- Facebook Timeline Now Available to Everyone
- Upcoming LG 3D Smart TVs to Support Intel WiDi Wireless Streaming
- Grand Theft Auto 3 Now Available for iPhone and Android
- Cheezburger Launches ‘Meme Animals’ Website
- Little Inflatable Bag Brings Affordable Light to Disaster Relief
- Nokia and T-Mobile Are Bringing the Lumia 710 to the U.S.
- LinkedIn Rolls Out Polling for Groups
- Is Google+ Really a Social Media Game Changer?
- Barbara Walters Names Steve Jobs Most Fascinating Person of 2011
- Twitter Is 2011′s Most-Buzzed About Social Network
- Samsung Galaxy Nexus Available Thursday on Verizon for $299.99 [CONFIRMED]
- Earth 2.0 Is Out There. What Tech Will We Take?
- Pet Lizard Plays Game on Smartphone [VIDEO]
- Kindle Fire Owners Love Their Tablet, Flaws and All
- Michael Bublé Comes to CityVille
- Gary Vaynerchuk: Why ROI Matters for Social Media [VIDEO]
- 5 Major Trends That Changed Digital Entertainment in 2011
- Top Tech Companies To Work For in 2012: Facebook Beats Google, Apple
- Hipstamatic Introduces “World’s First Social Camera”
- Only 3 Days Left to Vote in the Mashable Awards
- Prioritizing Discussion: Why Community Is as Critical as Content
- How Social Media Prompts Holiday Purchases [INFOGRAPHIC]
- Flipboard Has 5 Million Users, iPhone App Gets Million Downloads in First Week
- 7 Tips for Traveling Bloggers
- Gmail for iPhone, iPad Adds Option to Doodle
- NBC Maps the 2012 Election Campaign Trail With Foursquare
- NASA Plans to Wrangle Comets With New Harpoon [VIDEO]
- Netflix for iPad Gets a New Look, Latin America Support
- SkyDrive for iPhone: A Poor Man’s Dropbox? [HANDS ON]
- Louis CK Makes $200,000 Profit in Four Days With Online Video
Posted: 15 Dec 2011 05:20 AM PST
After months of slow, gradual rollout, Facebook Timeline is now available to all users.
The Timeline is a radical redesign of Facebook‘s user info page, introduced at Facebook’s F8 conference in September 2011. Instead of merely listing your interests and personal info, the Timeline shows a detailed overview of your life on Facebook, with the ability to check out what you’ve been out to at a particular point in time.
Timeline comes with a new tool called the Activity Log, which enables you to finely tune what appears on your Timeline; you can “promote” a post to featured status, you can hide it from the Timeline or delete it altogether.
Like all major Facebook redesigns, Timeline was greeted with a fair share of criticism. Some users were concerned about Facebook’s request that users add even more personal info, as well as the fact that Timeline makes this info easily accessible, which could lead to identity theft.
The good news is that Facebook is implementing a seven day grace period, where you can review anything that appears on the timeline and decide whether or not you want anyone to see it. However, once you upgrade to Timeline, that new profile will “go live” at the end of the seven-day review period.
As of today, Timeline will also be available on Android devices as well as the mobile version of Facebook – m.facebook.com.
1. View All Your Timeline Content
Facebook's mysterious algorithm decides which stories will showcase on your Timeline.
However, it also includes half-hidden posts. Posts that are marked on your Timeline, but not displayed, are noted by a blue dot on the central line. You can view these posts by clicking on the individual blue dots.
A quicker method is to click on the three blue dots underneath each year. This gives you the option to view all stories within that year.
Posted: 15 Dec 2011 04:50 AM PST
LG and Intel have signed a strategic alliance to promote Intel’s Wireless Display (WiDi) technology, the companies have announced. In practice, this means that upcoming LG CINEMA 3D Smart TVs will be the first on the market to support WiDi.
WiDi solves a problem many of us have faced: it enables streaming of HD video content from a PC, laptop or a mobile device to a large screen TV, projector or monitor.
WiFi connectivity usually doesn’t provide enough bandwidth to stream HD content, but WiDi boasts real-world data rates from 4 Gbit/s, and theoretical data rates are as high as 25 Gbit/s. Since WiDi doesn’t need WiFi to work, it has often been described as “wireless HDMI.”
So far, however, you needed an external adapter connected to your TV to use WiDi, but the new LG CINEMA 3D Smart TVs will solve that problem with an integrated WiDi chip.
LG’s WiDi-enabled 3D TVs should be hitting the market, and we’ll have a first good look at them at the Consumer Electronic Show next month in Las Vegas.
Posted: 15 Dec 2011 01:22 AM PST
As announced, a special Anniversary Edition of the massively popular Grand Theft Auto III game is now available on iOS and Android devices.
The anniversary edition is nearly identical to the 10-year-old original game, which is widely considered to be one of the most influential games of all time. The gameplay is optimized for touch-screen devices, with resizable custom controls.
There are two major improvements from the original, too: mission retry and autosave mode, which should greatly lessen the chances of players smashing their mobile devices in frustration.
As far as compatibility goes, the game works on the iPhone 4 and 4S, 4th generation iPod touch as well as iPad 1 and 2.
The list of supported Android devices includes HTC Rezound, LG Optimus 2x, Motorola Atrix 4G, Motorola Droid X2, Motorola Photon 4G, Samsung Galaxy R, T-Mobile G2x.
On the Android tablet front, Acer Iconia, Asus Eee Pad Transformer, Dell Streak 7, LG Optimus Pad, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1, Sony Tablet S and Toshiba Thrive are supported.
Grand Theft Auto III: 10th Anniversary Edition Collage
This title shot and collage combines some of the best moments from the game.
For more Mobile coverage:
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 10:21 PM PST
Like cartoon rabbits rapidly multiplying, the number of Cheezburger Network websites continues to grow with the addition of new humor blog Meme Animals.
Cheezburger, which already runs more than 50 sites, will officially launch Meme Animals Thursday, but the company gave Mashable the inside scoop on the eve of the site’s launch.
“We listen carefully to what our users are saying and we try to create early communities for specific memes,” Cheezburger Editor Emily Huh told Mashable about why Meme Animals was created. “We think our users will love a meme-nagerie of famous Internet critters, from a Business Cat to a Socially Awkward Penguin.”
The blog’s visitors will see familiar faces such as Nyan Cat, Philosoraptor, Anti-Joke Chicken, Art Student Owl and Pickup Line Panda, among other meme-lover favorites. Users will generate all of the site’s content.
Although other Cheezburger websites have showcased animal-based memes in the past, Meme Animals will provide fans of viral creatures a dedicated place to find them.
Meme Animals already features 70 pages of new and old posts, including content from the company’s five popular parent sites I Can Has Cheezburger?, FAIL Blog, Know Your Meme, Memebase and The Daily What.
This new site likely will compete against Reddit’s Advice Animals, which as the name implies focuses heavily on animal memes. More than 265,000 people subscribe to Advice Animals.
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Posted: 14 Dec 2011 09:16 PM PST
They tore up inflatable toys, melted plastic and experimented with solar power. What they came up with was not an emergency structure, but a solar-powered inflatable light. The LED light, which charges in the day for use at night, folds to the size of a wallet and weighs less than an iPhone.
When inflated, the bag diffuses the tiny lightbulb to create an orb that glows brightly. It also makes the contraption both waterproof and able to float.
“It was the smallest and quickest thing that we developed throughout our semester,” Sreshta says.
“It was just that nobody had thought of putting LED with inflatable before,” adds Stork. “But it makes so much sense.”
The emergency lightsources shipped to Haiti after the earthquake were mostly heavy solar powered flashlights. Because the lightweight LuminAID alternative keeps shipping and customs expenses low, it would have been a more practical solution.
Stork and Sreshta are hoping that their product will be used in future disaster relief situations.
In a recent IndieGoGo campaign, they raised more than $50,000 to help push production of the gadget forward. For every $25 contributor, they’re sending one light to the investor and another to be distributed through the Root Alliance to rural schools, homes and small-business owners in India. More than 1,000 people contributed $25 or more.
It also happens that LuminAID — lightweight, waterproof and likely to be sold for less than $10 — makes for excellent camping equipment. So even if you’re not involved in disaster relief, you’ll be able to order one from the LuminAID website sometime between January and February.
Sreshta demonstrates how the light works in the video above. What do you think of their invention? Let us know in the comments.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 09:02 PM PST
Nokia is partnering with T-Mobile to bring its entry-level Lumia 710 Windows Phone to the United States this January.
The Lumia 710, which shouldn’t be confused with the more eye-turning, high-end Lumia 800, will be available from T-Mobile on Jan. 11, 2012. Like the Samsung Focus Flash (which is available on AT&T), the Lumia 710 will sell for $49.99 with qualifying contract and after a $50 mail-in-rebate.
Despite its modest price point, the Lumia 710 is still a fully capable Windows Phone. It sports a 1.4Ghz Snapdragon processor and has a 3.7″ WVGA LCD screen. It also has a 5-megapixel rear camera and records video in 720p. Like all Windows Phones, it runs Windows Phone Mango 7.5.
Nokia and T-Mobile are clearly targeting the first-time smartphone buyer with the Lumia 710. In our past conversations with members of the Windows Phone team, Microsoft has reiterated the importance of this market sector. The strategy seems to be to focus on the unconverted customers, rather than trying to convince Android or iOS users to switch to Windows Phone.
Over the last six months, Microsoft has seen its mobile marketshare rise. This is especially true in Eastern Europe, where Nokia — now a major strategic hardware partner — is a household name.
In the United States, however, Microsoft is still fighting a battle of perception. Stunts like the six story Windows Phone in New York City and more direct marketing messages are raising customer awareness, but there’s a lot of work ahead.
Challenges for Microsoft Nokia and T-Mobile
It’s been a long time since Nokia had a major presence in the U.S. wireless market. While not entirely unexpected, we couldn’t help but be disappointed that the company was announcing the 710 and not the Lumia 800. As I’ve remarked in the past, I think it’s essential that the Lumia 800 come to the U.S. as soon as possible.
No matter how good the Lumia 710 is — and by all accounts it’s a very nice phone, especially at its price point — it’s not the flagship Windows Phone offering that the Lumia 800 is. There is a risk here in diluting the power of future U.S. phone releases.
Likewise, as T-Mobile faces an uncertain future, the carrier is in a precarious position when promoting new handsets, let alone pushing less established mobile platforms like Windows Phone. Add in the persistent rumors of an AT&T/Nokia announcement at CES 2012 and the hype-building process becomes more complex.
Still, it’s good to see Nokia officially in the United States with a Windows Phone device and on a major carrier. We hope this is just the beginning.
Are you tempted by a $50 Nokia Windows phone? Let us know in the comments.
For more Mobile coverage:
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 08:51 PM PST
Aiming to spur more conversation among its one million Groups, LinkedIn on Wednesday announced Polls, a new feature that’s designed to get a quick read on an issue.
Ian McCarthy, principal product manager at LinkedIn, wrote via the LinkedIn Blog that the feature came about after Group Moderators shared that they were looking for “easy, time-sensitive ways to generate conversations within the group.” Apparently, such conversations weren’t happening quickly enough after Moderators posted articles or blogged their thoughts. Polls was devised to get more conversation flowing.
Although McCarthy addresses Group Moderators in his post, anyone in a Group can create a poll. However, Moderators can restrict the creation of new polls from their Group Settings.
LinkedIn is trying out Polls out in Harvard Business Review‘s Group of 150 and as of press time, received 64 responses. That number is a strong participant-to-non-participant ratio, but the results were no doubt influenced in part by the novelty of the experiment. However, adding the Poll function addresses what’s perceived to be a major issue for LinkedIn: The lack of activities there beyond networking and job seeking.
The ability to poll on LinkedIn is not new. However, until now, such polls have been public rather than aimed at Groups. The enhancement is the latest for Groups, which has evolved from merely a badge with no real functionality to small communities within the site.
What do you think? Do you use Groups? If not, will polling engage you more? Sound off in the comments.
For more Social Media coverage:
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 08:33 PM PST
Google+ may be less than a year old, but New York Times bestselling author Chris Brogan is ready to crown it a game changer. His latest book, which will publish next week, is called Google+ for Business: How Google’s Social Network Changes Everything.
“Everything?,” we asked Brogan. He assured us, rather indignantly, that he hasn’t made a mistake with his book’s title.
Google+ has an obvious advantage in search results, presents unique opportunities for brands and is backed by deep pockets, he argues. And all of these factors make it a social media platform that will stick around in a big way.
Mashable asked Brogan about what makes Google+ a different kind of social network, what has worked best for brands on the platform so far, and for his advice on developing a Google+ presence.
Q&A With Author Chris Brogan
It’s pretty easy to explain. Google+ posts sent to “public” rank fairly well in Google search results. You can’t get that with Facebook or Twitter these days. If almost 70% of people start their online trek to your website via search, then that’s fairly self-explanatory. Second, Facebook works on a “closed” and insular “who you know” model, whereas Google+ works on a “what you’re into” model. It’s much easier to prospect in B than A.
The title of your book says that “Google’s Social Network Changes Everything.” Can you be more specific?
Absolutely. I wrote about 200 pages of more specific. But for you? I’ll boil the ocean: Search is probably the biggest reason it changes everything. Second, a very wealthy company (Google) is pushing Plus to be a very powerful effort to change the way we share information on the web. They’ve spent money on commercials during many mainstream events, and they’ve changed up many of their disparate applications and processes to point harder toward Google+. They’ve really quickly moved towards building a social backplane that is a lot more functional than any other social network.
What about the opportunities for brands on Google+ is different than those on Facebook or Twitter?
Brands can share better than on Twitter, because the visual appeal of Google+ pages encourages more clicking. Brands can host hangouts and have deeper interaction than on Twitter. Because Google’s search features are far more robust than Facebook, the opportunity to prospect and find more potential community members is much better.
Should brands approach their presence on Google+ differently than how they approach it on other social networks? And if so, how?
Brands should strongly advocate the individual employees as well as the brands on Google+. There are restrictions to what a brand page can do, so the opportunity is to have really strong personal brands do some of the heavy lifting in building community. Scott Monty at Ford and Jennifer Cisney at Kodak are great examples of this.
How many different brand representatives did you interview for the book? What was most surprising to you about the way they are using Google+?
I spoke to a handful of people representing brands, and did a lot of research on others. Probably the first and most interesting surprise I had was how often Michael Dell, Chairman of Dell Computers, uses Hangouts to communicate with people live and in real time on the site. Beyond that, I wrote the book in early days, so the case studies were still developing.
What is the most creative or effective way that you’ve seen a brand use Google+?
I’m really impressed with how Intel has built specific sharing circles for the different types of content they intend to share, but if I could only choose one, I really like how The Corcoran Group showcases all kinds of interesting things around New York City. They make their page so interesting that you just have to check in quite often.
Which brands do you consider to have the top Google+ pages?
I like Intel, Corcoran Group, Alure Home Improvement, Red Bull, Ford, and Kodak.
Google+ has a fraction of the number of users that Facebook has and is dominated by users who work in the technology sector. Do you think Google+ will ever catch up to Facebook in terms of its reach?
This is one of the silliest questions people ask me. Facebook has been around for years. When Facebook first became publicly available, MySpace had a gazillion users. When AOL was at the top of its game as a community platform, there was no such thing as MySpace. Don’t worry about counting users. Google has far deeper pockets than Facebook and several dozen applications that are all useful to business. I’m not predicting that Google+ wipes out Facebook, but the comparison is silly. A few months of Google+ compared to a handful of years of Facebook is not a decent comparison.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 08:17 PM PST
“It’s hard to imagine there ever being anyone quite like him again,” said Barbara Walters as she named Steve Jobs the most fascinating person of 2011. It was the first time she’s ever given such an honor to a person who is not alive.
Here’s the entire list:
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Posted: 14 Dec 2011 07:59 PM PST
Twitter topped an annual list of most-buzzed about social networks, edging ahead of LinkedIn and 2010′s most-buzzed network YouTube.
The annual rankings by digital marketing agency Zeta Interactive measure volume (number of mentions in more than 200 million blogs, social media outlets and online posts) and tone (comparing positive and negative buzz). The Zeta Buzz score is calculated by the volume ranking multiplied by the percent positive ranking divided by 10, using data pulled since January 2011.
“2011 is the year of twitter,” Zeta Interactive CEO Minna Rhee told Mashable. “For culture, breaking news and celebrities it is the social network. I think that’s reflected in the much more positive tonal ranking.”
Facebook, the world’s largest social network, finished fourth, despite its superior size. The network had the most negative buzz of the top 10, with only 70% of discussion considered positive.
LinkedIn’s second place finish, Rhee suspects, is because of the job creation hype. “This is a market where people are concerned about staying connected with professional contacts. They need to stay connected from a personal perspective.”
Rhee is most interested in the rise of two list newcomers, Meetup (sixth place) and Ning (ninth). She believes the two’s rise reflects a heightened desire for personal, local content. The two social networks had the highest tonal rankings, with 93% positive buzz.
On the decline are photo and video-sharing services YouTube (third) and Flickr (eighth), which fell behind their 2010 rankings when they finished first and second, respectively.
Google+ did not finish in the top 10, due in large part to its late June launch. Overall, Google’s nascent social network finished 12th on the annual list, unable to make up for lost time before its inception. The new network received 89% positive buzz, indicating it will be a strong contender to perform well in the coming year.
Take a look at the complete rankings below. What site would you call 2011′s social network of the year? Let us know your choice in the comments.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 07:38 PM PST
Ever since we reviewed the excellent Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone here at Mashable, everyone’s been wondering, when will it appear on Verizon? Now it’s finally official: The on-again/off-again smartphone, which we think is the best Android phone ever produced, will be available on Verizon starting Thursday, Dec. 15 for $299.99 with a two-year contract. That was announced late Wednesday in a press release from Verizon Wireless, Samsung and Google.
Unlike the Google plain-vanilla Galaxy Samsung Galaxy Nexus we tested here, this Verizon version will be capable of using a 4G LTE network. What will that mean for you? If you’re lucky enough to live in one of Verizon’s 190 markets with 4G LTE in the United States, the phone can download data at speeds of 5 to 12 Megabits (Mb) per second, and upload at speeds of 2Mb to 5Mb per second. What does this mean in layman’s terms? If Verizon’s network proves itself to be as fast as the company says it is in your area, with this smartphone you’ll be able to use the Internet at speeds similar to that of home broadband.
Just like our test unit, the Verizon Samsung Galaxy Nexus will have the new Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system on board, along with all the other high-tech capabilities that make it so appealing. For instance, the features we liked the best were its 4.65-inch 720p screen that has a delightful curved design, and its 9.47mm-thin form factor that felt just right in the hand and pocket. Read our Samsung Galaxy Nexus review for details.
According to Verizon, besides that $299.99 price for the phone, a subscription to a Verizon Wireless Nationwide Talk plan is required, with prices starting at $39.99 per month. In addition, you’ll need a data plan, priced at a minimum $30 per month for 2GB of data.
Doing a bit of simple math, we figured that the monthly tariff not including the phone, fees and tax will start at $69.99, but if you figure in the cost of the phone, over a two-year contract you’ll be paying a total of $1979.75, or $82.48 per month, not including taxes and fees. Sounds expensive, but smartphones aren’t cheap — even so, over a 2-year contract the Galaxy Nexus is about $380 cheaper than the lowest-priced Verizon iPhone 4S.
Check out those clean lines
I like its minimalist design.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:45 PM PST
Outer space seems a lot closer this month. Have you noticed?
December has seen a sudden flurry of starbound studies and new technology — from the NASA comet-wrangling harpoon to the space plane-rocket hybrid funded by a Microsoft co-founder, which cleverly marries designs from the world’s top private space companies. Then there was the surprising news that Mars has more potential room for life than Earth does, albeit in caves below the surface. NASA’s Curiosity Rover, currently en route to the Red Planet, would feel a childlike burst of excitement if it only could.
But for us humans, there was little to match the thrill of learning about Kepler 22-b, known to its discoverers as the Christmas Planet. Its unveiling last week marked the first time NASA has confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone around another star. There was talk of Super-Earths earlier this year, but now astronomers are starting to announce what science-fiction writers have long suspected: There really are other worlds we could settle on now, rather than (in the case of Mars) going through centuries of terraforming.
Granted, it would take centuries to get to the Christmas planet, even at the speed of light. But it seems only a matter of time before NASA’s powerful Kepler telescope finds an Earth 2.0 within closer reach. And then the dreaming can begin in earnest — not just the dreaming of how to get there, but the dreaming of what we should build when we do.
Otherworldly colonies have already caught the modern public imagination — witness last year’s all-time record-setting movie Avatar, set on the lush world of Pandora, not to mention the Fox show Terra Nova — technically set in Earth’s distant past, but also centered around colonists in a strange world, hampered by the need to send resources back home. Two 2011 movies have dealt with the notion of another planet like ours suddenly appearing in the heavens: Melancholia and Another Earth.
But what if we didn’t go there to mine precious minerals and harass the locals? What if we just set out in the same spirit as the Pilgrims and pioneers, with the simple desire to start afresh someplace new?
What would starting afresh look like? What tools, technology and infrastructure would we take from old Earth, presuming we didn’t want to live like Luddites?
Naturally, we’d want to make sure we didn’t make the same planet-despoiling mistakes as on Earth 1.0. All technology should be clean technology, powered by the one resource every planet on which we can live is bound to posses: sunlight. It’s handy that we’ve already got the whole solar-powered plane thing figured out; we’d need to extend that to all forms of transportation and energy.
What about manufacturing the tools, furniture and housing we’d need, once our colonists’ tents and space hotels wore out? No need for large, expensive, polluted factories — this giant 3-D printer has you covered. As for the raw material, there’s no need for plastic. Many of today’s 3D printers create their objects using a kind of corn starch, which presumably would be easy to synthesize from the local vegetation.
But there’s one more crucial piece of infrastructure, mere decades old but already indispensable: the Internet. Not just for wireless communication, although you’d probably be able to blanket the planet with a handful of WiMax towers, but also for the entire repository of human knowledge contained within. Need instructions for how to start a campfire, or build a city? Every colonist would be carrying them around constantly, on solar-powered tablets.
We’d cache the entire Internet before leaving Earth. Not too much of a struggle — it’s a task Google is already fully engaged in. Then we’d unpack it at the other end, and simply start a new fork: Internet 2.0 on Earth 2.0. Which means we’d see a whole new virtual land grab as our colonists rushed to snag all the best domain names and Twitter handles. Depending on how rich the world, and how few the colonists, this may be the only resource war necessary.
What do you think? What technology would you take to a new Earth, and how would you structure its society? Let us know in the comments.
For more Tech coverage:
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:15 PM PST
A pet owner recently discovered a way to let his lizard interact with a smartphone. Using an HTC Android device, his bearded dragon amusingly tries to eat non-edible virtual bugs residing in a mobile game called Ant Crusher, which requires players to smash ants but avoid bees and their pesky stingers.
The poor lizard doesn’t know the rules and really can’t tell the difference between the ants and bees. The above video, which uses the Super Mario theme song as background music, shows the pet fail miserably.
Don’t let the creature’s fruitless attempts be for nothing: Internet fame awaits. Watch and share the video with your pet-loving friends. Do you let your pets play with your gadgets? Sound off in the comments.
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Posted: 14 Dec 2011 05:39 PM PST
Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet is no Apple iPad — and it seems that most Fire owners are quite okay with that.
In a recent open thread on Mashable regarding the product's recent troubles, freshly minted Kindle Fire owners shared their stories — and mostly, love — for what could end up being Amazon's most successful gadget ever.
Many users did report frustration with the poorly placed power button, lack of volume-control buttons and too-small fonts for certain features, and a few even said they returned the device. However, time and time again, the majority noted how they paid just $199 and not the near $500 you'll spend for an entry-level Apple iPad — and they declared themselves more than satisfied.
To date, Apple's 9.7-inch tablet has been the industry-dominating device in the market, selling at least 40 million units over nearly two years. No other tablet, Android-based or otherwise, has come close – until now. The Kindle is, reportedly, selling extremely well. One analyst thinks it could sell 6 million units before the end of the year. Those are iPad-esque numbers.
Still, even as Amazon celebrated this success, there were naysayers. As I pointed out in my own review, this is clearly a 1.0 device, where the marriage between hardware and software is somewhat imperfect. I was unhappy with the power button, disliked the super-small fonts and ran into the same bugginess as others. Nielsen grabbed some consumers and showed the Fire to them, and they seemed unhappy too. What's important, to note, though, is that those users didn't choose the device and probably have not had the Amazon membership experience, which is key to the Kindle Fire’s appeal.
Amazon is promising a software update in a couple of weeks, which could address some of these issues.Though Amazon's statement concerning the matter never directly addressed the complaints, its timing made clear that Amazon has heard the unhappy voices.
So Mashable took it to the people who did buy the Amazon Kindle Fire. They likely chose it over an iPad or Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet (another Android-based 7-inch tablet) and surely use it every day. What do they really think of Amazon's 7-inch content consumption device?
Repeatedly, commenters outlined the very same problems found by me, Nielsen and others. Yet, they invariably came to the same conclusion: These are minor issues easily fixed with a software update, and the Kindle Fire’s a great bargain for $199.
PMarks loves his Kindle Fire and added this insight, "Nielsen's 'usability' criticism is especially misleading: It really applies to 7″ tablets in general, not the Fire in particular."
He also echoed a common theme: Kindle Fire's price. PMarks called it "Dirt Cheap." Dave Armstrong, for example, complained about the easy-to-hit on-off button, but still recommended, "Toss the Kindle in your pocket along with the 300-800 dollars you saved by not buying an iPad and off you go."
BethReads wants Amazon to take care of "the annoying carousel issue," but still sounds quite pleased with the device, and maybe a bit perplexed over the complaints, "It does what I needed to do, and if you paid $200 expecting an iPad, you deserve to be disappointed."
A number of commenters extolled one of the Kindle Fire's primary benefits: The Amazon ecosystem and the near frictionless environment for consuming content.
LoriFromPeru explained, "If I were using this as my main computer I might have different feelings but for a portal entertainment device that allows me to watch videos, read magazines and books and newspapers and do some light web surfing, it's perfect."
Code Honor recognized one of the other oft-repeated complaints: Lack of parental controls. It's a valid concern for families. Digging in to the Kindle's settings leads you to a Security dead end with no perceivable way of setting up parental controls. On the other hand, getting around this is fairly easy for Code, a single guy who says, "nobody else will be using my tablet."
Some users have been concerned about one-click purchases and how easily family members can rack up significant Amazon bills. Still, I saw no complaints in our open thread about one-click buy. One savvy user, Nicholas Hooper, explained he disabled it by going into the Prime settings. He added, "Reading books is fine and I enjoy listening to audio books on it before I go to sleep at night. Web browsing is not lightning quick but it's usable and streaming movies from Netflix or Prime look beautiful. So far it is worth every penny of the $199 price tag."
If these comments are any barometer, then Amazon has little to worry about. The software update should arrive within two weeks and will likely make the Kindle Fire less buggy and a bit more useable. It won't correct the hardware issues like that annoying power button or a lack of physical volume control, but that's what we can expect from the Amazon Kindle Fire 2, right?
Amazon Kindle Fire: Main Bookshelf Interface
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 04:55 PM PST
Michael Bublé is coming to CityVille. The Grammy-winning artist — whose album Christmas is currently number one on the Billboard 200 — will be making a (digital) appearance in Zynga’s hit Facebook game.
Bublé joins a growing list of entertainers and brands that have integrated with various Zynga properties. This particular integration is well timed; not only is Bublé’s album a big hit, CityVille proper is transforming itself into a winter wonderland.
Starting next week (around December 21, though the actual date hasn’t been announced), a Michael Bublé avatar will make its way to CityVille. Players can mingle with the avatar and complete quests — including having a holiday bonfire with his band. The quests are styled after Bublé’s personality and include objects like a Segway, a turntable and a hockey stick. After completing all the quests, fans are treated to an exclusive video from Christmas.
The integration will run for one week, however items and the bonfire building that fans earn in the game can continue to be used and displayed.
In the past, CityVille has had integrations with Enrique Iglesis and with the Michael Jackson IMMORTAL World Tour by Cirque du Soleil. Zynga tells us that fans loved the concert. With the Enrique Iglesias integration, more than 45 million concerts were held in just one week in CityVille. That’s a stunning level of uptake, even given the game’s broad userbase.
CityVille, which launched last year, is Zynga’s biggest game. According to AppData.com, 49 million people play the game each month. As Zynga prepares to go public, CityVille continues to be one of its crown jewels.
Zynga’s Scott Koenigsberg, GM of CityVille, tells us that when it comes to partnerships and building integrations, the focus is on doing what will delight and excite players. “Zynga listens to feedback from its users and our goal is provide the best game experience that we can.” While the quiet period required by SEC regulations prohibited Koenigsberg from discussing any future promotions, it seems safe to bet that these types of partnerships are critical to Zynga’s continued monetary success.
What’s smart about how Zynga approaches this kind of partnership — and we’ve seen this before with Lady Gaga and Jimmy Buffett — is that the branding and the promotion often tightly align with the game itself.
In a game such as CityVille, where Christmas and holiday-themed quests and challenges are already ongoing, having a recording artist who also happens to have a hit holiday album on store shelves is the perfect kind of synergy. For the frequent player, it offers an incentive to have another digital trinket to show off.
Take it from someone who was once sucked into the vortex of FarmVille (don’t judge me!), the digital bragging rights one gets from having those trinkets on display is a great way to convince newcomers to spend more time in the game.
It will be interesting to see what promotional opportunities Zynga takes in the future.
For more Entertainment coverage:
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 04:25 PM PST
Entrepreneur and author Gary Vaynerchuk thinks so-called social media experts are “clowns” — what really matters is driving ROI. According to Vaynerchuk, who is the author of best-selling business books Crush It and The Thank You Economy, too many companies are hiring 22-year-olds to manage social media strategies simply because they’re from a generation that grew up with pervasive digital media.
“Your 22-year-old did not use Facebook the last three years to do business,” said Vaynerchuk. “He did it to, like, look at chicks’ bikini pictures.”
Watch the interview to find out what qualities Vaynerchuk prizes when it comes to social media expertise.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 04:13 PM PST
As 2011 comes to a close, it’s time to look back and reflect on some of the major events, changes and trends across various industries. Social and digital media are having a profound impact on how media entertainment content is created, consumed and distributed.
Music, television, movies and casual games are expanding, contracting and evolving at a dizzying pace. Here are some of the highlights.
1. Social TV and the iPad Transform the Boob Tube
Like other parts of the entertainment industry, social and digital are changing the way television is made, watched and broadcast.
In 2011, social TV really started to come into its own. From the rise of entertainment checkin services like GetGlue and Miso, to integrated social and digital campaigns from networks and stars, social sites like Twitter and Facebook have become the real-time watercooler for discussing and disseminating content.
The result is that even though television ownership is on the decline, live television ratings are actually on the rise. It’s becoming increasingly important for viewers to watch a program as it happens, in order to interact with each other in real-time.
The concept of social TV wouldn’t work if the network and content creators weren’t on board. One of the biggest surprises of 2011 has been the extent to which networks and studios have embraced social TV, particularly using second screen apps. We can thank the iPad for that. The iPad and its success proved to leery network executives that engaging with viewers on multiple platforms was a necessity.
Moving into 2012, social TV campaigns will evolve and become more mature. It’s our hope that we can move to the next level, where social interaction becomes part of the show content itself.
2. Spotify and Subscription Streaming Disrupt Music Industry
Digital continues to transform the music industry.
Spotify, long the darling of the European music press, finally arrived in America to much fanfare. Competing against US-based rivals like Rdio, Rhapsody and MOG, Spotify has armed itself with a known brand name and strong Facebook integration.
This has re-opened the debate over whether music is owned or rented and how artists and labels are compensated for their works. It’s a complex problem and one that wasn’t decided in 2011 and likely won’t be settled in 2012.
Artists continue to use social networks, including Facebook and YouTube, to promote their music and their albums. Meanwhile, we’ve seen the rise of music shared experiences services, like Turntable.fm.
Artists and end-users are also flocking to services like SoundCloud for storing, remixing and distributing all types of audio.
Moving into 2012, the battle in the music subscription space will continue, and we expect to see the market converge and contract. The real opportunity is with social and bringing back the experience of listening to a playlist or album with a group of friends.
3. Movie Marketing is Socialized
It’s been a rough year at the box office, with receipts way down and few breakout hits. Marketing efforts are rapidly becoming social, as studios realize that reaching out to influencers online can yield a much bigger return on investment.
From blockbuster franchises like Harry Potter to lower-budget art films, social and digital are increasingly becoming tentpole parts of the promotional process. Directors, actors and producers are active on Twitter and Facebook. YouTube is increasingly used as a way to show previews and surprises.
The Muppets is one of the most socially savvy media campaigns we’ve ever seen, and the films success at the box office is a testament to this kind of marketing.
Meanwhile, startups like MoviePilot are dedicated to reaching the most avid and influential movie watchers, using Facebook and news content from around the web.
Moving into 2012, theater chains and studios are going to be using digital and social to lure audiences back into the theater — using 3D, motion capture and (we hope) quality storylines as a draw.
4. Casual Gaming Gets Serious
Although traditional console and PC gaming is still generating tons of revenue, there is a lot of momentum in the social and casual gaming space.
The continued success of Angry Birds, not just as a game but as a veritable franchise, proves that $50 million budgets and two and a half year production times are not required to create a gaming sensation.
Not even the PlayStation Network disaster could keep users from engaging in online play, whether it was through a PS3, Xbox 360, Wii or increasingly — an iPhone, iPad or Android device.
With Zynga’s upcoming IPO and its multi-billion dollar valuation, casual gaming is no longer a joke. It’s real and it’s going to be part of the future.
To wit, big studios are acquiring or creating smaller units dedicated to building smaller, iterative titles that can be updated more regularly and have smaller budgets.
Meanwhile, the graphical capabilities of portable and mobile devices continues to improve. A game like Infinity Blade 2 shows that we’re only scratching the surface and power of the handheld computers we carry with us 24 hours a day.
Moving into 2012, we expect that social and casual gaming will continue gain traction. As a public company, Zynga will need to prove itself. Is it the next EA or is it the next Acclaim.
5. Netflix Implodes: The Battle Over Content, Consumption and Ownership Continues
A central issue within the entertainment industry in 2011 was the battle over content ownership and distribution.
A year ago, it looked like Netflix would ultimately win the content wars, TV Everywhere was a pipe dream and that power would shift from the content owners to the distributors, like Netflix or Amazon.
Moreover, Netflix’s public meltdown over the summer proved just how valuable licensing content for streaming over the Internet can be. Content owners and rights holders want their piece of the pie and want more to get content online.
This has given TV Everywhere a real chance to succeed. HBO Go, the tremendously successful HBO initiative at offering cable subscribers access to content online, on mobile devices and supported set-top boxes, has shown that customers are willing to go through the hassle of logging in with a cable company ID. With more than 5 million downloads and 98 million streams in just six months, it’s the best case for TV Everywhere’s potential yet.
As content owners weigh the pros and cons of what to license, when to license and who to license content to, customers are the ones stuck in the middle.
The fantasy of first-run content on Netflix is little more than a pipe dream (Arrested Development not withstanding), but content is coming online, even if pure over-the-top plays are still financially unrealistic.
Battle over content and who gets it — in music, film and television will continue to be a big trend in 2012. Even on the casual gaming side, what platforms or networks support a property will continue to be an issue that game makers and game players face.
For more Entertainment coverage:
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 03:39 PM PST
Facebook is Glassdoor’s top technology company to work for in 2012, finishing third on the employment information site’s Employees’ Choice Awards.
The fourth annual list highlights the top 50 workplaces according to company employees’ survey responses on Glassdoor. The 20-question survey asked employees about career opportunities, communication, compensation and benefits, feedback, work and social life balance, among other things. Employees of some 65,000 companies responded to the survey, Glassdoor CEO and founder Robert Hohman says.
It’s no surprise Facebook employees are happy with their employer — they have three meals provided daily, an annual game day, great medical and retirement benefits, on-site lectures, laundry and even leather repair.
“Working at Facebook means that you are working in a very deeply entrepreneurial environment and culture and that you come to Facebook with a love for building things,” says Lori Gohler, Facebook VP of HR and recruiting. “It’s very much results focused, impact focused. We really want to create an environment where people have a lot of room for creativity and innovation in their thinking.”
Other tech giants in the top 10 include Google at number five and Apple at number 10. So if you have you have your heart set on working for Apple, keep in mind that discount grocer Trader Joe’s employees are more content with their jobs — the company finished ninth on the list.
Other tech companies of note on the list include Intel at 32 and Groupon at 40.
Which tech company is your dream employer? Let us know your choice in the comments.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 02:47 PM PST
iPhone photo app maker Synthetic thinks it has found a way to combine the suspense of analog film with digital convenience through the new Hipstamatic D-Series app for iOS it’s releasing on Thursday.
The D-Series — billed as a “disposable camera for iOS” — allows groups of iPhone-toting friends to share a batch of 24 shots. Friends invite one another through Facebook to shoot to a specific roll. As everyone shoots their own photos — from the same party, same town, or anywhere wirelessly connected — the amount of shots left decreases, just like an old-school roll of analog film.
Also like analog film, no one can see what’s being shot while the D-Series roll is in progress. But once the final shot is used, all the participating friends are delivered the entire batch of 24 photos, arranged chronologically and with labels saying who shot what. Users are then free to share those individual images with whomever they please.
The D-Series will be available free in the Apple App Store and includes one camera, while an in-app purchase option will initially allow users to buy three other 99-cent cameras with different effects.
According to Synthetic CEO and co-founder Lucas Buick, the D-Series app will change “how we come together to capture photographic stories.”
Hipstamatic has enjoyed tremendous success since its launch two years ago. The app now boasts more than 4 million paid users, and gained even more widespread recognition when New York Times photographer Damon Winter used it last year to shoot a series of war images from Afghanistan for the paper’s front page.
Buick told Mashable on Tuesday that the D-Series first sprouted as an idea about a year ago, with development ramping up at the end of summer. Future additions to the app could include larger batches of shots and the ability to invite friends using social networks other than Facebook.
For early 2012, Buick said there are already plans to release location-based cameras that can only be used in certain areas as well as project-based public cameras — to be used, for example, at music festivals — with everyone shooting to one roll of unlimited exposures for a specific amount of time.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 02:05 PM PST
The voting period for the 2011 Mashable Awards, a celebration of the most outstanding digital presences and projects, is quickly drawing to a close. You only have three days left to vote for your favorites of the web!
This marks the fifth consecutive year we’ve been celebrating the best of the best in social media, tech, business and entertainment. After our initial open nomination process, the Mashable team determined seven finalists for each category from the submissions with the most nominations. Each of the finalists are now in fierce competition for the award in their respective categories.
Ready to vote? All you need is a Facebook or Twitter account. Visit our awards page, sign in with one of those services, and cast your ballot. You can vote once per category per day, which means you can send us 28 of your picks each day until the process closes at 11:59 p.m. E.T. on Friday, Dec. 16.
We’ll tally the votes then announce the winners on Dec. 19. All of our Mashable Awards winners will be honored at MashBash CES Jan. 11, 2012, during the 2012 International CES convention at 1OAK, the hot new nightclub at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas.
All our finalists are listed below.
Best Social Network
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best social network.
Up-and-Coming Social Media Service
This category honors the readers’ choice for the social media service that is currently experiencing major growth but has not yet received massive mainstream attention. Services nominated for this category are not necessarily full-fledged social networks but must include social media as a core feature.
Must-Follow Actor or Actress on Social Media
This category honors the readers’ choice for the actor or actress who best uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr or other mainstream social networking sites.
Must-Follow Musician or Band on Social Media
This category honors the readers’ choice for the musician or band that best uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr or other mainstream social networking sites.
Must-Follow Athlete on Social Media
This category honors the readers’ choice for the athlete who best uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr or other mainstream social networking sites.
Must-Follow Media Personality on Social Media
This category honors the readers’ choice for the journalist, author or TV news anchor who best uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr or other mainstream social networking sites.
Must-Follow Business Personality on Social Media
This category honors the readers’ choice for the business personality or executive who best uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr or other mainstream social networking sites.
Must-Follow Non-Profit on Social Media
This category honors the readers’ choice for the non-profit organization that most deserves to be followed on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr or other mainstream social networking sites.
Must-Follow Politician on Social Media
This category honors the readers’ choice for the politician who best uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr or other mainstream social networking sites.
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best current-generation smartphone model.
Best Mobile Game
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best game designed for play on either a smartphone or tablet.
Most Useful Mobile App
This category honors the readers’ choice for the most useful app designed for use on either a smartphone or tablet.
Most Innovative Mobile App
This category honors the readers’ choice for the most innovative app designed for use on either a smartphone or tablet.
Most Useful Tablet-Based App
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best app designed for use on a tablet.
Best New Gadget
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best electronic gadget launched in 2011.
Viral Campaign of the Year
This category honors the readers’ choice for their favorite viral advertising campaign launched in 2011.
Most Innovative Use of Social Media for Marketing
This category honors the readers’ choice for the most innovative social media marketing campaign launched in 2011.
Must-Follow Brand on Social Media
This category honors the readers’ choice for the brand that best uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr or other mainstream social networking sites.
Best Branded Mobile App
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best mobile app created specifically by a brand for consumer use on either a smartphone or tablet.
Best Social Good Cause Campaign
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best use of digital or social media in a non-profit, philanthropic, cause-focused or corporate social responsibility campaign.
Digital Company of the Year
Editor's Note: Originally, we had defined this category "the top traditional (non-digital) company that has excelled in the digital space in 2011." After considering the nature of the nominations, we broadened the category to include traditional, non-digital companies as well as agencies that are heavily utilizing digital in their operations.
Breakout Startup of the Year
This category honors the readers’ choice for the top startup company in the digital space that has experienced impressive growth or mainstream attention in 2011.
Game of the Year
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best game that has a social component launched in 2011.
Viral Video of the Year
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best or most-memorable viral web video launched in 2011.
Best Music Service or App
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best online music service or app.
Best Online Video Streaming Service or App
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best service or app for consuming streaming of commercial media and entertainment.
Most Social TV Show
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best broadcast or cable television show that utilizes social media in an innovative, memorable or integral way.
Best Social Movie Campaign
This category honors the readers’ choice for the best digital media campaign for a major or independent motion picture launched in 2011.
The 2011 Mashable Awards Are Presented by Buddy Media
Buddy Media is the social enterprise software of choice for eight of the world’s top ten global advertisers, empowering them to build and maintain relationships with their consumers in a connections-based world. The Buddy Media social marketing suite helps brands build powerful connections globally with its scalable, secure architecture and data-driven customer insights from initial point of contact through point of purchase.
For more Social Media coverage:
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 01:45 PM PST
He was referring in this post on Stack Exchange, a network of websites that focus on interaction and knowledge sharing. This isn't necessarily how news sites are defined, but maybe they should be. Despite a growing willingness of news sites to be more two-way, a look at some big websites like CNN or The New York Times offers almost no indication that the users even exist. In order for a community to form on a website, you can't just expect them to organize around your content. This is why places like Reddit and Slashdot have such powerful userbases. These sites understand that the community generates content too, and that your community can build on the strength of the ideas and the links that the users come there to share.
Why keep your users hidden and limit their ability to interact? What message are you sending them if interacting with each other — and with you — is multiple clicks away and nearly invisible?
This is commenting on news sites.
For my master’s degree at NYU’s Studio 20, I've been working with Mashable on a project called “Community First” because I think this should change. “Community First” is a research effort into online commenting that will encourage better discussion between users and news rooms and the users themselves.
When I started this project in September, I had two advantages. The first is that Mashable's community is already very healthy. People are willing to interact with us and with each other. Though they're willing to tell us when we're wrong, generally the commenting section of Mashable isn't a mean or inappropriate place.
My second advantage is my experience working on our community team for several months, giving me a solid understanding of the comments. I was working here in February when we launched Mashable Follow, our content curation and social tool. Mashable Follow allows a more personalized experience on our site. Basically, it serves as any Mashable user's own customization engine — from getting stories about particular topics to following individual users, anyone can create a Mashable stream.
This was my foundation as I attempted to understand what more we could be doing to build our community.
At first we were thinking of this project in terms of how to make the overall quality of the comments "better," which is another way of saying we'd prefer to get more comments that look like this rather than like this.
We started thinking about changes we could make from a software and layout perspective that would encourage better commenting. Some of these ideas are intuitive and should probably already be a part of our commenting system, such as a way to aggregate the highest rated comments onto the homepage or the ability to display high rated comments at the top of comment streams on individual stories.
As an early test of this philosophy, we started the Weekly Top Comments series, which uses human curation from our community team to highlight the best user contributions of the week. This has been a modest success, and if nothing else it has confirmed our hypothesis that people appreciate when you acknowledge their good contributions.
Once we really started to dig into this problem, though, we realized that we weren't thinking about it from the right perspective. Matt Thompson of Project Argo wrote an excellent post for Poynter earlier this year in which he identified five key aspects of online commenting environments: authentication, reputation/scoring, moderation, policies, and threading.
I realized that the environment has to come before the content. The scope of my project was in fact too narrow: We were prioritizing the comments themselves, when we needed to be facilitating a better place for discussion.
If you look at the five aspects identified above, you can break them down into two key categories: policy and technology. But we were thinking too narrowly in terms of technology. The idea that making better content easier to find and interact with might lead to better overall content is fine. But that environment doesn't optimize for a space in which users want to talk to each other. This is the reason why communities like Reddit, Slashdot, and Metafilter have become successful.
In order to make this philosophical transition, a news site will have to get comfortable with the idea of comments as content. That really shouldn't be so hard though. In the print era, the comments took the form of "Letters to the Editor," a section over which publications maintained editorial control. It's time to think of your commenters as your co-publishers. After all, by having a commenting function on your website, you're giving your users a platform that isn't unlike the social web. But it doesn't mean that you can't take responsibility for what gets published there. You should want to. The community that organizes around your site is powerful and valuable, but only if you recognize it as such and offer to be a part of it and help it grow.
For Mashable, this is a jumping off point for community innovation, which was the ultimate goal of this research. While there won't be one thing that works for every news site, there's room for change everywhere. It's an opportunity to analyze the environment you're providing for your users, and determine not what might work for you, but what might work for them.
For more Business coverage:
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 01:30 PM PST
Have you ever gone on Facebook to bounce a few gift ideas off your friends before browsing to Amazon or another site to actually make those purchases?
Me neither, but apparently we’re in the minority this holiday season. Mr. Youth, a word-of-mouth marketing firm recently acquired by LBI, polled about 4,500 adults and found that social media is a key driver of holiday gift purchases this year. One stat that should resonate in CMO offices around the country is that 66% of respondents who bought something on Black Friday did so as a direct result of social media interactions with friends and family.
If you’re a consumer, this may confirm that you are not alone in using Facebook and Twitter as a sounding board for your gift giving. If you’re a marketer, you should head south on the infographic to see how just a small interaction with a consumer over social media can make them feel special. If you haven’t started on your Christmas shopping yet, then stop reading this and get busy. You only have 10 days left.
For more Business coverage:
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 01:06 PM PST
Flipboard’s social reader app for iPhone and iPod Touch devices has been downloaded more than one million times in its first week, bringing the total number of Flipboard users up to 5 million.
Engagement with the app has also tripled: Users are set to flip two billion pages this month, up from the iPad’s monthly average of 650 million.
That’s largely because Flipboard’s development team thoroughly reengineered the app to serve the unique habits of newsreaders on the iPhone. Users get to access all of their newsfeeds in quick bursts without sacrificing what Flipboard CEO Mike McCue describes as "the notion of bringing beauty to these posts."
The app shows stories in a single stack of headlines and thumbnails, which users can move through not by swiping right to left, but from top to bottom. As they scroll, users can also mark interesting-looking items for later reading — handy for quickly gathering must-read material.
One of the more welcome new features is Cover Stories, which pulls up stories that Flipboard's algorithms determine are most relevant to you and the people you care most about. The feature, which is coming soon to the iPad, improves the more you use it — much like rival app Zite.
Android users are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Flipboard, but the company doesn’t have plans to release a version for the system anytime soon. It took nine months just to build the iPhone edition.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 12:46 PM PST
Alexis Grant is a journalist, newbie entrepreneur and author of the eguide How to Take a Career Break to Travel. She tweets @alexisgrant.
Working remotely, on your own schedule, from wherever you want, can be a pretty sweet gig. But once you've nailed down an income that allows you to travel, being productive from your choice corner of the globe isn't as easy as it sounds.
To succeed, you need a solid Internet connection to the mothership, even if that mothership is your own blog. And while much of the world is now wired, travelers tend to find themselves in places that offer slow Internet connections or no access at all.
Whether you’re logging the hours for yourself, or for a company that recognizes the power of flex-work, here are a few tricks for working online while traveling.
1. Write With a Non-Web-Based Program.
Whether you create blog posts, emails or reports, write in Microsoft Word, Notepad or a text editor that doesn’t require an Internet connection to function, suggests Srinivas Rao, host of BlogcastFM, who recently spent six months in Costa Rica. Then, when you do gain Internet access, quickly cut and paste that text into your email or blog. This will also prevent lost drafts if you have connectivity issues while writing.
2. Use Twitter for Mini-Updates.
It may be difficult to respond to emails, upload photos or post updates to your blog when your connection is slow or intermittent, but getting a tweet live requires only a short burst of connectivity.
Rig your tweets to show up on Facebook (which can be impossible to load with a slow connection). And add a prominent Twitter widget to your blog sidebar, so readers can catch a quick update, even when a full blog post is unlikely.
3. Get Organized.
Determine what you need to accomplish on any given day, whether that means sticking to a blog schedule or creating a checklist for your client work.
"Knowing what you need to do is almost as important as doing it," says blogger Chris Guillebeau, who's on a mission to visit every country in the world. "I can write anything at almost any time as long as I know what’s needed — so I try to select blog topics in advance, then work on them as time permits from the road."
4. Take Advantage of Transportation Time.
"Some of the best writing ideas I have are while I am sitting in a bus or train for hours on end," says lawyer-turned-world traveler Michael Hodson. "The arrival in a new destination is even sweeter when you have a [blog] post or three ready to be typed up and scheduled for publishing."
5. Pack Smart Gadgets.
When I backpacked through Africa in 2008, I carried an Asus Eee PC, a mini-laptop that didn't weigh down my pack, and allowed me to tune in whenever I happened to find a Wi-Fi connection. Now you can choose from even more tablets. For instance, Hodson swears by the Kindle 3G because it offers free Internet access in more than 100 countries.
Others rely on AirCards or portable hotspots, which can be expensive, but will save you hours when searching for a quality connection. Guillebeau likes Boingo for worldwide Internet access and the personal hotspot iPhone feature for domestic travel.
Remember to plan in advance — certain gadgets only work in certain countries. Whatever gadgets you decide to bring, carry them in a discreet case. If a bag looks like it holds a camera or a laptop, it's more likely to get stolen.
6. Use Tools for Efficiency.
You should be using these tools at home too, but if not, this is a perfect excuse to incorporate them into your routine. Twitter lists, for example, will help you quickly sort and pull out relevant tweets. Before leaving on your trip, create lists by people or topics that will help you decrease your computer time.
Hootsuite is another fabulous tool for increasing your Twitter efficiency. It’s a web-based Twitter client, which means you can access your account even when you're not using your own computer.
7. Set Up Ahead of Time.
This may sound obvious, but travelers often overlook just how much they can accomplish before they actually leave. For instance, write and schedule blog posts and newsletters, set up online bill payments, and use your weekend hours to get ahead on client or company projects. This way, you'll have fewer must-do assignments on the road.
If you're blogging, become familiar with your platform months or at least weeks in advance of departure. The last thing you want to do in an Internet cafe with a slow connection is try to figure out how to put a border around a photo or approve a comment. Get into the groove before you go, so you can spend more time enjoying your destination.
8. Be Smart About Wi-Fi.
Upscale hotels usually offer a quality connection, even when the rest of the town is unwired. Even if you're not paying a pretty penny for a hotel, grab a drink at the bar or surf from the lobby while projecting an air that you belong.
You might also try the nearest McDonald's, Hodson suggests. "I despise eating American fast food while I am traveling," he said, "but in countries like Australia and New Zealand, with their very expensive costs for Internet access, you could regularly find me having a morning coffee or afternoon soft drink in a McDonald’s, with my computer open and wired into the world."
And don't forget to check for Wi-Fi in places you might not expect it. Sometimes you'll discover a signal that belongs to a family or a university down the road – a discovery that will make working from the road that much easier.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 12:30 PM PST
Gmail updated its iOS app on Wednesday, adding standard features such as custom signature support and nested tabs along with one feature — an option to add doodles to emails — that’s right out of left field.
When users access the “scribble” feature while composing a message, the app pulls up a drawing tool that works like a basic version of the desktop Paint app. The picture you create is sent with your outgoing email as an attachment.
“It’s perfect for sending a quick sketch that is hard to express in words or adding a fun graphic to make your email more personal,” explains the Gmail blog.
Also new in the update is a notification sound for iOS 5 that makes it “easier to distinguish when you’ve received an email.”
Don’t get your hopes up for something particularly musical, or a choice of instrument. There’s nothing funky here, just a nice two-toned ding that replaces the default iOS notification sound.
The app still lacks banner notifications, multiple login support and the ability to send from any account already configured in Gmail, all of which the blog says are on the way. We’d rather have a few features left on our wish list than a repeat of the app’s launch in November. It was yanked from the iTunes store within a few hours of release because of a bug.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 12:23 PM PST
Visitors are able to see where each of the GOP candidates are making campaign stops in real-time, and where they’ve been throughout their entire election campaign. Campaign milestones and other activity are also easily visible.
The candidates will be given access to unique widgets that track their individual campaign; these can be embedded on their website. Supporters will also be able to see exactly where their favorite presidential hopeful has been making appearances.
The site will also display checkins from NBC’s political journalists covering the elections. NBC News will offer Foursquare users unique, co-branded political badges beginning in 2012.
“Understanding where candidates go on the campaign trail and why they go there is a fascinating story that we wanted to share with consumers," said Paige West, Creative Director of MSNBC.com. "Visually mapping the campaigns' activities as we progress through each state's nominating contest and the general election is the best possible way to bring that story to life. Without Foursquare, it wouldn't be feasible for us to produce this type of content."
NBC’s goal for its site is to unify all of the network’s TV and web political coverage and provide a unique interactive experience to visitors — one not possible through television alone. NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd told Poynter that NBCPolitics.com will include tools for visitors to do their own electoral vote tracking and other data analysis.
A complementary iPad app, similar to the one Todd uses on TV, is on the way.
Will you use NBC’s interactive tools to follow the campaign trail? Let us know in the comments below.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 12:17 PM PST
NASA is testing a new harpoon to collect surface samples off asteroids and comets that were once unreachable.
“The best way to grab a sample of a rotating comet that is racing through the inner solar system at up to 150,000 miles per hour while spewing chunks of ice, rock and dust may be to avoid the risky business of landing on it,” NASA said in a statement.
So instead of trying to put humans on any flying space rocks, this device could be used.
Check out the video above to learn more.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 11:53 AM PST
Netflix has updated its iOS app with a newly designed user interface.
The goal of the new iPad app — and the overall tablet design changes — are to make discovering and swiping through content less clunky and cluttered.
Netflix started streamlining its user interface standards in December 2010. Since then, the company has taken pains to try to keep the experience optimized for device types, while still making it easy to update from the software side.
Netflix has also updated the iOS and Apple TV apps to support unlimited TV and movies streams for customers in Latin America. On the Apple TV front, Netflix has added its “Just for Kids” section — originally introduced to the Wii console — to Apple’s streaming set-top box.
What do you think of the new Netflix UI? Let us know in the comments.
New Home Screen
The new home screen features selections from various genres, recommendations, new titles and selections from your Instant Queue.
[via The Verge]
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 11:51 AM PST
At the end of a huge year for cloud computing, Microsoft just launched a SkyDrive app for iPhone and Windows Phone.
SkyDrive, which has been active since 2007, is Microsoft’s cloud service, letting users access documents over a network from anywhere — and now, from a lot more devices.
The verdict: SkyDrive 1.0 is a competent cloud app. But it can be confusing at times, lacks some key features and does nothing better than its competitors — other than offer storage.
It’s 1.0, and It Shows
Let’s start with the good. The SkyDrive app syncs anything you upload on another machine almost instantly. Folders are clearly labeled; you can nest them, and photos uploaded into a folder will become that folder’s thumbnail. I liked being able to choose between a thumbnail view of files and a more detailed list with information about file size, time modified, and so on.
There’s some weirdness right off the bat, though. SkyDrive’s “Recent” option doesn’t actually show recently uploaded files; instead, it appears to be a repository of items you’ve created in OneNote. That would be great if SkyDrive actually let you browse the notes and open them, or at least tie in with the OneNote app.
It actually does none of those things. A Microsoft spokesperson told Mashable that the Recents option just shows the items you’ve most recently worked on via the Web, not the app, and that OneNote access would be coming in a future version.
The most glaring problem with SkyDrive is the absence of an option to save or “favorite” a file for accessing it offline. Both Box.net and Dropbox have prominent Favorite buttons, but SkyDrive only lets you save photos, not any other kind of file. This feature needs to be added if Microsoft hopes to put a dent in those other services’ market share.
Otherwise, SkyDrive is a pretty good cloud app. You can pinch-zoom and swipe photos right from the app, and movies stream quickly and clearly over Wi-Fi — a bit slower over 3G. All kinds of files are compatible; generally, if an app can open it, so can SkyDrive.
Among rival cloud services, Dropbox and Box.net are my favorites. If I had to choose, Box.net’s friendly interface and list of recent uploads give it a slight edge. Dropbox’s desktop software is impressive, though the app isn’t. Also appreciated: Box’s handy option that will shout warnings if you’re about to move big files over a cellular connection.
Pogoplug suffers from an extremely confusing file system — but is potentially the most versatile. The service began as a way to remotely access your own computer and hard drives. Its interface could definitely use a revamp, though — several times I uploaded files only to never see them again. In addition, the quality of video streams was poor.
For raw storage, however, SkyDrive is the champ. Microsoft gives you 25GB free with signup. Box.net and Pogoplug offer just one-fifth of that (5GB), and Dropbox trails at a measly 2GB.
When Apple debuted iCloud earlier this year, Microsoft retorted that it had offered SkyDrive for years, which provided similar functionality. While they’re both cloud services, the execution is quite different. Whereas iCloud is a service that mostly runs in the background, storing and backing up data automatically, SkyDrive aims to appoint the user Chief Cloud Executive of their own files.
In that respect, SkyDrive is not as good as its competitors yet. But if Microsoft can quickly build bridges to its other iOS apps, it could really have something here. Those who aren’t already using SkyDrive can skip the 1.0 version, but it’s worth keeping on your “save for later” list.
Here's the screen that greets you when you first fire up the SkyDrive app.
Posted: 14 Dec 2011 11:41 AM PST
Comedian Louis Szekely, better known as Louis C.K., is profiting handsomely from a $5 video of his latest standup routine, which he produced and distributed himself.
Instead of partnering with a studio, C.K. hired a team with six cameras to tape two of his performances at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan. He distributed the video through a website specially built for that purpose. Within 12 hours of going on sale Saturday, 50,000 people purchased the video, covering all of costs incurred for its production (around $170,000) and creation of the website ($32,000). By day four, he had sold 110,000 copies, making an additional $200,000 off the venture.
C.K. admits that $200,000 is less than what a “big company” would have paid him for rights to create the video, but the added value for the fans makes up for the difference. Had another company produced it, they would have charged $20 for a video that would have been encrypted and regionally restricted, and fans would have had to fork over their personal details for the company’s own use.
“This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again,” C.K. posted on his website Tuesday.
C.K. was also pleased to note that most people paid $5 to download the video instead of bittorrenting it, which was presumably a problem with his earlier, pricier videos. He added that he would “certainly do it again,” and if sales of this video remain strong, he’ll “continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, and keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction.”
Although C.K. has gone on the record against social media in the past, it’s difficult to imagine this venture would have been a success without it. The comedian mentioned the video many times on Twitter leading up to and following the video’s release, and he promoted it as part of an “Ask Me Anything” special on reddit on Monday, which attracted more than 9,500 comments.
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