May 28, 2010

Pete Cashmore

Travelocity Gnome Now Roaming on Foursquare

Already moonlighting on Chatroulette, the beloved Travelocity Roaming Gnome has decided to participate in the location-sharing movement as well, and will be updating followers about his exotic whereabouts on Foursquare.

The move rounds out the Gnome’s social media portfolio — which, in addition to Chatroulette, includes a very active presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Fans can look for the gnome to check in at various locations across London over the course of the weekend, says Travelocity representative Joel Frey.

Frey also tells us that the Gnome’s foray into Foursquare was timed with Virgin Atlantic’s first seasonal flight from Chicago to London yesterday. In fact, Gnome lovers can check out photos from the glamorous first-class trip on his Facebook Page.

Which brings us to the bigger picture. Location-sharing isn’t exactly an activity that can be completed behind a desk. I asked Frey whether or not the Gnome would be open to meeting up with fans during his worldly treks, to which he replied, “We’d love to run into Fousquare friends and will also being do a tweetup on Tuesday evening.”

“To have an icon like the Gnome at our disposal to engage with travelers on all of these new communication channels is an amazing opportunity and we’d be foolish not to play,” Frey concluded.

We tend to agree and find social media to be the perfect vehicle for the Gnome to spread the Travelocity message. Bon voyage!

[img credits: Travelocity]

For more social media coverage, follow Mashable Social Media on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Tags: foursquare, MARKETING, roaming gnome, travelocity

May 28, 2010 10:59 PM

Richard MacManus

Digg's New Social Following and Publishing Tools [VIDEO]

In an interesting nugget of Friday afternoon news, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch has posted an article featuring a preview of the upcoming fourth version of the social news site Digg. Founder Kevin Rose has published a glorious 1080p video to YouTube aimed at explaining the new features to publishers. Among the most interesting features is the inclusion of social network contacts into the Digg ecosystem, as well as the ability for publishers to auto-publish stories to Digg via an RSS feed.


Just like when joining most Web services these days, users will be asked to search their Facebook and Twitter accounts (among others) to follow friends and contacts via Digg. The Digg homepage will then default to a page consisting entirely of stories dugg by the users they choose to follow. When browsing articles either on the social "My News" section, or on the more traditional "Top News" tab, users will be able to see which stories their friends have dugg, as well as view their friends' comments directly in-line with the story.


Rose says these new features play into the hands of publishers because the viral aspect of sharing stories with friends will help stories achieve higher digg counts. If one person diggs a story, it shows up on the homepages of their followers, and if they digg it, the process continues. To make the process of getting articles online even simpler, publishers can now claim their RSS feeds and automatically publish their content on Digg without having to visit the site.


These changes and additions may be just what the doctor ordered for Digg which has had to continually delay these updates. Personally the preview looks pretty slick, and may actually bring me back to using Digg on a more regular basis. Check our Rose's video below and let us know what you think in the comments.


May 28, 2010 10:50 PM

Tech Crunch


The first TechCrunch Disrupt conference kicked off with a bang this week in New York, with Charlie Rose interviewing renown venture capitalists John Doerr, and Yuri Milner. Highlights of the conference included a colorful exchange between TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington and Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz; Sean Parker and David Kirkpatrick discussing the past, present and future of Facebook, and VCs Fred Wilson and Ben Horowitz debating the virtue of the lean vs. fat startup. We also heard from Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber’s managers and celebrated the winner of the startup battlefield competition: Soluto. Here’s a comprehensive list of all of our coverage of the event.

Session One: Disruptive Ideas & Marketplaces

UJAM: UJAM Turns Whistling, Humming, And Even Tone Deaf Singing Into Musical Masterpieces (link), Chris Sacca Singing On UJAM (link)

Off & Away: Five Star Hotels At Motel Prices: Off & Away Is Swoopo For Hotel Rooms (link)

Fluidinfo FluidDB Aims To Become The Wikipedia Of Databases (link)

Soluto Soluto Figures Out What’s Bogging Down Your PC (And Tells You How To Fix It) (link)

Betterment Betterment Wants To Be Your New, Higher-Yield Savings Account (link)

Session Two: Disruptive Apps & Services

Audioo: A “Blippy For Voicemail,” Audioo Is A Fun Privacy Disaster Waiting To Happen (link)

Textingly: Textingly Lets Companies Manage Their Text Messaging Efforts (link)

VideoGenie: VideoGenie Aims To Help Brands And Consumers Connect Through Video (link)

Publish2: Publish2 Wants To Disrupt The Associated Press With An Online News Exchange (link)

Audience Choice: Live Intent: LiveIntent Turns Static Social Media Sharing Buttons Into Dynamic Ones (link)

Session 3: Disruptive Streams

Geotoko: Geotoko Allows Businesses To Set Up Location-Based Marketing Campaigns (link)

ChompOn: ChompOn Is A White-Label Platform For Groupon-Like Deals (link)

Tickreel: Tickreel Aims To Add A Powerful Filter To The Realtime Web (link)

keenkong: Keenkong Manages The Social Media Overload For Marketers (link)

WeReward: WeReward’s iPhone App Lets You Earn Cash For Check-Ins (link)

Compass Labs Compass Labs Tries To Pinpoint Purchase Intent On Twitter (link)

Session 4: Disruptive Entertainment

NoiseToys: Jai Ho! A Rockstar Team Brings Social Gaming To Music With NoiseToys (link)

Live Matrix: The Entire Web Gets A TV Guide With Live Matrix (like)

MOVIECLIPS: Movieclips Wants To Drink Other Movie Clips Sites’ Milkshake With Mashups (like) Screw The Gallery, Discover The Next Great Picasso At (like)

Audience Choice: Plantly: “Plantly Is An Investment Tool That Aims Not To Suck” (like)

Panels and Presentations:

The Hackathon:

Over 300 Battle At Disrupt Hackathon (link), Inside Disrupt Hackathon [Video] (link), Future Mario, Twitter Demographics And Worst Phone Ever Win The #TCDisrupt Hackathon (link)

Day One:

The Big Picture: Tectonic Shifts in Technology, Special Series with Charlie Rose
John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (link)
Yuri Milner, CEO & Founding Partner, Digital Sky Technologies (link)

TweetUp (link)

Hollywood-Flavored Fireside: Funny or Die Disrupts (link)

Evolve or Die: The Evolution of Music, TV, Games and Publishing (link)

Tunerfish (link)

Fireside Chat With Carol Bartz (link), Carol Bartz To Michael Arrington: “F*ck Off!” (link), Video (link)

Fireside: Social Networks & Online Content: Where’s it Going? (link)

Does The IPad Change Everything For News, Or Is It Still All About The Web? (link)

Day Two:

Scribd HTML5 Presentation (link)

The Mobile Disruption–What’s Next? (link), Google’s Gundotra On Apple, The Fight For Developers’ Hearts [Video] (link), Facebook, It’s OK To Want To Make Money [Video] (link)

Social & Local Demo by Yext (link)

Mayor Bloomberg Calls For More NYC Startups At TechCrunch Disrupt (link)

Fireside: Local Content, Local Ads, and Everything in Between. How is AOL Changing? (link), AOL Now Employs 4,000 Journalists (But Only 500 Are Full-Time) (link)

The Lean vs Fat Startup Debate (link)

Fireside Chat With Steve Case (link), Steve Case Recalls When AOL Almost Bought Yahoo For $2 Million (link)

Digital Crowds into Dollars (link), Help GE “Avoid The Lame” For Their Next Digital Advertising Campaign (link)

Exits: The 2010 Outlook (link)

Day Three

Success Strategies for Musicians in the Digital Era (link)

Mobile & Commerce Demo of Square by Jack Dorsey (link), Video: Jack Dorsey Shakes Down Arrington, Calacanis, And Google In Seconds (link)

Social Advertising Demo of Clickable (link)

Fireside Chat: Online Advertising (link)

Social Networking & Social Change (link)

Getting it Built (link)

Venture Capitalists Get Grilled (And Pitched At Urinals) At #TCDisrupt (link)

The Facebook Effect (link), Wirehog, Zuckerberg’s Side Project That Almost Killed Facebook (link), Sean Parker: Credits Poised To Make Up 1/3 Of Facebook’s Income In The Next 12 Months (link)

The TechCrunch Disrupt Final Five: Betterment, MOVIECLIPS, Publish2, Soluto And UJAM (link)

Measurement Demo: ComScore (link)

Hack Day Finalists (link) Wins The TechCrunch Rookie Disruptor Award (link)

Startup Battlefield Finale (link)

The Winner: Soluto (link)

Checkout all the photos from the conference here. And in case you missed it, you can also watch videos from the event here.

May 28, 2010 10:35 PM

Richard MacManus

iPhone Dropped in Toilet? There's an App for That

cracked_iphone_may10.jpgStarting June 6th, iPhone purchasers will be able to insure their precious devices through AT&T for just $13.99 a month, according to documents leaked to Boy Genius Report today. The insurance, which is purchased through the AppStore, intends to counter-act the pain and suffering caused by those "whoopsie", butterfingers-induced moments that send iPhones to an early grave on hard pavement or, even worse, in a toilet. The documents, which are either real or extremely high quality fabrications, also back up the assumption that Steve Jobs will be introducing the fourth generation iPhone June 7th at the WWDC keynote.


bgr_att_may10.jpgFor just under $170 a year, iPhone users can save themselves the trouble of paying several hundred dollars to replace their phone if they irrevocably damage it. However, the insurance plan also comes with a deductible that ranges from $99 to $199 depending on which iPhone you have. So if you buy a 32GB 3GS and break it a year later, the cost of a new one would be roughly $370, which is far better than the full price of $699, but still expensive.

The insurance plan apparently only applies to new purchases after June 6th, and must be activated within 30 days of purchase. To make the process simple, the insurance can be purchased through the phone via the AppStore, which will bill the credit card on file with Apple. AT&T was careful not to spill the beans on the upcoming fourth generation iPhone, and left out what the cost of the insurance plan might be for a new device.

So why is AT&T insuring the iPhone all of a sudden? According to the leaked documents, 16% of low scores from customer feed back are "attributable to customer dissatisfaction with insurance/warranty replacement options." While they certainly want to fight back against unsatisfied customers, AT&T is also likely offering this plan to help maintain customers in their ecosystem.


By making it cheaper to replace an iPhone, it's more likely that bereaved users will buy another iPhone, and more importantly, stay with AT&T. Just last week, AT&T hiked up their early termination fees for all smartphones all the way up to $325 dollars. Break your iPhone and think it's a great opportunity to leave the network at join Team Android on another network? Either pay AT&T $325 plus the costs of a new phone and contact elsewhere to leave, or slightly less (depending on how long you've had your phone) to replace your iPhone thanks to the new insurance policy.

What do you think of AT&T's new iPhone insurance? Will you buy it with your next iPhone purchase? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Photo by Flickr user magerleagues.


May 28, 2010 10:30 PM

Pete Cashmore

PostRank Brings Real-Time Social Monitoring to Your Blog

PostRank Analytics, a service that captures social engagement and traditional metrics in one dashboard, in launching a new beta feature called PostRank Activity Streams. PostRank describes Activity Streams as “FriendFeed for content.” In other words, an ever-changing overview of what is happening with all your content all across the web.

PostRank Analytics has always offered an aggregated report for individual articles, noting how many tweets, bookmarks or comments a post received, but now that data is displayed in real time in a single view on your PostRank dashboard. You can now see when someone shares a link on Buzz, comments on a post that has been shared to Reddit or bookmarks a post in Delicious. Rather than having to search through posts manually and filter by activity, you can see the activity as it takes place.

This is a really compelling tool for publishers who are looking at measuring the types of engagement they are getting across social media channels. These sorts of measurements can be really helpful in identifying trends and figuring out where to focus your social strategies. For instance, if if a user sees that he is getting lots of interaction on Facebook or on Google Buzz, that might be an indication to be more active in those channels.

PostRank Activity Streams monitor Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, FriendFeed, Delicious, Reddit, Digg and more. The feature is still in beta and it will be improving over time, but it looks like a really great addition to the social publisher’s toolkit.

If you don’t already have a PostRank account, you can sign-up for a 30-day free trial here. How do you monitor the social activity taking place around your content? Let us know!

For more social media coverage, follow Mashable Social Media on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Tags: activity streams, postrank, postrank analytics, social media tools

May 28, 2010 10:25 PM

HTC EVO 4G to Get Video Calling… For a Price

There’s good news and bad news for future HTC EVO 4G owners: Skype should come to the smartphone before the end of the year, as will mobile video app Qik — but you’re going to have to shell out $5 per month for the latter if you want to take advantage of its video chat functionality.

It might be a hard pill to swallow for some, considering Sprint is already going to charge a $10 “premium data” fee per month simply to make use of the phone’s data services in addition to whatever monthly voice and data package is chosen. Qik runs the risk of running afoul of the “feeling nickel and dimed” response from consumers who are already shelling out extra fees to capitalize on the “about 10 times faster” data speeds on Sprint’s 4G network.

Meanwhile, although Skype had released a Skype Mobile Android client previously, its exclusive deal with Verizon Wireless means that Android users on other carriers can’t access the app. A PR representative from the company indicated that before the end of this year Skype will ship a direct-to-consumer app that will be available regardless of the carrier — although it can’t yet promise that the app will include mobile video calling as one of its features.

In other words, it may take some time for mobile video calling alternatives to catch up if you’re not willing to pony up the extra $5 a month for that feature via Qik. Early tests with competitive app Fring have been so far mixed, with some garnering less than stellar reviews and others faring fairly well (see the video below for a demo). Still, the available options at launch could be a bit of a downer to aspiring HTC EVO owners eager to take advantage of its dual cameras for mobile video calls.

What do you think: Is Qik asking too much for mobile video call service? Will we see reliable free alternatives crop up in short order?

For more mobile coverage, follow Mashable Mobile on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Tags: 4G, android, htc evo, HTC EVO 4G, mobile video calling, qik, Skype, sprint, verizon

May 28, 2010 10:05 PM

Tech Crunch


[See Update below] Microsoft Bing will replace Google in the next version of the iPhone operating system to be released in June, we’ve heard from mulitple sources, including a high level source who claims to have been briefed on the matter. We’re not calling this more than a rumor yet, but one thing is sure – our sources close to Google in particular are speaking freely about this as fact. In January Business Week reported that Microsoft and Apple were in talks over an iPhone search deal, and the deal certainly would be brilliant for Microsoft.

There’s been speculation around Google’s future on the iPhone since last year when the first public spat broke out between the companies over the Google Voice app for the iPhone. Android’s continued gains in market share only highlight Google’s direct competition with Apple, and the fact that so many core iPhone apps, including search and maps, are controlled by Google, has been a sore point with Apple. From that post:

Multiple sources at Google tell us that in informal discussions with Apple over the last few months Apple expressed dismay at the number of core iPhone apps that are powered by Google. Search, maps, YouTube, and other key popular apps are powered by Google. Other than the browser, Apple has little else to call its own other than the core phone, contacts and calendar features.

But Google was rumored to be paying Apple $100 million a year for the search rights to iPhone, along with the ability to serve search ads. Apple would likely have stuck with them unless Microsoft was willing to pay as well, and it certainly wasn’t a lock that Google Search would be removed from the iPhone.

There were rumors yesterday that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would attend the WWDC event on June 7 to announce Video Studio development for the iPhone, although they were quickly retracted. Our sources on this are independent of that story.

Update: Interesting – new sources are saying “It’s more complicated than this” and not to expect Google search to be removed from the iPhone next month. Also hearing that Google isn’t paying anything like $100 million/year to Apple for the search rights to the iPhone.

May 28, 2010 10:05 PM

Richard MacManus

Hotels Test Smartphones as Room Keys

intercontinental logo.gifStarting in June, the Intercontinental Hotel Group is testing out the use of smartphones as room keys. Using an app from OpenWays, patrons at the Holiday Inn Chicago O' Hare Rosemont or the Holiday Inn Express Houston Downtown Convention Center download a distinct audio code into their iPhone, Blackberry or Android. Passing the phone by the door lock will open it and patrons will bypass the front desk altogether. Unless they need towels.

For those who are used to researching, reserving and paying for hotels online, this may be a logical next step. It goes in line with such uses of smartphone-powered tech as United Airlines' mobile boarding passes at airports.


As Marin Perez points out in IntoMobile, it's far from a no-brainer.


"The app has to work consistently or it could lead to a lot of cheesed off customers. Additionally, hotels could lose that personal touch and branding connection with the customer, which is always a problem."

It would also be an expense for the hoteliers, as the system requires a special lock, without either keyhole or keycard swipe, on any room in the program.

But if it goes off without a significant hitch, the handful of hotels and couple of months IGH intends to take for the test could turn into dozens of properties and no end of time.

RFID Again

Another hotel chain, Starwood, is one of many experimenting with radio frequency identification, or RFID. At their Lexington, Massachusetts property, the Aloft Hotel, they are equipping guests with RFID cards.

Visitors interesting in giving RFID a try are given a "Starwood Preferred Guest" card specific to the Aloft. The day of their check-in, they are sent a text with their room number. The RFID card is programmed to open that door automatically.

Although far from common, RFID keying systems are more common than audio-based ones.Even phones equipped with near-field communication, which reads RFID codes in door locks, have been used since 2006.

As long as both indie and chain hotels and resorts are struggling for traveler dollars, expect their experiments to closely pace, and occasionally outstrip, their visitors' personal technology choices.


May 28, 2010 10:00 PM

Pete Cashmore

Mashable’s Ben Parr Discusses Privacy on Russian Debate Show [VIDEO]

Mashable Co-Editor Ben Parr appeared on Russian TV network RT’s debate show, CrossTalk, yesterday to discuss internet privacy and the user backlash leading up to Facebook’s revised privacy controls.

In the interview, Parr says that technology has changed the way the world thinks about privacy. He also gets into a somewhat heated debate with fellow guest Ann Cavoukian on the nature of societal attitudes toward privacy.

The panel of guests also debates whether or not governments should regulate Facebook and other social networking sites, and discusses whether privacy should ultimately be Facebook’s responsibility or the user’s responsibility.

The full interview is an interesting discussion on Facebook and online content sharing in general. You can check it out in its entirety below.

For more perspective on Facebook and the new privacy controls, watch what Mashable Founder and CEO Pete Cashmore had to say yesterday on PBS.

For more social media coverage, follow Mashable Social Media on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Tags: Ben Parr, facebook, privacy

May 28, 2010 09:35 PM

Tech Crunch


The video above, which we believe will be shown to publishers to promote the new Digg, gives a never before seen look at the new version of Digg, version 4, that the company has been working on for over a year – founder Kevin Rose first spoke about it in April 2009.

The new version of the service is designed to get publishers, currently enamored with the viral spread of content on Twitter and Facebook, to start focusing on Digg again. As Rose says in the interview, only the top headlines on Digg – 100 or so stories a day – actually get much traffic. So publishers, including us, have focused more on promoting sharing on Twitter and Facebook, where it isn’t an all or nothing outcome.

Key changes:

  • All Digg users will go through an “onboarding process” that asks them to follow friends, tastemakers and publishers.
  • Users will be asked to import their social graphs from Facebook, Twitter, etc. There’s also a suggested user list for users.
  • Their home page will no longer show just top stories by total votes. Instead, it will show links from people and publishers you follow, called My News.
  • Hugely popular stories on Digg will still be shown on a Top News channel.
  • If a user diggs a story, all followers of that user will then see it in their feed, too, which is sort of like a retweet. This can create a “chain reaction,” says Rose, and can drive significant traffic.
  • Publishers will now be able to auto-publish their content via RSS feeds to Digg, eliminating the need for someone to add a story for the first time. Each story will start off with one Digg.
  • The process for adding a story manually is also much simpler – a user simply pastes the URL into Digg and the an image, title and summary are automatically generated.

Users will only see links to stories that are popular and that their friends are promoting, says Digg, and there’s no clutter from status updates and other content you see on Twitter and Facebook. It’s a pure place for linked content that people and entities you follow are promoting.

May 28, 2010 09:10 PM

Pete Cashmore

How Open Data Applications are Improving Government

Capitol Building Data ImageGeoff Livingston co-founded Zoetica to focus on cause-related work, and released an award-winning book on new media Now is Gone in 2007.

Open data is the big trend these days when people talk about “Government 2.0.” In reality, the open data movement has just begun, with governments finally starting to release data en masse in an effort to promote transparency. While projects like Apps for Democracy have received significant media attention, we are just at the dawn of the government open data app movement.

“Open data apps are becoming ever-more effective, but insofar as they have actually had a dramatic ‘effect’ on the systems that most influence our lives, we still have a long way to go,” said Jake Brewer, engagement director for the Sunlight Foundation. “I always say that until my mom or dad in Middle Tennessee are actively using open data apps that our community creates, we haven’t gotten there yet. At this point, it’s clear open data applications are in their infancy from the relatively low number of new apps being produced and the usage stats of those apps once the initial buzz factor dies down.”

Here’s a look at how public sector open data apps are evolving.

Transparency Fosters Better Citizenship

Real Time Congress Image

Citizens often get frustrated with their local, state and national governments, but they rarely understand how much demand the system faces. Lack of transparency into governmental departments and processes can leave the average American bewildered. Apps can change that with transparency.

“This transparency makes it possible to track how well the city is keeping up with requests, their performance over time, which neighborhoods are getting help first, etc.,” said Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director of Code for America. “[W]hen you see the other requests in the queue and realize that your issue is one of thousands in your community, it’s not just the government who becomes accountable; you start to be held accountable as a citizen as well.

“If you could see a list of all the lights that weren’t fixed in your city, and see that a dozen people had complained that there had been a spike in crime under another broken light in another part of town and that people were really suffering because of it, you might you think to yourself ‘hey, it’s more important to fix that light than my own,’” explained Pahlka. “This is a moment of citizenship, when the needs of the larger group take precedence over the individual’s needs.”

Improving Application Access

See Click Fix Image

Some apps, like SeeClickFix, have been wildly successful, but in general, open data applications don’t always make the impact that designers would like. Not every American has an iPhone — far from it. Ad Mob statistics show only 10.7 million units in the United States. Pragmatic accessibility for the average citizen can be a difference maker.

“A lot of people started to make iPhone apps with this public data, which is great, but for many cities there isn’t a high overlap between bus ridership and iPhone use,” said Christopher Csikszentmihalyi, Director, MIT Center for Future Civic Media. “We are currently deploying a public/private initiative called LostInBoston which includes a cheap LED sign that shows real-time estimates of when the next MassDOT bus is coming.

“If government were to do this, it would probably take many years and be incredibly expensive. We are looking at a couple of hundred dollars for a sign placed on private property, in the window of a restaurant or corner shop,” said Csikszentmihalyi. “Business owners get customers coming in because pedestrians know they have a few minutes … Bus drivers are excited because an informed rider is a less hostile rider.” While this is a relatively narrow application, it shows that not all open data applications have to be “Web 2.0″ for citizens to really benefit.

The Secret Sauce for a Better App

EcoFinder App Image

Given what’s already been released, some best practices are starting to emerge. For example, two-way engagement has become a critical success point for some applications. Pragmatic use for real needs is another important factor.

“The best applications are those that are built with cross-cutting teams of data providers, community users, and app makers,” said Lucy Bernholz, president of Blueprint Research & Design. “Ecofinder in [San Francisco] is very cool — it solves the problem of knowing where to recycle various household goods at the point in time when you need that info.”

“While much of the open data initiative has been about making government data public, getting citizen data to the government and to the rest of the public — whether complaints or other information — is also important,” said Csikszentmihalyi. “The state of Ohio has no online way to complain about a well that is leaking, nor does it keep a record of complaints by citizens. A new family can move into a house with a well on the property, but have no way of knowing if that well had previously blown out or exploded.”

How Can Government Help? Image

As local governments ban together to create data standards via Open311 and as the Federal Government’s initiative continues, we are seeing more data hit the market. Local, state and Federal Governments alike are early in the process of providing open data. One thing is clear — government’s role should be about enabling data application development and facilitating improved processes from the public sector to increase transparency and open data.

“Government’s role really should fall on the ‘enabler’ side when it comes to apps, by releasing all their public data online and in real-time,” said Brewer. “Once data is released, citizen developers and designers — ‘civic hackers’ — can go to town with the released data, innovating and creating utility for the public.”

“Think about how technology companies launch platforms,” said Pahlka. “They employ a small army of developer relations professionals who seed the market and enable an ecosystem around their technology. Developer relations isn’t a function government is used to providing, but they are learning how to do it.”

For more technology coverage, follow Mashable Tech on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

More government and tech resources from Mashable:

- How Social Media is Changing Government Agencies
- How the U.S. Engages the World with Social Media
- 5 Ways Government Works Better With Social Media
- How Social Media Can Effect Real Social and Governmental Change
- Why Open Source is the New Software Policy in San Francisco

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DHuss

Reviews: Facebook, Twitter,, iPhone, iStockphoto

Tags: apps, citizenship, data, development, government, open data, public, social good, Web Development

May 28, 2010 09:05 PM

Richard MacManus

Chrome Extensions Get Desktop Notifications

chrome_logo_may09.jpgExtensions for Google Chrome can now send out desktop notifications. Google just announced the availability of a notifications API for Chrome extension developers. Until now, only websites were able to deliver non-model messages with the notifications API, which was first introduced in Chrome 4 for Windows. Now, extension developers will be able to make use of the desktop notifications API to deliver notifications that appear outside of the browser window as well.


gmail_notifier_alerts.jpgOne of the first extensions to make use of these system-wide notifications is the popular Gmail Notifier add-on for Chrome. After installing the extension, you will receive a notification whenever a new email arrives in your inbox. The advantage of this system is that you will see this notification, even if you are not looking at your browser.

Some users will surely complain that OSX and Linux already have perfectly good system-wide notifications systems. This new notifications API, however, allows developers to create their extensions without having to think about the desktop platform and Google's own developers won't have to interface with multiple third-party desktop notifications platforms either. Chances are that we will see a variation of these desktop notifications in Google's Chrome OS as well.


May 28, 2010 08:54 PM

Pete Cashmore

Meet the Cast of “If I Can Dream” [VIDEO]

What’s it like to live on camera 24 hours a day? The cast of If I Can Dream, Simon Fuller’s direct-to-Hulu reality television series, is uniquely qualified to answer that question.

We had a chance to visit the Dream House — nestled in Beverly Hills and outfitted with more than 60 video cameras — and sit down with the show’s five Hollywood hopefuls.

We’ve previously written about If I Can Dream as one of the more interesting projects at the intersection of entertainment, social media and the plugged-in landscape we now inhabit. The technology powering the show is notable enough in its own right (check out our exclusive tour of Dream Studios for a glimpse at behind-the-scenes production), and as all of the cast members discuss in the video below, the series is also a unique opportunity to allow an audience in on the process of becoming a successful artist.

See below for the cast’s thoughts on what it’s like to live entirely in public at all times, their favorite aspects of social media integration with the show, whether or not the series represents their actual lives, and the lessons they’ve learned from the project thus far. And if you’re a fan of the show, stay tuned next week for our tour of the Dream House and the technology that makes the world’s largest 24/7 live event possible.

For more entertainment coverage, follow Mashable Entertainment on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Reviews: Facebook, Twitter

Tags: entertainment, facebook, hulu, If I Can Dream, IICD, music, myspace, reality tv, Simon Fuller, social media, television, tv, twitter

May 28, 2010 08:44 PM

Tech Crunch


Last week at the Founder Showcase, a quarterly event put on by Adeo Ressi’s TheFunded, Evernote CEO Phil Libin gave a presentation discussing some of the startup’s key revenue numbers and strategy. During his talk, Libin outlined some of the ingredients in making the freemium model work, and how long-term users actually become more valuable over time.

Evernote, for those who haven’t used it, is a great service for quickly storing and organizing ideas, photos, documents and other information that you encounter both online and in the real world. This is actually one of the secrets to the service’s success — as people add more of their content to the site over time, it becomes increasingly valuable to them. Libin has previously shared similar information during his mentorship at Ressi’s incubator The Founder Institute

Here are some of the main points Libin covered during his talk:

  • Sometimes people say “The best product doesn’t always win”, and are implying that you should focus on other areas, like marketing. In the Internet age, a good product can get the rest of that stuff (marketing, etc.) for free. So focus on that. And then charge for it.
  • A year ago Evernote was making most of its money from licensing its technology, but it focused on its premium plans ($5/month or $45/year) because that was more scalable. Now, premium subscriptions bring in around $300-400k a month, and licensing represents around $45k.
  • Evernote has 3.1 million cumulative users, and adds around 10k a day. Around 68k paying customers.
  • Users have grown more valuable over time. New users convert to premium at a rate of .5%.  But of the users that signed up two years ago and are still active, 20% have become paid customers.
  • This trend is important — most users quit quickly. But the ones that stay become much more likely to pay over time.
  • Evernote’s cost per user is around 9 cents per active user per month. It makes around 25 cents per user per month. The site reached break even a year and a half ago.
  • Entrepreneurs should aim to be making money on each new active user as soon as possible. Otherwise scaling just means you’re losing money faster, rather than earning it
  • We should note that Libin has previously discussed similar information, though the video provides more detail.

May 28, 2010 08:28 PM


Google Chrome has been my primary browser for a few months now. And since it became fully stable, it’s the only browser I use. It’s fast, lightweight, and awesome. And it keeps getting more awesome.

One of the best things about Chrome is extension support. There are already nearly 5,000 of them despite only launching this past December. And the extensions continue to get more powerful. Today, on the Chromium Blog, Google has announced that desktop notifications are now available to third-party extension developers.

Previously, the only way to notify Chrome users of an update by way of extension was to do so by badging an extension icon itself. Now, full messages can pop-up on the desktop (assuming you allow them, of course). A great example is the Gmail Notifier extension, which gives you Growl-like notifications of new emails as they come in.

As of Chrome 5 (the latest stable version), these desktop notifications are available to all extension developers. And Google says they’ll be looking for the best ones to feature in the Extension Gallery.

May 28, 2010 08:21 PM


PostRank is a nifty tool that measures different ways that readers engage with online content. The ranking is based on how many times a particular post has been linked to, voted up on Digg, shared on Google Buzz, commented on, Twittered about, bookmarked on or viewed through feed readers like AideRSS and Google Reader. Today, the startup is adding a new feature that actually stores and shows you these activities.

As PostRank says, the activity streams feature similar in theory to a FriendFeed, but for a blog or site’s content. Previously, PostRank aggregated and reported activity events but the new feature aggregates Tweets, votes, distributed comments and more in a single view. Publishers simply have to insert their RSS feed into PostRank Analytics and the startup will aggregate and filter activity into a dashboard.

PostRank analytics is free for the first thirty days and only costs $9 per month after that. PostRank aggregates over 10 million daily activities from over 20 different social hubs, so it’s fair to assume that you’ll get a healthy snapshot of the different types of interactions that are taking place with your content.

May 28, 2010 08:20 PM

Richard MacManus

Chris Saad: "Facebook's Claims About Data Portability Are False"

facebook logo upsidedownEarlier this week, Mark Zuckerberg claimed that Facebook's recent privacy changes were not nefarious, but rather an unselfish pursuit of "a concept called data portability."

As the one of the people who popularized that concept in relation to social networks, and as a founding member of the organization representing that cause, I'd like to call bullshit on that.


Guest author Chris Saad is VP of strategy at Echo, a leading provider of comment/conversation technology to Tier 1 publishers. His role is to track trends in the marketplace, listen to and participate in the community and translate those needs into actionable product direction. His background includes co-authoring the Synaptic Web strawman , co-authoring the Attention Profiling Markup Language (APML) specification, and co-founding the DataPortability Project. The DataPortability project's mission is to advocate interoperable data portability for users, developers and vendors.

"The lack of honesty and clarity from the company and its representatives ... and the continued trend of taking established language - such as "open technology" or "data portability" - and corrupting it for its own marketing purposes, is far more disconcerting than the boundaries it's pushing with its technology choices."

Until now I have stayed largely silent on the privacy hoopla because data portability and the open Web are not strictly related to privacy - at least in the sense that things don't need to be public for them to be portable or interoperable.

For example, just because the Web is based on open technologies (HTTP, HTML, SSL, JavaScript, etc.), it does not mean using your credit card on a properly configured website is public or unsafe. Sending email from one person to another does not mean third party websites can now suddenly "instantly personalize" their recommendations to you based on keywords found in your inbox.

Despite being based on interoperable technologies, these transactions remain private and secure.

Advocating Open Technologies Is Not Promoting the Death of Secrets

In the face of this, however, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook continue to (deliberately?) confuse the idea of open technologies with "sharing in public." The attempt to correlate the two things is at best misinformed and at worst dishonest.

With his latest statement, Zuckerberg and Facebook are now going so far as to declare their privacy missteps as "data portability." Actually, Facebook's changes have nothing to do with data portability. In fact, the root of the user backlash has nothing to do with what the company is doing but rather how its are doing it.

Its problem is that, as a service, Facebook started as a place for people to share with friends and family in a private setting. Users expected privacy. This expectation is referred to as a "social compact." It is an implied agreement that has less to do with the terms of service and more to do with user expectations and ethics. When I give you my business card, for example, I expect (through our implied social compact) that you won't give it to spammers.

It turns out, however, that this compact was good for users but not great for Facebook's business. There are two broad reasons why Facebook has felt forced to make the service more public.

markzuckerberg_face.pngMark Zuckerberg Facebook SXSWi 2008. Photo by deneyterrio.

First, it's hard, if not impossible, to monetize private communication. People don't use those kinds of service with the intent to buy, but rather with the intent to communicate. Intention is critical when it comes to advertising and e-commerce.

Second, competition from services like Twitter have made it cool to be public, and it's finding interesting ways to monetize this public information (the least of which is selling its inventory of Tweets for $15 million a pop).

Most of Facebook's very mainstream users, however, still just want a private place to keep up with their friends and family. In short, the economic interests of the service are not in line with the interests of its users. Despite this, Facebook has been forced to smashed big cracks in its privacy blanket and started forcing its users, en mass, to adopt more transparent and public online personas.

This (now public) data can be used by advertisers, publishers and other third parties to help Facebook attract even more users, more data and ultimately more dollars through targeted ads and micro-transactions.

Next page: The Wrong Social Compact and What Are The Next Steps?

The Wrong Social Compact

The problem, then, is not Mark Zuckerberg's stated goal of making the world a more open (read, less private) place, but rather that Facebook did not initially establish the right social compact - promise - to its users to justify its role in this vision of public sharing.

As a result, users feel (rightly) violated. Facebook broke its promise for business purposes. And this is not the first - or last I suspect - time it will do it. (Remember Beacon?)

Finally - in regards to actual data portability, interoperability and the Web - the technology choices Facebook makes are anything but open. It uses proprietary technologies, protocols and formats to capture value from the Web and lock it up in its hub.

In short, nothing about its cultural or technological approach is open or interoperable; it has nothing to do with interoperable data portability - the only kind that matters.

Facebook has every right to do whatever it likes with its service. The market will decide if it continues to like the service or not. Any backlash from the media, or demands for more fairness, are largely irrelevant unless users vote with their feet and stop using the service. Facebook knows this is unlikely, though, given its deep (and growing) integration with the rest of the Web.

But claiming that users love the changes because more and more of them are stumbling into the service by way of widgets on publisher pages is dishonest. There is a real fear amongst the user base (and their partners) about these changes.

When it comes right down to it, the lack of honesty and clarity from the company and its representatives about these issues, and the continued trend of taking established language - such as "open technology" or "data portability" - and corrupting it for its own marketing purposes, is far more disconcerting than the boundaries it's pushing with its technology choices.

What Are the Next Steps?

We as responsible members of the technology community and the open web must be clear and honest about what we see - and any threat it might pose to our industry or the wider world. While jumping on the bandwagon might be fun and easy (and even profitable), it is a abjection of our own responsibilities.

So what can Facebook do in the face of this criticism and push-back?

  • Declare clearly and unequivocally that its service has changed from a private place for sharing to a tool for public publishing.
  • Go beyond what it has already done to correct the issue and provide a giant status indicator on the top right of a user's profile page indicating if they are in one of three modes: Public, Private, or Friends and Family only.
  • Alternatively, (although highly unlikely) it can change its business model from one based on ads and publishers and to one that's based on charging users for pro services in order to align its economic interest with those of its users.

What can others do to protect their privacy or capitalize on Facebook's faults?

  • Right now: Recognize that Facebook has violated user trust over and over for the sake of its business model, and will do it again. Stop sharing private information with the service.
  • Short term: Create a properly private sharing network where people can feel safe to be with their friends and family.
  • Medium term: Recognize (or decide to ensure) that Facebook is only one service, and in order to maintain and encourage competition and respect in the marketplace, other smaller (and not-so-small) players must be supported when making technology decisions (i.e. publishers must choose cross-platform tools and technologies).
  • Long term: Continue to create an open alternative to Facebook whereby the Web is the platform and users can choose the applications that make sense for them, which includes privacy.
  • Forever: Understand the difference between an "interoperable, open Web" and "Death of Privacy" - they are not the same thing.

Next week The DataPortability Project will be announcing a new initiative that will improve communications between Web services and users - stay tuned.


May 28, 2010 08:20 PM

Pete Cashmore

Create a Socially Integrated Online Shop in 60 Seconds

This post is part of Mashable’s Spark of Genius series, which highlights a unique feature of startups. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here. The series is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark.


Quick Pitch: is the easiest way to sell virtually anything and is the world’s first socially integrated e-commerce website.

Genius Idea: If you are thinking of putting an old watch up for auction on eBay or listing your latest T-shirt design on Etsy, you may want to check out first. is an e-commerce service that enables users to create quick listings for their products or services. Simply fill out the name, price and a quick description of the good or service you’d like to sell, type in a few personal details and upload a picture. You can also opt to donate the proceeds of the sale to charity, and identify your product or service’s location on a map.You can then share your listing directly with your social networks or set up your own online store on your blog or website. The whole process can take less than a minute.

The service only asks for your name and your PayPal e-mail address; you don’t even need to set up an account or share any of your bank information. You can also sync your listing with Facebook, Twitter and Google Product Search to share your listings instantaneously.

While the service is great for selling your products and services quickly and easily, it lacks many of the benefits of e-commerce sites like eBay, Etsy and Amazon Marketplace. They are destination sites for buyers and drive most of the traffic to the listings of individual sellers via marketing and excellent search and recommendation engines. And although allows visitors to leave comments on a product, it has yet to implement seller and product ratings.

In other words, if you want to succeed with, you’re going to have to depend entirely on your website and social networks to advertise and sell your goods.

What do you think of Have you ever sold anything online? If so, what e-commerce service did you use?

Find out more about the service in the video below.

Sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark

BizSpark is 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.

Entrepreneurs can take advantage of the Azure Services platform for their website hosting and storage needs. Microsoft recently announced the “new CloudApp()” contest – use the Azure Services Platform for hosting your .NET or PHP app, and you could be the lucky winner of a USD 5000* (please see website for official rules and guidelines).”

Reviews: Facebook, PHP, Twitter, eBay

Tags: bizspark, e-commerce,

May 28, 2010 08:17 PM

Richard MacManus

Does the Mobile Web Need a Yahoo-Style Directory?

taptu_logo_jun09.pngDo you remember the days when Yahoo was a yellow pages-like directory of websites? Back in the early days of the Internet, a number of companies created vast, human-edited databases that aimed to catalog all the Web - and some even sold these as printed books. According to mobile search engine Taptu, the mobile Internet is at a similar point today, where a directory is simply the easiest way to discover content. While Taptu's main focus is still on its crawler-based mobile search engine for mobile sites, the company also just launched a Yahoo-like directory of touch-friendly websites.


The Mobile Web is Going Through Its "Yahoo Phase"

taptu_touch_friendly_directory.jpgEarlier this year, AdMob's CEO and founder Omar Hamoui argued that the mobile web is going through its "Yahoo phase," as it is still possible to find mobile apps using directory-like app stores instead of having to rely on more advanced search engines. While Hamoui was mostly talking about apps, the same could be said about the mobile web in general. The number of touch-friendly mobile sites is still relatively small when compared the the Web as a whole, and services like Taptu new directory still make sense at this point.

Taptu's Directory

To help its users find the best touch-friendly sites for mobile phones, Taptu decided to create a directory of touch-friendly sites. Taptu notes that phones with touchscreens are quickly becoming mass-market devices, but a lot of these devices don't feature app stores. For Taptu, the top five traffic-generating phones include the Samsung Caliber, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and Samsung Finesse.

Thanks to Taptu's focus on touch-friendly sites, the directory turns out to be a fun way to find interesting sites on the go, without the hassle of having to deal with sites that don't work well on small screens. To access Taptu's directory, just head over to the company's mobile site and look for the Categories icon at the top of the page.


May 28, 2010 08:00 PM

Pete Cashmore

SIRIUS XM Android App Brings Satellite Radio to Your Phone

SIRIUS XM satellite radio subscribers can now access the service on yet another mobile platform with today’s launch of the SIRIUS XM Android client.

Already available for the iPhone and BlackBerry devices, the expansion to Android smartphones extends the reach of the country’s only satellite radio service to a wide new range of supported handsets.

Subscribers have access to more than 120 channels of commercial-free audio programming from entertainment to sports to comedy and more, accessible over both cellular and Wi-Fi networks via the app. You can also mark channels as “Favorites” for faster retrieval, and of course the built-in multi-tasking on the Android platform allows users to listen to tunes while doing other activities like web browsing.

There’s no extra charge for accessing SIRIUS XM content via your smartphone if you’re already a Premium Online subscriber, and non-subscribers can take advantage of a seven-day trial on their Android smartphones.

What do you think of satellite radio as an entertainment service? Does it compare favorably or unfavorably with other music and entertainment options available for the Android platform?

For more mobile coverage, follow Mashable Mobile on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Reviews: Android, BlackBerry Rocks!, Facebook, Twitter, favorites, iPhone

Tags: android, music, radio, satellite radio, sirius xm

May 28, 2010 07:51 PM

Tech Crunch


The ability to multitask got a lot of press when iPhone 4.0 OS was first announced. But less attention was given to some of the more subtle things this will allow, such as always-on location for third-party apps. This feature could actually make a service like Google Latitude useful on the device. So it’s coming, right? Maybe.

I asked Google senior product manager Steve Lee (who is in charge of Latitude) whether Google would build a native app for the iPhone now that it includes background location. “From the start, we’ve made Latitude available across platforms. Supporting iPhone with a great Latitude user experience is extremely important to us, and we’re evaluating the best way to deliver that on iPhone OS 4.0 now, so we don’t have anything to announce just yet,” Lee answer (emphasis his).

Latitude has been available for the iPhone since July of last year — but it is only available as an HTML5 app, not a native app. This makes it pretty useless since you would have to have your web browser open to this page at all times for Latitude to work the web it should — which is all the time. So why didn’t Google release it as a native app? Well, the obvious answer would be that there wasn’t the ability to update location in the background on the iPhone previously, so it didn’t really matter if it was a native app or a web app. But actually it’s more complicated than that.

Back in July, Google actually noted why it was doing Latitude as a web app vs. a native app:

We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.

At the time, that sounded a little odd to me. After all, there are plenty of other apps that use maps. I wondered if it really meant that Apple was planning on baking this feature into their own Maps app on the iPhone (which was built with the help of Google). But looking back now, it’s likely much more complicated. This was right before it was revealed that Apple rejected the Google Voice app on the grounds that it would confuse iPhone users, or access information on the phone, or something.

The Latitude situation was just the first shot in what is now a full-fledged war between the two companies.

Long story short, even if Google wants to build a native Latitude app for the iPhone (as they said they did before), Apple may or may not allow it.

Let’s hope they do. Because with the new Location History features, and APIs, it could be awesome. And it could push passive location into the spotlight.

May 28, 2010 07:43 PM

Richard MacManus

Skype Video Coming to Android, Is 2010 the Year of Mobile Video Chat?

skype_android_may10.jpgThe fast-growing population of Android users will soon be able to chat face-to-face thanks to a Skype mobile application that will hit the marketplace with video functionality "later this year." As reported on the gadget blog Skatter Tech, Skype representatives have been quoted confirming the release of a carrier-independent app that will allow users to use voice and video to chat on their Android devices. This is a giant step forward for Android users who were disappointed to learn earlier this year that Skype's initial offerings on the platform were restricted to Verizon's 3G network.


"We're betting big on video, and we intend to set the bar on mobile video calling, and it's something we're going to do this year," said Skype PR representative Brianna Reynaud. "We will be bringing a direct to consumer app to the Android marketplace later this year. This application will be available for all consumers globally to download regardless of carriers."

skype_aphones_may10.jpgThough it remains to be seen if any other restrictions or limitations will be placed on the app, this news is certainly exciting to Android users. The announcement also comes amidst speculation that Apple's forthcoming refreshed iPhone will feature a forward-facing camera for video calls. Whether Skype is also working with Apple to launch an iPhone application this year is unknown, and some have suggested that Apple may reserve the functionality for a native iChat application. Either way, a new dawn of mobile video chatting seems to be upon us. The question is, however, will people actually take to this new form of communication?

In 1993, AT&T ran a series of commercials suggesting the breakthrough technologies the company hoped to bring to its customers in the future. The ads include technologies prevalent today, including e-readers, in-car GPS, tablet PCs and even automated toll booth systems like EZ Pass. One innovation featured in the ads that has yet to take off significantly is the idea of video replacing standard phone communication.

Skype chat on the desktop and enterprise video conferencing solutions have become popular in recent years, but they haven't gone gangbusters and replaced the way we communicate all together. In fact, in the same interview with Skatter Tech, Reynaud said that only one-third of Skype calls are video calls, so the majority of users are simply using the voice functionality.

This is not to say that video-calls on a mobile device shouldn't have a place in our current technological ecosystem. Video chatting on a phone could be great for special situations, like when a group of friends are getting together and they call up an absent friend and pass the phone around the room. It's going to take some time for the novelty of mobile video chat to ware off before it finds itself being used more and more as a common means of communication.

We as humans, for better or for worse, have evolved into incredible multi-taskers. We listen to music, watch videos, read stories, check email, update our social status - sometimes all at the same time. Video chatting, from my experience, does not fit in well with a multi-tasker's mindset. Think of all the things we do while talking on the phone - driving our cars, eating, doing laundry, etc. Now think of trying to do anything else while video chatting; it's nearly impossible because it requires the majority of your attention.

Will mobile video chatting take off? That still remains to be seen; however, regardless of these assertions, it is good to see Skype expanding its mobile platform to more carriers and devices. I only hope as an iPhone user that video chat from Skype finds its way onto my device sometime soon as well.


May 28, 2010 07:40 PM

Pete Cashmore

Opera Mini a Hit on the iPhone

Since its release last month, Opera Mini for the iPhone has been used by more than 2.6 million users and is now the third most popular Opera Mini device worldwide.

This data was presented in Opera’s State of the Mobile Web report for April 2010. Opera’s report focuses on the most popular websites, based on Opera Mini users, and also showcases the demonstrable international impact that the iPhone has had on its data.

Opera Mini was released for the iPhone in the middle of April 2010, meaning that the impact demonstrated in the report took place in just two weeks. In that time, the iPhone became the most popular Opera Mini handset in the U.S., beating previous leader BlackBerry by a significant margin.

Many were surprised when Opera Mini was accepted into the App Store, in part because Apple has historically blocked apps that “duplicate [the] functionality” of its native apps; in this case, Opera Mini competed with the iPhone’s native Safari browser.

And while Opera Mini cannot be selected as the default web browser (meaning links opened in Mail or from other apps cannot open in Opera Mini) its success indicates that there is indeed a base of users who want an alternative web browser for the iPhone.

Have you used Opera Mini for the iPhone? What are your thoughts?

For more mobile coverage, follow Mashable Mobile on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Reviews: App Store, Facebook, Opera, Opera Mini, Safari, Twitter

Tags: Browsers, iphone apps, opera, opera mini

May 28, 2010 07:28 PM

Tech Crunch


Augmented Reality may not be super practical yet. But it sure is cool, and a lot of fun. And a new Android game looks to make it even more fun.

Space InvadAR is a new Android game by Zenitum. It’s the world’s first “vision-based” AR game, according to the team. And it looks awesome — watch the video below.

Basically, you load the game and aim your device’s camera at a printed out target image (which you can get on the game’s website). Once you do this, the image (in this first case, a planet) comes alive on your screen. And then aliens begin to show up and you kill them. It looks awesome.

Now for the downsides: first, the game is $25 in the Android Market. Second, it only works on the Nexus One or HTC Desire. Third, it’s impossible to win the game.

So it may be more of a really cool demo then anything else right now, but again, just watch the video.

May 28, 2010 07:10 PM

Pete Cashmore

5 Steps to Taking Customer Service Social

Support Keyboard ImageLauren Vargas is a Community Manager at Radian6, the social media monitoring and engagement platform. She blogs at Communicators Anonymous and is @VargasL on Twitter.

The debate over who owns the customer still looms in the shadows of company hallways and conference rooms. There is no one right answer because every department, team and employee owns the customer and takes part in shaping a positive customer experience.

Customer service is no longer an area to triage customer complaints. It’s about anticipating customer needs at the right time and place. Organizations must relearn how to interact with their community, shed some of the heavily automated barriers, and get back to the basics of customer service.

1. Apply Your Current Service Strategy to Social Media

To get where you’re going, sometimes it’s helpful to learn more about out where you’ve been.

Most likely, your company has a customer service and response strategy in place to handle issues through e-mail, chat and phone. Avoid reinventing the wheel by creating new response strategies and processes. Take time to review how customer inquiries and outreach are currently being handled. What are the customer service goals? Do any current processes need to be updated? Can current strategies be adopted for social media implementation?

Answer these questions, and you are not only improving your company’s customer service, but making it possible for any person in your organization to take on this task.

2. Put Human Relationships Back Into Your Service

The human element has been taken out of the customer service experience in many companies and replaced with automated messages and prompts. By the time a human operator is reached, their responses are often scripted and they do not have the authority or knowledge to solve complex issues. As elementary as it may sound, organizations need to empower their workforce to go beyond canned responses and develop a more relationship-building approach to customer service, as opposed to one-off interactions.

Adding social back into the customer service mix does not involve throwing out processes already in place, but improving upon them. Begin by establishing customer engagement policies. Social media policies and guidelines can provide the education and structure for how to engage online, and empower your workforce to operate within accepted and encouraged boundaries with the freedom to be themselves.

Next, coordinate a system of gathering information, categorizing, segmenting and analyzing customer engagement that is transparent within your company. Finally, establish workflows to distribute customer engagement responsibilities throughout the organization to ensure the right person is interacting with the right customer at the right time.

3. Establish a Knowledge Base

The customer service department is often separated from the rest of the company, training and operating in a “silo.” Bring customer service agents out from the shadows and provide them with the training they need to engage customers on their turf within the social web.

Establish a company wiki where all departments can contribute social media knowledge and lessons learned. Train agents beyond their role. Develop subject matter experts who can handle taking conversations to the next level and solve issues in real-time on the channel of the customer’s choice.

In turn, allow your customer service agents to be the teachers and share best practices from the trenches of phone, e-mail and chat support. What are the frequently asked questions? How do agents currently deal with sticky customer issues? What actionable insights can be gleaned from the types of issues and responses from inbound calls, e-mail and chat? Your customer service agents can illuminate new paths and caution you in areas they have already explored.

4. Set Expectations

Goals Image

One of the goals and challenges of providing customer service through social media channels is to mine data for actionable insights that will enable highly personal and proactive service. Determine the channels where the bulk of your customer conversation is occurring. Avoid the trap of participating in all channels to serve all customers, which may only overextend your team. Pinpoint the channels your organization can afford to place resources and invest in community participation. Then, analyze these areas for broader trends. Online channel behavior is not indicative of your total customer base, but tying this data back to traditional CRM analysis can yield valuable insights for your response strategy.

Further, just like your customer service department has set hours of business, so should your service in social channels. Conversations are 24/7, and issues may arise in off hours, but it is essential to set expectations of service up front. Your workforce may choose to handle issues off the clock within the framework of your organization’s social media guidelines, but you should clearly outline this capacity in your profile or bio.

5. Perform Quality Assurance

Online interaction offers a glimpse into what your customers think about your company, workforce, products and/or services. Embrace this culture of feedback even though the majority of conversations may not occur in your own managed communities.

Improve your online engagement by asking the community about your performance. Similar to a typical call center experience, after an agent or employee has an exchange on Twitter or another social channel, send the person a survey about their recent online customer service exchange. Use this feedback to assist in overall response strategies and evaluation of participation in social channels.

Maintain patience and consistency by first establishing measurable goals and objectives of how your organization will engage in the social space. Align these metrics with overall business goals. Talk to the marketing, communication and sales departments to establish metrics that will measure your collective efforts and give a holistic view of the customer’s online behavior.

Benchmark your progress. Take time to reevaluate processes, take action on feedback and don’t give up because of some rocky roads. There were rough times when e-mail and chat were implemented. Social media interaction will have growing pains just like any other business channel, but you have to make the investment.


Each company must forge its own path to integrating social into the customer service mix. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. That is how we got to this heavily automated customer service triage position in the first place.

The companies that are embracing social media as a service solution are succeeding because they realize their employees are the best company evangelists and operators of front-line engagement. Those organizations that treat their employees as humans are also those who are treating their customers as humans, and not a faceless CRM number.

For more business coverage, follow Mashable Business on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

More business resources from Mashable:

- How Hospitality Companies are Using Social Media for Real Results
- 5 Surprising Social Media Business Success Stories
- HOW TO: Market Your Small Business With No Budget
- How Data is Redefining Business Relationships
- 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Use Tech to Save Money

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, Goldmund, WendellFranks

Reviews: Facebook, Twitter, iStockphoto

Tags: business, customer service, List, Lists, small business, social media, twitter

May 28, 2010 07:08 PM

Mark Zuckerberg Donated to Facebook Alternative, Diaspora

During a follow-up interview to Wednesday’s privacy controls announcement, Wired asked Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg what he thought of Diaspora, the anti-Facebook project that four NYU students will spend the summer building. Zuckerberg’s response: “I donated. I think it is a cool idea.”

His support for an idea that directly opposes the openness of Facebook is somewhat surprising, especially since Zuckerberg is intent on “making the world more open.”

How much Zuckerberg donated to Diaspora’s Kickstarter fund is unknown, but he revealed that he’s motivated to help these college kids because he sees “a little of myself in them.”

Zuckerberg also claims to welcome a different approach to sharing, and looks forward to seeing whether these NYU students can come up with a new solution for handling the trickier challenges Facebook has faced in dealing with privacy around content shared with friends of friends.

We find the gesture to be quite benevolent, although it could be a more calculated maneuver to help paint the CEO in a more positive light.

For more social media coverage, follow Mashable Social Media on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Reviews: Facebook, Twitter

Tags: diaspora, facebook, mark zuckerberg

May 28, 2010 06:50 PM

Tech Crunch


Facebook is not evil, despite the disproportionately loud grumblings of its critics — which (as Mark Zuckerberg recently pointed out) is a small fraction of its 400-million-plus user base. But Facebook is also not a non-profit despite Zuckerberg’s claim that they’re not in “this for the money.”

On Wednesday’s press conference, Zuckerberg said: “It might seem weird, we’re not doing this to make more money. For all the people inside the company, that could not be more true. It’s such a big disconnect that we’re doing this for the money.”

Methinks the Zuckerberg doth protest too much.

Zuckerberg is not a saint and he’s also not the same 19-year old who allegedly mocked his users for trusting him with their information, but somewhere in between lies reality. He’s a CEO and he runs the world’s most powerful social network. Following Wednesday’s announcement, he spoke with NPR, and acknowledged that Facebook needs money from advertisers to operate, “to run a service like this that serves more than 400 million users.” However, no one believes that Facebook is trying to make just enough money to keep the lights on, nor should we expect them to. But we can expect a higher level of honesty and transparency. Mark, it’s OK to want to make money (and heaps of it), just don’t pretend that every action is designed to augment the user experience.

You could argue that Zuckerberg’s comment (“we’re not doing this to make money”) was just a throwaway line, that I’m reading too much into it. However, it seems to be an emerging tagline for the entire company, on par with Google’s “don’t be evil.” His comment echoes a similar statement from Facebook’s VP of product, Chris Cox, during a backstage interview on Tuesday:

Cox says, “Anybody who knows Mark knows that he’s not doing this to make money…none of the changes we’re making are fundamentally about making money. That’s just not how the company rolls, that’s not how we’ve ever rolled.” Cox acknowledged that Facebook is trying to build “a great ads product,” but he immediately reiterated the idea that money is “not the motivating force behind a lot of the stuff that we’re rolling out.” When I pressed him on the issue of Facebook credits and the rich 30/70 breakdown (Facebook effectively gets 30% of a developer’s proceeds), he said it helps developers by establishing an official currency, similar to the Euro. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t justify Facebook’s 30% commission nor does it dovetail nicely with a company trying to project an indifference to profits. Will the real Facebook please stand up?

Zuckerberg seems to be genuinely interested in changing the world, after all he did reject significant buyout offers, but he also seems to be genuinely interested in turning Facebook into a multi-billion-dollar machine. As I said earlier, I have no problem with a profitable Facebook making obscene amounts of cash, I’m just imploring Zuckerberg to portray his mission honestly.

May 28, 2010 06:33 PM

Pete Cashmore

The Muppets Celebrate Memorial Day with “American Woman” Cover [VIDEO]

It ain’t a holiday without a little musical accompaniment courtesy of the Muppets — or at least that seems to be the trend of late. The Muppets Studio has released a new video on its YouTube channel in honor of Memorial Day featuring Sam the Eagle’s take on The Guess Who’s “American Woman.”

The furry puppets have been dominating the ‘net lately — they dropped in at Lost headquarters not too long ago, and even picked up a Webby for their rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

It’s good to see that Sam & Co. aren’t taking the three-day weekend as an excuse to slack off, unlike you, Sir or Ma’am, currently surfing the web. Now watch this vid and get back to that spreadsheet!

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Reviews: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

Tags: humor, music, viral video

May 28, 2010 06:24 PM

UK Postman Admits to Using Facebook and Bebo to Abuse Hundreds of Children

A UK postman admitted to using Facebook and Bebo to abuse “hundreds” of children in a case that included 27 sexual abuse charges.

Michael Williams, a 28-year-old from Cornwall, used the sites to pursue and friend children, sometimes using false names and posing as a teenager, according to the BBC. With some of the victims, he used the sites to arrange meetings.

The case comes at a time when social network users have grown concerned about their privacy while on such sites. In fact, 71% of 18-29 year olds limit the information they share with others on social networks, according to a Pew Research report.

Williams’s charges included “inciting sexual activity, grooming and distributing indecent images” and more. Police worry that many more children have been abused and have yet to come forward because he used social sites to approach “hundreds.” Williams will be sentenced in three months after psychiatric reports are complete.

How do you think social networking sites can prevent such atrocities from occurring?

[img credit: lizzardo]

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Reviews: Facebook, Twitter

Tags: bebo, cornwall, facebook, Pew report, social networking privacy, uk

May 28, 2010 06:06 PM

Richard MacManus

Rumored $99 Apple TV to Feature Cloud Storage, iPhone OS

atv_150_may10.jpgAfter Google's announcement last week of their upcoming Google TV service, many speculated whether Apple would respond by refreshing its neglected Apple TV. Though Steve Jobs called the product a "hobby" at its launch, the rumor mill has begun to churn as reports point to an overhauled Apple TV with cloud storage and an attractive $99 price tag. According to gadget blog Engadget, a "a source very close to Apple" has confirmed speculation that a simplified version of the set-top box closely resembling the internals of the upcoming fourth generation iPhone is currently in development.


The device has apparently been described as "an iPhone without a screen," says Engadget's Joshua Topolsky. The CPU (Apple's A4 chip), storage (estimated at 16 GB) and OS will mirror those found on an iPhone, but this new device will reportedly also include support for full 1080p HD video. Though storage is limited, users will be able to access other local storage devices (supposedly local systems and networked storage devices) via WiFi, as well as cloud storage.

apple_tv_may10.jpgWith the current Apple TV selling at a hefty $229 with 160 GB of storage, this new product could be a significant pivot for Apple in the set-top box realm. The transition from local to cloud-based storage may have something to do with recent rumors that Apple's MobileMe service may soon be provided free to all users - a possible use for the new data farm the company is building in North Carolina.

The reported $99 price seems logical because the majority of the cost of the Apple TV goes toward 160 GB of storage. Additionally, by designing it to mimic the iPhone's specs, Apple can streamline the production of the product and remove the most expensive part of the phone - the screen. Topolsky says no mention was made of whether apps would be supported on the device, but he suggests that scaling up iPhone and iPad apps to a TV wouldn't look particularly attractive (not to mention the lack of a touch interface).

I wouldn't be surprised to see some integration with the upcoming iPhone OS release that would allow users to control and browse from content on their phones or iPads and watch it on their TVs. Jobs has been adamant about how "couch friendly" the iPad is, so it only makes sense that a refreshed Apple TV would interface with the company's existing handheld devices.

If the speculation is correct, Apple and Google are poised for a Web TV showdown - a competition between to fierce competitors that could lead to some great feature innovations for users. While this is all based on rumor and some reading of the tea leaves, many have speculated that Apple "leaks" information to the press intentionally to generate buzz or divert attention from other products. The timing of this information - a week following the Google TV announcement, and at the midpoint between iPad and assumed iPhone launches - seems a bit convenient for Apple, but whether that lends credibility to the reports is yet to be seen.

Through all of this, one thing is certain: it would be unwise to buy and iPhone or Apple TV any time soon.


May 28, 2010 06:00 PM