Thursday, 15 March 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “YouTube ‘Suggested Videos’ Now Favor Longest-Watched”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “YouTube ‘Suggested Videos’ Now Favor Longest-Watched”

YouTube ‘Suggested Videos’ Now Favor Longest-Watched

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 05:10 AM PDT

YouTube has altered its suggested videos algorithm to favor videos that are watched for the longest periods of time.

Previously, suggested videos — which appear as related videos on watch pages, or recommended videos elsewhere on — were served up based on the number of people who clicked on those videos. Now, YouTube videos that trigger the longest viewing times will be prioritized.

In a post, YouTube said the change was instated to serve up better and more relevant content to audiences. But it also seems to penalize those who create shorter videos.

A 30-second video that averages 25 seconds of viewing time is less likely to be recommended than a four-minute video that averages 28 seconds of viewing time — which makes us wonder if this isn’t more about delivering impressive engagement numbers to advertisers than bettering the experience for YouTube visitors.

We’ve contacted YouTube for more clarification on the matter and will update this post accordingly.

More About: Video, YouTube

For more Social Media coverage:

Firefox’s Plans for 2012: Silent Updates, Sharing on Social Networks

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 04:04 AM PDT

After releasing a new version of its browser, Firefox 11, the Mozilla foundation has laid out its plans for 2012, and there are definitely some interesting things in the works for one of the most popular web browsers out there.

Part of the plans Mozilla mentions have already been achieved in Firefox 10 and 11. To resolve problems with old add-ons not working in (now very frequently released) new versions of the browser, they were made compatible by default. Also, from Firefox 11 you can now also sync add-ons across several computers.

However, the full Firefox roadmap reveals several other important updates planned for later in 2012.

One that caught our attention is silent updates, which will be downloaded and installed silently in the background, without the need for user intervention. This feature is planned for Firefox 13.

Another interesting feature coming later in 2012 is the ability to share links and updates to a variety of social networks directly from the browser. We’ve seen products such as (now discontinued) Flock try to integrate social networking directly into the browser, but none have been able to catch a significant market share.

Which of Mozilla’s plans for Firefox do you like, and which seem like bad ideas to you? Are there any features you’d like to see in the next iterations of Firefox? Share your opinions in the comments.

[via Mozilla]

More About: Firefox, mozilla, silent updates, web browser

For more Mobile coverage:

Scooba Robot Floor Scrubber Gets an Upgrade, Still Not Quite Skynet

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 02:59 AM PDT


The Roomba robot vacuum is world-famous, but it’s cousin, the Scooba floor washer, not as much. Will the new Scooba 390 change that? iRobot, the company behind both, hopes so.

If you found the old Scooba difficult to use, iRobot says the 390 has been upgraded for better performance and 30% longer battery life over its predecessor, the 380. All the parts you need to clean are now clearly marked, and when the robot’s done mopping, all you need to do is remove the tanks, open the dirty-water port, dump out the water and rinse.

iRobot says the Scooba is actually better for your floors, since it only cleans with clean water — as opposed to a regular mop, whose bucket of water gets dirtier and dirtier the more you clean. It can do that via a cleaning system that simultaneously preps, washes, scrubs and squeegees different parts of the floor beneath it. No need to sweep beforehand — the Scooba is designed to wipe up everything.

SEE ALSO: Beyond the Roomba: How iRobot's Technology Is Making War Zones Safer for Soldiers

If you’re worried about your rugs and carpets, the Scooba is programmed to avoid them, and once you let it loose, it’ll clean every part of your floor multiple times. Even better, it cleans beneath cabinet edges and underneath tables and chairs. It’ll also avoid rooms you tell it to, and a “cliff” sensor prevents it from falling down the stairs.

While the 390 is meant for larger spaces, its little brother, the Scooba 230 is there to scrub those hard-to-reach spots, like behind your toilet. Along with the release of the 390, iRobot is expanding the availability of the 230 to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Dirty floors of the world, take heed.

Do you own a Scooba or one of its competitors, like the Mint? What’s your experience been? Let us know in the comments.

More About: irobot, robots, roomba, Scooba

TVShack Founder Extradited to U.S. on Piracy Charges

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 02:12 AM PDT

A U.K. judge has ordered the extradition of British computer studies student Richard O’Dwyer to the United States. O’Dwyer founded, a video-streaming site, and the U.S. is accusing him of copyright infringement.

U.S. authorities contend the site hosted several links to pirated and copyrighted video content. The reason the judge extradited O’Dwyer to the States is because the complaint came from the U.S. — not the U.K.

According to O’Dwyer’s mother, this decision was not right. She told the BBC, “If Richard appears to have committed a crime in this country — then try him in this country. Instead, the home secretary wants to send him thousands of miles away and leave him languishing … in a U.S. jail…”

Indeed, if he were tried in the U.K., O’Dwyer’s site might not even be considered a criminal offense. His lawyers argue that his site was simply providing links, just like Google or any other search engine.

However, U.S. authorities claim O’Dwyer has collected more than $230,000 by advertising this copyrighted and pirated content on his website. As a student, though, O’Dwyer says that he wasn’t financially motivated when starting his site. “I started it with the best intentions, really,” he told Sky News. “To learn more about web development and a subject that I like a lot.”

If he is found guilty, O’Dwyer could face up to 10 years in jail.

What do you think of this extradition? Let us know in the comments.

More About: copyright infringement, extradition, international relations, piracy, TVShack

Tech Industry Scorns Yahoo Over Facebook Patent Suit

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 09:26 PM PDT


When Yahoo threatened to sue Facebook over patent infringement, it didn’t win many friends. Then, when it actually went ahead with its lawsuit earlier this week, it promptly made a lot of enemies.

Many in the tech industry have spoken out either in favor of Facebook or about the absurdity of patent law in general. Various observers have called Yahoo’s patent suit everything from “preposterous” to “pathetic and heartbreaking” to (of course) “desperate.”

According to venture capitalist Fred Wilson, who calls the suit a “crock of sh-t,” Yahoo crossed an “unspoken line” in suing another web company over patents. There hasn’t been an unique idea in the web space for more than a decade, he says, and Yahoo’s opening itself up to be sued by someone else over “bogus” patents.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has spoken publicly about reforming patent law in the past, says he would like to see Yahoo destroy Facebook with its lawsuit. It’s not because he believes Yahoo is in the right, but because he thinks a massive verdict — on the order of $50 billion — would make consumers take notice, and perhaps spark the needed reform.

Most interesting was Andy Baio, who wrote in Wired about his experience as a Yahoo employee. Yahoo acquired his company,, in 2005, and shortly afterward asked him to file patents on his software as part of campaign to stockpile intellectual property. Baio says he was given assurances that Yahoo’s patents would only be used defensively. Now Baio says Yahoo was essentially “weaponizing” his work and its current lawsuit is an “insult” to him and other engineers who filed patents on its behalf.

SEE ALSO: 5 Things Yahoo's New CEO Must Do Now

Most reactions, while clearly and sometimes virulently anti-Yahoo, aren’t necessarily pro-Facebook. For its part, the social network — which is in an SEC-mandated quiet period as it awaits it hotly anticipated IPO — has only said it’s disappointed and will defend itself “vigorously.”

It’s also notable that no one is talking about whether or not Yahoo actually has a good case as far as the letter of the law is concerned. If history is any indication, it probably does. Almost 10 years ago, Yahoo sued Google over its pay-per-click patent, which it alleged Google was infringing on with its AdWords service. The two eventually settled.

However, in this case, the 10 patents Yahoo is claiming Facebook is violating apply to many web services. As this summary from paidContent points out, the technologies involved cover everything from having a customized homepage to sharing items only with selected friends to sending an instant message over an email system. If successful in its suit, Yahoo could be emboldened to go after Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare and a host of other social services.

Patent expert Florian Mueller said on Twitter that he suspects Yahoo “just wants to cash in” with the lawsuit, but it could have trouble doing that for two reasons: 1) The patents are relatively young, with nine out of 10 of them issued between 2007 and 2010, and 2) Facebook can see from recent history that patent lawsuits take time and rarely lead to disaster.

How do you regard Yahoo now that it’s declared a patent war on Facebook? Web pariah, or just a business looking out for itself? Have your say in the comments.

BONUS: Twitter Responds to Yahoo’s Suit Against Facebook


Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Facebook, patents, software patents, Yahoo

iPhone Case Turns SoundCloud Clips Into 3D Sculpture [VIDEO]

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 09:11 PM PDT

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

Get ready to turn your top tunes into physical art. Shapeways, a 3D printing company, introduced its latest project, Vibe, at SXSW last weekend.

Vibe is a custom iPhone case created from your favorite sound from SoundCloud. It’s an ingenious use of the SoundCloud API, which works in conjunction with the Shapeways on-demand 3D printing technology.

Just connect your SoundCloud account to Shapeways, select your favorite track and then pick the area of the song you want to use. The sound waves themselves create the design pattern.

The Vibe is available in either black or white for $19.99 (the price will soon go up to $24.99).

If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind iPhone case, The Vibe might just fit the bill.

What do you think of the way Shapeways mashed up 3D printing and SoundCloud? Let us know in the comments.

More About: 3d printing, iphone, iphone cases, shapeways, soundcloud, sxsw, viral-video-of-day

SXSWi Award Winners Include Pinterest, Storify and a Few Surprises [PICS]

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 08:51 PM PDT

South by Southwest Interactive officially drew to a close Tuesday with the 15th Annual Interactive Awards. The awards honored not only well-known sites and services from the past year such as Pinterest and Storify, but also highlighted sites, services and apps that you may have never heard of.

While Highlight was certainly the most buzzed-about app at this year’s conference, the Facebook-stalker video-maker Take This Lollipop was the one walking away with the Best in Show award from SXSWi. It also took top honors in the Experimental category.

Pinterest took the award for Breakout Digital Trend and Lego walked away with honors in the Amusement category for its iOS app Life of George, which turns building things with real-life blocks into an interactive game for your mobile phone.

SEE ALSO: SXSW 2012: Nothing You Expect, Everything You Need

Check out the gallery below for a look at all the winners and brief explanations of the award categories.

What were your favorites from SXSW this year? Let us know in the comments.

Activism: Made in a Free World - Slavery Footprint

Made in a Free World - Slavery Footprint won in the Activism category. The category is for "Green, governmental and non-profit projects that are striving to make the world a better place."

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apps, pinterest, Storify, sxsw, trending

For more Mobile coverage:

Federal Reserve Launches Twitter Account

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 08:35 PM PDT

The Federal Reserve, notorious for its orotund, deliberately vague pronouncements, is now limiting itself to 140-character bursts on Twitter.

The institution, which sets interest rates and controls the amount of money the U.S. prints, launched its Twitter account Tuesday, @federalreserve.

The feed, which is now up to about 7,500 followers, is the brainchild of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke (pictured), who is seeking new ways to reach out to the public. The feed will include press releases, speeches, its weekly balance sheet and testimony and reports to Congress. Also on tap: "educational frequently asked questions," according to a press release.

Though Twitter is still relatively new, many federal offices have Twitter feeds, including The White House, which now has 2.7 million followers. NASA also has 1.9 million followers. According to a report by ExpertLabs last year, the U.S. Mint, the Homeland Security Department, the U.S. Marine Corps and the National Park Foundation had the most responsive Twitter accounts.

Given the Fed’s history, it’s unlikely that it will make that list. The organization is known for its guarded statements and “fedspeak,” a lawyerly form of address that former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has called “syntax destruction.” Greenspan told 60 Minutes in 2007 that his replies to Congress “sounded like I was answering the question, but I was not.”

More About: federal reserve, Politics, Twitter, U.S.

Sign Up For a New YouTube Channel With Your Google+ Name

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 08:29 PM PDT


YouTube is getting better integrated with Google+.

Starting today, Google+ users can create a new YouTube channel with their existing Google+ profile name and photo. This will create a seamless identity across the two platforms.

Users can already share videos they watch on YouTube with their Google+ friends and within Google+ Hangouts. Users can also see which video their Google+ friends are viewing directly from YouTube.

The new Google+-linked YouTube channel feature is only available to users who do not already have a YouTube channel. If, like most long-time YouTube users, you already have your own channel, YouTube says to “stay tuned.” We hope that means that you’ll eventually be able to link or associate your existing channel and Google+ account.

It would also be nice if videos “liked” or commented on in YouTube could surface in the Google+ notifications area.

The continued pairing of Google+ and YouTube is unsurprising. No matter how Google tries to spin reports of low Google+ usage, the service is still struggling to break out. Meanwhile, YouTube is the most social site and community that Google has. It makes sense to try to integrate the two experiences as much as possible.

One suggestion: Consider allowing existing users on YouTube and Google+ to create secondary YouTube channels. It would be even better if these channels could exist within current Google+ circles — so videos that I share, add to playlists or upload would also get shared with people inside a specific Google+ circle.

How would you like to see Google merge YouTube and Google+? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Google, YouTube

Al Gore vs. Rick Perry: A Tale of Two SXSW Appearances

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 08:13 PM PDT

In the red corner, appearing at the CNN Grill, it’s Texas Governor and former presidential candidate Rick Perry. In the blue corner, live at the Austin Convention Center, it’s environmental activist and former presidential candidate Al Gore.

Gentlemen, start your appeals to the Twitterati now.

If you need proof that politicians are paying more attention to the tech world than ever, look no further than these two appearances at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival over the last few days. These leading lights of left and right both saw the importance of the nerd-centric crowd, and both were last-minute additions to the schedule.

But their approaches to SXSW couldn’t have been more different.

Perry’s appearance Friday evening was low-key and extremely exclusive. Sitting on stage in the basement of the CNN Grill, where he was third to be interviewed after a pair of political consultants, the governor seemed pensive and humbled by his recent defeats in the Republican primaries.

His arm in a sling from recent surgery, Perry spoke slowly and quietly. The tech-centric crowd warmed to him when he casually thumbed at his iPhone, and claimed he was the only one of the GOP candidates who sends his every tweet unvetted from his own hand, a habit that he said gave his staff nightmares.

Perry was hard not to like, even for those who found his stance during the campaign distasteful or even bigoted. He largely eschewed politics during the interview, focusing instead on the fact that Apple is about to bring 3,600 new jobs to the state of Texas. And he was self-deprecating about his defeat, vowing that if he ever ran again he would invest more time in debate prep and “always remember the third thing.”

Gore, who helped deliver those jobs as an Apple board member, seemed like he was at a different event entirely. His interviewer, no mere foil, was Sean Parker — co-founder of Napster, former president of Facebook, and investor in Votizen, a startup that helps you find like-minded voters. And the location was one of the Convention Center’s largest ballrooms, overflowing with attendees.

Where Perry was introspective, Gore was intensely political. His call to arms was delivered in an audience-appropriate soundbite. “Democracy has been hacked,” he said, because it largely serves the interest of lobbyists rather than the people. He said he wanted to see the SXSW audience use the Internet to “occupy democracy.”

SEE ALSO: SXSW 2012, The Year of Infectious Optimism

The Vice-President worried — as author Malcolm Gladwell has in the past — that the Internet creates “weak ties” between activists, instead of the strong social ties used to effect change in the past. But Egypt’s Facebook revolution and the whole Arab spring was a strong rebuttal to Gladwell. As was the surprisingly effective SOPA protest earlier this year, which Parker dubbed the “nerd spring.”

We can use the Internet to effect change, Gore admitted. “It is going to happen. But how long? It depends on whether you feel passionate about it and get involved.”

Should politicians take the stage at a tech conference like SXSW? If so, should they emulate Gore or Perry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Bonus: Scenes from SXSW

A look at the ISIS Mobile Wallet Booth

The mobile wallet software was a sponsor at SXSW.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Politics, sxsw, trending

Americans Don’t Have Time For Slow Websites [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 07:51 PM PDT

Remember how your mother used to always tell you “patience is a virtue?” It turns out none of us took her advice.

Today, with lightning-speed data connections and optimized web browsers, online inquiries are answered in mere milliseconds — that is, until the website you’re pinging grinds to a halt.

The people at took a look at the impact of site speed on American browsing habits. For example, more than 3 billion Google searches are performed each day, but slowing the response time for results by even four-tenths of a second reduces that number by 8 million. When you multiply those lost users across major websites like Google and Amazon, you’re looking at serious amounts of missing revenue.

This infographic also explores how the “Google Generation” relates to a world that doesn’t always provide instant gratification. For example, many Americans now refuse to wait in line longer than 15 minutes. As always, time is money — but the Internet may have sent that equation into overdrive.

More About: browser, features, infographic, search engine

For more Mobile coverage:

What You Would Do as Apple CEO For a Day [CONTEST WINNER]

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 07:41 PM PDT

Yesterday, we asked what you’d do as Apple CEO for just one day. That’s right, at the end of the 24 hours, you go back to your day job.

The responses you sent were often smart and hilarious. Your replies fell into three general themes: You would affect product development, express your gratitude to your customers and/or employees, or get everything possible out of it for your personal gain.

A couple of people even wanted to take this opportunity to shut down Apple completely, but that doesn’t sound like a responsible decision for a brand new CEO to us.

We did really enjoy this response from Eric Greene, who wrote:

CEO for a Day

We appreciated that his response was realistic and that he would attempt to make a difference. He didn’t try to reinvent the iPad, or fly around the world, or get himself a prototype of the iPhone 7. He just wanted to make a positive impact and get some face time with employees. Sometimes a small gesture can go a long way.

For his response, he’ll win a $500 Apple gift card and a Belkin prize pack. Eric is our fifth and final winner in the giveaway. You can find the results of the previous contests below. Congratulations, and thanks to all who entered!

What would you do with a new iPad?

Intrepid Pens wrote:

Intrepid Pens Contest Response

What will the iPad look like in 2022?

MikeYoungMC wrote:

iPad 2022 Prediction

What will Apple’s next game-changing innovation be?

Steve Shatkin wrote:

Apple Prediction

What Is Your All-Time Best Apple Story?

Tom Creem wrote:

Apple Personal Story

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

Sick Baby Photos On Facebook Could Be a Scam [WARNING]

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 07:36 PM PDT

The heart-wrenching photo of a sick baby on your Facebook feed could be a scam, according to a group of five fraud-detecting websites. They posted their second open letter to Facebook on Tuesday, asking the social network to better regulate “sick baby” scams on Facebook.

Sick baby photos are taken from medical journals or old news stories and can be shared on Facebook up to 600,000 times, according to the report. Often the photos are accompanied with the message that Facebook will donate money for every share, but this is false. The fake donation encourages users to unknowingly perpetuate these malicious scams. The scams make people vulnerable to becoming the target of theft.

Unfortunately, the number of these “sick baby” scams is on the rise. According to stats from one of the anti-scamming sites involved in the open letter, there are 325 baby scams on Facebook as of Wednesday. For every fake sick baby photo removed, 22 are uploaded in its place.

The group created an online petition asking Facebook to remove baby charity scam photos. As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition has more than 500 signatures.

The first open letter from the group was sent to Facebook in February.

“These photos should be removed, all of them, much faster, more efficiently and repeat occurrences should be blocked by the implementation of a simple image detection system,” demanded the February letter.

Shortly after the letter was published, Facebook removed a number of the “sick baby” photos from Facebook, but critics say it didn’t act fast enough.

Several stipulations written in Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities would clearly disallow scamming users with fake sick baby charities on the site. The deceptive ploys would even be illegal if scammers collect money from users for the fake charities.

Representatives from Facebook haven’t responded to Mashable‘s request for comment.

Have you seen any of these “sick baby” scams? Do you know anyone who’s been duped into donating? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Squaredpixels

More About: babies, Facebook, facebook scams, online scams, scams, social media scams

Apple’s 1080p Apple TV is a Hit With Reviewers

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 07:10 PM PDT

The reviews for the 2012 Apple TV have started hitting the web, and according to its reviewers, the device looks like a win for Apple.

While the newest version of the set-top box shares form-factor and many of the same features as its predecessor, it adds an updated processor, 1080p video streaming and iCloud support.

The 2012 Apple TV also has a new interface that makes it look and feel a little more like an iOS device. "The general interface is smartly designed and reasonably easy to use, especially in comparison to other products on the market. On many devices, it's not immediately obvious how to search for videos or find the Netflix app, but the Apple TV couldn’t be more intuitive. It definitely passes the babysitter test — hand someone the remote, and they’ll immediately be able to do everything the Apple TV can do," says The Verge.

The new 1080p support is what made the 2012 Apple TV worth the upgrade for Jim Dairymple of The Loop: “Having 1080p video on my 60-inch HDTV is magnificent. I've been watching movies and trailers all week and the experience of watching a movie in 1080p that you are streaming from Apple is incredible. On my network, the movie starts almost instantly, so I don't have any lag time to download. I walk in, choose a video and watch it.”

Dairymple is also a fan of the new iCloud support "The Apple TV is the epitome of convenience. With iCloud, I have access to all of my iTunes Match music and videos, so I don't need to connect to a computer anymore. I can purchase movies, TV shows and I can watch content from Netflix. That's perfect."

Despite the updates, Macworld’s Jason Snell points out that the 2012 Apple TV is really just an updated version of the model currently on the market: “Beyond support for 1080p, there's not a lot to say about this new Apple TV. It's basically the second-generation 720p model, but with a faster processor to support playback of higher-resolution videos. The star of the show is Apple TV Software 5.0, which is also available as a free update for the 720p model.”

While Snell didn’t have any complaints about the Apple TV hardware, he did have an issue with its lack of third-party content providers. "Apple's got this App Store thing down. Why not provide a third-party developer kit and an app store for other purveyors of Internet content? It would only broaden the device's appeal, and would make a dent in one of the major advantages of Roku's line of video players."

The new Apple TV is priced at $99, the same as its predecessor. Are any of you planning on upgrading to the 2012 Apple TV or buying an Apple TV for the first time with this release? Let us know in the comments.

More About: apple, Apple TV, icloud, netflix, trending

For more Entertainment coverage:

New iPad: Early Review Roundup

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 07:08 PM PDT

New iPad

The third-generation iPad doesn’t hit Apple Store shelves until Friday at 8 a.m. local time — but a number of early reviews are already hitting the web.

Bottom line? Reviewers adore the new Retina Display, even if its pixel density isn’t quite as great as that in the iPhone 4S. The battery life slightly underperforms that of the iPad 2, but only by a matter of minutes — a considerable achievement when you think about all the extra 4G and Retina Display technology, as well as the new graphics chip.

In most other respects, reviewers found the new iPad practically indistinguishable from the iPad 2. (That matches our experience of playing with the new iPad the day it was launched). The millimeters of extra thickness were imperceptible; however the tenth of a pound of extra weight, more noticeable.

Other downsides: The back of the device appears to get hotter than its predecessor, which in turn got noticeably hotter than the original iPad. We suppose this is inevitable given all the extra processing going on, but it is a worrying trend. And some benchmark tests found the new iPad to be slightly slower at the basics — such as loading web pages than its predecessor.

SEE ALSO: Hands On With the New iPad: First Impressions [PICS]

Here are some choice quotes from other early reviewers:

All Things Digital: “The new iPad logged 9 hours and 58 minutes, compared with 10 hours and 9 minutes for the iPad 2 … its key improvements strengthen its position as the best tablet on the market. Apple hasn't totally revamped the iPad or added loads of new features. But it has improved it significantly, at the same price.”

Macworld: “The first time I picked up the third-generation iPad, I could tell that it was heavier … Buyers will love the Retina display, but the fact is that the iPad 2′s screen was also excellent. It may be that there just isn’t quite as dramatic a contrast between the two screens as there was between the pre- and post-Retina iPhones two years ago. Maybe I've been spoiled by my iPhone's Retina display, or maybe the iPad 2's display is really that good.”

Slashgear: “Steve Jobs would have approved of the new iPad. With its focus on the holistic experience rather than individual boasts around its constituent parts, it's the epitome of the Post-PC world the Apple founder envisaged. No lag or delay; no frustrating cloud settings or arcane minimum software requirements. Simply pick up, swipe, and you're immersed in a joined-up ecosystem.”

Pocket Lint: “To squeeze in this many pixels could easily have resulted in image noise, crosstalk or any number of visual artefacts, but Apple has pulled it off. Not once have we seen the display look blurry or anything less than stable and pin-sharp … Let’s note, this is an expensive component. It's hard to believe that rival tablet makers will be able to match, let alone undercut, Apple's prices.”

The Verge: “Minor gripes aside, the iPad remains best in breed when it comes to design and materials. Other tablets may have more ports or larger screens, but few can match the elegance, sleekness, or solidness of this device … The new iPad is the most functional, usable, and beautiful tablet that any company has ever produced.”

TechCrunch: “You know when you go in for an eye exam and you're asked to look at a combination of letters and numbers on a chart against a far wall? You read the first few lines, then realize you actually can't go any further. Then you get prescribed glasses (or contacts) and you can all of a sudden read every letter and number … that's what it's like looking at the new iPad versus the older iPads.”

Do you plan to get a third-generation iPad? If you’re considering upgrading from an iPad 2, is the retina display enough to make you open your wallet again? Let us know in the comments.

Photos on the New iPad

Images show up sharp and clear on the iPad's new Retina Display.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apple, ipad, iPad 2, trending

AIM: AOL Instant Messenger Isn’t Dead … Yet

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 06:46 PM PDT

AOL Instant Messenger, better known as AIM, is alive and well — for now, at least.

Despite laying off nearly all its AIM developers Tuesday, AOL says it has no plans to kill off the 15-year old instant messaging service.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that AOL had cut the jobs of more than 40 employees in its West Coast offices. The Instant Messenger group was hit the hardest, with one former employee telling the Times that the department “now only consists of support staff.”

This led to widespread speculation that AIM itself was going to be phased out.

We reached out to AOL for clarification. A spokesperson told us that the company was not killing the product, and that it planned to continue to support and evolve AIM.

Computerworld was given the same information.

Of course, without a development team — is this really true?

AOL Instant Messenger was born out of the Buddy List feature that was part of the AOL dial-up service. In 1997, AIM became a stand-alone service an allowed users to communicate with AOL and non-AOL users alike. In 1998, AOL acquired competitor ICQ and integrated some of those features into the app itself. AOL sold ICQ in 2010.

As recently as 2006, AIM still had a large presence in the social messaging space. Over the last five years however, the fortunes of the service have changed dramatically.

Gtalk, Facebook and Skype continue to take marketshare away from AIM. As a protocol, AIM is still supported by a wide-array of messaging apps (and it provides the basis for Apple’s now deprecated iChat), but the service’s glory days are long gone.

Part of the reason for AIM’s downfall in popularity: its inability to open up and evolve. While third-party clients and add-ons for AIM have existed since the late 1990s, AOL often made working with its protocol and unlocking all of the various features more difficult than necessary.

While third-party clients reverse-engineered most aspects of the OSCAR protocol, AOL was long averse to working with third-party clients or alternative messaging apps. I still recall paying for various AIM add-ons in order to get increased functionality, only for AOL to break part of the protocol to try to prevent use of the service.

Still, third-parties such as Trillian and Pidgin continued to reverse-engineer the protocol and add support for additional messaging services. I would guess that most users who still communicate using AIM do so not through the official client — but via clients like iChat, Trillian, Adium or Meebo.

In 2008, AOL launched its Open AIM 2.0 initiative as a way to encourage increased third-party development around the service. The company has also added the ability for users to post directly to Facebook and Twitter. Last May, AIM and Gtalk became fully interoperable.

But by that time, the damage was already done. Instant messaging faced competition not just from other services such as GTalk and MSN, but from VoIP services such as Skype, SMS and MMS messages and the burgeoning social networks of Twitter and Facebook.

I remember talking to members of the AIM team at SXSW 2008. The team seemed truly shocked at just how quickly Skype, Facebook and Twitter were gaining steam in the chat space.

In November 2011, AOL released a redesigned AIM client with a stronger push towards social integration with other accounts and services. In my brief time using the app, it looked and felt more like a third-party AIM client of yesteryear rather than the original.

Despite its improved user interface, I switched back to Adium after only a few minutes with the app.

Without a team to continue to develop it, we’re unsure what more can happen with the product. Perhaps AOL will consider fully open-sourcing the OSCAR protocol as a way to help protect interoperability in the future.

On a personal level, seeing AIM fade away is a bit sad. It was my first real social network — the way I conversed with friends in middle school, high school and college. To this day, I still have a number of AIM contacts (although this is more a result of having lots of friends who use iChat rather than allegiance to AIM) but most of my personal messaging takes place using Gtalk, Facebook and iMessage.

What do you think the future of AIM is? Let us know in the comments.

More About: aim, Aol Instant Messenger, chat, gtalk, im

WebThriftStore Streamlines Charitable Giving

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 06:34 PM PDT

WebThriftStore is bringing the $13 billion thrift industry online with a spin for good.

The online thrift store gives you an opportunity to give to a cause you care about, while getting rid of the junk around your house. Sellers decide what charity they’d like their resold goods to benefit, and the cause of their choice receives 80% of the sale.

“What’s really innovative is that you’re not selling — you’re donating, so there’s no risk of seller fraud,” Doug Krugman, who co-founded WebThriftStore with his wife Lynn Zises, told Mashable. “On eBay and other online retailers you have to deal with PayPal, maintaining a profile and establishing a reputation, which is why a lot of people don’t take the time to sell stuff online. We’ve taken money out of the equation.”

Zises notes that WebThriftStore has a much simpler process than Craigslist or eBay for reselling. You can grab a photo from the web, write your listing and select your charity. WebThriftStore encourages people to use USPS’s free pickup and delivery services, but sellers also have the local pickup option.

“We see this as a way to reach donors who may want to be involved but don’t have cash to give,” says Zises.

About a month after you sell goods, you receive a receipt you can use as proof for a tax exemption for the value of the sale you made.

According to NPD research, Americans have $7,000 worth of unused items sitting around their houses, which totals $700 billion in America’s 100 million households. WebThriftStore thinks this untapped resource can be a charitable goldmine.

Possibly due to the economic situation, there was a 7% growth in thrift stores in 2011, according to the National Association of Resale Professionals.

Currently, four non-profits are on board, including ASPCA, Maccabi USA, ClassWish and the East River Development Alliance. Women in Need will become a partner Thursday. Krugman says they get solicited by new non-profits each day who want to get on board.

Krugman, a tech startup veteran, and Zises, an experienced non-profit worker, are based in New York. They received a $1 million seed round of funding from Esther Dyson (Flickr, Meetup, delicious).

Would you sell your unused stuff online for charity? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, greenmountainboy

More About: ecommerce, Social Good, Startups

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How to Use Technology to Beat Obama’s March Madness Bracket

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 06:17 PM PDT

Fear not, slowpoke gamblers: There’s still time to fill out that NCAA Tournament bracket. The games don’t begin in earnest until Thursday morning, so many bracket pools still have several hours remaining for cogitation and predictions.

President Obama on Wednesday afternoon tweeted a link to a page on where you can examine his bracket and fill out one of your own. The president’s love of hoops is well documented; he was known in high school as Barry O’Bomber for his lefty jumpshot, and coolly drained a three-pointer for troops in Kuwait during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Mashable decided to give the Obama Bracket Challenge a whirl, and in the process found a tech-centric bracket service to help with your picks if you trust algorithms more than intuition.

SEE ALSO: Seven Baller Apps to Follow March Madness Online

Pick My Bracket is a site with an interesting premise — enter the stats you deem most important, and it produces a bracket based on seedings, statistics and “some randomness.” The site’s criteria is a bit simplistic, however, you only get to pick one of four stats (offense, defense, rebounds or assists) to emphasize, along with another more offbeat factor. But it’s not a bad start for a group of college kids, and fun to play with. Pairing “defense” with “SAT Scores” crowned Duke as national champion, while matching “offense” and “partying” gave Kansas the title.

If you trust in tech, Pick My Bracket could give you a leg up on President Obama. It’s fun to compare your picks against his in the bracket challenge, but also ends with a bit of a letdown. After finishing your picks, the site whisks you away to a page asking for credit card information and donations. But, like the site says, there’s “another another big match-up that’s happening this year: the one in November.”

What are the best tech resources for picking March Madness brackets that you know of? 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.

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More About: barack obama, march madness

How to Track Your Website’s Content on Pinterest

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 05:50 PM PDT

Ann Smarty is a search marketer and full-time web entrepreneur. Ann blogs on search and social media tools. Her newest project, My Blog Guest, is a free platform for guest bloggers and blog owners. Follow Ann on Twitter @seosmarty.

Pinterest is now one of the most efficient traffic sources, in some cases even surpassing networks like Twitter. Naturally, a lot of social media marketers are embracing Pinterest to increase social media reach and to drive traffic to their sites.

In order to track what is being pinned from your site, and to engage with those pins further, try funneling that Pinterest content into a handy RSS feed.

For starters, see what is being pinned from your own site by using the following URL:

As simple as it may seem, the trick is actually pure gold. By checking the URL often, you can give your site pins more boost.

  • Always Like and sometimes comment on pins from your site to give them better ranking and increase their reach.
  • Repin some of the most interesting and unique images. You can even repin user comments.
  • Follow your promoters (those who pin your pages), encouraging them return to your site.

SEE ALSO: How to Track Traffic From Pinterest in Google Analytics

While it’s a great tool for bloggers and marketers, the “source” page can be limited. The major drawback is that it has no RSS subscription option, which would make tracking much easier. So, let’s create one!

Feed Your Domain “Source” Page from Pinterest

The Feed43 tool can turn any page into an RSS feed. Register an account at Feed43 and provide your blog source URL from Pinterest to scrape.

Then, in the “Item (repeatable) Search Pattern” field, provide the following.

<a href="{%}" class="PinImage ImgLink">{*}
<p class="description">{%}</p>{*}
<a href="{%}" title="{%}" class="ImgLink">{*}

This will extract the following repeatable information from the page.

  • The pin page unique ID
  • The pinner’s comment on the image
  • The pinner’s username and Pinterest profile URL

Finally, in the “RSS item properties” field, define the following structure of your feed (replicate the screenshot below).

You’re done! Previewing your feed should give you the following.

Play with Your New RSS Feed

If you’re not sure what to do with your new RSS feed, try these cool ideas.

1. Import RSS Feed into Your WordPress Blog Sidebar widget: Invite your blog readers to like and repin your content on Pinterest. It has the potential to increase your reach and traffic dramatically.

2. Archive Pins from Your Domain: Your DOMAIN HERE/ URL is fun to look through. You can repin and comment on your pins right from there. But the bad thing is that there’s no way to search through the pins that originate from your blog. It is also unclear how far back the archive will ultimately go — will Pinterest save your source archive forever?

Archiving your site pins with Google Reader allows you to do two things: Save your archive forever (from the moment you created it), and search through your pins (e.g. find all pins from any of your pages).

3. Create a folder for your Pinterest RSS feed and install Google Reader’s “Next bookmarklet” to your toolbar. This is especially helpful for actively pinned websites.

Now, whenever you have a moment, just start clicking that bookmarklet to see pins from your site load in the browser one by one (in the reverse order).

Similar to StumbleUpon’s “Stumble” button, click “Next” whenever you want to go to the next pin of your site. It’s a great way to spend an idle minute or two checking what is being pinned from your site, and sharing those pins further.

Can you think of any more cool uses of the Pinterest “source” page? Please share them in the comments.

More About: contributor, features, pinterest, rss, traffic, trending

SEC Files Charges Over Pre-IPO Facebook Trading

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 05:27 PM PDT

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed charges against online trading platforms and private funds that were selling private shares in Facebook.

The SEC charged SharesPost and its CEO Greg Brogger with failing to register as a broker before offering securities. SharePost settled with the SEC, paying $80,000 in penalties.

Additionally, the SEC is charging two private funds and their managers with misleading investors in their offerings of Facebook stock.

The SEC alleges that Frank Mazzola and his firms Felix Investments and Facie Libre Management Associates engaged in self-dealing and secret commissions. The SEC says that Mazzola and Facie Libre sold interests in Facebook, despite owning certain Facebook shares. Mazzola is also charged with misrepresenting Twitter’s revenue.

In a separate lawsuit, the SEC charged Laurence Albukerk and EB Financial Group with not properly disclosing how additional fees were collected as part of private stock offerings. Albukerk and EB Financial settled without admitting charges and agreed to pay fines and return illegal profits.

In Dec. 2010, the SEC started its probe into the way secondary markets such as SharesPost offer stock in private tech companies. The SEC’s investigation picked up steam in Feb. 2011, amidst increased activities.

At the time, the two biggest targets were SecondMarket and SharesPost. SecondMarket was already regulated by the SEC as a broker-dealer at the time of the probe. At the end of 2011, SharesPost also registered as a broker-dealer.

Last April, the SEC proposed rule changes to the way the law treats shares of private companies. These rules were created in part because of the various loopholes private companies have attempted to use to keep from reaching the 499 shareholder threshold that forces a company to go public. The U.S. Senate is also voting on ways to make it easier for companies to raise capital before filing for an IPO.

[via The Chicago Tribune]

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, sitox

More About: Facebook, ipo, Private Stock, SEC, stock market, trending

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VitaminWater Embraces Viral Memes in Latest Commercial

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 04:58 PM PDT

VitaminWater is paying homage to the meme world in its latest commercial, with nods to several delightful viral references, from the Nyan cat and sexy sax guy to the Filipino inmates dancing to Michael Jackson.

The new 30-second commercial — released last week — also features cameos from the LOL Cat community, planking and Limecat.

“Ah yes, the splendors of the Internet,” VitaminWater writes in the YouTube video’s description. “Truimphant babies, photobombs, seductive men who strictly play smooth jazz, and of course the cats made of toaster pastry. These days, it’s not unusual to encounter something this unusual.”

“So take a sip of your VitaminWater, grab the proverbial antelope by the horns and check out this commercial. Yeehaw!,” the description said.

SEE ALSO: Jennifer Aniston Smart Water Ad Lampoons Viral Memes [VIDEO]

This isn’t the first time a water company turned to viral memes to create a commercial. Last year, Smart Water enlisted Jennifer Aniston in a nearly 3-minute ad that featured dancing babies and double rainbows. The actress played up the concept by alluding to the fact that a video with so many viral references would surely go viral itself.

In addition, actor Jonah Hill created a YouTube of himself in 2009 playing with kittens to help promote the film Funny People. It worked — the video raked in more than 320,000 views.

How many meme references can you find in the VitaminWater commercial? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

More About: memes, YouTube

Atlantic Records Unleashes iBook for Shinedown’s Album Launch [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 04:22 PM PDT

The 75-Page iBook

Atlantic Records has taken an uncommon approach to using Apple's iBooks Author -- touted as a creation platform that will "reinvent the textbook" -- by building an interactive ebook for rock band Shinedown's next album.

The 75-page ebook comes out March 27 to coincide with the Amaryllis album release and visually tells the story of the band's new songs, creative process and cover art.

Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records

Click here to view this gallery.

Atlantic Records has taken an uncommon approach to using Apple’s iBooks Author — touted as a creation platform that will “reinvent the textbook” — by building an interactive ebook for the band Shinedown‘s next album.

The 75-page iPad ebook will be available March 27, coinciding with the Amaryllis album release. The ebook visually tells the story of the multi-platinum rock band’s new songs, creative process and cover art.

Frontman Brent Smith says the ebook, titled “FOR YOUR SAKE: Inside the Making of Shinedown’s Amaryllis,” revives the complete album experience, which changed when CD booklets and liner notes became less prevalent.

“With so many people getting their music digitally these days, they don’t always get to enjoy the full experience that you get by exploring physical CDs or vinyl albums,” Smith told Mashable. “I remember picking up Soundgarden’s Superunknown. For me, it’s a perfect example of an album that does an amazing job at connecting the artwork and packaging to the actual music.”

"No other major recording artist has done this yet, no other artist has told the story of an album like this before.”

The ebook is broken down into four parts and features never-before-seen photos presented in interactive galleries, as well as videos featuring detailed commentary from Smith.

Users also can discover the meaning of the lyrics through audio and visuals, and play with the album artwork designed by Atlantic Records creative director David Harrigan.

Atlantic Records roped in rock journalist Jonah Bayer to interview band members and pen the stories found in parts one and two of the ebook. Graphic artist Edith Levin designed each page.

“No other major recording artist has done this yet; no other artist has told the story of an album like this before,” says Mike Mignano, director of digital product development at Atlantic Records.

Mignano, who gave Mashable a hands-on demo of the ebook (see video below), says tools such as iBooks Author have allowed the label to create products in a way that wasn’t possible until recently. He adds that the label is also focused on experimenting with new products, such as apps and casual games, to give music fans experiences that don’t already exist in other mediums.

The Shinedown ebook will cost $5.99 and be sold on iBooks 2.

A Demo of Shinedown’s iBook

More About: apple, Atlantic Records, celebrities, Entertainment, iBooks 2, Music, Shinedown

Microsoft Augmented Reality Concept Fuses Virtual World with Reality [VIDEO]

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 03:52 PM PDT

Microsoft researchers have created a new augmented reality concept by improving how virtual simulations react in the physical world.

The Kinect sensor is used in a process called Kinect Fusion, which allows projections of objects to react to different surfaces. Kinect Fusion is possible with the Beamatron — a device consisting of the Kinect sensor and a projector. It’s attached to a spinning head in the ceiling and allows it to take detailed maps of physical spaces.

This technology projects objects anywhere in a room and allows realistic movement. It bumps into objects such as table, chairs and walls. Plus, the simulation is never distorted when crossing over bumpy surfaces.

It’s now possible for virtual objects to interact within physical spaces like never before. The projector can sense what is going on in the room and shows changes in seconds.

In a video, Andy Wilson, Microsoft principal researcher drives a 3D image of a toy car around a room with a remote control. It bumps into walls and drives over hills.

SEE ALSO: With Augmented Reality, Wallit App Assigns Virtual Walls to Physical Places

The Microsoft researchers are also working to apply this augmented reality technology to help individuals in their surroundings. Future technology will scope the environment and bring “notifications and other graphics to the attention of a user by automatically placing the graphics within the user’s view.” Other applications of this augmented reality technology may be applied to architecture and gaming.

Check out the above video for more details.

What do you think about virtual and physical worlds merging as one? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, MichaelMarner

More About: Augmented Reality, kinect, microsoft

Can a Startup Renaissance Fix Young America?

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 03:14 PM PDT

A “startup renaissance” could finally shrink America’s record-high youth unemployment rate. At least that’s how Josh Harthorne, CEO of startup accelerator MassChallenge, sees it.

Harthorne is the founder and CEO of MassChallenge, a successful Boston-based competitive startup accelerator that grants $1 million to startups that have the “highest impact.”

Those high-impact startups end up growing and hiring young talent, he says.

"America has lost its creative edge. How do we restore it? It’s created by startups.”

“America has lost its creative edge,” Harthorne says. “How do we restore it? It’s created by startups. All recent net job growth has been created by companies under five years of age.”

Harthorne’s plan to ignite a worldwide rebirth of startups comes in three stages, modeled on the template of MassChallenge.

First, Harthorne calls for the design of “a massive startup accelerator based on input and support from experienced leaders.”

A startup accelerator is an organization that provides startups with early funding, office space or connections with influential people that can help bring a startup idea to fruition.

In building MassChallenge, Harthorne wanted to go big: at least 100 startups at a time. And he recognized that he didn’t have the expertise to do it alone, so he enlisted the help and advice of top entrepreneurs and startup owners in the Boston tech community.

Next, Harthorne suggests turning the accelerator into a competition. A competitive format helps MassChallenge address the challenges of attracting attention and engagement, it helps the tech community identify startups with the potential to succeed, and it celebrates and helps connect the most successful entrepreneurs with the resources they need to keep working.

Finally, Harthorne’s plan calls for celebrating startups that create something of value for everyone’s benefit rather than those that focus on maximizing profits for themselves. He says this belief will encourage startups to serve as a rising tide that that lifts all boats, helping to reduce youth unemployment in the U.S.

“Startups are vital for value creation in the economy,” he says. “They are new businesses by definition, and as innovators, startups sometimes invent or redefine whole industries. We wanted to do our part to help re-emphasize sustainable value creation. Something pretty amazing happened when we made that decision. The community rallied around our tiny, unknown organization with an overwhelming outpouring of support.”

MassChallenge accelerated 111 startups in its first year, and another 125 the next. Those first 111 startups have gone from having fewer than 300 employees to more than 800 in a year’s time. If MassChallenge’s template could be applied to other places around the U.S., it may have the potential to make a serious dent in youth unemployment.

Harthorne’s full plan will be published in the #FixYoungAmerica book, available in May.

For that book, the #FixYoungAmerica campaign has asked the top thinkers in technology, business and education to come up with ideas for alleviating youth unemployment and underemployment through entrepreneurship. Mashable has been given an inside look at some of the ideas that focus on technology’s role in helping to get more young people hired to do innovative work. For the next several weeks, Mashable will be highlighting these technology-focused ideas to create jobs for American youth.

What do you think of MassChallenge’s model as a way to help Fix Young America? Sound off in the comments below.

BONUS: How Do Co-Founders Meet? 17 Startups Tell All

1. Airbnb -- Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia

I moved to San Francisco in early 2007 and found an apartment and a roommate through Craigslist -- that's how I met Joe. He was a designer, and I was an engineer at another startup at the time. I later moved out, and Brian -- who knew Joe from the Rhode Island School of Design -- moved in. That was the initial connection for the three of us.

While I lived with Joe, I came to appreciate two things about him -- he worked just as hard as I did, and his skills complemented my own. I have the technical abilities, and he had the creative design skills.

In the summer of 2008, there was a design conference in San Francisco, and there was a hotel shortage. We needed to make rent and thought a good way to make a little additional cash would be to rent out our air mattresses in the apartment. We made a website and got an incredible amount of responses, and we realized we could be on to something.

- Nathan Blecharczyk

Click here to view this gallery.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, lisegagne

More About: fixyoungamerica, masschallenge, Social Good, Startups, US

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This Clock Runs on Tweets About Time

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 02:50 PM PDT

At any point in the day, at least one person writes a Tweet that includes the exact time.

By tapping into this stream of morning wakeup times, bus schedules, calls to prayer, ETAs, “OMG, it’s already [time]!” and other time-related tweets, a new site called Chirpclock has created a clock that posts time using tweets.

Using the Twitter API, Chirpclock searches the social network for whatever is the current time on the user’s computer. Users in different time zones, in other words, see different clocks. The site displays one result from its queries at a time, and the time tweets flash across the screen in two-second intervals.

Since launching the site Wednesday afternoon, creator Mike Bodge says there hasn’t been a minute for which the site could not find a tweet.

“There’s so much volume on Twitter that you could probably search for anything at any minute, and there would be someone talking about it,” says Bodge, who created Chirpclock in about two days “while everyone else was at South by Southwest.”

Bodge runs his own digital agency, but he spends his free time creating amusing visualizations. Last year, he made a site that uses footage from webcams scattered around New York City to post the average color of the sky every five minutes.

Chirpclock is similarly intriguing. It makes the fact that there are more than 200 million Tweets per day more tangible.

“When you see it all together, it's like, wow, there's a lot of people on Twitter that I'll never come across, they'll never come across me, we’ll never retweet each other,” he says, “but since they're all talking about the time, I’m seeing them together.”

More About: chirpclock, trending, Twitter

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Cadbury Makes Its Google+ Page Out of Chocolate

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 02:35 PM PDT

Cadbury loves Google+. Not only has the UK-based chocolatier launched a product through Google’s social network, has also now created a chocolate version of its Google+ page.

The confection was created to celebrate a recent milestone: 500,000 “circlers,” or fans.

Cadbury chronicled the construction of its edible Google+ page through a series of 10 step-by-step photos, shown in the gallery below.

Layers of Cadbury Dream and Dairy Milk chocolate were applied to a base of Dairy Milk bars. Edible inks were printed onto sugar paper to create detailed replicas of the Page’s buttons and photos of fans. Pieces were adhered using liquid Dairy Milk as a kind of glue. Text was applied by hand with edible ink.

The company also invited followers to chime in and watch live as the finishing touches were applied through a Google+ Hangout.

Many brands have created Google+ pages since Google introduced branded profiles in November. But few marketers have given the platform the same degree of attention they’ve lavished on their Facebook, Twitter, or even Tumblr and Pinterest accounts.

There are, of course, exceptions, and Cadbury UK is one of them.

The company posts to its Google+ page several times per day. Much of that content is cross-posted to Facebook, but experiences like this one do make followers feel important, the number of comments and +1s suggests.

The base is made up of one kilogram of milk chocolate.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: cadbury, Cadbury UK, Google, Marketing, trending

How to Defeat the Social Media Skeptics in Your Company

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 02:17 PM PDT

For those trying to get a social media campaign going in their company, they’ll often have to deal with naysayers that question the value.

Former Kodak CMO Jeff Hayzlett says dealing with the non-believer is all part of “running the gauntlet.” He believes it so strongly that he even wrote a book with the same title that promises to teach people how to push forward with their social media dreams.

Hayzlett spoke with Bryan Elliott on Behind the Brand about what it takes to engage audiences, and how to explain to those number crunchers that social is valuable. For one, he said talking about return on investment is overhyped.

“I say to them, ‘What’s your return on ignoring?’” Hayzlett said. “If you’re engaged with your customers, and you have an operation that is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, then you’re going to make money.”

Hayzlett said at this point, not engaging via social media is just a way to lose money. He broke down his social media strategy, calling it “the four E’s.”

“Get engaged, start doing it. Start being your own Chief Listening Officer,” Hayzlett said. “When you educate people about your product, they get excited, and then start to evangelize by becoming brand ambassadors.”

If you have any comments about how to buck the social media naysayers, tweet them at @BryanElliott, or leave a comment below.

More Recent Episodes of Behind the Brand:

More About: behind the brand, features, Kodak, mashable video, Social Media

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SXSW 2012: Nothing You Expect, Everything You Need

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 01:39 PM PDT

SXSWi 2012 Pocket Guide

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

Serendipity: That was the buzz word at this year's South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. It was probably the same word as last year — but I wasn't there so I couldn't tell you. I'd love to tell you there was one major product announcement or even trend that defined SXSW, but I'd be lying. The experience was akin to being a metal orb in a pinball machine, bounding from one relay to another, having random conversations, seeing oddball sights and making unexpected discoveries. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Those who know me will tell you I'm not a go-with-it kind of guy. Conferences usually mean a packed schedule of meetings, lots of note taking, a ton of writing and absolute exhaustion. Fun doesn't really fit in (in all the years I've attended CES and Comdex before it, I have never seen a Vegas show).

However, I had been traveling a lot in the weeks leading up to SXSW, (Barcelona, San Francisco), which meant I had less time to prepare. By the time I arrived on Thursday evening, I was in a state of panic: How do I cover this show?

That night, I walked over to the nearly deserted conference hall and picked up my badge. It would be almost 12 hours before I realized how big a deal this was. After wandering the mostly empty halls for a while, I headed back to my room to try and prepare for the day. In my hand I now had a pocket SXSWi schedule that detailed the dozens and dozens of panels I could attend. Some looked interesting, but almost none newsworthy. How do I cover a show without news?

This is Big

The next morning, I learned something important about SXSWi: News or no news, this was one hot conference. Remember how I waltzed in and walked off with my badge? Now there were hundreds of people in that same registration hall queued up for their badges and a line of thousands more that snaked clear around the perimeter of the conference hall. Some told me they waited three hours.

Obviously there was something here. As I had done before, I started walking the halls, taking pictures and tweeting what I saw. Panels didn't start for a couple more hours, so I had time to acclimate myself. Outside, the driving rain, which had started when we arrived on Thursday, was only intensifying. It served to keep whoever came into the giant convention center inside. This, too, turned out be beneficial and helped me discover the most important part of SXSWi: The people.

Wherever I went, whether I was standing, sitting or walking at SXSW, I found people to talk to. Sometimes they were people I knew. Like a friendly PR rep who has helped me on many a story and actually connected me with Pinterest's first investor while I was at the show. Other times, it was folks I'd only known through Twitter. I could recognize their avatars, but had never actually met them. There was the occasional Mashable fan and even some people who follow me. In every case, we had amazing discussions where I learned about cool stuff going on or around the show, new products and technologies and how to navigate SXSW. One guy gave me an important piece of advice, which would come in handy later. He said, yes, there are tons of panels, "but if you find yourself in one you don't like, simply get up and walk out. There is no shame in that."

Later when I went to a James Franco panel that ended up not featuring the multi-hyphenate actor, I quietly excused myself without even a hint of guilt.

Shuffling, Shuffling

As the morning progressed, I found myself wandering up and down the halls looking for anything that might turn into an interesting story or photo-op. I even hopped across the street — and out into the cold and rain — to check out Jud Apatow's coffee stand for his new HBO series “Girls,” but mostly because I wanted more free coffee.

Even when I did find some newsworthy stuff, it was almost by accident. I wandered into a panel on documentaries mostly so I could sit down. Soon the panelists were talking about the most controversial doc on the planet: KONY 2012. Back in the halls, the ISIS NFC-based mobile payment system launch, which was news, was unhandled in a most un-news-like manner: They used a magician to show how ISIS worked. No press conference. In fact, I don't think SXSW had a single press conference. I thought that was weird, but I just went with it.

I attended a couple of panels, but also got shut out of some others. SXSW is not really concerned with reporters. Panels are for everyone and if you're not there early enough, you're out of luck. When this happened to me, I just did my best to go with the flow and find other interesting opportunities.


Time and time again, the best parts of SXSW were happening in the halls. I met and chatted with Google's Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz as they ate breakfast. They seemed genuinely happy to see me, even if I was standing between them and their breakfast tacos. After this chance meeting, I began to focus more closely on the SXSW crowd, actively seeking friendly and familiar faces. I made a conscious decision to approach everyone and anyone I wanted to meet. No one ever ran away screaming.

Clearly others were doing the same. At one point it took me an hour and a half to walk 300 feet. No one was blocking my way, I just kept meeting people (like Robert Scoble, Ed Baig, Guy Kawasaki, Andy Cohen, Tony Hsieh, Steve Case, Tobey MacGuire, Craig Newmark). All the notables were kind, funny and gracious. I also met many people most (or relatively few) people have never heard of, though I bet someday you will.

There was the very young entrepreneur, James Brown, who stopped me in the hall to give me a fast pitch on Goalee, a site that mashes up your social graph and interest graph to create an eHarmony-like matchmaking service for business and networking.

I have a near-perfect memory for faces and spotted Irene McGee, the former reality TV star (Real World Seattle) who now blogs about health-related technology at FYIiving.

I sat with Americans Elect CTO Joshua Levine who spoke passionately to me about fixing a broken political system. The online organization's grassroots candidate (who will be selected from among 300 drafted candidates via virtual primaries in May and a virtual convention in July) likely has no chance of winning. But don't tell Levine that.

Then there was startup founder Hajj Flemings who grabbed me in the hall to show off He said it was like a mash-up between Pinterest and (though neither site is in any way involved with it). The site (an app is coming later) adds layers of identities to help you manage your social personas and content boards. Flemings was not the first to promise me that his product could tap into the best parts of Pinterest.

Later I ran into young food lover David Segall who came up with a way to track chefs and pop-up food experiences on

When the weather cleared up, I met more people on the streets, at food trucks and in outdoor event spaces.

All these chance meetings were not just the best part of the conference, they were ultimately what SXSW is all about. When I left the show, I had a fistful of business cards and new insight into how small companies and startups develop and work to grab attention. Many were not above a stunt or intense pitch, but they were also willing to let you come to them.

My plan for a highly organized SXSW never materialized, but I had one of the best conferences of my career. I can't wait to do it all again.

My SXSW Magical Mystery Tour

A look at the ISIS Mobile Wallet Booth

The mobile wallet software was a sponsor at SXSW.

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More About: Google, startup, sxsw, sxsw 2012

Facebook Group Blasts Bankers’ Profiles With Anti-Foreclosure Ads [VIDEO]

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 12:49 PM PDT

An advocacy group called Rebuild the Dream is attempting to inundate Freddie Mac and JPMorgan Chase employees with targeted Facebook ads. The organization seeks support from big banks to help U.S. homeowners facing foreclosure.

“Help us buy Facebook ads that will go to people who work for the heads of Freddie Mac and JP Morgan Chase, villains in the housing crisis, and tell them to reject corporate greed,” the group urged in a blog post calling on people to help families facing foreclosure.

The organization is asking people for donations of $3 or more to buy Facebook ad space in the ongoing campaign.

The Facebook targeted ads pop up on profiles where individuals have set their employer as either Freddie Mac or JPMorgan Chase.

The message reads, “Freddie Mac did what???? Freddie Mac is evicting a former Marine who’s been trying to pay his mortgage. Tell CEO Haldeman to work out a fair deal with him!”

The ad urges current bank executives to tell their company CEOs to help underwater homeowners such as Arturo de los Santos of Riverside, Calif.

SEE ALSO: Why Targeted Ads Must Account for Changing Consumer Context

De los Santos and his four children were recently faced with eviction orders. Rebuild the Dream says their home was foreclosed upon prematurely and at the fault of Freddie Mac.

Rebuild the Dream says using targeted ads on Facebook is a way to “reach as many of these employees as possible.” The group’s CTO Jim Pugh told ProPublica it isn’t a targeted attack on bank employees, but an awareness-building move.

Have you seen targeted Facebook ads? Have you been affected by personalized campaigns? Tell us in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Taber Andrew Bain

More About: campaigns, Facebook, Social Good, Video, Wall Street Banks

NPR to Live Stream Bruce Springsteen’s SXSW Keynote

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 12:18 PM PDT

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen fans will be able to watch and listen to his keynote speech from the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference and Festival on Thursday, thanks to a live broadcast of the event that will stream on

Springsteen’s keynote speech — which will be 1:00 p.m. ET/12:00 CT — is the first-ever a SXSW music conference session that will be streamed online for people to watch worldwide at

In addition to watching the event live, it will also be archived at NPR Music and in the NPR Music iPhone and iPad apps. The broadcast will also air on many public radio stations across the country, including WXPN Philadelphia, WFUV New York and locally on KUT Austin (check local listings).

SEE ALSO: Bruce Springsteen Online Listening Party: Hear 'Wrecking Ball' Here First [EXCLUSIVE]

Springsteen recently released Wrecking Ball, his 17th studio album. He held an extended virtual listening party of sorts by unveiling each track from the album on a different website up until March 2. Mashable introduced the title track "Wrecking Ball” in late February.

Meanwhile, NPR recently launched its free NPR Music app for the iPad to give access to curated content, radio-style listening, handpicked streams, exclusive audio and video performances.

It was the first NPR Music app for the iPad, but NPR's no stranger to apps in general. It's the fifth NPR-branded app, and second for music — the NPR Music iPhone app launched in June 2010.

BONUS: Every Awesome Moment You Missed at SXSW

A Dreary Beginning

This was the view many had for the first couple of days, hiding out wherever shelter could be found as the rain poured down in Austin.

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More About: Music, sxsw 2012

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