Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Sim City Is Back — With Shades of Instagram and Occupy Wall Street [PREVIEW]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Sim City Is Back — With Shades of Instagram and Occupy Wall Street [PREVIEW]”

Sim City Is Back — With Shades of Instagram and Occupy Wall Street [PREVIEW]

Posted: 28 Mar 2012 05:02 AM PDT

“And here, at City Hall, you can see we’ve got a little Occupy movement going on.”

Kip Katsarelis gestures at the giant flatscreen, where a rowdy bunch of Sims have gathered to wave signs in front of his mayoral office. Their main beef? Unemployment under Katsarelis has hit a whopping 66%.

While some of the protesters want him to build more parks, that’s not going to help hiring. But the offer from a coal executive to build his corporate HQ over one of those parks — for a mere 1,000 simoleons — just might.

Luckily, Katsarelis is a senior producer at games company Maxis rather than a real mayor. And this is just a game, although we are in Emeryville, just across the San Francisco Bay from the real Occupy movement.

We’re here to get an early look at the 2013 version of one of the greatest games of all time, the 1989 classic that spawned the whole “Sim” franchise and made urban planning fun: Sim City.

We’ve known for some weeks that a new version of the game would be launching sometime next year (a reboot of the franchise, simply called Sim City rather than Sim City 5.) But this is the first time the company has revealed details.

Mashable was there to get a peek under the hood. And if this preview is any indication, we’re going to be spending much of next year glued to our PC screens. (Sadly, no version for any platform other than Windows is planned — yet.)

This reboot has been a long time coming. Maxis, now a division of Electronic Arts, produced Sim City 4 nearly a decade ago — and computing power has made quantum leaps since that version.

“Everything we dreamed of doing back then, everything we talked about idly at lunchtime, we can now do,” says Ocean Quigley, the game’s creative director.

So what does that mean? Well, first of all, the game looks stunning, even in this early build. Roads are finally able to curve and switch back, not sit on a grid.

And Quigley has made great use of tilt-shifting — the focus and blur technique popularized by Instagram.

When you tilt-shift a cityscape, as Quigley points out, it looks more like you’re sitting in the clouds above it all. That seems highly appropriate for a title that helped invent the genre known as “God games.”

SEE ALSO: 10 Terrific Tilt-Shift iPhone Photos

The second major advance in the new Sim City: multiplayer. You and your friends can now be the mayors of competing cities, ranked by everything from their economic power to their environmental impact, while sending each other real-time chat messages. (Move over, FarmVille.)

Oddly enough, this competition looks like it will lead to a kind of cooperative play. With you and your friends’ cities constantly interacting, it’s much easier to build a specialized cities.

That should make Sim City a lot more like real life. In previous games, every town had to plop down a grocery list of buildings to keep its citizens happy. (University? check. Sports stadium? check.) Now you can diversify.

For example, maybe your wife would want to build a college town, while your best friend aims for a Vegas-style casino city and you provide them all with power (and pollute them all, and strike it rich) as a coal-mining capital.

The game will aggregate the economies of all its players, even the ones not playing in your little group; that algorithm governs the price of things like energy.

You may never see it on your screens, but there’s a whole Sim World out there, constantly evolving.

This kind of emergent behavior is at work within your city, too. The game now keeps track of every single Sim in your city. It knows where they live, where they work, what time they have to get to work, and what kind of car they drive.

If your Sims lose their jobs, they may leave town — and if things get really bad, you may see them sleeping rough on park benches.

Yes, that’s right — Sim City now has Sim Homeless. (No word on whether they will be wearing Sim hotspots.)

But perhaps the most controversial decision the designers have made, for the sake of simplicity, is this: there is no social mobility in Sim City.

You have blue collar Sims, middle class Sims and white collar Sims. While they may move in and out of the same kinds of jobs, or look for work outside your city, they will not change careers till the day they die.

Right-wing critics may fume at that. Others may nod their heads sadly and say: yep, that’s just the way life is.

Regardless of your viewpoint, this and a host of other factors make the game seem a little more urgent, more relevant to our extreme economic times. And at the same time, the gameplay is easier to pick up than ever (no complicated tax spreadsheets required).

Call it a game for the 99%.

More About: electronic arts, games, instagram, Maxis, Occupy Wall Street, sim city

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Today’s Top Stories: Lenovo Enterprise App Shop, Lumia Comes to China

Posted: 28 Mar 2012 04:11 AM PDT

Social Media News

Welcome to this morning's edition of "First To Know," a series in which we keep you in the know on what's happening in the digital world. Today, we're looking at three particularly interesting stories.

Nokia Launches Lumia 800c in China

Nokia Lumia and China Telecom have launched the first CDMA Windows Phone in China, Nokia Lumia 800c. The device is very similar to Nokia Lumia 800, hardware and design-wise, but it will come with a special suite of apps tailored for the Chinese market. It will be available in China in black and cyan in early April.

Adobe Releases Flash Player 11.2 and AIR 3.2

Adobe has launched the Flash Player 11.2 and AIR 3.2. Key features of the new Flash Player are support for 2D and 3D graphics at 60 fps, automatic updates and multi-threaded video decoding. As far as AIR 3.2 goes, it now supports Stage3D graphics, which essentially means better looking games and faster GPU rendering.

Lenovo Opens Enterprise App Shop

Lenovo has launched the Enterprise App Shop, which supports Android tablets (Honeycomb or later) and offers app services to large businesses. Besides volume pricing, the difference between the Enterprise App Shop and a regular app shop will be custom app management, deployment and publication.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

More About: adobe, android, features, first to know series, Flash, lenovo, Lumia, mashable, Nokia

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Amazing NASA Video Shows Star Trails From Space

Posted: 28 Mar 2012 02:34 AM PDT

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to sit in a space station orbiting Earth, just chilling and looking at the stars?

Thanks to NASA astronaut Don Pettit who took some beautiful photos from the International Space Station, and photographer Alex Rivest, who assembled the photos into a time-lapse video, now you can come quite close to finding out how it would look like.

Don Pettit is currently aboard the ISS on a 30-day long mission, and his idea was to take some long-exposure photos to capture star trails from space.

“Space Station makes one revolution every 90 minutes (the Moon takes 28 days). As a result, long-exposure pictures taken from the Station show star trails as circular arcs, with the center of rotation being the poles of Space Station,” Pettit wrote in a blog post.

Pettit’s photos also capture some other beautiful natural phenomena, such as auroras above the Earth.

As beautiful as Pettit’s photos are, Rivest’s time-lapse video (coupled with some chill-out music) makes the entire sight truly amazing.

“On a lucky night living in the city, you can maybe see 5 stars if you are lucky, so to be able to get away from light pollution and be reminded of how many stars there are is always a humbling experience,” Rivest told

How do you like the video? Share your opinions in the comments.

More About: NASA, space, Stars, trending, Video

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Google Now Accepting Student Applications For Its 2012 Summer of Code

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 08:40 PM PDT

Google has officially opened registration for this year’s Summer of Code. Started in 2005, the program offers paid internships for students who want to code open-source projects.

The three-month-long global program pays university students a stipend to work on open-source projects with mentors in the field. Students apply to be part of the program and, if accepted, are paired with a mentor who helps expose him or her to real-world software development as well as potentially assist with future job opportunities.

The summer event began with organizations and mentors submitting proposals for projects. 180 projects were selected to be included in the program this year. Now it’s time for students to sign up to participate in projects they’re interested in.

From Tuesday until Friday, April 6 at 19:00 UTC, interested students can submit a proposal to work on the project of their choice to the mentoring organizations via the Summer of Code website. The highly competitive program allows students to submit proposals to more than one project, but advises focusing on quality over quantity.

If you’re interested in applying, Google has some tips on its website for writing a quality proposal that will stand out from the crowd. The company also plans to hold a Google+ hangout April 2 at 3:30pm PDT on its Google Students page with Open Source Programs Manager Chris DiBona to talk about the program and answer questions live. Google will announce the accepted student proposals April 23 on the Summer of Code site.

Are any of you considering applying to participate in the Summer of Code? Tell us what projects have caught your eye in the comments.

More About: code, Google, student

This Plastic Can Repair Itself Using Light and Temperature [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 08:19 PM PDT

Call it superhero plastic. Researchers at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society introduced plastic that can repair itself when temperatures change or if it’s exposed to light. The substance could potentially have numerous valuable purposes, one of those being it could signal the end of dinged plastic on cellphones.

Professor Marek W. Urban, Ph.D. presented the research that showed the plastic will change color when damaged. When exposed to light or temperature changes, the plastic will fill-in created gaps itself. Some have compared this filling-in to “bleeding” and healing of human skin, because the plastic turns red when damaged. The plastic material has “molecular bridges” that connect the plastic and make its self-healing possible.

The research team is focusing on how plastic might regenerate itself in extremely hot temperatures. Automaker Nissan created a self-repairing iPhone case earlier this year. And another team of researchers was recently working on a self-healing plastic that repairs itself using “ordinary light.”

This doesn’t help iPhone owners, whose phones are mostly glass, but many cellphone makers have at least one plastic model.

What else could this plastic be used for? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, TommL

More About: cellphone, iphone, Nissan

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Introducing Tello — a Faster Way to Solve Customer Service Issues

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 07:56 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: Tello

Quick Pitch: Review and talk to businesses about your experience from your smartphone or tablet

Genius Idea: Tello’s SaaS platform and smartphone app allow businesses to interact with customers instantly to receive compliments or to solve customer service issues.

"thought bubble" "feedback" "review" "chat"
Waiting on hold for an hour to chat with a customer service representative can be frustrating. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just text message an airline — or any other business — when you need help?

Tello, a Palo Alto start-up, has created a SaaS and mobile application to help customers communicate with businesses easier and faster.

Joe Beninato, Tello founder and CEO, created the service so consumers could give feedback in real-time to large retailers, airlines, hotels, small businesses and restaurants. Some have called Tello an example of when Twitter meets Yelp, Beninato said. The feedback is meant to be short and sweet — although users can write more than 140 characters.

The startup launched in 2010 is backed by 14 investors including 500 Startups and True Ventures. Beninato was inspired to start Tello after seeing a truck bumper sticker that said, "How Am I Driving?" followed by a 1-800 number. But how many people actually call that number? Beninato says more people will review businesses if the processes to do so are streamlined.

iOS users can download the Tello app and create a username to provide quick feedback. Smartphone users can also text businesses, and businesses can respond via text. Reviewers only need to write a sentence or two and can add a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, Beninato said.

“If you look at an airline, when you are traveling you communicate with all sorts of people –baggage, airline, the cab driver — any step along the way you can pull out your phone to give feedback,” he said.

Customers can read the reviews, but Tello wants businesses to be more involved with customer reviews. Unlike Yelp, Tello requires business to sign up for the service. The idea is businesses can respond quickly to feedback and can improve their services based on the customers’ wants. Businesses can register up to three profiles on Tello for free. Premium Tello is available for $99 per month.

So far, Tello has relied on word-of-mouth to spread the word about their service. The company has not released numbers on how many people are using the service, but Beninato said lots of people in Palo Alto area are using the service and there are users in all 50 states. About 80% of the feedback has been positive, Beninato said.

“If businesses care about their customers and want to be able to respond in real-time, then Tello is what they need,” Beninato said.

Do you think people will use Tello over the myriad other feedback websites already available? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStock, alexslalexsl, Tello

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, mobile business, SaaS, spark of genius series, user feedback

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Second-Screen Experience Gives Snowboarding Fans a Shredder’s-Eye View [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 07:30 PM PDT

Extreme sports fans and Shazam app users planning to watch the Red Bull Supernatural snowboarding competition this month are in for a second-screen viewing treat.

Here’s how it will work: Fans watching the event on NBC on March 31 will occasionally be shown a Shazam logo on their TV screens as certain riders prepare to start their runs. When that happens, the fans on the couch can open the Shazam app on their smartphones and begin the dual-immersion experience. The television broadcast will show traditional angles of the riders, while the smartphone screen will show what the riders are seeing as they barrel downhill and hit jumps and tricks. Here’s a preview of what it will look like:

Stars Travis Rice and John Jackson are among the snowboarders whose runs will be featured with the Shazam second-screen function. Once the app is opened during the event, it will recognize sounds from the broadcast to call up the corresponding video for users. Once activated, the app will also direct users to Facebook and Twitter for further interaction with the snowboarding competition.

Red Bull Supernatural is a backcountry snowboarding contest featuring man-made features that built into slopes in British Columbia before snow season. The event bills itself as a “first-of-its-kind” competition, so having such an innovative second screen experience seems only fair.

How else can second-screen technology be integrated into sports broadcasts? Let us know in the comments.

More About: second screen apps, shazam, sports

4 Tips For Authentic Online Engagement

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 07:16 PM PDT

Valerie Buckingham is Head of North America Marketing for Nokia. She has held various roles at the company since 2002 before taking over all North American marketing responsibilities in July 2011.

If you want your brand’s social media efforts to come across as authentic, you need to know what you stand for and what’s meaningful to you. In other words, authentic social communication requires you to be honest about what your brand represents, what you have to offer, where your weaknesses are, and what's really important to your audience.

SEE ALSO: 12 Top Community Managers Share Their Tips for Better Engagement

If you're not listening and engaging in a candid manner, you run the risk of having a message that doesn’t resonate, or worse, creates a backlash, calling into question not just what you're trying to say via social media, but across all outbound communication channels. For a brand, that’s bad news. Here are four tips for keeping your social-media outreach authentic.

1. Focus On The Individual

Your people are your greatest asset when it comes to social media because they offer a real human perspective rather than a pre-packaged marketing message. The problem is social media can get stripped of its authenticity by strict brand guidelines that mandate an omniscient company voice. Instead, imbue your social channels with the many unique individuals who work for the company.

Think of your audience in the same way. Don't assume that they are a homogenous mass. This will help you develop a social communications plan that takes into consideration whether this audience is just getting to know your brand or if they are loyal followers. As individuals, we speak differently to different people. Remember that a brand is no different.

2. Listen Up!

It's impossible to tap into sentiment without a system for listening. As brand communicators, we need to constantly have an ear out for changes in the consumer landscape and be tuned into what's important to our audience.

For example, a key group influencing the tech industry is millennials, which loosely includes consumers born between 1980 and 2000. You might think you already know it all when it comes to millennials: that they're all rebels, that their values are vastly different from their parents, and that they're obsessed with changing the world. In reality, when you listen to young people today through research, you find that they defy those traditional stereotypes. Today's millennials actually admit they love their parents and list them as friends on Facebook. They have no strong desire to leave home. They're not even skewed liberal. This new generation is also questioning consumerism more than ever before, and they've proven to have very little brand loyalty. Most importantly, they're currently defining what is real, cool, and interesting. That’s why listening is crucial.

3. Keep It Real

Today's millennials are not just good at figuring out what’s authentic, they can also spot what is inauthentic from a mile away. Having grown up in the Internet age, they expect brands to talk to them with a real voice, and they're not afraid to engage them in a public forum.

One great example of authenticity in action is a program recently run by airline KLM. KLM kicked off their social media program by asking, "What do we know to be true about how people interact with our brand?" The conclusion: people waste a lot of time in airports.

Starting with that simple truth, KLM set their campaign up for authentic direct-to-consumer engagement. They decided to surprise passengers that mentioned their KLM flight via Twitter or Foursquare. The teams used social media profiles to learn a little more about these travelers, enabling them to respond with appropriate perks such as a travel book for the hopelessly lost or a sports watch for the casual runner. These random acts of kindness took a little more effort than generic communications, but the response was rewarding. Travelers were only too happy to share their KLM experiences online with others. And let’s face it, what's more authentic than consumers speaking on behalf of your brand? So don’t be afraid to change your message to suit your audience's real needs and desires. Then reap the rewards.

4. Follow This Guiding Principle

Given the speed of social media, your message can go from trusted to falling out of favor in the blink of an eye, and it could all hinge on what you say next. That’s why the number one thing you can do to ensure authenticity and trust when connecting with fans, customers, and partners is to think about what your message means to them.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, akinbostanci

More About: brands, contributor, features, social engagement, Social Media

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Panasonic Remote App Lets You ‘Flick’ Videos From Phone to TV [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 07:02 PM PDT

Ever wanted to quickly check out a video from your phone on your TV? If you have a Panasonic set, that just got a lot easier.

Panasonic recently updated its Viera Remote smartphone app with a new ability called Media Flick that lets you start streaming media to your set with just a finger swipe. It works for videos, photos, music and even website URLs (which open a browser on the set). Checking out the app today, I easily threw some footage of a school of fish onto the screen of a new Panasonic plasma TV by swiping the video to the top of my smartphone screen.

There are, as always, a number of catches. First — and biggest — is that you need a Panasonic TV, and not just any TV; it has to be one of the new 2012 models just starting to ship. Second, there’s a little bit of lag since the app uses your local Wi-Fi to stream the content to your set (just like how you’d hook up a wireless printer). That also means you can only do it within range of the Wi-Fi, so if you were hoping you could flick to your home TV while on the go, that’s a no. Finally, if you flick a video, it’ll lose your place and start from the beginning.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Re-Invents the TV Remote Control for 2012 [VIDEO]

Still, it’s pretty impressive functionality if you have the right equipment. Certainly, other technologies bridge the phone-TV gap (Apple AirPlay among them), but Panasonic’s solution is one of the most convenient we’ve seen. And for websites, you can even flick sites you’re browsing onscreen back to the phone — extremely helpful for sites with URLs so long that you’d normally need to copy and paste.

Panasonic updated its Android app on Google Play with Media Flick functionality earlier this month, and the company says the iOS version will see the update next month, pending Apple’s approval.

How do you get your phone’s content to your TV now, and what do you think of Panasonic’s app? Let us know in the comments.

More About: android, App, iOS, Panasonic

Want HBO Go on Your Xbox? Better Check With Your Cable Provider

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 06:30 PM PDT

Just because HBO Go is now available on the Xbox 360 doesn’t mean every HBO customer will have the ability to use it.

While testing the brand new Xbox apps — which also include Comcast Xfinity/Streampix and MLB.TV — we were a little miffed to find that certain cable providers, including Comcast, don’t allow users to access HBO Go from the Xbox 360.

HBO Go launched last year as the premium network’s big TV Everywhere play. It allows HBO subscribers to login with their cable or satellite credentials and access HBO content — including a vast back-catalog of HBO original programming — from a web browser, iOS or Android.

Consumer electronics makers are increasingly adding support for HBO Go to their offerings. Roku and the Boxee Box both added support last year and Samsung’s latest smart TVs also work with the service.

But here’s the problem: Not every cable provider is willing to allow their customers to access HBO Go from a connected device. When Roku launched its HBO Go channel last fall, DirecTV and Comcast customers were left out in the cold.

We had hoped, given Microsoft’s broader partnership with cable providers, that HBO Go would be more widely available. Sadly, we were wrong. DirecTV customers can use their Xbox 360 consoles as an HBO Go device (although DirecTV continues to ignore the Roku). But Comcast and Time Warner Cable — and probably others we’re unaware of — are not supported.

What makes the Comcast omission especially frustrating is that the Comcast is offering its own aforementioned Xfinity TV and Streampix app for the Xbox 360. That app allows users to access On-Demand and Streapix content from an Xbox 360, including HBO on-demand programming. There is some overlap between the HBO On-Demand content and HBO Go, but the offerings and interface are still distinctly different.

We’ve reached out to Comcast for clarification on these policies, but have not heard back as of press time.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I’m a big supporter of HBO Go, in part because I think it’s an example of how content companies can offer users more flexibility in access without having to get rid of existing revenue streams.

The fact that I can access the entire first season of Game of Thrones on my iPad, iPhone, Mac and Xbox 360 — along with episodes of season 2 as soon as they air — makes me more likely to stay an HBO subscriber.

TV Everywhere — an initiative that Comcast helped lead — is finally starting to work. After holding out support for HBO Go, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision both signed on this year.

Cablevision), once a stalwart in the TV Everywhere space, now supports a wide-array of online content including access to CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network and more via its Optimum TV to Go offering. We should add that Cablevision customers can look forward to accessing HBO Go on the Xbox 360 and it looks great.

That’s why it’s so infuriating to still see cable companies pushing back on allowing access directly through the television set. Comcast clearly understands the value of allowing customers to access content on the Xbox. Moreover, Comcast isn’t even counting Xbox 360 streaming access against a customer’s 250GB bandwidth allocation — a sign that the company does view the Xbox as a mere extension of the regular cable box.

Why not allow HBO Go or other TV Everywhere solutions? Customers pay for the service. Customers can already access the content from a laptop or desktop attached to a TV set (or a 27″ iMac, which acts as the television set for my kitchen/living room). What’s the difference?

In any event, for the customers who can access it HBO Go on the Xbox 360 is a fantastic experience. The interface is sharp, picture quality is superb and the content is fantastic. We just hope the cable companies will come around and support it en masse.


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More About: cablevision, comcast, HBO GO, tv everywhere, Xbox 360

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How Ghana Is Using Social Media to Promote Voter Registration

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 05:19 PM PDT

Ghana’s general elections are coming up this December, and to help streamline the voter registration process, the country is now implementing its first-ever biometric voter registration — in other words, using fingerprint technology to help verify identity. Ghana is also using social media to publicize the process, correct misconceptions and increase overall attention about the upcoming elections.

The non-partisan project Ghana Decides, launched on March 24, “aims to foster a better informed electorate for free, fair and safe 2012 Elections using online social media tools.” It’s an initiative under GhanaBlogging, which itself is a membership-based platform to connect bloggers both in and outside of Ghana who write about the country.

Getting potential voters to participate in the high-tech fingerprint scanning technology is a huge initiative for Ghana, and it’s costing the country $45 million. Other countries in Africa, including Nigeria, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, have already implemented similar voting procedures. These countries share Ghana’s frustration with disputes about election results, which come largely due to problems such people voting more than once.

Using fingerprint technology to verify identity would help ensure that those who can vote are voting, and that they do so only once. But issues still remain. Many people are concerned, for instance, that the high-tech tools might cause cancer, a fear which Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) has been quick to disclaim.

Those fears are in part what prompted EC to broaden the scope of the voter registration education campaign. As Mr. Daniel Amertey Shah, one of Ghana’s Municipal Chief Executives, said in an interview with Ghana’s Daily Graphic, “They thought it necessary to summon the assembly with the motive of ensuring that necessary information on the biometric voters registration is disseminated for the electorate to be also educated.”

That’s where Ghana Decides and its outreach efforts on social media come in. The project’s organizers are using Tumblr (which serves as the project’s home base), Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to put the spotlight on the voter registration process, which started on March 24 — the same day Ghana Decides officially launched — and ends May 5.

On Twitter, Ghana Decides is promoting the hashtags #iRegistered and #GhanaDecides to aggregate media about registering and speak out about the entire initiative. The #iRegistered campaign, in particular, is aimed at encouraging more people to register by sharing the experiences of those who have already been through the process:

The Ghana Decides Flickr account has more pictures of freshly registered voters with their brand-new voter I.D. cards, and its Facebook account combines pictures with articles and other media. Meanwhile, the organizers are using YouTube to feature interviews with voters as they register, and show what exactly the entire process is like.

The project does have some potential caveats, however, and Ghana Decides acknowledges them. The low level of internet penetration in the country raises concerns over just how much the online campaigns will affect voter registration turnout. But Kinna Likimani, the Project Lead of Ghana Decides, said in an official press release that projects would first be conducted offline, then promoted online to ensure that as many people are reached as possible.

However, part of the point of the online campaigns is to educate Ghanaian citizens about “the effective use of social media for social change.” An estimated 1.2 million Ghanaians are on Facebook, out of a population of about 24.4 million, according to public data from the World Bank. At just about five percent of the country, this is a tiny fraction, but the majority of those who are on Facebook are between the ages of 18 and 35. According to Likimani, it’s time for political parties, independent governance institutions and civil society organizations to actively engage with these online users.

Mashable reached out to Ghana Decides to get more specific feedback on the project, but organizers have not yet gotten back to us.

Do you think Ghana Decides will help increase voter registration in the country? And do you think social media helps lay the groundwork for social change? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RapidEye.

More About: africa, Social Good

Phone Lock-Screen App Offers Prime Opportunity for Advertisers [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 04:46 PM PDT

Your phone’s lock-screen may become a billboard in your pocket.

Conduit, a company offering web and mobile services, is aiming to make some cash for companies by using your phone’s lock-screen as a host for advertisements. Conduit is launching a new app in the coming weeks called LockView Lockscreen. Think about how often the average person accesses his smartphone lock-screen or even glances at it– Conduit sees this as a prime and untapped market for advertisers.

The app offers some cool features that might make phone ads worth it for smartphone users. For instance, the app lets users jumps straight into calls, emails or your phone’s camera from the screen by tapping certain areas. A blank space in the middle of the screen is where the ads will be displayed.

Conduit said companies interested in advertising will have to offer a useful feature for consumers in order to continue to make the app appealing to users. Until ads start pouring in, Ori Lavie, vice president of Conduit’s mobile strategy, told CNET, smartphone users could add widgets to the screen in the meantime.

The LockView Lockscreen app will be available on newer Android phones in the coming weeks.

Advertisers have long tried to weave advertising into the mobile space. In fact, 2012 was predicted to be a big year for mobile advertising, as location-based apps and tools are continuing to grow, opening the door for location-based ads. Advertisers can also make mobile ads more stunning than ever due to advances in screen clarity.

About a month ago, talk that mobile ads are a bit creepy rose after Google was discovered bypassing privacy settings to deliver ads. But, considering the success that mobile ad campaigns have had in driving purchases, the space is likely to continue flourishing.

What do you think about having ads on your phone’s lock-screen? Will you download this app? Do the features it offers make it appealing? Sound off in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, bizoo_n

More About: Billboard, iphone, lock screen, mobile advertising

‘Eat It Don’t Tweet It’ Music Video Mocks Food Pornographers [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 04:18 PM PDT

You know those people who insist on whipping out their smartphones to take photos of everything they eat then immediately share the pictures across social networks? That culinary paparazzi takes a verbal beating in this music video.

Dubbed “Eat It Don’t Tweet It,” the hilarious song tells the story of a smartphone-toting food “connoisseur.” He stumbles upon a grouchy cupcake and lobster that come to life and ridicule him. Undaunted, the avid picture taker wins a trip to appear on a cooking show. His on-air antics get him kicked off the show, but as he’s escorted out, a bear grabs him and ironically snaps a photo before chowing down on human “hipster sashimi.”

"I love good food, but can’t stand when my friends post food porn. For me, it falls into that category of tweeting about mundane crap.”

The Key of Awesome, which parodies all things pop culture, collaborated with American Hipster on “Eat It Don’t Tweet It.” Uploaded Tuesday afternoon, the clip already has 1,400 thumbs-ups on YouTube.

“We’re living in a time when organic, local, artisan food is exploding and hipsterism has gone mainstream,” American Hipster channel director Peter Furia tells Mashable.

“The inevitable byproduct of this is a boom in Instagrammed pics of food porn on Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter,” he adds.

Furia, also head of creative at the digital media company Seedwell, sees the song as a “nice musical extension” of the “Is It Local?” skit from TV show Portlandia.

“I love good food, but can’t stand when my friends post food porn,” Furia says. “For me, it falls into that category of tweeting about mundane crap. I’d rather hear about how you just got engaged, ‘Liked’ a Facebook campaign to end hunger, or caught a video of a crazy, naked woman smashing a guy’s windshield.”

The Kolour Kult, an 80s-throwback, electro band, provided the music for “Eat It Don’t Tweet It,” and Key of Awesome actor Mark Douglas played the lead role in the music video.

The American Hipster YouTube channel launched Monday and aims to change the definition of the word “hipster” through a series of 52 weekly episodes that profile trendy young people.

If you can’t get enough of “Tweet It, Don’t Eat It,” check out American Hipster’s making-of video for even more laughs.

Want to sing along? Here are the Lyrics to ‘Eat It Don’t Tweet it’

Life is a dish, best served hot,
And a dish is a book with a menacing plot,
And a plot is a song, dipped in sauce,
That was simmered in a pan with a demi-glaze,
I’m just a kid, in a candy shop,
Of culinary dreams that can’t be stopped,
On a search for the perfect ingredients,
To post on my social medias.

You are pathetic, we’re not photogenic
Hurry it up we’re getting cold,
Come down here and taste us, don’t humiliate us,
No one gives a damn bout what you post

Artisan bread, dipped in artisan cheese,
dipped in artisan nuts, dipped in artisan greens,
Artisan heirloom radicchio,
This carpaccio’s f***ing ridiculo,
A little foie gras and tuna tartare
Black truffle butter chickweed, ha ha ha!
I’m just a guy with a camera,
In your feed with foods as my canvassa,
Lobster bisque buttered lightly
See you in the bowl and need you inside me
I love soup – don’t call me a Nazi
I’m more like culinary paparazzi
Or gastronomic Annie Leibowitz
Can’t see the food, could you move your tits?
It’s unthinkable to dine out and not record it
Want the world to know I can f*cking afford it

Don’t take my picture, don’t put me on twitter
Just get it over with and eat
You could not be dumber, get off of Tumblr
I’m more than just a piece of meat

I want lucious cupcakes but can’t do gluten
Broke out in hives from a mere fig newton
A sick addiction to Ramsey’s kitchen
I can’t stop lickin my television
One day the phone rang, was truly blessed
I won a contest to be on Runway Chef
A show about a model who also makes food
Seemed appropriate, I be in the nude,
She was stuffing and tossing and dripping sauce
I was shooting and looting and gitting lost
In the moment of foregone purity
Got escorted out by security
Walked down the stairs, then out of nowhere
Came a big pretentious grizzly bear
He snapped a pic and then dined on me
Oh what a tale of irony

Don’t take my photo, you brown furry mofo
The pain in my heart is very real
I need a martini, I feel like sashimi
You gave me the raw end of the deal

More About: american hipster, humor, instagram, key of awesome, photography, smartphones, viral, YouTube

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Trayvon Martin iOS Photo Frames: a Good Way to Show Solidarity?

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 04:04 PM PDT


What’s Going Down?, an iPhone and iPad app for sharing photos, released Trayvon Martin solidarity photo frames on Monday.

A picture may say a thousand words, says What’s Going Down? co-creator Tunji Afonja, but adding a cause-driven frame says 10,000 words.

“The rich photo frames allow you to add a layer of expression onto your photos,” Afonja told Mashable. “People drive around with ribbons on their cars to support different causes. Why not show your support on social networks?”

Social media users have rallied around the murder of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, who was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in February. Zimmerman claimed self defense and has not been charged.

Martin, who was unarmed when he was shot, has been remembered around through country through protests of hoodie-wearers, referencing the so-called “suspicious” article of clothing the teen wore when he was killed.

SEE ALSO: Android App Lets You Fight Kony With Violence of Your Own

In addition to integrating causes into social photography, What’s Going Down? streamlines the sharing process, allowing you to share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Foursquare at once.

Afonja came up with the idea watching social media users change their avatars to express opposition to SOPA. Initially, he planned to launch cause-frames related to Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 documentary.

But given the amount of criticism the film received, Afonja decided to be cautious and not release them.

“These two events, KONY 2012 and Trayvon Martin, are causes people really want to rally around,” Afonja says. “I think pictures are a way to show your support in a really beautiful way.”

Do you think photo frames are a good way to express support for a cause? Let us know what you think of these frames in the comments.

More About: iOS, photography apps, trayvon martin

Teen Opera Singers’ Amazing ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ Performance Goes Viral [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 03:45 PM PDT

A YouTube recap of a stunning opera performance by teenage singers Jonathan Antoine and Charlotte Jaconelli on the Britain’s Got Talent TV show has gained more than 1.1 million views in three days, thrusting the duo into viral video fame.

The heartwarming seven-minute video shows the singing partners discussing their friendship before performing for the judges and a thrilled audience. Antoine steals the spotlight, with Simon Cowell saying he should “dump” his singing partner because she might bring him down in competition. Antoine declines Cowell’s suggestion.

Antoine’s other YouTube videos have become popular, too. This one has garnered nearly 150,000 views since it was posted some 18 months ago:

Antoine’s performance with Jaconelli has news outlets speculating that he could be the next Susan Boyle.

To date, the infamous Kony 2012 film is the most viral video ever, garnering 100 million views in only six days. It’s followed closely by Boyle’s 2009 audition on Britain’s Got Talent, which took nine days to reach 100 million online views.

Do you think this video will earn its way into the viral hall of fame? Tell us in the comments.

More About: britains got talent, susan boyle, YouTube

Skype Meets Google+ Hangouts: Host Your Own Live Chat With OnTheAir

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 03:22 PM PDT

Picture a combination of Google+ Hangouts, Skype and YouTube. That’s OnTheAir, which wants to create communities of like-minded individuals via live video conversations.

The California-based startup with five employees launches on Tuesday in private beta. Now anyone can create a live video chat on the site.

CEO Josh Schwarzapel and cofounder Daniel Hopkins told Mashable their aim: to make interactive live video a seamless experience that helps people cultivate groups based on their interests. According to the pair, the live video chat would be great for celebrities, public figures or anyone looking to build an audience.

Schwarzapel says they came up with this idea while in class at Stanford University, where Mark Zuckerberg and Reid Hoffman were invited to chat and have dinner with a small group of students.

Schwarzapel says he gleaned so much from that experience, he wanted it easier to have live chats with public figures.

At the moment, the site is marketed as a platform for public figures — or aspiring public figures. But they said it’s also a tool for anyone with something to discuss.

Here’s how it works: Say you want to host a channel about blogging, you can schedule live conversations at any time and moderate who speaks. If you connect the tool to Facebook and Twitter, the site automatically shares the time of the chat to Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

Another cool feature — there’s no limit to how many people can be in the queue to ask questions. To help ensure the quality of the site, the designers implemented “aggressive checks,” including a requirement that anyone who signs up must have at least 25 Facebook friends to ensure they’re a real person and not a spambot.

Right now, the site is free to everyone and, unlike Google+ Hangouts, there’s no plugin requirement (Hangouts requires a 13.6MB install). As the team tests the site with new users, they plan to fix any quirks and add additional features such as the ability to record and save live chats.

Schwarzapel sees lots of uses for OnTheAir. “Bloggers could host discussions with their readers,” he says. “Small businesses could release a new product and talk to their customers about it. Users can join the already happening discussions with technology and social media experts.”

The team received $880,000 in seed funding this year from IronPort Cofounder Scott Banister, About.Me Cofounder and CEO Tony Conrad (via True Ventures), StockTwits Cofounder and CEO Howard Lindzon, Triple Point Ventures President Ben Narasin, and Euclid Analytics Founder and CEO Will Smith.

In addition, the team is closely advised by Lean Startup Author Eric Ries, About.Me Cofounder Ryan Freitas and others.

There are already several sites similar to OnTheAir: Sean Parker’s Airtime and StubHub Founder Jeff Fluhr’s Spreecast.

What do you think about OnTheAir? Will you use it? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

More About: online chat, online live video chat, OnTheAir

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The 10 Most-Followed Men on Pinterest

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 02:59 PM PDT

1. Mike D

Bio: "design/travel/food/sports/music/alcohol in no particular order" Location: "Philly via Cincy" Followers: 1,109,575 Boards: 19 Pins: 4,110

Click here to view this gallery.

When you think of Pinterest, what kind of user comes to mind? If you answered “a woman who likes crafts and chocolate,” you’re not alone. However, men represent an influential presence on the social network, too. In fact, 10 out of the top 45 Pinterest users are men. Who knew?

We utilized social analytics tool ZoomSphere to determine the most-followed men on Pinterest. And no, they’re not all about beer and basketball — these men love design, architecture, travel and fashion, too.

SEE ALSO: How Pinterest's Female Audience Is Changing Social Marketing

Do you think more men will join the Pinterest craze? Why or why not? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

More About: features, gender, pinterest, Social Media

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LinkedIn Updates ‘People You May Know’ Feature

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 02:38 PM PDT

LinkedIn has tweaked its People You May Know feature with a streamlined look and more accurate recommendations, the company announced Tuesday.

The update, announced on LinkedIn’s blog, has also made it easier to filter results by company or school. To do so, you merely click on a logo to narrow the recommendations. Such search filters have been around since 2010, but the old interface was based on a checklist on the left-hand side of the page. LinkedIn is rolling out the enhanced feature over the next few weeks, but users can click on this link to access it now.

Another new feature is an “endless scroll” — a la Tumblr — that presents your recommendations in a seamless two-column flow. (The list may not actually be endless right now, but the goal is to make it very long.) As is the current trend, the new site is redesigned to be more photo-heavy, like Pinterest and Facebook Timeline. The pictures on the new page are not only bigger, but they run in two columns vs. the previous single column.

For comparison’s sake, here’s the old version:

And here’s the new version:

What do you think of the new look? Have you tried the new version? Does it yield better results? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, smi23le

More About: linkedin

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Online Therapy Program to Help Fight Autism

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 02:10 PM PDT

Skills for Autism

Research shows that nearly half of kids with autism can make big improvements toward recovery by undergoing therapy in the early stages of their development.

But one-on-one therapy can be extremely costly and go on for years, and access to good treatment can sometimes to be limited to certain cities and regions.

To help kids fight autism, the Tarzana, Calif.-based Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) has put its intensive therapy program online to train parents and educators worldwide on how to best teach kids autistic children the skills they need.

Called Skills, the platform gives users access to the tools and curriculums needed to work with kids with autism. The service determines the areas a child needs to work on the most and walks parents and teachers through how to instill those skills.

It also provides visual examples and videos of the center’s therapists working with autistic children so they can emulate the same tactics.

“We have been doing one-on-one intervention for years, but we wanted to make our resources available to everyone on a global scale,” Dr. Adel Najdowski, director of Skills at CARD, told Mashable. “It would be like finding a cure for cancer and not spreading the news. We want everyone to have access to the treatment.”

Autism is the fastest rising major childhood disorder, according to CARD. In fact, one in every 110 children in the U.S. has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined, Najdowski added.

But studies show that 50% of children with autism that receive Applied Behavior Analysis intervention for 30 or more hours per week for two or more years beginning before the age of 5 can recover, Najdowski said.

“Recovering” refers to performing at a normal level on standardized tests — measuring IQ, language, socialization and daily living skills — as well as being integrated into a regular education classroom without specialized supports.

Although one hour of private therapy can cost between $45 and $75, the Skills platform is priced at $75 for each month — bringing down the therapy rate from $27,000 each year (for treatment 30 hours a week) to $900.

SEE ALSO: How Technology Is Helping Kony Victims in Uganda

The program — which features 4,000 lesson activities and curriculums across every skill level — was designed to help train those with limited or no experience teaching autistic children. Parents, teachers and the center’s supervisors can access the Skills service at any time from any location to track the child’s progress.

“We can log on at the center and interact with a family using the service in India and make individualized recommendations,” Najdowski said. “We are also available through webchat, over the phone and in person.”

Since its launch last year, Skills is currently in 105 school districts across 7 countries and it aims to reach more parents in the future. It’s currently available for a 14-day free trial for parents and a 30-day free trial for professionals.

“We hope to use the platform more in the future to ask research questions,” Najdowski said. “Since we have a targeted pool of people, we might be able to learn more about possible causes of autism in the future.”

Image via

More About: Social Good, technology

Stickers Galore: Check Out GetGlue’s Fun-Filled Office [PICS]

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 01:52 PM PDT

The Startup Spaces Series is supported by Turnstone, a Steelcase brand. Running a small business is hard enough, having a great space to work in should be easy.

At GetGlue’s headquarters in New York City, it’s all about the stickers.

One of the most loved aspects of the entertainment check-in and recommendation service is the fact that users can get physical copies of the digital stickers they earn for checking into TV shows, movies, music albums or events. GetGlue’s office space near Union Square in New York City is adorned with super-sized versions of these stickers.

The stickers adorn the walls, the elevator alcove and the office areas. For CEO and co-founder Alex Iskold, the stickers aren’t just a great way to decorate — they’re a constant reminder of the startup’s vision and purpose.

When GetGlue was founded in 2008, the service was about helping users get recommendations based on what they liked across the web. The service expanded into more entertainment oriented check-ins in 2009, partnering with entertainment brands to offer sticker and special offers for loyal fans.

It wasn’t until the service started to focus on mobile apps — embracing the white-hot entertainment check-in space that the company really came into its own.

By adding the ability to check-in to TV shows, movies, music and books from a mobile device or iPad, the service and the company transformed.

Over the last two years, GetGlue has signed promotional partnerships with practically every major broadcast, cable and premium cable network. Studios advertise their GetGlue promotions and activity, and music artists are even starting to embrace the platform as a way to connect with fans.

In addition to checkins, GetGlue is also focused on helping people discovery great content and allowing for a conversation with fellow fans.

Check out our tour of GetGlue’s offices to get an idea of what happens behind the scenes.

Stickers A-Go-Go

GetGlue is a sticker paradise. Huge variants of GetGlue stickers adorn the walls of the office from the elevator to the break room.

Click here to view this gallery.

Series supported by Turnstone


The Startup Spaces Series is supported by Turnstone, a Steelcase brand. Turnstone, ready when you are. For more information please visit Turnstone.

More About: features, getglue, mashable, social tv, Startup Spaces Series

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Google Building Third-Party Commenting Platform [REPORT]

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 01:36 PM PDT

Google is working on third-party commenting platform to rival Facebook’s, according to multiple reports. The system will be deeply integrated with several Google products so that comments left on third-party websites appear in Google search results and on Google+.

The commenting platform was allegedly discussed at an event Google hosted in Saudi Arabia earlier this week and later confirmed by inside sources to The Next Web. A spokesperson for Google declined to comment on the matter.

With so few details, it’s difficult to speculate what sort of impact a Google commenting system would have on the online publishing landscape. Should there be a SEO, and a resulting referral traffic advantage, to using Google’s commenting platform, it would likely attract a fair amount of interest among publishers — even those already using Facebook’s commenting system. Google’s tool could also pose a threat to independent commenting platforms such as Disqus, Livefyre and Intense Debate.

In addition to a commenting system, news emerged from the Saudi Arabia event that Google would roll out vanity URLs for Google+ users in the near future.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RonBailey

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Apple: Here’s Why the iPad Isn’t Fully Charged at 100%

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 01:14 PM PDT


Wondering why your new iPad is lying to you about how much charge it has? Don’t worry, says Apple. It’s all for your benefit.

In a statement to AllThingsD, Apple’s Vice President of iPad Marketing Michael Tchao said the new iPad charges no differently from any other iOS device.

In other words, it gets to 100%, drains a little, and recharges to 100%. This “wash, rinse, repeat” cycle means you can keep the iPad plugged in constantly without damaging the battery in any way, Tchao says.

"That circuitry is designed so you can keep your device plugged in as long as you would like," Tchao told AllThingsD. "It's a great feature that's always been in iOS."

Tchao said the decision to have the battery read 100% throughout the charge-discharge cycle was a deliberate one, so as not to confuse consumers.

More confusing, however, is the fact that the battery reads 100% the moment it reaches the discharge point in the cycle. So if you unplug your iPad the instant it reads 100%, you are probably not getting as much charge as you possibly could — though Tchao says you should still be getting the full 10 hours Apple promises.

SEE ALSO: Did Apple Tell the New iPad's Battery Meter to Lie on Purpose?

Whether you could have had an extra 1.2 hours of battery life by waiting, as DisplayMate analyst Ray Soneira claims, is an open question. The answer may well vary by device, and by what apps you’re using in the test.

Regardless, new iPad owners can stop fretting — or, if you look at it in a glass-half-empty way, owners of iPhones, iPod touches and iPad 2s can start fretting about how their device lies about its charge too.

Apple, meanwhile, may want to consider that its consumers are capable of understanding a device with a charge-discharge cycle — and are really interested in maximizing their time with the tablet.

More About: apple, battery, ipad

What Would You Say to a Million Twitter Users? Fame Hopes to Find Out

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 01:03 PM PDT

If you woke up tomorrow with a million new Twitter followers — and had them for one day only — what would you tell them?

A new website called Fame aims to turn this hypothetical question into a practical consideration. Its goal is to bestow Lady Gaga-sized Twitter followings upon a new user each day.

Here’s how it works: When users authorize Fame to access their Twitter accounts, they’re entered into a daily drawing. The winner is automatically followed by all of the other entrants. At the end of the day, that person is automatically unfollowed by everyone, and a new person is selected.

After you enter, you’re included in both the drawing and the group that follows each day’s winner until you disconnect the app. So in theory, the number of followers at stake should increase over time.

Creator Adam Ludwin, a venture capitalist who developed the site in partnership with design studio Big Human, says he expects watching winners react to their instant Twitter fame will be just as entertaining as the possibility of winning the contest.

“It's just as interesting to play to see what people say when they win,” he says. “It's kind of American Idol every day.”

The website’s grand prize of followers hasn’t exactly reached American Idol proportions yet, however. Two hours after launch, only about 600 people have signed up.

But a meter at the bottom of the site hints at its aspirations. It compares the size of Fame’s versatile Twitter following to that of Lady Gaga’s 21 million-strong following.

The first winner, a DJ for a Long Island radio station, is less than 1% as Twitter-famous as Lady Gaga.

Even if the site does reach the ambitious goal of giving its daily winner Lady Gaga-level social media reach, Ludwin says he’s not looking to monetize it. He instead considers the auction a social experiment in whether people, rather than content, can go viral.

“I think there will be follow up stories about wedding proposals or people launching a breakout record,” he says. “I hope those are the experiences we can give people.”

More About: fame, startup, Twitter

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Congress Approves Startup-Focused JOBS Act

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 12:45 PM PDT

The House of Representatives voted to pass the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS Act) Tuesday, a bill that aims to make it easier for startup businesses to raise capital, partially via online crowdfunding.

The measure passed 380-41 and is headed to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

It’s the second time the House passed the JOBS Act. It sailed through the House earlier this month on a bipartisan basis after being introduced by Republicans, but found opposition in the Senate.

The Senate passed a version of the bill amended to place more safeguards on the crowdfunding process last week, but the House’s go-ahead was needed before the bill could be sent to the president.

The JOBS Act would create a new class of business known as “emerging growth companies,” a category that would include most startups. These companies would be allowed to attract investors online through crowdfunding — much the same way that groups raise money via platforms such as Kickstarter.

They would also be able to sell up to $50 million in shares before having to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as have up to 1,000 shareholders — double the current maximum.

The version of the bill passed by Congress requires startups to deliver financial reports to investors in an effort to increase transparency and prevent potential fraud. That restriction wasn’t part of the original bill, but added in the Senate through an amendment sponsored by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass).

Supporters of the JOBS Act, including entrepreneur and #FixYoungAmerica organizer Scott Gerber, argue that it will generate a much-needed boost for startups and the economy at large.

“The passage of the JOBS Act in Congress is a major step for the #FixYoungAmerica initiative and a victory for our nation’s entrepreneurs,” Gerber says. As a result of the tireless efforts of Congressman Cantor, Congressman McHenry, President Obama, and members of both the House and Senate, a whole new generation of aspiring young business owners will have access to a new pool of capital that they will be able to utilize to rebuild the American dream, and revitalize the national economy.”

The legislation’s opponents, such as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have argued that it involves excessive and dangerous deregulation of businesses.

“The bill's supporters have characterized it as a jobs bill, but this bill is really designed to change disclosure, accounting and auditing standards and to exempt many firms and corporations from the Securities and Exchange Commission oversight," Durbin says.

President Obama has expressed his support for the bill, and he’s expected to quickly sign it into law.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, franckreporter

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

OnStar’s Family Link Is Ready to Reach Out and Find You

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 12:30 PM PDT

OnStar Family Link Website

Click here to view this gallery.

Sure, GM used a hokey fake family to illustrate how OnStar‘s new car finder and email and text notification service, Family Link, would work for a “real” family, but the demonstration, held at an incredible loft home in Soho, did get the point across: OnStar’s 6 million embedded system customers will soon be able to find family members either passively or actively with the new alert system.

OnStar, which started almost two decades ago as GM’s in-car crash alert system, now offers customers dozens of potential in-car services including turn-by-turn routes, on-demand diagnostics, a remote-control app (it had a half-million downloads), roadside assistance, and emergency and good Samaritan services. OnStar executives told me that last year one of their advisors (they’re on call 24/7) helped deliver a baby. Now GM wants to help deliver your baby — of any age — home.

In the fake scenario, GM had actors playing family-member roles: there was Dad watching a movie in the living room, the son, Chad, who was playing a video game upstairs, and Mom, who was running around the loft trying to get organized for a family trip. The 16-year-old daughter was on her way home in a Chevy Volt. At home, the father used the new Family Link website to log in and find his fake daughter’s exact location on the road. The system is password-protected and shows location, but only for that exact moment. Even though the technology is GPS-based, Family Link will not show you the car in motion on the website’s map or how fast the car is going when Family Link finds it.

The same interface can be used to set up location- and time-based alerts. So if the fake father wanted to know when the daughter arrived in the neighborhood, he could have Family Link email or text him. Likewise, it could also be set to post a location alert at the same time each day — useful if you want to know your teen is driving home from school, work or college each day when you expect them.

The service costs $3.99 a month and launches next month with a small group of OnStar embedded customers. It rolls wide in the fall. Technically, Family Link could work with OnStar’s after-market products (this is where non-GM customers, including Toyota, Honda and Ford car owners, add OnStar rear-views and systems to their cars), however it currently doesn’t and GM has no timeline for adding the feature.

GM’s fake family also gave us a little glimpse into the future, showing us how a Verizon 4G-equipped Chevy Volt could enable real-time Skype video chat (the fake daughter used the camera in the OnStar rear-view mirror), and access to home media including movies and games stored on a home media server. Though the car was communicating with the loft home via wireless 4G, communications among the three tablets and large in-dash display were carried out via Ethernet. During the demo, the fake mom, who was in the driver’s seat, gave her “son” access to the game he’d been playing at home and let her fake husband pick up the movie where he left off on his back-seat-mounted tablet.

GM doesn’t have a timeline for when 4G-enabled cars will hit the road, but they are convinced that this little mini-play we witnessed is future of family life at home and on the road.

You can see Family Link in action (and the 4G concept car) in the video below.

More About: 4G, cars, GM, OnStar, verizon

Google Play and FanBridge Offer Musicians Free Artist Hub Accounts

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 12:16 PM PDT

Google is making it easier for U.S. artists to sell their music on the Google Play artist hub by offering free sign-up for a limited time.

The Google Play artist hub is where musicians can create a Google Play store page, set the price on their music and sell direct to users. Artists get 70% of revenue and Google gets 30%.

Google charges $25 for artists to sign-up for the artist hub but thanks to the fan management platform FanBridge, the sign-up fee will be waived for one week. Existing FanBridge customers will also be able to easily create and manage their own presence on Google Play. The free offer is only available to artist’s in the United States and will run from March 27 – April 3.

This is the first concentrated effort that Google has taken to drive artist adoption of its media platform. Google Music launched last fall as the search giant’s answer to Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s MP3 store.

Despite a lot of early hype — and positive user reviews — the service has failed to gain a lot of traction. CNET reported last month that the revenue and customer adoption haven’t met expectations.

Moreover, as Apple found with Ping, getting artists to actively engage with users in the digital music space is easier said than done.

That’s why we think it makes sense that Google is pushing for more widespread adoption of Google Play artist hub pages. It also makes sense to work with a company like FanBridge to build buzz in the artist community. Whether it’s enough to build up the music component remains to be seen.

Artists — does a free hub account make you more willing to sell your music on Google Play? Users — do you find that the Google Play catalog meets your needs? Let us know in the comments.

More About: fanbridge, Google, google music, Google Play

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Facebook Asks Judge to Dismiss 50% Ownership Lawsuit

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 12:01 PM PDT

Facebook is hoping to stamp out what it considers an “opportunistic and fraudulent” lawsuit filed by Paul Ceglia, who claims that he owns half of the social media behemoth.

Ceglia filed the suit in 2010, which alleges that he gave Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg $1,000 in start-up capital for Facebook in exchange for 50% of the company if it took off.

To back up his claims, Ceglia produced a contract which he argued showed that he had hired Zuckerberg to do some “limited website development work” for StreetFax, an out-of-business company which Ceglia once ran. As part of Zuckerberg’s payment, Ceglia claims he and Zuckerberg struck the $1,000-for-50% Facebook deal.

Ceglia claimed he forgot about the contract until looking through his records after being charged for sales fraud.

Facebook submitted what it called a “treasure trove of evidence” that Ceglia’s claims are false and represent a “fraudulent shakedown.” According to Facebook, Ceglia’s version of the contract and emails between himself and Zuckerberg were both faked.

The company’s dismissal is based on a great deal of data retrieved from Ceglia’s hard drive, which had been submitted as evidence and analyzed by the computer forensics team Stroz Friedberg.

On that drive, the forensics team found the original contract between Ceglia and Zuckerberg, which the company says Ceglia used as a basis for his forgery. Multiple “test forgeries” were found, which Facebook claims were copies made by Ceglia as he attempted to perfect his technique.

Facebook’s forensics team found evidence of forgery on the physical copy of the contract submitted by Ceglia as well.

Ceglia tried to “bake” the physical copy of the contract — he hung it by clips and exposed it to light in an effort to give the forged document and the ink an “aged” look. But eagle-eyed analysts are trained to look for those tell-tale signs of forgery: they decided the ink on Ceglia’s document was “fresh,” and “fewer than two years old,” meaning it couldn’t have been signed in 2003-2004.

The alleged emails between Zuckerberg and Ceglia, according to Facebook, were also “bogus.” They say Ceglia created the emails on a computer which had its internal clock reset to 2003 and 2004. However, he made a series of “amateurish mistakes:”

1. Ceglia reset the system clock to October 2003, before any of the emails were allegedly sent
2. Ceglia forgot about Daylight Savings Time, creating a physical impossibility in the times of his emails.
3. Ceglia made factual errors in terms of history, including the timing of’s initial launch.

“Genuine e-mails” between Zuckerberg and Ceglia, said Facebook’s legal team, contained no reference to Facebook. Instead, they mostly involved requests from Ceglia to give him more time to pay Zuckerberg for his work on the SteetFax site.

“If there is any way I can assure you that I have absolutely every intention of paying you what is owed plus some when we finally catch up to our sales goals it would be appreciated to a level I can’t express in words,” wrote Ceglia to Zuckerberg on Feb. 16, 2004, according to Facebook’s court filings.

The dismissal also said that Ceglia had destroyed external storage drives which contained material relevant to the lawsuit instead of handing them to Facebook.

Facebook dismissed Ceglia as a “career criminal and hustler,” and with Facebook’s Initial Public Offering on the horizon, they’re a prime target for extortion attempts — estimations put its IPO as worth as much as $100 billion. But Ceglia’s legal team isn’t backing down, instead insisting that Ceglia “deserves his day in court, where the jury will resolve this dispute over the ownership of Facebook.”

Facebook’s Dismissal of Paul Ceglia Case

Is Facebook’s “treasure trove” of evidence enough to dismiss Ceglia’s lawsuit? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, EdStock

More About: Facebook, law, Social Media, trending, US

Startup Takes on Craigslist — by Punking Sellers [VIDEOS]

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 11:50 AM PDT

Craigslist has been a fertile source of comic inspiration for some time, but few have mined it as compellingly as startup Replyboard.

The Seattle-based company, which went live on Monday, launched with four videos that feature Replyboard‘s co-founder Steinar Skipsnes and friend Nick Ellis punking real Craigslist sellers.

The methods they use are inspired. For example, a guy selling a guitar is dumbstruck when the two put sheer stockings over their heads (who wouldn’t be?) and a woman erupts in a screaming fit when Ellis uses her bathroom to take an impromptu shower.

Each person featured in the videos was given $50 to sign a waiver.

Such buffoonery has a purpose. The clips all end with the message “Should’ve used Replyboard.”

So what is Replyboard? It’s an intermediary designed to weed out flaky buyers and sellers on Craigslist and other online classifieds. Ideally, a seller would create profile page from Replyboard, which would appear as a contact link in a Craigslist ad. (Here’s a sample.)

The profile is designed to be an extra step, sort of like a CAPTCHA but for lazy and mean people rather than bots.

“Instead of getting random spam emails, people low balling you or whatever else, through using Replyboard you’re actually weeding out the laziest most flaky people,” Skipsnes says. “The people most likely to be irritating to deal with or be no-shows.”

How does Replyboard make money from this?

“Right now we don’t and that isn’t our focus right now,” Skipsnes says. “We’re focused on building a product that people get value from using, which is a really hard thing to do. I'll take a line from Marc Andreessen … ‘market share now equals revenue later.’”

While Replyboard’s business model may not be proven, the company is off to a solid start with these videos. After DollarShaveClub’s awesome viral video and now this, we should expect more startups to tap their inner Ashton Kutcher.

"The Guitar"

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More About: craigslist, Startups, viral videos

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Nyan Cat Stars in iOS Adventure Game [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 11:35 AM PDT

Nyan Cat will shortly turn one year old — and to celebrate, he’s speeding through another video game. The 8-bit animated feline stars in the kooky Nyan Cat Adventure, which recently landed in Apple’s App Store.

The meme-inspired $0.99 game has five modes and eight playable characters, including Nyan Cat dressed as a waffle, a ninja and a GameBoy. Nyan Cat fans will recognize the characters; they’re also featured on the popular Non-Stop Nyan Cat website.

Nyan Cat Adventure is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. The game is “challenging, addictive, and a perfect conversation starter,” writes one player in the App Store.

Game creators 21st Street Games initially released Nyan Cat Adventure in Microsoft’s Marketplace for Xbox Live users in December.

SEE ALSO: 25 Outstanding Kitty-Themed Tumblrs [LOTS OF CATS]

The Pop-Tart-shaped cat has previously played the leading role in other Nyan Cat games such as Nyan Cat: JUMP and Nyan Cat Lost in Space .

Nyan Cat isn’t the only animal meme to be turned into a mobile game. The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger spawned the Honey Badger Don’t Care game, which hit the App Store and Android Market (now Google Play) in December.

BONUS: 3D Printer Brings Internet Memes Into the Real World

Did you know you can infuse your offline world with 3D versions of Nyan Cat and other memes? Yup, all thanks to the folks at Shapeways and its 3D printing technology.

1. Sad Keanu

Now you can physically place poor, sad Keanu anywhere you want. You can put him on your cubicle at work or your piano at home, apparently.

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More About: games, memes, mobile apps, mobile games, nyan-cat, viral

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New York Subway Art: Now in Your Pocket

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 11:22 AM PDT

New York’s largest art museum — its transit system — can now be carried around in your pocket.

The MTA is now part of the Meridian app, which provides comprehensive details on the wide variety of permanent artwork installed throughout the subway and rail system in New York.

“This is a phenomenal use of technology,” said MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota. “This app will help our customers recognize that New York’s transportation system, besides helping 8.5 million people get to work every day, is a world-class art museum with works by many of the most renowned artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.”

Available for both Android and iPhone, the app allows visitors to select a work of art in the New York City Subway, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and MTA Bridges and Tunnels and then learn more about it on their mobile phone.

The app provides background information about each piece of art and its significance, as well as video and audio clips featuring its artists at select stations.

“We get lots of positive feedback about our art collection,” said Sandra Bloodworth, Director of MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design. “It’s a part of riding the train that people love. Now we’ve made it easier to find out more about the collection. We’d already posted a significant amount of information about our art online, but with this app, it is as if you have a Museum in the palm of your hand.”

Works within the app are organized by subway or railroad line and artist. You can browse through the art available on a particular line, or check out what’s available in the MTA system by a particular artist. The app also offers turn-by-turn directions to installations, and trip planning if you want to plan an art ride through the transit system.

The Meridian app is a free download, and also features tours of the Portland Art Museum, Balboa Park in San Diego, and Powell’s Books in Portland, amongst others.

More About: android, App, art, iphone

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