizens are using social media in Michigan and Arizona’s political contests. We'll be updating this continually:

Update: As of 10:21 p.m. ET, all major networks have called both races for Mitt Romney.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, pagadesign

More About: 2012 presidential campaign, Politics, Storify, Twitter

The Marketer’s Guide to Pinterest [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 02:06 PM PST

Pinterest, the darling digital pin board that’s turned the social media world upside down, is now a top traffic driver for brands. That’s a good sign marketers should get their butts up to speed on the latest pinning tips and tricks.

Fortunately for you, MDGadvertising has created an infographic explaining the nooks and crannies of the social network. Many brands — such as Etsy, Real Simple, Whole Foods and West Elm — are on board and have already amassed significant followings.

This infographic explains some Pinterest basics, such as explaining what a Pin, Repin and Board are, and provides five tips. You should first decide whether Pinterest is a fit for your product. Selling life insurance? This might not be a helpful platform for you. If you think Pinterest is right for your brand, go ahead and add a “Pin It” button to your site. Make sure to use great visuals. Pin products you love but don’t sell — this site isn’t all about self-promotion. Add some early Pinterest all-stars and learn from their strategies.

SEE ALSO: Pinterest Drives More Traffic Than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn Combined [STUDY]

You’re probably not surprised that 87% of Pinterst users are women. However, you may not realize that the site has a significant age range, with 80% of users fairly evenly distributed between 25 to 54. If you haven’t caught the Pinterest bug yet, be assured many others have. According to a comScore report, it was the fastest standalone site in history to pass the 10 million users mark, which happened in January.

Are you a marketer using Pinterest? How have you jumped on board the Pinterest train? Share you best practices in the comments.


More About: branding, Marketing, pinterest

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Apple Wins a Treasure Trove of Multi-Touch Patents [VIDEO]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 01:52 PM PST

Call it a coincidence: The same day Apple issued invites to a press event to reveal the next-gen iPad (and more?), the company was also awarded 24 patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office for its multi-touch tech.

The patents, revealed by Patently Apple, include the Magic Mouse’s 3D curved substrate lamination, multi-point touchscreen and multi-touch auto scanning.

Perhaps the most notable patent among them — the multi-point touchscreen — was actually an update to a patent granted in 2010, but it’s now supported by 21 total claims.

Now Apple’s multi-point patent extends to PCs and mobile devices. It could even extend to computer systems at information kiosks, ATMs, gaming, vending machines and airline eticket terminals.

Check out the video above to learn more about the touchscreen patent and the Magic Mouse patent.

More About: apple, multi-touch, patents

Twitter Brings More Advertising to Mobile

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 01:40 PM PST

Twitter is swiftly bringing more of its Promoted Products to its apps for iPhone, Android and the mobile web (

The short-messaging service announced Tuesday that it has updated its iPhone and Android apps to display Promoted Accounts.

Promoted Tweets in the timeline (pictured) will be introduced “in the coming weeks,” Twitter said in a blog post. Some of those Promoted Tweets may appear at the top of users’ timelines from brand they already follow, the company added by way of warning.

Twitter was careful to note that as users scroll down their timelines, Promoted Tweets will flow with them. Users complained loudly when Twitter rolled out the “Quick Bar” — more commonly referred to as the “dickbar” — last March. The bar hovered at the top of screens as users scrolled, prominently displaying a rotating list of trends, including those paid for by sponsors. The Quick Bar was removed within a month of its release. The new version of Promoted Tweets for mobile appears to be Twitter’s more user-friendly compromise.

Advertising accounts for the bulk of Twitter’s revenues. The company generated $139.5 million in ad sales in 2011, according to estimates from eMarketer. Ad revenues are expected to grow 86.3% to $259.9 million this year.

More About: Advertising, Mobile, Promoted Accounts, promoted trends, Promoted Tweets, Twitter

Apple Invite Sparks iPad 3 Frenzy on Twitter

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 01:07 PM PST


Twitter was abuzz Tuesday after Apple revealed the invite to a March 7 event in San Francisco. The invite — teasing what will likely be a new iteration of the iPad — featured an image emblazoned with 10 words, "We have something you really have to see. And touch."

As if cued by a director, Twitter users immediately reacted in droves, catapulting "iPad 3" into Twitter's worldwide trending topics. People chimed in with jokes and more never-ending speculation.

Click here to view this gallery.

Twitter was abuzz Tuesday after Apple revealed the invite to a March 7 event in San Francisco. The invite — teasing what will likely be a new iteration of the iPad — featured an image emblazoned with 10 words, “We have something you really have to see. And touch.”

As if cued by a director, Twitter users immediately reacted in droves, catapulting “iPad 3” into Twitter’s worldwide trending topics.

The phrase’s inclusion on the list was short lived, however — even though Apple fanatics and tech experts wasted no time in crafting jokes and speculation. Check out our favorite tweets in the gallery above.

The rumor mill has churned out rumor after rumor for a few months now, but as Mashable‘s Christina Warren puts it, the forthcoming tablet could include the following: a quad-core processor, high-resolution retina display, 4G LTE from AT&T and Verizon as well as Siri.

Gossip about another possible Apple product unveiling has also surfaced. The company may also dish out a new Apple TV with a faster processor and strong video playback on March 7, according to 9to5Mac.

What was your immediate reaction to the Apple invite announcement? Share it in the comments below.

More Apple News

More About: apple, humor, ipad, ipad 3, mobile devices, Tablet, trending, Twitter

On Tumblr, The New York Times Opens Its Photo Archive

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 12:56 PM PST

The New York Times has added a whimsical new tentacle to its digital and social reach with a Tumblr blog dedicated to photographs from the Gray Lady’s storied past.

The Lively Morgue, as the new Tumblr is called, launched Monday with a black and white photo of news images being sorted in the paper’s physical photo “morgue,” where millions of pictures are stored in filing cabinets and manila folders.

A post to the Times‘ on-site Lens photo blog introducing The Lively Morgue said the project was “many months” in the making. Which archival images will cross the border from physical photo morgue to online immortality?

“There is little rhyme or reason to our selection, other than the obvious: We've chosen images that delight us,” reads the introductory post on Lens.

Images added so far include a close-up of Yankees catcher Yogi Berra’s gnarled hands, shot in 1965 (see thumbnail); a policeman, nightstick in hand, watching his beat after a recent nearby double homicide in 1959; and a pair of Philadelphia police officers proudly showing off a captured liquor-smuggling mannequin in Prohibition-era 1930.

The Lively Morgue also features an option to buy prints for $169, as well as another very cool twist: images of the marked-up reverse side of each physical photo. The reverse sides of the photos are home to a photo-nerd bonanza of information, including how much freelancers were paid for shots, published captions and photos’ sequence numbers.

But don’t think you’ll be able to see anywhere close to the majority of the Times‘ collection of old photos. According to the introductory post on Lens, the paper could publish 10 archival images each day and still possibly have more to spare by the year 3935.

The Times launched its first Tumblr blog, which covers the paper’s style and culture focused T Magazine, last April.

Will you follow The Lively Morgue on Tumblr? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of The Lively Morgue

More About: Media, the new york times, trending, tumblr

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Don’t Want Your Video to Become a Viral Sensation? Givit Controls Who Sees It

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 12:46 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: Givit

Quick Pitch: Givit is private video sharing made easy.

Genius Idea: Desktop and mobile apps designed to control who can view and forward the videos you share.

If you just recorded a video of your daughter's first ballet recital, chances are you don't want to share it publicly on the Internet.

That's why Givit makes private sharing simple and easy by limiting who can view and forward the videos you share.

Unlike popular sites such as YouTube and Vimeo that are designed for public sharing, Givit is limited to only private sharing. Users can privately share unlimited videos from any camera, smartphone or camcorder without having to adjust any privacy or security settings.

“Even if you are a very public person, you don't always want to share everything with everyone,” Greg Kostello, founder of Givit, told Mashable. “We believe you should have a source to share your videos privately that makes you feel confident and safe.”

Sharing videos on Givit is easy – just sign up for free or sign in with your Facebook account and upload the videos you want to share. Choose one video, add the recipients' e-mail addresses, write a quick message about the video and then decide whether you want to give your recipients the option to re-share your video. Users can always go back and add or remove recipients once they're done sharing.

To ensure the people viewing your video are the ones you shared it with, all recipients are required to sign up on Givit before they can see the video. A small mail icon lets users see who has and hasn't opened the shared video.

The app also has a private commenting feature that lets recipients comment back and forth on the video in a private thread.

Givit securely stores all your videos in one place and accepts a wide range of video formats. To provide the best delivery process, Givit stores the master copy of each video and then transcodes it into different formats to support a variety of browsers and smartphones. The time it takes to send videos depends on the user's Internet connection.

Although there are no restrictions on the length of the video or the number of videos a user can upload, users can only upload a file up to 1GB in size. Givit users are given 2GB of storage for free when they sign up. After the 2GB is used, the annual costs for extra storage are $29.99 for 10 GB, $49.99 for 20GB and $99.99 for 50GB.

Givit was launched in 2011 and is currently in public beta. The app is available for MAC and windows desktops and iPhone and iPad devices. Givit plans to release the app for Android next week.

Image Courtesy of iStockphoto, kaisersosa67

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: Givit, Video

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WikiLeaks Release Shows U.S. May Charge Julian Assange [REPORT]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 12:32 PM PST

Nestled in Monday’s WikiLeaks cache of 5 million emails from security company Stratfor was a nugget of particular importance to the secret-sharing organization: An email that suggests the U.S. government has unreleased criminal charges against founder Julian Assange.

“Not for Pub — We have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect,” reads the email sent from Stratfor’s vice president of intelligence via his BlackBerry device.

That email, sent in January of last year, was among the first parts of WikiLeaks’ most recent info dump to be published by international newspapers. Those papers — the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald — were unable to confirm the existence of an American indictment of Assange.

If the email is indeed accurate, it means the U.S. has privately charged Assange with some crime.

Millions of emails were taken from Stratfor by Anonymous and then handed to WikiLeaks. Stratfor issued a release calling the incident a “theft” and is declining comment or questioning on the matter.

SEE ALSO: WikiLeaks Partners With Anonymous, Releases Security Firm's Emails

In November 2010, WikiLeaks published more than 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables. Soon afterward, U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst serving in Iraq, was arrested on suspicion of handing those cables over to Assange’s organization. Manning was recently arraigned and is now awaiting the beginning of a military court martial against him.

A secret grand jury that has been meeting since December of 2010 to determine whether to press charges against Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. One writer at Forbes speculated that if an indictment against Assange does indeed exist, it may remain sealed until a possible plea deal with Manning reveals more about Assange.

Assange is currently under house arrest outside London while he appeals extradition to Sweden to answer charges of sexual misconduct and rape. If Assange is indeed charged by the U.S., it will add another layer to his fight to remain in Britain.

Do you think Julian Assange is a criminal or a hero? What do you think about WikiLeaks? Sound off in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Flickr, acidpolly

More About: julian assage, wikileaks

Find the Clues in Apple’s iPad Invite [OPEN THREAD]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 12:17 PM PST

We now officially have a date for Apple’s next major event — and an invite laden with hints.

The invite, sent to Mashable along with other media organizations, is full of the sly clues that Apple likes to include in invites to major announcements.

Details about the iPad 3 have leaked out in dribs and drabs over the last few months. If conventional wisdom is to be believed, Apple’s next generation tablet will include:

  • A high-resolution retina display
  • A quad-core processor
  • The option for 4G LTE from AT&T and Verizon
  • The addition of Apple’s personal assistant, Siri

The tagline is almost always a dead giveaway for the focus of the event. The invite for the iPhone 4S/iOS 5 announcement, for example had a “1″ notification attached to the “Messages” icon, signifying to some that Apple would only announce one new phone. Other invites have shown off the new code names for OS X versions.

The tagline in this case: “We have something you really have to see. And touch.”

The “see” part seems self-explanatory. The included invite image screams “retina display” and the enhanced clarity of the screen certainly seems rave-worthy. (“See” could also refer to an iTV, if 9to5Mac is to be believed.)

But what about that second line, “And touch?” Is Apple planning on enhancing the touch screen itself? Is the company bringing haptic feedback to the iPad?

Notice also the one thing that invite image tells us about the new iPad — its screen does not appear to reach the edge of its case.

SEE ALSO: Apple Invite Sparks iPad 3 Frenzy on Twitter [TWEETS]

Just for fun, let’s attack this thing like it’s the Zapruder film. Do you see any clues hidden in the invitation? What do you think Apple will announce at its iPad event?

Let your best conspiracy theories loose in the comments.

More About: apple, ipad 3, trending

Track Who’s Tracking You With Mozilla Collusion

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 12:08 PM PST

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs took the TED stage Tuesday morning to introduce Collusion, a Firefox browser add-on that lets you track who's tracking you across the web for behavioral targeting purposes.

Describing the medium as "an area of consumer protection that's almost entirely naked," Kovacs argued that the price we're now being asked to pay for connectivenss is our privacy, and in turn, it's "now time for us to watch the watchers."

Collusion looks to offer more transparency to users by creating a visualization of how your data is being spread to different companies as you navigate the web. Each time it detects data being sent to a behavioral tracker, it creates a red (advertisers), grey (websites) or blue dot on the visualization and shows the links between the sites you visit and the trackers they work with.

Mozilla has created an online demo to show just how quickly your data ends up in the hands of dozens of different companies as you move from popular sites like IMDB, The New York Times and The Huffington Post. Citing some personal examples, Kovacs said that by the time his daughter had visited four sites over breakfast, she was being tracked by 25 different places. And in the course of a day, he says, he found himself being tracked by 150.

While the visualization does an effective job of showing just how quickly your data ends up in places far and wide without your knowledge and the interconnections between various services, Collusion also features the ability to turn off such tracking.

It may seem that Mozilla is on a crusade against the current trend of personalization, but Kovacs emphasized that Collusion is about alerting users to tracking that's happening without their consent. It's not about creating an alarmist attitude toward services that people opt-in to that provide recommendations based on your shopping history, for example.

Image Credit: James Duncan Davidson, TED

More About: Advertising, Firefox, mozilla, privacy

Google Will Give $1 Million to Hackers Who Find Flaws in Chrome [VIDEO]

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 11:56 AM PST

Google wants you to help find security flaws in its browser, Chrome — and the search giant is paying a handsome reward.

The company told attendees at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver next month they can get up to $1 million in cash and Chromebooks in exchange for revealing the flaws.

“The aim of our sponsorship is simple: we have a big learning opportunity when we receive full end-to-end exploits. Not only can we fix the bugs, but by studying the vulnerability and exploit techniques we can enhance our mitigations, automated testing, and sandboxing. This enables us to better protect our users,” the Google Chrome security team wrote in a blog post.

The prizes include the following categories, and multiple rewards can be issued per category:

$60,000 – "Full Chrome exploit": Chrome / Win7 local OS user account persistence using only bugs in Chrome itself.

$40,000 – "Partial Chrome exploit": Chrome / Win7 local OS user account persistence using at least one bug in Chrome itself, plus other bugs. For example, a WebKit bug combined with a Windows sandbox bug.

$20,000 – "Consolation reward, Flash / Windows / other": Chrome / Win7 local OS user account persistence that does not use bugs in Chrome. For example, bugs in one or more of Flash, Windows or a driver. These exploits are not specific to Chrome and will be a threat to users of any web browser. Although not specifically Chrome's issue, we've decided to offer consolation prizes because these findings still help us toward our mission of making the entire web safer.

Check out the video above to learn more.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, alija

More About: Google, google chrome, security

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