Saturday, 2 June 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “One-way Ticket to Mars, Please: Startup Plans Space Colony in 2023”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “One-way Ticket to Mars, Please: Startup Plans Space Colony in 2023”

One-way Ticket to Mars, Please: Startup Plans Space Colony in 2023

Posted: 02 Jun 2012 12:38 AM PDT

NASA’s road map for getting to Mars may be in flux, and SpaceX pioneer Elon Musk has only a vague intention to point his rockets at the Red Planet. But that doesn’t mean nobody is making definitive plans to set up shop on the fourth rock from the Sun.

Stepping into the vacuum Friday: a brand new private space venture from the Netherlands called Mars One, which aims to send four astronauts on a one-way journey to Mars in just 11 years time.

Founded by Dutch entrepreneur and researcher Bas Landsdorp, who previously headed up an alternative energy company, the new venture doesn’t have a lot of the polish of other private space companies, many of which were started by billionaires such as Musk, Paul Allen or Jeff Bezos.

Watch that video above and you’ll get a distinct sense of the earnest amateur. For all its letters of intent from component suppliers and support from Nobel prize-winners, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of money behind this venture — yet.

But here’s what Mars One does have going for it: a definite and achievable to-do list.

SEE ALSO: This $20 Trillion Rock Could Turn a Startup into Earth’s Richest Company

Step one: send a communications satellite to Mars in 2016. Step two: follow up with a Red Planet rover in 2018, which will trawl the dusty landscape, scoping out some of the best spots to found a colony. Step three, in 2020: send infrastructure for the colonists to live in, including solar panels and machines that will convert the Martian elements into water and oxygen.

Only then, on the surprisingly specific date of September 14, 2022, will Mars One launch its first four astronauts. Their journey to the new colony will take ten months, though they will have been preparing for a decade. Most of that prep time, we hope, will be spent figuring out how not to kill someone when you have to live in extremely close quarters for the better part of a year and none of you can take a shower.

Landsdorp plans to send another couple of adventurous astronauts to join the colony every two years, but the idea is that no one gets a return journey. This is a permanent base, a Plymouth Rock in an entirely new world that will begin the long, slow and painstaking process of terraforming it.

And how will this all be funded? Landsdorp has two words for you: “media spectacle.” We’re not sure what that means, exactly — selling broadcast rights to the landing? Sponsorships from large corporations eager to advertise on the mission? Will Coke be the first soda on Mars?

Whatever it is, we can’t wait to find out. If Mars One is selling subscriptions to this spectacle, sign us up.

Would you pay to watch humans travel to Mars? Let us know in the comments.

More About: elon musk, Mars, space, SpaceX

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Mets Pitch First No-Hitter in 50-Year History

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 07:42 PM PDT

Finally, 8,020 games into the team’s 50-year history, the New York Mets no-hitter drought is over. The Queens, NY, based baseball team finally has one, thanks mostly to the hard work of its ace pitcher, Johan Santana.

Johan Santana, #Mets, and #nohitter were all atop Twitter’s trends minutes after Johan threw his 134th pitch (the most ever in his major league career) to clinch the no-hit effort, finishing the Mets’ trampling of the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-0.

In a post-game interview, reporters asked Santana if he had ever pitched a no-hitter in the minors or little league. “I don’t even think I’ve thrown a no-hitter in video games,” laughed Santana.

Getting there wasn’t without drama. Johan walked five batters, got a helpful call on a foul ball (replay showed it was fair) and outfielder Mike Baxter made an amazing catch before crashing into the outfield wall and injuring his shoulder.

The final pitch? A perfectly executed change-up.

Expect the Internet to explode with photos, videos, GIFs and memes from the game. We have our own contribution above: It's the last batter and winning pitch before the final score and recognition of the no hitter was posted on the scoreboard.

Below is a sampling of tweets about the game, including one from the New York Mets own account which notes that the no-hitter pushed them over 100,000 followers.

Mets no-hit tweets

More About: Baseball, sports

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Write, Read, Share on Widbook, the ‘YouTube of Books’

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 07:33 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: Widbook

Quick Pitch: The YouTube of books.

Genius Idea: Write, share and collaborate with authors and book enthusiasts..

Who says people using social media don’t have the patience to read anything too lengthy? A new site called Widbook provides a platform to share books and publish your own.

Book lovers and authors can share stories with others in their social networks, as well as create digital bookshelves to peruse. One of the most interesting features of this site is the ability to collaborate with other authors to create a digital book.

Invite writers to add the next chapter and continue sharing — like a Mad Libs for books. You can publish the chapters as you write on Widbook, even if you’re not finished with the book, and share those chapters with your network on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

To sign-up for the site, which is currently in beta, create a username and password. You’ll then be able to create a profile with photo (optional) and some basic information such as what college you attended and your employer. Find out which Facebook friends are on the site and connect with them. Then the fun part: pick your favorite genres of writing from a number of options, including “technology & the Internet,” “sports” and “children’s books,” to name a few.

Once your profile is updates you can submit a status update to your friends on Widbook. On your profile page, you’ll see recommendations for books from other authors you might enjoy reading. The site also functions as a social network for writers. Send messages to other writers or following them through the site.

Right now, if you write a book you can’t export it from the site, but that’s a function that will eventually be available when the site launches out of beta.

Would you use Widbook? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, AnthiaCumming

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

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Are Obese Employees Killing Your Company? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 06:54 PM PDT

Fact: Working in the typical modern office is hazardous to your health. Hunching over a keyboard for a third of the day makes employees fatter, sicker and more stressed than less sedentary occupations do.

And here’s the rub: The health damage inflicted by desk-bound drudgery cycles back and hurts the companies you work for. How? The high cost of obese employees for businesses.

The amount of time Americans spend sitting increased by 8% between 1980 and 2000. Obesity rates, meanwhile, doubled during that time span. Nearly 300 million Americans don’t get the minimum level of exercise required for good health, while the portion of jobs that require physical activity has declined by about 30% since 1960.

The annual medical costs of obesity-related diseases and conditions totals about $147 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity’s annual cost to employers tops $73.1 billion, according to a 2010 Duke University study. Sick days, doctors appointments and overall decreased productivity are among the factors that contribute to that total.

SEE ALSO: Your Desk Job Makes You Fat, Sick and Dead [INFOGRAPHIC]

So how can employers help workers fight off obesity and help protect themselves from added costs? And how can workers fight death by desk job?

Simple motions such as picking up your chair, doing pushups against your desk and leg squats against a wall can inject a bit of activity back into your day. Taking breaks for a brisk walk and eating right are also big helps. (I can also personally recommend the benefits of a treadmill desk.)

The employee wellness platform Keas created the infographic below after rounding up some stats on obesity’s causes and effects, its impact on the workplace and how American workers have gotten fatter over time. Check it out for the fuller picture, then share with us in the comments — do you think employers today care enough about employee health?

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, sdominick

More About: Business, infographics

‘O Fortuna’ Animation Filled with Memes, Misheard Lyrics [VIDEO]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 06:33 PM PDT

This is far from the first “O Fortuna” animation to appear on YouTube. The Latin poem, set to music by composer Carl Orff and most famously used as the theme tune to 1970s horror flick The Omen, is a frequent source of hilarious misheard lyrics.

This is the first version we’ve seen filled with references to other memes– along with an order not to sue YouTube. (They wrote the dictionary, apparently.)

The “Rage Face” meme makes an appearance, as does “Me Gusta,” “Troll Face” and “Forever Alone.”

What are the funniest lyrics you’ve ever misheard? Let us know in the comments.

More About: viral videos, YouTube

Portable Electricty Generator Uses a Single Tea Light For Power [VIDEO]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 06:16 PM PDT

One inexpensive tea candle can power a 25 LED bulb for up to four hours or charge an auxiliary battery pack using the patent-pending device, tPOD1. Great for when the power goes out or in a natural disaster.

Pronounced “tea-pod,” the invention converts energy from heat into electricity. tPOD1 is a product from a company called Tellurex, based in Traverse City, Mi. The project is currently seeking $85,000 of funding on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform. There is 20 days to go and a little more than $40,000 left to raise.

Richard Harmon, engineering manager at Tellurex tells Mashable that at first he figured the tPOD1 would be useful in developing countries such as Africa. He read that a lot of people in Africa walk miles to charge their basic cellphones at community places with electricity.

“I developed a product where they could charge the cellphones over their cooking fire,” he said. “I started doing a lot more research….one of the downsides is I would be encouraging people to burn wood.” He decided to use tea candles instead.

But Tellurex also had to design a product that would be useful to consumers. Now, he says, they’re marking it to campers and hunters, which will drive the price down so it can eventually be affordable to NGOs. When it hits the consumer market, Harmon estimates it will sell for around $69-$79.

Harmon said more recent tests of the device show even greater energy output.

What do you think about the tPOD1? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, malerapaso

More About: kickstarter

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Older Internet Users Pick Better Passwords Than Teens [STUDY]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 05:56 PM PDT

Teens and young adults may be considered more tech-savvy than their elders, but when it comes to password security, wisdom comes with age.

According to a new study conducted by the University of Cambridge, people over the age of 55 are more likely to choose secure passwords than those under 25.

Computer scientist Joseph Bonneau, who analyzed password data from 70 million Yahoo users, found that Internet users older than 55 select passwords that are twice as strong teens and young adults. The findings come from the largest study ever conducted on password security.

“There is a general trend towards better password selection with users' age, particularly against online attacks, where password strength increases smoothly across different age groups by about a bit between the youngest users and the oldest users,” Bonneau wrote in his report.

SEE ALSO: 25 Worst Passwords of 2011 [STUDY]

He noted that language also has an impact on password strength. For example, passwords selected by Indonesian-speaking users were among the weakest, while German and Korean-speaking web users selected strong passwords.

The report also found that those who changed their password the most often were more likely to have stronger passwords, but Yahoo users who had to reset passwords after reporting that their accounts had been compromised didn’t actually choose better passwords.

Are you surprised by the findings? Why do you think older Internet users pick stronger passwords? Let us know in the comments.

More About: password, security

8 Tools for Hacking Your Productivity

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 05:34 PM PDT

Mashable’s new video series, Behind the Launch, follows Vungle on its startup journey toward a June launch. Each week on Mashable, the Vungle team offers tips and lessons learned from its own startup experience. This week, the Vungle team hustle its way through networking and deals, and to be a true hustler, you can’t waste time. Check out co-founder Jack’s advice on how to hack your productivity with great gadgets and tools. Want more? Tune into Behind the Launch every Monday and Wednesday.

Startups are hard work; I can often find myself working until 2 or 3 a.m several nights in a row, then getting up to come in at 10 a.m. and start all over again. I'm quite a night owl and get a lot of my work done late at night, so getting up early can be tough. Unfortunately, the last Behind the Launch episode documented a day that I wasn't able to be contacted at 8 a.m.. On top of my long days, I’m ADHD, so it can be hard to keep it together. Fortunately, there are a number of gadgets and tools that I (and potentially you) employ to organize work routines more effectively. Here are my top recommendations. What is your favorite tool to use for productivity? Let us know in the comments.

1. Lark ($99 for iOS)

I've found Lark to be a great wake-up alarm. It's silent, and it wakes you through a vibrating wrist device. It works well even for deep sleepers (I can attest to that).

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Behind the Launch Series, features, Gadgets, mashable, productivity, Vungle

BlindSquare: App Uses Foursquare Data to Help the Blind Navigate Streets

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 05:18 PM PDT

The 20 million+ people worldwide on Foursquare have created an incredibly detailed crowdsourced directory. BlindSquare is a new app that’s making use of Foursquare’s 2 billion check-ins worldwide to help blind pedestrians find locations on foot or while using public transportation.

BlindSquare integrates Foursquare data with Apple’s native VoiceOver technology to create a location-based virtual map through sound. When the app is enabled, it reads addresses, street names and surrounding locations aloud. Directions are available on demand.

“Basically it speaks what’s around you and if you want to go somewhere it will give guidance,” Finland-based app creator Ilkka Pirttimaa tells Mashable. ”When they travel on a bus, they don’t normally know where to get of. Now, they can hear surroundings and even street crossings when [the] bus is making a turn.”

The app is available in the Apple iTunes store for $14.99. The high cost covers the right to use Acapela’s speech synthesis technology that turns text into speech on different devices, according to developers.

BlindSquare was conceptualized and created in six months. Pirttimaa calls it a mashup of GPS technology, speech synthesis, crowdsourced data through Foursquare and augmented reality with audio.

“You launch the app whenever you need assistance,” he says. “If blind person is in the area, which she doesn’t know, BlindSquare will help to ‘draw a map’ with information about streets and crossings and services around you.”

SEE ALSO: 6 New Gadgets Helping People With Disabilities

The technology was built to help blind individuals in unfamiliar areas. BlindSquare draws a map of information about surrounding streets, crossings and services nearby. Categories within the app include arts and entertainment, colleges, food, great outdoors, nightlife spots, residences, shops and travel.

Foursquare map points show up ranked by number of check-ins.

“BlindSquare reports the most popular restaurants, cafes, etc.,” he says. ”So, it’s not just listing places around. BlindSquare helps you to make sense what’s around you.”

Pirttimaa tested the app with blind individuals in Finland, the U.S. and Australia. One of the volunteers who tested the app used an iControlPad bluetooth gaming control to navigate within the app. The BlindSquare user attached the control to a guide dog’s harness.

Guide dog

Users can enhance the application with recommended accessories. Pirttimaa suggests using a bone conduction head set, “which leaves users’ ears open” to natural sounds. Any bluetooth-based remote can be used to control the system.

The application is available for global use or wherever Foursquare data is available. The app also utilizes data from OpenStreetMap — an wiki-map of the world that anyone can edit. The app with speech synthesis technology supports 26 languages including English, Finnish and Swedish.

BlindSquare Test Subject

The app even lets individuals who can’t see the screen check in to Foursquare. Pirttimaa says: “Blind people love Foursquare, too. It’s simple. Just shake the device and you hear where you are [at] an address, or nearest crossing. If you are at some Foursquare place, you can re-shake to check in.”

For more about the BlindSquare app, here’s the user guide provided by Pirttimaa.

Images courtesy of BlindSquare

More About: apple, Apple iPad, iphone

It’s Facebook Election Week: How You Can Vote on Your Privacy

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 05:04 PM PDT

It’s time to exercise your democratic right — not at the ballot booth, but on Facebook.

The social network is calling on users to vote on which privacy rules will govern the site. As in most elections, you only really have two choices: the current documents, or new ones drawn up with the help of user feedback.

So what’s different about the new privacy rules? Comparing the current and new rules side-by-side, one thing jumped out at us: the new Data Use Policy. It contains an expanded list of activities in which user data can be collect by Facebook — whether you’re interacting with an app or something else on the site.

The company states that “if more than 30% of all active registered users vote, the results will be binding. If turnout is less than 30%, the vote will be advisory.”

In other words, some 300 million users will have to vote to make this definitive. That’s roughly the same number as the population of the U.S.

Voting started this Friday and ends the following week, Friday June 8 at 9 a.m. PT. You can vote here.

In March, Facebook made changes to its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (commonly referred to as terms of use) and Data Use Policy, which outlines how Facebook controls user privacy and protects user safety on the site, among other things. It asked users for feedback on the new documents and received 150,000 comments. Facebook incorporated that feedback into the new policies, and it’s now asking users to vote on which policy you prefer, current or new.

The company said a lot of users simply asked for expanded explanations on certain sections, which it did in the new policies.

Right away, you’ll notice that the Privacy Policy is now listed as the Data Use Policy. This is not new; Facebook made that change last fall, but now they’re making all the wording consistent. In the new Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Facebook goes into greater detail about user privacy and explains what the changes in the documents’ wording means for users.

The new Data Use Policy will include an entire section with examples, too, just to make things more clear. Facebook says the “vast majority” of changes between the two documents are changes in wording and how sections are explained, not how user data is captured.

Facebook held a site governance vote in 2009. A spokesperson from Facebook said 665,654 votes were cast to support the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Principles, which won by a margin of 74.37%.

Are you going to vote? For which policy and why? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, lisafx

More About: Facebook, privacy, Social Media, vote

Google To One-Up Apple, Announce 3D Maps a Week Earlier [VIDEO]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 04:50 PM PDT

We’ve already seen a few leaks that suggest Apple will be announcing its own 3D mapping service on June 11 at WWDC, its developer’s conference. Now it looks like Google is trying to beat Apple to the punch by unveiling its own 3D maps a week earlier.

At an event entitled "The Next Dimension of Google Maps" next Wednesday, Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps and Google Earth is slated to give event goers an inside look at what’s in the works for Google’s mapping service and "provide a sneak peek at upcoming features that will help people get where they want to go – both physically and virtually."

Apple has used Google Maps in the iPhone since its launch in 2007, the company is rumored to be removing Google’s mapping service completely from its phone with the release of iOS 6 and replacing it with its own Google Maps alternative. Reports earlier this year indicated that the company will be showing off its own 3D mapping solution at its Worldwide Developers Conference June 11.

In recent months Apple has also acquired mapping experts C3 Technologies, Placebase, and Poly9 adding fuel to those rumors. Apple also recently removed Google Maps from the iPad version of iPhoto.

Google’s timing on its announcement suggests that it is being done to directly compete with Apple, and perhaps show users what –potentially better – options might exist with Google Maps and Android versus what Apple will be offering with the iPhone and iOS 6.

What do you think Apple and Google have in store? More importantly, are you interested in 3D mapping in the first place? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: apple, Google, Google Maps, iOS 6, iphone, wwdc

Humble Indie Bundle Raises $2 Million in 24 Hours, Game Makers Celebrate on Reddit

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 04:32 PM PDT

Humble Indie Bundle V Games

In less than 24 hours, the latest iteration of the Humble Indie Bundle — a pay-what-you-can bundle of computer games from independent developers — has raked in more than $2 million in sales.

The Humble Indie Bundle is unique because it packages five to six independent titles in a no-amount-of-money-is-too-small bargain, then allows buyers to dictate how much of their money can go towards developers, Humble, or charities. The titles include indie hits such Bastion, Psychonauts and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, as well as the adventure title Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP and the dark puzzle platformer Limbo.

The charities receiving donations are Childs Play, which donates video games and other toys to children in hospitals, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which helps protect web users’ rights. The games are available for PC, Mac and Linux systems, and one code will work for all three.

After the fantastic success of the first day’s sales, the Humble Indie Bundle staff and the games’ developers all participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything post. Notable guests included gaming godfather Tim Schaffer, developer of Psychonauts as well as classic adventure titles like Day of the Tentacle, and musician Jim Guthrie, who provided the whimsical soundtrack for Sword and Sworcery. But each game had at least one person behind it present, leading to a very robust AMA.

We’ve gathered some of the highlights from that AMA for your reading pleasure.

We’re Humble Indie Bundle V: creators of Psychonauts, LIMBO, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Bastion, and Humble Bundle.

EnderbyEqualsD: Followup question that has always plagued me – Do you guys actually lose money by the jerks (OK, maybe they aren’t all jerks) people that only give $1?

parsap (Humble co-founder Jeffrey Rosen) PayPal has a floor of $0, so we don’t actually get charged for penny purchases. With that said, we do lose money on the actual bandwidth of the game downloads.

Andrefpvs: Forgetting for a bit about charity and altruism, is it viable for developers financially to sell their games at what I’d imagine ends up being a much lower revenue than what you’d get at normal prices? (is this even true?) Or do the sales volumes make up for this somewhat? Individual experiences from each developer are appreciated.

TimOfLegend (Tim Schaffer)
Over the last couple of years I have learned that sales are magic. (accidental brony reference) It seems that the more you give away, the more money you make. The logic of that used to confound me, but now I accept the “magic” hypothesis.

bovicide What do you think the most important thing is in successfully marketing indie games?

SG_Greg (Greg Kasavin, Supergiant Games writer and one of the designers of Bastion)
The game itself is the most important thing by far. If you’re making something that’s interesting, then I think there’s going to be potential interest in why and how you’re making it. Being transparent about that process (via Twitter, videos, blog posts, whatever), responding to people’s questions openly and all that, I think starts to build excitement around what you’re doing in a natural way.

phort99: How did the Humble Indie Bundles influence your decisions to port your games to Linux? What was the porting process like?

TimOfLegendLinux was like a party that sounded fun we were afraid to go to because we didn’t think we’d know anybody there, and the HiB guys were like your socially fearless friend who says, “Don’t worry, we’ll go together.” And when he gets to your house he says, “Is that what you’re wearing?” and you say, “uh…” and he says, “Don’t worry. I know a guy.” And he lends you a cool leather jacket and you go to the party and when you walk in there’s a needle scratch and everybody turns to look at you and your friend gives a cool nod and then everybody goes back to the party.

So kind of like a John Hughes film. Hope that helps explain things. That’s about as technical as I can go. I just hope I don’t accidentally knock over a beer can pyramid that some tough guys are building.

potexto: I usually give 5-7 dollars to the HIB,I know but some peaple who give 0.01. What do you think about it ?

SG_Greg: Paying a penny for the bundle is better than pirating the games for nothing, and pirating the games for nothing is better than not playing them at all. The beauty of pay-what-you-want is it’s one of the few models that does a decent job of “competing” against piracy, by offering value-conscious players a straightforward and legal way of getting games for very little. It’s a good thing that the guys paying a penny get balanced out by guys paying more of course, since if no one paid anything for these games then it would be even more difficult to make them.

jtraub: Jeffry, How much time does it take to make all agreemenents (+paperwork?) and include a game into a bundle? When have you started preparation for Humble Bundle V? I am just curious how much time does it take from an idea to the release.

qubitsu (Richard Esguerra, Humble Bundle organizer)
ometimes it can take a few weeks, and sometimes it takes basically no time at all. We started thinking about Humble Indie Bundle V pretty much right after Humble Indie Bundle 4, but there are a lot of formative conversations that happen before a bundle is officially a bundle.

jamesdrm: Question; any tips for musicians wanting to get into the Game audio industry?

jimjammers (Jim Guthrie): I get asked this a lot and there’s no easy answer. My advice is to just do, do, do / work, work, work and put yourself out there. I’ve been making music for 20 years and S&S is the result of my being apart of a community of artists. I wasn’t looking to do music for games. I just wanna make music and it lead me here. Is that a good answer?

What do you think of the Humble Indie Bundle and other pay-what-you-can online initiatives? Let us know in the comments.

More About: humble bundle, indie games, reddit, reddit ama

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Skype Set to ‘Double Down’ on Windows 8

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 04:13 PM PDT

Kara Swisher and Tony Bates at D10

True Skype story: When I was in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, I almost missed seeing the Oscars. I've never missed Hollywood's biggest event, but it was in the middle of the night local time and Spain's idea of a useful telecast was fuzzy reception and loud Spanish-language translators speaking over all the show's best bits. Awake at 3 a.m. Barcelona time, I called my family up via Skype. After a quick hello, I had my son turn his laptop to my HDTV and I subsequently watched the entire show via Skype.

This is the power of Skype and why CEO Tony Bates says the service is "in the inner circle for a lot of people's lives." Speaking at All Things D's 10th annual tech and business conference, Bates said that he's heard of last rites being read to someone via Skype and it's not uncommon for a parent to see his newborn baby for the first time via the free video-conferencing service.

It's a position Skype, which Microsoft acquired last year, shares with close partner Facebook. Bates noted that in his earliest talks with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, they realized they had "a shared vision" and soon launched one of Facebook's deepest third-party tool integrations.

That partnership is one key component of growing Skype's next 250 million monthly Users, but it's not the only part.

Bates, who says he's learning a lot from his new manager, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, plans on double-downing on Windows 8 (Microsoft launched a Windows 8 a release preview just a day earlier). He sees the Metro-style’s OS overhaul and Microsoft's access to multiple platforms as clear paths to growing the already popular service.

Bates said Skype's top priority is to be on mobile. Earlier this year, Skype unveiled a radically redesigned Skype for the Windows Phone platform. For now, despite the deepening relationship with Microsoft, Skype's most important mobile market is still the iPhone (though Bates said Android has the most momentum).

Bates’ ambitions do not end at mobile. With the Xbox 360 gaming console, "Microsoft has a great footprint into the living room," noted Bates, and Skype could one day end up working with the gesture and voice-enabled Kinect interface.

Ultimately, Bates said, video conferencing is not defined by one device or by the act of a single video call. What if, for example, video chat was persistent? Bates described watching a TV show together or having a telepresence dinner. He called it "ambient video."

SEE ALSO: Tim Cook: Steve Jobs Convinced Me to Work for Apple in 5 Minutes

That may be a video bridge too far for some more privacy-minded folks, but Bates’ more aggressive plans for mobile should be welcome news for anyone who lives with their phones and tablets. Two of Skype's 2011 acquisitions, Qik and GroupMe make it clear that Bates has more on his mind than simply growing the network (though that, too, is a stated goal).

Bates said GroupMe, which introduced the world to group-based texting, is, for Skype, really about collaboration. The $100 million Qik deal helped put Skype on ever more mobile platforms, but, more importantly, it gives it the technology to capture and relive the conference video.

As always, Bates sees Skype as "a Swiss army knife. Use it how you want when you want." To that end, his dream is to have Skype on every major platform and every screen, at home, in the office and, most critically, on the road.

How big a role does Skype play in your life? If you don't use it, what's your video chat platform of choice? Tell us in the comments what you use, why and describe the major moments it helped you enjoy.

More About: Facebook, microsoft, Skype, Windows, Windows 8

How to Raise Startup Capital Without a Pitch Deck

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 03:53 PM PDT

Shafqat Islam is the co-founder and CEO of NewsCred, a platform that connects publishers and brands with the world's best journalism. Follow him @shafqatislam.

My company has gone through three rounds of financing, with our latest Series A closing in the fall of 2011. We did the Series A fundraising without a pitch deck, also known as your sales pitch.

It’s true that the deck is often considered the main piece of fundraising collateral. But I would argue that the main marketing collateral while fundraising is you: the founder. Below are the lessons we learned from raising a series A round without a pitch deck.

1. Date Before You Marry

Finding a great investor is like finding a great spouse. You would never decide on your life partner after a week of frantic courting. Why do that when finding an investor? Remember, you can’t divorce your investor. So select investors that you think will make great long-term partners.

My number one criteria: only date people you really like spending time with. In our case, we “dated” our lead investor for more than a year. During that period, I kept in touch, had occasional coffees, sent interesting links, engaged him on Twitter, and kept him up to date on the company. As a result, our story had a nice, positive arc and our investor had a lot of context. As Mark Suster says, VCs invest in lines, not dots.

2. Don’t Ever “Start Fundraising”

The added benefit of the “date before you marry” approach is that you never have to go into “fundraising mode.” There is no flipping the switch one day. When you think funding is on the horizon, you can increase the frequency of your meetings and start sending stronger signals — more numbers, charts showing growth, news of key hires.

In our case, the occasional meetings slowly turned more serious, and when it was time to start thinking about fundraising, the transition was natural and the investor already knew that things were going well for the company. Instead of pitching him on a general offer, we were in a position to share the product road maps, pipeline, and financials.

3. Create Urgency

Once you have the interest of investors and it’s clear that you are raising a round, the most important thing is to create some sense of urgency. Deals don’t close by themselves. Salespeople close deals, and in this case, you are the salesperson. If you don’t know about sales, this is probably a good time to pick up a good sales book or find a sales mentor.

Also, don’t forget that VC’s have little incentive to say “no” right away (although the best VC’s give quick responses), because it’s usually in their interest to drag on the process to collect more information and know the investment has little risk. You should try and create some sort of forcing function, whether it's based on time, an important hire, a deal closing, or product milestones.

4. If You Create a Proposal, Don’t Send It Early

Think of your pitch deck as your sales proposal (or wedding proposal!). In a normal sale, you would never send a proposal to a prospect before you’ve spent enough time getting to know them, understanding what they are looking for, and finding out if your solution is a good fit. So why do it differently here?

Keep the deck to yourself, and customize and send it when both sides are comfortable that there is a deal there. In our case, the only time we actually used any slide was on the day before we got the term sheet, just so our investor had something to show his partners during the Monday morning partners meeting.

5. Ask for Help

My entire fundraising approach is predicated on the fact that you have to build relationships with investors first. That said, we initially built our company in Switzerland, and I did not know a single investor. As such, not knowing investors is not a valid excuse. Hustle and figure out a way to build those connections. Cold email people, go to events, comment on VCs’ blog posts, ping them on Twitter, set up your AngelList profile, do whatever it takes. Once you build some initial relationships, even if they are informal, nurture the hell out of them.

If there is one takeaway, it’s that fundraising is not a one-time thing. It’s an ongoing process, and the most important part of VC fundraising happens when you aren’t actually raising money. VC’s invest in you, so return the favor and invest in your relationships with them. Ultimately the relationships will matter more than an amazing pitch deck.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, andrearoad

More About: contributor, features, funding, startup

Pocket-Sized iPhone Accessory Is a Charger and a Tripod [VIDEO]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 03:16 PM PDT

Inventions on our “why didn’t I think of that” list include the pillow with arm hole, solar-powered iPad keyboard, and now the Twig on Kickstarter.

The Twig is described by its creator Jason Hilbourne as an “amazing ultra-portable cable for your iPhone.” The team has already raised more than 120% of its initial $50,000 Kickstarter goal.

The 4-inch cable is a simple charger cable that connects your phone to your laptop. The Twig is durable enough to bend into a sturdy table stand for your iPhone. In this state, it doubles as an iPhone camera tripod. The Twig stand also makes hands-free FaceTime possible.

Other product perks — it’s thin enough to fit into your pocket, and comes in a variety of colors. The accessory is also compatible with the Apple iPod touch and iPod nano. The plastic-and-wire gadget easily attaches to a wall plug. The Twig is also perfect for wrapping your earbuds around.

Watch the video above to learn how you can get your hands on this problem-solving product. What’s your must-have Apple iPhone or iPod accessory? Share with us in the comments.

More About: apple, iphone, kickstarter

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What PC Gaming Taught Electric Cars About Batteries

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 02:57 PM PDT


With the annual E3 gaming show just around the corner, it bears looking at one industry that owes a lot to hardcore gamers: the auto world — specifically electric vehicles, or EVs.

You see, gamers, all those mind-melting hours you spent blasting baddies and fragging foes? No matter what your mother or Jack Thompson or your bathroom scale told you, you were actually doing something world-changingly wonderful: refining the technology that is now making electric cars a viable way of scooting us around.

First, some battery basics: Extreme weather and lithium-ion batteries simply don't mix. Cold weather, in particular, slows the chemical reactions that give these batteries their charge. Needless to say, this creates a potential problem for electric cars, which use big batteries instead of gas tanks, and need to be able to roll over both sand and snow without puttering out.

In other words: For an electric car to be effective, it needs to have a way of keeping its batteries at a nice Goldilocks temperature. To do this, some of them, such as the Ford Focus Electric and Chevy Volt, use liquid cooling and heating rigs that look an awful lot like the systems hardcore gamers have long used to keep their overclocked PCs from overheating.

According to Bill Wallace, GM's director of global battery systems engineering, the Volt's system keeps its batteries running at an ideal temperature range of 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, even while driving through chills as low as -13 degrees F and has high as 122 degrees F. That means that, if needed, this thing can warm the battery by up to 63 degrees, or cool it by as many as 33.

The one (highly predictable) downside of a liquid system: it's a bit more expensive than the air-powered alternative found in the Nissan Leaf. Still, the increased ability to keep the batteries at a nice temperature means that these systems should allow the batteries to pull vehicles along for longer between charges — a bonus that surely makes them worth the money to anybody considering driving over the EV cliff.

SEE ALSO: Automakers: Your High-Tech Dashboards Are Frustrating (and Possibly Dangerous)

Looking for a bit more techie detail on how this all works? I'll let Gil Portalatin, Ford's Electrification System Integration Manager explain for me:

"Focus Electric uses an integrated cooling system that is comprised of three cooling loops to cool the powertrain and electronics, cool/heat the battery, and provide cabin heating. Each loop has its own valve and pump that can either isolate the loop or allow coolant to migrate from one loop to another based upon the thermal strategy mode.

"The vehicle also uses a heat exchanger that uses the air conditioning system to chill the coolant going to the battery. The integrated cooling system enables the Focus Electric thermal system to use the same base Focus Cooling Module and degas bottle. It doesn't require several specialized radiators to cool the vehicle."

Don't speak car? Portalatin is basically saying that the same coolant flows through both the battery, and the other parts of the car's guts that need to stay cool, such as the powertrain and the heater core. The total stash of cooling liquid: About four gallons. This approach is actually a bit different than the Volt's system, which uses an isolated batch of 1.6 gallons of car coolant, mixed with filtered water, to keep things cool.

Yes, gamers, be proud: It seems like all your time spent saving fictional worlds may make it possible to save this one.

Photo by Pete Pachal

More About: Batteries, contributor, electric vehicles, features, Gaming, Lithium Ion, pc gaming

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Twitter to Top $1 Billion in Ad Revenue in 2014 [REPORT]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 02:44 PM PDT

Twitter is expected to bring in more than $1 billion in advertising revenue in 2014, according to a report.

Two people “with knowledge of the matter,” who are apparently irked at some analysts’ low forecasts, told Bloomberg that ad revenue would be “at least” $1 billion before the company’s ninth birthday. By comparison, eight-year-old Facebook generated more than $3 billion in ad revenue in 2011.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment.

Estimates published by eMarketer earlier this year suggest that the Twitter will only generate $540 million in ad revenue in 2014 — about double what eMarketer forecasts the San Francisco-based startup will bring in this year. Growth will be driven in part by Twitter’s self-service advertising platform for small businesses, which launched in November, and by international expansion, eMarketer said. Currently, 90% of ad revenue come from U.S. companies.

Unlike many other web-based publishers, Twitter doesn’t depend on display advertising for the bulk of its ad revenue. Instead, it has launched a suite of “Promoted” products that allow companies to increase the visibility of specific accounts, tweets and trending topics. Adam Bain, president of global revenue for Twitter, says Promoted Trends and Promoted Tweets yield engagement rates between 3% and 10% on average — many multiples higher than the average banner ad.

1. Use Promoted Trends or Promoted Tweets to Publicize an Event

Twitter is all about discovering what's going on right now. As Bain notes, many users return to Twitter's homepage a few times per day just to see what's trending. Promoted Trends leverage that phenomenon by giving advertisers a premium position on the page.

Bain says that this can yield much higher engagement rates than standard online advertising, for example, banner ads. Introduced in 1993, banners have notoriously low click-through rates, even though such advertising is still growing rapidly. (Proponents of banners also point out that, while the ads work fine for raising awareness, direct sales are still measured by clicks.)

Nevertheless, Bain says Promoted Trends and Promoted Tweets yield engagement rates between 3% and 10% on average, and sometimes much higher than that. For instance, Volkswagen got 52% engagement on an April 18 Promoted Tweet for its 2012 New Beetle launch.

In this case, engagement is defined by click-throughs (which usually accounts for 80% of the total), retweets and "favorited" tweets. The buying process for Promoted Trends and Promoted Tweets and all of Twitter's ad products follow a model similar to Google's -- marketers buy them in an auction at a cost-per-engagement rate, and then pay based on engagement.

Obviously, if you're running a Promoted Trend or Promoted Tweet, it helps if you have some kind of news, product launch, or associated event. For instance, For instance, Coca-Cola earned high engagement during the 2010 World Cup — whenever a goal was scored, Coke would unleash a celebratory tweet.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, arakonyunus

More About: ads, Advertising, Twitter

Using Facebook to Promote Human Rights? You Could Win $20,000

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 02:34 PM PDT

Have an idea about how to use Facebook to promote human rights? Your concept might earn you $20,000.

Facebook is partnering with the team behind the Access Innovation Prize to reward individuals and businesses for coming up with the best way to use digital tech to promote social good, human rights and development.

Facebook has provided $10,000 toward the award, and Access will match the contribution. The social network will also participate in the judging process.

“The social web is a powerful tool for helping to promote human development around the world,” said Marne Levine, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy, in a statement.

“The Access Facebook Award will help to spur new ideas for leveraging Facebook to improve the world we live in, from creating tools that enhance the free flow of information to developing apps that expand educational access in rural areas, and we look forward to seeing the creative ideas that are submitted.”

Access — founded in 2009 — works with activists and groups around the world to help them advocate for digital rights. According to the company, the Access Innovation Prize is designed to discover and reward ideas that not only show promise, but also possibility. Applicants are allowed to submit projects that are nearly complete, improve upon an existing idea or come up with something entirely new.

“Tech innovation can deliver powerful human rights outcomes,” said Brett Solomon, Access’ executive director. “At the same time, technologists and digital activists often need financial support to turn an idea into a deployable platform, software or program. We can’t wait to see what gets submitted.”

The application process closes on Aug. 15.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, tumpikuja

More About: Facebook, non-profit, Social Good, Social Media

Alleged Cannibal’s Online Trail: Violent Pics, Weird Tweets, QR Codes

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 02:13 PM PDT

Before confessing to killing and eating another man’s heart and brain, Morgan State University student Alexander Kinyua left a digital trail on social media and other corners of the Internet.

His online presence paints a picture of a deeply disturbed young man fascinated by violence and warfare.

The 21-year-old Kinyua reportedly admitted to police this week that he killed a 37-year-old man who was living with Kinyua’s family, then chopped him to pieces, ate the man’s heart and munched on parts of his brain before dumping the rest of the body in a trash can.

The incident came shortly after another man in Miami ate half of a homeless man’s face off.

Kinyua’s posts to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in recent months offer a bizzarre and macabre window into his mind. Kinyua started a Twitter account in early December with the handle @COREeye67, according to a Baltimore Sun investigation into his online activity.

His first original tweet, on Dec. 9, read simply and cryptically: “FIRST PRINCIPLES OF COSMIC COMMAND.”

He then tweeted 34 principles in a row, each individually numbered, and capped off the spree with this message: “STAY TUNED FOR MORE AS YOU PONDER EACH TWEET DEEPLY. REVIEW, REFLECT, SEARCH OUT ITS MEANINGS WHICH ARE SURELY THERE.”

On Dec. 10, he tweeted more than a hundred messages, seemingly at random, to businesses and celebrities. Most of them read “AWESOME JOB” or “COME HELL OR HIGH WATER!!!! KEEP ON KEEPING ON!!!”

He posted his last tweet on Feb. 25. Earlier that day, he replied to a tweet by Parenting magazine in which he referenced a friend who is “a veteran exorcist.”

On Facebook, Kinyua’s profile picture depicts a pair of lions mating. His gallery of cover photos include a painting of a shackled and shirtless man fighting off bears, an image from what appears to be an Alien vs. Predator scene, and the cover of writer Sophia Stewart’s The Third Eye.

On May 17 of this year, not long before his alleged act of cannibalism, he posted a pair of QR codes, each with the caption, “CRACK TEAM ALL DAY, ALL NIGHT!!!”

Kinyua currently has 96 Facebook subscribers. He joined Facebook on December 11, 2008.

Kinyua’s YouTube account, also under the handle COREeye67, has been deleted by the company because of third-party complaints over copyright infringement. According to the Baltimore Sun, he left comments on videos posted by the National Association of Pershing Rifles, a non-profit ROTC group.

He also had a self-published podcast on the website, called Warrior Syndicate Radio. His profile picture there is a head shot of him apparently slathered in war paint.

The show’s description reads: “Warriors skilled in combat or warfare, especially within the context of a tribal or clan-based society coming together to form a syndicate learning portal for Warrior Clans.”

Check out the gallery below for a look at Kinyua’s online life. And let us know in the comments: is a social media trail like this useful for understanding the mind of an alleged killer?


Kinyua started a Twitter account in early December with the handle @COREeye67. This tweet was from early March, before the alleged crime was committed.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: cannibal, Facebook, Social Media, Twitter, YouTube

Top 20 Most-Shared Stories in May

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 01:58 PM PDT

Mashable Follow Statistics

Your share-happy fingers in May found interest in the usual social media and tech suspects (think Facebook, Google, iPhone). But more than ever, Mashable‘s entertainment and viral news coverage enticed you tell your family, followers and friends about the web’s hottest topics, photos and videos.

Making a late run onto our Top 20 Most-Shared Stories monthly list was a May 31 story about Facebook’s new feature that allows page administrators to schedule posts and assign roles.

Based on figures from Mashable Follow‘s M Share button, the following 20 stories got the most love, garnering about 450,000 combined shares on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and StumbleUpon. To keep track of the most-shared stories at anytime, log into Mashable Follow and click on “Top Stories” next to the Mashable logo. You’ll have the option to view the top stories of the day, week, month or year.

Thanks for reading and sharing our content. We look forward to seeing which stories you share in June.

BONUS: Watch 11 Sports Teams Rock Out to 'Call Me Maybe'

1. Harvard University Baseball

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: celebrities, Facebook, Gaming, mashable follow, Music, Social Media, trending, Twitter, viral, viral videos

Mashable Photo Challenge: Homegrown

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 01:43 PM PDT

As technology advances and our lives get busier, the desire to make our lives more convenient grows stronger. With the rise and rapid evolution of smartphones, everyday tasks that used to require physical action now frequently need just the touch of a button.

Instead of purchasing a postcard and writing out a message by hand, we typically snap a photo on our phones and share it with our social networks. Instead of taking the time to make and pack a lunch, we can simply open and app and have food delivered right to our desks.

SEE ALSO: 35 Action Photos That Will Give You Whiplash
Gadgets are quickly mass-produced and shipped all over the world. The phone or computer you’re reading this post on was probably made of parts from various countries all around the world.

While we certainly are excited about the changes and global reach that technology brings to our lives, we wanted to use this week’s Mashable Photo Challenge to focus on things that are closer to home. Specifically, we’re thinking about the things in our lives that are homegrown.

While homegrown could literally mean something you grew in your backyard — such the bundle of carrots at the top of this post, or the completely homemade Mr. Potato Head above — you could interpret homegrown in many different ways. A handwritten postcard or a sandcastle is homegrown in its own way.

Another important element of this challenge is location. You could send us a meaningful moment or location from your hometown.  Anything that is homemade in any way — or something that you’ve built from scratch — is perfect.  Just snap a photo and send it to us!

How to Enter the Challenge

  • Take a picture that shows us something homegrown.
  • Tweet your photo to @mashablehq with the hashtag #MashPics. If you need more than one tweet to write your caption, just send us another tweet. OR
  • Drop your photo into the picture widget below.
We will choose images based on composition, originality and overall appeal.

Submit your photo by Wednesday, June 6 at 12:00 p.m. EST. We’ll feature some of our favorite photos on Mashable, as well as on our Facebook page. We can’t wait to see your photos!

Images courtesy of Flickr, Kaptain Kobold, Eric Hunt

More About: community, Mashable Photo Challenge, photography

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Spider-Cat Defies Gravity [VIDEO]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 01:28 PM PDT

Cats tend to be sneaky animals, always getting into mischief. Seven year-old Piggy, however, appears to have superpower strength that allows her to climb down the fridge. Think about the kind of trouble she could get into.

SEE ALSO: Cats in Space: The Feline Frontier [VIDEO]

According to the video’s uploader, LowkeyFlix187, this is a daily routine for Piggy, though it’s not explained where she learned the trick.

Relax everyone — it’s just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Cat.

More About: cats, viral, viral videos, YouTube

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Why Reporting Is Ripe For Innovation

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 01:11 PM PDT

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

Vadim is the journalist program manager at Facebook and a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Subscribe to him here.

Disclaimer: A robot did not write this. Neither did an algorithm. As has been done for centuries, a human curated the information and produced this content. But that doesn't mean that technology didn't help.

While it's become easier for journalists to find information, discover sources through the web, and use tools like Storify to curate content, the process still relies on having the bodies to scour for this information. And that's the challenge.

In the newspaper industry, there were more than 13,000 newsroom jobs lost between 2006 and 2010, according to Pew's State of the News Media report. At the same time, the amount of information available has grown at an astronomical rate. These two things are at odds.

The general fear in the industry is that with fewer bodies to do the reporting, journalism will suffer. That's because the news-gathering model is still being thought about in the old way, which assumes that the more reporters you have the better reporting you're able to do. It helps, but that's not always true.

Instead, media companies and startups should focus on building tools and developing skills that will enable one journalist to do the journalism that it once took five journalists to conduct. In other words, they must innovate the news-gathering process.

The History: Publishing and Innovation

Before the web, it was difficult to produce, distribute, and access information. Publishers thrived since they had a printing press to produce information at scale. Journalists were the professionals trained to gather and report information because it was difficult to get access. As a result, the very first U.S. newspaper, Publick Occurrences, consisted of short, word-of-mouth reports about recent events.

Today, the social web is the new public square. Anyone is able to produce and publish information at the click of a button. There are 150,000 new URLs registered every day. On Facebook, people produce billions of pieces of content daily, 300 million of them are photos. users create roughly 500,000 new blog posts every day. On Tumblr, there have been more than 22 trillion total posts published. And this kind of production is still growing.

To stay competitive, publishers adapted to producing content for the web by integrating their newsrooms. News organizations that once focused on print began to produce interactive graphics, videos, audio slideshows, data-driven applications, games, and more.

They also began using metrics to track performance. Media organizations like the one you're reading as well as others like The Huffington Post started analyzing audience and news trends, even testing how readers were responding to two different headlines and adapting stories in real time. In the last five years, they also adapted distribution based on where audiences were spending more time: social and mobile. That means they set up social accounts to have town-square like conversations with their audience. They also built apps to distribute content to mobile devices, digital readers, and tablets. We even saw the launch of The Daily, the first-ever tablet-only publication.

But with all this focus on innovating the distribution process, innovation in news gathering, largely, took a backseat. Distribution isn't necessarily the challenge. News gathering at scale is.

The Opportunities: Distributed Reporting and Investing in Technology

Crowdsourcing and distributed reporting are two great tools news organizations can use to scale and are part of the solution. This means media organizations should think of themselves not only as producers of content but also as platforms for content. One example is CNN. It began bridging the gap between the producer and the citizenry through iReport, which recently re-launched in an effort to become a "social network for news." Startups like Blottr, a UK-based "people-powered news service," and Signal, a mobile-only "Instagram of citizen journalism" have also become news platforms for the citizenry. These companies have made it clear that if anyone can report information, why not scale that in a quality way with verification in mind?

A great example of this is The Guardian, which deployed its community to help dig through 458,832 expense documents belonging to Members of Parliament. About half of those documents were examined thanks to the 32,950 people who participated. The Guardian rewarded participants by creating a leader board based on the quantity and quality of their contributions and also highlighted some of the great finds.

But even as we look at ways to innovate the reporting process, newsrooms must also re-prioritize skill sets and equip themselves with hacker journalists. There are already journalists who write scripts to make their reporting more efficient, but journalists with such skills are hard to come by.

Journalism education should emphasize not only digital skills but also offer programs that combine journalism and computer science courses. Two schools doing this well include the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute where a computational and digital journalism concentration is offered. The programs give students computer science skills and teach them quality storytelling and journalistic techniques.

But newsrooms can't wait for educational institutions to start producing these skill sets. They need to begin recruiting developers and engineers that can build the necessary tools needed to change how we tell stories and make reporting more efficient. That means newsroom cultures and hierarchies will have to change.

Journalists should no longer think of themselves as "newspaper reporters" or a journalist of any specific medium. Instead they should consider themselves multimedia producers equipped to tell a story on multiple platforms. They should also have knowledge of how stories are being consumed. More than anything, a truly "integrated newsroom" will have journalists who build tools that enable them to do reporting at scale and innovate the storytelling process.

So what do these tools look like? Anything that helps journalists do their jobs quicker and smarter. Yes, some things do take a human eye, but what if reporting dashboards could, for example, surface trends in financial documents from a local government budget or find irregularities in expense allocation of a state-funded agency. What if?

Most of the social media dashboards today are built for brands to track conversation around their products, not conversation around potential news events. Ushahidi's Swiftriver platform aimed to address part of this problem by making sense of real-time data through filtering and verification. So if there is a controversy at a local neighborhood group, a listening dashboard could potentially surface the complaints posted on social accounts.

We've already seen attempts at robot journalism that have shown some promise. There may even be things we could learn from companies like Narrative Science, which automatically generate online articles on finance statistics.

What if newsrooms had better tools for analyzing and surfacing trends based on what people are talking about on social platforms? Reuters Social Pulse dashboard is one example of using data to track trends through a new editorial product. This could be taken one step further to create a "listening dashboard" that would enable newsrooms to analyze the plethora of public conversations taking place and surface trends and spikes in conversation around topics to detect relevant news events. Perhaps more importantly, all of this could be done from a mobile device. It's likely that the next great media company will not only be "mobile first" but it will be mobile only.

The days of the Rolodex are also gone. In fact, the Rolodex has been replaced. Public Insight Network, which is a network of sources for journalists as well as a collaboration tool for news organizations, is a step in the right direction. People who want to be sources are able to opt-in and create a profile on the network. It's essentially a shared, digital Rolodex.

The Solution: Becoming Builders

If content is king and distribution is queen, where does that leave the news-gathering process? The very reporting process that produces information for content has been deprived of much needed innovation. We need a new approach to how news organizations refocus their innovation on building technology that will equip journalists to do better, smarter, and more efficient reporting.

There is no silver bullet, but it’s clear that the opportunity lies in investing in distributed reporting, a platform for the citizenry to contribute, and tools that will enable skilled journalists to make sense of the vast amounts of information being generated across the web.

How can we revolutionize the news-gathering process? Have your say in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, boboling

More About: contributor, features, Media, online news

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U.S. Launched Its Biggest Cyberattack From a Thumb Drive

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 12:58 PM PDT


The U.S. and Israel were responsible for creating the Stuxnet computer worm that wreaked havoc with Iranian nuclear facilities, later spreading to the Internet in 2010. THat’s according to a report from The New York Times, since confirmed by other news organizations.

And the first salvos in the massive cyberattack were launched via an unassuming piece of technology: a thumb drive.

The report, excerpted from the upcoming book Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, details how the U.S. conceived, created, tested and deployed Stuxnet, in partnership with Israel. After the program, code-named Olympic Games, successfully tested the worm, the big challenge was physically getting it into Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant.

The answer turned out to be simpler than U.S. officials thought, since some plant personnel weren’t very careful with the thumb drives they were carrying. Thumb drives were “critical” in the initial Stuxnet attacks — which began in 2008 — although unspecified “more sophisticated” means were later used.

"It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn't think much about the thumb drive in their hand,” one of the program’s architects said.

SEE ALSO: Hackers Will Replace Terrorists as Top Threat, Says FBI

Olympic Games began in 2006 under President Bush, and he urged President Obama to continue the program. Obama did, although he considered pulling the plug on it in 2010 when some of the code “escaped” from Natanz to the Internet.

Due to an error in the code, which U.S. officials suspect was introduced by the Israelis, Stuxnet remained active on an Iranian engineer’s laptop even when he was away from the plant. When he connected to the Internet, Stuxnet got out, potentially infecting thousands of machines.

Obama grew concerned about potential damage the worm could inflict, as well as what would happen when cyber-security officials were able to dissect the code and determine its purpose. Without concrete info on the consequences of the leak, and with Stuxnet still being the administration’s best option in disrupting Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the president authorized Olympic Games to continue.

Stuxnet’s origins were debated by security experts after its discovery, though it was generally thought to be a U.S. creation. More recently, the “Flame” cyber weapon was discovered, which is potentially much more destructive. Its origin is unknown, and U.S. officials have denied responsibility.

What’s your take on Stuxnet? How long until cyber threats outweigh the possibility of actual warfare? Have your say in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, PashaIgnatov

More About: cyber war, cyberattack, cybersecurity, iran, malware, security, virus, worm

Texting Teen Driver Goes on Trial for Homicide [VIDEO]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 12:42 PM PDT

The trial of a teenage driver who crashed into a truck while allegedly texting and driving is underway — and it could have major implications for future texting-while-driving crimes.

On Feb. 20, 2011, Aaron Deveau, then 17, from Haverhill, Mass., collided head on with 55-year-old Donald Bowley. Bowley died 18 days after the accident.

Deveau sent or received 193 text messages on Feb. 20 — and allegedly got two of them minutes before his Chevy Malibu hit Bowley’s Toyota Corrolla head on at 2:36 p.m. The Haverhill teen is the first person charged with motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation in Massachusetts, according to WHDH.

Other charges include “negligent operation of a motor vehicle, being an operator under 18 using a mobile phone, being an operator reading or sending an electronic message, a marked lanes violation, and two counts of negligent operation and injury from mobile phone use,” according to an ABC report.

Massachusetts banned texting while driving in September 2010. The state prohibits the "use of a mobile telephone, or any handheld device capable of accessing the Internet, to manually compose, send or read an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle."

This week, Bowley’s girlfriend 58-year-old Luz Selena Roman, who was injured in the crash, took the stand with other members of the victim’s family. Bowley suffered severe head trauma and was on life support. Bowley is survived by three adult children, according to

Deveau’s lawyers say there’s no evidence supporting the negligent motor vehicle homicide charge. The defense team states Deveau’s last text was sent at 2:33 p.m. and he didn’t receive another one until 3:10 p.m. Phone records showed there were two texts deleted from the teen’s phone, according to reports.

The defendent’s lawyers told the six-person jury not to “act on emotion, but facts.” Deveau, who is pleading not guilty, is set to take the stand. For more on the trial, see the video above.

More About: distracted driving, Mobile, Newsy, texting, texting while driving

Social Media Companies: A Cheat Sheet [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 12:28 PM PDT

So you’re new to this whole social media thing. Maybe you’re savvy enough to know your Facebook from your Twitter, your Pinterest from your Spotify. But what about Tagged? Xing? Futubra? Where do they fit into the social media ecosystem? Just learning their names is enough to make your head spin, let alone how large they are or what kind of numbers they’re pulling down.

Never fear. Mashable has got you covered.

This comprehensive infographic whipped up by social media strategist firm Hasai, below, serves both as a cheat sheet for the newbies and a scorecard for old hands; there’s sure to be a stat that surprises even the most jaded social guru.

Did you know Club Penguin has more employees than Twitter? That Spotify has larger revenues than Tagged, which in turn has more users than Twitter? That Pinterest may be a hot property, but Foursquare still has more users? (All revenue figures are in U.S. dollars, by the way.)

Facebook remains at the top of the social media tree, of course. But as Thursday’s trending Twitter topic, “RIP Facebook,” suggested, that can’t last forever. So who is best positioned to replace them? Take a look at the chart, and let us know in the comments what you think.

More About: club penguin, Facebook, pinterest, spotify, tagged, Twitter

Top 10 GIFs of the Week

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 12:11 PM PDT

1. Abbey Road 2.0

The iconic Beatles' Abbey Road album cover comes to life.

Click here to view this gallery.

This week’s GIF collection not only includes current events, but also some artsy animated images that have been circulating the web.

For instance, we found a strange GIF of Mark Zuckberg and Priscilla Chan in a Chinese documentary, and another that pictures creative, dancing super heroes. Here’s a look at our 10 favorite finds of the week.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 GIFs of the Week, Ending May 25

Which GIF in the gallery above gets your pick for the best of the week? Let us know your opinion in the comments below.

More About: features, GIFs, humor, memes, viral

Sheryl Sandberg Jumps for Joy [PIC]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 11:54 AM PDT

Facebook’s stock may be dropping — as of Friday afternoon, it was at $27.52, down nearly $10 from its opening price — but Sheryl Sandberg is feeling light as a feather.

Sandberg, the social network’s COO, updated her Facebook Timeline cover photo Friday with this picture of her doing an impressive split jump at the House of Air in San Francisco. Part of Sandberg’s job is to be a cheerleader for Facebook — with jumps like this, it seems, she could take that role literally.

Sandberg wrote a caption for the photo with Memorial Day’s date (Monday). We knew Sandberg makes a point of clocking off at 5:30pm every day; now we know a little about how she likes to spend her holidays, too.

The warehouse building, on Crissy Field near San Francisco’s Presidio, is basically a giant trampoline playground for adults. With 8,000 square feet of trampoline space, a DJ booth and flat screen TVs this place is a sweet spot for company parties. (Mashable held its 2011 Social Media Day celebration here.)

Is this refreshingly candid behavior from a top tech exec? Would you like to see Mark Zuckerberg on a trampoline? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Facebook, House of Air, San Francisco-San Jose, Sheryl Sandberg

Clever Public Service Announcement Addresses Online Privacy [VIDEO]

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 11:40 AM PDT

The need for Internet anonymity has been hotly debated since the World Wide Web took form in the early 1990s. Today, social media and more widespread usage of technology have contributed to greater transparency around online identities.

While this allows people to verify each other online, it also raises concerns about the erosion of privacy.

The adage “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” came from a New Yorker cartoon caption in 1993. Now this stop-motion video, inspired by that cartoon, serves as a humorous PSA for Internet anonymity.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of being anonymous on the internet? Do you prefer using your real identity or being anonymous? Let us know in the comments.

More About: online anonymity, online identity, viral, viral videos, YouTube

Country Music: The Next Social Media Frontier

Posted: 01 Jun 2012 11:23 AM PDT

Many assume the stereotypical image of a country music fan as someone from a rural area who is less tech-savvy, but according to Billboard, that’s not the case. Two out of four people buying new technology are country fans. The study also discovered that 76% of CMA Music Festival attendees were engaged in social media.

Country singer Jana Kramer just might be the social media breakout of her musical genre. Traditionally, pop stars have been the musicians to achieve social success — Justin Bieber is the prime example, having launched his career on YouTube.

Kramer, who is also known for her role on One Tree Hill, recently launched an Instagram contest that challenged fans to unlock new music and exclusive videos off her first-ever upcoming album which will be released June 5 on Elektra Nashville Records.

The challenge tasked fans with creating art that visually represents three songs on her upcoming album: “I Hope it Rains,” “One of the Boys” and “Goodbye California.” Each song unlocked once 50 photos were shared and tagged, and 100 photos revealed an exclusive video.

According to Kramer, all three songs were unlocked within an hour.

“It’s a cool thing for my fans to be creative,” says Kramer. “I get to see what they think and how they see the song through their own eyes.”

1. kate_sarg

Photo submission for #IHopeItRains

Click here to view this gallery.

Instagram is becoming a hot tool for musicians to engage with fans and drum up awareness about upcoming releases. Recently, famous musicians like Jason Mraz, Rufus Wainwright and Paul Simon have used the platform.

Kramer, who is an avid Instagram user herself, also uses the photo-sharing app to get fans excited while she’s on tour. Every day, Kramer hosts a photo challenge on Instagram with her more than 21,000 followers. Each day, fans receive a different theme, such as “Skyline,” “Breakfast” or “Detroit.”

Normally, the daily challenge receives a few thousand submissions per day.

Social media, as a whole, seems underutilized by country musicians. Some are using it, and thriving, but no artist has really jumpstarted his or her career from the platform.

“I think more are starting to use [social media], but there’s definitely other formats that are utilizing it more, especially in the pop world,” says Kramer. “It’s interesting that there aren’t more in country, though, because we’re often the closest with our fans.”

By the time Taylor Swift joined Twitter in 2008, she had already released her second album Fearless, and was a Grammy nominee.

Country stars like Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler are all very active on social media, however, Shelton was a gold-certified musician long before Twitter existed. Underwood and Pickler got their starts on American Idol, and now Shelton is a costar on The Voice. After all, reality television has made social interaction practically mandatory.

Although some country musicians are taking advantage of social tools, why do you think the genre hasn’t latched onto the trend as quickly as more mainstream pop stars?

Image courtesy of Flickr, Woody H1

More About: Entertainment, features, instagram, Music, Social Media

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