Sunday, 1 April 2012

Mashable: Latest 18 News Updates - including “Conan O’Brien Buys Mashable, Ousts Pete Cashmore as CEO”

Mashable: Latest 18 News Updates - including “Conan O’Brien Buys Mashable, Ousts Pete Cashmore as CEO”

Conan O’Brien Buys Mashable, Ousts Pete Cashmore as CEO

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 09:00 PM PDT

Hello, fellow Mashables. It's Conan O'Brien, and I've got big news. Two hours ago, I purchased I've taken it over. Why did I take it over? Very simple reason.

I'm sick and tired of scanning the Internet looking for any news about technology: Devices, gadgets, what's coming up, maybe even a rating system for gadgets that are out there. It doesn't exist on the web and it's high time it did.

I go to the Mashable see the atrocious job they're doing. So I decided it's time for me to take it over.

That's why, several hours ago, I called Pete Cashmore and I told him, "You're out! Get out! You're through Cashmore! Through! Get out!"

Of course, keep in mind, I was screaming "Get out" from a phone call and he was speaking at home…So it wasn't clear what I was throwing him out of. We straightened that out.

He said, "You'll have to buy me out." I said, "Buy you out? How about thirty-five hundred smackeroos?" He didn't know what smackeroos were, but we talked again.

There's going to be a lot of changes around here. So stay tuned, cause I'm in charge now. I'm going to be sending out a lot of tweets!

More About: conan o'brien, mashable

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This iPhone Platform Will Change The Way You Shoot Videos

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 05:33 PM PDT

A new Kickstarter project is aiming to redefine how you shoot video with your iPhone. The Galileo is an iOS-controlled robotic iPhone platform that lets you manipulate the angle your iPhone from another iOS device, giving you the ability to adjust your iPhone to almost any angle you could possibly want.

For instance, if you were video chatting with a child who moved out of sight of the camera you could move the platform to follow her using your own device. The platform could also be used in situations like meetings so you can can follow all the action going on in the room. The platform’s inventor originally created the device in order to have better chats with his son while he was away on business.

Galileo can be controlled from another iOS device such as an iPad or iPod touch by swiping a finger across the screen, and gives you infinite 360-degree panning and 200-degree tilting. You can see everything around the iPhone and above it, with the only unavailable angle being what’s going on below.

The platform is also offering its SDK (software developers kit) for app development, giving app developers the freedom to integrate Galileo functionality into existing apps or create apps and software specifically designed to work with the product.

Galilieo has currently raised close to $270,000 on Kickstarter, and only required $100,000 to go into production. The project will be officially funded on April 21, 2012, after which the device will go into mass production and be sent out to project backers and then likely general consumers.

What do you think of the project? Tell us what potential uses you see for Galileo in the comments.

More About: apple, iphone, iPod Touch, kickstarter

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Google: Japanese Court Didn’t Ban All Our Search Suggestions

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 04:36 PM PDT

Google is setting the record straight about a court’s demands that Google stop automatically completing its searches in Japan.

Google searches on most browsers and devices automatically suggest search terms that you might be looking for, based on their popularity. Type “mash,” for example, and the search engine will suggest you’re looking for “Mashable” followed by a suggestion for “mashed potatoes.”

Numerous outlets reported that a court in Japan had asked Google to suspend the autocomplete function entirely, after a Japanese man claimed his certain criminal acts appeared as a suggestion next to his name when Googled. The man claims he was fired from one job, and missed out on being hired from others, because of the association.

The court ruled that certain terms must be deleted from searches, Google says — rather than a blanket ban on autocomplete.

A spokesperson from Google tells Mashable the company can’t say what terms will be removed from Google autocomplete searches in Japan, since it is a current legal matter.

Here’s Google’s statement: “A Japanese court issued a provisional order requesting Google to delete specific terms from autocomplete. The judge did not require Google to completely suspend the autocomplete function. Google is currently reviewing the order.

"Autocomplete is a feature of Google search that offers predicted searches to help you more quickly find what you're looking for. These searches are produced by a number of factors including the popularity of search terms. Google does not determine these terms manually–all of the queries shown in autocomplete have been typed previously by other Google users."

The Google spokesperson wouldn’t speculate as to whether or not Google autocomplete could be turned-off entirely in Japan.

This is not the only legal battle Google is fighting at home and abroad. The company has been the target of numerous investigations into its privacy practices and how it uses the public’s information.

What do you think about this ruling in Japan? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, alija

More About: autocomplete, Google, japan

NBA Brings Twitter Handles to T-Shirts in Pro Sports First

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 03:46 PM PDT

So you’re a big Kevin Durant fan. You watch his games, you wear his jersey — but do you have his Twitter-handle T-shirt?

In what’s believed to be a pro sports first, the NBA this week began selling official T-shirts that feature some of the league’s biggest stars’ Twitter handles above their jersey numbers, where surnames would normally go. The shirts are available at the NBA Store website and include Durant, Dwyane Wade, Jeremy Lin and a number of other big names.

Lisa Pilken, the NBA’s vice president of licensing, says the move is in keeping with the league’s tradition of creativity in social media.

“We are always looking at new ways to connect with fans,” Pilken told Mashable in an email. “As the top sports league on Twitter with more than 4.5 million followers on @NBA and more than 350 NBA players active on the site, we thought this would be a great way to engage with our fans.”

NBA players were among the first pro athletes to embrace Twitter. In 2009, Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva was reprimanded for tweeting from the team locker room during halftime of a game. Later that year, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love used a tweet to break news that the team’s coach had been fired.

The league as a whole has been especially adept at leveraging social media as well, and this year hosted a digitally influenced All-Star Weekend.

While the NBA is the first league to officially make player Twitter T-shirts, it’s not the first to have a version of the idea. The sports-meets-social site TweetStarGame has an online store selling Twitter-handle shirts of players from a number of sports. Professional soccer and lacrosse teams have also replaced players’ names with their handles on official game uniforms.

Do you think putting players’ Twitter handles on T-shirts is a smart marketing play or not? Let us know in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Link-creative

More About: sports, Twitter

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Top 5 Podcast Apps for Android

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 02:56 PM PDT

Google Listen

If you just want a solid podcast player then try Google Listen. The app integrates with Google Reader to make podcast administration easy. Just add a show's RSS feed to the "Listen Subscriptions" category in Reader and new episodes will appear in the app, ready for you to stream or download. Price: Free

Click here to view this gallery.

Whether you're new to podcasts or just tired of syncing the latest episodes to your MP3 player, there are plenty of "podcast catchers" for Android that can pluck those shows from the cloud. Here are five we think are worth checking out. Do you have a favorite that we missed? Tell us about it in the comments below!

SEE ALSO: 6 Apps Worth Downloading This Week

More About: Android Market, contributor, features, podcasts

Sir Richard Branson Unveils ‘Virgin Volcanic’

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 02:24 PM PDT

Journey to the center of the earth? Virgin CEO Sir Richard Branson would like you to think the famous Jules Verne novel could be a reality. On April 1, Branson’s Virgin Volcanic program, which will supposedly launch five people into the center of the earth, goes live. If that doesn’t raise your suspicions of a prank, the news release contains nutty quotes about traveling into live, active volcanos.

The Virgin Volcanic website says the vehicle will take a group of people, including Branson, into the earth’s core through one of five active volcanos (Etna in Sicily, Italy; Stromboli, Aeolian Islands; Yasur, Republic of Vanuatu; Ambrym, Republic of Vanuatu and Tinakula; Solomon Islands) and emerge on the other side of the world. Sound like a joke? It is. No one has ever been to the center of the earth, but scientists have used seismic observations to speculate that the earth’s mantle is made of liquid iron and nickel. Others say a black hole is at the center of the earth. The press release says the corkscrew-like vehicle is made from “patented” carbon carbon.

Branson said, “I have a long held a fascination with volcanoes having read Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth as a young boy. I decided that one day I would go there too. Alongside our adventures with Virgin Galactic and Virgin Oceanic, volcanoes are the next great unexplored terrain. What can I say, I lava challenge!”

The spiral-shaped probe looks straight out of Austin Powers. Seth Green, the actor who played Dr. Evil’s son Scott in the movie Austin Powers, is one of the passengers. He is quoted on the site saying, “Ever since filming Austin Powers, I’ve had this obsession with underground layers. I’ve waited patiently for Sir Richard to make the dream of traveling to the Earth’s core a reality.”

Liquid hot mag-ma, anyone?

The other riders include actor Tom Hanks, and documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple.

The post goes even further to say Barbara Kopple will make a documentary about the expedition, along with a soundtrack by that will be recorded inside an active volcano.

Some companies just can’t wait for April Fools’ Day to arrive. Already by Saturday, pranks were hitting the web, with some sharp commenters catching on to the jokes and others taking it very seriously.

What do you think about Branson’s Virgin Volcanic announcement? Did this prank make you laugh? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/Bierchen

More About: april fools, Google, Google Maps, trending, Virgin

Mashable Seeks Graphic Design Rock Star

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 02:09 PM PDT

Are you a graphic designer with a portfolio full of impressive, high-quality work? If so, you’re in the right place. Mashable is adding a key position to its design team in our New York headquarters.

We are looking for a motivated graphic designer with new-media experience to take initial direction, run with it, and execute creative designs. Under the direction of the VP of Design, our Graphic Designer will create concepts for a wide range of web-related projects, including large-scale websites, mobile devices, banner campaigns and more. See details about this position and apply here.

Working at Mashable

We are a team of driven and passionate people who care deeply about the work we do. Mashable is a unique and open culture where innovation and collaboration thrives. Every day is an opportunity to spread knowledge, find solutions, and take risks — not to mention have fun, laugh, and pet a team member's dog.

We are proud to be part of the connected generation, and we always have an eye on what's next.

Sound exciting? Mashable is looking for smart, driven and energetic new team members. Check out our jobs page for our most recent listings.

Mashable Meetings

Meetings at Mashable are rarely boring.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: jobs, mashable

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RIM Doesn’t Need BlackBerry 10 — It Needs a Time Machine

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 01:50 PM PDT


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

Research in Motion‘s latest quarter almost doesn’t need commentary. With revenues down 19% and posting its first loss in seven years, the company is clearly on the decline. The dismal financial news follows the revelation that BlackBerry phones were no longer the device of choice even in RIM’s home country of Canada.

Many have used the news to pile on, saying the long-predicted implosion of RIM has finally begun. Acquisition, once the topic of idle speculation about the company, is now a very real possibility.

There appears to be one glimmer of hope, though: BlackBerry 10, the next-generation device software that’s supposed to debut later this year. Repeatedly describing BB10 as a “platform” that the company will build its entire suite of products around in the coming years (maybe), CEO Thorsten Heins said the future of RIM depends on its successful and on-time launch.

That’s not entirely true. The future of RIM has just been determined by a recent decision Heins revealed in its earnings call: that it was going to refocus on the enterprise market. He backpedaled a bit later, saying that it doesn’t represent abandoning the consumer market (the majority of its customers are everyday “consumers”), but the message from RIM was clear: We lost the consumer smartphone war to Apple and Google. We’re backing off.

This decision makes a large degree of sense — and I support it — but that doesn’t make it any less tragic. By retreating back to its core strength of enterprise devices and services, RIM may eke out a happy existence, but it will never be the smartphone titan it once was, no matter how good BlackBerry 10 is.

The reason is the smartphone market is worlds apart from where it was when RIM was king — which was just a mere three years ago, as the market share flies. The “consumerization of IT” trend is in full force — witness the staggering number of businesses that plan to buy iPads in the coming year.

SEE ALSO: RIM-sanity! Beyond the BlackBerry Bloodbath

The business customer has evolved. The new species is much less tolerant of carrying two devices. It’s spent quality time with both the iPhone and Android handsets, and its pack leaders (read: executives) are quite partial to them. Finally, re-training the entire tribe on a new operating system like BlackBerry 10 just seems like a waste of time when everybody already knows how to use other platforms that are just as good if not better in many ways.

In the end, the number of businesses that really need BlackBerry — for its security, manageability and solid industrial design (RIM still makes the best keyboard phones on the market) — is fairly small. While RIM (or another company) can certainly create a viable business targeting those customers, a platform that’s based on them won’t ever achieve the kind of scale the company enjoyed in past decade.

If the outlook is so bleak with an enterprise focus, then why do I support it? Because RIM’s right — the consumer game is lost, at least as far as BlackBerry is concerned. You have two major ecosystems (iOS and Android) with a third on the rise (Windows Phone). More important, the market just crossed an important milestone with half of U.S. consumers now owning a smartphone.

Every day a new person enters the smartphone market, it declares loyalty to an ecosystem. By all counts, not many of those people are opting for a BlackBerry. By the time the new OS is an option, there will be even fewer of those first-time buyers left. BlackBerry 10 might be good, but it’s hard to imagine it being so amazing that a new customer will opt for it instead of the sexy iPhone or Android superphone on the next dias.

The time for RIM to strike back and regain its former consumer glory is long past. Really, it needed to see the iPhone for the wake-up call that it was five years ago. Or even four years ago. Or — what the hell — three. But it took until 2010, when the company acquired QNX software, for RIM to take decisive action in replacing its BlackBerry OS with something worthy of a modern smartphone.

So it doesn’t matter how good BlackBerry 10 is, or even if it comes a few months late. The businesses that RIM plans to court will use it regardless. They’ll buy it (because they’re convinced nothing else can do the job), their employees will use it (because they’re forced to), and RIM will either downsize or get bought (because what else are you going to do?). The rest of us will shrug, wonder what might have been, and go back to playing Angry Birds.

Images courtesy of Flickr, miggslives

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

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39 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 01:22 PM PDT

Did you spend this week buying lottery tickets and following the Mega Millions jackpot? Well, now that you know you didn’t win, it’s time to throw away your tickets and catch up on the new digital media resources you missed on Mashable.

This week we have the most-followed men on Pinterest, tips for how to be more genuinely engaging online, and 15 sessions you can’t miss at Mashable Connect 2012. We’ve also covered the evolution of Anonymous, cities that are benefiting from mobile apps, and cases that will make your white iPhone pop. We even have photos from an office tour of GetGlue‘s fun-filled space.

Here are the best of this week’s social media, business and technology resources.

Editor’s Picks

Social Media

For more social media news and resources, you can follow Mashable‘s social media channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Business & Marketing

For more business news and resources, you can follow Mashable‘s business channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Tech & Mobile

For more tech news and resources, you can follow Mashable‘s tech channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, akinbostanci.

More About: Business, COMMUNICATIONS, Features Week In Review, Social Media, Tech

Now You Can Explore Nelson Mandela’s Archives Online

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 01:09 PM PDT

Following a year-long effort, the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project is now available online. The new interactive multimedia archive documents the South African leader’s life, personal memories and commitment to social justice.

The project is an initiative of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory (NMCM) and the Google Cultural Institute, which aims to help preserve and promote culture on the Internet. Google received a $1.25 million grant to collaborate with NMCM on the project last March and announced the launch of the archive on Tuesday.

The digital archive project is a completely interactive experience. Users can navigate through pictures, video and text to learn more about Nelson Mandela and the different aspects of his life.

The digitization is an ongoing project, and thus far, the archives are divided into seven categories: Early Life, Prison Years, Presidential Years, Retirement, Books for Mandela, Young People and My Moments with a Legend. The first four categories relate to certain moments in his life, the latter three concern his relationships with other people and how his personality cultivated those relationships.

“Books for Mandela,” for example, shows the different books he received as gifts — a common gift indeed, given his love of reading — and the notes he received along with them. “Young People” and “My Moments with a Legend” show how his personality and commitment to social justice was an inspiration to many he encountered, particularly children, whom he believes are the foundation of the future.

“Books for Mandela” is not the only category featuring primary sources. Within each of these categories is a vast amount of information, including everything from letters to photographs to church membership cards. In addition to these personal documents, biographical information is available to provide context to these primary sources.

Everything is set up to link to even more information, so audiences can see, for example, the source of a quotation, or learn more about the process Mandela went through in writing his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom.

The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive project comes after the digitization of Albert Einstein’s archives, which provides audiences with an interactive experience of the scientist’s life. Both projects also coincide with the release of a new open-source timeline tool, available for anyone on the internet to use and incorporate into a site. And let’s not forget about Facebook’s Timeline — a feature which everyone from politicians to companies to even the U.S. military are using to brand themselves, highlight the special moments in their lives and engage with audiences in a more visual, interactive way.

What do you think of all these timelines and digital archives? Are they changing the way people are documenting history — and therefore understanding history?

More About: Archives, Google

Google’s April Fools’ Day Prank: 8-Bit Google Maps

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 12:55 PM PDT

Old school flashback! Google couldn’t wait for April Fools’ Day to prank the web with its 8-bit version of Google Maps, temporarily replacing its standard version. Shortly after the “upgraded” Google Maps went live, Reddit users posted world landmarks and historic sites that could be viewed on the map: the Parthenon, Area 51, Mount Everest (with a Yeti or hiker, say commenters), and many more “Easter eggs.”

“PLEASE don’t let this be a joke. 8-bit Street View is the greatest achievement in the history of all mankind,” said one Reddit user. Someone else on Reddit added, “Google… I want this for android navigation! You already did the work. Just release it.”

On Friday, Google posted this YouTube video:

Accessing the 8-bit map is easy. Use Google Maps as you normally would to search for cities or landmarks, then click on the “Quest” picture icon in the right area of the screen to view the map as large colored pixels.

Another April Fools’ tease: When you load the map, you may see this joking response: “Your system may not meet the requirements for 8-bit computations.”

Last year, Google pranked the interwebs by introducing a faux new feature called Gmail Motion that would let users type emails by using gestures. The Institute of Creative Technologies later brought the concept to life.

What do you think of Google’s April Fools’ Day prank? Would you like to use this map every day of the year? Tell us in the comments.

More About: April Fools' Day, Google, Google Maps, trending

7 Apps You Don’t Want To Miss [PICS]

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 12:32 PM PDT


If you're in a long-distance relationship, then Pair is an app you need to own. The app creates a private shared timeline for couple, allowing them to swap photos and share videos photos and their locations. The app also includes "thumb kiss" feature that vibrates the screen when both people touch the same part of their iPhone screen.

Click here to view this gallery.

This week brought tons of great new apps. From a long-distance relationship app that allows you to "thumb kiss" your partner from far away, to a new app for storing your sketches, notes and other thoughts and sharing them on the web — there was plenty of new app action in the past seven days to download on your favorite smartphone or tablet.

Some of our favorites this week also include a new space discovery app that combines 3D graphics with video, text and photos and allows you to explore seven different realms: Subatomic, Atomic, Solar System, Stars, Milky Way, Galaxies, and Universe.

If you’re interested in exploring other countries rather than space, Babbel’s language-learning apps are now available for Android. And if you prefer to keep your travels a little closer to home, another new app this week lets you explore the art available on NYC’s transit system, as well as plan your own transit art tour.

When it comes time to pay your friends back for your portion of the dinner bill this weekend, this week brought with it an app that lets you send cash via PayPal by just tapping your phone against theirs.

Check out the gallery above for a look at our favorite new apps from the week. Be sure to let us know in the comments which ones were your favorite (or what cool new apps you think we missed)!

More About: android, apps, iphone, paypal, trending

Mobile Jobseeking is Going Mainstream [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 12:13 PM PDT

Have you checked your company’s mobile job offerings recently?

While there are many people already using mobile to find their dream jobs, don’t be misunderstood — using a smartphone to check out job boards isn’t just for early adopters or technophiles. In fact, it’s quickly becoming a mainstream method of finding a lasting career.

According to this infographic by mobile job search and recruiting company JIBE — based on research done by marketing research company Kelton Research — more than 4 out of 5 of surveyed smartphone users would use an iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Windows phone to search for jobs. Of those, nearly half would actually apply to a job right from a smartphone. Given the number of American who own smartphones has surpassed 100 million mark, the level of jobseekers looking to potentially score a job right on their phones can be staggering.

So what does it all mean? Plain and simple: if your company doesn’t have a mobile-friendly job board, it’s time to begin building one as soon as possible. More and more jobseekers are turning to the convenience, simplicity and speed of mobile to access jobs on the fly. If your mobile application isn’t optimized to suit the needs of potential employees, there’s an opportunity to miss out on quality talent.

Take a look at the infographic below to learn more about how mobile is changing the way people are looking for jobs. Would you use mobile to find your new job, or integrate mobile into your company’s recruiting strategy? Let us know in the comments.

Infographic provided by JIBE.

Social Media Job Listings

Every week we post a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we publish a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the top social media job opportunities from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!

More About: features, infographics, job search series, jobs, mashable, Mobile

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‘Sand Flea’ Robot Jumps 30 Feet [VIDEO]

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 11:35 AM PDT

This flea is quite a bit more powerful than the ones on mangy mutts.

Robotics company Boston Dynamics created an 11-pound robot called the “Sand Flea” that can jump 30 feet in the air and is equipped with an infrared camera.

“The robot uses gyro stabilization to stay level during flight, to provide a clear view from the onboard camera, and to ensure a smooth landing,” notes its website.

This video shows the robot in action — jumping onto a one story building and straight up the side of a dirt hill. The Sand Flea’s name hints as the bot’s capabilities — it can move undetected and close to the ground while springing up into the air to jump onto higher ground.

The bot has enough energy to jump 25 times and last two hours using its fuel supply and piston actuator. The controller can choose how high and at what angle the Sand Flea jumps, while the bot’s four wheels cushion its landing.

The project was funded by DARPA, JIEDDO (Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization) and the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force. The video notes that an earlier version of the Sand Flea was developed by Sandia National Labs.

The U.S. Army is stocking up on all kinds of small robots. In early March, JIEDDO, which operates under the Department of Defense and seeks to locate IED threats, ordered 105 small robots, similar to the Sand Flea, from iRobot Corp. In February, the U.S. Army placed its largest order of micro-robots ever with the company ReconRobotics in a contract for $13.9 million of small bots that will be used for surveillance purposes with soldiers overseas.

What do you think the Sand Flea will be used for? What additional features could make it more useful? Tell us in the comments.

Photos courtesy of Boston Dynamics

More About: DARPA, robotics, robots

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Top 10 Twitter Pics of the Week

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 10:39 AM PDT

1. Trayvon Martin

The Trayvon Martin case received a lot of attention on Twitter. People from all over the United States paid their respects by taking pictures of themselves wearing hoodies and posting them for all to see. Nearly every day this week, thousands of people posted #trayvonmartin pictures to Twitter, including a number of celebrities. Here is a picture of Sean Combs, better known as Diddy (@iamdiddy, over 5 million followers), expressing his support for Trayvon Martin.

Click here to view this gallery.

In the bustling world of Twitter pictures, this week one topic stood far above all others: the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin. Tributes poured in from all over the United States, dominating the pictorial discourse of the week.

But this week’s top 10 Twitter pics aren’t all serious — to the contrary — there were boatloads of cuteness, humor, frank suggestions and stunning beauty, resulting in a fascinating mix of expression from all over the Twitterverse.

SEE MORE: Top 10 Twitter Pics of the Week

How did we find all these pics? We have the help of our illustrious partners at Skylines, who use their custom algorithm that’s able to cull the most explosively popular pictures out of 43 million candidates. And, we have the distinct advantage of having super-sharp Skylines writer and trendwatcher Julie Donders (@IkbenJulie) making sense of each pic for us.

So relax and bask in this week’s unique crop of passion, pathos, merriment and mirth that make up the Top 10 Twitter Pics of the Week.

In case you missed them, here are last week's Top 10 Twitter Pics.

More About: Skylines, Top 10 Twitter Pics, trending, Twitter

Can the JOBS Act Jump-Start Entrepreneurship?

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 09:55 AM PDT

Can the crowdfunding-focused Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act really spark entrepreneurship, economic growth and hiring?

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a staunch advocate of crowdfunding and contributor to the #FixYoungAmerica campaign to promote youth entrepreneurship, believes it can.

Businesses can’t raise money through crowdfunding in a meaningful way right now because of federal restrictions and red tape. McHenry wants to change that. A bill he introduced to near-unanimous support in the House became part of the foundation for the JOBS Act, which has been passed by Congress and awaits President Obama’s signature.

McHenry says he’s fed up with the pattern of entrepreneurs being forced to finance their projects through their own lines of credit, sometimes backed by the value of their homes. He sees two problems with this way of doing things: First, it can be difficult to get credit, and second, the value of many homes tanked during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, making mortgage-backed financing a much weaker option for capital-seeking entrepreneurs.

“The result of these realities is plain and simple,” writes McHenry in his chapter for the #FixYoungAmerica book. “Countless young, ambitious entrepreneurs are out of luck as they look for capital to expand and compete on the open market.”

Crowdfunding, says McHenry, is the solution to those problems. It would allow entrepreneurs to raise money from many different investors, each pitching in a small amount compared to angel investors and their giant checks. Theoretically, that mitigates the risk of investment for each contributor.

McHenry first became aware of the concept after reading a letter written by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, a former technology CEO, is one of the most technologically astute members of Congress. In the letter, he wrote 33 questions to the chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates the U.S. stock market.

“Serving as chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee for issues related to financial services and banking regulations, I had the luxury of reading this letter before the ink had dried,” writes McHenry. “I soon realized I was flipping through the pages of a letter that would transform the way Congress prioritized capital formation.”

One particular question caught McHenry’s attention: Would the SEC allow small businesses to engage in crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding, says McHenry, piqued his interested because it reminded him of the way political campaigns raise money — often, from lots of donors giving small donations (PACs aside, of course).

McHenry threw his energy into researching crowdfunding as a mechanism for investing in small businesses. To learn more, he went to websites such as IndieGoGo, which lets people raise money from “the crowd” for charities, businesses and other projects. Eventually, McHenry was convinced that crowdfunding was part of the solution to drag America out of its economic slumber.

“I was becoming a diehard fan of crowdfunding, especially since it utilized online technology to increase small business access to new sources of financing,” writes McHenry. “Social networks were not just for keeping up with friends — they could become marketplaces for everyday investors and entrepreneurs.”

After McHenry introduced his Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act, he used a House Financial Services Committee hearing about it to spark a conversation on the Hill about crowdfunding.

“As each witness spoke,” writes McHenry, “members and staff began to gain interest in crowdfunding, a form of capital formation that was foreign to them that very morning.”

The idea was met with some resistance from McHenry’s colleagues who believed crowdfunding was too risky of an investment platform. McHenry, though, says that dispute was a blessing in disguise — it got entrepreneurs fired up and focused on explaining why the status quo wasn’t working.

Eventually, the Financial Services Committee unanimously approved the bill and sent it to a full vote in the House. It sailed through on a 407-17 bipartisan vote, after receiving President Obama’s blessings in a jobs speech. McHenry’s bill was then included in a larger small businesses reform package — the JOBS Act — which has been sent to the White House for the president’s signature.

“After observing how quickly our nation's leaders were able to learn and embrace a new and democratic form of capital formation,” writes Rep. McHenry, “I am more confident than ever that the U.S. will once again retain its title as the world's most dynamic and entrepreneurial marketplace.”

Do you think crowdfunding is a viable way to jumpstart American investment and growth? Should President Obama sign the JOBS Act into law? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, skynesher

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

Tax Day On the Way: The 4 Ways You Can Tax Your LLC

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 08:19 AM PDT

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

The Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a hot business structure for startups right now — and for good reason. It offers all the personal liability protection without the red tape, paperwork and formalities that can be burdensome for a young startup, digital agency, small business or solo entrepreneur.

But after settling on the LLC for the legal structure, many small business owners are surprised to learn there's still one more decision to make: how to be taxed. Certainly this is a big decision, as taxes are probably what drove you to select a legal structure in the first place.

Because the LLC is an entity created by state statute (and not the federal government), it offers flexibility when it comes to federal tax treatment. A single-member LLC can choose to be taxed as a sole proprietorship or a corporation (either C Corporation or S Corporation). Likewise, a multi-member LLC can choose to be taxed as a partnership or a corporation (either C Corporation or S Corporation).

Flexibility is always a good thing — you just need to know which option is right for you. Read on to learn more about the four different federal tax classifications available for the LLC.

1. Single-Member LLC as a 'Disregarded Entity'

A single-member LLC is essentially taxed as a sole proprietor. As the name implies, you need to be the sole owner of the LLC. This classification falls into the “pass-through” taxation category” — the business itself doesn't file any tax forms. As the owner of the LLC, you report business income or loss on your personal tax forms (Schedule C).

In addition, you will need to pay self-employment taxes if you're engaged in active trade or business, for example, if you provide a service like copywriting or sell a product. If you formed an LLC for a passive activity such as a real estate investment, then you don't need to pay self-employment tax on the profits (rather, you'd report your passive profits on Schedule E).

For example, let's say Jonathan is a freelance UI designer who formed an LLC for his business. Through this work, he earned $75,000 in profit in 2011. He will report this income on his personal tax form and pay income taxes on the $75,000 at his individual tax rate, as well as pay self-employment taxes.

2. Multiple-Member LLC as a Partnership

For federal tax purposes, if an LLC has two or more members, it will be taxed as a partnership unless it makes an election to be taxed as an S Corp or C Corp (see below). In the case of a multi-member LLC taxed as a partnership, the LLC reports its business income on a separate 1065 partnership tax return. Then, each partner pays self-employment taxes on his share of the partnership profit on the Schedule SE tax form. As with the single-member LLC, self-employment taxes only need to paid if the LLC engages in an active trade or business.

3. LLC as a C Corporation

An LLC can elect to be treated as a corporation for tax purposes by filing Form 8832 with the IRS. In this case, the LLC files a corporate tax return 1120 and pays taxes on its profits at its corporate tax rate. If LLC profits are distributed to LLC owners in the form of dividends, those dividends are taxed again at the qualifying dividend rate (this is what's known as double taxation).

The LLC profits are not subject to self-employment taxes, but an LLC treated as a C Corporation is responsible for payroll taxes on any wages paid to LLC members who work for the business.

If you prefer to keep profits in the company (as opposed to distributing any end-of-the-year profits to owners), a C Corporation would work. In this case, only the company is taxed on the profits; individual owners are not responsible for paying taxes on whatever money stays in the business.

For example, Judy owns a consulting company that earned $100,000 in profit. As an LLC treated as a C Corporation, the business would pay $34,000 in taxes on this income (assuming a 34% tax rate). If Judy then takes home that profit as a dividend, she would also owe taxes (at the 15% qualifying dividend rate) on the dividend payment. But if she decides to keep that money in the business (perhaps to expand her marketing budget next year), then she personally does not owe any taxes on the profit.

4. LLC as an S Corporation

In this last scenario, the LLC elects to be treated as an S Corporation. The S Corp files an 1120S tax return, but the company's profits are not subject to corporate income tax like they are in the C Corporation. Instead, individual LLC owners are taxed on their respective shares of the company's profits (and profits are not subject to self-employment tax). If an LLC owner works in the business, he must be paid a reasonable wage for his activities, and the LLC must pay payroll taxes on these wages.

Let's say three friends start a social intranet company, and each owns one-third of the business. They form an LLC and elect to be taxed as an S Corporation. In the first year, the business earns $90,000 in profit. The LLC does not pay income tax on the profit. Instead, each owner includes his or her share of the profit ($30,000) in their taxable income on their individual tax return. And if the business lost $60,000 in the first year, each owner would include a $20,000 loss in his or her individual taxable income.

Do Your Homework

Choosing the right tax entity for your LLC is a complicated issue and will ultimately depend on all the unique aspects of your particular business needs, vision and circumstances. Investigate your options and stay on top of changing tax developments on both the federal and state levels that could affect your taxes. And since the decision can have significant financial implications, you won't go wrong by discussing your particular situation with a tax adviser or CPA.

More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:

- Should Small Businesses Follow Everyone Back on Twitter?
- Are You Falling into the Pricing Trap?
- How to Innovate for Top Social Media Sites

Image courtesy of Image courtesy of iStockphoto, catenarymedia , Flickr, thinkpanama

More About: features, LLC, mashable, open forum, taxes

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Forget Google Instant: In the Future, Search Engines Will Read Your Habits

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 07:51 AM PDT

When Google launched Google Instant in 2010, it claimed that providing results as users type and removing the need to hit the “enter” key saved users two to five seconds per search.

Wolfram Alpha CEO Stephen Wolfram’s vision of what the word “Instant” could mean for search is a bit more literal.

He envisions some type of search engine which could — through data maps of personal data history — provide reports automatically when they’re needed without an explicit query. He counts this sort of “preemptive delivery of information” among “a large number” of projects the data company has been working on.

Though there are no concrete plans to create such a product, here’s the type of thing Wolfram has in mind:

“You run into a person (e.g. at SXSW); your augmented reality system automatically recognizes their face, tells you your social network connections to them, plots the time series of when you’ve exchanged email with them, does topic modelling of recent material about them (or email you’ve exchanged with them) and compares it with things you’ve written recently and suggests interesting conversation topics.”

Earlier this month, Wolfram wrote a blog post about personal analytics that outlined some of the data he tracks in his own life. It includes the same sort of data that could be useful to this type of pre-emptive search.

He has, for instance, archived every email message that’s passed through his inbox since 1989. He also tracks his keystrokes, meetings, hours spent on the phone and daily steps taken. Most of the data is recorded automatically.

In a recent blog post, Stephen Alpha included a plot that shows every email he has sent 1989

“In time I'm looking forward to being able to ask Wolfram Alpha all sorts of things about my life and times — and have it immediately generate reports about them,” he wrote in the post. “Not only being able to act as an adjunct to my personal memory, but also to be able to do automatic computational history — explaining how and why things happened — and then making projections and predictions.”

How such information could also be used to deliver information when it’s needed — but before it’s asked for — is something Wolfram says Wolfram Alpha hasn’t articulated to the extent of defining a user interface. But, he told me during a meeting at South by Southwest this month, the company is in a good position to create it.

Wolphram Alpha’s computational search engine, which is built on the company’s application for computations Mathematica, delivers more than results. Instead of returning queries with a list of websites, it delivers reports. It can tell you, for instance, which planes are flying over your head or what exactly is in an enchilada.

Between its developer products and consumer products, the company has in its technology arsenal tools for analytics and visualization, linguistic understanding, image processing and a way to deal with diverse data in uniform ways — all ingredients Wolfram suggests will be key to the future’s preemptive search engine.

Not everyone collects personal data with the same rigor as Wolfram, but he believes some day they will — and using that data to deliver information before it’s explicitly requested is all but inevitable.

“It’s part of a very long-term trend towards automation of everything,” he says.

More About: Search, wolfram alpha

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Top 10 iPhone Word Games

Posted: 31 Mar 2012 07:08 AM PDT

1. Words With Friends

It's an obvious choice for the list, and with good reason. The app features Scrabble-esque gameplay, with online turn-based, multiplayer functionality. The reach of the game is a big part of why it's still so special: It bridges the gaps between iOS, Facebook and Android. Price: $2.99

Click here to view this gallery.

Time to get wordy! In these iPhone word games, wrangle words and lasso letters to challenge friends, and even yourself. So, go pick up a dictionary and fortify the ol’ lexicon — these games demand clever wordplay in order to succeed.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Most Amazing iPhone Puzzle Games

Which smartphone word play games are you addicted to? Let us know your favorites in the comments.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, mbbirdy

More About: apps, features, Gaming, iOS, iphone, Mobile, trending

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