Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Today’s Top Stories: Apple’s Q2 Results, Google Drive”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Today’s Top Stories: Apple’s Q2 Results, Google Drive”


Today’s Top Stories: Apple’s Q2 Results, Google Drive

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 05:01 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.

Google Launches Google Drive

After months of speculation and rumors, Google has finally launched its cloud file storage service, Google Drive, with 5GB of storage for free. Check out how it stacks against its competitors in our analysis.

Apple’s Quarterly Earnings Report

Apple sold 35.1 iPhones and 11.8 iPads in its fiscal Q2, with earnings and revenue surpassing analysts’ predictions. It was another blowout quarter for Apple, but the Cupertino giant’s shiny armor did show a tiny dent: Its iPad sales were slightly below expectations.

Nokia to Launch the Lumia 900 in the UK on May 14

Nokia will launch its flagship Windows Phone device, the Lumia 900, in the UK on May 14. It will be available in black and white, with HSPA+ connectivity. The Verge reports that the U.S. demand for the phone has exceeded expectations.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

More About: apple, features, first to know series, Google, Google Drive, mashable

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NASA Tests GPS-Based Earthquake Monitoring System

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 02:41 AM PDT

readi

NASA is planning to test a GPS-based system that could rapidly pinpoint the location and magnitude of earthquakes across the western U.S.

The Real-time Earthquake Analysis for Disaster (READI) uses real-time GPS measurements from nearly 500 stations in California, Oregon and Washington to quickly calculate the location, magnitude and other details about an earthquake.

The same system could also aid in faster disaster response for tsunamis, since it provides exactly the type of detailed data about an earthquake that’s needed to calculate the strength of a tsunami.

The system, which was first introduced in 2004, works by measuring ground displacements with high precision using GPS. The result is a far more rapid and accurate estimate of the earthquake’s strength compared to conventional seismic networks.

“By using GPS to measure ground deformation from large earthquakes, we can reduce the time needed to locate and characterize the damage from large seismic events to several minutes,” said Yehuda Bock, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Orbit and Permanent Array Center in La Jolla, California.

READI Mitigation Network will undergo testing throughout this year; if it proves to be successful, it will be used in various natural disaster detection agencies in the U.S.

More About: Earthquake, gps, NASA, READI, tsunami

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‘Portlandia’ Needles Kickstarter With $25,000 Music Video Campaign [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 08:52 PM PDT

If something’s cutting edge or contains an element of hipster culture, chances are the comedy show Portlandia will incorporate it into its sketches. In season 2, episode 6 of the hit IFC show, actors Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen play a musician and director aiming to raise $25,000 for a kooky music video through crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

Brownstein plays musician “Jayde” from the band “Jayde speaks Sevyn,” and Armisen plays a director named Gahvin Quin. The duo sits at a patio table and explain to the camera (for 24 minutes, according to their Kickstarter page as seen in the video) why they need the funds for the zany video. Armisen’s character says the video will have an elevator that goes to the sun and a glass staircase — but “when she touches the glass, she’ll realize it’s made out of ice.”

In an interview on the Kickstarter blog, Armisen says the site was on the show’s radar as something they wanted to parody. Kickstarter said “Portland is a top ten city in terms of number of projects. There’s been one project for every thousand people who live in Portland — possibly the highest ratio of any city.”

What did you think of this video? If this were a real campaign, how much would you donate? Tell us in the comments.

More About: kickstarter, Portlandia, Video

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Jay-Z Launches Facebook Game ‘Empire’ for You to Take Over the World [PICS]

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 08:35 PM PDT


Empire Facebook Game





Click here to view this gallery.

Empire, a new Facebook game from Jay-Z, wants your virtual self to “go from hustler, to entrepreneur, to business mogul.” If that life path sounds familiar, it’s because it resembles Jay-Z‘s story. He grew up in the housing projects in Brooklyn and eventually became a global hip-hop star and businessman.

The game lets you create a character and give it a dope name — think “Docta B” and “Big Daddy Hernandez.”

Empire begins by giving you a slew of ways to earn points and move up life’s ladder. You can visit your mom or significant other for moral support, engage in a rap battle or make a mix tape for street cred, and get a job to pay for your bling, among other activities.

Earned points help you move out of the projects and into the “hotspots of the rich and famous” in Manhattan.

“Make the right choices and the World belongs to you. LIVE THE DREAM,” reads a prompt early in the game.

Facebook games run the gamut from shallow (Snooki’s Match Game) to charitable (social good-minded Wetopia). Empire, however, appears to give Jay-Z fans an interactive glimpse into how he rose to fame.

Empire also features several ways to invite Facebook friends to play or share activity on your Timeline.


Jay-Z’s Whirlwind Year Online


The game is just the latest Jay-Z venture to make waves online. Most recently, the rapper took the stage at South by Southwest during an event to promote American Express's new Twitter-based discounts program.

Previously in January, he and wife Beyonce released a song online featuring their two-day-old baby, Blue Ivy. The Jay-Z song “Glory” (listen below), included a vocal cameo from the infant at the end of the track.

Jay-Z had announced the song Jan. 9 via a tweet, which linked to the track on his web site Life + Times.

A month later, five pictures of the newborn emerged on popular microblogging platform Tumblr.

Jay-Z’s baby actually made a name for herself before she even had a name or was born. At the end of a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards in August 2011, Beyonce confirmed her pregnancy by dropping her mic, unbuttoning her top and rubbing her baby bump.

SEE ALSO: Beyonce Sends First Tweet, Launches Tumblr Blog and Redesigns Website

The “bump” moment broke Twitter’s tweets-per-second record at the time with 8,868 tweets per second. Four unrelated events have since surpassed it in the Twitter record books.

More About: celebrities, Entertainment, Facebook, Facebook app, Gaming, jay-z, Music

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4 Tips for Keeping Your Gamified Community Motivated

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 08:20 PM PDT


Shannon Duffy is the president of marketing at Data.com, a Salesforce.com company. Follow her @sullytoduffy.

Everyone agrees: Gamification is hot. So hot that the market is expected to hit $2.8 billion in revenue by 2016. Naturally, companies are taking a long look at how to capitalize on this trend.

If you've done your homework and found that gamification is right for your business, the next step is enticing your community to become deeply involved. Here are four tips to get you started.


1. Define Motivation


Ultimately, people play games for a chance to win, but winning means different things to different communities. The goal of a gamified community should be to make as many members meet their definition of success as possible.

For example, a community may have a group responsible for adding a large amount of content to the community and another group concerned with confirming the content's accuracy. These groups have disparate needs and goals so they will not be motivated by the same things. Any successful community will evaluate the individual needs of groups and determine how to best serve each one.

Bottom line: Know what motivates the various groups in your community and feed those motivations.


2. Apply Incentives


Once you know what motivates your community you can provide the right incentives to get users involved. A ranking system is important to many communities, but new or emerging players might be more invested in a monthly ranking contest. Applying goals, badges, and titles is also effective. In fact, it's similar to how Xbox 360 has found success with achievements. This approach generally pushes members to want to go the extra mile to advance their standing in the community. For communities with a more professional focus, developing incentives around access to productivity tools is a good way to create engagement and help members reach business goals.

Bottom line: Make rewards attainable, regular, relevant, and open to community groups.


3. Create MVPs


Every successful community has a small number of members that carry the torch. They are the most invested and active members. They've contributed so much that they have attained a sense of ownership around the community. Since they feel like the community is their own, these are the loyalists that you can count on to maintain rules, champion the game, both off and online, and constantly contribute content and competition.

Create specific groups for these MVPs that include special recognition and status in the community. This rewards their efforts and also makes them role models for other players. Retailers have done a particularly good job of rewarding loyalty with MVP status. For example, Gilt Noir, an ultra-exclusive membership level within the Gilt Groupe membership, gave its members dibs on high-end sales. This encouraged other Gilt Groupe members to try to reach this elite status.

Bottom line: Create an MVP program to encourage continued involvement from your most active and important members.


4. Avoid Trouble


Make sure to create community guidelines with a crystal clear code of conduct. This code should transparently demonstrate how players can achieve the goals they're looking to meet without breaking the rules. It should also be clear that breaking the rules has a penalty.

As a manager, you should also always be aware of player activity and discussion board fodder that may raise flags. If you see a problem brewing, interact with the player or players and address the issue before it disrupts the community.

Bottom line: Define rules, make sure the community plays by them, and if a problem starts to take shape, address it as soon as possible.

How do you use gamification to motivate communities?

More About: Business, contributor, features, gamification, online community

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Google Adds a ‘Share’ Button for Google+

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 08:09 PM PDT


Lost amid the hysteria over Google‘s powerful new Drive cloud-storage service was another product introduced by the Mountain View tech giant on Tuesday — a Google+ “Share” button.

The new button enables website operators to more easily encourage visitors to spread content among connections on Google’s social network. It’s the latest step in integrating the social network with content across the web. The Share button joins the already existing +1 button, which enables Google+ members to indicate that they — for lack of a better term — like a page or an article.

“When your visitors come across something interesting on your site, sometimes you want to encourage a simple endorsement (like +1),” Google+ product manager Rick Borovoy wrote in a blog post introducing the new feature. “Other times, however, you want to help visitors share with their friends, right away. Today's new Google+ Share button lets you do just that.”

When visitors click the button, they have the option of sharing a page with specific people or Circles in their network. Like with the +1 feature, the new button switches from red font on a light background to light font on a red background after being clicked. Users can click the button multiple times, however, to share repeatedly or in different contexts with different segments of their network.

The Share button is now available globally. How do you add it to your site? Visit the Google Developers’ site to get the code here.

More About: Google, Social Media


How One App Uses Digital to Empower Education

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 07:56 PM PDT


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

Name: Three Ring

Quick Pitch: Create and share digital portfolios of students’ work quickly and easily.

Genius Idea: Three Ring allows teachers and students to digitize student work by snapping pictures or videos with their mobile or tablet devices. It keeps student work at the center of the conversation and ensures work isn’t reduced to a rote grade or forgotten in a filing cabinet.


Crumpled assignments drifting to the bottom of students’ backpacks may soon be an experience of the past. A new app called Three Ring is seeking to change the future of digital classrooms everywhere.

With a smartphone or a tablet, the app allows teachers to take a photo or video recording of student work and then seamlessly view and share the work online. Three Ring is a digital filing cabinet that could improve the grading experience and allow teachers and parents to better track student performance.

Three Ring is already in the hands of almost 2,000 teachers in New York, Delaware and Maryland. Since the startup launched six weeks ago, Three Ring has already turned heads. It swooped up the Best Education Startup at New York Tech Day last week.

Three friends — Alec Turnbull, Michael Lindsay and Steve Silvius — who share a passion for education reform joined to create Three Ring. Silvius has taught in LA charter schools.

“Portfolios are powerful tools for teachers, but they have been difficult to maintain,” Lindsay says. “This app solves that problem and captures the richness of the classroom experience that is lost from the conversation. It allows educators to go beyond the grade and bring student work to the forefront.”

The app, currently looking for seed funding, is not fully developed yet. It’s in beta and available only for teacher use. The trio is in the process of developing parent, student and administrator access as well. In the future, teachers will be able to send a students’ work with comments and a grade directly to parents. The startup plans to sell the service to any schools that want to use Three Ring.

Here’s how it works: First, the teacher takes a picture of the students’ work, then tags the photo with appropriate labels including the name, assignment, type of work and what common core standards the assignment meets.

From there, the teacher can access the students’ work on the Three Ring website from a tablet or computer. The teacher can create different classes and find students’ work that way, or just search by student name. The teacher can label and group assignments such as drafts, sketches, assignments, exam, etc. The teacher can then quickly scroll through student work and comment on assignments. Teachers will no longer have to thumb through papers to find the exam they’re looking for.

Lindsay makes it clear that Three Ring is not meant to be a replacement for pencil and paper assignments. The app is more like a digital filing cabinet that will lighten the weight of homework teachers carry home to grade and serves as a digital record of students’ progress. Lindsay also says he was surprised by how many teachers want to know how a student is performing in other courses they’re not teaching. Three Ring makes it easy for teachers to share student work between classrooms.

“It takes hours to create your own filing system and Three Ring can be a huge time saver,” Lindsay says. “We allow teachers to bring that kind of work online quickly and accurately.”

Below is an example of what Three Ring looks like online.

What are the most useful implementations of tech in the classroom you’ve seen? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, flickingerbrad


Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark


Microsoft BizSpark

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

More About: bizspark, education, spark of genius series, technology and education


The 15 Types of People Who Play Draw Something [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 07:35 PM PDT

Draw Something, the Pictionary-like game for iOS and Android whose parent company was recently aquired by Zynga, is the addiction that keeps on giving.

Everyone from talentless hacks to professional artists can play, which sometimes leads to frustration. The above video details several type of players — from the over detailed, to the terrible drawer, to the people who just refuse to buy more colors.

After watching this video, you tell us: What kind of Draw Something player are you?


BONUS: Amazing Draw Something sketches from Mashable Readers.



1. Axe





A clever interpretation of the memorable body spray. By timstahl87

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Draw something, viral videos, YouTube


CISPA Authors Confident Bill Will Pass Despite Rising Opposition

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 07:15 PM PDT


Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich), author of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, better known as CISPA, is confident the bill has enough support in the House to pass when it comes up for a vote Friday. Rising opposition from privacy groups and concerned Internet users has not shaken his belief.

“This isn’t about scrambling for votes, we’re well passed that,” Rep. Rogers (R-Mich.) said on a media conference call Tuesday afternoon.

CISPA is designed to allow private businesses and the government to share information about cybersecurity threats, which advocates say will increase the U.S. government’s ability to fight off cyberattacks. But opponents — including civil liberties and online privacy groups — argue CISPA would destroy the notion of online privacy by allowing private firms to hand personal data over to the intelligence community.

The House Intelligence Committee released a fresh series of proposed amendments Tuesday afternoon, which Rogers said address opponents’ concerns while allowing businesses to share cybersecurity information — a goal supported by companies such as Facebook and Microsoft.

Among the proposed changes are a limitation on the information that can be shared with the federal government, restrictions on what the government can do with data shared under CISPA and a set of clarified definitions — all evidence, Rogers stressed, that his team has been listening and responding to the bill’s critics.

“We’ve gone through most of the privacy concerns expressed by privacy and civil liberties communities and by technology companies like Facebook,” said Rogers. “They have been very good working with us on language to get the bill to a point that helps them protect users and protect their civil liberties.”

Some of CISPA’s opponents have already found a change of heart. The Center for Democracy and Technology, for example, no longer directly opposes CISPA. Instead, it’s advocating for further amendments to address concerns it still has with the bill.

Others aren’t on board quite yet.

The White House reiterated its distaste of the bill, which it says sacrifices individual privacy in the name of security. Alec Ross, senior advisor for innovation at the State Department, told The Guardian that the administration opposes CISPA in its current form, prior to today’s amendments. He wouldn’t say whether President Obama would refuse to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Members of the House Homeland Security Committee also expressed their concerns about CISPA in a letter to Rep. Rogers and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a co-sponsor of the bill.

“Without specific limitations, CISPA would for the first time, grant non-civilian federal agencies, such as the National Security Agency, unfettered access to information about Americans’ Internet activities and allow those agencies to use that information for virtually any purpose,” reads the letter.

The Daily Kos, a left-leaning political blog, has started a letter-writing campaign encouraging readers to call their representatives and tell them to vote against CISPA.

Two separate anti-CISPA threads currently sit on the front page of Reddit, where much of the early anti-SOPA activity began to coalesce. News of the Obama administration’s opposition to the bill garnered almost 3,000 “upvotes” — the Reddit equivalent of Facebook’s “likes” — while a CISPA explainer’s got more than 2,500.

The fresh round of activity around CISPA comes after a week of protests led by Internet privacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation failed to gain the traction that the anti-Stop Online Piracy Act movement found before that bill was left to dwell in legislative limbo.

Could you tolerate an amended CISPA, or do you want to see it killed off entirely? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, PashaIgnatov

More About: CISPA, cybersecurity, Politics, SOPA, US


20 ‘Edible’ iPhone Covers

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 07:03 PM PDT


1. Campbell's Soup




Go pop art with a can of Campbell's "apple" soup.

Cost: $11.99

Click here to view this gallery.

Do you love your grub? Then why not get an iPhone cover that celebrates your favorite foodstuff? We have found 20 cases, covers and skins that offer “edible” decoration.

From beverages to bacon, we’re sure there’s a scrumptious design to suit your palate and make your mobile more mouthwatering. Mmmmmm, iPhone.

SEE ALSO: 20 Retro iPhone Covers That Celebrate Vintage Tech

Take a look through our tasty gallery above. Link us in the comments below to any delicious decals you’ve seen that we haven’t included.

More About: apple, features, Food And Drink, iphone, iphone accessories, Mobile


How Digital Journalists Used Data to Report on Murdoch Scandal

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 06:50 PM PDT


Innovative digital journalism played a starring role in the wake of a massive document release during an inquiry into British media ethics.

The Leveson Inquiry, a judicial investigation into the culture, practice and ethics of the press, was originally called to examine the widespread phone hacking that took place at News International's now-defunct News of the World.

During the inquiry, Rupert Murdoch submitted 163 pages of evidence, including emails that suggest that Jeremy Hunt, UK’s culture secretary, worked with the news organization to help win approval for a failed $12-billion takeover of the BSkyB network.

Below is a look at how three major news organizations sifted through the information and collaboratively covered the investigation stemming from British journalism’s biggest scandal in recent memory.


The Guardian


The Guardian created an interactive timeline that takes readers through the email trail on a day-by-day basis.

When you click on a specific date, it brings you to a piece of information found in the documents that occurred at that time. By eliminating unnecessary information, the tool allows for easy research.


Pro Publica


Pro Publica, using a tool they created called DocDiver, allowed readers to log in through Facebook and go through the emails collectively. DocDiver, technically, is a plugin for DocumentCloud that creates an annotation layer on top of documents.

This plugin allows readers to annotate documents without changing the base material. Other readers and journalists are able to see notes created by the community embedded in a sidebar. Readers also have the option to post a finding and link to it on their Facebook newsfeed.

"The tool enables much closer collaboration between journalists and their readers in real time," Amanda Michel, ProPublica's director of distributed reporting told Poynter.



BBC


The BBC has set up a landing page that includes a live broadcast of the proceedings, a live play-by-play from reporters Peter Jackson and Andrew McFarlane, filtered tweets, breakout points, and additional ways for people to join the conversation.


More About: Media, phone hacking

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Self-Publisher Lulu Announces Google Drive Integration

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 06:31 PM PDT


While Google’s Drive’s feature list is making headlines, one feature many may not be aware of is Drive’s integration with self-publisher Lulu.

Lulu announced integration between the Lulu One-Click Publishing app and the newly released Google Drive on Tuesday — a combination that will allow you to create and collaborate on a project in Google Drive and then publish that project through Lulu with a single click.

"Integrating the Lulu One-Click Publishing app with Google Drive is just another way Lulu is working to remove limitations for creators and making publishing easier than ever before," says Bob Young, CEO and founder of Lulu.com. "Now people can edit content or collaborate on a project with a friend or colleague, then seamlessly publish it so we can all benefit from their remarkable works."

The app supports an array of different file formats including PDF, DOC, DOCX, and TXT, and can accept multiple files simultaneously — so you can upload your next literary masterpiece one chapter at a time if you’d like.

Documents on Google Drive can be published as PDF e-books, or be converted into print books on Lulu.com that can then be sold on the site. Writers keep 90% of the proceeds of each book sold, and keep full creative and copyright control over those publications.

Lulu is also working on expanding its content creation and distribution options for the app, with plans to add the ability to create print books directly from Google Drive, as well as sell titles created on Google Drive through other outlets such as Amazon.com, iBookstore, and the Nook Bookstore.

You can check out and install the app by following a link on Lulu’s webpage.

What do you think about Lulu’s Google Drive integration? Can you see yourself publishing directly from Google Drive? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto,

More About: books, Google, Google Drive, lulu, publishing


This High-Tech Plane Flies Non-Stop From Boston to Asia [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 06:21 PM PDT


The first ever non-stop flight from Tokyo to Boston, via Japan Airlines, took place on April 22 using the 787-8 Dreamliner. As a result, the East and West got a little more “connected.”

The flight not only marks the first commercial use of the 787 Dreamliner in the U.S., but it’s also a step up for environmentalism.

Boeing calls the 787-8 Dreamliner — the model used for both the initial nonstop flight from Tokyo to Boston as well as its return trip — a “superefficient airplane.” It uses 20% less fuel than any other airplane of its size.

The 787-8 Dreamliner is primarily made of carbon fiber — making it much lighter than other existing airplanes — and uses power-efficient LED lighting to create a relaxing ambience for flying. The Dreamliner also features larger windows and nacelles, or outer coverings, that help mitigate noise.

Compared with the recognizable Boeing 747, the Dreamliner travels twice as far, pushes 20,000 pounds more thrust on takeoff and is 20 meters longer.

According to David Mackey, Interim CEO of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which owns and operates the Boston Logan International Airport, more than 400,000 people flew from Boston Logan to Asia last year — and that’s with the decreased tourism Japan faced after its 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

“This nonstop service connecting New England to Japan is historic and will help businesses prosper, open up new leisure destinations, and bring nations closer together,” Mackey said.

Boeing Japan President Mike Denton, who was on the inaugural flight, also said that these long-haul flights are exactly what the 787 was designed to fly. And with fewer layovers, they bring increased flexibility to travelers — the Japan Airlines Tokyo to Boston flight can get you to your destination in just under 12 hours.

SEE ALSO: How Tech and Social Media Are Changing Travel

As an added bonus, the atmosphere and lighting design of the Japan Airlines cabin are meant to recreate Japan’s four distinctive seasons, such as having pink hues to represent Japan’s spring cherry blossoms, or sky blue tones for its summer months. With such a relaxing ambience, you might not even want to get off the plane.

And for those of you who can’t make it to Tokyo just yet, don’t fret — you can still dream up your own Dreamliner on Boeing’s website.

Thumbnail courtesy of egmTacahopeful, Flickr

More About: 787, Boeing, Dreamliner, japan, travel

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Are Brain Waves and Heartbeats the Future of Passwords? [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 05:49 PM PDT


James Bond who? As badass as retinal scanners and fingerprint IDs are in movies, the next generation of password technology is even more advanced — it reads your brain.

Numerous researchers are looking into ways to use brain waves and heartbeats to identify individuals.

“There will come a time when a lot of current input devices won’t be necessary,” Dr Ken Revette, a professor of computer science at the British University in Egypt, told to ABC Science. Revette is the founder of the International Journal of Cognitive Biometrics which focuses on the development of high-tech identification systems.

We already know that passwords are not fool-proof and some people still choose ones that are not secure.

Navin Cota and Ramaswami Palaniappan, of the Mind Research Network in New Mexico and the University of Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom, respectively, are studying how different individuals might be identified by their brains’ reactions to various images, such as one’s mother. Brain activity is different when comparing someone who is viewing a familiar image to someone who doesn’t know what they’re looking at. The challenge, however, is utilizing this technology without making users wear a cap. Currently, brain wave-reading technology needs to make contact with the head to function.

Another group of researchers is seeing how individuals might be detected by their heartbeat. Each person’s heartbeat has different identifiers — even when their heart is pumping fast.

There’s also been talk about being able to ID someone using their keystroke patterns.

Are these new personal identification technologies more scary or cool? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, ktsimage

More About: brain, EEG, mind-reading, passwords

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The Decline of KONY 2012: Where Did the Online Buzz Go?

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 05:33 PM PDT

KONY 2012

KONY 2012, the most viral video of all time, took the web by storm in March. Yet KONY 2012 couldn’t sustain its momentous social buzz until its day of action on April 20, called Cover the Night.

Kony-related topics received 74,000 total Twitter mentions on April 20 — less than half the level of buzz ten days after the video’s initial release on March 5.

Social intelligence engine Topsy Labs graphed the Twitter chatter around KONY 2012 and related hashtags and topics including Kony, #Kony2012, #StopKony, #CoverTheNight, LRA and Joseph Kony. Despite the film’s promotion of Cover the Night, Twitter did not buzz the way it did last month.

The chart below shows the decline of Kony-related topics since March 15:

Since early March, Topsy has recorded more than 12.5 million Twitter mentions about Joseph Kony and the Invisible Children film. The most popular terms have been Kony (6 million mentions) and #Kony2012 (4 million mentions). The two biggest days for tweets were March 5, when the film was released and March 16, when director Jason Russell was arrested.

The below chart shows the Twitter buzz since KONY 2012 was released March 5, which places into perspective the tapering of online discussions.

There were 12 million mentions of Kony-related topics in March, compared to less than half a million mentions during the first 18 days of April.

SEE ALSO: KONY 2012: How Social Media Fueled the Most Viral Video of All Time

Do you think Cover the Night would have been more successful had it come closer to the video’s release? Do you think there’s any way to sustain a viral cause campaign longterm? Sound off in the comments.

More About: kony 2012, viral video

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PinPuzzle Turns Pinterest Into a Mobile Game

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 05:14 PM PDT


Fascinated by their girlfriends’ obsessions with Pinterest, two friends have created a mobile app that turns your Pinterest boards into a mobile game. Called PinPuzzle, the app takes photos from your boards (or anyone else’s on the service) and turns each one into a new level of a sliding puzzle game.

The first version of the app [iTunes link] was born on a bench in an airport "after eight hours of hard coding and three liters of Coca Cola,” creators Michele Mastroianni and Stefano Mendicino told us.

“The world has fallen in love with Pinterest and many people we know — for example our girlfriends– spend hours browsing other people’s images and pinning," Mastroianni told Mashable. "So me and Stefano thought, ‘How could we use all of the images collected into the boards of everyone?’ The social network has beautiful images at its core, so why not give to the users the possibility to play and have fun with the images pinned? The puzzle sounded fun to us so we came up with the idea of PinPuzzle.”

To start playing the game, you simply type in the Pinterest username of the the account you would like to play with. So, if you wanted to play with Mashable‘s boards, for instance, then you would type in "Mashable."

Each board is turned into its own level in the game. Photos from individual boards are displayed first in their entirety, and then as slivers of a puzzle you have to slide around and put back together. Pictures are gradually made out of more pieces as the game progresses, and your score is determined by how fast you’re able to reconstruct them.

While powered by Pinterest, the game is not affiliated with the site. The first version of the game launched in the App Store this week for $0.99. The duo has plans to release an HD version of the app for the iPad in the coming days, and then will focus their efforts on Game Center integration and other social features.

Mendicino says they also have some special plans to help famous brands boost their business with PinPuzzle and Pinterest.

What do you think about PinPuzzle? Can you see yourself wanting to play a game with your board or the boards of others? Let us know in the comments.

More About: App, pinterest


Coming Soon: Planet Earth, Live-Streamed from Space [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 04:51 PM PDT

Wouldn’t it be amazing to sit aboard the International Space Station, watching Earth’s continents and oceans pass by as you orbit the planet?

If a startup called Urthecast has its way, you’ll soon be able to replicate that experience from your computer, thanks to HD cameras mounted on the station to stream near real-time video of Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will be the first-ever HD streaming video feed of Earth from space, and will let viewers discern objects as small as one meter wide.

The company’s cameras are being built right now, says co-founder Scott Larson, and will be completed in early summer. Then they’ll be shipped to Russia, where the Russian Federal Space Agency will schedule them for transport to the station. Larson says the system should be fully up and running early next year.

The cameras will continuously film Earth as the station orbits the planet about 15 times per day. Footage will be downlinked to ground stations, then immediately streamed via Urthecast.com. Larson expects to provide footage every second for five to ten years.

“Because we know where the space station is, you’ll be able to enter your address and find out when it will be on you next or see past images from your area,” Larson told Mashable in an interview. “Then you can walk outside and organize an event for when it will be over you again.”

The company staged a 170-person flashmob in San Francisco this weekend (see video below). It was filmed from helicopters as a promotional example of what people will be able to do with Urthecast’s high-resolution feeds. Larson says events similar to the flash mob are one way Urthecast will monetize its technology: Companies will be able to pay for Urthecast to train its cameras on certain locations at designated times and then, for example, organize logs on a beach to spell out a real-time advertisement streamed from space.

Urthecast also plans to sell exclusive images and video to groups such as mining and agriculture companies for which the big-picture data will be extremely useful. The company’s third revenue stream is to open its API for developers to build apps and games on top of the Urthecast platform.

How did something like this come to be? Larson says he was connected by mutual friends to the Russian space agency, which was looking for publicity and a way to promote its work.

“All space agencies need to justify their budgets and so forth,” Larson says. “They were looking for something exciting and educational to put on the International Space Station.”

An agreement was soon hashed out, and Larson believes Urthecast’s streaming platform will help reshape how people relate to places and the world around them. The company also plans to aggregate other content from around the web to augment its footage. For example user pictures taken from near the Eiffel Tower will be viewable when looking for Eiffel Tower footage shot from the space station.

“The idea is like Facebook and Twitter where you follow a person, but here you’ll follow a location instead of a person,” Larson says. “Anything to do with a location will be aggregated into Urthecast.com.”

Do you think Urthecast will be a success and are you excited to check it out? Let us know in the comments.

Also, check out the video below for a recap of the Urthecasts flashmob event in San Francisco:

More About: space, streaming video

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Twitter Is Not Feeling Brian McKnight’s Explicit New Music

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 04:40 PM PDT


Brian McKnight is known for the R&B music he has recorded over the past 20 years. His hits “Anytime” and “Back to One” are considered such romantic standards that his tracks are regularly used as wedding songs.

Because McKnight’s musical reputation is built on love songs, his fans were surprised to hear a different vibe from his new music. The 42-year old singer gave fans a preview of his new song “If You’re Ready to Learn” via a YouTube video. The song, which is a preview of an upcoming mixtape, features sexually explicit lyrics that had fans questioning his shift in lyrical content.

After Twitter began flooding McKnight with negative tweets, he pulled the video from YouTube — but not before it was captured and posted by other accounts. McKnight is considering republishing his video on YouTube, and he is basing his decision on the reaction he gets from fans.

The video caused McKnight to become a trend on Twitter Tuesday. The musician also took to the social network to express his surprise at the social media firestorm that happened.

When fans told McKnight they’d rather hear music in the same style of his previous albums, McKnight explained the reason behind his shift in image is due to the changing landscape of radio.

The reaction that McKnight is receiving from Twitter has the potential to influence the type of music he makes. McKnight released his most commercially successful album, Back at One, in 1999 — years before the rise of social media. Will a constant stream of tweets cause McKnight to alter the content of his music?

Gap faced a similar social media response in October of 2010 when it reacted to the intense social media outcry against its newly redesigned logo. This outcry prompted Gap to scrap the ideas for the new logo completely.

Do you think musicians should use Twitter to accommodate the desires of fans into their music? Let us know in the comments.

Thumbnail courtesy of flickr, Focka

More About: Entertainment, Music, Twitter

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How Does Google Drive Compare to the Competition?

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 04:22 PM PDT


Amazon Cloud Drive




Storage: 5GB free (purchases from the Amazon MP3 Store don't count towards storage limit) Mobile Integration: Cloud Player for Android, no official iOS app Desktop Integration: Amazon MP3 Uploader/Downloader for music Pricing: $1 a gigabyte per year. Collaborative Editing: No File Size Limitations: 2GB

Click here to view this gallery.

Now that Google Drive is finally a reality, how does it stack up against the cloud competition?

Google’s new cloud-based document and storage solution is priced aggressively and boasts best-in-class integration with other Google services — including Google Docs. As you can see from our hands-on, Google Drive is an impressive product.

Still, the cloud storage and collaboration space is more competitive than ever before. Google faces competition not just from cloud companies such as Box and Dropbox, but from Apple, Microsoft and Amazon as well.


Storage and Pricing


Google is pricing Google Drive at a VERY aggressive level. For $30 a year ($2.50 a month), users get 25GB to use for Google Drive and Picasa, plus 25GB of Gmail storage.

This is more than what Amazon and Microsoft charge for an additional 20GB, but less than the price of Dropbox, Apple and Box.net.

For $60 a year ($5 a month), Google offers 100GB of Drive and Picasa storage (plus 25GB for Gmail), which clocks in below Amazon, Apple, Dropbox and Box.net. For penny pinchers, Microsoft’s offer of 100GB of additional storage — on top of the 7 or 25GB that users already get with the service — is just $50 a year.

Dropbox and Box are among the more expensive services. In the case of Box, the company’s real focus is on business users. In fact, the company has told us on multiple occasions that its focus isn’t so much on Dropbox, but on Microsoft SharePoint.

A 100GB Dropbox account costs more than three times what a Google Drive account costs. In this area, Google is clearly trying to undermine its competition on a per-GB pricing basis.

Box’s pricing is also significantly higher than Google Drive; however, that differentiation is also part of the company’s focus. As Box has told us on multiple occasions, it wants to replace Microsoft SharePoint in the SMB and Enterprise space. While Google is also looking in this direction, Box has a bevy of services and integrations that are focused on replacing a company’s central file server.


Upload Limit


The most limiting factor of the majority of cloud storage and collaboration services isn’t the total amount of storage — it’s the limitations on upload size.

Google has an impressive 10GB limit on files or folders. This is significantly more than the 2GB limit imposed by most cloud services. Only Dropbox’s desktop apps for Mac, Windows and Linux do better. With Dropbox, the only limitation is the size of a storage plan.


Collaboration and Sharing


Like Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Box, Google Drive offers in-browser access to files and folders, including document editing via Google Docs.

And like SkyDrive, Box and iCloud, third-party applications can plug into Google Drive to retrieve or store files. This makes keeping apps synchronized across devices and platforms much more seamless.


Mobile Integration


Although Google Drive’s Android app is already around, Google is making iOS users wait for access to the app. This is in contrast to Dropbox, Box and SkyDrive, which all offer official or unofficial solutions for multiple mobile platforms.

Amazon and Apple are behind in the mobile access game. Apple makes iCloud exclusively available to iOS 5 users, and Amazon’s Cloud Drive only integrates with Android (and the integration is limited at that).


Desktop Integration


Part of the reason that Dropbox has such a loyal following is because of its fantastic Desktop integration. Mac, Windows and Linux users can automatically sync and share files from their native file systems without having to bother with desktop uploads.

This is a similar approach to the one Box has taken with its Box Sync service for Windows, and to what Microsoft employs for SkyDrive for Windows and Mac.

Google Drive’s desktop app works essentially the same as SkyDrive — in other words, it isn’t as tightly coupled with the file system as Dropbox, but it does the job.


Final Thoughts


Which cloud storage service an individual or business decides to use is a decision that should encompass more than just comparing specs and pricing. Take time to use a service and see how it integrates into your workflow before plunking down cash on an upgrade.

For users and businesses heavily tied to Google Docs, Google Drive will likely make sense. For those that love Dropbox or need some of Box’s more robust features, Google Drive might not fit the bill. For Microsoft Office users, consider giving Microsoft SkyDrive a try — it works well and also offers online access to basic web and editing apps.

Ultimately, neither offering from Apple nor Amazon is likely to compete with Google Drive — the products are focused on different use cases.

We’d also like to give Canonical’s Ubuntu One a shout-out. We didn’t include it in our direct comparison because of its more limited options, but for Windows and Ubuntu users, its free service is worth a look as well.

Tell us your thoughts on the cloud storage and collaboration space. Does Google Drive have the goods to compete? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Amazon Cloud Drive, Box, box.net, cloud storage, Dropbox, features, Google Drive, icloud, SkyDrive


Follow Tuesday’s Five East Coast Primaries on Social Media

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 04:00 PM PDT

It’s primary day up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Voters are headed to the polls in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — and social media is ablaze with tweets, photos, videos and other posts about the race to the White House.

Tonight, Mitt Romney looks to solidify his status as the presumptive Republican nominee over his two remaining challengers, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich.

All three candidates are taking to the web in the battle for votes and delegates. Journalists are using social tools to cover the primaries with up-to-the-second reporting and behind-the-scenes photos. Also engaged on social media are voters, proudly displaying their “I Voted” stickers and supporting their favorite candidates.

As Tuesday’s primary night unfolds, we’re sharing the best examples of social media’s use during the showdown. Follow Mashable to learn how politicians, journalists, media outlets and citizens are using social media across the Eastern Seaboard. We'll be updating this continually:

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, pagadesign

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


Apple’s Q2 iPad Sales Weren’t So Insanely Great

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 03:14 PM PDT

ipad-apple-home-600


Despite the gloom surrounding its stock price of late, Apple delivered another blowout quarter on Tuesday, thanks in large part to iPhone sales. But if you took the iPhone out of the equation, the overall numbers were just OK as Macs had a so-so quarter and iPad sales fell on the low end of estimates.

Apple sold 11.8 million iPads during the quarter, which was lower than the 12.3 million to 13.5 million units that analysts had been expecting. During Apple’s earnings call with analysts Tuesday afternoon, a few took the opportunity to grill Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer and CEO Tim Cook on the matter. One question was whether the introduction of the $399 iPad 2 had hindered sales of the new iPad.

“We’re just learning about elasticity of demand,” Oppenheimer said. “The $399 iPad 2 is doing well, but the new iPad is on fire.”

Cook said he was “thrilled with the results we’ve seen,” since lowering the price of the iPad 2 to $399, though “it’s too early to come to a clear conclusion.” The cheaper iPad unlocked some education demand, Cook added.

Nevertheless, the numbers were a comedown from the 15.4 million sold in Apple’s fiscal first quarter, which benefitted from the holiday season. Cook and Oppenheimer didn’t offer any more reasons for the perceived shortfall. “The new iPad is on fire. We’re selling them as fast as we can make them,” Cook said. One possibility is that analysts based their estimates on the new iPad’s opening weekend, in which it sold 3 million units.

To be sure, Apple is selling a lot of the devices. Since debuting the iPad in early 2010, Apple has sold 67 million of them. As Cook noted, it took Apple three years to sell that many iPhones and 24 years to sell as many Macs.

Speaking of Macs, those sales were also on the low end of estimates and grew just 7% over the year-ago quarter. Cook said one major reason was that Q2 2011 was a big quarter for Macs. Sales grew 28% in that quarter as the rest of the PC industry posted single-digit gains.

“Yes, I think there was some cannibalization from iPad and the market is slow,” Cook said of Mac sales in the latest quarter. But the “primary factor,” he said, was those year-ago sales.

More About: apple, ipad, iphone

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Ubooly Plush Toy Uses Your iPhone or iPad to Teach Children [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 02:50 PM PDT


What’s orange, furry, adorable and can teach your kids Spanish? Meet the new plush toy Ubooly. It combines teddy bear cuteness with a voice recognition app to become an interactive educational tool for kids.

Just slip your iPhone or iPad into the zippered pouch on the fuzzy Ubooly’s head, so the speaker is at the top, and let your kids have at it.

The product was originally created by husband and wife team Carly Glodge and Isaac Squires, along with by co-founder Gavin Lee, last August. Ubooly’s Kickstarter page exceeded its funding goal of $25,000 by topping $28,000 on Tuesday.

“What we really wanted to do was make a smart toy,” Gloge told Mashable. “We realized there’s a lot of great technology out there and not a lot of toys utilizing that.”

Ubooly is today’s Teddy Ruxpin or Furby. The Ubooly app has voice recognition technology, so it can understand kids and respond back to them. Ubooly also has memory, so it can be nostalgic about past playtimes.

In addition to being cute, the stuffed toy is also an “edu-tainment” tool, according to Gloge. The ongoing updates to the app mean Ubooly can always have something new to talk about or teach a child.

“The toy evolves from what they initially buy at the store,” Gloge says. “If a kid is not engaging with the toy, it will adjust its content.”

Parents can download learning software to the Ubooly app, so children can enhance their math abilities or learn a new language. A weekly report card sent to parents’ email accounts will show how their child scored on educational activities.

Ubooly is a bit heavier than a typical stuffed toy, but Gloge said the pluses to this are that it feels like a pet because of the heftier weight, and it’s pretty tough — children can drop it and the iPhone or iPad inside won’t break. The plush toy feels “like a little creature,” thanks to its material insides. Glodge said when building the little furball, they knew they didn’t want kids to squeeze it and feel a box inside where the Apple device goes — it would ruin the illusion that it could be alive. So they created Ubooly using silicon.

Gloge said 85% of the backers on the Kickstarter campaign were male, making the team eager to also reach out to its intended audience of mothers. Anecdotal evidence they collected shows mothers tend not to buy new toys online. Usually, they go into stores and see what their children gravitate toward.

But with Ubooly, the mothers may gravitate toward it themselves. The Kickstarter page says the toy could also be fun for adults.

Currently, 60 families are the team’s beta testers, and Gloge said they get feedback from the children and their parents. For example, Gloge recently met with an 8-year-old in the beta test group who said she wanted the toy to play music from iTunes, so they added that feature.

The company is currently taking pre-orders for Ubooly plus the app for $50. The app is not live in the app store yet, but will go live around the time the toy is released, Gloge said. Ubooly is expected be in specialty retail stores by October 2012 and in mass retailers by spring 2015.

Would you buy Ubooly for your kids or yourself? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Ubooley

More About: iphone, ipod, toys, Ubooley


How a British Marathoner’s Death Inspired Over $825,000 in Online Donations

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 02:23 PM PDT


The death of a British runner during Sunday’s London Marathon has inspired over $825,000 in online donations for Samaritans, the charity she was was supporting.

Claire Squires, 30, a hairdresser from Leicestershire, England, was just one mile away from the finish line when she collapsed. Squires was pronounced dead on the scene, and investigations into the cause of her death are expected in the coming days.

Squires’ death has sparked an outpouring of donations to her JustGiving page, which states, “I’m running the london (sic) marathon for Samaritans because they continuously support others.” As of writing, more than 45,000 individual donations have accumulated, and the number continues to grow.

Samaritans is the world’s oldest and largest suicide prevention network. According to the Daily Telegraph, Squires’ brother died from an overdose in 2001 at the age of 25. Her mother has also volunteered for the charity for more than 20 years.

JustGiving has confirmed in a statement that the donations have been record-breaking for its 12-year history:

“The response to Claire Squires’ tragic death on Sunday has been extraordinary. Out of respect for Claire’s memory, we will be donating our fees back to the Samaritans. Yesterday the JustGiving site saw a record number of visits, with over 10,000 people donating together at any given time. This huge wave of sympathy continues today.”


Donations to Claire Squires’ JustGiving page as of 12:25 PM PST Tuesday

The sheer amount of donations and response to Squires’ death has to do with the “multitude of financial, psychological and historical factors at play when people decide how and where they donate money,” longtime volunteer and charity worker Rachel Rawlins writes in an opinion piece for the Guardian UK. Perhaps the most important factor spurring people to donate is the intimacy they feel with Squires as an individual — they know her name, how she looks like and her motivations for running the race. These details are far more compelling to donators rather than generalities when it comes to charity giving.

Rawlins also suggests that the publicity surrounding Squires’ death and the fact that many people are already donating are encouraging others to do the same. The ease of donating to online sites is certainly a contributing factor as well, according to Rawlins.

“It takes far less effort to go to click the link to a widely publicized Just Giving page and donate money than it would to find out the details of the charity behind it and locate ways to donate to it directly,” she writes. “You can see everyone else who has made a donation, how much they’ve given and a running total of the money raised.”

Although some have argued that this kind of online response is a slacktivist reaction, the consequences of this funding — what the money can actually do — are undeniable as donations continue to pour in at record speed. And while Squires’ JustGiving page does not indicate any offline donations, JustGiving has stated that it will make sure the online donations go to the right places:

“These donations will be put into a tribute fund and, following discussions with the family, will go towards projects they feel would have been important to Claire.”

What do you think of the online response to Squires’ death? Sound off in the comments.

Thumbnail courtesy of the Daily Telegraph

More About: justgiving, online donations, Social Good

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Apple Sells 35.1M iPhones, 11.8M iPads in Q2

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 01:36 PM PDT


Apple on Tuesday announced it sold 35.1 iPhones and 11.8 iPads in its fiscal second quarter. Analysts had expected Apple would sell about 30.5 million iPhones and 12.3 to 13.5 million iPads.

Earnings for the quarter were $12.30 a share on revenues of $39.2 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had projected a 2Q profit of $10.02 a share on revenues of $36.7 billion. Apple had issued guidance of $32.5 billion on revenues with profits of $8.50 per share. Apple’s stock was up close to 7% in after-hours trading on the news.

"We're thrilled with sales of over 35 million iPhones and almost 12 million iPads in the March quarter," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, in a release from the company. "The new iPad is off to a great start, and across the year you're going to see a lot more of the kind of innovation that only Apple can deliver."

Apple also sold 4 million Macs during the quarter, a 7% unit increase over Q2 2011 and about what analysts had expected. Apple sold 7.7 million iPods, down 15% from the year-ago quarter.

The results come after Apple’s stellar fiscal first quarter results in January, which included a $13 billion profit on revenues of $46.3 billion.

Shares are down nearly 11% since peaking on April 9, putting the stock in "correction" territory.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Yagan Kiely

More About: apple, ipad, iphone

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3 Reasons the Call Center Is Far From Dead

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 01:28 PM PDT


Jeff Valentine is senior vice president of product at M5 Networks, ShoreTel's cloud division, and is responsible for bringing new M5 products and services to market.

Zor Gorelov, CEO of Speech Cycle, recently wrote an article in which he suggested that the call center "will cease to be the primary channel between companies and their customers. In its place, the smartphone will become the contact center of the future. He predicted this shift would happen by the end of 2012.

While there is no doubt that the rise of the smartphone opens up many new opportunities to interact with clients, for at least the foreseeable future, clients who need help are most likely to use that device to call customer support. (It is a phone after all.) Here are just a few of the reasons why the call center is hardly dead.


Reach


A phone number has (nearly) 100% reach. Everyone can call a number. On the other hand, a service app that offers customer support would not fare as well. According to one Comscore report, 11.2% of mobile phone users have an iPhone. So, if you build a customer service app for the iPhone, 88.8% of your customers won't find, install, or use the app. They'll just call. You could increase the reach (and triple your cost) by building apps for Android and BlackBerry as well. But even then, only 48.6% of smartphone owners use a downloaded application. This means you have to factor in how many of the roughly 50% of smartphone users who are inclined to run an app will be drawn to yours. Even if it’s 50%, is it worth it?


Cost


It costs about $1 per minute for the average call center to service a customer. So, 1,000 customer calls lasting ten minutes each costs $10,000. The average cost of developing, launching, promoting, and maintaining a mobile app is about $30,000. Will such an app result in call volume decreasing by 3,000 calls in a year? Reducing calls by 3,000 in a year doesn't seem nearly as likely if fewer than 12% of your customers can use the iPhone app. Of course, you could increase your cost to $90,000 by adding Android and BlackBerry. Then, the math only works if you can decrease your call volume by 9,000 calls.


Better, Less Expensive Call Centers


Recent innovations in cloud computing and unified communications have actually made a high-touch call center a more viable option than ever. Some cloud providers can deploy contact center functionality for far less than the old guard for a few reasons:

  • You don't have to use dedicated agents anymore. Cross-trained workers can become agents "on demand" when call volume requires it, reducing the inefficiencies of having full-time call center staff. Call center agents spend an average of 49 minutes per day idle, according to Contact Babel, while knowledge workers will fill idle time with other work. This lost productivity costs approximately $12,500 per month for a 50-agent call center.

  • You don't have to buy call center systems anymore. Traditional contact center solutions cost $1,200 to $1,500 per agent, plus installation, integration, and training. There's also a charge of $300 per agent, per year, for maintenance. Using the 50-agent call center example and a three-year life span before the vendor stops supporting it, an on-premise system costs more than $140,000. In contrast, a hosted call center platform, for example, sells for $50 per agent, per month. It costs 35% less and requires no upfront capital investment. When you add the extra costs of IT administration for on-premise systems, the cloud-based option is an astounding 70% less expensive. Companies that want to offer live agent customer support can do so for less than ever.

The Bottom Line


The cost of providing high-touch customer service using the most important channel today — voice — won't change just because people have smartphones. What would you do if your new digital camera didn’t turn on? Search the app store for the digital camera manufacturer's app, download and install it, register your camera, and then walk through a nice pictorial troubleshooting wizard? Or would you use that same phone to dial the toll-free number for customer support?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, londoneye

More About: BlackBery, contributor, features, iphone, smartphones

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‘Moms for Mitt’ Flock to New Romney Facebook Community [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 01:17 PM PDT


An unexpected social media byproduct has risen from the “War on Women” debate between Democrats and Republicans: Mitt Romney’s team was able to build an 80,000-strong women-centered Facebook community nearly overnight.

The Romney campaign created “Moms for Mitt,” a Facebook community that’s being used to display Romney’s life as father and husband and to share infographics dealing with women’s issues.

This latest initiative is an outgrowth of months of political battles by the two major parties over women’s issues and treatment.

In March, the Obama administration announced that it would require religiously affiliated schools and hospitals to cover birth control under the new health care mandate (a stance which has since been modified). The rule interpretation ignited a controversy and in the ensuing coverage, Democrats accused the Republicans of waging a “war on women.” This characterization was not helped by notable GOP blunders such as Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) all-male panel during a hearing on birth control.

A few weeks ago, in the continued media back-and-forth, Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, accused stay-at-home-mom Ann Romney of “never having worked a day in her life.” That comment set off a firestorm on Twitter, with people coming to the defense of Ann Romney or Rosen — but mostly the former.

The GOP acted swiftly to capitalize on the change in momentum over women’s issues, hammering Rosen for dismissing the work and value of stay-at-home mothers. Although Rosen had no direct connection to the Obama campaign, top Democrats took pains to distance themselves from her comments.

Team Romney also mobilized in reaction Rosen’s jab at Ann. In addition to “Moms for Mitt,” the campaign created Facebook and Twitter profiles for her specifically.

“Moms for Mitt” has been drawing in users at blistering speed. By the end of the day on April 15, when the page was created, nearly 35,000 users were already engaged. Four days later, that number doubled to 70,000. On the afternoon of April 24, more than 80,000 people have “liked” the page and 56,872 are “talking about this.”

So the campaign has 80,000 people involved on this platform. So what? What if those are just 80,000 random conservative voters, getting involved with the tit-for-tat of the political horserace?

Zac Moffatt, Romney’s digital director, told Mashable that’s not the case. An overwhelming majority — 98% — of the Facebook users that “like” the “Moms for Mitt” page are women, and 51% of those women are over the age of 55 — exactly the target demographic for the page.

Moffatt sees immense value in the suddenly-risen community, and rightfully so: being aware of so many women willing to engage with the campaign is valuable.

“We couldn't generate this on our own if we wanted to,” he said. “I wouldn't have known there are 80,000 moms that felt this strongly. It's a community that we're going to be able to go back to.”

Go back to it they shall. Knowing there’s a community of tens of thousands of women who support Romney will give the Romney campaign the opportunity to capitalize on that community with special events. Moffatt and his team are already planning women-focused events around the country based on “Moms for Mitt,” such as voter registration drives.

“It's 'digital field [organizing],’” says Moffatt. “We’ve got an extremely vibrant community of people having discussions among themselves — now they're going to be a part of the campaign.”

SEE ALSO: On Twitter, The Primary's Over and It's Obama vs. Romney

Images courtesy of Flickr, Gage Skidmore

More About: 2012 presidential campaign, Facebook, Mitt Romney, Politics, Social Media, US


July 9: Doomsday for Your PC or Mac If It Has This Malware

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 01:05 PM PDT

error-message-600

There’s a trojan out there that tricks computers — both PCs and Macs — into redirecting all their Internet traffic through malicious servers. Even though the trojan’s creators have been stopped and arrested, millions of PCs could still be infected. For those machines, the Internet will cease to exist on July 9.

The reasons are technical, and they go back to 2007. That was the year the trojan first surfaced, according to PC World. The malware, which can infect both Windows and Mac computers, essentially creates a botnet by changing how the machine accessed DNS.

DNS (Domain Name Service) is how the web organizes its addresses. It’s the system that lets you simply type in “mashable.com” instead of some kind of long and incomprehensible IP address filled with letters, decimals and numbers. Your computer talks to a DNS server operated by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to find all the websites that you visit every day.

The trojan, called DNS Changer, redirects your computer’s DNS queries from your ISP’s server to one created by the trojan’s creators — essentially hijacking all Internet traffic from your machine. That way, the bad guys can send you to hacker-created websites filled with ads whenever they want.

SEE ALSO: 1 in 5 Macs Has Malware [STUDY]

The good news: The FBI shut down the operation, called Rove Digital, last November when they arrested six Estonian nationals behind the botnet and shut down their malicious servers. To ensure infected computers wouldn’t be cut off from the Internet entirely, the FBI set up its own DNS servers.

The bad news: Those friendly servers will soon be shut down. They were originally going to run only four months, but a judge ordered an extension of their operation until July 9 since it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of computers are still infected.

If a machine is still has the trojan and tries to access the web on July 9, it won’t be able to access anything. With Internet access cut off, it would be very inconvenient to download and install anti-virus software.

If you suspect you’re infected, go to the DNS Changer Check-Up website, which should let you know if your computer’s DNS is working properly. Should your machine test positive, an organization called the DNS Changer Working Group has a list of anti-virus tools for cleaning it up. The FBI has an even more comprehensive to-do list.

Even with the extra time and cleanup tools, however, it’s likely a few machines will slip through and not get the update by July 9. What do you think should happen to reach those computers in time? Sound off in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, alengo

More About: DNS, malware, trending, virus

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More Video Comes to Mashable

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 12:50 PM PDT


Over the last few months you may have noticed more video appearing on Mashable. We're currently producing original content to complement our news coverage, shows like "World at Work" that dive deeper into a given topic (social entrepreneurship in this case), and specials like "Leaders in Digital" that go one-on-one with thought leaders at events like CES and SXSW.

Today, we're excited to announce that we're opening up our video platform to third-party publishers, bringing select content from around the web to our community that helps tell the story of how digital is transforming our world. We're delighted to have several great partners on board for the launch, whose video you can start watching on Mashable immediately.

Going forward, you may start seeing content from these partners showing up in our video section, in our social feeds, and on related blog posts. Here's who we're currently working with:

60 Seconds of Social Media: Produced by Amos Content Group and hosted by Shawn Amos, this series offers a fast-paced, visual recap of the week in social media news. Check out last week's recap featuring Tupac's holographic performance at Coachella.

Behind the Brand: Bryan Elliot interviews top entrepreneurs, executives and self-made personalities about their secrets to building their brands. In this interview, Elliot interviews Lewis Howes, a one-time professional football player who got injured and ultimately became a LinkedIn power user, author and motivational speaker.

genConnect: This series utilizes a network of more than 500 experts to offer wisdom and advice in areas like career, relationships, health, lifestyle and giving back. In this video, singing/songwriting legends Kenny Loggins and John Oates discuss technology and its affect on the music industry.

Revolution: Technology analyst and futurist Brian Solis examines technology, trends and best practices and introduces viewers to the thought leaders who are blazing the trail. In this interview, Solis speaks with Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist at Apple, about "the art of enhancement."

TechStars: This series, produced by Bloomberg, goes behind the scenes of the TechStars startup accelerator program from the interview and pitch process to the experience once companies are admitted. We introduced the series previously here, and you can watch the full season on-demand in our video section.

The Valley Girl Show: In this series, entertainer and entrepreneur Jesse Draper interviews some of the biggest names in business and technology. The show is a balance of fun games, tough questions, and educational takeaways. In this episode, Jesse interviews Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg about her career path and advice for other female entrepreneurs.

What's Trending: Celebrities, influencers and Internet personalities discuss the topics that the Internet is buzzing about with host Shira Lazar. In this video, Lazar interviews Sir Richard Branson following Virgin America's native voyage from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.

Venture Studio: Entrepreneur and angel investor Dave Lerner interviews the entrepreneurs, investors, writers and personalities that comprise New York City's entrepreneurial ecosystem. In this interview, Lerner interviews one of the founders of breakout eyewear startup Warby Parker.

In coming months, we'll be adding more partners as well as launching more Mashable original video content (you may have read about one program we're developing in TheWrap).

As always, we welcome your feedback on our video content and look forward to continuing to grow the content offerings we make available to our community.

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Google Drive Goes for a Spin [HANDS-ON]

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 12:29 PM PDT


Getting Access





Sign in here to see if you have access to Drive. If you do, you'll need to download the desktop component for Mac or PC before getting started.

Click here to view this gallery.

After weeks of rumors, Google has finally launched its cloud-storage service, Drive.

Like Microsoft SkyDrive, Dropbox and Amazon Cloud Drive, the service syncs users’ offline files with an online storage space that can be accessed from anywhere.

Unlike these other services, however, it has Google Docs built right into it.

Just like before, users can collaborate and comment on docs. But now those files will also automatically be backed up offline, and content added to the offline Google Drive folder will automatically show up in the online Google Drive tab among their Google Docs (up to 5GB of free storage). All files can also be accessed through a Google Drive Android app.

Google also brought some bells and whistles to the game, such as technology that makes PDFs and scanned books searchable. Stuff on your Drive is easy to access from Google+; the company says it will soon make it just as easy to attach that content to Gmail messages.

Meanwhile, the company is working with third-party companies such as fax machine replacement HelloFax and video editor WeVideo that will incorporate Drive into their products.

Bottom line? Google Drive is Dropbox with double the free space (Dropbox offers 2.5GB) and added Google Docs functionality.

Its 5GB of storage space isn’t the largest the industry has to offer — for that, you’ll have to turn to Microsoft’s SkyDrive. But it will probably end up being the most widely integrated, and thus most useful, cloud service out there.

For our full walk-through of the new product, click through the gallery above.

Google wrote in its announcement for Drive that “there's a lot more to come.” What features would you like them to add? Let us know in the comments.

More About: cloud storage, Google, Google Drive, trending


Indie Band Metric Wants You to Rock Out on Interactive Site for New Song

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 11:53 AM PDT

Youth Without Youth

The members of Canadian indie band Metric want you to rock out with them. In anticipation for the May 1 release of their “Youth Without Youth” single, they are encouraging fans to create their own versions of the song before they even hear the original.

How? On interactive website ILoveMetric.com, fans can unlock the band’s handwritten lyrics and sheet music.

The lyrics are being released in four tiers. Fans must place the lyrics that pop up on the website in the appropriate spot on a piece of paper (see below). The correct placement spawns rewards. Tier one leads to a YouTube video of behind-the-scenes footage.

Tier two tells fans to download the sheet music, pick up an instrument, film their renditions and post them as YouTube responses to the video found in the tier one reward. Tiers three and four will eventually roll out.


“Youth for Youth” is the lead single off of Metric’s album Synthetica, which will come out June 12. The song “tackles the topic of a fraying social state with bristling energy, lyrical complexity and a momentary breakdown guaranteed to get crowds jumping along with the song's driving rhythm.”

“The themes (of the album) touch on what’s real versus virtual and we tried to bridge those worlds by creating something focussed on handwriting, which is very personal, in the online space,” band spokesman Myles Grosovsky of Big Hassle told Mashable.

Metric’s lead singer Emily Haines discusses Synthetica in detail in this letter to fans.

Thumbnail courtesy of Justin Broadbent

More About: celebrities, Entertainment, Music

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