Saturday, 10 March 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “TweetStarGame a Modern Database for Modern Sports”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “TweetStarGame a Modern Database for Modern Sports”

TweetStarGame a Modern Database for Modern Sports

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 07:21 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.

Quick Pitch: A one-stop, constantly updating database of social media’s most influential athletes in different sports and leagues.

Genius Idea: As social continues to permeate sports, brands, fans and players will want to quickly know who wields the most power online.

Sports and social media are becoming more and more intertwined. Twitter has become central for fan conversation. Brands routinely use Facebook for sports-themed promotions. Teams are even beginning to pick up on Pinterest. And players are all over social networks.

But there are few one-stop shops to quantify and analyze which athletes are working the social web best. TweetStarGame aims to fill that void.

The site ranks players in different sports, leagues and divisions according to Klout score, and creates “starting lineups” based on whose numbers are highest. The site’s 25-year-old founder Caleb Mezzy hopes it eventually becomes a go-to source for information on the intersection of sports and social.

“Ultimately, we want to become similar to what ESPN is for player stats,” he says.

For now, TweetStarGame is very much in startup mode. Mezzy runs it with the help of two friends on top of his day job in social media, but the site has gained some attention recently in the world of sports blogging since launching in earnest just before the new year. Before the Super Bowl, Klout itself actually sourced the TweetStarGame’s organized data for an infographic on which teams and players were best on Twitter.

Mezzy also says TweetStarGame can provide value for companies looking for potential endorsers because “a brand can go in and see which players are most influential in their territory — for example just the National League Central — instead of having to search through each individual Klout score.”

Building the site’s profile and influence are the main focus for now, Mezzy says, then revenue streams will become more of a priority. The site recently launched a store featuring t-shirts of players’ Twitter handles — a funny and appropriate take on the popular “shirsey” apparel genre that crosses t-shirts with jerseys.

While it still has a ways to go before becoming a viable business, TweetStarGame is an interesting idea extremely appropriate for the modern sports zeitgeist. If players themselves buy in to its rankings and actually compete for high rankings, however, the site could become huge.

Do you think TweetStarGame can become a success? Let us know in the comments.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

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

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, LUGO

More About: bizspark, klout, sports, Tech, Twitter

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Facebook Co-Founder Takes the Reins at ‘New Republic’ Magazine

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 07:10 PM PST

chris hughes image

Chris Hughes, 28-year-old new media mogul and Facebook co-founder, is now the publisher and editor-in-chief of The New Republic after buying a majority stake of the long-standing progressive magazine.

Hughes revealed his plans for TNR in a letter Friday:

“Most of us get our news from social networks, blogs, and daily aggregators. The web has introduced a competitive, and some might argue hostile, landscape for long, in-depth, resource-intensive journalism. But as we’ve seen with the rise of tablets and mobile reading devices, it is an ever shifting landscape — one that I believe now offers opportunities to reinvigorate the forms of journalism that examine the challenges of our time in all their complexity. Although the method of delivery of important ideas had undergone drastic change over the past 15 years, the hunger for them has not dissipated.”

Hughes, who was Mark Zuckerberg’s college roommate at Harvard University, previously spearheaded publicity for Facebook in its early days, but he eventually quit in 2007 to join President Barack Obama’s campaign staff as the director of Online Organizing. He was responsible for the grassroots campaign on social media that attracted an unprecedented number of young voters. He later founded Jumo, an online hub for social charities that recently merged with GOOD magazine.

Despite The New Republic’s small circulation and tiny staff, it has a widespread influence. But it’s also been losing money — a factor many wonder whether Hughes will help transform.

For Hughes, though, turning The New Republic into the next Facebook is not his priority. “Profit per se is not my motive. The reason I’m getting involved here is that I believe in the type of vigorous and contextual journalism that we — we in general as a society — need,” he told The New York Times.

And while Hughes maintains that he’s committed to producing long-form journalism and hardly uses Twitter, he did tweet his thoughts about his new ownership:

What do you think of Hughes’s new role? Does he have what it takes to be publisher and editor-in-chief? And does long-form journalism like The New Republic have a chance in today’s modern media environment? Sound off in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, TommL

More About: Facebook, future of journalism, magazine, new media, The New Republic

What Happens If You Lose Your Smartphone? [VIDEO]

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 06:42 PM PST

It’s a nightmare scenario — you lose your smartphone. Wallets are no longer the only item in our purses, bags or back pockets that need protecting. Most peoples’ smartphones contain personal information — like account passwords that can easily make financial transactions.

Norton AntiVirus maker Symantec employee Kevin Haleyand and Scott Wright of Security Perspectives Inc. set up an experiment called, “The Symantec Smartphone Honey Stick Project” to see how many “lost” smartphones would be returned and if the data would be accessed. They planted 50 smartphones in five cities: New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Ottawa, Canada. Each phone was set up with simulated personal and corporate data and equipped so that Haley and Wright could monitor what was accessed on the phones.

The results, well, let’s just say people are curious creatures. Six out of 10 finders tried to access the social media and email accounts on the phones, but perhaps they were trying to find the owner’s contact information. However, eight out of 10 finders attempted to access files marked, “HR Salaries” and “HR Cases.” And nearly half of the people who found the phones tried to access the phone owner’s bank account.

The bottom line: Protect your data. Symantec offered data protection tips for corporate executives with company smartphones and consumers with personal smartphones. Tips included: Use the screen lock feature and have a password to access the phone; don’t leave your phone unattended and add something to it to make it stand out amongst other phones (a sticker or a case); and get your hands on some smartphone security software.

Smartphones are so convenient because they carry such a massive amount of our personal information, which also makes losing one so upsetting. If you’ve lost your phone, you’ve not only lost the device (which can be pricy) but you’ve also lost all the valuable information on it. Haley thought about this dilemma after his wife was mugged and the contents of her purse were stolen. The first question he asked her, he says in a blog post on Symantec was, “Are you alright?,” followed by “Did you cancel the credit cards and call a locksmith to change our locks?” and third, “Did they get your phone?” Haley says in the post that he realized this was a major security problem.

It would be easy to argue why losing your smartphone would be worse than losing your wallet. At least with a tangible wallet you can cancel cards and reorder them. Sure, you’re out whatever money you had in your wallet, but for the most part only a few steps are needed to remedy a missing wallet. Losing a smartphone, on the other hand, means someone has access to your personal emails, text messages and the most worrisome: Many apps will sign into your accounts simply by opening them. Smartphones don’t contain our driver’s license with our personal address, but anyone who uses it can see all of our friends and if you’re a check-in type, (Foursquare, Facebook) they can see where you’ve been.

What do you do to keep the information on your smartphone safe? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, TommL

More About: cell phone, data protection, privacy, smartphone

Apple Patent Suggests ‘iWallet’ Is Headed To the iPhone

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 06:10 PM PST

iPhone Apps

A new patent awarded to Apple this week hints that the company may be adding mobile payments to the next version of the iPhone.

The patent is called “Parental Controls,” and it deals specifically with controlling how children (who aren’t the ones paying the bills) and are able to use stored payment information.

The language Apple uses and photos in the patent papers seems to suggest that product would be more than just preventing children from paying for R rated movies.

“Various techniques are provided for establishing financial transaction rules to control one or more subsidiary financial accounts. In one embodiment, a financial account management application stored on a processor-based device may provide an interface for defining financial transaction rules to be applied to a subsidiary account. The financial transaction rules may be based upon transaction amounts, aggregate spending amounts over a period, merchant categories, specific merchants, geographic locations, or the like. The device may update the financial transaction rules associated with a subsidiary account by communicating the rules to an appropriate financial server. Accordingly, transactions made using the subsidiary account by a subsidiary account holder may be evaluated against the defined rules, wherein an appropriate control action is carried out if a financial transaction rule is violated.”

If implemented, the system would allow parents to control how much their child is able to spend, where those purchases can take place and what types of transactions will be allowed. Images from the patent suggest that a parent will be notified if their child is trying to make a purchase at a Best Buy or if they’re trying to purchase alcohol or tobacco — both things you can’t currently do on the iPhone.

The patent also hints that Apple may be integrating some sort of mobile payment solution that can be used outside of its own ecosystem in the future.

Along with the patent is a photo of an iPhone with Near Field Communications (NFC) capabilities. NFC would allow you to pay for a purchase wirelessly through your phone from some distance, rather than having to fumble around your wallet or purse for your phone, credit card or cash.

SEE ALSO: Why Your Smartphone Will Replace Your Wallet

Mobile payments are starting to gain steam in the U.S. Apple, though, is a missile piece in the American mobile payment puzzle. While Apple has a history of filing for technology patents it never implements, the patent filing is one of many iWallet-style patents the company has filed. The patents indicate an iPhone mobile payment option may in fact be on the way.

If launched, Apple’s main competition in the mobile payment space would be Google’s new Google Wallet and the recently launched Isis.

Would you use your phone to make purchases in a store? Sound off in the comments below.

More About: apple, mobile payments, nfc

Internet Users Flock To Google Search To Learn About ‘Pink Slime’

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 06:00 PM PST

Pink slime, a beef filler sprayed with ammonia, isn’t in a McDonald’s hamburger patty, but it is likely in pre-package ground beef at the grocery store and will soon be on school lunch trays.

These findings have triggered an explosion of questions on the Internet about pink slime. The search term was the top Google search Friday, and Bettina Siegel, a Texas blogger, has started an online petition against allowing pink slime in school lunches.

But what is pink slime?

Well, it’s the left overs of cattle — the spare beef trimmings treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. Gerald Zirnstein, a former United States Department of Agriculture scientist, is a whistleblower who has spoken out against pink slime for years — in fact, he coined the term in 2002 while working for the USDA. “Pink slime” is otherwise known as “lean fine textured beef.”

This week, Zirnstein told ABC News that 70% of ground beef at the supermarket contains pink slime.

“It’s economic fraud,” Zirnstein told ABC News in an interview. “It’s not fresh ground beef. It’s a cheap substitute being added in.”

Not all grocery stores carry beef containing pink slime, according to Beth Krauss, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods. The best way to avoid eating pink slime is to shop at stores that ground the beef in the store. Meat labeled “USDA Organic” is also made without the filler.

“Whole Foods Market does not sell fresh or frozen meat containing pink slime,” Krauss said. “The majority of our ground beef is ground in our stores, from whole muscle meat.”

Fast food chains like McDonald’s don’t use pink slime, either. McDonald’s announced last month it would stop selling burgers containing the material.

Despite protest against pink slime, the USDA says the additive is safe to eat. In the coming months, the USDA has plans to buy 7 million pounds of ground beef containing pink slime for the national school lunch program, according to The Daily.

J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, a meat trade organization, backed up the USDA’ claims and said “boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) are a safe, wholesome and nutritious form of beef that’s made by separating lean beef from fat.”

Should the USDA allow pink slime to be added to ground beef? Tell us in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStock, Lebazele.

More About: google search, petitions, trending

The iPad Is Now Available For Horses [VIDEO]

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 05:41 PM PST

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

Have you ever wondered to yourself, “What kind of tablet would @horse_ebooks use?” Could there possibly be a device that’s equestrian-friendly? Consider your questions answered — horses love the iPad!

This week, the long-awaited unveiling of the new iPad grabbed much of our attention, and many of the rumors, such as whether or not the device would have a home button, were finally put to rest.

Now horses can get on the action, too, according to this hilarious commercial spoof by BBC Comedy’s Feed My Funny. The video makes harmless fun of Apple’s iPad commercials, which have often been in a similar style to this video.

SEE ALSO: Mysterious "Horse Boy" Shows Up on Google Street View

“Keep up to date with news for horses. Surf websites, for horses. Connect with friends, who are horses,” write the video’s creators.

Whether it’s updating your jockey friends to let them know what you’re up to, or facetime with your philly friends — apparently, now horses have joined the rest of us in acquiring advanced technology that is the tablet.

There’s even “horse voice recognition” available, thanks to Siri’s long lost cousin, Giddy. It’s the device that makes horse life easier with the swipe of a hoof. (And you thought the Internet loved cats … think again.)

However, if we’re speaking technically, I bet that the horses wish the rumors about the iPad’s lack of home button were true. Must be hard to navigate with hooves. What do you think?

Thumbnail image courtesy of Saparevo

More About: horses, humor, ipad, youtube video of the day

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Domain Names 101: How to Avoid Dot-Com Disasters [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 05:30 PM PST

The overflow of quick and witty reaction tweets to the new iPad name proves a name is never just a name. This applies for domain names, too. Here are tips to help you avoid these classic dot-com disasters —, or, a name registration and web hosting company, created an infographic to teach brands domain name 101.

The first tip is to invest in your domain name as you would secure a primary location for a storefront.

“Don't cut corners with your online identity,” says Frank Schilling, founder of and an Internet entrepreneur. “A better domain name will lower your lifetime marketing costs.”

A great example of this is, which gets an average of 106 million unique visitors. More than half of these visitors found the site by using “diapers” as a search term. It’s the first thing that comes up on Google before a Wikipedia article about diapers, and

Short, generic, descriptive and memorable adjectives make great website domains. Skip dashes, long names, broken language and made-up terms.

Many businesses make a mistake by quickly choosing to go with a name rather than weighing all the options, Schilling says.

SEE ALSO: Tea Party Domain Name Could Fetch $1 Million

Using a company name such as may be an obvious choice, but not the right one. Shorter, more memorable names like and can make a difference.

Schilling said you should ask, “What message does your domain send?” when considering a branded domain or generic domain.

“ may not be for everyone,” he said. “But owning the bold, generic single word or multi-word phrase that describes your services sends a powerful message to competitors and industry.”

Just as Facebook has secured numerous anti-Facebook or common typos, Schilling said you should do secure domain names for your brand — or someone you love. The domain guru registered a domain name 10 years ago for his 10-year-old nephew.

“The 7 billionth person has just been born on this planet and, in 10 years, he too will want an email address,” he says. “All these people will eventually aspire to own better names. The time to secure those better names is now.”

What crazy domain names have you seen on the Internet? Tell us in the comments.

Domains 101

Thumbnail courtesy of Flickr, liquene

More About: Business, Domain Names, infographic, Search, startup

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Catch Every Great March Madness Moment With Thuuz App

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 05:19 PM PST

March Madness: so many games, so little time. The tournament begs an obvious question — how do you separate the “meh” from the must-watch?

The mobile app Thuuz (pronounced “thooze,” like enthusiasm) can do that for you. The app uses algorithms to rate games in real time according to excitement on a scale of zero to 100 (see photo), then notifies you once your personal threshold for drama is reached. It’s been available for Android and iOS since last fall, but it’s adding a set of new social features late next week — just in time for March Madness.

“Our thesis is you don’t have to get out of work,” says CEO Warren Packard. “Let Thuuz monitor every game and just take a time-out to watch the best ten minutes.”

Here’s how Thuuz works. You provide information on the sports and teams you like and how hardcore a fan you are. The biggest fans will be notified anytime a game reaches 75 on the app’s excitement scale, less invested fans when games reach 90, and the most casual when a game nears 100. If your favorite team is blowing someone out, you’ll hear about that too, just for kicks.

Packard says the most dedicated fans typically receive two notifications per sport per day, fans with middling interest two per week, and the most casual fans two per month.

The new social functionality will allow friends to follow and share games with one another on Thuuz. You’ll be able to share games you’re looking forward to as well as crescendos of excitement. Packard says the personalized friends feature is “a really nice complement” to the purely algorithm-based notifications.

Down the line, Packard says the company will add notifications for fantasy sports players and gamblers. But for this year’s March Madness, Thuuz is already an excellent addition to the sports fan‘s app arsenal.

Have you tried Thuuz already? Do you think it’s a good idea? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: March Madness Must-Follows on Twitter

1. @GoodmanCBS

Jeff Goodman is a writer. His SiriusXM show, Inside College Basketball, regularly has interesting and timely guests as well. Follow his Twitter feed to find out who's on when.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apps, march madness, sports

CardFlick Puts Your Instagram and Facebook Pictures On Virtual Business Cards

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 05:10 PM PST

Virtual business card company CardFlick is giving its products a new look with the introduction of InstaCards, a web-based feature that now allows you to create virtual business cards using your Facebook and Instagram photos.

Cards created using the service can be shared — or “flicked” — to others who are using the app, as well as emailed to new or existing contacts. CardFlick has been downloaded more than 80,000 times, and according to founder Ketan Anjaria, the average InstaCard user shares those cards eight times a week versus the roughly two shares a traditional card built on the app sees.

"Design separates the best," Anjaria told Mashable, "When you meet people, your first impression is everything."

CardFlick is part of a growing number of virtual business card apps. In November, LinkedIn announced CardMunch, an app that allows you to take a picture of a traditional paper business card you receive and then save the content of the card as a contact in your phone. The app also integrates information from a person’s LinkedIn profile into the experience, so you can instantly see education and work experiences you might have in common with the person.

SEE ALSO: Is It Time To Finally Ditch Your Paper Business Cards?

If you’re excited about the prospect of putting your Facebook pictures on cards but aren’t ready to go virtual, the company Moo also started offering paper business cards this year designed to mimick your Facebook Timeline. There are also quite a few other unique traditional business card companies out there that can help you create memorable paper business cards.

Do you think virtual business cards on on their way to replacing their paper counterparts? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

More About: apps, business card, Facebook, instagram

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10 Innovative Uses of Facebook Timeline for Brands

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 04:51 PM PST

1. Fanta

The soda company's branded Facebook Timeline page took advantage of the Leap Year by pretending that the extra day "created a rip in the Fanta space-time continuum and sucked four of our characters: Gigi, Lola, Floyd and Tristan out of the Cover Photo and into the past."

Fans of Fanta's Page must engage in its "Lost in Time" game, which requires navigating through the Fanta Timeline, to bring the characters back to the future.

Click here to view this gallery.

Now that brands have had a bit of time to familiarize themselves with Facebook Timeline, they’ve stepped up their game and gotten creative.

Several companies have already hopped on the Timeline bandwagon — some are making cool use of the cover photos — but is that really all there is to Timeline? Of course not. There are tons of cool ways to make use of Timeline’s new features, whether you’re a large business or small.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Timeline for Brands: The Complete Guide

A lot of these options don’t necessarily require a Facebook promotion either, although that’s almost always a surefire way to interact with new followers. Rather, many brands are simply providing their fans with valuable and entertaining content.

Have you switched over to Timeline? What ways are you utilizing the new features? Let us know in the comments.

More About: brands, Facebook, facebook timeline, features, Marketing, trending

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How Windows 8 Tablets Could Seriously Challenge the iPad

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 04:30 PM PST


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

Now that the new iPad has been revealed, everyone’s chiming in on whether it’s a disappointing incremental upgrade or a fantastic breakthrough. None of that matters to its success, of course. If every single previous iPhone and iPad product launch is any indication, Apple is going to sell truckloads of these things no matter what any expert, hater or fanboy says.

However, there’s one thing that makes this iPad release different from ealier ones: The new iPad will be the Apple device that goes head-to-head with Windows 8 tablets when they arrive later this year. Microsoft‘s new OS will spawn an entirely different species of tablet than the Android devices that have so far been Apple’s main competition. And if Microsoft plays its cards right, it could be the one that finally gives the iPad a serious challenge in the market.

So far, no product has been able to do that. The first “real” Android tablets, like the Motorola Xoom, were largely ignored by consumers. The newer tablets and latest Android upgrades are certainly better, but they’re still hampered by an amorphous ecosystem. Those examples of up-scaled phone apps on Android that Tim Cook cued up in his keynote were pretty damning, and he also said there were 200,000 iPad apps in the App Store. Google doesn’t give an official count of tablet-specific Android apps in Google Play, but estimates are in the thousands.

Tablet Non-Contenders

Non-Android tablets look even worse. RIM fumbled the launch of the BlackBerry PlayBook so badly that the tablet — and possibly RIM’s whole credibility in the space — will never recover. HP killed its consumer tablet offering, the TouchPad, mere weeks after launch upon realizing the iPad was an opponent it couldn’t hope to defeat.

Certainly, the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook are success stories, but they kind of cheated. Both have only managed to carve out a niche market among tablets by selling their devices at a rock-bottom prices (the Kindle Fire’s is so low that Amazon may be selling it at a loss). They can only do this by using the device itself as an outlet to sell specialized content. These products aren’t going toe-to-toe with the iPad — they’re fighting over the scraps of the market it’s left behind.

So far no device has been able to seriously challenge the iPad experience in its entirety. Basically, the tablet market has yet to see its Motorola Droid, the phone that finally showed, along with Android 2.0 software, that the iPhone wasn’t the end-all-be-all of smartphones. Android’s success skyrocketed after its release.

Windows 8 to the Rescue?

Could the tablet market’s dark horse be a Windows 8 device? It’s possible, but it hinges entirely on how consumers respond to the new user interface, Metro.

The thrust of Windows 8 — and why it’s such a big gamble my Microsoft — is that it brings the same UI to tablets and traditional PCs (desktops and laptops). Metro is ideally suited for touchscreens, but it works with a mouse and keyboard, too. (Here’s a full breakdown of Windows 8.)

There’s a reason Microsoft has done this, and it’s not really the spirit of bringing tablet features to your laptop. Quite the opposite, in fact. In order to have any hope of succeeding in tablets, Microsoft has to convince its army of Windows developers to make software for those tablets. But no one’s going to develop software for an unproven OS where the company has seen little commercial success (no current Windows tablet has significant market share).

However, if your entire OS, including traditional PCs, is running the same software, then developers almost have no choice but to design apps for tablets. Windows 8 essentially turns all Windows developers into tablet developers, potentially giving the Windows 8 tablet platform the fuel it needs to expand rapidly and finally give the iPad a real opponent.

The Catch: Metro

Again, almost. There’s one thing that could hold it back: consumers rejecting Metro. You see, Windows 8 lets any user turn off Metro and just use the traditional desktop. If enough of them do, many developers may simply choose not to create Metro apps. After all, if most of your customers are just switching to the old Windows environment anyway, why bother?

That would let the air out of the expanding Windows 8 tablet balloon pretty quickly, and that’s even before we consider the wild cards of potential device fragmentation, how Windows will work on ARM devices and whether or not consumers will even accept a tablet as their main computing device.

Microsoft needs to get Metro 100% right if Windows 8 tablets are going to have any hope. If users like Metro, then the developers will follow, and a real ecosystem will emerge. If not, the iPad will probably be the only tablet worth talking about for a long, long time.

BONUS: A Tour of Windows 8 and Metro

Start Menu

Here's what greets you every time you log into your Windows 8 machine. Yes, the tiles are customizable, though it's a little unwieldy in practice.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: amazon, android, apple, Google, iOS, ipad, kindle fire, microsoft, nook, playbook, tablets, trending, Windows 8

Can Social Networking Enhance the Theater? [VIDEO]

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 03:58 PM PST

An avid theater goer and critic at Canada’s Globe and Mail is proposing making the theater a more social place with Facebook and Linkedin. While using mobile devices with show-stopping LCD screens may be frowned upon, social networking may turn out to be a real experience enhancer.

The Guardian recently published a column by theater critic Kelly Nestruck who suggests play houses should contemplate developing an app similar to a social media profile-powered systems used by airlines.

“Your average modern theatre production, however, fails to tap into the possibilities of connecting audience members,” he said in a blog post.

By displaying who will be in the audience before the night of the show, it’s more likely you’ll meet friends.

“Whenever I have chatted with strangers in the stalls, however, it’s led to a much richer theatre experience,” Nestruck said. “Some of my greatest play-going memories have involved bonding with fellow audience members standing in a queue trying to get tickets for a sold-out show, or comparing notes.”

The seating program cited in the post as inspiration for social networking before showtime is the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Meet and Seat program. Meet and Seat lets passengers determine who they want to sit next to, laying out personal details about individuals on the same flight from social media.

Would you like to use your social networking profiles in tandem with going to the theater, booking flights or eating out at restaurants? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Thomas Hawk

More About: Facebook, linkedin, Video

March Madness: 6 Sites for Creating Your Ultimate Bracket

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 03:33 PM PST

Time to iron your favorite jersey, slap some war paint on and dust off that foam finger: March Madness is about to begin! Whether you’re an NCAA Basketball superfan or a casual bystander, everyone can get swept up in the magic and drama of the Big Dance. Of course, one of the best parts of the March Madness excitement is participating in a bracket challenge — by yourself or with a group of your friends or coworkers. And with Selection Sunday just around the corner, it’s time to rustle up your pool and get in on the action.

Here’s a round-up of some of the most popular bracket systems online right now. Some of them are ideal for different kinds of groups, so we’re breaking each down by prize package and who would get the most out of each pool. The best part? All of them are absolutely 100% free to use for you and your friends, which means that more money can go into your home-grown pool if you’re looking to high-roll. Some even allow multiple bracket sheets to be filled out at no extra fee — so you can develop an underdog-friendly strategy if you’re hoping for an upset.

Is there a particular bracketing system you prefer to use? Let us know in the comments below.

1. ESPN Tournament Challenge

If you’re looking for a large-scale, cross-platform bracket system that integrates smoothly with your social media, you really can’t go wrong with ESPN’s bracket challenge. Fill out up to ten different bracket sheets, invite your friends, and compete for the chance to win a $10,000 Best Buy gift card on top of it all. Even if you don’t plan to be in the house much during March Madness (or are forced to keep your bracketing a clandestine secret), you can install ESPN’s BracketBound app for both iPhone and Android, which not only tracks brackets but also gives handy updates and highlights of the games.

However, when you go big, you can’t expect it to stay small. You can invite your friends to play Bracket Challenge, but the scale of ESPN’s operation can be a bit daunting to those who just want to play with 10 other people. If you get involved, you’re involved with the whole program.

2. CBS Sports Bracket Manager

CBS Sports Bracket Challenge logo

For those who enjoy a much more hands-on approach to brackets, the CBS Sports Bracket Manager is one of two NCAA-supported apps — and it’s the one with the most homegrown feelings. Rather than submitting your picks to a larger pool, CBS Sports Bracket Manager is a platform that helps conduct local pools without the extra layered distraction of the overall game. Simply set up a bracket hub, invite your friends and fill out your own. You can customize your group’s page with a personalized name and abbreviation, and inviting people is as simple as giving them the group password to access the bracket page.

CBS goes the extra mile too. In case any sort of hiccup or malfunction happens in your system, you can call their customer service for guidance.

The downside, of course, is the extra bells and whistles. There’s no larger prize at stake, and no social media integration for those who are looking to announce their winnings to friends.

3. NBC Sports Bracket Madness

NBC Sports March Madness logo
The catch-all middle path of the bracket games offered up this year, the NBC Sports Bracket integrates a little bit of everything to attract all kinds of March Madness players. It offers the direct and simple pool management system for private group playing, complete with password protection and simple standings. Solitary bracket players will also be interested in submitting solo — especially since there’s a handy feature that shows how you rank among all of the other registered pools in the game. It’s also pretty beginner-friendly, with a cheat sheet right on the game’s main page. So you can play for the big prize and organize a little prize for your pool as well.

This jack-of-all trades game just doesn’t have any extra pop. Compared to ESPN’s prize money, NBC’s $2,000 grand prize seems a little paltry. There’s also no way to manage brackets from a mobile device.

4. NCAA Bracket Challenge

NCAA Bracket Challenge logo

The second official bracket system backed by the NCAA, this game is really the baby of the organization. Simply create your entries and join or create your own group to keep track of the action. With a layered system much closer to ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, you can actually join any public group available with your entries. One notable group among them is the CNN Bracket Challenge, where all of the news network personalities are making their picks for the Big Dance. The added value of the official Bracket Challenge is its sanctioned integration into the streaming package available in the partnership with CBS. Not only can you access your brackets via the online streaming platform available for games, but also for iPhone, iPad, and Android.

But like its companion program, NCAA Bracket Challenge also has no overall prize for best bracket. This may turn off some solo players.

5. Yahoo Tourney Pick’em

Yahoo! Fantasy Draft logo

Fully integrated with the overall Yahoo Fantasy Sports section, Yahoo’s Tourney Pick’em allows for both private groups and public pools. If you’re already in possession of a Yahoo account, joining is seamless and easy. Social media is also cleverly integrated through the “Like” system — just like your bracket and receive tailored updates throughout the tournament relating to your picks in your feed. You can make up to five brackets for submission to the grand-daddy of March Madness Prizes: Perfect Bracket gets a cool $5 million, and the best bracket wins $10,000. And if for some reason all of your brackets are toasted by round two, you can register on March 15 for the “Second Chance Game” — a chance to pick up $5,000.

Yahoo’s shortcomings are rooted in its Fantasy system — while the prizes are excellent, it’s simply better to be in a group where there’s a dedicated commissioner rather than going solo. There’s a free mobile app available, but it’s not as slick or sexy as others.

6. Fox Sports Bracket Challenge

Fox Bracket Challenge logo

The Fox Sports Bracket Challenge really gives a solo participant an edge. The game only allows each user to enter a total of three brackets. However, those same three brackets can be submitted to five different groups in the system. The result is that any user can be involved in up to 15 different pools during the tournament — fit for a March Madness superfan.

Another great feature is the bracket simulator, which gives players a statistically-driven playthrough of the tournament to analyze chances of winning. And winning is key: A perfect bracket comes with a purse of $1 million and first place is a flat-screen TV.

But for a major bracket challenge, it seems fairly isolated. There’s no meaningful social integration and no mobile app to speak of. If you’re looking for cut-and-dry fantasy competition, this is the place to go.

BONUS: 16 Must-Follow Twitter Accounts for March Madness

1. @GoodmanCBS

Jeff Goodman is a writer. His SiriusXM show, Inside College Basketball, regularly has interesting and timely guests as well. Follow his Twitter feed to find out who's on when.

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More About: basketball, features, march madness, NCAA, sports

Twitter Engineer Builds Tool for Event Backchannels

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 03:12 PM PST

A new tool makes Twitter a better backchannel for events and panels.

Bill Couch, a software engineer at Twitter, demoed the new tool at SXSW on Friday during the “Design from the Gut” panel.

Panels often use a Twitter hashtag as a way to accept audience-submitted questions. The problem, however, is that these tweets from panel attendees show up in all of their followers feeds — whether or not those followers care about the panel. During the panel onslaught of SXSW, this can become very annoying.

“Experiencing the event second-hand became a common frustration of Twitter users — myself included — especially as hashtags and retweets gathered momentum as a way to post live updates, and share others' thoughts,” Couch wrote on a blog post that describes the new tool.

Dubbed Osprey, the tool collects the questions and thoughts submitted through @ replies to a Twitter account set up for the event. It then tweets them from the account.

One panel attendee at the demo, for example asked, “What are some of the most surprising or counterintuitive successful designs you’ve seen?” The account tweeted this message with “From @BakoInd:” posted in front of it to show who submitted it.

People at the panel can follow the Twitter account to get updates in their streams. Outsiders can opt to get all of the conversation, rather than bits and pieces from the people who they follow.

Osprey also creates a way for the audience to rank questions and comments using the Twitter favorite function. Those with the most Twitter favorites at the SXSW panel were ranked on a leaderboard, which was projected on a screen in the room and accessible to everyone else online. The question above ended up getting the most votes (11).

As a moderator, I imagine the ranking function would be useful. Tools like Google Moderator also provide this functionality, but it’s not open to the public. As a panel attendee, it was about as easy to follow along with a Twitter feed as a Twitter hashtag, but I’m sure my Twitter followers appreciated the opt-in conversation.

Couch tells Mashable Twitter may add the code to its open source library.

Have you seen any effective backchannel management strategies at panels or conferences? Let us know in the comments.

More About: backchannels, hashtags, moderation, sxsw, sxsw 2012, Twitter

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Google+ Executive to Critic: ‘Make Sure You’re Using It Correctly’

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 02:57 PM PST

Guy Kawasaki and Vic Gundotra at SXSW

Google+ has more than 100 million active users, as long as you count them correctly. In a fireside chat at SXSW, Google+ Lead Vic Gundotra said Google’s social network enjoys 50 million users who sign in once a day and 100 million who sign in once a month, calling it the “fastest-growing service we've ever seen at Google.”

Those users, however, are not necessarily signing directly into Google +. Instead, they may be signing into one of the services “optimized for” Google+. This includes Gmail and YouTube.

In other words, we still don’t have a hard number for Google+ activities. Gundotra defends this calculation. He told moderator and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki that counting only those who sign directly into Google+ is akin to counting only those who view a news stream or those who use “likes.” Though Gundotra did not actually mention Facebook by name — he just called it “a certain competitor” — it was clear which social network he was talking about.

A recent Comscore report shows users spent an average of 3.3 minutes on Google+ in January compared to 7.5 hours on Facebook.

Kawasaki is a Google+ fan (he just released an ebook on the topic), telling Gundotra that once he started posting publicly to his million-plus followers that it “was like the first time I saw Macintosh.”

Duck or Rabbit-19th Century IllustrationStill he was not satisfied and asked why Google+ sometimes seems like a ghost town. Gundotra’s response — “Make sure you're using it correctly” — drew some chuckles as it brought to mind how Apple CEO Steve Jobs responded to criticism of Apple’s antenna attenuation problem, telling users they were holding the phone wrong. Undaunted, Gundotra told Kawasaki that sometimes users post to empty circles without realizing it.

Gundotra said that what people do not understand is that with Google+, Google is actually building 2.0, in other words this is the next generation of Google as a broad-based service. To illustrate his point, Gundotra showed a 19th century illustration of a duck. He explained that when it was first shown to people they saw a duck, but when it was shown to school children during Easter, they saw a rabbit. “The Idea that we could build a social layer across everything is difficult for people to understand until they use it. … People continue to see the duck. If you continue to look, you'll see the rabbit that we're pulling out of the hat.”

SEE ALSO: 7 Hot Apps to Watch at SXSW | 6 Ways to Up Your Networking Game at SXSW

That march to the Google 2.0 is not going to stop. “We’re just getting started,” promised Gundotra. “Wait until you see what we're bulding next.”

What do you think? Is Google+ a ghost town or the greatest thing since the introduction of the Mac? Let us know in comments.

More About: Google, Social Media, sxsw, sxsw 2012, trending

Crowdsourced Philanthropy: Is It Worth the Risk?

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 02:29 PM PST

Kellie Clapper is an assistant vice president of public affairs at State Farm Insurance. She is helping State Farm launch Cause An Effect, the company's first crowdsourced philanthropy program, which gives people a chance to bring home one of 40 $25,000 grants to their neighborhood.

As brands look for ways to more actively engage with consumers, many companies both large and small have turned to crowdsourced philanthropy – effectively turning over key elements of their philanthropic giving to consumers.

By asking consumers what matters most to them and allowing those choices to influence company giving, the business is able to strengthen its relationship with consumers, have a positive impact and build its brand.

Gmail developer Paul Buchheit wrote in 2009, "I’m going to donate a bunch of money, but I want random people on the Internet to decide where it goes." His public request for ideas is a textbook example of crowdsourced philanthropy.

But as organizations have discovered, crowdsourced philanthropy is not without risk. Companies considering this approach should ask themselves several questions.

  • Are we willing to give up that control?
  • Can we live with whatever choices consumers make?
  • How can we ensure we don’t put additional strain on already stretched non-profits?
  • How do we guarantee the selection process is fair and free of fraud?
  • Will we have an impact?
  • Is crowdsourced philanthropy a short-lived trend, and has the enthusiasm worn off?

By learning from past programs and sticking to a core set of principles, companies can minimize risk and maximize impact. The following set of principles can help put a crowdsourced philanthropic program on the path to success.

Provide as much flexibility as possible to encourage creativity and innovation. When you're talking about local communities, local citizens and non-profits are the experts. Take advantage of that expertise by listening and remaining open.

Transparency is key. The official rules must be clear, concise and readily available. And the company needs to be prepared to monitor and enforce the rules to ensure the program is fraud-free and does not simply favor size or a vocal majority.

Think simple. The submission process should be easy to understand, user-friendly and available to a very broad audience.

Encourage engagement, collaboration and open dialogue. Depending on your program's focus, how can you amplify and elevate what you are doing with key audiences? How can you use the discussions, issues raised and knowledge you are gathering through the program to better shape your company's broader community relations and philanthropic initiatives?

Reflect who you are as a company. What can you, as an organization, bring to the table to help solve a social issue? Do you have experts who could bring a unique perspective or an innovative technology to the program? Could a community leverage some of your employees or intelligence, rather than just grant money, to further their mission and goals?

Think long-term. Crowdsourced philanthropy is a great way to take the pulse of key constituencies. It should not be a marketing tactic to grow your Facebook Likes, but instead, be deeply rooted in your long-term corporate social responsibility strategy. A significant and critical element of this long-term approach is measuring the program's actual impact – not just its reach.

Be different. Make your company's program unique and enticing to new audiences. Learn from other programs, but don't duplicate what other organizations have already done.

Crowdsourced philanthropy programs can be extremely fruitful if they are transparent, measurable, connected to a broader corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, used to drive engagement, and make a positive impact. These programs are still relevant today because they integrate readily-used technologies with social good. Will it become a mainstay of CSR strategies or is the next big idea right around the corner? Stay tuned.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mangostock

More About: contributor, Crowdsource, features, philanthropy, Social Good

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Would You Subscribe To Your Own Cereal Creation?

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 02:04 PM PST

Puffed quinoa? Mini cookies? Maybe throw in some blueberries, cinnamon or chia seeds? Whatever you want in your breakfast bowl, a newly hatched startup called Cerealize wants to sell you a subscription to it.

The startup’s eleven founders met at the start of an unusual hackathon called The Startup Bus on Tuesday. They’ve spent the past four days alongside other teams of entrepreneurs putting together a pilot site — while in transit to South by Southwest in Austin.

“We basically haven’t slept in four days,” says co-founder Falon Fatemi. “And we have been partying while launching a startup. It’s a bonding experience.”

Why cereal? It’s easy to mass customize and it sells for much more than it costs to make. Similar companies have been started for granola and soda for the same reasons.

Cerealize plans to sell custom 16 ounce boxes for $8 each, and customers will be able to choose to have their favorite blends delivered regularly.

Only four days from its inception, the idea is still far from a launch date. Co-founder Jonas Huckestein says the site might fulfill preorders made on the pilot side manually before it builds machines to do it automatically. But placing an order with a four-day-old startup is always less than a solid bet.

If you happen to live in Germany, you could instead get your custom mail-order cereal fix from a similar company that’s established there. But if you’re in the U.S., you were out of luck — until Cerealize. Huckestein says Cerealize (or at least a handful of its copious co-founders) now wants to bring that system stateside.

Would you buy a cereal subscription? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Cerealize, mass customization, sxsw, sxsw 2012

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Here’s How Apple Put a Retina Display in the iPad

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 01:44 PM PST


The so-called “retina” display for the new iPad is by far its most obvious — and technologically remarkable — feature. After all, the upgraded screen crams more than 3 million pixels in an area smaller than a piece of paper. How did Apple do it? A display analysis company has the answer.

First, it’s important to understand the challenge. Besides the added difficulty in miniaturizing smaller components, when you shrink pixels down to the size they are in the new iPad, the tiny little wires that send signals to the pixels start to get so close together that they can affect each other. The problem is called cross-talk (or, more precisely, capacitive coupling), and Apple’s right when it says on the iPad features page that it can affect the quality of your image.

To overcome the issue, Apple separated the actual pixels from the signal wires with a thin resin layer, according to this brief analysis from DisplaySearch. By putting an acrylic film just 3 micrometers thick in between the pixels and the wires, it eliminates cross-talk and also has the benefit of increasing the screen’s “aperture ratio” — the amount of screen space that light actually passes through (if you look close enough at an LCD screen, you’ll see lines between the pixels which contain components that drive the pixels).

The technology is called a Super High Aperture, or SHA, design. You can see how it differs from a regular LCD in the DisplaySearch table below.

And this may come as a shock, but Apple didn’t invent the tech. DisplaySearch says SHA screens were pioneered by Sharp and JSR years ago, but they weren’t widely adopted because of the cost of production and difficulties in manufacturing large quantities of the screens. However, the recent demand for high-resolution mobile displays has led to a surge in production. More than 25% of today’s LCDs include the new tech, says DisplaySearch.

It also means Apple is exaggerating just a wee bit when it says that to create the iPad’s retina display, it had to design the device “in a completely new way.”

How much of a game-changer do you think Apple’s 2,048 x 1,536 retina display is? And is it the main reason you’d buy one? Sound off in the comments.

BONUS: The New iPad in Detail

1. Retina Display

The most touted feature of the new iPad is its ultra-high-resolution "retina" display, which clocks in at 2,048 x 1,536 pixels -- a million more pixels than a 1080p HDTV. Thanks to the extra pixels and the iPad's new graphics processor, the screen has 44% better color saturation. The screen's pixels are so small, Apple says it had to change the design of the LCD itself to elevate the pixels above the circuitry to prevent distortion. Apple calls it the best display ever made for a mobile device, and -- from the specs -- it's hard to disagree.

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More About: apple, ipad, LCD, retina display, trending

What Paula Deen’s Cookin’ on Pinterest, Y’all

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 01:00 PM PST

Paula Deen, the sassy, southern sweetheart of the Food Network, was one of the first “celebs” on Pinterest. I put “celeb” in quotations because the chef’s digital presence is actually managed by a team of two.

Jonathan Able and Lisa Scarbrough oversee Deen’s social media activity, which means curating content, posting recipes, engaging fans and, above all, upholding Deen’s unique brand. If you’ve ever wondered who’s behind the chef’s twangy Twitter voice (“Have y'all been able to try these Southern Side Dishes? I love 'em for weeknight meals.”), look no further.

As the online editor for, Able manages content and messaging for all of Deen’s digital presences, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Scarbrough is’s in-house programmer and community manager. Both help populate Deen’s Pinterest account with original recipes and finger-lickin’ photos.

While other brands have chosen to pin relevant content from around the web, Deen’s Pinterest page is comprised mostly of recipes. That’s not to say the team isn’t listening to its followers. “We try to break our recipes down into fun and friendly categories and subgroups based on what we hear the fans looking for,” says Able. “A lot of what we post is often fan-suggested.”

SEE ALSO: Peek Into Pinterest's Palo Alto Pad [PICS]

And what recipes are fan favorites? Desserts, of course. Among Deen’s 42 boards, you’ll find categories named “Gooey Favorites” and “Sweet Savannah Treats,” the pins of which are dripping with — you guessed it — butter.

“Pinterest users tend to gravitate towards our more whimsical recipes and food how-to’s,” says Able. “For instance, our pie decorating article did very well on the platform because it has beautiful step-out photography to go with it.”

Anyone who has watched Paula Deen on TV will immediately understand where that sense of whimsy comes from. Deen’s personality is loud, proud and sometimes even a teeny bit off-color. That charisma comes through her Pinterest page, too. Just check out the board titled “LOL” to see Deen riding on a stick of butter.

Able and Scarbrough have managed to find a way to communicate not only Deen’s sense of humor, but her brand as well. “Paula is all about sharing. She shares her food, home and lifestyle, and Pinterest seems to really get that,” says Able.

But determining that Pinterest would be a good community fit was only one part of the equation. Deen’s team decided to jump on Pinterest as soon as the network broke into’s list of top five traffic sources, says Scarbrough. “Pinterest users were already pinning our content before we got on board. Within the first week, we had over 25,000 followers, and we had only sent out two tweets about the Pinterest account.”

It seems that fortune has fallen into the laps of Paula Deen and her team members. Much of it has to do with Deen’s already famous cooking (read: evergreen content), but Able also attributes their Pinterest success to the network’s ease of use. “The best thing about Pinterest is that it’s not work at all, so posting new content is fun for both us and our users.”

So, get ready for more butter! What is your favorite Paula Deen recipe? What board would you like to see added to her Pinterest page?

Photo used with permission. © Paula Deen Enterprises, LLC

BONUS: 15 of the Most Popular Pictures on Pinterest

1. Hands

Pinterest via Edris Kim.

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More About: community management, cooking, features, Food, pinterest, trending

Fashion Advice App Fashism Dives Into Ecommerce, Launches on Android

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 12:29 PM PST

Fashism, a website and mobile app that lets users solicit community feedback on style, is diving into ecommerce with the launch of an accessories shop. Now, when users are told to “add a belt” or “toss in some bangles” to spruce up their outfits, they can act immediately on that advice.

Fashism co-founder and CEO Brooke Moreland says the move into retail was inspired by the community itself. Of the hundreds of thousands of comments left on users’ outfits, many include recommendations to add a single accessory. Quirky pieces of jewelry and scarves, as well as nail decals, also tend to attract the most votes, she says. So Fashism decided to begin offering those items for purchase directly.

Items were chosen with the site’s young (mostly teenage), budget-conscious community in mind. Most accessories are priced in the $12 to $15 range. Nothing costs more than $30.

Users will be able to access the shop on Fashism’s website, Facebook and via Fashism’s iPhone app.

The shop is launching with an inventory of just 50 items, but Fashism is planning to expand into ready-to-wear clothing as well as low-priced designer collaborations. Well-known industry figures, including investor and Project Runway judge Nina Garcia, will help put together “curated collections” for the site.

In addition, Fashism is rolling out its Android app Friday. The app allows users to post outfit photos and comment on others’ looks on-the-go but does not include access to the shop. currently receives around 200,000 unique visitors per month.

More About: Android App, ecommerce, fashion, fashism, iphone app, retail, startup

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KONY 2012 May Be Flawed, But Slacktivism Isn’t the Enemy

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 11:57 AM PST

kony 2012

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

Unless you’ve spent the past week unplugged from the social web, you’ve probably made note of an exceptionally viral 30-minute documentary called KONY 2012.

The film aims to make Joseph Kony, the leader of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) famous for his crimes against humanity, particularly kidnapping and abducting children, and turning them into child soldiers and sex slaves.

As of Friday morning, the film has been viewed 70 million times on YouTube and Vimeo and received almost half a million comments. Uganda, LRA, Invisible Children and #stopkony, among other topics related to the film, have trended throughout the week on Twitter.

The film has also received significant criticism across the web, as people have questioned the finances and transparency of Invisible Children as an organization, as well as the film’s inherent promotion of slacktivism.

Say what you will about Invisible Children, but the KONY 2012 campaign’s flaw is not in creating slacktivists. The term, it its essence, negates the potential of social media to create change. KONY 2012 explicitly states that its goal is to make Joseph Kony famous, because 99% of the world doesn’t (or didn’t) know who he is — and it has been darn successful at doing just that.

How do you make someone famous on the Internet? You tweet, share, change your avatar and email your friends. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of my Facebook friends share the same link or seen so many related topics trend on Twitter.

By definition, these sharers and tweeters are slacktivists. They’ve expressed their support for a cause through an action that doesn’t directly impact the organization or cause.

Do I think volunteering, giving money and writing to members of Congress are more valuable than sharing a link or tweeting? Maybe. However, if we have learned one thing about social media in the last few years, it’s that there is power in share numbers.

SEE ALSO: Why Slacktivism Is Underrated

Spreading this story — as told by director Jason Russell, who founded Invisible Children — has already had a direct impact on policy. Following the film’s viral reach, Uganda said Friday that it would capture Joseph Kony “dead on alive,” Reuters reports.

“All this hoopla about Kony and his murderous activities is good in a sense that it helps inform those who didn’t know the monster that Kony is. But of course, this is too late,” said Felix Kulayigye, Uganda’s defence ministry spokesman, to Reuters.

Russell admitted during a TODAY Show interview Friday that Joseph Kony may only have 200 followers left. Does that mean he shouldn’t be stopped? No. Does it mean it’s a bad thing for millions to watch and share the story of a remote conflict across the world? No.

That being said, watching a 30-minute documentary created by one organization makes no one an expert. Those claiming to be experts on Joseph Kony — including Invisible Children itself — should be questioned.

When it comes to evaluating the organization and deciding if you would like to donate money or purchase a $30 action kit, do some research and make that decision for yourself. It’s public information that Invisible Children spent 32% of its 2011 budget toward direct aid for Uganda.

This figure shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that Russell told MSNBC in an interview Thursday that Invisible Children doesn’t seek to be an aid organization, rather an advocacy group. Though some non-profits, such as charity: water state that all donations go directly toward funding projects, Invisible Children makes no such claim. It is by no means uncommon for non-profits to allocate significant funding toward overhead costs.

Do you think slacktivists can be powerful change makers? Are shares and tweets irrelevant compared to other actions? Let us know what you think of slacktivism in the comments.

BONUS: The History of Online Activism

Lotus Marketplace — April, 1990

In 1990, a product called Lotus Marketplace: Households aimed to revolutionize the marketing list industry. Instead, it raised new concerns about consumer privacy and led the public to take action.

Software company Lotus and credit bureau Equifax combined to create the product, which contained names, addresses and purchasing behavior of 120 million Americans in CD-ROM form.

Concerned consumers organized through email and message boards with the primary goal of determining how to contact Lotus and opt out of the list. Eventually, some 30,000 people did so, making the controversy what many consider the first online protest. In the face of unforeseen criticism, Lotus and Equifax decided by early 1991 not to release the database.

Image courtesy Flickr, Meuh !.

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More About: africa, kony 2012, Slacktivism, Social Good, trending, World

Interactive Nike Fuel Station Opens in London [VIDEO]

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 11:39 AM PST

British runners: on your mark, get set — shop! Nike fans in London can re-fuel at a new interactive pop-up shop designed to sync with the company’s latest high-tech product: the Nike+ Fuelband.

The wristband tracks your movements throughout the day. It records “your entire athletic life,” says Nike’s promo video, and can sync that information to your smartphone. The wristband records steps taken, calories burned and time of activity.

The shop opened in London’s BOXPARK Shoreditch pop-up mall, a low-cost moveable shopping center made from shipping containers. The mall already houses brands including Levi’s and Calvin Klein.

In addition to shoes and gear, Nike’s new shop will include an LCD wall that can take a pixelated snapshot of your outline. The colorful imprint can move with you — definitely a fun feature that could draw-in shoppers passing by. In addition to the LCD screen there will also be iPads embedded in the store walls. (After all, Nike and Apple have a partnership.) Visitors to the shop can also sign-up for local running clubs and design customized shoes.

This is just Nike’s latest step toward elevating the brand’s tech presence. In February, Nike announced that its Nike+ line of shoes for runners would expand to include shoes made for basketball and other general athletic activities. The Nike+ shoe records workout information, which users can sync to the Nike+ apps on their iPhone, iPod touch and the web.

The Fuelband is the latest product Nike is adding to the digitally connected Nike+ ecosystem. The interactive shop hasn’t come to the U.S. yet, but fans can stay connected by using the hashtag #makeitcount on Twitter.

What do you think of this interactive pop-up shop? Would you be more inclined to shop at an interactive store? Tell us in the comments.

More About: athletes, contest, health, london, Nike, smartphone

U.S. Appoints New Chief Technology Officer

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 11:25 AM PST

President Obama has appointed Todd Park as the new U.S. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) on Friday.

Park previously served a three-year tenure as the CTO for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While there, he helped launch, a website that allows American citizens to compare public and private health insurance plans available to them based on their zip code.

Alex Howard, a journalist who covers the intersection of government, the Internet and society, calls Park’s appointment as CTO “extremely exciting.”

“This is some of the best personnel news to come out of Washington and the federal government under President Obama,” writes Howard. “Park has been working to revolutionize the healthcare industry since 2009. Now he’ll have the opportunity to try to improve how the entire federal government works through technology.”

President Obama created the role of CTO when he first took office. The CTO’s job is to ensure the newest technologies and latest advances are employed to “make the Federal government work better for the American people,” according to the White House’s blog post. He or she is tasked with helping to “modernize” the Federal government, which has been “relying too heavily on twentieth century technology.”

Watch Todd Park’s presentation on “how open data can improve America’s health” below, courtesy O’Reilly Media:

Park is replacing the president’s first CTO, Aneesh Chopra, who held the position for three years until he stepped down in February. During his tenure as CTO, Chopra worked on the president’s National Wireless Initiative and the development of a nationwide broadband network for first responders. He also championed the idea of a “consumer’s bill of rights” which would protect citizens’ online data.

Images courtesy of Flickr, jdlasica

More About: barack obama, government, Politics, technology, White House

Magician Turns Isis Mobile Payment System Into Magic

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 11:11 AM PST

Here at South by South West (SXSW), it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. Some companies use free bikes and coffee, others crazy in-booth games. Isis, the mobile payment system brought to you by T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon is using magic to turn heads.

Cyber-illusionist Marco Tempest uses sleight of hand, the natural properties of touch-screen devices and their built-in accelerometers to create engaging digital magic (you've seen him at LeWeb and here). This morning at SXSW, he deftly explained how the NFC-enabled Isis system can work for your mobile payments.

No, he doesn't mention that Isis competes with Google Wallet or that not many phones have built-in Near Field Communication chips (he did note after the demo that you can get a special NFC sleeve for your iPhone). Tempest, however, does name a compelling case for the use of sleight of hand to pay for your stuff. And I guess that’s the point. Paying with an NFC device can conceivably be as easy as waving your phone at a reader and then going about your day.

Mobile payments are pretty much what they sound like: The ability to pay for real goods without taking your credit card out of your wallet. You simply wave an NFC-enabled phone at a reader, enter a PIN on your phone and then complete the transaction.

It may take some magic for NFC payments to take off as the competition between Google Wallet, which has Visa’s backing, and Isis has grown somewhat contentious.

Watch the video, see if you can follow along and then let’s talk in the comments about NFC payment systems and exactly how Tempest makes his digital magic.

More About: Isis, ISIS Mobile Wallet, Magic, sxsw, trending

Predict Apple’s Next Game-Changing Innovation [CONTEST]

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 10:50 AM PST

IPad launch day has come and gone. The flurry of excitement surrounding the big Apple product announcement has died down, at least until the new iPad releases on March 16.

The new device is an upgrade to the previous iPad 2, offering new features like the retina display, 4G LTE capability and an improved camera. When we asked you what feature you were most excited about, though, clearly only one upgrade mattered: retina display. About 69% of you voted in favor of it, out of more than 1,000 votes.

Yesterday, we asked you to look even further down the road: ten years, in fact. What would the iPad of 2022 look like? The responses varied. Some of you thought it would be smaller, and others predicted it would be foldable and flexible. A common response was that there would be no frame, just glass. Many thought it would be transparent or would feature holographic technology. But we’ve decided that the winning prediction comes from MikeYoungMC, who wrote:

iPad 2022 Prediction

We particularly liked his idea of “textural APIs,” but also appreciate his humor: “Most of this technology will be used for sharing pictures of cats.” Here’s a man who understands the Internet.

For his answer, MikeYoungMC will win a $500 Apple gift card and a Belkin prize pack. He’s our second winner, following Amanda Grondahl, who won Thursday. If you didn’t win, take solace in the fact that we have three more gift card/prize pack combos to give away. Today, we’re asking you to look ahead once again, but not quite as far this time. From iOS to the iPhone to the iPad, Apple has a recent history of innovating in ways that change not just the face of Apple but the industry itself. We want to hear your predictions for what the company’s next game changer will be. Read on to learn how to enter.

Apple Gift Card

Today, we’re asking: What do you think Apple’s next game changing product will be?

How To Enter The Contest

  • Tell us in the comments: What do you think Apple’s next game changing product will be? OR
  • Tweet your response with the hashtag #mashtech.
  • Submit your response by 12:00 p.m. EST on Monday, March 12.

If you’ve not commented before, it’s easy: Just sign in to Mashable Follow with your existing Facebook or Twitter account and start posting! Please use your real identity in the submission so that we may contact you via email, Twitter or Facebook to let you know you've won. This contest is limited to residents of the United States who are 18 or older.

We look forward to hearing your responses!

Read our full contest rules here.

The New iPad Details Hit

The new 9.7-inch iPad has 2048 x 1536-pixel retina display, 5-megapixel camera (with the same optics sensor from the iPhone 4S) and 1080p video recording. It is available March 16 in black and white, powered by A5X chip (with quad-core graphics) and supports 4G LTE networks. It's 9.4 millimeters thick and 1.4 pounds.

Wi-Fi only iPads cost $499 for 16 GB, $599 32 GB and $699 for 64 GB, while 4G versions cost $629 for 16 GB, $729 32 GB and $829 for 64 GB. Pre-orders start today, and the devices will be in stores March 16 in these 10 countries: U.S., UK, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.


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Apple iPad Event

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More About: apple, Contests, Gadgets, iOS, ipad

3 Tradeoffs Your Startup Should Consider Before Partnering

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 10:34 AM PST

Partner Handshake

Omar H. Téllez is founder/CEO of SCHEDit, a “hyper-social” events calendar that recently partnered with to launch My Events. Called “Twitter for events” by Mashable, SCHEDit helps users connect with the right people, the right places at the right time.

As entrepreneurs, we typically face more questions than answers. Then, we reach that first moment of glory: We confirm that a) our product does indeed work, and b) there is a demand for it.

Surely, one of the most pressing questions is determining the optimal market path, and specifically, whether partnering with an established distribution platform, portal or brand can add transformative value to your company.

Entrepreneurs don’t think enough about this issue, but rather, can sometimes be consumed by the moment of glory. But in doing so, we limit the potential of our companies and our investors.

Giving consideration to partnership is essential for success. Whichever avenue you choose, you, your company and your investors will be better for it.

Since we've seen plenty of partnership failures (i.e., Apple and Motorola (ROKR); Sprint and Clearwire, etc.), it’s important to carefully consider your partnership options. While there is certainly no proven approach to answer the partnership question, I've identified three key tradeoffs to consider.

1. Visibility vs. Cost

Will the increased awareness and visibility that partners can provide offset the costs or foregone revenue of the relationship? For instance, in signing a “free” (attribution only) licensing deal with CNN, Keyhole incurred the cost of supporting a demanding partner, but received a large goose egg in revenue for the effort. However, the visibility that came out of the relationship was essential to the success of Keyhole’s product, and paved the way toward its Google acquisition.

2. Market Time vs. Revenue Path Acceleration

Can you live with a longer time to market (add at least 3-6 months to your expectations) with the foresight that that waiting period will be offset by a revenue path acceleration? Remember that your partner is likely to have a large and hungry sales force and is willing to try new things in its sales kits, which will likely accelerate your revenue path. So, be ready to go on joint sales calls and buy lunch for your partner’s customers.

3. Functionality vs. Elegance

Can you swallow your pride and enable functionality, content or design that your partner asks of you, even when you believe it will take away from the elegance of the product? An established portal and/or brand can provide the technical gravitas and UX/UI depth that means the difference for a startup’s performance and marketplace acceptance. Remember, however, to retain your independence while incorporating your partner's best feedback.

It would be naïve to assume your potential partner doesn't face tradeoff dilemmas of its own. In many ways, those tradeoffs may even be more complex.

Surely, these are no easy tradeoffs, and your investors may even make the process more complex — different investors have different expectations. But if you can look at your potential partner in the eye and come out ahead in at least two of the above mentioned tradeoffs, dig your heels deep and go for it as if there were no tomorrow.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, webphotographeer.

More About: Business, contributor, entrepreneurs, features, Startups

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FBI Uses Social Media to Catch Murder Suspect Who Stole $2.3 Million [VIDEO]

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 10:16 AM PST

The FBI is asking for Facebook and Twitter users to help find a 22-year-old man who is wanted for stealing $2.3 million out of his employer’s armored car and fatally shooting a Garda Cash Logistics employee.

The face of Kenneth John Konias has been displayed all over the news after he allegedly committed the crime Feb. 28 in Pittsburgh, Penn., during a work shift. The FBI has turned to audiences on Facebook and Twitter to catch him.

Pittsburgh officials said Konias is wanted in connection with a shooting involving Michael Haines, 31, inside an armored truck sitting idle under a bridge. He is suspected of criminal homicide, theft by unlawful taking and robbery, according to the wanted poster released on the FBI’s Facebook page.

Konias and Haines worked together for the money transactions company and were collecting cash from the Rivers Casino and a Home Depot that day, according to an ABC report.

SEE ALSO: 20 Infamous Crimes Committed and Solved on Facebook [INFOGRAPHIC]

Local reports state Konias left $25,000 at his great-grandmother’s grave and $200,000 at his parents’ house in Dravosburg, Pittsburgh, before disappearing. The money has been recovered by officials.

More than 100 commentators on the Facebook page mention Konias and more than 400 users shared the FBI’s post.

“I went to school with this kid and like someone said earlier he was very impulsive,” said Ryan Flaherty on the post.

Another commenter took to the FBI page to share his sentiments about the victim.

“I remember Michael Haines; a good, decent, well-liked man,” Tony Ruiz said. “I feel terrible for his family. I hope they find peace and justice.”

There is now a federal arrest warrant for Konias. The FBI believes he has several weapons in his possession. The public, along with Facebook and Twitter users, can call 1-800-CALL-FBI to share any information pertaining to the case.

Is sharing wanted posters and case details on social media effective? Will you pay more attention to the FBI social pages as they share more pictures of suspects and fugitives? Tell us in the comments.

More About: crime, FBI, Video

HowAboutWe’s New Site Helps Couples Discover Outings

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 09:59 AM PST

Online dating site HowAboutWe faces the same paradox as any matchmaker: “The better you do at your job,” explains co-founder Brian Schechter, “the more likely that your customers will never come back to you.”

The startup announced Friday it will launch a new site targeted at committed couples that could help keep people engaged even after they’re matched up.

Only in the most boring of relationships does dating end with courtship, and HowAboutWe for Couples will help people in relationships find and plan interesting dates.

HowAboutWe is particularly equipped to define interesting dates. Its singles site, which launched nationally about a year ago, matches people by dates instead of through explicit shared interests. Users find each other by either proposing dates (i.e. “How about we drink beer and play pinball”) or searching for dates they’d like to go on. The startup has about 700,000 user-created dates in its database.

Schechter says this database may play a role in the new date discovery site. Eventually there may also be a feature that matches couples up for double dates in a similar way to how HowAboutWe matches them for dates when they’re single.

In addition to helping plan dates, the new couples site will help with logistics such as hiring a babysitter and making reservations.

“We always helped people find love,” Schechter says, “now we want to help people sustain love.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, weareadventurers

More About: howaboutwe, online dating, trending

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BBC Planning iTunes Competitor for TV Shows [REPORT]

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 09:30 AM PST


The BBC has plans to create an online hub where customers can download both new and old TV shows, a report is claiming. Such a service would be a direct competitor to the TV offerings from Apple iTunes, and the BBC is said to be offering content creators better incentives to participate.

The initial report is from paidContent, which does not cite a source, only “information” the site had seen.

The plan, said to be code-named “Project Barcelona,” is ambitious. In addition to new shows, many of which are currently available for streaming in various countries via BBC iPlayer, the 85-year-old U.K. broadcaster wants to put big chunks of its archive online as well. The BBC is reportedly in negotiations with several studios to secure the rights for content it doesn’t already own.

The BBC would give content creators a better share of the revenues, £0.40 instead of the £0.28 that iTunes gives them, according to the report. And it’s not exclusive — taking part in the BBC’s new service wouldn’t preclude offering content through iTunes as well.

Currently, once an episode is broadcast on the BBC, it’s available for 30 days online via iPlayer. After that period expires, the rights revert to BBC Worldwide or the original producers, but reportedly only 7% of shows that expire are still available somewhere digitally. Barcelona is the BBC’s effort to see that the other 93% is included, while simultaneously offering up its archive.

Once the BBC secures the rights to do that, it would still need to seek approval from various entities. Although it wouldn’t acknowledge the project, the BBC told Mashable in a statement that, “In addition to BBC iPlayer, the BBC already makes some of its content available on a download-to-own basis. Any proposal to extend this facility would require not just the support of the industry but formal approval by the BBC Executive and the BBC Trust.”

SEE ALSO: BBC World Service Opens Newsroom to Public in Live Broadcast

Such bureaucracy stems from the fact that the BBC is publicly funded. Every citizen with a TV in the U.K. is required to buy an annual television license, which currently costs £145.50 (about $230). It’s expected that there would be some opposition any plan that seeks to levy more fees for BBC content.

Whether or not the new service would be offered outside the U.K. isn’t mentioned. Project Barcelona appears to be a U.K.-centered effort, although the BBC’s broader digital strategy has been global in scope. Through BBC WorldWide, the broadcaster made its iPlayer available in multiple regions, although the content it offers can vary from country to country.

Would you be interested in a service that puts all of the BBC’s shows online for download? And does it make any difference to you whether that service is the BBC’s or Apple’s? Have your say in the comments.

Images courtesy of Flickr, ell brown

More About: apple, bbc, downloading, iPlayer, itunes, streaming, tv shows

Self Magazine to Launch Facebook Diet Program and Social Game

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 09:15 AM PST

Facebook Diet

Women’s health and fitness magazine Self is upping its investment in Facebook. The publication is launching a social game and diet program on the social network next week.

The “Self Workout in the Park Social Game” developed by the magazine’s VP and publisher Laura McEwen is inspired by the exercise-themed events Self throws in major cities every year. The “Drop 10 Diet Together” is one of many diet programs the magazine has developed in conjunction with health and fitness experts over the years.

Facebook is where Self readers are already connecting with each other, says editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger.

“We created an app for Facebook, so you can create a micro-community where you and, let’s say, five best friends who are going to be bridesmaids can drop weight,” Danziger told Mashable. “By supporting each other you will lose more weight.”

The Drop 10 program will live on Facebook as an application. Customizable settings including team names, member invites and page privacy.

Individuals are encouraged to try the diet and exercise plans designed to help users drop 10 pounds in ideally five weeks. Friends and family can send out invites to anyone on Facebook to share eating plans, card calendar, exercises and logs to track calories and daily meals. The full plan of eating plans and workouts will be available on the magazine’s main page.

Danziger, who has been Self‘s editor-in-chief for more than a decade, spoke of the importance of the web to the brand’s future.

“The old way of ‘create a magazine once a month, put it out there and then you move on’ is no longer valid,” she said. “Now you have a 24/7 relationship with your readers who give you feedback on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.”

The magazine believes it’s time for the print publishers to engage with readers who are feverishly tweeting, pinning and liking.

“The world of technology holds hands with print,” she said. “When you are reading a story you enjoy the experience of reading. But when you go on line you are in a user head space — you need tools interactive functionality.”

Self Drop 10 Facebook Diet Plan

The magazine hopes to engage with old and new readers online. Those interested in the diet will need to like the Facebook Self page, create a group, invite members and choose to share progress on social networks — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram and Foursquare — or choose to keep the group diet a secret. A weight loss goal is the sum of pounds each individual’s goal. Personal weight ups and downs are always private.

The weight loss app and the new social game targets women in their 20s, 30s and 40s, although anyone can install the app.

The Facebook game will feature personalized avatars that tone up just as players would with regular exercise. There are virtual prizes and puzzles to keep Facebook gamers happy. Think Cityville or The Sims Social with yoga and Zumba.

With these new Facebook initiatives, the company is hoping double their current 180,000-plus Facebook fanbase.

SEE ALSO: Inside The Atlantic: How One Magazine Got Profitable by Going 'Digital First'

“Obviously we want to serve reader well,” Danziger said. “The biggest goal for me and for Self is to grow this brand magazine on every platform in every direction.”

The Drop 10 Facebook initiative will launch on March 13 along with the April issue. The Workout in the Park game on Facebook will launch on March 19.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Edson Hong

More About: Business, magazines, Media, social games

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