Thursday, 1 March 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Google’s New Privacy Policy Goes Into Effect Today”


Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Google’s New Privacy Policy Goes Into Effect Today”

Google’s New Privacy Policy Goes Into Effect Today

Posted: 01 Mar 2012 03:51 AM PST

The recent major changes in Google’s privacy policy go into effect today, March 1.

In January 2012, Google announced a new master privacy policy that replaces more than 70 different documents and governs all of Google’s products.

Google promises the new document is easier to understand and follow, and that the essence of the company’s privacy controls isn’t changing.

“We aren't collecting any new or additional information about users. We won't be selling your personal data. And we will continue to employ industry-leading security to keep your information safe,” wrote Google’s Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering Alma Whitten in a blog post.

Some things are changing, however: Google has removed some “inconsistencies” in its privacy policies which now allow the company to combine more of your data across various Google products – namely, YouTube and Search.

“So in the future, if you do frequent searches for Jamie Oliver, we could recommend Jamie Oliver videos when you're looking for recipes on YouTube—or we might suggest ads for his cookbooks when you're on other Google properties,” notes Whitten.

Check out Google’s video introduction to its new privacy policy below.

More About: Google, privacy, privacy policy

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Foursquare Says Farewell to Google Maps, Joins OpenStreetMap Movement

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 08:53 PM PST

Foursquare is parting ways with Google Maps in favor of crowdsourced maps created by the OpenStreetMap project.

Foursquare announced the change in a blog post Wednesday, explaining its decision to make the big API switch. To power the new maps, Foursquare is partnering with MapBox, a startup which calls itself “a beautiful alternative to Google Maps” and uses data from OpenStreetMap.

“As a startup, we also often think about how we can make life easier for other startups,” the Foursquare blog explains.

Foursquare says it chose MapBox for three reasons: its use of OpenStreetMap, which will continue to get better; it allows for design flexibility, so Foursquare can pick fonts and colors to match the rest of the app; and it’s powered by the open-source Leaflet java script library.

During the company’s January hackathon, one engineer proposed the question “What would the world look like if we made our own maps?” and answered it using data from OpenStreetMap, a crowdsourced global atlas.

Foursquare also sited Google Maps’ pricing as a reason they were looking to make a switch.

OpenStreetMap is one of the largest online group projects on the web. Google’s relationship with the project has thus far been tumultuous. For instance, someone with a Google IP address was found to be vandalizing the project, inputting false information in several cities, such as directing one-way street signs in the wrong direction.

What do you think Foursquare’s departure from Google Maps suggests for the future of digital maps? Do you think this decision will pave the way for more new players to gain traction? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: Strange and Hilarious Google Street View Sightings

1. A Fleet at the Ready

Take a minute and think about the gargantuan task of photographing every inch of road in the world. Is your mind blown? Now you may understand why Google needs so many cars.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: foursquare, geolocation, Google Maps, OpenStreetMap, startsups

Tweets At the Table? More of Us Mix Social Media With Food

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 08:29 PM PST


Social media is changing the way we eat. Many of us are giving up around-the-table dinners to dine with their computers or phones.

A new study called “Clicks and Cravings” examines this trend — and suggests it’s not a bad thing.

More than 29% of social media users are on a social networking website while eating or drinking at home. Outside the house, the figure is 19%. About 32% of us text or socialize on a mobile device at meal time. Not surprisingly, the youngest demographic in the survey — 18-34 year olds — tweet, Facebook and text during mealtimes at a higher rate of 47%.

Eating at your computer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re antisocial, the study says. We’re mostly using social networking sites to catch up with friends and family. We’re also using social media to pick up on the latest food trends and learn how to eat healthy.

Those users aren’t necessarily putting that learning into action, David Emerson Feit, Senior Director of Quantitative Research at The Hartman Group, told Mashable. People are snacking more, while becoming aware of what constitutes good food thanks to what’s being shared online.

“There is an aspiration towards eating better,” Feit said. “People who are using social media more are in tune with the little micro-trends in food culture, quick changes like peanut oil is on its way out and coconut oil is on its way in. The more friends you have, the more likely you will pick up that trend.”

Out of the 82% of respondents who visit social networking sites on a monthly basis, 49% say they learn about food via social networking. The 18-34 year-olds are consuming more food news online than through magazines and newspapers — likely because of the rise of restaurant review apps and food blogs.

SEE ALSO: Android Users Most Likely to Use Phones While in the Bathroom

There are three kinds of people who talk about food online, says Feit: the spectator who consumes news and ideas; the dreamer who connect people and curates content; and the doer who creates contents and inspires followers. In general, people are willing to try a wider variety of restaurants after being exposed to them online.

Feit was surprised by how much desire exists for healthy eating. “There is a link for authenticity for food and social media,” he says. “That wasn’t obvious going into the study.”

The study was conducted through in-depth one-on-one interviews, plus online, self-administered questionnaires from 1,641 U.S. consumers ages 18 to 64.

Do these trends describe your lifestyle? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, hans s

More About: Food, Social Media, social networking, study

Firewall Down: Chinese Get Access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 07:43 PM PST

China’s notorious firewall was down temporarily this week, allowing the Chinese to access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites usually blocked by the country’s strict Internet controls.

The cause of the breach is currently unknown, Reuters reports. Internet users say the were able to access sites — without using expensive VPNs, as some do — Monday night and Tuesday. By Wednesday, however, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were again blocked.

During the firewall’s outage, many Chinese flocked to Google+, particularly to U.S. President Barack Obama’s page. They left many comments calling for freedom of expression, such as “the Chinese GOV doesn’t represent the Chinese people.”

Beyond the Great Firewall: How China Does Social Networking [INFOGRAPHIC]

“It is important to persistently let the world know about CCP's [Chinese Communist Party] evil deeds against China and Chinese people,” another commenter wrote. “I think that you also should get organised with a clear plan and with clear task responsibility. Do not forget to communicate with those who are living within China.”

China shuts down access to millions of foreign sites each year. The government believes that uncensored access to social networks would cause societal disruption.

Home-grown social networks, such as Sina Weibo (a microblog Twitter substitute) and Renren (a Facebook-like network) are popular, yet censor content in accordance with government regulations.

How do you think communications can best be facilitated between China and the rest of the online world? Let us know in the comments.

More About: china, Facebook, Google, Great Firewall of China, trending, Twitter, YouTube

3 Best Social Good Startup Accelerators You’ve Never Heard Of

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 07:31 PM PST

Scott Henderson is managing director of CauseShift, writes about social impact for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and is founder of, a media collaborative covering the startups, non-profits and companies making the world better.

Startups have become the darling children of the world, it seems. Aspiring Mark Zuckerbergs, Caterina Fakes and Jack Dorseys are eager to launch the next big thing.

This rising entrepreneurial tide is having an impact on all sectors. The latest generation to enter the work force arrives at a time of high unemployment. Its members see large problems that need to be fixed, and often, they have little faith in incumbent institutions' ability to solve them. In an attempt to change the world, these aspiring entrepreneurs are choosing to launch new ventures, for profit and non-profit, that embrace transparency, agility and innovation.

No single company, non-profit or individual can solve the problems facing humanity, however. It will take leadership from all directions, converging on the social impact sector. To that end, social entrepreneurs are pioneering a new wave of charities and socially minded companies.

What differentiates social entrepreneurs from other entrepreneurs? They have a focus on solving social problems and a greater willingness to reinvest profits into the communities they serve.

Some choose the traditional non-profit structure; others elect established, for-profit models; still others are embracing corporate structures, such as benefit corporations and low-profit limited liability companies (L3C).  No matter the structure, these startup founders seek to deliver value to the marketplace while simultaneously solving community problems.

Non-Profit Startup Accelerators

Realizing the potential, venture capital firms, angle investors and civic leaders have created programs to help these startups take root in the marketplace. In exchange for equity stakes, for-profit accelerators and incubators provide robust resources and access to experts. Y Combinator, TechStars and a growing population of other companies have paved the way. Fortunately, social impact startups (for-profit and non-profit) are feeling the love, too, thanks to springboard organizations like Skoll Foundation, Scwab Foundation, Echoing Green and Ashoka.

Here are three more programs worth considering if you want to accelerate the growth of your social-impact startup.

  • Unreasonable Institute – Boulder, Colorado: Unreasonable’s marketplace is open; you can help determine or even be one of the projects selected for this summer’s program. Do you like the mountains and being connected to a global roster of mentors? Check this program out.
  • Civic Accelerator – Atlanta, Georgia: Just announced this year, the Points of Light Insitute’s Civic Incubator program is expanding to launch one of the first accelerators focused on social entrepreneurs. Learn more as it rolls out the program in the coming weeks and months.
  • MassChallenge – Boston, Massachusetts: In its third year, MassChallenge is open to all startups and has no strings attached. Compete for $1 million in cash prizes, interact with over 600 mentors and experts over four months, and enjoy free office space overlooking Boston Harbor. Four of last year’s top cash prize winners were social-impact startups. Apply for this year's program starting March 1.

What do you think about the social entrepreneur trend? How are you planning to take advantage of it?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, lightkeeper

More About: contributor, features, Social Good, Startups

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Dolphin Mobile Browser Gets Voice-Control Feature for Android

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 07:09 PM PST

Dolphin Sonar

Dolphin Browser for mobile devices received a voice-control feature on Wednesday for Android users, allowing them to search the Web with just their voices.

The new feature — called Dolphin Sonar — allows you to open new tabs by speaking to the browser, and it can even search within sites. For example, saying “Facebook Justin Bieber” will display his Facebook profile.

The speech recognition feature is available for free in the Android Market via the Dolphin for Android version 7.4 update. The update also includes an improvement in browser speeds.

To activate the feature, tap the microphone icon at the bottom of the screen or shake the device, and start talking.

"Our gesture-based browsing function was a game-changer in terms of the way people browse on their mobile devices, and Sonar is the logical next step," said Yongzhi Yang, CEO of MoboTap, the makers of the Dolphin Browser. "Just as sonar is used by dolphins to navigate, Dolphin Sonar interprets sound to get you where you want to be online.

SEE ALSO: Dolphin Launches Gesture-Based Browser for the iPad

Dolphin Browser, which launched on the Android Market in 2010 and came to iOS last summer, has been downloaded over 12 million times across both platforms. It incorporates gesture browsing, so users can gesture to visit certain sites. For example, drawing an “F” on the screen can take you to Facebook and drawing an upward arrow will take you to the top of the screen.

Dolphin Sonar is not yet available for iOS devices.

Have you tried the Dolphin browser? Do you think the voice-command Dolphin Sonar feature could give Apple’s Siri a run for its money? Let us know in the commands.

More About: android, Browsers, Dolphin Browser, iphone, Mobile, smartphones

Facebook Ads Announcements: Everything You Need to Know

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 06:35 PM PST


Facebook gathered hundreds of people into the Museum of Natural History in New York on Wednesday for its first-ever Facebook Marketing Conference. At the top of the agenda was Premium, a new suite of products for marketers designed to leverage the social network’s access to your friends and friends of friends.

As a user, you’re not likely to notice any huge differences, except maybe for the new Timeline Brand Pages, a related announcement. But there are some subtle changes that Facebook believes enable marketers to evolve their relationship with consumers beyond advertising and into “stories.” The following is a rundown of everything Facebook announced, in Q&A format.

What new ad products did Facebook announce?

Officially, there were five:

  • Ads that appear in News Feeds
  • Ads that run on the right-hand side of your homepage
  • Ads within the News Feed on your mobile device
  • Ads that appear when you log out
  • Offers
  • But, unofficially, only the log-out ads and Offers are really new. The News Feed ads had been out since early January, the right-hand page ads have run since last year and the mobile ads had been reported on accurately by Bloomberg. Offers, which is actually free to advertiser, lets brands share discounts and promotions to their fans within Facebook.

    Wait a minute. I’ve been seeing those right-hand ads forever. What’s new about them?

    Most of the ads you’ve been seeing in the right-hand section of the homepage are what Facebook calls “Marketplace” ads, which are usually direct-response. The Premium ads in that space will originate from a brand Page and won’t be your typical ad. Often they’ll consist of a status update or a new video upload rather than a standard banner.

    So I won’t see the ad unless I “like” the brand or my friend does?

    Not necessarily. You’re more likely to see one of the ads if that’s the case, but you might see one even if you or your friends aren’t fans of any brand Pages.

    Is that also true of the News Feed ads?

    No, you’d only see one of those if you or your friend interacted with a brand Page. But if you didn’t follow any brands, but a Facebook friend did, you might see it in your News Feed if your friend “liked” it.

    So advertisers are paying for those News Feed ads?

    Not always. Sometimes they will run in the News Feed organically, just like any other status update. At other times, they will be paid for, but you’ll still only see the ad if you or your friend interacted with the brand.

    Will I still see those Marketplace ads?


    How are advertisers paying for the Premium ads?

    Not by the click-through. While that’s still the model for Marketplace ads, Premium ads are based on impressions and reach, sort of like TV ads. In fact, Facebook partnered with Nielsen last year to bring “gross rating points” to Facebook that de-emphasize click-throughs.


    Click-through rates for Facebook ads are pretty low. Facebook has also argued that CTRs are a poor and even irrelevant measure of an ad’s performance. You can’t click through a TV ad, for instance, but it still might persuade you to buy something.

    Without CTRs, how do advertisers know their ads worked?

    Facebook is using mixed-media modeling (a.k.a. “marketing mix modeling”) with some clients, like Procter & Gamble, to demonstrate an ad campaign’s efficacy. The company is working with advertisers on other ways to show a Facebook campaign moved the needle on sales or awareness — whatever the goal might be.

    What is Reach Generator?

    Reach Generator is a new tool designed to let brands reach all their fans. The average post by a brand (or a person) only reaches 16% of such fans for various reasons, like the number of times you log on and the number of people and brands in your network. Reach Generator lets advertisers reach the other 86% by rerunning status updates as ads aimed at those fans.

    Why is Facebook putting so much emphasis on brand Pages?

    The company believes brands should be indistinguishable from your Facebook friends. That is, if they post something interesting, it should get pickup in your feed, but if they post something boring, it should not. By offering greater engagement and reach for brands with well-run Facebook brand Pages, Facebook hopes to make it the cornerstone of any marketer’s outreach and ensure that brands offer engaging content. In other words, a rising tide lifts all boats.

    What could derail this from happening?

    Lots of things. Users might get sick of seeing so much content from brands and decide to withdraw their Like. Google+ or Twitter might prove to be a better destination for brands. That status update-based ads might prove ineffective in the long run. Advertisers might decide that click-throughs actually were a good measure of ad performance. Ultimately, consumers will have the final say.

    Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ymgerman

    More About: Advertising, Facebook, facebook premium, fMC, Marketing, trending

‘Hunger Games’ Wants You to Tweet for Advanced Screening Tickets

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 06:03 PM PST

Hunger Games

Lionsgate announced a campaign Wednesday for fans of The Hunger Games to unlock free advanced screenings of the upcoming film by tweeting specific hashtags related to their nearby cities.

To generate buzz for the upcoming film, the studio launched the campaign 24 days before the film’s March 23 release. Mirroring the 24 “tributes” that fight to the death in the story, Lionsgate will give away tickets to 24 advanced screenings. Starting Thursday, the top four cities with the most tweets will be revealed each day, and fans will then be able to enter to win tickets to those locations, the company said.

The film is adapted from the successful young adult trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. It depicts an annual event where one boy and one girl from the fictional post-apocalyptic nation of Panem and its 12 districts are selected to fight to the death in a televised battle. The story follows young protagonist Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence).

To find out which hashtag is related to certain cities — such as Philadelphia (#HungerGames24PHI), Boston (#HungerGamesBOS), Salt Lake City (#HungerGamesSLC) and San Francisco (#HungerGamesSF) — visit

People not located near a city with an advanced screening may be able to meet and greet the cast at their local mall during the National Mall Tour beginning in March.

Although this is the latest marketing initiative from The Hunger Games, the franchise has been covering its social media bases for months. It recently released a high-fashion site called Capitol Couture, dedicated to Panem’s capitol city.

Meanwhile, Twitter account @TheCapitolPN has been tweeting updates about the characters and the plot’s annual Hunger Games ceremonies and event. It also references themed merchandise for sale, such as the line of Hunger Games nail polishes. It’s been tweeting links to its various Facebook pages — each of the 12 districts featured in The Hunger Games has its own page, in addition to the main Facebook page for the film. The most influential sharer on a District page can become the “mayor,” with access to more news and prizes.

Lionsgate has also been posting movie trailers, posters and behind-the-scenes content to build anticipation for the film.

In addition, Barnes & Noble announced this week that it is also giving fans in select cities the opportunity to see the film before its official theatrical debut. On March 10, the first customers to purchase any Nook device such as the Nook Tablet, Color and Simple Touch will receive two tickets to an advanced screening on March 21.

Are you impressed with The Hunger Games campaign? Are you looking forward to the film? Let us know in the comments.

1. Capitol Couture

The newly launched Capitol Couture blog is dedicated to the styles featured in the upcoming film. The site almost serves as a magazine, hinting at future installments, and features cover stories, profiles, style tips and even a place to become "your district's next stylist."

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Facebook, Film, nook, Social Media, Twitter

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Introducing Mashable’s Facebook Timeline

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 05:32 PM PST

Facebook rolled out Timeline for brand Pages today, and Mashable is proud to update ours on day one.

We’ve closely chronicled reactions to the switch to Timeline from personal profiles in recent weeks. While many are disappointed with Facebook’s new look, the change to Timeline has been eye-opening and emotional for others.

We must admit, our experience lines up with the latter.

While exploring our Timeline, we rediscovered Mashable has been connecting with readers on Facebook since November 12, 2007. In that time, our fan page has done everything from giving our readers a place for sharing ideas and helping them secure URLs to celebrating company birthdays and making marriage proposals. Our fan base has grown from 2,000 in our first year to our current 821,000 in the past three years. Now we’re excited to form our digital scrapbook in real time — right along with you.

We’ll post a variety of updates from our Timeline: Mashable articles, videos and analysis as well as photos from events and around the office (including the adorable puppies, of course). As evidenced above, there’s a lot you can learn from Mashable‘s Facebook posts throughout the years — and we’ll continue to update with milestones as our Timeline develops. So, go ahead and take a look.

Our first cover photo represents what we’re really all about: you. It’s a picture of our real-life Facebook wall, a huge mural of avatars from all our fans who opted to be included in the project. We wanted to showcase our awesome community. Without you, Mashable wouldn’t be what it is today.

In the coming weeks, we’ll rotate our cover photo to represent what’s trending in tech and social media news. We hope it’ll be a easy and appealing way for you to know what stories to watch.

What do you think of our new Timeline so far? We’re always open to suggestions, so please let us know what kinds of posts or cover photos you’d like to see from us in the comments below. We look forward to connecting with you via Facebook Timeline!

More About: facebook timeline, mashable, trending

Two Simple Steps to Take Control Over Google’s New Privacy Policy

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 04:57 PM PST

Google’s new privacy policy takes effect Thursday. What’s new about it?

Now, it allows Google to integrate information it collects about you from all your Google accounts. So instead of treating your YouTube, Gmail and Google+ accounts as separate entities, Google now sees you as just one user. That should make it easier to target you with relevant ads.

But since Google first announced the change in a blog post on Jan. 24, the holistic approach has some made some people leery of the new privacy policy. France’s official data-protection agency has even launched an investigation to see whether the changes conflict with European privacy law.

If you think Google‘s new policy will let the company know too much about you, there are a couple of small steps you can take before Thursday to have some measure of control.

Clearing your Google History of web searches and pages visited won’t stop the company from collecting information about you. But it will prevent Google from sending you customized search results and will make the record of your searches and surfings partially anonymized after 18 months, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) advocacy group. You can also perform a similar maneuver with your YouTube search and viewing histories.

Here’s how to remove and disable your Google web history:

  1. Sign in to your Google account.
  2. Go here:
  3. Click the “Remove all Web History” button.
  4. Click “OK.”
  5. Your Google web history will now be cleared and remain disabled until you decide to enable it again.

Here’s how to cover your YouTube search and viewing tracks:

  1. Sign in to your Google account.
  2. Go here:
  3. Click your profile icon.
  4. Go to the Video Manager section of your profile.
  5. Click “History.”
  6. Click the “Clear all viewing history” button.
  7. Click the “Pause viewing history” button.
  8. Go to the Search History section of your profile, located on the lefthand column.
  9. Click the “Clear all search history button.”
  10. Click the “Pause search history” button to prevent future searches from being recorded indefinitely.

Head over to the Electronic Frontier Foundation website for more extensive sets of instructions on how to remove your Google web and YouTube histories, replete with screenshots.

How do you feel about the new Google privacy policy that goes into effect on Thursday? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, jaxxon

More About: Google, privacy

Flying Robots Play the James Bond Theme Song [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 04:25 PM PST

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The machines have won – at least when it comes to being able to play music better than a Mashable editor.

While that might not be saying much in my case, the music video that debuted at the TED conference on Wednesday showing flying, autonomous robots playing a coordinated version of the James Bond theme song was by any account an impressive technological achievement.

The video was the culmination of a presentation by The University of Pennsylvania's Deputy Dean for Education Vijay Kumar, who showed off recent advances in robotics and gave the audience a primer in how they work.

Called quadrotors, the flying robots are designed to mimick the swarming behaviors of birds, fish and insects and operate completely autonomously from human control. Instead, they are controlled by a computer that communicates with the robots, infrared lights and cameras.

A blog post by Evan Lerner at The University of Pennsylvania further explains how this works:

The "stage" is in a room fitted with infrared lights and cameras. The nano quads all have reflectors on their struts, which allows the camera system to plot their exact position and relay that information wirelessly to each unit.

Lab members can then assign each unit a series of waypoints in three-dimensional space that must be reached at an exact time. In this case, those times and places translate into notes on a keyboard or a strum of a guitar. Figuring out how to get from waypoint to waypoint most efficiently and without disturbing their neighbors is up to the robots.

While for the moment, the quadrotors may seem like science fiction, Kumar talked of practical applications on the horizon in areas like first response and construction work. For now though, you can see the wonder of his music-playing robots in the video above.

More About: Music, robotics, TED

Asteroid Shows Bruises From Violent Solar System [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 03:57 PM PST

A team of Japanese scientists were able to draw important conclusions about our Solar System from looking at specks of dust retrieved from one asteroid.

The results from the Feb. 27 study of the asteroid Itokawa were published in the latest edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The conclusion: space is brutal.

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa was launched into space in 2003 to collect samples from Itokawa, a near-Earth asteroid. It collected five tiny grains, much less than one millionth of a meter in size. The mission returned in 2010.

Meteorites (former asteroids that fall to Earth) burn on their way down, disintegrating the asteroid’s exterior. Hayabusa’s mission was able to retain the particles’ original form and geochemical makeup.

Okayama University scientists cut the five pieces of dust into pieces and examined them under a electron microscope. They noticed impact marks, rough edges, signs of melted edges and “shock heating.” There was evidence of compression — squeezing caused by high pressure — according to Ars

SEE ALSO: NASA Kepler Telescope Finds 26 New Alien Planets in 11 Solar Systems

The signs of collision show that the Solar System is a violent place. Even objects as small as these particles are assailed frequently. These particles collided with other objects in space at approximately three to six miles per second or about 11,000 to 22,000 miles per hour, according to Discovery News .

Thumbnail image courtesy of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More About: space, Video

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How Tumblr Rekindled the Art of Animated GIFs

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 03:32 PM PST

What is it about small, repetitive moving images that everyone is so crazy about on Tumblr? Animated GIFs have been circling the web since 1987, yet in the past few years, they seem to have increased in popularity.

Because Tumblr acts as a digital incubator for all things visually stunning, it has helped rejuvenate the outdated artform — along with other content-curating sites like Reddit. The GIF tag on Tumblr is thriving with animated images of anything from cats eating pizza, to more captive, cinematic city shots.

SEE ALSO: 10 Hilarious Animated GIFs that Took the Web by Storm

“Tumblr is a huge part of creative sharing online and is already a giant in mainstream Internet culture,” says GIF tag editor Lacey Michallef, who is also a freelance designer and animator. “If GIFs are thriving in an extremely popular online community, it’s only natural that it would extend to other parts of the Internet.”

Digital artist and writer Colin Raff, who is also a GIF tag editor, says Tumblr provides an “effortless way you can just post what you make or like and it promotes itself, sometimes virally — a brief moving image is probably ideal for this format.”

When selecting GIFs to be featured on the Tumblr tag — which each editor is allotted 10 per day — Raff prefers original artwork and Michalleff looks for well-crafted GIFs that loop seamlessly.

Tumblr’s recent upgrade to a full 1MB for all photo posts allows artists more leeway for creativity. GIFs can now be longer and more elaborate — no longer are we seeing just basic, choppy one-second clips from a television show. This is helping artists who handcraft their own GIFs from scratch get more recognition.

Although Tumblr seems to house an endless number of clips of music videos and other moments in pop culture, both tag editors say they tend to avoid them.

SEE ALSO: How a Blogging Duo Is Changing Fashion Photography With Animated Cinemagraphs

“I don’t care much for GIFs like that, but i acknowledge that a humongous chunk of Tumblr (namely a younger audience) loves those types of GIFs,” says Michallef.

Raff, who attributes their popularity to an easily recognizable image, says “current pop culture GIFs on Tumblr are usually clipped references that are liked due to the recognition factor rather than their formal qualities as GIFs.”

We asked Raff to pick out five GIFs from the tag on Tumblr and explain why he chose them. Here are his top selections.

1. Osamu Tezuka

"From a classic Osamu Tezuka short, parodying old cartoons -- an example of a GIF clip that stands alone effectively."

Click here to view this gallery.

Thumbnail courtesy of ozneo.

More About: blogging, design, features, GIFs, Social Media, tumblr

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Forget the iPad 3 — I’d Still Buy an iPad 2

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 03:00 PM PST

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

Even if the next iteration of Apple’s iPad shot laser beams and can turn into a flying car, I would still settle for an iPad 2.

Why? One word: price.

I’m not an early adopter of new gizmos and gadgets. I love technology, but I don’t need — nor can I afford — the latest and greatest of everything. I use a two-year old Droid Incredible and managed to get my 2007-era MacBook to last for five years with battery and RAM upgrades.

Getting that kind of life out of my stuff makes me happy on a strangely deep level.

As a politics writer at Mashable, surrounded by technophiles, that attitude makes me something of a minority. While plenty of my colleagues bring tablets to our editorial meetings, I haven’t jumped on that bandwagon just yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted an iPad since the second, vastly improved version was released. I just haven’t been able to justify dropping $500 or more on a device that I didn’t need but only wanted.

It’s what economists call consumer surplus: the difference between what I’m willing to pay and what the marketplace says I ought to pay.

And the iPad’s competition, such as the $199 Kindle Fire, never did anything for me.

But with the iPad 3 now on the horizon, the iPad 2 — at a reduced price, say $299 — may suddenly become a much more affordable and attractive option.

At that point, I am no longer choosing between a tablet and a plane ticket to Europe.

If all I want is a very portable, typing-friendly device for taking notes and writing, I don’t need a retina display. If I just want to surf the web with the flick of my finger over a Wi-Fi connection at home or a local coffee joint, I don’t need 4G.

SEE ALSO: iPad Event Confirmed: Apple Invites Press to 'Touch' Something | iPad 3: Apple's Biggest Test

Today, a little less than a week until the rumored iPad update, I can score a new, basic iPad 2 for $450 at Best Buy or on eBay, while Apple is still charging $500. The aftermarket price for an iPad 2 should continue to plummet if a new iPad is released.

And what if Apple repeats its iPhone strategy by continuing to sell the iPad 2 at a reduced price at official Apple Stores? That will all but guarantee that I — and other price-conscious technology shoppers — will jump at the chance to finally own a great tablet at a reasonable price. And I won’t have to risk a purchase on an aftermarket auction site, either.

I can’t drop five hundred bucks on an iPad 3, even if I justify it as something I’ll use for productivity’s sake. But $299? Sign me up for that, friends.

Would you prefer to buy an iPad 2 for a reduced price? Sound off in the comments below.

More About: apple, ipad, ipad 3, op-ed, Opinion, tablets, trending

Facebook Brand Timelines: 6 Big Changes Every Marketer Needs to Understand

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 02:31 PM PST

Victoria Ransom is founder and CEO of Wildfire Interactive, the global leader in social media marketing software. Victoria and Wildfire will host a free webinar on March 2 at 10 a.m. PT, entitled "Timeline for Brands: How to Make the Switch," further outlining best practices for brands in transitioning to Facebook's new Timeline format.

Today Facebook announced to brand marketers the world over that, within the month, everything they knew about fan Pages on Facebook would be overturned. While you get your brand ready for the new Timeline format, here are six important changes to keep top-of-mind.

1. Updated Look and Feel

What's new: The format of Timeline for brands is quite similar to Timeline for personal profiles. It employs a cover photo at the top of the Page, and the Page is separated into two main columns by a dividing line, which represents the passage of time. This format provides brands with new options for self-expression: They can outline their corporate history with milestones (such as product launches, store openings, etc.) to construct a narrative for their audience. 

Recommendation: Milestones present an important and dramatic opportunity to educate the public, humanize the brand and remove a perception of corporate anonymity. Our analyses of Page engagement have continually shown that brands posting content that depicts behind-the-scenes activities, exclusive updates or promotions encourages user interactions and promotes higher engagement rates. Using interesting milestones to craft the story of the brand over time (and updating the Timeline with new milestones as they happen) can help to stimulate conversations around major achievements.

2. Reduced Tab Visibility

What's new: The new Timeline format does not have the left-side panel of links, which could include hundreds of different tabs. While applications still exist, they’ll display differently, in rectangular panels underneath the cover photo. The width of the Timeline and the space allocated for native apps like Photos means that only three tab panels are viewable at any given time. To see more, users must expand the tab panel by clicking a drop-down box. 

Recommendation: For marketers, this major change means that the three above-fold tab apps need to be considered carefully — this will be one of the first things users see when interacting with your brand on Facebook. Brands will want to switch up which tabs are visible "above the fold," according to current company objectives or project popularity. A good Page analytics tool will be useful for determining which tab to promote on a day-to-day basis.

3. No Default Landing Page

What's new: With the new Timeline Page format, you will no longer be able to set a default landing Page, a favored feature for many savvy brands. The option was one of the primary ways to control the first (branded) impression a user encountered. Since there are no more tab Pages, there is no way to set one as a default. This will drastically change user impressions when they first visit a brand’s Timeline Page. 

Recommendation: You will need to apply new and careful attention to all the top messages in the Timeline, as they will be the first objects seen by visiting users. Likewise, Facebook ads for brands will become ever important, as ads will be one of the major ways brands on Facebook can control a user's experience. Setting up an advertising campaign for a Facebook promotion or new application will be the only way to guide new and clicking users directly to that application (as landing on this Page cannot be achieved by default). 

4. New Way to Feature Content

What's new: One major new feature that marketers will love is the ability to "pin" certain posts to the top of the Timeline. Similar to marking a blog post "sticky," so that it remains at the top of a blog for a specified period of time, pinning a post to the top of Timeline allows it to precede any other content. A pinned post is distinguished by a small, orange flag. Brands can pin only one item at a time, and the pinned item then exists in two locations — as the top item on the Timeline itself, as well as within its chronological place. Once unpinned (which happens automatically when a new item gets pinned, or the item has been pinned for more than seven days), the post remains in the chronology of Timeline posts, but there is no visual history that it was pinned in the past. 

Recommendation: Since you can no longer create a default landing Page, pinning items to the top of the Timeline will become every marketer's go-to strategy for highlighting new and interesting content. We will begin to see savvy brands design posts specifically to be pinned, whether images, a well-designed call-to-action, a statement about brand value, or a message calling for the user to click one of the tab panels under the cover photo. 

5. Current Tab Content and Applications Become Outdated

What's new: The new Timeline layout displaces Facebook's existing Page tab configuration (including a tab's 520-pixel width), and replaces it with a new 810-pixel layout. As a result, existing Page tab content will look centered in the middle of the 810-pixel layout without any adjustments. All applications that remain on a brand's Page will need new application icons (the new dimensions are 111×74).

Recommendation: The most pressing updates for brands will be to update the images and tab functionality of the above-fold two apps. As these are the first tabs users will see, they will likely be the first to be interacted with, or entirely ignored if not optimized for the new experience.

6. Private Messages Between Brands and Users

What's new: Finally, brands will be able to send and receive private messages with users. This allows for much deeper consumer interaction, and will also enable Page managers to take extended customer inquiries off the Timeline and into a private message. 

Recommendation: Be mindful of noise in the Timeline. Since the real estate allocated to each post depends on how engaging it is or how much interaction it has received, it can be easy to clutter your Timeline with customer inquiries. When these inquiries can be better serviced in a more one-on-one manner, reach out to the consumer with a private message and resolve her question. It’s a good opportunity to yield both a happy user and a clean Timeline.

Timeline for brands will certainly shake things up for social media marketers who seek to make an impact on Facebook. One thing is for sure though: The way content is shared and viewed within a Timeline Page is incredibly important. Brands that constantly create engaging updates and share important milestones will stay at the forefront of users' attention. Create and rotate new apps for engagement, pin relevant and timely content, and update the feed with user-friendly dialogues to stay relevant in this new space. 

Will you or your company do anything differently, right off the bat? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

1. Cover photo potential

Here, Coca Cola uses snazzy design to make a strong visual impression on visitors.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: contributor, customer service, Facebook, facebook pages, facebook timeline, features, Marketing, trending

Lytro: The Most Social Camera Ever Made [REVIEW]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 02:03 PM PST


Photography, here is your wake-up call. Lytro just released its light-field camera to the world, a device that looks and acts like no other camera ever made. Mashable got an early preview of the Lytro camera, and we can say it definitely delivers on its promise to change the way you think about photos.

Lytro, you may recall, is the company behind a new kind of photography. Because the Lytro camera captures the entire light field in its view — not just the color and intensity of light rays but also their direction — it can do tricks other cameras can’t do. The main one: being able to change the focus of your photo after you take a photo, what Lytro calls a “living picture.”

That one feature sounds like a huge boon to anyone who snapped off what they thought was a perfect moment only to find that the camera was focused on the tree in the background rather then your toddler, who just stood still when you asked for the first time in his life. The Lytro puts every other “intelligent” focusing solution (multiple focus points, face detection, etc.) to shame by simply removing focus as a variable.

With that one feature, the Lytro camera enables you to tell different stories with the same picture. By changing which subject is in focus, the photo may reveal that the blurred person in the background is actually looking right at the camera rather than off in the distance. Even when your subjects aren’t looking at anything in particular, the story can change. Like they say, a picture does a much better job explaining:

Of course, the photo needs the viewer to click and refocus, so sharing becomes key. The entire Lytro experience — from the photos’ square shape to the software to the camera itself — is centered around sharing. Lytro, at least right now, has much more in common with creative apps like Instagram than, say, the multi-featured DSLR photography from the likes of Canon and Nikon.

But just how easy is it to capture those focus-flexible photos, full of different stories, with the Lytro? Well, it’s easy — when you know how.

Photography Still Matters

Speaking casually to a photographer friend of mine about the Lytro, he said, “At some point, it stops being photography and it’s just pointing at stuff.” It’s an expected criticism from someone whose career is centered around the art of photos, but it’s misplaced. As I discovered early in my time with the Lytro, lots of things still matter when taking light-field pictures.

There are two models of Lytro, and they vary in only three ways: the amount of storage, color and the price. The entry model costs $399, has 8GB of storage and comes in graphite and “electric blue.” There’s also the 16GB “red hot” model that costs $499.

As soon as you take the Lytro out of its delightful packaging, you’re going to want to fire it up and start snapping some focus-free photos. And you should, but chances are those first few photos are going to be disappointing.

Here’s why: The incredible refocusing effect is fairly muted when you don’t use the camera’s 8x zoom. And the instinct of most photographers is to use the zoom as sparingly as possible. That instinct does not serve capturing good Lytro pics. You should zoom, and zoom often. Zoom still matters. You can see the difference in the following two photos — the first is taken with a 57mm zoom, the next at 106mm.

The Lytro has a constant f/2 aperture when taking pictures, so the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed and ISO for every shot you take. There’s also no flash. Thanks to a special image sensor, the camera can give good detail in low light, but the amount of “film grain” in your shots (a telltale sign of high ISO) starts to become noticeable quickly. Lighting still matters.

Since there’s no flash, any shot you take in less than idea light will have a relatively long shutter speed. You can’t just whip the camera around and snap away, and it’s not the best camera for sports photography — especially indoors. Camera shake still matters.

Getting Great Lytro Photos

All that’s fine, and serves as a good reminder that, while this is a new kind of photography, the Lytro isn’t magic. You still need some modicum of skill and patience to get the most out of this thing.

You also should have a sense of what this camera is for. This is not a camera for pros or science nerds interested in mining light fields. This is primarily a camera for casual photographers — people who probably take most of their pictures on a cellphone or a Flip camera. It’s simple to use, and the photos are clearly crafted for sharing.

You’ll get photos with the most dramatic refocusing effects if you do three simple things:

  1. Get up close and personal with your subject. Don’t be afraid to jam the Lytro right in the face of the person (or whatever) that you want in the foreground. Indeed, if you don’t do this the focus effect, while present, won’t be that pronounced. You may need to use the Lytro’s Creative Mode to help you if you’re really close (more on that in a bit).
  2. Zoom. A lot. Zooming in will emphasize the difference in focus between subjects even more. Of course, it may also push some things out of the frame, so use carefully.
  3. Have a “distant” background. To get the maximum blur/focus effect on your foreground subject, try to have something in the background that’s very far away. If you’re outside, this should be easy, but indoors it helps to either shoot in front of a window (with distant objects outside) or frame your shot with a wall as far back as possible.

I find that the most dramatic shots are ones where you can actually refocus throughout an object. That is, being able to refocus on, say, different parts of someone’s face — the nose up front, the ears on the side, the eyes, etc.

To create a shot like that, you’ll need to use Creative Mode. This is about as “pro” as the Lytro gets, and it’s pretty simple. What Creative Mode does is change the center of focus — essentially the “default” distance that the camera uses as a reference for your refocusing range. In regular mode, the minimum distance (where things start to go blurry no matter what) is about 6 inches. In Creative Mode, it’s wherever you want; just tap your target on the screen, and the center-of-focus zeros in on that subject. Here’s a video that quickly demonstrates how Creative Mode works:

Once I got the hang of Creative Mode, I used it all the time. It really is the best way to get dramatic Lytro pics, and you can see it in full force in the lizard picture below. Notice how you can refocus on any part of the lizard you want — as well as the background.

One weakness of Creative Mode: If you make something in the extreme foreground your center of focus (which you’ll probably want to do every time), the extreme background will be permanently out of focus. Again, this isn’t magic, and even light-field photography has limits.

Sharing and Software

The “light field engine” on board the Lytro does the heavy lifting in making a photo you can refocus. It then creates a self-contained file — an “.lfp” file — that you transfer to your Mac. Yep, your Mac. PCs aren’t invited to the Lytro party just yet, but the company says Windows software is in the works.

Until Lytro makes its light-field format available to companies like Adobe (which it says it plans to do), the only way you’ll be able to see Lytro photos (other than on the camera itself) is via the company’s software. Fortunately, that software is web-based, so you can invite anyone to see your pics via a link to it on Once they’re on the Lytro site, you can also embed them on any website (as I’ve done here)

You can also share Lytro living pictures on the world’s biggest photo-sharing site: Facebook. You can share either from your account on or straight from they Lytro client software. When someone first clicks on the photo, the pic politely tells the person that that they can click to refocus and double click to zoom.

Like I said before, the Lytro experience is all about sharing. When I spoke to company reps while preparing for this review, I asked why all the photos are square-shaped? To make them more shareable was the answer.

However, that aspect ratio is locked, so forget changing it. In fact there’s no editing software of any kind; no adjusting, cropping or even touching up your photos. What you’ve captured is what you’ve got, at least for now — Lytro says editing software is in the works.

A nice bonus: Clicking on the Info button while viewing a photo in the client or on reveals the date, shutter speed, ISO, focal length and whether or not the picture was taken in Creative Mode. You generally don’t get that level of information with most cameras — one of the benefits of the image format coming from the same company that makes your hardware.

An annoying detail: The magnetic lens cap seems almost designed so you’ll lose it. The magnet holds it pretty loosely, and it has a propensity to slide off. I know Lytro’s trying to stand out with its design, but a regular cap that snaps in place would have been a much better choice.

The Killer App

It’s true that the Lytro requires a different way of thinking about your photos. Fortunately, camera phones have been getting people to think less about focus and more about sharing for years. While the choice to target only Mac users right out of the gate is a bit perplexing, emphasizing sharing via Facebook is an excellent, if not essential move.

The social aspect is where Lytro lives or dies. If its early adopters start telling stories with their cameras — and those stories are worth sharing — Lytro will transition from curious trick to phenomenon. Will those living pictures on Facebook, with their oddly addictive refocusing magic, make people want to experience the Lytro camera for themselves? All I can say is I’m hooked, and it would be a shame for such a promising technology to sputter because not enough people “got” it.

Unboxing the Lytro

The Lytro packaging is thankfully sparse and simple, with very little unnecessary plastic.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: digital photography, Facebook, instagram, light-field camera, Lytro, photo sharing, review, trending

NASCAR Won’t Punish Driver Who Live-Tweeted Daytona Crash

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 01:54 PM PST

NASCAR announced that it won’t punish driver Brad Keselowski, whose tweets from the racetrack during a hazard delay in Monday’s Daytona 500 gained him more than 100,000 followers in two hours.

In fact, NASCAR even welcomed him to continue finding creative uses for Twitter on-track.

“Nothing we’ve seen from Brad violates any current rules pertaining to the use of social media during races,” the auto racing body said in a statement. “As such, he won’t be penalized. We encourage our drivers to use social media to express themselves as long as they do so without risking their safety or that of others.”

In the middle of the Daytona 500 earlier this week, driver Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a safety vehicle loaded with jet kerosene. The collision triggered a large explosion and subsequent fire. Fortunately, Montoya and the safety vehicle driver both escaped serious injury, but the race was forced into a long delay as the fire was extinguished and the mess was cleaned up.

From his spot in the racecar traffic jam backed up behind the crash site, Keselowski whipped out his smartphone and tweeted this message:

At the time, Keselowski had around 75,000 followers. But he kept posting updates and interacting with fans from the track during the delayed race. The story went viral on Twitter and was mentioned on the Daytona 500 broadcast. By the time racing resumed less than two hours later, Keselowski’s follower count had reached about 200,000.

It’s easy to criticize NASCAR for encouraging dangerous driving habits. But by not giving Keselowski so much as a slap on the wrist, they recognized that in sports the power of social media offers coverage angles and perspectives impossible for mainstream broadcast networks to achieve.

Do you think NASCAR should have sent a message by punishing Keselowski for tweeting from his car? Let us know in the comments.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Brad Keselowski

More About: sports, Twitter

For more Social Media coverage:

12 Weird Sights From Mobile World Congress 2012 [PICS]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 01:42 PM PST

The Weirdest of MWC12

This year's MWC had a fair share of cool and funny mascots.

Click here to view this gallery.

BARCELONA — According to the official data, last year’s Mobile World Conference had 60,000 attendees from more than 200 countries. Put that many people from all corners of the world in one spot — along with hundreds of mobile companies — and you’re bound to see some odd stuff.

We’re not just talking about the unusual amount of Apple products at an event where the Cupertino company doesn’t even officially appear. (We saw, for example, seven men in business suits sitting on the stairs, each flicking the screen of his own iPad, and an immense concentration of MacBooks.)

What we’re talking about is the extraordinary effort companies had to make to stand out from the pack. Many resorted to bringing masked avengers (we saw Batman and his helper), weird mascots and odd futuristic gadgetry to the show.

A smartphone-based moisture detector raised a few eyebrows, for example — though we wonder how necessary it is. Stilt walkers and odd-looking creatures filled the halls and outdoor spaces.

Perhaps the weirdest moment of the show was Cisco’s performance, in which four dancers dressed as businessmen and women handed out business cards while doing flip-overs. Two girls, dressed like bees, watched with interest.

See our selection of fun, odd and just plain weird stuff from MWC12 in the gallery above.

More About: Gadgets, Mobile World Congress, weird stuff

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20 Facebook Page Cover Photos to Inspire Your Brand

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 01:28 PM PST

Facebook users, whip out your history books — Timeline for brand Pages has finally rolled out. The feature became available Wednesday, and we’re already seeing its potential.

Many companies are filling out their Timelines on Facebook back to the founding days — some dating as far back as 1822. Others are providing fans with more interactive experiences, asking them to engage in the company’s history for a chance to win prizes.

SEE ALSO: Timeline for Brands: How to Prepare for Your Company's New Facebook Page

Regardless of how they are using the autobiographical features, all companies have jumped at the opportunity to get creative with one of Timeline’s most prominent features — the cover photo. We’ve encountered unique placement and bright colors, amounting to what could potentially be the new social media billboard.

Here are 20 early adopter brands that have taken full creative advantage of Facebook Timeline. Have you seen a company doing something cool with its Timeline? Let us know in the comments.

1. Red Bull

Not only has Red Bull taken advantage of Timeline, it has also created a scavenger hunt with prizes to get fans interacting with the company's history.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Brand pages, Facebook, facebook timeline, features, trending

Lady Gaga, Oprah Launch Born This Way Foundation at Harvard [LIVE]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 01:16 PM PST

Pop megastar Lady Gaga will officially launch the Born This Way Foundation — an initiative aimed at boosting people’s confidence and addressing bullying with a strong online component — at Harvard University on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. You can watch the launch live in the above video.

Gaga co-founded the foundation with her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, to provide a “safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a braver, kinder world,” according to the foundation’s website. They created the foundation after a 14-year-old boy killed himself in 2011 because of bullying he endured online and at school.

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey, U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, actor David Burtka and mind-body healing pioneer Deepak Chopra will attend the event.

Harvard is currently embroiled in a heated debate about whether seven students expelled in 1920 should be given posthumous degrees. They were expelled because people questioned the students’ sexuality.

Lady Gaga is no stranger to building online communities. Most recently, she unveiled her new social network, Little Monsters, which gives Gaga’s fans an outlet to create or share Gaga-related content, interact with fellow “Little Monsters” and publicly show whether they like what other users post.

Gaga’s strong digital presence is felt across the Internet. She joined Google+ in January and has already accumulated more than 760,000 followers. That’s in addition to her 19.7 million Twitter followers, which is the most for any user on the microblogging service, and 48.6 million Facebook fans.

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

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

BONUS: Lady Gaga’s Social Network

Little Monsters — the first product created by startup Backplane — appears to be latching on to what’s hot on the web right now: sharing visuals and rating content.

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

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Born This Way Foundation, Lady Gaga, livestream, online communities, oprah

Beyond QR Codes: Print Catalog Offers Shopping by Smartphone Photo

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 01:05 PM PST

QR Codes can be handy things: Scan a funky black-and-white design in the real world to access electronic information.

But a German sportswear catalog has taken the marriage of physical and digital a step farther by adding an interesting twist to shopping.

SportScheck‘s most recent catalog is 750-pages long and full of color photos of sporty exercise wear. The fun doesn’t stop there, however. If a reader sees something they like, all they have to do is snap a photo of the item with their smartphone.

The photo then directs SportScheck’s mobile app (see thumbnail) to the desired product page, where the item can be purchased. If the reader sees something else they like, another snapshot adds another item to their cart so everything can be bought at one time.

It’s simply the tangible thing itself and then the related electronic information — no awkward additional tasks or added design needed. That represents a very cool step in the evolving integration of the physical and digital worlds.

SportScheck created the futuristic catalog by beefing up their existing mobile app with an API from the Zurich-based startup Kooaba. Kooaba makes an app called Shortcut that scans print pages then directs users to relevant content online. Kooaba sees its technology as an improvement over QR Codes.

"Although QR is being experimented with, we believe it is not really practical for interactive print,” Kooba wrote in a blog post explaining Shortcut earlier this month. “It was a makeshift solution, accessible to everyone."

If more companies are able to leverage emerging image-recognition tools like SportScheck has, we may indeed find ourselves in the not-so-distant future looking back on QR Codes as a minor flirtation in the romance between physical and digital products and services.

Besides catalogs such as SportScheck, where do you think this technology will be most useful? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Kooaba

More About: online shopping, QR Codes, smartphones

How Ford Kicked Its Social Marketing Strategy Into Overdrive [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 12:53 PM PST

You don’t have to look very far to notice that there are a lot of car companies trying to get in the social game — you can see plenty examples in this year’s Super Bowl ads.

It wasn’t always this way for Ford. In 2009, they recruited Scott Monty to be their head of social media. Since then, he’s come up with innovative strategies to blend social into all of Ford’s marketing campaigns.

“Social media is not a standalone,” Monty said. “It’s not a rubber stamp you put on after having done everything else. It’s absolutely important to be integrated into the thinking early on as you’re putting your strategies, programs and tactics together.”

In this episode of Behind the Brand, Monty speaks to Brian Elliot about the company’s biggest success stories in bringing all their marketing elements together. When Ford began planning how to unveil the 2011 Ford Explorer, they decided they wanted to centralize the announcement around the brand’s Facebook Page.

“Not only did we want to reinvent the vehicle, we wanted to reinvent the way we told the story,” Monty said.

Watch the whole interview with Scott Monty above to learn about the innovations behind Ford’s social media strategy, and how he’s helped raise the brand’s engagement level, then tell us what you think in the comments.

Behind the Brand is hosted by Bryan Elliott. Stay tuned to Mashable every Wednesday for new episodes.

More Recent Episodes of Behind the Brand:

More About: behind the brand, features, ford, social media marketing

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Europe Targets Google in Fresh Privacy Investigation

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 12:33 PM PST


Does Google’s new privacy policy conflict with European law? France’s official data protection agency is launching an investigation to find out.

The Paris-based data watchdog CNIL will check out Google’s new policies across Europe, reports Reuters.

The team of regulators will produce questions for the company by mid-March, according to a letter CNIL sent Google.

“The CNIL and EU data authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of personal data across services,” CNIL wrote to Google. “They have strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such processing, and its compliance with European data protection legislation.”

Google announced controversial changes to its privacy policy in January. The updated rules will house all of Google’s products, including YouTube, Gmail and Google+, under one privacy roof.

Google also announced that it would start using data collected by non-search products (such as Google Docs) to improve results in Google Search. So if you often share news and photos of the latest sports cars on your Google+ profile, Google will now be able to use that data to give you Volkswagens instead of insects when you search the web for “beetle.”

Google reiterated its commitment to privacy in a blog post early this month — while saying it remains open to questions about the changes. Google also sent a letter to CNIL responding to its inquiry.

According to Google, these changes will make the overall Google experience simpler, more seamless and more user-friendly and cross-platform user data will not be shared with advertisers.

“As we’ve said several times over the past week, while our privacy policies will change on 1st March, our commitment to our privacy principles is as strong as ever,” wrote Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel.

SEE ALSO: Google's Privacy Update: What You Need to Know

Google is launching the new privacy policy after twice refusing European requests to hold off. Lawmakers on the continent are in the midst of a separate privacy battle to guarantee Europeans a “right to be forgotten” online.

Google’s new privacy policy can be read here.

What do you think about Google’s privacy changes? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Alija

More About: europe, European Union, Google, privacy

LEGO-like Toys Help Kids Build Electronics

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 12:22 PM PST

LONG BEACH, Calif — With kids spending an increasing amount of time with technology, one company is developing LEGO-like toys that help them understand how devices like iPads and cell phones actually work.

The founder of littleBits has designed a system of electronic modules that snap together with magnets. They can easily create everything from cowboy hats with temperature-activated fans to confetti cannonballs that go off when motion is detected.

"We want to encourage kids and adults that have an interest in technology but no training to be able to make things quickly and get excited about learning," said Ayah Bdeir, the founder of littleBits, who spoke earlier this week at TED.

Here's how it works in a nutshell: there are four different types of modules – power, input, output and wire. A starter kit that includes 10 modules sells for $89 on the littleBits site, Amazon and ThinkGeek. Additional modules like light sensors, dimmers and fans are available individually, with most priced around $20 each.

Then it's up to you to get creative, connecting the modules to the supplies that make up your project. Here's a video demonstrating how the confetti cannon and cowboy cool-down hat came together:

littleBits started as a research project in 2008 and only incorporated last year. It already has some notable investors, including Joi Ito and Nicholas Negroponte. The New York-based company currently has seven employees.

The idea is to make do-it-yourself electronics incredibly simple. But Bdeir also wants to make it easier to find project inspiration and get step-by-step instructions. In March, littleBits will launch an online community so its users can share their creations and get ideas from others.

"It basically is going to fuel the community of people that want to learn from each other and start to build more complex things and be creative," she said.

More About: electronics, TED, toys, trending

FaceTime Facelift: Surgeon Wants to Make Video Chats Beautiful

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 12:07 PM PST

Ever noticed double chins or saggy skin get accentuated when video chatting on FaceTime or Skype? Is the angle of your smartphone making you look more beast than beauty?

Now one cosmetic surgeon has a cure — and it involves going under the knife.

Dr. Robert Sigal of Washington D.C. has introduced what he’s calling the “FaceTime Facelift” — a plastic surgery or liposuction procedure to improve a patient’s appearance while video chatting.

The idea came after his patients (including his wife) said they didn’t like the way they looked while video chatting, largely because of the way their phone was angled.

“The angle at which the phone is held, with the caller looking downward into the camera, really captures any heaviness, fullness and sagging of the face and neck,” Sigal said on his workplace’s YouTube page. “People say 'I never knew I looked like that! I need to do something!'

“I've started calling it the 'FaceTime Facelift' effect. And we've developed procedures to specifically address it."

Watch the video to see Sigal talk about the procedure. Would you alter your appearance to look better when video chatting? Tell us in the comments below.

More About: facetime, Skype, trending, video chat

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iPad 3 Concept Looks Beautiful — But Would It Work? [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 11:52 AM PST

From the makers behind the viral iPhone 5 concept that envisioned the device with a stunning laser keyboard comes a breathtaking new vision for the iPad 3, with an edge-to-edge retina display and 3D multiplayer hologram for gaming.

Now, this is exactly what not to expect to be unveiled at Apple’s iPad press event next week. A flurry of feature speculations have taken the web by storm following the news that the company will launch a product on March 7 in San Francisco, but this clever video from Aatma Studio — whose iPhone 5 Concept Features video raked in nearly 50 million views on YouTube — takes it a step further and opens up a world of possibilities for the future of tablets.

For example, it toys with the option of a 2560 x 1140 resolution edge-to-edge retina display, which gives the allusion of a larger visual screen area. In the video, the entire screen serves as the home button.

Although this notion is already possible with today’s tech advancements, it doesn’t seem likely for the next-generation iPad, especially since the event invitation features an image of a touchscreen device with a frame.

However, Aatma plays up the possibility in the video. It takes one iPad and places it next to another and the first takes over the screen of the second — similar to having two screens for a desktop computer.

“Although the tablet form factor is great, we felt the need for a larger visual real estate,” Pramod Modi Shantharam, the CEO and animation director at Aatma, told Mashable. “We eliminated the black border of current iPad and thought it would be a great visual experience for users who bring their iPads together utilizing their internal magnets.”

SEE ALSO: Find the Clues in Apple's iPad Invite | New Apple TV Will Be Announced [RUMOR]

This would allow users to stream videos or watch a movie on two iPad screens at once. The studio used internal magnets with near field communications (NFC) technology to make it happen.

“Consider a scenario where a family of four brings their individual iPads together at an airport while waiting for their flight with a master iPad controlling all screens,” Shantharam added. “This could facilitate new original forms of media content in the future.”

But perhaps the most innovative feature in the video is a 3D multiplayer hologram for gaming. Game controllers project out onto the surface of the table, while two players play a football game with the help of the two combined iPads.

“The 3D holographic display was a popular feature in our iPhone 5 concept video and we wanted to extend that to the iPad,” Shantharam said. “Users could experience a three-dimensional floating holographic screen with combined iPads, making it an exciting use case for multiplayer games.”

Do you think future iPads will embrace this technology? Which feature of the concept was most fascinating to you? Let us know in the comments.

Thumbnail via YouTube, AatmaStudio

Apple Invite Sparks iPad 3 Frenzy on Twitter


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.

More About: apple, ipad, ipad 3, tablets, technology

Facebook Introduces Ads That Appear When You Log Out

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 11:38 AM PST

Ads will start popping up on mobile News Feeds and as you log out of the site, Facebook announced Wednesday.

Although mobile ads had been reported by Bloomberg in December, the idea of a log-out ad, which will go live in April, is new. Mike Hoefflinger, director of customer marketing at Facebook, announced the ads will reach the 37 million people who log out of Facebook every day.

Log-out ads, or “stories” as Facebook prefers they be called, are one of four new “Premium” products for advertisers that were announced at the Facebook Marketing Conference in New York. The other placements include right-hand ads on the homepage and ads within the News Feed on desktops. Both of those ads had been in circulation since at least early January.

The idea behind Premium is a paradigm shift from advertising to stories. Underscoring the change, Premium ads will all originate from brand Pages and often won’t look like traditional ads, but will be based on status updates, questions and videos. Hoefflinger says that such ads, piloted by Dr. Pepper, Butterfinger and EA, deliver $3 of sales for every $1 spent by advertisers and deliver five to 10 times the click-through rate of other ads on Facebook. (Such CTRs are low by industry standards.)

The better metrics are proof, the company contends, that consumers and advertisers are evolving their symbiotic relationship beyond advertising and into storytelling. “[Fans] will engage more with you, are going to like you more and create little stories on top of your stories.”

The announcement comes after Facebook also launched its long-awaited Timeline Brand Pages earlier Wednesday.

1. Cover photo potential

Here, Coca Cola uses snazzy design to make a strong visual impression on visitors.

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More About: Advertising, Facebook, Marketing, trending

Watch Out, Netflix: Hollywood to Reinvent Downloadable Movies [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 11:06 AM PST

Two of Hollywood’s biggest production companies want to give Netflix and Hulu a run for their money. Consumers should soon to able to download HD movies and shows directly onto their flash drives to view movies, bypassing traditional online streaming sites.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment have teamed up with digital data companies SanDisk and Western Digital to create an easier, faster and organized way to store entertainment.

“Project Phenix” — yep, that’s how they spell it — will enable movie watchers to store purchased HD content on USB thumb drives. Since it’s on a portable device, you’ll be able to view content without an Internet connection on televisions, PCs, laptops, tablets and game consoles.

“[It] will allow consumers to easily access and store true HD digital content,” said Darcy Antonellis, President, Warner Bros. Technical Operations, in a press release.

SEE ALSO: Ridley Scott's ‘Prometheus’ Teased in TEDTalk From the Future [VIDEO]

Full 1080p quality HD movies and TV shows, including newly released content, will be available for download, storage and backup on UltraViolet cloud-based storage.

The project took form under the new Secure Content Storage Association (SCSA). The group works to protect vulnerable files online. The association hopes to combat movie piracy by offering copy-protected content via cloud-based storage.

“The vision for this new product is to store, play and back up in the cloud personal and professional content,” said Mike Dunn, President, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. “The device renders content up to 10 times faster than over-the-top internet. We see Project Phenix as a key component of the emerging digital ecosystem.”

Movie watchers can access downloads online or offline in its true Hollywood form, says SCSA members. Watch the video above to find out more about this new way to see movies and T.V. shows at home.

Would you be interested in this movie innovation — carrying around HD movies and shows on a flash drive or portable hard drive? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, creativecommoners.

More About: hulu, Movies, netflix, Video, warner bros

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview: How Would You Change It? [OPEN THREAD]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 10:55 AM PST

Now that the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is available, we want to know what you think.

Mashable’s Pete Pachal and Lance Ulanoff have already spent some hands-on time with Windows 8 Consumer Preview, detailing their thoughts on the new interface changes, as well as Microsoft’s greater mission of offering both a tablet and a desktop OS from the same system.

Microsoft’s approach with Windows 8, especially from a unification standpoint, is in marked contrast to what Apple has done with iOS and OS X. Although OS X Mountain Lion is bringing more iOS elements to its desktop OS than ever before, the application ecosystem is still distinct and separate.

SEE ALSO: Windows 8 Consumer Preview: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly [REVIEW]

We want to know what you think about Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Users can download the preview now and give it a spin on their own machines (or virtual machines, as it were). What do you think of the new Metro interface? Do you like the new features built around sharing and web browsing? What would you like to see Microsoft improve or iterate before the final release hits the market?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments. If you have questions for Pete or for one another, ask away!

More About: Metro, microsoft, Microsoft Windows 8, Windows 8

For Marriage Proposal, Man Uses Meme and Asks Internet for Help [PICS]

Posted: 29 Feb 2012 10:43 AM PST

Memes are all the rage on college campuses right now, but those viral little gems have just sneaked into the land of love.

Self-described web geek Len Kendall proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Katie Holland, over the Internet with a meme of himself emblazoned with “Katie I love you so much, I can haz your hand in marriage?”

Not only did Kendall employ the lolcat meme format in his marriage proposal post on Buzzfeed, but he also asked readers to submit clever memes with his face in them to help sway Holland’s decision.

“The logistics of getting this right are a nightmare,” Kendall told Mashable. “I needed to let hundreds of her friends know about this without Katie finding out.”

His lovey-dovey antics attracted more than 200 entertaining submissions from those friends and readers, as well as several hundred messages on Twitter with the hashtag #SayYesKatie.

“Katie is a huge web geek like me, I know she wouldn’t want something quiet and traditional,” Kendall said. “I still asked for her parents’ permission. Explaining this idea wasn’t easy.”

“I still asked for her parents’ permission. Explaining this idea wasn’t easy.”

Despite the strategic online aspects of the proposal, Kendall conducted an offline proposal in Chicago a few hours after his meme appeared on the web.

She said yes. Now, they’re going to the Peninsula Chicago on Wednesday night for dinner and an overnight stay.

“The power of memes is that total strangers can collaborate on something exciting and moving,” Buzzfeed managing editor Scott Lamb told Mashable. “A marriage proposal on BuzzFeed is like using the Internet’s jumbotron, but instead of just watching you get to participate."

This isn’t the first time someone has turned to tech or the web to propose. Most recently, AllThingsD‘s Drake Martinet published an infographic on Mashable to propose to Stacy Green, Mashable‘s vice president of marketing and communications.

In December 2011, Timothy Tiah Ewe Tiam asked for Audrey Ooi Feng Ling’s hand in marriage by showing her poster-sized printed memes such as Socially Awkward Penguin, Y U NO Guy and Success Kid. At the end of the meme-ridden surprise, he knelt and confessed, "I'm very nervous and terrified about this, but I love you and I think you're my soul mate. I can't see myself living without you in my life. Will you marry me?"

Earlier that year, a New York City woman used a Nexus One and the Google Maps mobile app to complete a scavenger hunt that ended with a marriage proposal, and a Cincinnati man used Groupon to get engaged. In San Francisco in fall 2010, a man leveraged Twitter, Foursquare and live streaming mobile service Qik to propose. Other people also have used social media outlets — a tweet on Twitter, a checkin on Foursquare and Google’s Street View — to put a ring on it.

BONUS: 10 Marriage Proposals Using Memes, Social Media, Gadgets and Games

What are you waiting for? Grab some tissues (the first video is precious) and flip through the galleries below.

1. Internet Memes

Timothy Tiah Ewe Tiam snuck up on his long-time love interest, Audrey Ooi Feng Ling, at Neroteca, a restaurant in Malaysia, and began showing her poster-sized printed memes such as Socially Awkward Penguin, Y U NO Guy and Success Kid.

At the end of the meme-ridden surprise, he knelt and confessed, "I'm very nervous and terrified about this, but I love you and I think you're my soul mate. And I can't see myself living without you in my life. Will you marry me?"

Click here to view this gallery.

6. Google+ Video Game

A gamer named Mihai surprised his girlfriend, Miruna, with a virtual ring in the Crime City mafia video game on Google+.

Funzio, makers of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game, helped Mihai pull off the proposal. Miruna found the ring in her character's inventory and said yes.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: love, marriage proposal, memes

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