Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Happy 6th Birthday, Twitter!”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Happy 6th Birthday, Twitter!”

Happy 6th Birthday, Twitter!

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 02:47 AM PDT

On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey tweeted the first ever tweet on Twitter.

The sheer fact that you can understand that sentence shows you how far Twitter has gone since then. It has become the de facto short message system of the internet and the favorite social networking service of celebrities all around the world.

And, with over 500 million users, it is the largest one-to-many open communication platform on the web.

However, the service’s beginnings were modest. The service started out as an off-hand project from the creators of podcasting company Odeo, and though it immediately showed potential, it was plagued by frequent downtime in its first couple of years.

Stability problems seem to be a thing of the past now, and Twitter handles and hashtags have become a part of popular culture – they are regularly seen on TV and movie trailers. Ask a celebrity how you can reach them, and the most likely answer will be their Twitter nickname.

When it comes to business plans, in the last 12 months Twitter has been somewhat eclipsed with Facebook’s IPO. The questions about Twitter still remain the same as on its last birthday: Will it go public, will it be acquired by a giant such as Google, Apple or Microsoft, or will it simply keep growing?

We’ll see. In the meantime, happy birthday, Twitter!

More About: birthday, trending, Twitter

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Developers See Google as Bigger Growth Area Than Facebook

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 01:44 AM PDT

Facebook may have been a hunting ground last year for developers expanding their social mobile programs, but their sights are set on growing with Google in 2012, a new study suggests.

According to a new report by mobile platform company Appcelerator and analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC), developers are more interested in using Google such as Google+, search, Gmail and the Android Market to implement their social strategies.

The survey — which was conducted among 2,173 developers worldwide — found that 39% of participants said the network effects of Google's initiatives are more important to their social strategies in 2012 than Facebook’s social graph.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Wants to Own Your Social Graph

“Google is learning some good lessons from Facebook about what not to do and what to do better,” Appcelerator principal analyst Michael King told Mashable. “We didn’t expect Google to expect to do so well against Facebook, but it puts them at an advantage. Many developers now see Google as offering more opportunities for growth than Facebook.”

The report also found that developers have expressed less interest in developing Android apps this year “due to continued fragmentation of the platform” and are looking to expand their iOS efforts. It noted that HTML5 will play a bigger role in the mobile app development space this year.

About 79% of mobile developers who took the survey indicated they plan to integrate HTML5 into their apps in 2012. Not surprisingly, overall mobile app development continues to grow. More than half (53.5%) said they are focusing on mobile strategies compared to 27.4% in 2010.

Do you think that this is a sign that more consumers could leave Facebook to access app programs on other sites? Do you think Google+ could take on Facebook in the future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: Facebook, Google, Social Media

A Computer Program to Model Human Decision-Making [VIDEO]

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 08:39 PM PDT

Cheating at chess? A computer program that can call you out may be here soon. A computer science professor and chess master has spent the past five years at work on a system to determine when players get unfair electronic assistance with their kings and queens.

Kenneth Regan’s system essentially works as a mathematical proof using the moves that would be made by a computer chess program to learn more about human decisions. Some say his work could have powerful implications beyond the chessboard as well.

"What he is doing, what these people are doing, is they are trying to model how people make decisions," Dr. Jonathan Schaeffer tells The New York Times.

A model of human-decision making would have tremendous value for sites and services that want a clearer window into how humans think. Online retailers could benefit especially.

Check out the video above for more information on on what Dr. Regan is up to.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr, LdF

More About: artificial intelligence, e-commerce

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Three Major Online Dating Sites Agree to Screen for Predators

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 08:22 PM PDT

Online dating may be complicated, but California and three industry leaders are aiming to make it safer.

The state attorney general’s office announced this week it will work with, and Spark Networks to screen for sexual predators, identity thieves and scammers. A joint statement issued Monday notes the prevalence of online dating and says the companies’ main objective is to keep users safe.

"Consumers should be able to use websites without the fear of being scammed or targeted," California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said in a press statement.

The statement is not an enforceable set of regulations the sites must follow by law, but an official agreement between the attorney general’s office and three major sites that share the same goal of protecting online daters. It also says the guidelines should serve as a model for other online dating websites.

A spokesperson told Mashable the site is already taking the precautions outlined in the agreement, and an eHarmony spokesperson said existing screening mechanisms have helped keep sex offenders off the service in the past. A press release about the statement says all the sites involved will “continue their efforts to screen members for safety threats.”

The sites will protect users from predators through education, online safety tools and cooperation with law enforcement. Here are a few of the steps being taken to keep members safe:

  • Sites will provide safety tips for meeting someone in person.
  • Sites may send customers emails warning them about the latest online financial scams.
  • Sites will review profiles (either automatically or manually) to find fake profiles that may be linked to financial scammers.
  • Sexual predators will be identified when requisite information is available, and removed from fee-based services.
  • Sites will maintain rapid abuse-reporting systems that allows users access to “a website, email address and/or phone number to report any suspected criminal activity, including physical safety concerns and fraud.”

The statement also says dating sites should make clear to members that screenings cannot filter out all dangerous characters, and ultimately every user is responsible for their own safety. However, the attorney general and the three sites say they will meet regularly to discuss how to create stronger identity theft protections and online safety tools.

Last April, a woman named Carole Markin went public with accusations that a man she met on in 2010 sexually assaulted her on their second date. The man, a registered sex offender, pleaded “no contest” to felony sexual battery by restraint in August of last year. Markin also filed a civil suit against, which she dropped after the site soon said it would check all members against the National Sex Offender Registry.

“In 2011, 40 million Americans used an online dating service and spent more than $1 billion on online dating website memberships,” says the California attorney general’s office press release on the new agreement. “Of couples married in the last three years, one in six met through an online dating service and one in five people have dated someone they met through an online dating site.”

Do you use online dating services? Have you had dangerous experiences? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, JamesBrey

More About: california, Christian Mingle, eHarmony, JDate,, online dating, Spark Networks

Say Goodbye to User Name and Password Logins, and Hello to ‘OneID’

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 07:58 PM PDT

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

Name: OneID Inc.

Quick Pitch: Goodbye user names and passwords.

Genius Idea: OneID has created single-click login so users don’t have to enter a user name, password, credit card number or billing information. OneID also has no centralized data storage, making it extremely difficult for hackers to access confidential information.

Steve Kirsch wants to swap his 352 user names and passwords for a simple single click sign-in.

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur with 30 years’ experience hopes to take the web by storm with his new startup, OneID.

The user name and password model is not only inconvenient, but its security has been increasingly compromised over the years. That’s why Kirsch has created a multi-device verification system free of passwords.

OneID uses a combination of advanced asymmetric cryptography that works to identify a user through multiple electronic devices including computer, cell phone and tablet device. The devices work together to keep a user’s private information protected.

The problem with current digital protection methods, according to Kirsch, is that people are sharing their secrets and those secrets are being centrally stored. On a daily basis, Internet users share highly private information including their real identities, user names, passwords and credit card information.

"Until we eliminate the use of shared secrets for authentication, there will never be a satisfactory answer to the question, 'How do I know I am really safe when l sign on to a website?'" Kirsch said.

Here’s the simple explanation of how OneID works: it verifies a user’s identity via the active device and a control device of the user’s choice. The active device is what the user is using to access the login — a computer, for example. To make a payment or to login to a site, users then click the OneID button.

The computer sends verification to your phone, assuming that is your second device of choice. The user then verifies the login on a second device. If the user doesn’t have another device, they enter a pin.

Paying for items is easy with OneID because users don’t have to repeatedly enter a credit card number.

Users can manage their devices and information through OneID. Websites that opt to use OneID’s system will store verification codes, which are useless to hackers because those codes don’t contain any secret information.

Kirsch, who has founded five other successful startups, has pitched his idea to the U.S. Treasury and top Fortune 500 companies. OneID is still in beta, but Kirsch thinks it will be the new digital identity standard. The software was recently released for developers’ use.

Other companies have tried to eliminate user names and passwords. Facebook’s Connect sign-in button has been adopted by many websites, but some users are weary to sign into websites using their Facebook login because it gives access to demographic information, profile picture, networks, user ID, friends lists and other information.

Another example of a payment sign-in system is PayPal — but Kirsch said OneID is more secure.

“OneID is like what PayPal should have been when it comes to security,” Kirsch said. “We are going to leapfrog PayPal. We are PayPal 4.0.”

Would you use OneID? Tells us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStock, Vertigo3d and OneID.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

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

More About: bizspark, identity, online security, passwords, spark of genius series, startup, web security

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Nimble Streamlines Your Company’s Communication Over Social Media

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 07:44 PM PDT

Where day-to-day communications used to take place in the form of handwritten notes and meetings scribbled in a DayPlanner, today businesses communicate with clients everywhere from email to tweets and Facebook wall posts. One service, Nimble, is attempting to streamline all of those communication channels into one, and help businesses and individuals create better connections with the people they’re trying to reach.

Profile Pages

Nimble allows you to import your contacts from email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn and connect contact information for individual people in your network, creating unique profile pages for those contacts. So, if you follow a particular client on Google+ and Twitter, that information will be all be accessible from the same profile page.

Profile pages also pull in general profile information and recent posts made by a contact, so when you’re talking to a client you can make that interaction a little more personal by including information from that person’s recent posts or interests they mention in their profile.

“Business is social, and people buy from people they like and people who known them,” Nimble CEO Joe Ferrera told Mashable. “CRM systems treat their customers like cows they’re going to process. We want to promote engagement.”

Unified Communication

With Nimble you’re able to see all the communication you or any member of your team has had with a particular contact across all social networks. For instance, if you email with a client and your coworker sends them a tweet, you’ll see both interactions on that client’s profile page. You can view all of the contact you or team members have had with a person over time, and can leave yourself notes about a particular conversation or a reminder to follow up on an issue.

“Today we don’t just communicate in email, we communicate on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, and now Pinterest,” said Ferrera. “I find it hard to connect all the points of contact and communication and built Nimble to help make sense of my Social Contact Relationship mess.”

Just as a client’s profile page shows all of your communication with that person over different social networks, your inbox on Nimble shows all of the communication you’ve personally received through those same networks. Twitter @ messages are listed alongside messages you’ve received on Gmail, LinkedIn, and Facebook, giving you one unified inbox where you can read and respond to everything at once.

An Activities tab within Nimble allows you to import your calender events into the service, a Social Listening tab lets you see who’s talking about you in social media as well as find people you may want to connect with in the future, and a Deals tab allows you to keep track of deals you may have in place or in the works with a particular individual.

Nimble is currently free to use for individual users, with business accounts running $15 for each user. Ferrara said that roughly 60% of Nimble’s current users are individuals, while 40% are business customers comprised primarily of groups of 2-4 people at companies with 1-10 employees.

Have any of you run into issues keeping up with communication throughout your work team? Do you see a benefit in being able to see all of the communication with a person over different channels simultaneously? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto,andrearoad

More About: Facebook, Google, linkedin, Twitter

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Why Is Pinterest So Addictive? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 07:12 PM PDT

I ask myself this question every day (and every night at 2 a.m. when I’m still pinning). But seriously, what is so great about spending hours browsing other people’s images?

Column Five created this infographic to examine the Pinterest addiction that seems to be spreading like a zombie apocalypse virus. Proof? Pinterest users spend an average 98 minutes on site per month, third only to Tumblr (2.5 hours) and Facebook (7 hours). Antidote? None.

Beyond the data, the company examines why Internet culture is so fascinated with pinning. It posits that digital hoarding has a lot to do with it. On Pinterest, we have free license to create an entire board dedicated to “teal-colored guitars.”

Then there’s the issue of social media fatigue. Is Pinterest just different enough from other social networks that it frees us from incessant updates and checkins? Or has it just replaced one addiction with another — a sort of social media gateway drug?

You be the judge. Just remember: Denial is a red flag.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, PinkTag, Infographic courtesy of Flowtown, via Column Five

More About: design, features, infographic, pinterest, Social Media

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Facebook App Uses Your Friends to Find Roommates [VIDEO]

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 06:49 PM PDT

It seems nearly everyone has a terrible roommate story. Maybe it was in college, or your first place after moving out of your parents’ house, or that time you moved across country for a job. Sure, maybe finding a roommate on Craigslist was a bad idea, but besides posting a “roommate wanted” status update on Facebook, what other free options are there?

A startup called Friends with Rooms thinks they can help you find a great roommate — someone who shares your love of making waffles, doesn’t let their laundry pile up and isn’t a night owl. And best of all, has a reference through one of your Facebook friends.

Friends with Rooms is an app that uses Facebook’s social graph to connect you with people who might be a perfect roommate match based on what you both have on your profiles, reports AllFacebook.

Users answer questions about their tastes in music, what type of schedule they stick to (early to rise or late to bed?) and other basic get-to-know-you questions that are important when considering whether to live with someone. If you find a potential roommate match, you can take the selection process a step further and also ask your mutual friend to vouch for the other person.

Currently, the app is only available in the U.K.

Would you use Friends with Rooms? What other roommate services have you used to find compatible roommates? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto,cnicbc

More About: App, Facebook, Friends with Rooms, roommates, social graph

Tween Hobo Takes Twitter by Storm [INTERVIEW]

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 06:28 PM PDT

Have you come across the Twitter account @tweenhobo? If not, get ready to laugh — and learn. As the littlest hobo’s Twitter bio suggests — “I’m only twelve, but I’m a hard twelve.” — there’s much to be gleaned from her about tween life, hobo life and yes, digital life.

Mashable spoke with Tween Hobo’s “babysitter,” Brooklyn-based playwright Alena Smith, about the character’s quirky personality. According to Smith, the Twitter account isn’t just something to laugh at — it’s something to make people think deeper.

“I think part of the reason the joke lands so much is because there’s something incredibly profound going on in our culture. The last 10 years, with technological development, the internet has changed our culture so much,” Smith says.

Since the character appeared in December 2011, she’s tweeted about everything one might imagine would preoccupy a tween hobo: weight anxieties, crushes, ambitions for the future and fellow hobos that she’s met since she ran away from home.

Her best friends, Stumptown Jim and Tin Cap Earl, can’t relate to her infatuation with Justin Beiber — but give her insight into cultural icons she would otherwise know nothing about, such as James Van Der Beek and Pearl Jam.

Of course, when she hears these names, Tween Hobo does what anyone of her age would do: she looks them up on YouTube.

Though Tween Hobo speaks fondly about traversing the railroads and “leaving it all behind,” she’s hooked on technology. She’s prone to checking in to “the edge of the road” on Foursquare and has live-tweeted thunderstorms with her “stick phone.”

In this way, Smith says, she’s an avatar for digital culture and the way people interact with it. “She sort of only exists in technology, so it’s a meta joke,” Smith says.

In addition, Smith says, the “hobo culture” of going from place to place and meeting random strangers is a metaphor for how people are interacting online — tweeting at someone you’ve never met in person, for example, or being able to see a stranger’s Instagram photos.

On the internet, “we’re all drifters and having random encounters,” Smith says. “But of course, the joke of the whole thing is that you can never be off the grid now. There’s sort of a nostalgia for this time of dropping out of society, and I don’t think that’s possible anymore.”

With Smith’s help, Mashable grabbed an interview with the nomadic Tween Hobo. Here’s what she had to say:

Q&A With Tween Hobo

So, you say you left home because your au pair revoked your Facebook privileges? What’s the real story behind that?

I'd rather not go into detail, but let's just say it involved me hacking into her Gchat history and doing a little of the old one-two cut-and-paste.

Got any brothers and sisters, Tween Hobo? You miss them?

As a sister of the road I consider all lonely travelers my brothers. I also made up a big sister on The Sims, but ever since our virtual dad got fired she's been lying face-down in the pool.

Ever planning on going back home?

Maybe when I'm in my 30s, if I don't have a job by then.

You still in touch with that au pair of yours? What’s up with her always Skyping with her boyfriend in Holland?

I could tell you, if only I knew the Dutch word for "inappropriate."

So from your tweets, I see you’re preparing for you bat mitzvah. When is it? And what kind of bash is it going to be?

If I have my way it'll be held in a sacred clearing on a woodsy mountainside in the Pacific Northwest, and the only people there will be me, my rabbi and a sexy vampire who knows how to do the chicken dance.

Are you seeing anybody right now? I know Hot Johnny Two-Cakes didn’t text you back that one time, but I was just wondering …

I'm not really old enough for serious dating, but I'm in a situation I'd call "hobos-with-benefits."

So, what’s really going on with you and Taylor Swift? Is that admiration or jealousy?

Taylor Swift is perfect cuz she knows she has her flaws! I'm perfect too even though I set a barn on fire.

What do you think about people biting your style, like Lisa Bonet, Taylor Swift, Mary-Kate … you got something you want to say to them?

Keep up the good work, ladies — 2012 is ALL about layering.

Do you feel like hobo life is pulling you away from other things you want to do?

Yeah, I really miss doing my math homework… ROTFLOL just kidding!!!!

If you ever do meet Justin Beiber, what are you going to say to him?

Huh? Sorry — I just blacked out for a second cuz I got too psyched. What was the question?

So Tween Hobo, which social network do you like best? Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare? I’m sure you’re not ready for LinkedIn yet…or are you?

Well, shucks, I s'pose not yet — but on the other hand, I sure am looking for a job in these hard times!

Picture courtesy of Tween Hobo’s Twitter Profile.

BONUS: Tween Hobo Tweet Selection

Tween Hobo

Not many people can update a blog in the middle of the woods, but Tween Hobo can.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: memes, Twitter

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10 Apps for Keeping Up with Pop Culture

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 06:00 PM PDT

1. PEOPLE Celebrity News Tracker

If you'd rather not subscribe to the print edition, the PEOPLE Celebrity News Tracker app can digitally satisfy your craving for the latest celebrity news and gossip. Packed with full-screen photos, breaking news, celebrity profiles and even a "Top 5 Stories" feature, rest assured you'll stay up-to-date on the latest Jersey Shore news. That is, if you care. Price: $1.99, iOS and Android

Click here to view this gallery.

You’re among a group of people who are talking about ScarJo or Blake Lively or Beliebers. You nod along with them in agreement, but deep down have no idea who they're talking about. If this has happened to you, it may be time to brush up on the latest and greatest celebrity gossip.

Whether you religiously follow the Kardashians, the Real Housewives or the Brangelina brood, the following apps will make sure you're in the Hollywood loop.

SEE ALSO: 20 Hilarious 'Hunger Games' Memes Taking Over the Web

And for those of you who could care less about celebrity news, several of these apps have much less to do with LiLo’s SNL performance and more to do with pop culture in general.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, MicroWorks

More About: android, apps, Entertainment, features, Hollywood, iOS, Mobile

Mitt Romney Holds Google+ Hangout, Defends Microsoft

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 05:31 PM PDT

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held his second Google+ Hangout on Tuesday, taking questions from supporters on a wide range of issues. Right off the bat, Romney was asked about how he would handle cybersecurity, digital intellectual property theft and software piracy.

"Both at the government level and the corporate level there is concern that there is hacking going into our computers,” said Romney. “The damage from those types of breaches of intellectual property are incalculable.”

Romney went on to talk about a meeting with Microsoft officials, in which they told him that they see more intellectual property theft in China than anywhere else. He argued that software piracy gives China a two-fold economic advantage over the U.S.

“People in the U.S. are paying for [Microsoft's] software,” said Romney. “People in China may not buy that software, so Microsoft doesn’t make money for it and the competitor in China has an advantage of not having to pay for it.”

Romney suggested the creation of what he called the “Reagan economic trade zone,” which would have exclusive membership. Membership would only be granted to countries that comply with copyright bylaws and don’t “manipulate their currency,” as Romney accused China of doing.

That answer seemed to satisfy a supporter, who said he’s traveled to Asia and seen pirated copies of American software being sold for “pennies.”

The candidate also answered questions about the Affordable Health Care Act, gas prices, business regulation and the appropriate size of government. According to Reuters’ Sam Youngman, Romney chose to ignore questions about Trayvon Martin, the young African-American boy recently shot and killed in Florida, and the Pell Grant reductions in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) economic plan.

Some observers criticized the questions lobbed at Romney for being too soft:

Matt Lira, who runs House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) new media efforts, tweeted out a defense of Romney’s Google+ Hangout:

The Hangout was moderated by Kevin Madden, executive vice president at JDA Frontline, a communications firm. Madden served as Romney’s national press secretary from December of 2006 until March of 2008.

Do you think Romney’s Hangout was a success? Sound off in the comments below.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr, Gage Skidmore

More About: 2012 presidential campaign, Google, Google Hangouts, Mitt Romney, Politics, US, YouTube

Airbnb Buys London Rival, Just in Time for the Olympics

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 05:01 PM PDT

Room-renting startup Airbnb is having a blowout year. If you needed any more proof, the company announced Tuesday it is buying one of its main international rivals — a UK company called Crashpadder.

Airbnb already had a pretty strong presence in Europe, where nearly all of its phenomenal 2011 growth came from; the company recently opened offices in London and Paris. But snapping up three-year-old Crashpadder clears the decks of any competition, and the timing couldn’t be any better.

To find out why, you need only visit Crashpadder’s homepage. “Become an Olympic host!” it urges London-based users. “Rent out your spare room or whole property to visitors during the games.”

SEE ALSO: The Unstoppable Rise of Airbnb [INFOGRAPHIC]

Crashpadder is only a little bit older than Airbnb, which was founded a year earlier in 2008. The cost of the sale, of course, is undisclosed.

"We've spent the past three years working to create a business that our community loves, and we could not have found a better home for them than Airbnb,” Stephen Rapoport, founder and CEO of Crashpadder said in a statement. “I'm excited about the new features that will be available to our users and hope they are as excited by this news as I am."

Fancy a trip to London for the Olympics this summer? Let us know in the comments.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, nkbimages

More About: 2012 London Olympics, AirBNB

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Jimmy Fallon to Interview Madonna in Facebook Live Chat [VIDEO]

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 05:00 PM PDT

Madonna‘s 12th studio album, MDNA, comes out March 26 but not before the queen of this year’s Super Bowl delivers her ever-enthralling commentary during a live Facebook chat Saturday.

Late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon will interview Madonna starting at 6 p.m. ET on March 24. Their exchanges will be broadcast in a livestream on her Facebook page, where people can now submit questions for Madonna to answer.

“This interview with me is the only live press she’s doing for the whole thing — it’s crazy” says Fallon, who also teased the interview on Twitter.

Interested viewers must “Like” Madonna’s page to gain access to the livestream.

Madonna announced MDNA this January and performed the album’s lead single, “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. at the Super Bowl in last month. The halftime performance sparked an impressive amount of chatter attracting an average of 8,000 tweets per second during a five-minute span. At one point, viewers sent 10,245 TPS, pushing her into the number three spot on Twitter’s most-tweets-per-second list.

SEE ALSO: The Top 15 Tweets-Per-Second Records

The pop megastar last released an album — Hard Candy featuring “4 Minutes” — in April 2008.

BONUS: 20 Facebook Page Cover Photos to Inspire Your Brand

Madonna’s Facebook brand page (see slide six) was one of the first pages to covert to the new Timeline layout when the world’s largest social network made the functionality available in late February. The page’s first cover photo pimped the forthcoming MDNA album.

1. Red Bull

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

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Celebritites, Entertainment, Facebook, jimmy fallon, madonna, mashable video, Music

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How Flying Robots Might Prevent Deforestation

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 04:40 PM PDT

Morgen E. Peck is a contributing writer at Txchnologist and Txchnologist Brasil, an online science and technology magazine. She has written about programs to drag space junk out of orbit, technology that could print houses and how to build a house on Mars.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If there were swarms of palm-sized robots to witness the action, it would.

Quadrotors are miniature flying robots. University of Pennsylvania deputy dean Vijay Kumar introduced the tech marvels during his TED talk. He showed them flipping in the air like playful otters, flying sideways and working together to build a tower of blocks.

Kumar has suggested that the quadrotors could be useful for scanning disaster zones, but a former student of Kumar's in Brazil added that they could potentially function as tiny, silent guardians of the rainforest.

Mario Campos, a professor of computer science who runs his own robotics laboratory at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, said the robots could be used to capture live video of the rainforest, aiding in an effort to detect and respond quickly to illegal deforestation and fires.

"The Size of My Palm"

Brazil has been putting eyes in the sky for over a decade now, sending fixed-wing drones over the forest canopy to detect illegal drug trafficking and mining, as well as environmental crimes. But those vehicles require human operators, while Kumar's quadrotors can be programmed to fly autonomously in swarms.

And now these intelligent flying robots are smaller than ever.

"I think what has happened in the last six months or so is the concerted effort to make the platform smaller," says Kumar, a member of Penn's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) lab. "It's about the size of my palm. The span is less than eight inches."

The robot’s body is the shape of a cross, and a little rotor blade attaches to the end of each arm. When all of the rotors are spinning at the same speed, the robot rises or hovers. But when they spin at varying speeds, the body tilts forward or swivels. An onboard processor can change the commands to the rotors 600 times per second, allowing the machine to respond quickly to changes in its environment. Throw it in the air and it will glide right into a controlled flight pattern.

Disconnected Teamwork

Watching one of these inorganic creatures gracefully dive through a hoop as it's thrown up in the air is impressive enough. Seeing many of them work as a team is stunning, and slightly unnerving.

In his TED talk, Kumar explained how a swarm of robots, lacking the ability to communicate with one another in any way, can work together to build a structure, lifting blocks and putting them in place. Each robot has the same blueprint and the ability to sense changes in its environment, but has no direct connection with the other units in the swarm.

The programs that control these flights were inspired by the way ants cooperate to move large chunks of food, but Kumar says his team could just as easily have looked to humans.

Consider how two people would go about moving a table if they were blindfolded in a room. "I don't have to know exactly how your brain is wired. I don't need to know your name. I don't even have to know what you look like," says Kumar. "I'm going to move the table in a way that I think is appropriate. Nobody's telling me what to do and nobody's telling you what to do."

Flying Through the Treetops

The smarts that keep the robots from colliding while building would also enable them to dart through obstacles in a jungle canopy. "They want to fly right over the treetops, maybe through the treetops and these are things we could do," says Kumar.

These abilities seem to be perfectly suited for monitoring the rainforest. Farmers and loggers in Brazil are required to follow conservation laws when taking down trees on their property, but often flout the rules. "This is one of the key problems for the region," says Campos.

Campos has one major concern. "Besides several birds, mammals, reptiles species, the Amazon forest is the habitat of myriads of insects. Their wellbeing could be jeopardized in the monitoring process," he says. Before quadrotors are released into the jungle, it would be best to know that they aren't going to harm the very ecosystem they've been deployed to protect.

But, if deployed carefully, the robots could be sentinels of crucial environmental protection.

What do you think? Do you think rainforests deserve tiny spies? Where else could this technology apply?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Nicolas Halftermeyer

More About: contributor, environment, features, Gadgets, robots, Tech

Follow The Illinois Primary on Social Media

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 04:21 PM PDT

It’s primary day in Illinois, and the fight for delegates in the Land of Lincoln is shaping up to be an important moment in the race for the Republican nomination.

The state has 69 delegates, 54 of which are up for grabs on Tuesday. Mitt Romney leads the national race so far with 522 delegates, Rick Santorum is in second with 252, followed by Newt Gingrich (136) and Ron Paul (50). To lock up the nomination before the Republican National Convention in August, a candidate needs 1,144 committed delegates.

To get to that magic number, the candidates are turning to the web in the battle for the White House. Journalists covering the race are using social media to update followers with up-to-the-second news and pictures. Voters are showing their support for their candidates of choice on networks like Facebook and Twitter.

As Tuesday’s primary night unfolds, Mashable is sharing the best examples of social media’s use throughout the night. Follow along to learn how politicians, journalists and voters are using social media during the Illinois primary:

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, pagadesign

More About: 2012 presidential campaign, Politics, Social Media, US

Eventbrite Builds its Own iPad Card Reader

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 04:00 PM PDT

Taking a hint from mobile payment companies like Square, Eventbrite has created its own branded credit card reader for the iPad.

The card reader, which is launching on Tuesday, integrates with the company’s “At the Door” iPad app. Launched in June, this app allows merchants to accept payments, print tickets and collect attendee data on-site.

Previous versions required ticket buyers to manually enter their credit card information as if they were online.

Though the Eventbrite card reader looks like Square’s cube-shaped mobile attachment and PayPal’s newly launched triangle-shaped card reader PayPal Here, Eventbrite isn’t trying to become a payment company.

Rather, it had few options for integrating credit card swipes with its app aside from creating its own reader. Neither Square nor PayPal Here has an API that allows other apps to use their devices.

Same goes for competitor Intuit GoPayment. VeriFone’s PAYware Connect does have an API, but Eventbrite didn’t feel it was the right fit for its app.

When asked if Eventbrite would use Square if an API became available, a spokesperson told Mashable, “Yes–we’d love to give our organizers as many options as possible.”

In the meantime, all Eventbrite merchants who want to use its app for swiping credit cards at the door will need to order an Eventbrite card reader, which attaches to the same iPad input that the charger does. The readers cost $10, but the full cost is immediately reimbursed in the purchaser’s Eventbrite account. They are available in Eventbrite’s new online store.

Eventbrite nearly doubled the number of tickets it issued in 2011 compared to 2010, issuing its 50 millionth ticket in February this year. Pursuing offline ticket sales opens a new world (the real one) of potential customers to the company.

More About: credit card reader, eventbrite, Square

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8 Ways to Give Your Gadgets a Spring Cleaning

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 03:50 PM PDT

1. Microfiber Cloth

The tried and true original, and the best for cleaning all types of surfaces. Gently rub these soft cloths over the surface of your tech; they're the best for touch screens, LCD monitors, and any other surface that collects smudges and fingerprints. You can usually pick them up for free at an optometrist, or get them in a ton of styles if you want a personalized option. We found some great ones at Lynktec.

Click here to view this gallery.

It’s time to sweep the floors, clean the closets and throw open all the windows. With spring cleaning on many people’s minds, your gadgets might also need a thorough scrub as well.

From daily use, our gadgets get a wide range of smudges, sticky spots and fingerprints, and sometimes it’s hard to even notice them if you’re staring intently into your smartphone screen. Fortunately, there are a lot of simple and affordable ways to make your gadgets look new again

It’s good to remember to always use a gentle cloth, such as a lotion-free tissue or microfiber cloth, to clean surfaces. Never press down too hard, especially on LCD screens, or you could end up doing more damage. And if you’re going to use any kind of cleaning solution, be sure to spray it onto the cloth. Spraying onto your gadgets may cause liquid to slip into some small crack and damage your device, and accidents like that usually aren’t covered by warranties.

To clean dust that accumulates on fans, vents, and TVs, compressed air is often an easy solution, and can be purchased at most office supply stores. There’s also the Cyber Clean, a ball of goo that rolls over dirt and crumbs, pulling them up. It’s a great solution to the keyboard that’s seen one too many chocolate chip cookies.

What are your tips for cleaning your devices? Was there any cool method we missed? Let us know in the comments.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, RapidEye

More About: cleaning, features, Gadgets, spring cleaning, Tech

Justin Bieber Is First Instagram User to Reach a Million Followers

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 03:30 PM PDT

Eight months after posting his first Instagram snap, Justin Bieber became the photo-sharing app’s first user to reach a million followers Tuesday.

The 18-year-old global pop star — whose fans gave him a social media record for his March 1 birthday — joined Instagram in July 2011 and reeled in 1,700 followers in just an hour. His inaugural Instagram picture (see below) displayed Los Angeles traffic, with the caption “La traffic sucks.”

Bieber has since shared 281 photos and follows 15 Instagram users, including girlfriend Selena Gomez, fellow teen star Jaden Smith and boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Gomez is the second most-followed Instagram user, followed by Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian.

Previously, Bieber lost the races to 10 million and 20 million Twitter followers, as well as 1 billion YouTube views to social-media powerhouse Lady Gaga. He’s in luck this time, however; Gaga isn’t on Instagram.

Musicians on Facebook have experienced similarly explosive growth on Facebook, first via fan pages and now on their personal pages thanks to the network’s Subscribe button.

SEE ALSO: Justin Bieber's 5th YouTube Anniversary: The Road to Bieber Fever [INFOGRAPHIC]

Bieber currently has 18.6 million Twitter followers and 41.5 million Facebook “Likes.” His official YouTube channel has 2.3 billion views.

Instagram, an iPhone app that has been downloaded 27 million times, announced at South by Southwest this month that an Android version of the app will be released “very soon.” Apple also dubbed Instagram its App of the Year in 2011, and company founder Kevin Systrom appeared in Best Buy’s Super Bowl ad.

BONUS: 13 Products You Can Make From Your Instagram Pics

1. Bangles

This Instagram'd bangle on Etsy is made by BuyMyCrap.

"We fell in love with the Instagram process and how it allows you to create pieces representative of yesteryear with different tones, filters and effects," says Lainey Bard, who's affectionately known by her customers as Mrs. Crap. "Since we create wearable works of art, we decided to include Instagram inspired pieces in our shop."

The Craps access the Instagram API via iPod to pull photos. Bangles are sold for $40.

Click here to view this gallery.

Thumnail from

More About: celebrities, Entertainment, instagram, justin bieber, mobile apps, Music, Social Media

Facebook Diplomacy: ‘Israel Loves Iran’ Pages Take Off

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 03:10 PM PDT

Diplomatic tensions continue to escalate between Israel and Iran. But prospects for peaceful reconciliation are looking up if you turn to Facebook.

A married pair of graphic designers from Tel Aviv, Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir, are using a Facebook Page called Israel Loves Iran to tell the Iranian people that they don’t want a war.

The Page — and a similar Page copying its mission — have now garnered more than 9,000 Likes between them.

The effort began when Edry, who says he often shares his poster designs on Facebook, posted an image of himself and his daughter to design school Pushpin Mehina‘s Page. The caption read: “Iranians, we will never bomb your country, we <3 you."

"Making posters is my way of reacting to things, so I just made this poster because it's what I wanted to say," Edry told Mashable “I didn’t think it would be this big or this crazy, but so many people relate to the message. I was under the impression I was the only one.”

Since first sharing his poster to the Facebook Page Saturday, Edry says he’s overwhelmed by the positive response. By Sunday, Iranians had begun posting anonymously to the group (Facebook is banned from Iran) and sharing their own posters and messages.

“We also love you. Your words are reaching us despite the censorship,” an Iranian Facebook user replied to the posters. “The Iranian people, apart from the regime, do not hold a grudge nor animosity against anyone, especially not the Israelis … We never saw Israelis as our enemies. As such, the regime cannot gain public support for war.”

Edry says he’d never met an Iranian before starting the campaign. He assumes most other Israelis haven’t either. One former student told Edry that she Facebook-chatted for two hours with another graphic design student from Iran, with whom she connected through the group.

“This is the first time this has happened in Israel, because everyone is scared” he says. “We talk about violence and defense, and we never get to the other side. All we know of Iran is the face of Ahmadinejad on TV.”

Edry initially had a fundraising component to the campaign, hoping to raise $7,500 to buy advertising spots on global channels and a Times Square billboard. He is now reconsidering the monetary aspect of the campaign, as he’s now received coverage on CNN, Al Jazeera and other major outlets.

“As a man of peace, I’m like, ‘maybe we started something big, just maybe,’” Edry says.

Do you think Facebook is a good way to campaign with people from across the world? Is diplomacy best left to governments? Let us know what you think of the campaign in the comments.

More About: Facebook, iran, Israel

Dr. Dre Headphone Maker To Buy MOG Music Service

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 02:48 PM PDT

Headphone maker Beats (co-founded by Dr. Dre) is set to acquire music subscription service MOG, according to multiple reports.

Beats is majority-owned by Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC. There’s no information yet on the price of the deal.

The news began to trickle out on Monday when Business Insider reported that a single source leaked information of the acquisition. By Tuesday, multiple sources had come forward to confirm the rumor.

Mashable has reached out to a spokesperson for MOG and is waiting for a response.

Started in 2005, MOG is a music subscription service with 14 million songs. It does not have the name recognition of music-streaming sites such as Pandora or Spotify, despite often being mentioned alongside other top music services. MOG CEO David Hyman has reportedly said MOG has 500,000 users, but won’t say how many are paying subscribers.

Some have speculated that Beats’ interest in the company lies with its music subscription service and connections with major record labels.

Digital music subscription services have grown from 8 million users in 2011 to already 13 million subscribers in 2012, according to a study by International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). And digital music sales have grown for the first time since 2004. Gartner Inc., an IT research company, predicts that by 2015 online music sales will generate $7.7 billion dollars per year.

Just last month, MOG CEO David Hyman said the company had no plans to sell. HTC purchased a 51% stake in Beats Electronics in April 2011 for $309 million.

What do you think about this possible acquisition by Beats? Tell us in the comments.

More About: Beats, beats by dre, htc, MOG, music subscription services, pandora, spotify

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Colorado Woman’s iPhone 4 Combusts [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 02:29 PM PDT


A 51-year-old Colorado woman says her white iPhone 4 self-combusted while she was traveling on the East Coast last week.

Click here to view this gallery.

A 51-year-old Colorado woman told Mashable her iPhone 4 burst into smoke just inches from her head last week — and she has the photos to prove it.

The woman — who spoke on the condition that her name not be used — says she was traveling on the East Coast and sleeping alone in a hotel room with the phone plugged in to an Apple charger on the nightstand “12 to 14 inches from my head.”

About 6:30am, she awoke to to a strange smell and “sizzling” and “popping” noises. Then came “not quite an explosion, but an immense crackling,” as the room filled with smoke.

“It was an awful, putrid smell, almost like you were ingesting plastic of some kind,” she said in a phone interview.

She jumped from bed and used her laptop case to pick up the phone and throw it in the hotel room sink. The hotel smoke alarms failed to work, she said. An electrician found nothing wrong with the room’s power outlet.

She said she bought the white iPhone 4 about a year ago at an Apple store in Colorado.

The woman said she came to Mashable because of Apple’s unwillingness to publicly acknowledge the incident to other iPhone owners.

“It’s so important for me to have people know about this,” she said. “They’re giving me the classic corporate runaround, and I understand and respect that. But people knowing about this is the most important thing to me.”

This appears to be the first case of a self-combusting iPhone 4 in the United States. But in late 2011 similar incidents were reported in Australia and Brazil.

Both of those incidents involved an iPhone 4. The iPhone 4S does not appear to be affected by the combustion issue. When the woman requested a 4S upgrade for her defunct phone, she was given another iPhone 4.

Mashable has contacted Apple; we have not received any official comment from the company.

“I would have liked to have seen them say they understand this might not be something that affects everyone,” the woman said. “But, because it happened here, [they should] put up a precautionary statement to make people aware that if their battery becomes too hot to be wary.”

Had the combustion happened half an hour later, she said, she would have been in the shower with the sizzling, smoking phone blocking her path from the bathroom to the front door. Had it happened the night before, the phone would have been charging in another room in her mother’s old house.

“Maybe I’m naive,” she added, “but I really hate when companies have to wait for fatalities or something awful to happen before they do something.”

More About: apple, iphone

How Social Tools Are Changing Performance Management

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 02:04 PM PDT

Morgan Norman is the founder and CEO of WorkSimple, the social performance application focused on social goals, feedback and recognition for you, your team and company. Connect with him and WorkSimple on Facebook and Twitter.

Cutting edge apps, software, websites and gadgets are sparking big changes in the workplace. Consequently, traditional performance reviews are no longer making the cut, and with good reason.

How are social and digital tools changing performance reviews? The following key players in the social goal and performance space talk about the effect of digital tools and the future of performance management.

1. Everything Is Social

The past decade has fostered an incredible advance in social technology. According to Sharlyn Lauby, creator of the HR Bartender blog, organizations are starting to make the natural transition toward a more social workplace.

She advises organizations looking to add a social aspect to ask the following questions: Why are we adding a social component? What do we hope to accomplish? How does this integrate with the existing pieces of our performance management process?

“Once you know the answers to those questions, develop a plan to revamp the current system and integrate social into the workplace,” she says.

2. Social Instills Better Purpose

The performance review as we know it has become irrelevant in the face of social goals, says Jody Thompson, co-creator of ROWE. In the presence of social goals, employees understand their value and place in the big picture.

"Social goals immediately tap into intrinsic motivation, [making] the old-fashioned measures of [meeting or exceeding expectations] seem ludicrous," says Thompson. "Social goals when attached to performance give everyone in the organization purpose and focus. Event-based performance review systems then become unnecessary when the workforce is optimizing performance real-time."

3. Shift Toward Engagement

Finally, as the social workplace shifts toward goals, engagement becomes the natural step, shares Ben Peterson, co-founder and CEO of BambooHR.

"Most people check the box to say they’ve done their performance review, then don’t think about it again for another year,” he says. “Social goals need to meld meld into currently used systems in a measurable way that will engage and motivate — or it’s as useless as the status quo."

With digital tools, employees are kept in real-time and engaged far more than their counterparts. In the long run, employees are happier, management becomes smoother, and organizations achieve more success.

What do you think? What social and digital tools are making the biggest impact? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, STEEX

More About: Business, contributor, digital, features, Social Media, workplace

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Move Over, Louis C.K.: Aziz Ansari Launches $5 Comedy Special Online

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 01:46 PM PDT

Aziz Ansari has joined the ranks of stand-up comedians becoming online entrepreneurs. Ansari, known best for his role on Parks and Recreation, is releasing his new comedy special online for a mere five bucks.

Ansari is also relying on the web and social media to promote his latest endeavor. The actor used Twitter to announce “Dangerously Delicious,” his one-hour comedy special, and he’s asked his fans to retweet the news.

Using the hashtag #DangerouslyDelicious, he’s responding to fans asking questions about the decision.

“I wanted to release it online because I saw how many people viewed clips from my last special online on sites like YouTube,” says Ansari on his website. “I also like releasing it myself because there are no commercials, bleeps, or any of that stuff.”

Ansari is not the first to take this route. Comedian Louis C.K. recently directed and performed his own stand-up comedy special at the Beacon Theater, which cost around $250,000 to produce.

SEE ALSO: Louis CK Makes $200,000 Profit in Four Days With Online Video

The result for C.K.: within two weeks, a gross of more than $1 million — a little more than half of which was given in bonuses to his crew and donated to charity.

Ansari says that C.K.’s entreprenuerial route inspired him to do the same.

“After seeing the success of Louis CK’s special (which was released in a similar fashion) and numerous people asking me if I would do the same, this seemed like the best route,” he wrote.

Fans can download or stream “Dangerously Delicious” from Ansari’s website. The download is DRM free, and buyers can download up to five times. For those that would rather stream, it can be viewed three times from the site.

What do you think of the way Ansari and other comedians are going direct-to-fans with comedy specials? Is this the future or will it only work for established acts? Let us know in the comments.

Image via

More About: aziz ansari, comedy, Louis C.K.

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Meet the Robot Fireman [VIDEO]

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 01:19 PM PDT

The Navy will soon have fire-fighting humanoid robots aboard its military vessels.

Navy ship fires are all too common, with or without military battles. The SAFFiR, or Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot, will help fight fires — which will in turn increase safety and reduce excessive ship repair costs due to fire damage.

The robot looks similar to a human, and will be able to keep balance on a rocky sea, control fire suppression gear, climb ladders and interact with humans. The bot will be able to find fires and throw propelled extinguishing agent technology (PEAT) grenades to extinguish them while walking through the ship.

SAFFiR’s arms are also being constructed so the bot can carry and use fire hoses and fire extinguishers when needed.

SEE ALSO: Scientists Train Robots to Better Understand Humans [VIDEO]

SAFFiR was created by scientists at the University of Virginia Tech, University of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. The bot has an advanced sensor suit with a built-in stereo IR camera and gas sensor to help SAFFiR navigate through smoke, water vapor and fire.

The bot is battery powered and can fight a fire for up to 30 minutes, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory said.

In September 2013, SAFFiR will be tested on board of the ex-USS Shadwell, a fire test ship. If SAFFiR performs well, the Navy will have new companions while navigating the high seas.

Watch the video above to get a look at SAFFiR for yourself.

Photo courtesy of iStock, JSABBOTT.

More About: navy, Robot, Video

How TwitchTV Built a Vibrant Community Around Game Streaming

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 12:57 PM PDT

If you’re ditching cable, there are many alternative content destinations online. If you’re a gamer, one of those is probably TwitchTV.

TwitchTV was started in June 2011 by founders Justin Kan and Emmett Shear. Since launch, TwitchTV has built an audience of 16 million visitors per month, with a growth rate of about 11% per month, according to Kan. Not only that, but those on the site stay and watch for an average of 47 minutes.

What are they watching? Usually, live broadcasts of gamers playing Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, or even classics like StarCraft, Halo and Street Fighter X Tekken.

Kan compares the rise in e-sport popularity to the rise of poker 20 years ago. While poker was a game many had enjoyed at home for years, the advent of cameras that could display the players’ hands to the television audience turned it into a spectator sport. Similarly, gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry, and now the technology is allowing people to stream their own content and spectate more easily.

“Poker started to be shown on ESPN. We are the ESPN of e-sports,” Kan said.

"Don’t wait for someone to represent you. Start your own stream and get involved.”

TwitchTV differs from ESPN in that anyone with the right tools can stream their own content. Marcus Graham, better known as djWHEAT, has been streaming games to spectators for the last 10 years. He said TwitchTV has seen a rise in the number people of streaming games, from double-digits to an individual streamer with thousands of watchers. Not only that, he says gamers are learning they can make money from their streams — sometimes enough to supplant a full-time job.

SEE ALSO: Move Over, Super Bowl. Spectator Gaming Reaches Millions Online

TwitchTV helps users monetize by allowing them to place ads in their streams. Kan said the advertising system was unique because streamers could place as many ads as they wanted in places that made sense with the content.

“I’m excited to be the ultimate level of tech entrepreneur. I set my own schedule and create my own content,” Graham said. “Now so many other people realize they can do this, too.”

Graham said TwitchTV is working on tools that will make it even easier for gamers to share their content, and he hopes that the next-generation consoles will feature tools making it easier to stream games. It’s not only about the tools though; gamers running streams have to learn how to entertain, engage and capture a loyal audience.

TwitchTV offers its streamers tools to interact with their audience, most importantly a chat that runs on the right side of their stream. It’s the main way for the streaming audience to interact with what’s being broadcast, and with each other. Graham said people come into his chats to talk to each other as well as to be entertained. He also sees people drop in even if he’s not broadcasting just to chat about games.

He also said some popular content creators are allowing their TwitchTV subscribers to play matches against them on the stream.

“It’d be like if you were a huge basketball fan and got to play a game against Michael Jordan.”

Jared Rea, the community manager for TwitchTV, said interactions the players and audience have with each other are what allow the community to grow as a whole, even as they host such a varied amount of game content.

“Almost like San Francisco’s culture and community varies from block to block, TwitchTV’s community varies wildly,” said Rea. “All the jokes in the fighting community are very different than the Minecraft community. But if you hang around, you’ll start to see a lot of familiar faces across communities.”

Rea’s job at TwitchTV, along with a whole community team, is to address and balance all the needs of this microcosm, as well as to surface the best content from each of them to feature on the main site.

“There’s a big push and pull sometimes between the casual and hardcore gamers, but at the end of the day I try to know as much about everything. I fight for the users,” said Rea, who is also a former game journalist and has been involved with the gaming culture for years.

TwitchTV’s explosive growth can be attributed to the strong community and the democratization of content creation — it gives gamers a place to belong, said Rea. He said the common gamer mentality has always felt a little out of the mainstream.

“Don’t wait for someone to represent you. Start your own stream and get involved,” he said.

The user empowerment has helped TwitchTV expand rapidly. Graham called the growth “astronomical,” and he doesn’t think it will be long before TwitchTV becomes more mainstream.

“I don’t even have to hope too hard in some cases,” he said. “The numbers are attracting eyeballs that weren’t looking at us before.”

Some of those eyeballs are big commercial advertisers, said Kan. He said more brands than before are sponsoring shows and players, and there is an emergence of big networks like Major League Gaming.

Even with the rapid growth, Rea said those interested in becoming part of the TwitchTV community will find it welcoming.

More About: esports, features, Gaming, streaming, TWITCH, twitchtv

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Your Next Tattoo May Vibrate When You Get a Phone Call [VIDEO]

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 12:42 PM PDT

You’ve heard of setting your phone on vibrate, but how about your arm? A new patent filed by Nokia describes a piece of fabric that can be attached to your skin, that will also alert you in you have a call.

Originally uncovered by Unwired View, the patent shows a small, square piece of fabric that could be attached to your fingernail, abdominal area, or forearm. The device would pair with your mobile phone, and when a call comes in would vibrate where it’s attached, much like your phone does now.

Vibrations could be customized depending on the person calling or type of message you’re receiving. So, the vibration for your girlfriend sending you a text message might feel a little different than your Mom calling to check in.

In addition to being attached to your body in fabric form, the patent also suggests producing the same effect with ferromagnetic ink in the form of a tattoo. Ink would be demagnetized before it was placed on your body, and then magnetized again once your "Mom" tattoo was complete.

Tattoos could be anywhere you might traditionally get inked and could be in any design. For all intents and purposes, you’d be getting a traditional tattoo, just in this case that tattoo would also serve another purpose.

Nokia’s vibrating tattoo patent is still in the patent stage, so it may or may not become a reality.

What do you think? Would you get a tattoo to alert you when you’re getting messages on your phone? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, Colourfield

More About: Mobile, Nokia, patents, trending

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Major Earthquakes Rock Mexico and Indonesia: Follow on Social Media

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 12:27 PM PDT

Earthquakes hit both sides of the Pacific midday Tuesday, as Mexico and Indonesia were rocked by major earthquakes — and locals turned to social media to share reactions and pictures.

A 7.6 tremblor hit Acapulco on the Pacific coast of Mexico, with a large aftershock felt in the capital, Mexico City. Phone lines were taken down by the quake, but no other major damage was reported — although some residents said on Twitter that it was the strongest earthquake they’d felt on the fault line in more than a decade.

Shortly afterwards, on the opposite side of the ocean, a 6.7 magnitude quake was reported in the Indonesian province of Papua (the western half of the island of New Guinea).

Despite both quakes hitting coastal areas, there was no tsunami warning issued on either side of the ocean.

Reports are coming in thick and fast on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — so check out our Storify, below, for the latest. And let us know in the comments if you’ve been affected.

More About: Earthquake, Storify, trending, Twitter

The 10 Best iPad Apps for Showing Off Your Retina Display

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 12:00 PM PDT

The New York Times

Looking at the updated New York Times app (free for 10 articles/month) on a new iPad beside the old app on an old iPad, and you can really see the difference. Text -- headlines, body text and captions -- is visibly sharper, and photos really pop. The Times app, which has a top-notch photo viewer and plenty of multimedia content, serves as the textbook example of what retina can do for a news reader. Alternative: The Daily (free, $39.99 annual subscription)

Click here to view this gallery.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the new iPad is here, with a gorgeous retina display. Although virtually every app will look better on the new screen, software that’s designed for it from the beginning will always look best.

Good thing Apple made that easy. By going with a 2,048 x 1,536 resolution — exactly double the pixel count of the old iPad in both directions — all developers need to do is perform some grade-school math, add high-res artwork, and they’re done.

Since last week, developers have begun updating their apps for the retina display. Although by some counts there are thousands of retina-ready apps already, some benefit from the extra pixels much more than others. A photography-centered app will look more vibrant than a simple line-drawn game, for example.

SEE ALSO: 9 Stunning Examples of the New iPad's Retina Display

Book and news readers, though not as eye-catching as some multimedia apps, benefit greatly from the retina display. The increased screen resolution doesn’t just make text look sharper — it can actually help reduce eye strain, letting you read for longer periods.

That’s just a taste of how much retina-optimized apps improve your tablet experience. We’ve picked out the best iPad apps that are now optimized for the retina display from the thousands available. From games to star maps to social media to video players, these are the apps that will really make your eyes smile (and your friends jealous).

Did we miss any? What are your favorite retina-display apps for iPad? Shout out your suggestions in the comments.

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

‘Talladega Nights’ Producer Goes Back to School With Social Media [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 11:48 AM PDT

Filmmaker and producer Adam McKay (Talladega Nights, Anchorman) is partnering with director Jason Pollock to develop what they are calling a “social media documentary” that sheds light on the high school dropout rates in the U.S.

The goal of the documentary: use social media to tell the stories of students and communities that grapple with high dropout rates. Pollock and McKay believe education is an important issue in the 2012 election and want to use the film as a way to educate voters and politicians.

A recent report shows that while graduation rates in the United States have increased, 1 in 4 students still fail to get a diploma. Moreover, 10 states had declines in graduation rates from 2002 to 2009.

Production of the documentary is slated to get underway this month. Pollock and McKay are working with Sharon Chang of Yoxi.TV to produce the film. In addition to the social media campaign surrounding the film, a website will launch in the next few weeks that focuses on supporting the schools selected for filming.

The filmmakers are working with Get Schooled to launch the social media side of the project that will coincide with the development of the film.

McKay and Pollock are no strangers to using social media to help tell a bigger story. McKay created with actor and comedian Will Ferrell. FunnyOrDie frequently uses its platform and audience to raise awareness about social issues.

Pollock is an active social media user with over 100,000 followers on Twitter. His last film, The Youngest Candidate, profiled four teens running for public office.

What do you think of filmmakers using social media to craft their stories of social good? Let us know in the comments.

More About: adam mckay, documentary, education, jason pollock

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Twitter Rolls Out Promoted Tweets for Mobile

Posted: 20 Mar 2012 11:29 AM PDT

Twitter on Tuesday announced it was bringing Promoted Tweets to mobile devices.

The move, which Twitter had announced was coming last month, means Promoted Tweets will join Promoted Accounts on users’ mobile devices. Advertisers can also specify whether their Promoted Tweets will run on iOS, Android or other mobile platforms.

In a blog post, Twitter noted that the targeting is “great for brands who want to increase the prominence and reach of their message to a particular type of mobile user. For example, mobile game and app sellers can now pinpoint the users who are likely to purchase their products.”

Mobile users will see such tweets in the timelines of their iOS and Android Twitter apps. Promoted Tweets will appear in the timeline just once. The company claims that it will only display the Promoted Tweets in the timeline when they’re “relevant.” If the Promoted Tweet isn’t relevant, you can dismiss it from your timeline with a swipe.

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

Twitter’s migration into mobile advertising comes as Facebook has also begun the process of integrating ads into its mobile apps.

Both are behind the curve compared to Google, which could see as much as $4 billion in revenues from mobile advertising in 2012, according to one analyst’s projection.

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

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ymgerman

More About: Advertising, Mobile, Promoted Tweets, trending, Twitter

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