Thursday, 22 March 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Networks for Remote Contractors See Massive Growth”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Networks for Remote Contractors See Massive Growth”

Networks for Remote Contractors See Massive Growth

Posted: 22 Mar 2012 04:15 AM PDT

As more employers embrace telecommuting, marketplaces that connect them with remote freelance workers are taking off.

These sites allow businesses to post projects that can be completed away from an office in a database that workers can browse. They’re different from crowdsourcing sites such as Mechanical Turk that help businesses hire anonymous workers for often-mindless tasks. Rather, jobs listed on them take significant time to complete and typically require professional skills such as programming, graphic design or writing.

One such site, oDesk, announced on Thursday that it has doubled its gross revenue every year since 2007. It says more than 120,000 new freelance jobs are posted on its platform each month. Meanwhile, its competitor Elance tells Mashable it has experienced more than 100% year-over-year growth in the number of businesses that have posted a job on its site and that it posted about 650,000 new jobs on its site in 2011. Both companies say about 1.5 million contractors have registered for their sites.

“We have reached a tipping point where the early adopters have convinced everyone else that this is the way to go,” Elance CEO Fabio Rosati says. “Our first quarter this year will be the fastest growth we've had in our company's history.”

Elance says it has doubled the number of businesses posting jobs on its platform since last year

Perhaps encouraged by studies that suggest workers who telecommute are actually more productive in some situations (if not over-worked), more companies do seem to be getting comfortable with the idea of hiring outside of their geographic area. Elance and oDesk’s customers include well-known companies such as Google, Microsoft, Dell, Cisco, HP and AOL.

But jobs on both platforms still trend toward programming, and in a survey of 7,000 oDesk clients, 62% of them categorized themselves as “early adopters.”

“If you think about ecommerce, it took 15 years for the market to mature to the point where people feel comfortable buying a big-screen TV online,” oDesk CEO Gary Swart tells Mashable. “E-work is so similar … in the early days, maybe it’s like [when ecommerce was mainly used to buy] Beanie Babies and Pez dispensers, but as the market matures and gets to the point where people are comfortable hiring online, we think it’s as big as ecommerce, or bigger.”

Swart points to three trends that have helped remote work take off over the past few years: better Internet tools, a bad economy that requires companies to produce more with fewer resources and worker expectations.

“Contractors are not working this way because they have to,” he says, “they're working this way by choice. They want the freedom.”

Rosati says Elance attempted to launch a marketplace for remote workers in 1999 — before LinkedIn or Skype existed. Without the right environment, that project flopped, and the company didn’t revive the concept again until 2007. It’s done $500 million in transactions (of which it takes a 6.75% to 8.75% fee) since. The company estimates that by 2020, one in three workers will be working online.

Venture capitalists seem to agree with the positive assessment of the space. oDesk announced on Wednesday it has raised a $15 million Series D round of funding, bringing its total money raised to $44 million. Elance announced a $16 million round in January.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Silvrshootr

More About: Elance, odesk, remote workforce

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Angry Birds Space Now Available for Download

Posted: 22 Mar 2012 04:00 AM PDT

Angry Birds Space

Fans of the Angry Birds franchise, take notice: the disgruntled feathery creatures have conquered space, and they’re out to show those dastardly pigs a lesson.

The latest installment of this megapopular game, Angry Birds Space, is now available for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android devices, as well as the Mac and PC.

The new version brings several important changes, most importantly gravity, which will allow players to use nearby planets to perform trick shots on unsuspecting pigs.

The game has 60 levels, with more content available through in-app purchases (only in the iOS version for now). The game includes hidden goodies and secret levels, and Rovio promises regular free updates for the future.

Owners of Apple’s new iPad will be glad to know that the game supports the new Retina display as well.

You can get the iPhone version here. The iPad version is available here, and the Android version is available over at Google Play.

Finally, the Mac version is available in the Mac App Store, while the PC version is available directly from Rovio.

More About: angry birds, angry birds space, trending

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How Technology is Helping Kony Victims in Uganda

Posted: 22 Mar 2012 02:33 AM PDT

tharce gulu uganda 600

If you watched the viral KONY 2012 documentary, it should come as no surprise that there are more people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in northern Uganda than anywhere else in the world.

One organization, THARCE-Gulu, is offering non-medical integrative therapy, notably filmmaking and computer education, to victims of Joseph Kony in northern Uganda.

The non-profit uses donated Flip cameras and editing software to teach video storytelling techniques. THARCE film students shoot and edit videos about the Gulu community, including one featuring the women of Gulu and another of a Bob Marley flash mob (both below).

“We have a motto here at THARCE, ‘Nothing about us, without us,’” THARCE supporter and actress Eliza Dushku (Bring It On, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse) told Mashable, explaining how storytelling through film can be therapeutic.

In addition to the film curriculum, THARCE teaches computer skills using 20 donated HP laptops Dushku delivered to Gulu with her boyfriend, actor and former NBA player Rick Fox.

One Gulu community member Dushku feels particularly close to, Rose, comes to the center to check her email, use Facebook and connect to a world she was previously cut off from. The 27-year-old mother of four was abducted as a child and assigned to Joseph Kony’s right-hand man.

“It’s a new shot at life for her and her kids,” Dushku says. “They’re so desperate for tech. I was the CES ambassador this year and I would say ‘I know it might sound insane, but send us your old products, you have no idea the effect it will have — they are so savvy and so desperate.”

Following KONY 2012′s rapid spread to become the most viral video ever, much attention has been drawn to the situation in northern Uganda. Despite criticisms of the documentary, Dushku says she quickly retweeted the link.

“When you first hear about the circumstances, you’re blown away thinking how this went on and how nobody talked about it,” she says, noting that KONY 2012 doesn’t best represent the current situation, because Kony may now be in the Congo or Sudan. “What’s far more pressing today, as far as what victims need now, is rehabilitation and rebuilding.”

Dushku says THARCE would love to collaborate with Invisible Children, the organization that created the film, because of their skill at generating buzz around the issue. One of the primary criticisms of Invisible Children has been its allocations of funds, very little of which go toward the people abducted by Kony.

“The focus now is seeing that the money goes to the people that the film was made about,” Dushku says, revealing a potential discrepancy between the two organization’s approaches.

SEE ALSO: KONY 2012 May Be Flawed, But Slacktivism Isn't the Enemy

Dushku’s mother Judith Dushku, an African politics professor, first visited the region three years ago while she was teaching a class about former child soldiers. She was so moved by the people of Gulu that she decided to work to expand THARCE and is now president of that non-profit organization. She soon got the younger Dushku on board, who has since raised $30,000 for her 30th birthday and $31,000 for her 31st birthday for THARCE.

In addition to computer and film courses, THARCE-Gulu (Trauma Healing and Reflection Center) teaches business, literacy, arts, storytelling and women’s empowerment courses.

Do you think connecting to modern technology is a good tool for healing? Share your reactions in the comments.

More About: developing countries, kony 2012, non-profits

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English Teacher Rethinks Grammar Lessons — With an App

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 09:23 PM PDT

In the last eight years, high school English teacher Jeff Scheur has graded 15,000 papers. He estimates that each time he collects a new round of essays from his 150 students, it takes him about 40 hours to read them, fill out grading rubrics and write personalized feedback. Meanwhile, he questions the impact of his efforts.

“Students get a paperback, and you want to follow up and track if they’re making progress,” he says. “But I realized there wasn’t a good feedback loop to make that happen.”

He decided to build one. Last month, he pushed the first version of a web app called NoRedInk that creates quizzes to teach grammar skills. Instead of just pointing out the grammatical mistake a student makes in papers over and over again, he now assigns him or her a specific skill quiz within the app. It’s not a multiple-choice quiz. Rather, students manipulate punctuation and change words themselves.

Teachers can view how all students in a class are progressing in NoRedInk through one dashboard. Without any sort of marketing push, Schuer says about 300 of them — most in the Chicago area, where he teaches — have signed up to use it in their classrooms.

One strength of the product is that it’s built from a teacher’s perspective. Schuer noticed, for instance, that students in his classroom pay more attention when sample sentences include popular characters (Mr. T was an early favorite). In the app, students can choose interests such as NBA or Superheroes that are then included in their practice problems.

“Teachers tend to be very student-centered thinkers,” Scheur says. “Being attuned to the needs of students every day, for ‘x’ hours a day, for a decade has given me a sense of what motivates them.”

Motivating students to learn grammar is particularly important. On average, last year’s graduating high school class scored lowest on the writing section of the SAT. The 49% of graduates who took the ACT’s four subject tests also scored lower on average in English than any other subject. A 2007 National Center for Education Statistics Assessment found that just 24% of 12th graders performed at or above a “proficient level.”

Scores on similar tests are used to rate overall school performance. As Sheur put it during a recent demonstration of the app at General Assembly in New York, “Schools in Chicago were shut down last year because students didn’t know how to use apostrophes.”

There’s a long way to go before NoRedInk for basic grammar is finished. The current design is basic and lessons are restricted to “Apostrophes,” “Subject/Verb Agreement” and “Commas, Fragments and Run-ons,” but eventually Schuer hopes to incorporate more complex writing skills such as quote usage and conclusion composition into the product.

“Learning any skill comes down to practice,” he says. “[Our textbooks say,] ‘here’s 10 sentences for practice,’ but what if that's not enough? What if a student needs 40? or 400? or 4,000?”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Hafizov

More About: education, noredink

What’s Working in Digital Non-Profit Fundraising [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 08:59 PM PDT

On April 5, M+R Strategic Services, a public relations and communications firm working with leading non-profits, and the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), a membership organization of non-profit professionals who use technology for their causes, will release their sixth annual eNonprofit Benchmarks Study of what is working today in online advocacy, fundraising and social networking.

The study is based on primary research with 44 participating non-profits, including the AARP, American Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, Planned Parenthood and the World Wildlife Fund. All of the non-profits covered fall under the categories of environmental, international, human rights, wildlife, animal welfare and other causes. The 2011 study can be downloaded here.

Cameron Lefevre, senior consultant at M+R Strategic Services and chief writer of the 2012 report, tells Mashable, “The findings have become a standard that a non-profit can look at to see if it was a good year for online fundraising and advocacy, whose Facebook following grew more (international or environmental organizations) and the most important question: How do its numbers compare to other non-profits?”

Here’s an exclusive, sneak-peek infographic from M+R and NTEN, which highlights certain findings of the 2012 study. Do you help support non-profits through email, social media or other digital channels? Let us know in the comments.

More About: crowdfunding, infographics, non-profits, Social Good

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Google Maps Posts New Images of Amazon [VIDEO]

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 08:51 PM PDT

Nothing seems out of reach for Google Maps. More than 50,000 images of the world’s largest tropical rainforest — more than a billion acres of lush jungle teeming with abundant animal life — is now available for anyone to view on Google Maps.

The photos went live Wednesday and were announced on Google’s Official Blog in honor of World Forest Day.

The images were taken in August by Google Street View and Outreach teams from the U.S. and Brazil. Google was invited by nonprofit conservation organization, Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS) to photograph the Rio Negro Reserve and numerous tributaries. The photos were “stitched” together to create 360-panoramic views of long stretches of river, vast forests and riverside villages extending from Tumbira near Manuas, the capital city of Amazonas, to Terra Preta. The Street View trike was peddled from dirt trails in the jungle into civilization, so no matter where you live, you can see what life is like in the Amazon.

It’s possible some new images could be added in the future; Google says it trained FAS employees on the image-capturing process and left equipment behind for the organization to use.

“By teaching locals how to operate these tools, they can continue sharing their points of view, culture and ways of life with audiences across the globe,” wrote Karin Tuxen-Bettman from Google Earth Outreach, and Karina Andrade from Google Street View in August on Google’s blog.

Considering how enormous the Amazon is, Google Maps only captured a small portion of the area. However, the particular area where they snapped photos is protected by the Brazilian government and the public is only allowed restricted access. Even if you’re an explorer, you may never have the same access to this section of the Amazon that Google’s Street View camera did.

Rather than looking down on a landscape like a typical map, Google’s Street View technology allows users to see what areas look like on the street level — or, in this case, river level.

What other areas of the globe or major landmarks would you like to see on Google Maps? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of Google Maps

More About: amazon, Google, Google Maps

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Apple Gives Siri Deeper Integration with Yelp [VIDEO]

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 08:39 PM PDT

Now when you’re looking for a great place to grab dinner, get your haircut, or find an awesome dog walker for your K9 companion, Siri can help – with ratings. With the launch of iOS 5.1 last week, Apple added deeper Yelp integration for the built-in personal assistant.

Yelp business information has been integrated into Siri’s search results since the launch of the iPhone 4S last year. So, if you asked Siri where the best place is to grab a cup of coffee, she would search through Yelp’s reviews to find the greatest cup of Joe near your currently location. Previously, clicking on a search result, however, would map out directions to a particular business rather than take you to its profile page so you’ll know how to get to that coffee but not much more about it.

Now when you search for a locksmith, ice cream parlor, or pizza joint, Siri will display the same search results from Yelp. However, tapping on a particular business will take you to that businesses’ profile page on Yelp so you can read more about it and decide if you really want to head that way — bridging the gap between finding out if a business exists and getting directions there.

Yelp and Google Maps are currently two of the few services that Siri uses to provide search results. Apple has not announced plans for when — or if — other developers will ever get a crack at Siri’s API.

Do any of you currently use Siri to find restaurants or other suggestions? Let us know what you think about Apple’s deeper Yelp integration in the comments.

More About: apple, Google Maps, siri, yelp

This Camera Can See Around Corners [VIDEO]

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 08:19 PM PDT

Scientists at MIT have created a camera that can capture images of objects hidden around corners.

The camera’s titanium sapphire laser bounces pulses from the camera. Because they move so fast, the pulses are able to bounce off any kind of surface, like a wall or floor — no mirrors required.

The result: light in motion at two trillion frames per second. The camera might have your DSLR beat, but it is still being tested and won’t be available for purchase just yet. In the future, MIT scientists say it could make it to market, but the camera still needs a full-fledged research laser to work.

SEE ALSO: Sony Unveils Alpha A57 Camera, the Quick-Draw DSLR

In December, MIT showed off a video of light traveling the length of a plastic bottle. The researchers have built on that technology to capture light bending around a corner.

MIT is calling the camera “the slowest fastest camera” because pictures take a long time to process, said Ramesh Raskar, associate professor at MIT Media Lab.

“How can I take a portable camera that has a tiny flash and create the illusion that I have all these umbrellas and sports lights and so on?” Raskar said in December. “With our ultrafast imaging … we can recreate a new photo by creating the illusion that the photons started somewhere else.”

Watch the video to see the spy camera in action.

Photo courtesy of MIT.

More About: camera, DSLR, mit, Video

Marquette and VCU Dominate Second Round March Madness Buzz

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 08:10 PM PDT

After a pair of thrilling second-round games, Marquette and Virginia Commonwealth University top Sunday’s mRank, Mashable‘s social media buzz-tracker for March Madness.

Both teams played frenetic, up-and-down games Saturday — with Marquette moving on to the Sweet 16 and VCU getting knocked out of the tournament — and the excitement had the web atwitter through Sunday, according to our mRank tracking system. Conversations across Twitter, Facebook and blogs are aggregated to produce mRank scores between one and 100 for each March Madness team each day of the tournament. Sunday’s rankings span late Saturday evening through Sunday evening.

Marquette shot to number 1 on the heels of its win over Murray State, while VCU — last year’s tournament darling and Final Four Cinderella — ranked 2 as people followed its last-second loss to Indiana.

Sunday’s top 10 was filled out by a mix of teams participating in second-round games that happened both Saturday and Sunday. Wisconsin and Florida State both came in behind VCU, while Florida finished fifth. Florida and Marquette face off Thursday in what promises to be a wild Sweet 16 match-up, so that game should generate loads of social buzz.

Indiana, the team that edged out VCU with a short jumper in the closing seconds, tied for tenth-place in our rankings.

Duke — a school much of the Internet loves to hate — finished just ahead of Indiana — notable because the Blue Devils actually bowed out on Friday with a huge first round upset loss to tiny Lehigh. Lehigh’s star C.J. McCollum couldn’t lift his squad past the second round, but did reap social media rewards of his own by gaining some 3,000 new Twitter followers since the tournament began.

Take a look at the Top 10 Below:

What teams got the most buzz in your social networks? Let us know in the comments.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, adamkaz

More About: march madness, mrank

First Live Daily Comedy Series to Premiere on YouTube

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 07:50 PM PDT

Online entertainment studio My Damn Channel is planning to launch the first live, daily comedy channel in partnership with YouTube next week. It’s part of the Google-owned video network’s initiative to build out its catalog of original, cable TV-like programming.

The channel, called “My Damn Channel Live,” will be hosted by writer and comedian Beth Hoyt (see above) every weekday at 4 p.m. ET. Half-hour shows will run on Wednesdays, accompanied by 10-minute “blasts” the other four days of the workweek, My Damn Channel CEO Rob Barnett tells Mashable.

The format will follow the style of late-night talk shows, featuring a range of interviews with celebrity guests and premieres of videos from My Damn Channel’s other comedy series. Where the channel will differ is in its interactions with the audience: Comments left by viewers on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter will be tied into the content of the show.

“The single most important element of any live show is the audience,” says Barnett. “So we’ll have someone dedicated to monitoring all the social feeds, and the host and guests will be interacting with the audience live. We’re also going to create contests for people to engage with the show and win access to private events,” he adds.

As GigaOm points out, live, original programming is still a challenge for YouTube — and all web publishers, for that matter. The average American sits in front of a television set for more than five hours per day, but spends a mere nine minutes watching video from his or her desktop, according to Nielsen. YouTube, meanwhile, says the average visitor spends 15 to 25 minutes on the network each day. By prompting viewers to tune in for 10 to 30 minutes every afternoon, My Damn Channel and YouTube are attempting to alter the way audiences approach the network.

The last live comedy series hosted on YouTube was done as part of an advertising package with HP. Hewlett-Packard sponsored a week-long program during which actors from the Upright Citizens Bridgade Theater took skit ideas from the audience and performed them live on Google's video-sharing site. Viewers were invited to send in ideas for skits by emailing their submissions to one of HP’s Internet-connected ePrint printers positioned on the stage.

This time, YouTube will be footing the bill. The site has allegedly invested $100 million in its premium content program for the year.

More About: comedy, my damn channel, YouTube

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Google Docs Improves Spell-Checker

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 07:44 PM PDT

Google Docs updated its spell-checker today and it didn’t use a old-fashioned dictionary to do it.

Instead, Google Docs will use the web. Documents will be checked for spelling errors and words that are contextually misused such as “see” and “sea” or the all-too-commonly missed “you’re” and “your.” Google Docs will now underline misused words in red.

These improvements help Google Docs, which is free, inch closer to Microsoft Office.

“The neat thing about that system is that it's adaptive: our suggestions get smarter and smarter based on the words Googlebot sees as it explores the web,” Yew Jin Lim, a Google Software Engineer, said on the Google Docs blog.

SEE ALSO: Google Docs for Android Update Lets You Edit on the Go

Not only will Google Docs save your presentation from embarrassing grammar errors, it will also recognize new words relevant to pop culture and slang talk. Web crawling allows Google to search for words that may not be in the traditional dictionary.

“Suggestions are constantly evolving. As Google crawls the web, we see new words, and if those new words become popular enough they'll automatically be included in our spell checker — even pop culture terms, like Skrillex,” he said.

The new spell-checker is available in English for documents and presentations. Google will soon roll out a spell-checker update for other languages.

What do you think of the updates? Test it out and let us know if you find words Googlebot may be failing to identify as popular. Tell us in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, JamesBrey

More About: Google, google docs, spelling

Mobile Game Rewards Library Check-ins With Epic Swords

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 07:33 PM PDT

God of Blades Title Screen

The upcoming iOS title God of Blades asks players to venture to their local libraries to unlock better items in the game.

God of Blades, which is coming to all iOS devices later this year, is a side-scrolling action game set in a fantasy world. Your character, known as The Nameless King, moves across the world as a spirit, vanquishing enemies with his collection of awesome swords.

But it’s much more than just a hack-and-slash, say the creators at White Whale Games. The small studio in Austin, TX is spending time to lovingly craft this passion project. The whole theme of the game is literary. The side-scrolling levels are meant to resemble Japanese scrolls and the nameless spectre gathers swords from many lost tales to complete his battles.

It’s also this literary theme that inspired White Whale to incorporate check-ins. Using Foursquare’s API, anyone who checks in at a library will be rewarded with one of several ultra-powerful swords.

“We just wanted to encourage people to go out there and enjoy the adventure that is life,” co-founder and lead designer George Royer said.

Royer intends to bring a deeper level to a game that is already about stories and memories. A portion of the game revolves around a fictional literary canon — a series of “lost” pulp novels from the 1940s to the ’70s. The covers of the novels, which all say they are from the “God of Blades Universe,” are being designed by Jason Rosenstock, White Whale’s creative director.

“We took a lot of inspiration from the pulp novels of the time, and have gotten a great response from people,” Rosenstock said.

Rosenstock is also drawing intricate backgrounds for all the levels reminiscent of another lost medium: the moving panaroma of the 18th and 19th centuries. These kilometer-long paintings were rolled up slowly to give the illusion of movement and action. Rosenstock said he is using art techniques hardly touched by digital, including practical effect, which is pressing paint between two panes of glass to get vibrant hues and color patterns.

White Whale said the game will be released for iOS and PC later this year. Check out some of the scenes from the game, as well as the covers of the above-mentioned novels, in the gallery below.

What do you think of check-ins incorporated into games? Let us know in the comments.

God of Blades

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Entertainment, features, Gaming, iOS games, Mobile

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Startup-Focused JOBS Act Heads for a Final Vote

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 07:21 PM PDT

The Senate is moving forward on the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, a bill first introduced by House Republicans to spark investments in startups.

The bill moved through a procedural process in the Senate on a 76-22 vote on Wednesday. That clears the way for a final vote as early as Wednesday afternoon.

If passed as written in the House, the JOBS Act would create a new class of “emerging growth companies” that would be allowed to engage in online crowdfunding, similar to the way non-profits use Kickstarter to raise funds. The House bill allows startups to raise up to $1 million from an unlimited number of investors through crowdfunding.

Before a final vote on the JOBS Act, the Senate still needs to vote on two other amendments to the JOBS Act — one of which would restrict startups’ crowdfunding efforts. That amendment, introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), would require startups to deliver financial reports to crowdfunding investors.

Should either of the two amendments pass, the Senate and the House will need to work out the differences between their two bills before the JOBS Act can be signed into law.

Those in favor of the bill argue that it would provide a much-needed boost to the economy by getting small startup companies off the ground and hiring new employees.

“The JOBS Act gives small businesses the tools they need to expand and create jobs,” says Rep. McHenry (R-N.C.), a contributor to the #FixYoungAmerica entrepreneurship campaign. “Reducing red tape and helping entrepreneurs is more important than partisan politics. Economists predict the legislation will lead to a ten percent increase in new business startups, helping to create at least 170,000 jobs in the next five years.”

Although the JOBS Act was introduced to the Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Republican-backed bill has met fierce opposition from some Democratic members of the chamber. Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) argued the bill goes too far in deregulating investments and compared it to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act, which some believe led to the 2007 Wall Street collapse.

Other opponents argued that the bill exposes investors to excessive risk. On Tuesday, the bill escaped an amendment introduced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), which would have removed relaxations on small business’ ability to raise capital. Reed said his amendment would help entrepreneurs, but do so “in a way that protects investors.”

President Obama has said he supports the JOBS Act, and he’s expected to sign it if it reaches his desk.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, franckreporter

More About: congress, jobs act, Politics, Small Business, Startups, US

Legal Blogging: How to Craft the Right Strategy

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 07:16 PM PDT

Gavel and Laptop

Kevin O'Keefe is CEO and publisher of LexBlog, the leading provider of professional turnkey blog and social media solutions. The LexBlog Network (LXBN), with over 7,000 lawyers and other service professionals, is the largest network of professionals blogging.

For the better part of a decade, law firms have successfully used blogs to bring in high-quality work. Now, there is new industry research that measures the impact of blogs as business development tools.

A recent survey by communications firm Greentarget measured how in-house counsel use and perceive blogs. The findings have raised some eyebrows:

  • In-house attorneys exhibit widespread trust (84%) in blogs.
  • They read attorney-authored or firm-branded blogs more often than they read blogs written by actual journalists.
  • More than half of respondents said they think a prominent blog will influence clients to hire one firm over another.
  • While daily blog readership dropped 10% from 2010, weekly and monthly readership more than made up for it, shedding new light on the quality versus quantity debate.

Decision makers are relying on blogs for critical business information and in deciding which law firm to hire.

Law firms, in turn, are increasing the number of blogs they publish. Recent analysis found that 68 of the top 100 firms are publishing a total of 272 blogs. This is up from 156 blogs in 2010 — a 74% increase.

Given the increase in the number of law blogs, the question becomes, what makes one blog successful and one not? The answer is developing a strategy based on engagement.

Relationships and a strong word-of-mouth reputation are how lawyers have always found their best work — the Internet doesn’t change that. It is a relationship and reputation accelerator.

Outline for a Winning Strategy

  1. Identify the type of work and clients you want. The top blogs focus on specific practice areas and vertical industries, not firm brands.
  2. Identify your target audience. While clients and prospective clients are important, influencers and amplifiers are more important. Engaging reporters, association leaders, publishers, conference coordinators and leading bloggers gets you seen and referenced as a thought leader.
  3. Listen. Listening to what is being written and shared on the Internet is more important than content. The quickest way to earn someone's attention is by listening to and sharing what they have to say.
  4. Network. Blogging is all about networking, not marketing. Be it interviews, quoting the work of others or even comments, use the blog as a way to introduce yourself to new people.
  5. Invest the time. Like any business development effort, blogging takes time. Unlike advertising, for which people expect immediate results, networking through the Internet to build relationships and a strong reputation can take a year or two — though, that's faster than doing so offline.
  6. Complement blogging with short-form social media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and even a website are all roads leading to a lawyer’s true identity: his or her blog.

Lawyer Role Models

Looking to other lawyers who've experienced business development success is a good place to start. Relationships and engagement are the keys to a blog's success, per New York attorney Peter Mahler of Farrell Fritz, who publishes a blog covering business dissolution matters titled New York Business Divorce.

“My blog has not only been a powerful business generation tool for a niche practice like mine, but it has also opened the door to a host of professionally rewarding relationships with other lawyers, law professors, judges and experts. My blog's success comes from consistently posting about interesting topics in an engaging style that tells the reader not only what happened in this or that case, but why it happened, how it fits into the bigger picture and what the reader’s takeaway should be, all of which allows me to demonstrate my expertise as a business divorce lawyer.”

In addition to making his legal practice more fulfilling, Chicago attorney R. David Donoghue of Holland and Knight, publisher of both the Chicago IP Litigation Blog and the Retail Patent Litigation blogs, reports that his blogs have been a powerful source of both reputation and business generation. "While it took time for my blogs to begin generating business, over time they have helped generate significant patent litigation matters," he says.

Execution of Your Blogging Strategy

Like any business development effort, execution is key. Some law firms will have individual lawyers blogging, while other law firms will blog by practice group or industry.

Philadelphia attorney Sean Wajert publishes his own blog, Mass Tort Defense, regarding defense of mass tort cases and large scale product liability claims. At the same time, Wajert is chair of the mass torts and product liability practice group for Dechert, an 800-lawyer multinational law firm.

The Privacy Law Blog, published by the Privacy and Data Security Group of Proskauer, another global law firm, has 16 lawyers contributing as writers with one lawyer serving as editor.

Though quality over quantity is key, good law blogs publish two to four times a month, with many choosing to publish more often.

Developing a social media policy which complements the firm's existing communication policy helps guide lawyers on issues such as taking a strong position on a law blog and conflicts of interest.

The blogs that in-house counsel want to read give them information and insights they can't get elsewhere. In revealing that in-house counsel read firm-branded blogs more often than blogs by professional reporters, the Greentarget survey respondents signal an important trend: They see value in going directly to unfiltered sources of information from true subject matter experts. Journalists are no longer the primary conduits to a mass audience. Self-publishing means attorneys can go there directly.

Even with a strategy in place, attorneys want to see the blog's impact, that it isn't falling on deaf ears. Greentarget's report indicates that may not be the easiest thing to do, but it's still happening.

Is it Resonating?

The Greentaret survey touched on an interesting "invisible user" phenomenon. The research reflects that 68% of respondents use social media to "listen" exclusively. So, if a blog isn't generating comments or tweets aren't being retweeted, that does not mean in-house counsel aren't depending on these platforms for information and hiring decisions. Social listening campaigns to measure the effectiveness of a blog's content strategy — compelling metrics for consumer-oriented blogs — don't necessarily apply to the in-house legal community.

Lawyers and firms need to focus on the right set of measurable objectives when it comes to blogging.

Rather than focusing on data-based metrics, a mistake that many law firms make, the real ROI for blogging and social media activity should be measured in the following ways:

  1. Is your reputation being enhanced?
  2. Is your network of relationships growing?
  3. Are you establishing yourself as a subject matter expert?
  4. Are you getting not just clients, but high-quality clients?

Law firms have access to valuable information and perspective and should view blogs as a way to leverage this information to build and deepen relationships with clients and allied organizations.

Lawyers and firms are arguably in the greatest of positions to self-publish and produce compelling content because they are at the intellectual apex of most legal, regulatory and economic developments impacting business worldwide.

In capitalizing on this, lawyers and law firms have the potential to bring in high quality work with a level of efficiency and interpersonal engagement they have never experienced before.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, shironosov

More About: blogging, contributor, features, law, law firm, Marketing

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France Shooting Suspect Tracked Down Through IP Address

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 07:06 PM PDT

france shooting

French police have tracked down the “scooter shooter,” who allegedly murdered seven people in a two-week killing spree in the name of al Qaeda, through an IP address.

Mohamed Merah, 24, is suspected of shooting three children and a rabbi Monday in the southwestern city of Toulouse at a Jewish school. He also shot three French soldiers of north African descent in two separate events on March 11 and 15.

According to Reuters, he was tracked down with the IP address he used to contact the first soldier he shot, saying he was interested in buying his motorcycle. His mother’s IP address, which he has been using, was already being monitored by French authorities because of his alleged radical Islamist beliefs.

Three hundred police officers are currently surrounding the four-story building in a Toulouse suburb, where his IP address was tracked. The latest reports from The Telegraph say three explosions were heard from the building.

“We knew, and that is why he was under surveillance,” Claude Gueant, France’s interior minister told the press. “There was no evidence that he was planning criminal actions.”

The police were also tipped by a scooter repair shop in Toulouse, where the alleged shooter asked for a color change to his Yamaha scooter and for the GPS device to be removed, Reuters reports.

Merah, a French citizen of Algerian decent, said his crimes were to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and because of the French Army’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

Afghan authorities said Merah, who has traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was arrested for making bombs in Kandahar in 2007, though he escaped months later in a Taliban prison break.

More About: al qaeda, crime, france, IP addresses

How Our 5 Challengers Are Surviving Without Social Media

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 06:51 PM PDT

Could you disconnect from social media for two weeks?

We asked Mashable readers to tell us why they would want to do just that, and after reviewing the answers we received, we chose five brave individuals to partake in the challenge. It's been one week since those individuals temporarily severed all social media ties, so we contacted them via email to see how they are dealing with the disconnect.

So far, their experiences have generally been positive. However, there have been a few things that make life without social media difficult. Here are some of the recurring themes the came up in their responses.

Communication Has Become More Personal

Multiple participants mentioned that they’re having more one-on-one conversations with friends and family, through texts and phone calls. Andrea says, "I have some friends who have already emailed me or started texting me directly for interaction. Which I’m finding is nicer. It’s a more personal connection, which is something we should strive for with people we are friends with."

One of our challenge participants even had a birthday celebration this past week. While he received more text and phones calls from friends and family, Javier says he probably missed out on at least 80% of his birthday wishes because he was not able to log on to Facebook. He added that it was a bit awkward to receive phone calls from people he normally only interacted with on Facebook or Twitter.

Missing Status Updates

Participants also reported that they missed not being able to post status updates, share photos or post to their blogs. Andrea wrote that she was at a Radiohead concert this past weekend, but wasn’t able upload a photo that she was especially proud of. Vincent also lamented being unable to check in when he was flying across the country this past week — looks like he missed out on valuable Foursquare points.

Social Media Is Everywhere

The disconnect challenge has made participants realize just how much social media is integrated into almost everything online. Jaime writes, "I’m struck by how much social media permeates almost everything I do online." When she went to read an article on a news site, she noticed that there were comments and share links for every article she read.

Will People Forget About Me?

Not using social media has made communication more personal, but many challenge participants reported the fear that their acquaintances and contacts would forget about them. Natalia even worried that readers of her blog would stop following because she wouldn’t be posting content for two weeks. She says, "It's quite crazy how you can 'exist' without actually seeing people in person. It's like social media created a space between reality and fiction."

Vincent describes his experience with the challenge so far. "I think it’s a pretty exciting feeling right now, knowing that no one knows where I am or what I’m doing,” he says. I feel like I have much more privacy and freedom than before. I would almost recommend that everyone try this at some point."

It's only been a week into the challenge, and the participants have another week to go. We are interested to see how the habits of the participants change, or don't change. Will their views on the use of social media in their everyday lives change? Check back next week for another recap of the challenge participants experiences.

Do you have any predictions for our challenge participants next week?

1. Javier Tuiran

Javier is a young digital journalist and community manager, among other things. He wants to disconnect for two weeks to discover how he'll share his ideas and opinions with out social media. Javier's Facebook Profile Javier's Twitter Profile

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: challenge, community, Facebook, Social Media, Twitter, YouTube

Zynga’s Purchase of Draw Something: ‘It’s Going To Be Drawsome’

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 06:38 PM PDT

Social game giant Zynga purchased mobile drawing game sensation Draw Something creator OMGPOP Wednesday for a rumored $210 million in cash and employee retention payments.

The popular game has been downloaded over 30 million times since its launch 6 weeks ago, with more than 1 billion drawings being created in the process. It’s easy to see why Zynga, which is in the social gaming business itself, might want to purchase the company and its engaged customer base, hoping to bring those same players into other Zynga games in the future

Now that the Pictionary-style game is under Zynga’s umbrella, however, what’s that going to mean for the world’s most popular word game?

"The game is a huge monster. People love the game — we’re just going to support the game," Zynga CMO David Ko told Mashable.

Now that the game is part of Zynga, the company plans to let things continue to run as they have been, except now under the Zynga umbrella. Rather than simply putting a Zynga label on the game, it plans to help the existing developers improve performance issues within Draw Something, find new developers to work on the game, and help the existing OMGPOP staff plan new games for the future.

OMGPOP was made up of a fairly small staff of people. "There are more features people want in the game, and there’s no way we could scale enough people fast enough," said OMGPOP CEO Dan Porter. "The game is so large that you need a really big scale." OMGPOP hopes that the Zynga acquisition will help give it some of the resources it needs to add those features quickly.

“Chat is a big part of the plan, but tricky because you don't want to break the guessing cycle of the game,” says Porter. The company is looking to add a chat feature that appears after you’ve finished guessing a photo where you could commend or condemn your opponents artistic abilities.

Sharing is also part of the plan. Currently there is no way for users to save drawings they create or receive during the game other than creating screenshots on their devices. Porter says that the company is close to being able to integrate in a sharing feature in the game where drawings can be saved and shared with friends online.

Early on OMGPOP realized that words were a huge component in the game, and the company recently added the ability to add words on-the-fly to the game, a feature absent in its original release. Now words within the game can be changed to topics that are currently in the news. For instance, when the Hunger Games debuts later this week there will be 10 new words in the game related to the movie.

"Just like Draw Something is a cooperative game where two players work together and have a lot of fun, we hope to replicate that same feeling with OMGPOP and Zynga," said Porter in a post on Zynga’s website. Plans for the future also involve creating more cooperative games like Draw Something where players work together rather than against each other and there is no “winner” or “loser.”

“It’s going to be drawsome.”

More About: Facebook, omgpop, Zynga

Netflix: HD on iPad is ‘On Our Roadmap,’ Not Here Yet

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 06:29 PM PDT

New iPad owners who are also Netflix subscribers — and we’re guessing there’s a lot of overlap there — may have been excited to see an update to the Netflix iPad app pop up in the App Store on Wednesday. Could this be the beginning of the HD video revolution on the “resolutionary” tablet?

Unfortunately not. The app does add Retina display support for menus and movie thumbnails, which look gorgeous on the new iPad. But all Netflix movies and TV shows on the iPad app are still streamed in standard definition.

“The video is not in HD yet,” confirms Joris Evers, Director of Corporate Communications at Netflix. “That is on our roadmap, but I can't share timing at this point.”

Netflix is already streaming 1080p HD video to the new Apple TV, so we’re hoping that update won’t be long in coming. Rival iPad app Hulu Plus is also still streaming in standard definition, as is HBO Go.

Indeed, just about the only place you can feast your eyes on streaming HD video for the new iPad is the updated ABC app. So if you want to watch Castle, Cougartown or Dancing With the Stars in top-notch pixel-perfect quality, you’re in luck.

We’re not exactly sure what the holdup is with the other apps, but it could have something to do with the enormous cost of serving all that heavy-bandwidth HD video at massive scale.

Is HD video important enough to make you buy a new iPad? What app are you waiting to see an update from? Let us know in the comments.

More About: HBO GO, hulu, netflix

Trade Wanted: Mansion For $29 Million In Facebook Stock

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 06:00 PM PDT

Calling all Facebook stock owners: This luxurious mansion in Los Gatos, Calif. could be yours. All you have to do is hand over $29 million in Facebook stock to homeowner Ken Raasch.

Silicon Valley businessman Ken Raasch and his wife Linda want to trade their lavish 11.5-acre estate, dubbed Forrester, for a chunk of Facebook shares. The house was built in 1989 and Raasch purchased it in 1997. The 10,000-square-foot house has six bedrooms, five baths and a separate cottage.

A virtual tour on (and above) showcases its cream-of-the-crop details: A fresco on the ceiling of the mansion was created by the same artist who restored the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; a pink marble fireplace mantle imported from Italy; a grand staircase with an intricately carved wood banister.

It’s not clear why Raasch thinks it would be a wise deal for a Facebook shareholder to trade $29 million in pre-IPO stock for a mansion valued at $4.7 million in 2011, according to the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal. Since nothing in the stock market is a sure bet, perhaps Raasch suspects someone holding Facebook shares might be willing to take a chance to unload a potentially explosive stock for a chance to own a home — and a grand one at that. Mashable called Raasch and his real-estate representatives for comments and are waiting for a response.

The San Jose Mercury reports Raasch was once the partner of artist Thomas Kinkade and left in 2000 to start his own company called Creative Brands Group.

Rumors of Facebook’s IPO swirled last year and led up to an official announcement of the Facebook stock offering on Feb. 1. As many as 1,000 Facebook employees who were given pre-IPO stock options stand to be millionaires many times over. The Facebook stock is still private, and since its Feb. 1 announcement there have been hundreds of articles about how the stock could affect shareholders, the economy or be simply irrelevant.

What do you think about Raasch’s offer? Sound off in the comments.

More About: Facebook, facebook ipo, Facebook stock

Twitter Rewind: Big Highlights From 2012 to 2006

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 05:29 PM PDT

Twitter History

Six-year-old Twitter is a remarkably different animal than it was when co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the service’s first tweet in March 2006: “just setting up my twttr,” he wrote.

A minuscule user base grew into today’s 140 million-strong active tweeters, who at last count send more than 1 billion tweets every three days.

To keep the social media powerhouse intact as more people, celebrities and world leaders find their roles in the birdcage, Twitter has evolved its aesthetics, functionality and business model. Below, we gathered the best moments in Twitter's eventful existence to help you reminisce.

Six Years of Twitter Flashbacks

March 2012: Twitter turns 6, Dorsey tweets impressive stats and high-profile users wish the company well.

Twitter also injects more ads, a primary revenue generator, into its mobile products.

February 2012: Twitter experiences massive simultaneous-tweeting from users as records for top tweets-per-second moments continue to be broken. Two Super Bowl moments this month slip into the number 2 and 3 slots. Twitter reaction reaches 12,233 tweets per second (TPS) at the end of the Giants vs. Patriots game and 10,245 TPS during Madonna's halftime performance. Last year’s most-tweeted moment at the Super Bowl hit 4,064 TPS.

1. Castle in the Sky on TV

Anime movie Laputa: Castle in the Sky was televised in Japan on Dec. 9, 2011. The movie was made in 1989 by famed director Hayou Miyazaki, who also directed Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke.

During one point in televised broadcast in 2011, viewers joined forces, sending tweets at the same time to symbolically help the movie's characters cast a spell.

Data compiled by Brian Anthony Hernandez; gallery created by Chelsea Stark.

Image courtesy of che_fox, Flickr.

Click here to view this gallery.

January 2012: Research aggregator eMarketer estimates Twitter generated $139.5 million in ad sales in 2011.

December 2011: Twitter unveils a major redesign and way for content creators to embed tweets.

October 2011: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomes Twitter’s new NYC office, joining Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey at the office space at 340 Madison Ave. Dorsey says NYC has the most users out of any other city in the world. Twitter launches an advertising blog and Twitter feed.

September 2011: Twitter hits 100 million active users, who help send roughly a billion tweets every five days and 230 million tweets every day. Those users get a spiffy toy mid-month: Twitter Web Analytics to help website owners gauge the impact of tweets. Twitter, which up until this month supported 12 languages, rolls out its service to five more, including Hindi, Tagalog, Malay and simplified and traditional Chinese.

August 2011: Twitter adds an Activity stream to give users more insight on how their tweets are doing and what the accounts they’re following are doing.

July 2011: U.S. President Barack Obama holds the first Twitter Town Hall to answer users’ questions about jobs and the economy. Reports pin Twitter’s valuation at as much as $7 billion, up from $3.7 billion in December 2010.

June 2011: Twitter brings native multimedia sharing to users, which directly connected photos and videos to tweets. But Twitter didn’t stop there, integrating several new social tools including Amazon, AOL Video, Foursquare, Plancast and Gowalla. By month’s end, users were dispersing more than 200 million tweets per day. Twitter becomes the default social graph and network on iOS devices when Apple builds Twitter into iOS 5. Twitter for Journalists also rolls out.

May 2011: Twitter use ramps up on May 1 with speculation and subsequent confirmation of terrorist Osama bin Laden’s death. At one point that night, Twitter records 5,106 tweets per second, which is the third-highest tweets-per-second tally, behind numbers registered during New Year’s Eve 2011 in Japan and the destructive tsunami there in March. Twitter acquires TweetDeck after months of speculation. Twitter ends the month by unleashing the Follow button that people and brands could put on their websites.

April 2011: Twitter introduces a new version of its homepage with a sleeker design and revamped pitch to potential users; expands its Local Trends feature to 70 more cities and countries; and updates its search tool to make it easier to find new people to follow. Talks about Twitter’s future intensify as CNN reported UberMedia — the company behind UberSocial, Echofon and Twidroyd — is “outlining plans” to develop a Twitter-like competitor.

February 2011: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak steps down amid a groundbreaking digital revolution in which Twitter played a much-debated role. Users, among other methods, put hashtags #Jan25 and #Egypt in their tweets. Rumors swirl about whether Google or Facebook will buy Twitter for as much as $10 billion.

March 2011: Twitter turns 5 and sees the return of Twitter inventor and co-founder Dorsey, who officially comes back to the company as executive chairman. Also, Sharespost values Twitter at $7.7 billion.

January 2011: eMarketer predicts Twitter will triple its advertising revenue to $150 million in 2011. Twitter users in Japan set a new record for tweets per second — almost 7,000 — in the moments just after the country entered the year 2011. Twitter put together this cool map visualization that shows activity spreading west, from time zone to time zone, as each new region welcomes the new year.

October 2010: Twitter co-founder Williams steps down as CEO, handing the title over to COO Dick Costolo.

September 2010: Twitter begins rolling out the new web interface, adding new ways to embed multimedia into the stream (see video below). Twitter changes the default avatar picture to a drawing of an egg.

August 2010: Twitter launches the "Tweet Button," an official option for web publishers to count retweets and let their readers easily share content (see video below). Twitter surpasses MySpace in number of unique monthly visitors. Between August 2009 and August 2010, Twitter grew 76% to 96 million unique visitors, while MySpace dropped 17% to 94 million.

July 2010: Twitter search results begin showing people, too. Furthermore, Twitter starts offering personalized suggestions of users to follow with a feature called “Suggestions for You.”

June 2010: Twitter users set a new record for tweets per second — 3,085 — during Game 7 of the NBA playoffs between the L.A. Lakers and the Boston Celtics. That record was short-lived though, as users broke it later in the month with 3,283 tweets per second at the end of the World Cup match between Japan and Denmark. Twitter rolls out new ads in trending topics section.

April 2010: Twitter's advertising platform, Promoted Tweets, goes live (see video below).

March 2010: Twitter turns 4.

February 2010: Users start clocking in more than 50 million tweets per day.

January 2010: NASA astronaut T. J. Creamer sends the first unassisted tweet from space aboard the International Space Station.

October 2009: Twitter passes the 5 billion tweet mark.

September 2009: Twitter changes default avatar to a picture of a bird.

July 2009: Twitter earns spot in Collins English Dictionary as a noun and a verb.

June 2009: AP Stylebook adds Twitter terms, and concerns over Twitter’s flatlining growth emerge.

March 2009: Twitter turns 3 on the heels of a Nielsen Online report indicating Twitter grew 1,382% year-over-year.

November 2008: Twitter passes 1 billion tweet mark.

October 2008: Dorsey steps down as CEO to assume a less-intensive role as chairman of the board; co-founder Evan Williams replaces Dorsey.

April 2008: The Twitter service becomes its own company.

March 2008: Twitter turns 2.

July 2006: The microblogging service officially launches to the public on July 15. Later this month, co-founder Biz Stone explains what Twitter is in a hilarious video on YouTube.

March 2006: Jack Dorsey creates Twitter. On March 21, he publishes the first tweet ever, which says, "just setting up my twttr."

More About: dick costolo, evan williams, history, jack dorsey, List, Social Media, Twitter

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Spotify Expands App Platform

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 05:05 PM PDT

Music subscription service Spotify is preparing to roll out a brand new batch of music apps for its desktop player.

While the first batch of apps focused on music startups and aggregators, many of the newest apps are powered by the record labels and distributors — including Sony, EMI, Warner, Def Jam, Matador and Domino.

Just as with the original batch of Spotify apps, the focus is on helping users discover and get the most out of Spotify. In our past conversations with Spotify, the company has pointed to its app platform as a way to address one of the biggest problems many subscription services face: How do I decide what to listen to?

The new range of apps, which will launch tomorrow include:

  • Classify — This app focuses on classical music and makes it easy for users to browse by composer, era, mood, instrument and genre.
  • The Complete Collection — Allows users to browse liner notes and booklets while listening to artists. 150 booklets will be available at launch with more coming soon
  • Filtr — Lets users build playlists based on the musical tastes of their Facebook friends
  • TweetVine — Monitors the #NowPlaying hashtag on Twitter and creates Spotify charts with the results
  • Hot or Not — It’s battle of the song — and users can choose what song is more popular, or what song should be.
  • The Legacy Of — Combines acclaimed artists with hi-res photos, biographies and curated playlists. It includes catalogs from Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Hall & Oates and more.

Additionally, the following labels are releasing their own apps:

  • the warner sound — Features albums, songs and playlists from Warner Music Group’s roster — as well as genre-specific playlists, album of the day and artist-curated playlists
  • Matador — Gives users access to new releases, tour dates and playlists for Matador artists, as well as an interactive history of the label going back to its founding in 1992.
  • Def Jam — The Def Jam app features a mix of curated playlists from across the labels 26-year history.
  • Domino — This app is intended to highlight music from Domino artists and the broader indie music community as a whole.
  • [PIAS] — Features new curated playlists from the [PIAS] label, updated on a weekly basis

Already, Spotify apps are off to a great start. In March, Spotify announced that users had already spent a total of 1500 years in apps since their official debut.

And, apps such as Soundrop [Spotify link], are becoming platforms and ecosystems in their own right.

With the label support behind its latest round of apps, Spotify is proving it has what it takes to build a social platform around music. In the crowded space of music subscription services, that might be enough to edge out its competitors.

What do you think of Spotify apps? Do any of the upcoming additions make you more likely to use the service? Let us know.

More About: spotify, Spotify apps, subscription music

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Facebook Now Suggests Friends to Add to Acquaintance List

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 04:27 PM PDT

Facebook - 600

Tired of seeing posts from certain Facebook friends, but don’t have the time or heart to add them to your Acquaintance list?

Facebook unveiled a new suggestion tool on Wednesday that helps clean up your News Feed by suggesting which friends you may want to see fewer updates from.

The site will suggest adding some friends to your Acquaintance list to get fewer updates from them in your News Feed, based on how often you interact with certain users on Facebook. By adding them to the list, you will “see them less in News Feed but nothing else will change,” Facebook said in a blog post.

SEE ALSO: How to Fill Out Facebook Timeline Without Annoying Your Friends

“When you add friends to your Acquaintances list they won't be unfriended or notified,” Facebook said. “You'll just see fewer of their posts in news feed.”

Meanwhile, those labeled as “Close Friends” will largely populate the News Feed with status updates. Facebook added the "Close Friends" and "Acquaintances" options in September 2011 to help users better customize their News Feed.

To access the tool, visit your Friends page and click the Acquaintances list. Then access See All Suggestions to customize your News Feed.

What do you think of this new feature? What other tools do you wish Facebook would implement to help clean up your News Feed? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Facebook, Social Media, trending

Romney Advisor’s ‘Etch A Sketch’ Comment Shakes Up The Web [VIDEO]

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 04:07 PM PDT

An “Etch A Sketch” Romney campaign gaffe is spreading around the political web like wildfire.

Eric Fehrnstrom, one of Mitt Romney’s senior advisors, told CNN’s “Starting Point” Wednesday morning that winning the Republican primary would allow his campaign to “hit a reset button.” But then came the quote that’s gone viral:

“Everything changes. It’s like Etch A Sketch,” he said. “You can shake it up and we start all over again.”

Political commentators seized on the quote, suggesting that it shows Romney’s plan to present himself as a more moderate Republican after he locks up the nomination. Within moments, the political twittersphere lit up with the “Etch A Sketch” comment. It soon achieved trending status in Washington, D.C. and then around the world.

It didn’t take long for Romney’s rivals to attack him for Fehrnstrom’s comments. Rick Santorum brought out an Etch A Sketch at a campaign event to assail Romney’s status as a true conservative:

And Democrats pounded away at Romney, too, who at the moment stands the best chance of becoming the Republican’s nominee for president. Within hours, they produced a 48-second YouTube clip entitled “Mitt Romney: Some Things You Can’t Shake Off.”

At a campaign event, Romney was forced to defend the Etch A Sketch comments:

Even the Ohio Arts Company, which produces the Etch A Sketch, got in on the trending action. In a statement, the company took pride in the way its product was “shaking up the national debate.”

Do you think the comment will do damage to the Romney campaign, or is it a fleeting moment we’ll all forget by next week? Sound off in the comments below.

More About: 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney, Politics, US

Timsanity! Tebow Joins Lin in NYC; Can Internet Handle it? [UPDATED]

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 03:42 PM PDT

1. @awfulannouncing

The Twitter account @awfulannouncing puts things in nice perspective.

Click here to view this gallery.

Former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will be traded to the New York Jets according to reports, after the Broncos signed quarterbacking legend Peyton Manning. The trade has apparently hit a snag and become less certain, but if Tebow does indeed land in New York, an interesting question arises: Can the Internet survive?

UPDATE: Fox Sports reported the trade was completed Wednesday evening and Tebow is officially headed to NYC.

New York, of course, is the town that originated Linsanity, the hysteria surrounding Knicks guard and inspirational career underdog Jeremy Lin. #Linsanity and Lin’s name trended on Twitter and the Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo regularly during February as the point guard’s Internet following grew exponentially and he spawned numerous memes. The “Tebowing” craze dominated the web last fall.

Joining Tebow and Lin in the world’s media capital would combine two of sports history’s most viral meme machines, possibly putting unbearable strain on the Internet’s cultural weight-carrying capabilities.

In fact, there are already signs of the pair’s potent potential after Wednesday’s “Tebow to Jets” news. The newly-invented hashtag #Timsanity trended worldwide Wednesday. Celebrities and fans alike used the hashtag to express their opinions (see gallery above).

But there were also some high-profile examples from the NFL of what not to do on Twitter. Check out this tweet from Tebow’s potential Jets teammate Antonio Cromartie:

Not exactly a warm welcome. Now check out this tweet from the Washington Redskins‘ official account:

When Tebow surged to prominence last fall, the campy Internet meme known as Tebowing — getting down on one knee to strike a prayerful pose in random situations — blew up with him. Over the course of several weeks, the site received tens of thousands of submissions as celebrities, players and fans all joined the fun. Jared Kleinstein, the 24-year-old Broncos fan who invented the tribute, recently told Mashable the meme will live on wherever Tebow lands — New York or otherwise.

"No matter where he's playing or what color he's wearing, people will still be Tebowing," Kleinstein says. "People will always see his accomplishments and look up to him on and off the field."

If Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin join forces in New York, can they break the Internet? Let us know in the comments.

Thumbnail image courtesy

More About: sports, Tebowing, trending, Twitter

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45 Insider Instagram Pics From Bands at SXSW

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 03:16 PM PDT

1. Milo Greene

@dawsonheringer "The final Milo Greene show of SXSW. #AustinExhaustion" 

Click here to view this gallery.

Max Blau is Paste Magazine‘s multimedia editor, where he oversees all audio, video and photo content on the website. He is also a freelance writer, photographer and videographer. Follow him at @MaxBlau or check out his blog.

As the dust settles from the weeklong madness that is SXSW, we’re slowly acclimating back to life without free food and drink, around-the-clock events and high-energy festival spirit.

Many SXSW attendees focus on the music. A sea of critics and photographers capture some of Austin’s best concerts. The concert photographs, however, can often present a one-sided take on the SXSW experience.

Before the conference's music portion began, we asked musicians to take photos using Instagram, offering us a different view of the festival.

Forty-five artists sent Instagram pictures, describing particular SXSW moments. These performers have provided us a glimpse from their perspective — ranging from performing to sleeping and everything in between.

More About: contributor, features, instagram, Music, photography, sxsw

Whole Foods Film Festival Goes Digital [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 01:58 PM PDT

Whole Foods Market is giving its annual Do Something Reel Film Festival the digital treatment and taking it online.

Now in its third year, the festival showcases films and documentaries about food and environmental issues.

Starting on April 22 (Earth Day), users will be able to stream a different film each month from Films will be available for a limited time and will cost between $3 and $5 for a single viewing.

The first film in the festival is called The Apple Pushers. Narrated by Academy Award nominee Edward Norton, the film follows five immigrant street-cart vendors who offer produce in New York City neighborhoods that usually don’t have access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

Whole Foods will be screening the film at the Alamo Draft House in Austin, Texas, and in theaters in Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. At the Austin screening, a live panel will take pace with members from the film and food communities.

The panel will be streamed online to users for free, using NowLive’s streaming technology.

A film festival might seem to be an odd venture for a grocery store, but for Whole Foods it aligns with its greater mission of connecting and educating consumers about food. Marci Frumkin, executive marketing coordinator for Whole Foods’ southern Pacific region told us that as a company, Whole Foods is committed to getting the word out about food and encouraging filmmakers to tell stories about sustainability.

Why go online? Frumkin says it’s important for Whole Foods to reach a broader audience — even if members of that audience aren’t necessarily Whole Foods customers.

Although The Apple Pushers will only be available to stream between April 22 and April 30, the other films in the festival will be available for an entire month.

Descriptions of the other films:

  • Watershed — Directed by Mark Decena, executive produced by Robert Redford and produced by his son, James Redford, the film follows Rocky Mountain National Park fly fishing guide, Jeff Ehlert, and six others living and working in the Colorado River basin. The film illustrates the river’s struggle to support 30 million people across the western U.S. and Mexico as the peace-keeping agreement known as the Colorado River Pact is reaching its limits. (May)
  • Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? — A profound, alternative look at the bee crisis from Taggart Siegel, award-winning director of “The Real Dirt on Farmer John”. On a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive, the film weaves together a story of the heartfelt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world and uncovers the long-term causes that could create one of our most urgent food crises. (June)
  • Ian Cheney Retrospective: King Corn and Truck Farm — Each of Cheney’s films spotlights an important environmental or food issue, from mobile gardens to the subsidized crops fueling our fast-food nation. Cheney was last year’s Whole Foods Market and AFI-Silverdocs grant recipient for “Works in Progress.” (July)
  • Lunch Line — Co-directed by Ernie Park and Michael Graziano, the documentary reveals the history and complexity of the National School Lunch Program as it follows six kids from one of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago as they set out to fix school lunches — and end up at the White House. (August)

Proceeds from the festival will help fund two $25,000 AFI Silverdocs grants for filmmakers in the green genre.

Films will be streamable on phones, tablets and regular web browsers. Frumkin says Whole Foods might consider adopting a more robust digital strategy — including apps — depending on how things progress.

As for the future — the goal is to bring new films to audiences each month indefinitely.

For filmmakers who seek to tell stories in the green genre, this festival is a great opportunity to reach broader audiences.

What do you think of grocery stores getting into the digital film festival game? Is this the future of sustainable storytelling? Let us know in the comments.

More About: do something reel, film festivals, green, whole foods

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Zynga Snaps Up ‘Draw Something’ Creator OMGPOP for $180 Million

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 01:05 PM PDT

Zynga acquired Draw Something creator OMGPOP Wednesday.

The company has not disclosed the cost of the sale, but AllThingsD reports the acquisition cost Zynga $180 million, plus another $30 million in employee retention payouts.

Draw Something is a Pictionary-style game that lets you draw pictures on your phone or tablet and then send that drawing to a friend who’s left to guess what you’ve drawn. The Facebook-connected game is played only on mobile devices — not on Facebook itself — and it currently sits at the top of the most-downloaded paid and free app lists on both Apple's App Store and Google Play.

The game also recently overtook Zynga‘s Words With Friends on AppData’s list of the most popular Facebook Connected games.

"The OMGPOP team has created a game that's fun, expressive and engenders real social interaction," said Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga. "Draw Something has captured the imagination of millions of people around the world. We love the way they've worked playful and relevant culture into their games from Devo to Daft Punk, from Lin to Beckham. We're honored to have the opportunity to partner with and support such an innovative team of creative inventors."

Until recently, the four-year-old OMGPOP only had 20 million registered users for its entire roster of games.

“Then we launched Draw Something, and it’s been an incredible and wild ride since," says Dan Porter, CEO of OMGPOP. The game, which launched six weeks ago, has now been downloaded over 30 million times.

More than one billion drawings have been created in total. Tuesday, Draw Something had over 3,000 drawings per second at its peak, and it’s the top word game in more than 84 different countries in the App Store.

Porter assures fans that the Zynga acquisition will not change the game: “Zynga offered us a chance to focus on Draw Something –- they know the power of the game and they planned with us how to let it keep rolling in the same fun, irreverent, social way that it has been. That was really important to us.”

SEE ALSO: Singer Uses ‘Draw Something’ Pictures from Fans in Music Video

Draw Something isn’t the first popular app that Zynga has acquired. It purchased New Toy Inc., the original creators of Words With Friends, 15 months ago for $53 million in cash and stock options.

Let us know what you think about Zynga’s purchase of OMGPOP in the comments.

More About: games, omgpop, social games, trending, Zynga

Startup SendHub Lets You Send Mass SMS to Students, Clients

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 12:43 PM PDT

“Email is an overburdened communication channel,” says Ash Rust, cofounder of startup SendHub.

SendHub solves the problem of sending mass messages to people and ensuring those messages are read. Currently, SMS on cellphones can be restricting — limiting the number of contacts you can reach with one message, Rust says. With SendHub, users can disseminate messages to up to 5,000 people at a time. Sure, you can reach thousands via email, but SMS are much more likely to be read.

According to a Juniper research report last year, 97% of text messages are read, with 90% read in the first 4 to 6 minutes — much higher compared to email read rates.

SendHub has a text-to-join system. Sign-up on the website and you’ll get a free number. Then you can let people know via email, Facebook or Twitter about the group, which they can opt to be added to. Simply text that number to reach all contacts in that group.

SendHub monitors feedback to ensure users don’t spam people through the service. Every message has a link that connects users to a feedback page where messages can be rated or blocked. When users block a number, SendHub keeps a record of it and monitors the account daily.

The other cofounders are Garrett Johnson and John Fallone. Johnson, a Rhodes Scholar, met Rust six years ago when they were in graduate school. Fallone has a legal background.

The trio was able to fine-tune their idea at startup incubator Y Combinator located in Mountain View, Calif. Rust says the original model was built for business use, but then they realized teachers could also utilize SendHub to instantly communicate with students. SendHub offers a free plan that provides 1,000 messages per month for up to three groups no larger than 50 people. Plans run $10, $50, $100 and $500 per month for a maximum of 2,000 groups with 5,000 people each.

The site has been growing about 20% each week since this session of Y Combinator‘s program began in January, Rust says. More than 120,000 messages are sent per month with more than 1,500 users on the site.

SendHub will be launching mobile apps in early April, first iOS then Android and Windows.

Mashable covered a similar company in 2010 called TextMarks. Other group texting services such as GroupMe, Fast Society, Beluga and Kik all offer group messaging services. Only time will tell if SendHub can set itself apart from the others.

Would SendHub be useful to you? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, chrisgramly

More About: Business, email, SendHub, SMS, y combinator

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6 Ways to Kill Your New iPad [VIDEOS]

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 12:27 PM PDT

With a Laser (and Flashlight)

So you think your new iPad is getting warm? Try handling it when a laser makes it burst into flames.

Click here to view this gallery.

So you just put down hundreds of hard-earned dollars for your new iPad. You’ve marveled over its multimillion-pixel HD retina display. You’ve been awestruck by the 4G download speeds. You’ve downloaded the best-looking apps. What’s next?

Why, destroy it, of course.

Since Apple’s latest tablet became available on Friday, a string of popular YouTube videos have appeared to show us how it holds up against assault rifles, lasers and concrete sidewalks. Spoiler alert: The iPad doesn’t come out of any of these encounters too well.

Add these to previous iPad snuff films, where the groundbreaking tablet meets its maker via baseball bats, axes and blenders, and you have a rather disturbing trend of hi-tech violence. If you’re a hardcore Apple fan, you may want to look away now. Especially when it comes to the axe film, where the iPad remains on after the first blow.

(Note that we haven’t included any of the promotional videos where iPad case makers want to show off how well their protective casing holds up against bowling balls or car wheels, but they’re out there.)

We’re not quite sure why people seem so drawn to destroying the iPad in particular. Perhaps the near-perfection of its design awakens the perverse barbarian in us. Maybe we are Luddites, scared and angered by the rapid technological transformation of an increasingly mechanized world.

Or maybe, like the Hulk, we just like to smash.

Do the economics of killing an iPad, then cashing in on the YouTube views, make sense? Has the trend run its course, or are there more ways to destroy the device? Let us know in the comments.

And seriously, whatever you do, don’t try any of this at home. Your new iPad really is a lot more fun when it’s in one piece.

More About: apple, ipad, trending, YouTube

YouTube Lets You Edit Videos With One Click

Posted: 21 Mar 2012 11:57 AM PDT

Editing YouTube videos just got a whole lot easier. YouTube is rolling out a new feature that lets users edit the visual quality of videos with a click of a button. Basically, it’s like auto-levels for video.

Video Manager will notify desktop users if their video could benefit from some one-click editing. If the video is shaky or dark you can chose to correct it. If you don’t like the changes, you can always revert the video back to the unedited format. If you upload a video from a mobile device, you can edit it with Video Manager when you can access a desktop computer.

Check out these videos showing footage of before and after Video Manager editing (links to YouTube videos below).



YouTube launched Video Editor last year that allowed users to easily edit things such as brightness, rotation, and the much-needed “stabilize” button that takes shake out of videos (particularly helpful for video captured on smartphones). Video Editor lets users play around with the coloring of the video using the effects feature, which is like Instagram for videos. But if you just want a quick fix, the new Video Manager is the ticket.

Here’s how simple it is: “When you upload a video that could use a fixup, you'll see a notification bar on the Upload page and in your Video Manager,” YouTube states on its blog. “Click the button to fix it, and you'll see a side by side preview to decide if you want to accept the edits.”

If you want to update your video with the preview version, select “Okay.” (A plus — you can always undo this later if you don’t like the edited version.)

Editing software is expensive and can be time consuming to use. The new Video Manager “democratizes the editing feature,” said a YouTube spokesperson.

What do you think about YouTube’s new Video Manager? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Picture Lake

More About: Google, trending, video editing, YouTube

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