Friday, 30 March 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Today’s Top Stories: Google Tablet Store Rumors, Changes at RIM”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Today’s Top Stories: Google Tablet Store Rumors, Changes at RIM”

Today’s Top Stories: Google Tablet Store Rumors, Changes at RIM

Posted: 30 Mar 2012 04:43 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.

RIM Refocuses on Enterprise, Changes Leadership

After RIM’s less-than-stellar results in the last quarter, co-CEO Jim Balsille, COO of Global Operations Jim Rowan and CTO David Yach have all been replaced. New CEO Thorsten Heins promises to turn the company around by focusing on enterprise customers. RIM "cannot succeed by trying to be everybody's darling," said Heins.

Google Might Sell Android Tablets Through Its Own Online Store

Google will start selling co-branded Android tablets directly to consumers through its own online store according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. Pricing and other details aren’t clear yet, but sources say the store will likely be launched sometime in 2012.

Chrome 18 Brings Hardware Accelerated Canvas Rendering

Google has released a new stable version of its web browser, Chrome 18. This version enables hardware-accelerated rendering for the HTML5 Canvas element by default — a change which should improve gaming performance in the browser. The new version also brings various performance improvements and security fixes.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

More About: features, first to know series, mashable

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Construction Begins On World’s Largest Telescope [VIDEO]

Posted: 30 Mar 2012 03:16 AM PDT

A new Big Bang occurred last Friday — albeit not the same magnitude as the original.

That’s what project crews in the Chilean Andes are calling last Friday’s detonation of Las Campanas Peak to make way for the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope.

Building has commenced on the massive telescope, which will be the largest telescope in the world when finished in 2019. It will feature seven giant mirrors, more than 28 feet in diameter, and be enclosed in a 200-foot tall structure.

Adaptive optics will allow the telescope to capture photos of far-away planets orbiting their stars with less glare than other telescopes, and give astronomers the chance to peer into deep space.

“The telescope will be used by scientists at our partner institutions,” Patrick McCarthy, director at GMTO (Giant Magellan Telescope Organization) tells Mashable. “Some of the nights will go to small projects led by one person, others will go to ‘key’ projects that address big questions line exoplanet atmospheres, dark energy, dark matter and so on.”

The GMT will have a larger field of view and collecting area than any other telescopes currently under construction, he added.

“Contrary to popular lore, telescopes do not benefit astronomers by magnifying distant objects,” notes a GMTO report. “Rather they allow us to both collect far more light than is possible with the unaided eye and to resolve finer details.

“The light-gathering power of a telescope is determined by its collecting area and grows as the square of the telescope diameter, while the angular resolving power is determined by the number of wavelengths of light that span the aperture and is thus proportional to the diameter.”

Currently, there are 32 people in the core project team, but there are approximately another 50 other people working on the project at GMTO’s partner institutions. The telescope project began in 2004-2005, McCarthy said, with work beginning in 2006. The group started the GMTO nonprofit corporation in 2010.

The Chilean Andes is a very dry mountain range, making the skies clear for year-round star watching.

“For the first time we have definitive evidence that the Milky Way galaxy is teaming with planetary systems, some like our own solar system, others quite exotic by comparison,” the GMTO report says.

“We have also learned that the matter that makes up the Earth, stars and other planets is a mere 4% of the total stuff of the Universe – the rest (96%!) is comprised of dark matter and an unknown "dark" energy.

“Telescopes offer a unique way to explore not only the universe as it is today, but to see back to the dawn of time and the formation of the first stars, galaxies and black holes.”

Image courtesy of GMTO

More About: chile, Giant Magellan Telescope, Telescope

Google To Sell Tablets Through Online Store [REPORT]

Posted: 30 Mar 2012 02:59 AM PDT

Google plans to sell co-branded Android tablets directly to consumers through its own online store, the Wall Street Journal reports.

This move comes in an effort to kickstart Android tablet sales, which are still nowhere near the iPad sales levels.

The tablets will be manufactured by Asus and Samsung, WSJ claims, but a Google branded tablet is a possibility, too.

There’s no word on the price, but Google might subsidize the price of the tablet(s), making them more attractive to consumers and closer to the $199 price of Android-based Amazon Kindle Fire and B&N’s Nook Tablet.

Google already tried this approach with smartphones, having sold its Google Nexus phone through its own online store, but it gave up on it after disappointing sales.

This fact alone makes it unlikely that Google would try the same approach again, but recent rumors that Google is working on a cheap tablet of its own give some credibility to the story.

If WSJ’s sources are correct, Google will launch the store sometime this year.

[via WSJ]

More About: android, Google, Tablet, tablets

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Creepy iPhone Case Forces You to Interact with Siri

Posted: 30 Mar 2012 12:43 AM PDT

Your iPhone 4S has a beautiful touchscreen retina display. But who cares about that when Siri can do everything for you by voice command?

This reverse iPhone case covers the smartphone’s screen, revealing only the home button. That way, Siri leaves you no choice but to interact with her. Muahahahahaha!

Designed and sold by 3D printing company Shapeways, the Siri case retails for $90.

More About: Gadgets, iphone, iphone accessories, Mobile, shapeways, siri, viral

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Amazon CEO Bezos to Rescue Apollo 11 Rocket Engines From the Briny Deep

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 09:13 PM PDT

Minutes after the historic Apollo 11 mission launched in July 1969, its five F-1 engines were discharged and dropped safely into the Atlantic Ocean. For more than 40 years, no one knew exactly where they landed.

Until now. Until Jeff Bezos.

The Amazon CEO announced in a blog post that a team of “undersea pros” found the engines 14,000 below sea level on the floor of the Atlantic. Now, he says, “we’re making plans to raise one or more of them” back to dry land.

Bezos did not disclose how he and his team know for sure the engines are in fact from the Apollo 11 mission, nor did he say how exactly they were located. But he does hope to have the first one that gets raised made available for viewing in the Smithsonian, and a possible second placed on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered. The engines are still NASA property, but Bezos says no public funding will be used for the rescue mission.

Bezos is not the only incredibly rich guy to do some serious underwater exploring lately. Titanic director James Cameron recently returned from a history-making solo voyage to the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, the deepest underwater location on Earth. Cameron has been discussing the trip on his Twitter account.

The Apollo 11 engine rescue mission is not the only manifestation of Bezos’s love for space exploration. He is a principle operator of the private — and somewhat mysterious — space exploration company Blue Origin. He says his love for space began as a young child watching NASA’s Apollo 11 mission unfold on TV.

“NASA is one of the few institutions I know that can inspire five-year-olds,” Bezos wrote in his blog post. “It sure inspired me, and with this endeavor, maybe we can inspire a few more youth to invent and explore.”

Photo courtesy NASA

More About: amazon, NASA, space

Mashable Photo Challenge Results: What’s In Your Laptop Bag?

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 09:02 PM PDT

Mashable’s first weekly photo challenge is complete, and the photos are in. We asked you to show us What’s in Your Laptop Bag?

Photos were taken with a range of different devices — which is an important aspect of our weekly challenge. Whether your camera of choice is a $3,000 DSLR or an iPhone, we’re interested in what you have to show us with your photography.

Check back tomorrow for our next challenge.

SEE ALSO: Canon 5D Mark II Leapsfrogs iPhone 4 as Most Popular Camera on Flickr
Have a look through through items our readers don’t leave home without.  Do any of these bags resemble your own?

David Tra

"There's a bag tax in DC and the part of MD where I work, so I carry a reusable bag with me. Since I metro to work, I have to be prepared for the weather. And of course, since I work for Discovery, I like to show some brand loyalty. I also try to carry headphones wherever I can and earbuds take up less space."

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: community, Mashable Photo Challenge, photography

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South Pole Explorer Flips Over Secret Stash of Frozen Treats [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 08:38 PM PDT

If you thought Katniss Everdeen was hardcore, meet explorer Aleksander Gamme, who spent 100 days crossing the South Pole by himself. By day 86, however, it seems like the guy is on his last leg.

Gamme’s speaking Norwegian — and if you really want to know what he’s saying, it’s been translated on Reddit — but keep watching until 0:55 when the video captures his extremely emotional delight over a secret stash of Cheez Doodles and candy.

Seriously, this guy is pumped about his snacks. And who can blame him?

More About: adventure, humor, viral, viral videos, YouTube

Online Tools Reveals How Politicians Will Affect Your Wallet

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 08:30 PM PDT

Five different candidates for president means five very different economic plans. But whose would really benefit you?

You can find out with Politify, a new online tool that encourages users to “rethink democracy.”

Politify is simple: Enter your income, martial status, age, ZIP code, number of children and students in your household (“don’t worry, we won’t share this” says the site). Politify crunches the numbers and shows you the exact effect each presidential candidate’s economic blueprint would have on your personal finances.

No more guessing about esoteric tax codes or economic plans; Politify’s goal is to give every citizen the chance to make an informed decision come Election Day. The site also allows people to register their support or disapproval of a candidate, or donate to a campaign directly on-site.

The site was designed by Nikita Bier, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. So far, he’s been funding the platform mostly through grants.

Bier, who studies Political Economy, says his frustration with the American political system drove him to design the site.

“The political parties in the rest of the Western world are really connected to the political impact of what they're trying to do,” says Bier. “In the U.S., they're a lot more ideological. They view things the way they should be as opposed to what the practical impacts of their policies will be.

“This bothered me, and I thought I could disrupt it in an entrepreneurial way.”

It took Bier about a month to write the algorithms that power the site. He says the most difficult part of designing Politify was finding a way to display the information in an “intuitive and accessible way.”

Bier’s data sets have come from the U.S. government and economics professors. He has brought on “as many smart people” as he could, including Pandora founder Will Glaser, who serves as an advisor, and Emanuel Saez, an economics professor at Berkeley.

Bier won several contests with Politify, and the platform is getting noticed. He’s gotten nods over Twitter from the chief technical officer of Obama for America, and Politify has been visited by the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, the State Department and several congresspeople.

Politify has the potential to become a powerful platform — Bier himself says that it’s a goal of his to change the way politics are done in the U.S.

“I realized we had stumbled on something powerful because we were forecasting policy outcomes and we had the power to change the outcome of elections,” says Bier. “Right now, the goal is to make these numbers as exposed as possible — provide deeper analysis and go into other areas of public policy.”

Everything could go wrong for Politify if its algorithms were found to be flawed. But Bier is conscious of transparency, which right now he admits “leaves something to be desired.”

He’s planning to open a Wiki for other academics to try to pick apart and improve his system for the benefit of the site, in true open-source style.

Eventually, Bier wants to turn Politify into a “full economic simulator,” which would allow any interest group, politician or other individual to submit specific parameters for a policy and see the exact results of what they want to do. Bier and his team will work on the site full-time beginning this summer.

Have you used Politify to check out the effect of each candidate’s plans on your own bank account? Let us know what you thought in the comments below.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, pagadesign

More About: apps, Politics, software, Startups, US

Meme Madness Is Down to the Final Four

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 08:08 PM PDT

If you’ve lost interest in March Madness — or you’re just ignoring your bracket due to numerous upsets — you can throw caution to the wind and place bets on Internet memes instead!

In the spirit of basketball season, Memebase has been running Meme Madness all month, and it’s now down to the final four.

SEE ALSO: 29 Meme-Inspired Movie Posters [PICS]

Thursday’s face-off is between Business Cat and Sixties Spiderman. The Bronies and Trollface are also still in the running. Whichever meme gets the most Facebook shares in a 24-hour period will move on to the next round.

Who do you have your money on?

BONUS: 10 March Madness Brackets That Have Nothing to Do With Basketball

1. Funny Movies

Sixty-four comedy classics compete in The Doug Gottlieb Show's "Funniest Movie Ever" contest. This bracket is separated into four divisions: National Lampoon, Judd Apatow, Farrelly Brothers and Happy Madison.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: basketball, humor, march madness, Meme, viral

‘Wonders of the Universe’ Lets You Explore Space On Your iPad

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 07:40 PM PDT

HarperCollins released a new iPad app Thursday that will set you off on a 3D exploration through space using high-resolution visuals specifically optimized for the new iPad’s Retina display.

Called Wonders of the Universe, the iPad application incorporates 210 full-color articles, hundreds of photos and two and a half hours of video from Brian Cox's award-winning series of the same name into a single space discovery app.

Matt Walton, Digital Product Consultant for Harper Collins told Mashable, "Wonders is the first iPad application to make use of two innovative technologies developed by the OTHER media: a 3D rendering engine used to create a truly amazing interface and a revolutionary publishing platform that provides a new reading experience for tablet and mobile: Glide Publisher.” Walton added, “The 3D engine is capable of handling high-resolution textures and complex animations. Created exclusively for iOS5, it takes full advantage of iPad's graphic engine and the superior display and processing power of the new iPad."

With Glide, navigating through the app and reading the articles is different from what you might be accustomed to –- in a good way.

You scroll through each article by sliding your finger from the bottom on the screen to the top. Images and video are embedded within the text, and when you get to one or the other in your reading, the app automatically makes them full screen. Photos are occasionally slideshows that can be swiped through, and when you reach a video it immediately starts to play. Swiping up or down on the screen will then close the photo or video and allow you to continue reading.

"Instead of following the page metaphor, Glide creates a simple, scrollable column of text that introduces rich media elements — video, image galleries and interactive infographics — at appropriate moments in the narrative,” says Walton. “Whereas many applications entice you away from the story causing distraction, Glide weaves multimedia into the narrative leading to a deeper engagement."

The app is divided up into sections that offer content in seven different realms: Subatomic, Atomic, Solar System, Stars, Milky Way, Galaxies, and Universe. Each section contains its own unique visuals in the form of 3D graphics on the screen, as well as individual chapters on different topics pertaining to the realm. The goal behind the app is one of discovery.

“We wanted the user experience to be one of unconstrained discovery, so we gave them the option of jetting off on their own through the 3D Universe, to a Black Hole for example, where they could call up related content on arrival. But, if they preferred, they could [take] Brian Cox’s guided tours of the Solar System and the Universe for a more curated experience,” says Alex Gatrell, Digital Publisher for Collins.

The $6.99 app is available now from the App Store. While definitely on the pricey side for an app, the graphics and content make the experience well worth it for any space enthusiast.

Have you checked out Wonders of the Universe? Let us know what you think of the app in the comments.

More About: App, apple, ipad, space

Protesters: Village Voice, Stop Child Sex Ads on ‘Backpage’

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 06:58 PM PDT


Outside the Village Voice‘s New York headquarters Thursday, hundreds of protesters demanded the online publication end its adult section called

The protesters delivered more than 200,000 online signatures on a petition, “Tell Village Voice Media to Stop Child Sex Trafficking on”

According to the National Association of Attorneys General, Backpage is the top website for human trafficking in the U.S., citing cases in 22 states. Nineteen U.S. Senators, 51 attorneys general and 53 anti-trafficking experts and organizations have called for the Village Voice to shut down the site.

Among the protesters was John Buffalo Mailer, whose father Norman Mailer founded the weekly paper. The younger Mailer told the AP his father would not have approved of these ads, which have caused the paper to lose credibility.

In the year following Craigslist’s 2010 elimination of sex ads, the amount of money spent on online prostitution ads went down by more than 50%, according to AIM Group research.

SEE ALSO: Ashton Kutcher & Village Voice Engage in Twitter War Over Child Prostitution petition deliveries have received much attention in the past month. Trayvon Martin‘s parents delivered 2 million online signitures to Sanford, Fla. authorities early this week, on the fastest growing petition in history. Earlier this month, Michigan teen Katy Butler delivered 200,000 signitures to the MPAA, protesting the R rating of new documentary Bully.

What do you think of this wave of online petitioning to drive social change? Sound off in the comments.

Image via Flickr, Shrieking Tree

More About:, Media, online petition, protests, village voice

Google Maps Now Includes Real-Time Traffic Data

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 06:29 PM PDT

Now if you’re trying to figure out how to get to your job interview or dinner with friends you can also account for what route might be the fastest. Google Maps has added the ability to see the estimated time of your journey using real-time traffic data.

The new-and-improved feature offers estimated travel times within Google Maps based on current traffic conditions. So, if you’re heading across town to meet a new yoga instructor you’ll be able to see how long several routes might take with no traffic, as well as how long the expedition might be based on the traffic conditions right now.

Depending on where you live, the shortest distance may take the longest time to travel depending on the time of day your journey begins. Traffic data is constantly refreshed where available, offering the latest possible information.

Google previously offered traffic data, however, this is the first time data has been available as part of directions.

“The previous traffic feature that was removed from Google Maps last summer provided users with the worst-case traffic scenario based on historic traffic data — e.g. ‘up to 50 minutes in traffic.’” a Google spokesperson told Mashable. “That feature was removed because we wanted to improve the freshness of the data. The feature that we're introducing on Google Maps today works differently and serves a different purpose. The new time-in-traffic feature provides users with the ability to check current traffic conditions and estimates the length of travel time based on constantly refreshed data.”

Data is gathered through third-party services and through information from Android users who have opted in to the My Location feature on Google Maps. Google would be able to tell, for instance, if there were several Android owners moving slowly on the freeway and determine that there was traffic slowing them down. The more people opting into the service in the area, the better the traffic information available will be.

If you want to help provide data for the service and help your fellow driver in the process, you can do so by turning on the My Location feature for Google Maps on your Android phone.

Let us know in the comments what you think about traffic data being incorporated into Google Maps in the comments.

More About: android, directions, Google, Google Maps, trending

Apple Employees Like Tim Cook a Little Better than Steve Jobs

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 06:07 PM PDT

The late Steve Jobs may be as venerated within the company he founded as he is outside it. But that doesn’t mean his successor is suffering by comparison.

In fact, according to anonymous employee posts on the employer reviews website Glassdoor, Cook has the highest approval rating of any CEO in tech — indeed, any CEO in the U.S. — a whopping 97%.

That’s a small but significant step above Jobs, who garnered 95% approval during his final year in the CEO role. (Cook’s year includes the months he was officially filling in for Jobs while the founder was on medical leave.)

But for that extra 2%, Cook would not be the sole winner of Glassdoor’s list of tech CEOs. He’d be level-pegging with Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, who has had a stunning year as far as his employees are concerned, rising from 87% approval to 95%.

SEE ALSO: Top Tech Companies to Work for in 2012: Facebook Beats Google, Apple

Meanwhile, Google CEO Larry Page isn’t faring so well — he’s seen a 2% decline in employee satisfaction compared to his predecessor, Eric Schmidt. Given that Page has been on a tear killing projects in order to focus on a few core products, it’s perhaps surprising that his number is still as high as 94%.

As for Cook, there are any number of reasons why his popularity is so high. Apple shares are soaring past $600, a 50% premium since Jobs’ departure. He’s set up a matching program for charitable donations, something Jobs famously refused to do. And he’s dealt expertly with threats to the Apple image — most recently making an impromptu visit to the Foxconn factories in China.

“The products speak for themselves and the company,” writes one anonymous Apple engineer on Glassdoor. “We have the best management team anywhere,” says another Cupertino reviewer.

Perhaps the real question should be: What’s the deal with the 3% of Apple employees who don’t like Tim Cook?

More About: apple, Foxconn, glassdoor, Google, tim cook, trending

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Twitter Scam Targets ‘Draw Something’ Lovers [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 05:20 PM PDT

A new scam has surfaced on Twitter that targets Draw Something players. Setting its sites on people who have tweeted about the game, the scam sends the tweeter a message claiming that he or she has won a prize.

A URL on the message sends “recipients” to where they are asked to answer a few questions in exchange for the award. The spam campaign was uncovered Thursday by Sophos, who noted on its blog "Your chances of ever receiving a prize are remote — chances are that you will either end up handing over personal information, or will be helping the original scammer earn commission."

OMGPOP, the creators of the game, have issued a statement indicating they have nothing to do with the promotion and encouraging users to not click on the link if they receive one of the messages.

Scammers are likely playing off the recent popularity of the pictionary-style game. OMGPOP launched Draw Something in early February. Since its launch the game has been downloaded more than 35 million times, leading Zynga to acquire the company earlier this month for close to $200 million.

Similar scams on Twitter target people who tweet phrases such as iPhone and iPad.

Have any of you received a message from a fake “Draw Something” account on Twitter? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

More About: Draw something, omgpop, Twitter, Zynga

‘American Idol’ Curve Ball Gets Lukewarm Reaction From Social TV Fans

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 04:59 PM PDT

American Idol‘s attempt to mix things up — by having the final 9 singers sing as trios in addition to their individual performances — fell flat Wednesday night among users of Peel’s Idol Interactive Experience, a second-screen engagement platform that lets viewers “cheer” or “boo” contestants and judges in real time.

Since the live shows began March 15, TV discovery app Peel has been tracking which finalists are most likely to be safe or be eliminated. For Wednesday’s performance show, Peel’s Idol feature also captured the lukewarm sentiment of the three trios’ medleys (see graphic above).

The contestants, mentored this week by Stevie Nicks, sang songs from artists they admired for their solos.

Front-runners Phillip Phillips, who tackled Jonny Lang’s “Still Rainin’,” and Jessica Sanchez, who performed Beyonce’s “Sweet Dream,” continued their reign at the top of Peel’s leaderboard. Sanchez’s showing even sparked Beyonce’s official website to post it.

For two weeks running, one of the bottom three most-booed contestants on Peel was voted off by America. This week, the bottom three consists of country firecracker Skylar Laine, alt-rocker Colton Dixon and the falsetto-infused DeAndre Brackensick.

Brackensick received a standing ovation from the judges but didn’t fully please the ears of Peel users (see graphic below).

“DeAndre haters started booing early in the process, even during the commercial break, but once DeAndre started singing, his fans picked up steam and cheered to offset booing during his performance,” Peel's VP of marketing Scott Ellis told Mashable. “Then things get interesting in the reaction graph — cheering spikes as the judges give DeAndre a standing ovation, and his fans go crazy as Jennifer makes her appeal and Randy shares his praise.”

SEE ALSO: Social TV Fans Cheer 'American Idol' Singer's Antics During Judge's Harsh Critique

That’s when the boos switched over to the judges (the black line in the graphic). “The negative judge reaction spikes during Jennifer's pleas and Randy's support,” Ellis says. “It appears that the Peel Community is very much split in their feedback on DeAndre.”

One finalist will be kicked off during tonight’s results show. Who will it be?

Watch the March 28 Performances and Judge for Yourself

Colton Dixon Sings "Everything"

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: American Idol. Music, apps, Entertainment, mobile apps, Peel, second screen apps, Social medai, social tv, trending, TV

Apple Supplier Foxconn’s Violations: How It Plans To Solve Them

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 04:17 PM PDT

Corporate public relations rule numero uno: When a scandal occurs, admit you were wrong and say you’re sorry. Apple is doing just that with the help of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), which released its audit of Apple’s factories in China on Thursday. Apple and the FLA pledged to amend the issues at the factories by closely monitoring them and implementing solutions to improve overall conditions, the audit noted.

The FLA found numerous violations at three Foxconn factories in China — Apple’s number one supplier — including overworked employees and unsafe working conditions.

But will Apple and the FLA make good on its promises to turn these conditions around? Activist group SumOfUs said Apple has made promises in the past that it didn’t keep. A memo on the SomeOfUs website shows two Apple statements regarding factory conditions side-by-side. One is from 2006, the other is from earlier this year. In both statements Apple said it will work to ensure factory employees are not overworked. The most recent audit by the FLA shows employees working excessive hours is still the norm.

Foxconn said it can make its factories compliant with FLA and Chinese regulations by July, 2013.

“Let’s be clear — this report admits that Foxconn is breaking the law on a daily basis,” said SumOfUs Executive Director Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman. “And it says that it’s going to take up to 15 months before Foxconn will stop breaking the law. That’s not how this should work. If Apple said to Foxconn tomorrow, ‘We will only buy products from you that have been made following the law,’ do you really think Foxconn couldn’t stop breaking the law sooner than 15 months from now?”

Issue number one: Foxconn employees exceeded 60 hours per week, plus regular overtime and China’s legal hours limit of 40 hours per week and 36 hours maximum overtime per month. During peak production times, workers exceeded 60 hours per week on average.

The Proposed Solution: “Foxconn has committed to bring its factories into full compliance with Chinese legal limits and FLA standards on working hours by July, 2013, according to its remediation plan in FLA's report. The supplier will bring working hours in line with the legal limit of 49 hours per week, including overtime. This means a reduction in monthly overtime hours from 80 to 36, and would be a significant improvement given that most of the technology sector is struggling to address excessive overtime.”

Issue number two: Problems with overtime compensation. “Fourteen percent of workers may not receive fair compensation for unscheduled overtime. The assessment found that unscheduled overtime was only paid in 30-minute increments. This means, for example, that 29 minutes of overtime work results in no pay and 58 minutes results in only one unit of overtime pay.”

The Proposed Solution: “Foxconn committed to pay workers fairly for all overtime as well as work-related meetings outside of regular working hours. In addition, FLA secured agreement from Foxconn and Apple to retroactively pay any worker due unpaid overtime. The companies are currently conducting an audit to determine the payments due to workers.” Foxconn is also creating a compensation agreement with employees that protects them from losing income caused by a mandate for less overtime.

Issue number three: “FLA observed other serious issues in areas such as health and safety, worker integration and communication, treatment of interns, and China's social security enrollment, among others.”

The Proposed Solution: “Until now, Foxconn only recorded accidents that resulted in a production stoppage. Beginning immediately, Foxconn committed to require supervisors and workers to report all accidents resulting in an injury.”

Foxconn also agrees to keep management out of union election decisions, strengthen intern programs and encourage enrollment in social security programs for employees.

“If implemented, these commitments will significantly improve the lives of more than 1.2 million Foxconn employees and set a new standard for Chinese factories," Auret van Heerden, president and CEO of the FLA, said in the audit.

Earlier this week Apple CEO Tim Cook toured Foxconn during his visit to China.

What do you think of the commitment of Apple, the FLA and Foxconn to fix these violations? Tell us in the comments.

More About: apple, Fair Labor Association, Foxconn, SumOfUS

For more Dev & Design coverage:

Bizarre Tumblr ‘One Tiny Hand’ Pokes Fun at Celebs

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 03:51 PM PDT

The Tumblr One Tiny Hand has made the Internet do a collective double-take over the last two weeks. The site posts photos of celebrities and notables, with one subtle change — one hand in each photo has been shrunk.

The main man behind One Tiny Hand, Zach Vitale, launched the site March 19. He says growth has been “unexpected, but awesome.” The Tumblr has earned more than 800,000 hits since then, and has been updating regularly, with new tiny hands every day.

Vitale said the idea came from his work as a photo retoucher for an online studio. He needed a project while his coworkers were taking smoke breaks.

“I’d hang out inside and give myself little projects — like making a hand smaller or a head bigger — that would make me laugh while they were outside,” says Vitale. “I love the ‘WTF’ moment generated where you’re forced to question something you thought you were sure of.”

Vitale left his job in January, but kept the hobby, switching to photos of celebrities. He posted some of his experiments on Facebook with great success, so he, along with co-conspirators Bob O’Connor and James Weinberg, set up the blog.

Vitale said an unexpected effect of the blog is that he’s been contacted by many people with Poland’s Syndrome, in which a missing chest muscle can cause a shortness of fingers.

“It’s been a great opportunity to discuss how this sincerely has nothing to do with any disability or group of people,” says Vitale. “We’ve learned a lot from the people with Poland’s Syndrome who have emailed over the last week, and steadfastly support everyone coping with this condition.

Instead, Vitale wants the blog to be about re-imagining things you think you understand. Because of his job, Vitale especially understands how quickly people consume images, and he wanted to make a small change to how we view photography.

“We look at pictures, make the decision that ‘I like that,’ and like/share/reblog/retweet/pin/etc. the image all within a few seconds nowadays,” he says. “Our hope is that people are looking at images a little bit closer as a result of our site and slowing down a bit. There’s so much good stuff out there, and life is so much better when you take a little extra time to enjoy it.”

Vitale modified this image of Mashable founder and CEO Pete Cashmore. The picture was originally taken at this year’s SXSW by photographer Michael Cummings.

More About: blog, features, photobomb, photography, Social Media, trending, tumblr, viral

RIM to Refocus on Enterprise, Will No Longer Try to Be ‘Everybody’s Darling’

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 03:21 PM PDT


It’s tough times for Research in Motion. That was the clear message from RIM’s newbie CEO, Thorsten Heins, during a call about quarterly company earnings Thursday afternoon.

Not only are revenues down — $4.2 billion from $5.2 billion last quarter — but former co-CEO Jim Balsille has now officially left the company, resigning from the board of directors. COO of Global Operations Jim Rowan and CTO David Yach are out, too. Heins repeatedly emphasized there was “a lot of work to be done” and that the coming months and possibly years would be “challenging.”

However, Heins also detailed his plan to turn the company around. Saying that the company “cannot succeed by trying to be everybody’s darling,” Heins revealed that RIM would refocus on its core strengths: enterprise devices and services. Building a platform that emphasizes security, manageability and the company’s popular BlackBerry Messenger service will be key areas RIM hopes to build on, he said.

Given the new focus, Heins said consumer-oriented functions such as media consumption (think Netflix, Hulu and Flipboard) would no longer be a priority for the company.

SEE ALSO: Is This the First BlackBerry 10 Phone? [PIC]

Heins said he did his own “reality check” on where the company stands, and that RIM’s future depends on a successful and smooth launch of BlackBerry 10 devices. The launch, planned for later in the year, is on schedule, he said, and carriers have already responded positively to the first as-yet-unrevealed BlackBerry 10 phone.

That phone would address RIM’s lack of a “high-end” phone to match the likes of the iPhone and top-tier Android devices, and it would also be equipped with high-speed LTE connectivity, Heins said. RIM will launch BlackBerry 10 prototype devices to developers at the coming BlackBerry World trade show, which begins in late April. Deeper carrier involvement would follow in the summer.

RIM sold about 500,000 PlayBook tablets last quarter, or about the same number of iPads Apple sold in the first 12 hours after the launch of the new model. Heins remained bullish on the tablet, though, saying RIM had moved 1 million PlayBooks to date, and that the tablet provided it with a way to build a high-quality user experience prior to BlackBerry 10′s release.

What do you think of the state of RIM and Heins’s chances of turning its ship around? Have your say in the comments.

More About: blackberry, BlackBerry 10, playbook, research in motion, RIM, trending

20 Over-The-Top Tweets About the Mega Millions Jackpot

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 03:00 PM PDT

Mega Millions reaction

Click here to view this gallery.

The chatter online and in offices across New York focused heavily on Friday’s mind-boggling Mega Millions lottery jackpot, which soared above half a billion dollars Thursday. And as the monetary sum has increased — to a world-record $540 million prize — so too has the amount of entertaining messages on Twitter.

We scoured the social birdcage for the most entertaining and downright hilarious tweets from big-name Twitter personalities and hopeful Americans. Flip through the gallery to give yourself a hefty dose of laughter.

Expect more of these conversations to surface across social networks as the day continues. “Mega Millions” is currently number five on Google’s hourly updated list of top 20 trending topics.

The drawing for this jackpot will happen Friday. Lottery tickets cost $1 per play. To win, a player must match all of his or her six numbers on a ticket to the numbers picked during the drawing. The jackpot is paid in 26 annual payments or in a smaller cash option. The cash option this go-around is $389 million.

As Effie Trinket from Hunger Games would say, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

What would you do with $540 million if you won the Mega Millions jackpot?

More About: google trends, humor, lottery, Mega Millions, Social Media, trending, Twitter

10 Ways to Humanize Your Brand On Social Media

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 02:37 PM PDT

Joe Chernov is the VP of Content Marketing for Eloqua. He is responsible for creating, distributing and measuring content that increases awareness and drives demand.

Marketers are suckers for a catch phrase, from "join the conversation" to "think like a publisher." Now, thanks largely to Facebook Timeline for brand pages, the new marketing slogan has quickly become, "humanize the brand."

Humanizing a brand simply means trying to interact with each customer on a personal level. But for a company to implement that style, there needs to be a shift in how it responds to customers, particularly via social media. Here are 10 ways to get started.

1. Think Like a Social Network

I recently asked Alfredo Tan, Senior Director of Facebook Canada, if the company distinguishes between business and consumer brand pages. "We don't draw a distinction between your mom and a bar of soap," he says. Social media is egalitarian. If the world's largest social network believes companies and people are on equal footing, maybe you should, too.

2. Start With Staff

In Smart Business, Social Business, author Michael Brito writes, “while many organizations are trying desperately to humanize their brand, they are failing to understand that they need to humanize their business first.” In other words, your employees are the most authentic expression of your brand. Start with them.

Take Maya Grinberg, a social media manager with social commerce platform Wildfire Interactive. Grinberg features in-office traditions, such as cheeky "spirit days" when staff plays dress-up, and heads to the company's social channels as a way to generate conversation with fans about their own corporate cultures. She says posts about Wildfire's inner workings are consistently among the company's most popular updates.

3. Keep the Suits in Check

Not in all cases, but certainly in many, it’s a good idea to keep executives off of company social media accounts. It’s just that, often, the executive team is simply too far removed from the daily customer experience to understand how to best interact with them. That’s not something any company wants floating around online.

4. Create Access

Maybe you can't invite everyone into the boardroom, but you can give them access to other parts of your business. Few social strategists understand their audience better than Liz Philips of golf giant TaylorMade. "We are, first and foremost, golfers," Philips says. The company expresses this identity by sponsoring a TaylorMade PGA tour van that travels to weekly PGA events with a correspondent who live tweets to followers.

5. Treat Customers as Partners

Some brands treat their customers as the face of the company. Levi's, for example, has created an entire series of videos featuring customers in their products. They've also developed a line that meets the needs of a key customer group: urban bike riders. Levi's has moved beyond conversing with customers on social networks to co-creating content, even products, with them.

6. Reach Out To Key Individuals

While searching for a new SUV, small business owner, Marc Girolimetti, received a surprising phone call from Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company. Mulally had organized a special test drive of the company's new Edge Crossover for Girolimetti, at the urging of social strategist Scott Monty. Not only did Girolimetti go on to buy the vehicle, but thanks to his highly connected network, his positive experience spread quickly online.

7. Own Your Mistakes

Want to prove your brand is human? Admit when the company makes a mistake. During a panel on brand journalism at South by Southwest, Twitter's editorial director, Karen Wickre, said making such an admission should be 'on message' for every company.

8. Put Your Fans to Work

Remember that loyal fans are often willing to do some of the heavy lifting for your brand. Cisco Systems created a sticky community on Facebook called the Cisco Networking Academy, where it gives its passionate and knowledgeable fans moderator privileges.

9. Be Open to Debate

People periodically argue. Likewise, a brand should be willing to engage in public debate. When a competitor attempted to recruit Eloqua's entire sales team on LinkedIn, we were unsure of what to make of the situation. Was it a clever use of social media? We didn't know, so we took the debate public by asking our blog readers what they thought. The post's transparency, a hallmark of a humanizing a brand, resulted in a groundswell of public support.

10. Be Present

Creating a social media presence is essentially an invitation for dialogue. Brands that foster the culture and processes required to engage in widespread conversations can create vibrant customer communities. Those that don't might be better off with no social presence at all. The reason: to be on social media but not present on social media is a broken promise.

More About: brands, contributor, corporate brands, Facebook, features, Marketing, Social Media, trending, Twitter

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Shipping Receipts Hint at New iPad Sales Trends

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 02:03 PM PDT

Apple isn’t one to elaborate on sales of its new products, but a startup called Slice that handles online shopping data has captured an interesting snapshot of new iPad sales nonetheless.

New iPad buyers, according to this snapshot, have so far been most likely to opt for the classic black model over the white model, live in California and purchase either the most-expensive or least-expensive model.

The most popular app downloaded among them? An email client called Sparrow — for iPhone.

Slice had access to about 2,600 new iPad receipts because it manages shipping and purchase information for customers by analyzing their inboxes.

Here’s what the startup learned from taking a closer look at those shipping slips:

  • Customers in California bought more new iPads than those in any other state. Other states that purchased the largest portions of new iPads in the sample include New York, Texas, New Jersey and Alabama, in that order.
  • Black iPads were more popular than white iPads. About 65% of Slice customers who bought new iPads opted for the classic look.
  • Buyers aimed either high or low. The most popular new iPad models were the most basic option — the 16GB Wi-Fi Only model — and the 64GB Wi-Fi + 4G model.
  • Most buyers didn’t pay for 4G. About 57% of Slice customers who purchased iPads opted for the Wi-Fi only model.
  • The most popular app among new iPad owners was an email client … for the iPhone. Of all the apps new iPad owners in Slice’s userbase downloaded, the most common was the email client Sparrow — which is odd, because the app does not yet have an iPad version (among all Slice users, Sparrow came in second place). The runner-up app was iPhoto, followed by OMGPOP’s insta-hit Draw Something.

Slice’s snapshot isn’t a scientific study. A scientist would, for instance, account for the distribution of Slice customers when tallying the hotspots for new iPad orders (though Slice says its users are distributed state-by-state “virtually perfectly in alignment” with the U.S. population). A statistics expert would also select a sample from all new iPad buyers rather than just Slice’s customer base.

What Slice’s data do show, however, are the decisions that 2,600 people made when ordering the newest Apple tablet.

Did any of these numbers surprise you? Let us know in the comments why or why not.

More About: apple, ipad, Slice, trending

Google to Political Campaigns: Here’s How You Win

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 01:27 PM PDT

Google’s politics team has been working with presidential campaigns for years. Now they’re ready to share the lessons they’ve learned with candidates for everything from the local school board to the U.S. Senate.

The “four screens to victory” initiative, which launched on Wednesday, aims to convince those running for office at every level of politics that they need a presence across television, computers, tablets and smartphones in order to run a successful campaign.

The site is half best practices, half sales pitch for Google products.

“Google's goal is to make the web work for all political campaigns. What we're attempting to do is take the insights of presidential and congressional campaigns and get them to folks up and down across the ballot and get those tools in the hands of everyone.”

“We're trying to build a base of expertise how to help campaigns win online,” says Charles Scrase, who works with elections, campaigns and non-profits that use Google platforms.

“Google's goal is to make the web work for all political campaigns. What we're attempting to do is take the insights of presidential and congressional campaigns and get them to folks up and down across the ballot and get those tools in the hands of everyone.”

That sales pitch, though, is aimed at the masses.

“We're making what we do scalable,” says Scrase. “It's impossible to deliver deep, tailored solutions for every campaign. But ‘Four Screens for Victory’ is about taking the best of what we've learned and making it accessible. We hope to reach thousands of potential candidates.”

“Four Screens to Victory” also happens to have four steps to victory: “Build your organization,” “Define the issues,” “Persuade the electorate” and “Get out the vote.” Google’s happy to help campaigns with all four.

The first step in winning a campaign, says Google, is building an organization — the people who will help you get to the school board, the White House or anywhere in-between. And when your potential supporters are looking for more information about you, what do they do? Search, of course.

Good SEO can help people find your website, but Google’s trying to encourage candidates to purchase search ads to ensure they find the right person. After all, natural search results can bury a candidate — imagine if somebody named “George Bush” or “Justin Bieber” was running for mayor of a small town, for example.

Search ads, says Google, can point people in the right direction and can be targeted locally — helping that hypothetical other George Bush get noticed by his neighbors. Then it’s up to him to get them ringing phones and knocking on doorbells.

YouTube has a part to play in all this as well, says Google. It lets campaigns “respond to a breaking story by posting a new video, available across any device, in a matter of minutes.”

Those videos can be geographically targeted, too. and video can be easily consumed across computers, tablets and mobile devices. (Google highlights “2 Legit 2 Quit,” one of Mashable‘s favorite political YouTube videos).

In the end, though, winning a campaign is all about getting out the vote. Google offers help here as well, suggesting mobile ads as an excellent platform for reaching people in specific voting districts come Election Day.

“[Getting out the vote] is the most critical aspect of running a campaign,” says Scrase. “As the Internet has become more complicated and comprehensive, a lot of campaigns have become very successful at getting out the vote using online media. Targeting allows for a campaign for a small congressional campaign or mayoral campaign to blanket a small area with a heavy amount of ads in a critical time.”

Scrase has seen political campaigns use mobile ads in new and innovative ways on Election Day. Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), for example, used mobile ads that let users click to find out where they could vote or connect them with a campaign phone bank to learn more about her.

Why should a campaign use digital ads over direct mailers and TV ads? In a word, engagement. A pro-Mitt Romney ad appearing right next to a New York Times headline about the candidate catches voters when they’re already thinking about politics.

“What we think is so powerful about the web is that we're reaching people at moments of decision points, when they're thinking about an issue and wanting to learn more.”

“I think if you look at the way political campaigns have run over time, direct mail and TV has been a staple for decades,” says Scrase.

“But they rely on disruptive messaging — catching people's attention while they're doing something else. What we think is so powerful about the web is that we're reaching people at moments of decision points, when they're thinking about an issue and wanting to learn more.”

Scrase and the Google team aren’t modest about how powerful the tools they’re promoting can be for a political campaign.

“We think [these platforms] have the potential to change the electoral process, and we're excited to be a part of that change, because we think it's good for democracy,” says Scrase.

What do you think about Google’s platforms and advice for political campaigns? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, pagadesign

More About: Google, Politics, US, World

Apple’s Auditor Finds ‘Significant Issues’ at Foxconn Factories

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 01:09 PM PDT

The organization hired to audit Apple’s factories in China released its report on Thursday stating it found “significant issues with working conditions at three factories in China operated by Apple's major supplier Foxconn.”

The Fair Labor Association (FLA) said its nearly month-long investigation uncovered overworked employees, health and safety problems, problems with overtime compensation and issues with communication that led to unsafe working conditions. The FLA said it “secured” commitments with the factories and Apple to overturn these problems and will institute closer monitoring of factories to ensure safe and positive working conditions are upheld.

Earlier this week the activist group SumOfUs said it heard the report would be released this week and preemptively contested any promises Apple might make regarding changing its practices, saying hiring the FLA was simply a publicity move by Apple.

Spokespeople from Apple did not return our request for comment.

The FLA said in a release that it issued 35,000 anonymous surveys to allow factory employes to voice their concerns. Its look into factory conditions showed that the factories’ workers exceed the FLA’s weekly hours limit of 60 hours per week, as well as China’s legal limit of 40 hours per week, plus 36 overtime per month.

“During peak production periods, the average number of hours worked per week exceeded 60 hours per worker,” the FLA’s report noted. “There were periods in which some employees worked more than seven days in a row without the required 24 hours off.”

More than half of workers said the compensation didn’t meet their basic needs. “FLA will conduct a cost of living study in Shenzhen and Chengdu to assist Foxconn in determining whether worker salaries meet FLA requirements for basic needs, as well as discretionary income,” the report states.

SumOfUS had said it expected the FLA’s report to be critical of Apple. Apple would make a promise to change, but that it wouldn’t uphold that promise, it said.

Nike and other clothing retailers hired the FLA to audit its overseas factories after controversy about garment workers’ conditions overtook the media in the ’90s and early 00′s. Apple said it’s the first tech company to voluntarily hire a fair labor auditor.

What do you think about the FLA’s recent report about factories in China? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Adam Fagen.

More About: apple, china, factories, Foxconn, trending

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Ryan Seacrest Sketches Lady Gaga in ‘Draw Something’ [PIC]

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 12:58 PM PDT

Radio and TV host Ryan Seacrest is a man of many talents. Now he apparently can add Draw Something illustrator to his impressive résumé after drawing Lady Gaga using the popular mobile game.

Seacrest posted his creation of the pop megastar Thursday on Facebook, where it gained 3,000 Likes in just 30 minutes.

The drawing resembles early Gaga when she rocked platinum blonde hair and sparkly black shades during her “Just Dance” days in 2008 and 2009. Seacrest wrote “HAPPY BIRTHDAY GAGA!” on his illustration.

Gaga — born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta — turned 26 on Wednesday.

Draw Something — a Pictionary-like game that is currently the top paid and free app in Apple's App Store and the top paid app in the Google Play store — has naturally incited creativity from its players (see gallery below).

Recently, a musician addicted to the mobile game asked fans to create drawings for his song. The musician used the drawings in a music video.

Draw Something officially hit digital stores on Feb. 6. Zynga acquired Draw Something creator OMGPOP for $180 million on March 21.

BONUS: 20 Amazing Sketches Created on the ‘Draw Something’ Game


by Rory B

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apps, Draw something, Gaming, Lady Gaga, mobile apps, ryan seacrest

Facebook Adds Yahoo Patent Lawsuit to IPO Filing

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 12:47 PM PDT

Facebook updated its $5 billion initial public offering (IPO) filing this week to include the details about its patent battle with Yahoo.

This is the third time Facebook has amended its S-1 form. The list of lawsuits against the company seems to grow as the company gets closer to becoming a publicly traded company, which is expected to happen by May.

The company is required to keep the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — and its potential shareholders — in the loop about legal issues that could drain the company’s wallet. Although Facebook seeks to raise $5 billion for its IPO, market analysts have valued Facebook at $100 billion.

On March 12, Yahoo filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., stating Facebook infringed on 10 of Yahoo’s patent technologies related to "advertising," "social networking," "privacy," "customization" and "messaging."

“Yahoo is seeking unspecified damages, a damage multiplier for alleged willful infringement, and an injunction,” the SEC S-1 form says.

Facebook has not filed a counterclaim or commented on Yahoo’s allegations. The company said it plans to “vigorously defend this lawsuit.”

“This litigation is still in its early stages and the final outcome, including our liability, if any, with respect to these claims, is uncertain,” Facebook wrote in the most recently updated IPO. “If an unfavorable outcome were to occur in this litigation, the impact could be material to our business, financial condition, or results of operations.”

Along with intellectual property claims lawsuits, the social network is juggling class action lawsuits, too. Facebook notes that defending intellectual property lawsuits is expensive — and that it’s unsure if its defense will be successful.

“As we face increasing competition and gain an increasingly high profile, including in connection with our initial public offering, we expect the number of patent and other intellectual property claims against us to grow,” Facebook said in the S-1 form.

More About: facebook ipo, patent infringement, Yahoo

How a Would-Be Spy Is Using Twitter to Attack the CIA

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 12:33 PM PDT

Lynnae Williams was on track to become a CIA agent. Today, the 35-year-old aspiring journalist and would-be CIA spy uses Twitter to expose what she feels are corrupt and unethical practices by the mysterious organization.

The Daily Beast outlined Williams’s story Thursday. In 2009, she spent more than three months training to become a CIA spy. She says she was sent to the CIA’s “psychological prison,” a public mental-health hospital in Virginia.

There, she says, doctors pushed drugs for schizophrenia and manic depression in a white-walled environment with inedible food. Eventually, the CIA stopped paying her and suspended her security clearance. She’s now looking to sue the agency for wrongful termination.

And in the meantime, she’s using her @wlynnae account to post tweets such as this one:

Williams’ messages also include links to her medical records and other official documents from her time in the CIA. According to The Daily Beast, she posted a tweet on Tuesday reading: "The #Farm is #CIA’s training center near #Williamsburg, Virginia. I think it’s the Kisevalter Center or something." She also runs a blog titled Central Intelligence Agency Psychological Abuse.

Williams is a “hot topic on classified social networking,” including a secret version of Facebook used by the intelligence community, according to The Daily Beast. The CIA is aware of her Twitter feed.

Since the story broke Thursday morning, Williams has appeared to enjoy the increased attention on her beefs with the agency. She’s posted about her increased Twitter follows and appearance in Google search results.

Is she worried her public gripes will result in some unpleasant repercussions from the CIA? Here are a couple of her tweets posted after her story hit the press:

Head over to The Daily Beast for Williams’s full story.

Do you think Lynnae Williams is using Twitter for good, or just for attention? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of @wlynnae

More About: Twitter

Mashable Connect Agenda: 15 Exciting Sessions to Learn From

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 12:20 PM PDT

Mashable's largest conference, Mashable Connect, is returning to Orlando, FL from May 3-5, and this year we’ll bring together the brightest minds to discuss key trends on the horizon and what digital professionals are thinking for the future.

We’re excited to announce the Mashable Connect 2012 agenda. This year’s lineup of content covers a wide range of topics that you need to know now and for the future.

These speakers will both educate and inspire. They bring a diverse mix of experience, insight and case studies. Also, this year we are introducing a few break-out sessions to dive deeper into some of the topics most impacting our businesses and professions.

You’ll also walk away with practical digital solutions to your business challenges. But Mashable Connect is more than just a conference. It is an opportunity for Mashable’s community to come together offline in a unique setting — to go beyond traditional networking.

This is the conference for the Connected Generation — you don’t want to miss it!

Register for Mashable Connect 2012 in Lake Buena Vista, FL on Eventbrite

Tickets include three nights at the Contemporary Resort, compelling content sessions, unique networking activities, connecting with Mashable team members and special, surprise events.

Mashable Connect 2012 Agenda

Indications of the Future: What Today's Digital Experiences Can Tell Us About Tomorrow
Duane Bray, Partner, IDEO

How to Reinvent the Web
Roger McNamee, Managing Director, Elevation Partners

The Truth About Online Reputation
Joe Fernandez, Founder & CEO, Klout

The Future of Digital Campaigning
Joe Trippi, Founder & President, Joe Trippi & Associates

Sound Will Be Bigger Than Video
Alexander Ljung, Founder & CEO, SoundCloud

Inside The Atlantic: How One Magazine Got Profitable by Going 'Digital First'
Lauren Indvik, Marketing & Media Associate Editor, Mashable
Scott Havens, Senior Vice President, Finance and Digital Operations, Atlantic Media Company

The Evolution of the Second Screen
Christina Warren, Entertainment Editor, Mashable
Randy Shiozaki, Co-Founder, TVplus
Miguel Monteverde, Vice President, Digital Media, Discovery Communications
Scott Rosenberg, CEO & Co-Founder, Umami

After SOPA/PIPA: What Winning (One) Means
Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University

Evolution of the New Media Company
June Cohen, Executive Producer, TED Media

The Secret Life of Social Links
Hilary Mason, Chief Scientist,

Digital Branding Secrets: Why Most Marketers – And Startups – Get It Wrong
Cindy Gallop, Founder and CEO,

How Millennials Are Using Digital to Shape the Future, and Why We Should Listen to What They Have to Say
Adora Svitak, Author, Teacher, Speaker and Activist

Mobile-First Social Networking: Communities of the Future?
Meghan Peters, Community Manager, Mashable
Brett Martin, Co-Founder & CEO, Sonar

Web 3.0: Curating Big Data Is Future of the Web
Burt Herman, Co-Founder, Storify

Event Information

Our annual destination conference, Mashable Connect, brings our community together for three days to connect offline in an intimate setting at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World®. Registration is now open.

Held in a unique location away from everyday distractions, Mashable Connect is a rare and valuable opportunity to be surrounded by digital leaders across industries. You'll spend time with Mashable's passionate and influential community, hear from top speakers who will provide insight into the the technologies and trends that are shaping the next era of digital innovation, and get to spend time with the Mashable team.

To keep Mashable Connect as intimate as possible, only a limited amount of tickets are available.

A Look Back at Last Year's Mashable Connect

1. Mashable Connect Race Powered by Gowalla

Team members check in to a race location at Magic Kingdom during the Mashable Connect Race powered by Gowalla.

Click here to view this gallery.

Supporting Sponsors

Sponsorship Opportunities

A limited number of sponsor opportunities are available for Mashable Connect. This is an excellent opportunity to get in front of Mashable's passionate and influential audience. Contact for opportunities.

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Facebook Photos Slip Through Great Firewall, Arrive in China

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 12:05 PM PDT

familyleaf 600

China notoriously blocks access to social networking sites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Now a startup, FamilyLeaf, has found a break in the Great Firewall — allowing Chinese families to get a glimpse at the Facebook photos of their loved ones.

FamilyLeaf co-founder Wesley Zhao says he can feel how censorship affects his family in China. Virtual Private Networks provide access for some privileged Chinese Internet users, though the majority are restricted.

“Lots of Chinese American families have been disconnected by the Great Firewall of China,” Zhao told Mashable. “FamilyLeaf isn’t something the government would worry about, as it’s just for family. It’s a perfect way for people to connect, even if some of their family’s content is on Facebook or other blocked sites. ”

While the Chinese government blocks Facebook’s main domain, user photos are stored on a separate content delivery network (CDN). Because of these separate CDNs, FamilyLeaf users can share photos directly from their Facebook albums, without an addition upload.

Zhao’s family loves the hundreds of his photos they can now see and he enjoys seeing their photos he has missed because he’s not active on Chinese social networks.

SEE ALSO: Beyond the Great Firewall: How China Does Social Networking [INFOGRAPHIC]

“We don’t think the Chinese government did this by accident,” Zhao says. “The Facebook photos CDN is still available because the government is concerned about people organizing protests. Photos are not going to rile up protests.”

The site, which launched Tuesday, functions as a private directory for families, much like a mini-social network. You can share Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and Instagram photos, write on a family message board, and store contact information in the closed forum.

FamilyLeaf wasn’t started with the intention of connecting Chinese families specifically. Co-founder Ajay Mehta’s father keeps lists of relatives’ contact information strewn around his house. The startup’s primary goal is to connect families separated by distance.

“Most kids don’t want to friend their parents and lots of parents go on Facebook exclusively to share baby photos,” Zhao says. “The general purpose of FamilyLeaf is to help families connect in a very private way.”

Once they discovered Facebook photos could be shared with Chinese Internet users, the site has taken on a new life. Zhao’s father quickly translated the site into Chinese, to optimize its utility for users in China.

Before officially launching, FamilyLeaf has received significant international attention, receiving press in China, France and Italy, and active users in India, Israel, and Greece.

FamilyLeaf has no immediate plans to monetize. Zhao says it won’t take advertising, which he feels would detract from the site’s authenticity. The company would look into services that will add value within the context of the family, such as planning family reunions or sending cards.

Would you try FamilyLeaf to keep in touch with your family? Do you think the Chinese government will continue to allow Facebook photos to come through the Great Firewall?

Image of Wesley Zhao’s niece Mumu, courtesy of the Zhao family

More About: china, Great Firewall of China, Startups, trending, World

iPhone 4 Owners, Get Your $15 ‘Antennagate’ Settlement [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 11:49 AM PDT

If you’re an iPhone 4 owner who didn’t receive a free bumper case from Apple during "Antennagate," you can now get $15 from the company as compensation.

When gripped a certain way, the AT&T version of the iPhone 4 can potentially reduce the phone signal down to nothing.

The issue stems from the metal casing that surrounds the phone, which is also used as an antenna.

Studies showed that the increase in dropped calls was less than 1% between the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS. Still, Apple offered unhappy customers a free bumper case that would cover the antenna and correct the issue.

Customers who didn’t want to take advantage of the bumper case solution were also invited to return the phone for a full refund from Apple. Apple corrected the issue prior to the release of the Verizon version of the phone in the U.S.

The $15 is part of a February settlement, the result of several class-action lawsuits against the company.

The settlement is only available to iPhone 4 owners in the U.S., and requires a customer to affirm that he has had reception issues with his phone, was unable to return it, and didn’t want to use a bumper cases on his handset.

Claim forms for the settlement can be filed any time between now and Aug. 28, 2012. Affected iPhone 4 owners can still request a free bumper for their phone from Apple Care or an Apple retail store.

Did you have a reception issue with your iPhone 4? What do you think about the $15 settlement offer? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Antennagate, apple, att, iphone, iphone 4

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6 Ways to Acquire New Customers via Social Media

Posted: 29 Mar 2012 11:24 AM PDT

The Customer Experience Series is supported by Webtrends. Get insider tips and a step-by-step guide to acquiring, engaging and nurturing fans. Download the Playbook.

We all know social media is an important tool for brand awareness and customer acquisition — but how exactly are you supposed to convert random Twitter and Facebook users into real-life customers? Well, that depends.

Different brands have different challenges when it comes to customer acquisition: “If you're our customer, you've signed up for a year-long service, unlike the Starbucks of the world, where you can be a customer by coming in for a cup of coffee one day,” says Lisa D’Aromando, social media community manager at Equinox. Whether you’re a clothing shop, a restaurant or a subscription service, you must tailor your strategy so that it makes sense for your brand. That said, there are a few universal ways to help your company attract new faces on the social web.

“I’m a big believer in creating and sharing meaningful content,” says Danni Snyder, co-founder and creative director at jewelry brand Dannijo. “Over time, that is every brand’s best bet for creating and sustaining a following that will grow their business.”

But what does it all entail? Mashable spoke with some super-social brands about how they find new customers and lock in their existing ones they have as repeat buyers.

1. Get Your Search On

There are 340 million tweets sent per day — odds are that a few of them are referencing your brand, though you may not realize it. “Just because chatter on social media channels isn’t mentioning your brand by handle or hashtag doesn’t mean it isn’t happening,” says McKee Floyd, director of brand development at Sweetgreen.

The key is to be proactive. For the company’s upcoming Sweetlife Festival, Floyd set up Twitter searches for “sweetlife” and “sweetlife festival” on TweetDeck, which pulls the tweets even if users didn’t include the hashtag. “As groups of friends have conversations back and forth on Twitter about whether or not they should buy tickets, we monitor and chime in with helpful info, answering logistical questions about the festival and hopefully swaying them towards choosing to attend.”

Geoff Alexander, managing partner at Chicago’s Wow Bao, says his team also uses TweetDeck to search for certain keywords — such as “wow bao,” “baomouth” and “hot Asian buns” — and they reply to any and all posts they find. Wow Bao initially got into social media because there wasn’t a budget for advertising, so the brand opted to spread the word by giving away buns. “@BaoMouth searches the Internet for ways to reward people — giving away bao, full meals or mobile money [for the food truck],” says Alexander.

But the search tactic works for more than just food concepts. Danni Snyder says she monitor mentions of Dannijo religiously and also searches Twitter for “jewelry.” Consuming social media buzz about jewelry — and not just Dannijo’s wares — helps the brand be “aware of what people are talking about, what they like and don’t like, etc.” says Snyder, which can help Dannijo cultivate a new audience with their next collection.

One tip for finding new customers is to see who’s engaging with your competitors — if someone just started following or tweeted at or checked in at another bakery in the neighborhood, you could tweet at the person to come check out your cupcakes. They customer will appreciate the shout-out and the fact that you handpicked them to be your customer. Get clever with searches that are relevant to your business and offerings to help you target potential customers — then reel them in by being charming and human, not salesy.

2. Use Images to Engage

Who would have thought Mr Dannijo would be back in such a good way?! #EVERYBODY #eyespy #MRDANNIJO @manrepeller @danielleasnyder @jodielynns #putaneyeonit

A picture is worth a thousand words — photos drive twice as much engagement as text posts do on Facebook. So if you’re looking to attract some new fans, start snapping pics.

Snyder says Instagram is her favorite medium for connecting with fans. “You can subliminally market without annoying your customers because each post is capable of accomplishing a number of things,” she says. “In one post, we can showcase a new design available at, thus driving traffic to our ecommerce site; show how we’d style the jewelry; mention a tastemaker friend like Questlove or ManRepeller and promote them while they’re wearing Dannijo; inspire discussion and engagement, gaining valuable customer feedback; and provide followers some visual inspiration and insight into your creative process.”

But the pics need not be product-focused. Dannijo posts photos of food and musicians that embody the Dannijo vibe. Similarly, Rent the Runway posts pictures of various style trends. "On Facebook, we try to use as much imagery as possible — not just promotional imagery of our dresses, but images that relate to pop-culture,” says Jenny Fleiss, president and co-founder of Rent the Runway. For example, in anticipation of the upcoming Great Gatsby movie, the RTR blog posted about Gatsby-inspired fashion trends.

3. Host a Competition

Nothing gets customers going like some swag, so contests are a great way to boost your followers and engagement. But be strategic about what you’re offering, or else you could attract the wrong followers.

ModCloth hosts monthly photo contests that garner hundreds of entries and thousands of votes. “Our most recent contest, Thrifted Treasures, asked our fans to share their favorite vintage finds, and our community could vote up their favorites,” explains Natasha Khan, ModCloth’s social media manager. “The social actions surrounding that event brought in thousands of new fans, which we otherwise would not have gained.”

Khan says contests and offers have been the most high impact customer generation events for ModCloth. But if you’re planning on hosting a contest, Khan has a few suggestions. First, build in actions that allow the fan to share to their social networks, as this will increase virality. Second, stay true to your brand. Third, tweak the contest to fit the platform on which you’re running it — “On Facebook that means sharing photography, on Twitter it means wordplay hashtags, and for Polyvore it means styling outfits,” says Khan.

“Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to Facebook fan growth. If your company product is clothing and your prize is free iPads, then you will gain followers that might not belong to your core demographic. Make sure the reward is something your customer will value, such as a gift card or grab bag of your products,” says Khan.

4. Spice Up The Platforms

With so many platforms to manage, be sure to have a distinct M.O. on each channel — and cross-pollinate sparingly. If a customer sees the same information and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest, she need only follow you on one of these platforms. Also, be wary of overpromotion. Nothing is more of a turnoff than a constant sales messaging — people easily can unfollow, and they will. Interestingly, many of Wow Bao’s posts have nothing to do with bao — @BaoMouth tweets during award shows and keeps a lively conversation going on a number of topics, winning people over with its spunky personality.

Of course, a big reason why you use various social media channels is to promote your product, so there are some things to keep in mind for the messaging when you are pushing your goods.

“Prove the value of being a Facebook fan. If you can find the same content and offers on other channels, there is no incentive to also follow the brand on Facebook,” Khan says. “Exclusive Facebook-only offers and original content reinforces our investment in the channel.” The same goes for every other social platform.

For Equinox, Facebook is for broadcasting of events and initiatives, like Cycle For Survival, Twitter is more conversation and geared toward responding to questions about membership, fitness routines and healthy eating, and Foursquare is the platform on which to find offers for Equinox’s spa and shop, which are open to the public. “Every Monday in March, we posted a different Foursquare check-in special for The Shop at all of our locations,” says D’Aromando. “Since you don’t have to necessarily be a member to go to The Shop or The Spa, these specials are accessible to everyone,” and can lure in potential customers into becoming Equinox members.

The company’s Q blog is another digital project where you’ll find awe-inspiring videos and original lifestyle content — a great way to add value for potential customers. “Q was launched to extend our brand and increase this word-of-mouth among our target audience. It gives people — members and nonmembers — topics and material from our Equinox experts to share with others,” says D’Aromando. “In lieu of promos, we create a different sort of currency: highly produced, branded content on Q with exclusives for our social media communities.”

5. Make It Personal

No one like a mass message — consumers like to feel as if they’re the only ones being spoken to. You should know your customers and speak to them in personal ways to establish touchpoints that build relationships and create loyalty.

“I like to make it very personable — if someone tweets a question I make sure to answer immediately,” says Steven Rojas, social media director at GrandLife Hotels. “Often I go as far as Googling that person to make sure I know as much as I can about them before reaching out. I want to humanize the brand so people don't feel like they are speaking to a computer but to an actual person who cares about what they are saying. My obsession for all things digital never sleeps, so I make sure everyone gets what they need, when they need it.”

Live chats are another effective way to offer intimate interaction and engagement with fans. “It's about having a conversation with your community, so we often do live chats with our stylists on Facebook to answer any styling questions customers may have,” says Fleiss. “These posts tend to elicit the most ‘Likes’ and comments.”

While you’re browsing sites for comments to respond to, don’t ignore negative feedback — addressing the complaint is an opportunity to convert an unhappy customer into an impressed brand ambassador.

“We're very appreciative when someone takes the time to let us know about a bad experience or an issue because then we can help fix it,” says Jenny Danzi, a Mountain Dew brand manager. “Reply to every complaint to turn those consumers into advocates — even if you can not offer an instant fix, people appreciate getting a human response,” she adds. And don’t forget that even the littlest gesture can make a big difference. “Sometimes for us it can be as simple as letting consumers know where they can find our products,” says Danzi.

Wow Bao takes it to the next level, proactively finding ways to create touchpoints with consumers. “We comment on any and all posts mentioning people’s birthdays and pop culture,” says Alexander. “We even schedule posts for people’s birthdays, when people post something like, ‘My birthday is in 12 days’” — a very personalized tactic that can go a long way.

6. Let Your Customers Shine

Nothing makes a customer feel better than being acknowledged — or better yet, honored — by their favorite brand. Is there a way to offer kudos to your loyal fans? If so, make it happen.

Because women love to talk about what they’re wearing — and often wear RTR to social events such as weddings and cocktail parties — Rent the Runway strives to move these conversations online. “We have weekly style award contests on our blog and Facebook Page, and a section of our site called RTR Moments where women can share photos of themselves in RTR dresses,” says Fleiss.

For Mountain Dew, whose fan base is extremely young and active on social media, the "Diet Mountain Dew Supernova Spotter" is a great way to celebrate the return of the fan-chosen flavor in addition to highlighting the passion of the fans. “Dew drinkers can upload their photo of Diet Supernova, and on Friday we'll open the entries up to public voting. Fifteen winners will each get a Diet Dew hoodie, and everyone who enters can easily share their Diet Supernova passion with friends,” Danzi says.

For Equinox, whose social media fan base is largely comprised of members, the goal isn’t as much to incentivize people to join (they already have), but to make them feel special for being members. “We have a Facebook app where members can refer friends directly, and if the friend joins, the member gets a referral bonus,” says D’Aromando. “We also just launched a program on Twitter where we're rewarding our advocates by offering them private group fitness classes for them and their friends. This gives us a way to say ‘thanks’ to those who always post about us, and it gives them something to talk about with their friends — online and off.”

Brands, how does your company acquire new customers on social media? Consumers, what makes you want to become a customer? Let us know in the comments.

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