Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mashable: Latest 8 News Updates - including “59 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed”

Mashable: Latest 8 News Updates - including “59 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed”

59 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 02:31 PM PST

This week was another “giant leap for mankind” in the social media world, and possibly in the real universe too. Facebook Timeline rolled out to everyone, so you may have been busy cleaning up those pictures that popped up from your college days.

Scientists found what they claim to be “strong hints” of the Higgs boson. If you’re wondering what the heck a Higgs boson is, you should read further.

As the year comes to an end, be on the lookout for our end-of-year reviews, roundups, and future predictions — you’ll find a few included in the list below.

Here are this week’s social media resources.

Editor’s Picks

Social Media

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

Tech & Mobile

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

Business & Marketing

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

More About: Business, Features Week In Review, List, Social Media

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7 New Apps Worth Downloading This Week

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 01:57 PM PST

Magic Guitar from Smule

Smule, the makers of popular iOS apps Magic Piano, Glee Karaoke and I Am T-Pain, added to its musical app offerings on Wednesday with the release of Magic Guitar. The app lets you play your iOS device like a guitar. You hold your phone like a guitar neck and play a song by pressing the beams of light that flash across the screen. The free app lets you control the notes, speed, guitar type, pitch and vibrato.

Click here to view this gallery.

With about 500,000 apps in the Apple App Store and an estimated 300,000 apps in the Android Market, finding the gems among the virtual haystack can be full-time job. The good news is that it’s our full time job.

We’ve trekked through the overly frivolous, the ugly and the downright impractical in our search for these seven recently launched apps worth downloading in the slideshow above. We hope you enjoy this week’s top picks.

More About: apps, grand theft auto, Grand Theft Auto 3, grand theft auto chinatown wars, hipstamatic, Liftopia, Magic Guitar, Santa's Big helper,, Smule, TapShot, weekly app roundup

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HTTP Status Cats: Hilarious Motivational Posters [PICS]

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 01:13 PM PST

100 Continue

Image ©Tomomi Imura, used with permission

Click here to view this gallery.

When the talented Tomomi Imura sets her mind to illustrating http status messages with cats, she’s not kidding around. Here we present “HTTP Status Cats,” a series of motivational posters showing cats in all manner of discombobulation, as if they actually knew what an http status message was.

These humorous juxtapositions — some photoshopped, but most just showing cats doing those crazy things cats do — go way beyond that familiar “404 not found” message with which we are all too familiar.

Imura, otherwise known as GirlieMac on her blog and her Twitter account, wonders if there are any http status messages she’s missed, and asks for you to tweet her if you can think of any. We hope so, because we’d like to see her “100 Continue” making these hilarious pics.

[via Boing Boing, thanks Xeni!]

Used with permission of Tomomi Imura, pics are located on her Flickr account here.

More About: cats, http status messages, humor, Motivational Posters

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3 New Digital Takes On Staying Fit, Secure and Social

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 12:36 PM PST

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

Each weekend, Mashable selects startups we think are building interesting, unique or niche products.

This week we chose three companies with online innovations for staying in shape, avoiding fraud in online purchases and sharing with social networks.

Gym-Pact uses mobile check-ins and cash to hold you accountable for your exercise plans. WeGoLook sends someone to verify potential online purchases in person, and Qwips adds your voice to any social content.

Gym-Pact: An Accountability App for Exercise

Quick Pitch: Gym-Pact rewards users who stick to their fitness goals with cash.

Genius Idea: Swapping cash for badges.

Mashable’s Take: Badges might be good motivation for buying an extra cup of coffee or exploring new restaurants, but Gym-Pact founders Yifan Zhang and Geoff Oberhofer thought exercise required something better. Like cash.

Gym-Pact users make a pact with the startup to exercise a certain number of times every week and name a price they’ll pay if they don’t follow through. When they don’t meet their goal, they pay up. When they do, they earn a portion of the money other less-diligent users paid for not exercising. The startup verifies exercise through a mobile feature that lets users check-in at the gym.

It’s the sort of idea that would be cooked up in a Harvard behavioral economics class (and it was).

The startup makes money by taking a transaction fee from the rewards collected by people who don’t meet their goal and paid to the people who do. In other words, its business model relies on people not working out. Genius.

WeGoLook: A Service for Verifying Potential Online Purchases

Quick Pitch: WeGoLook checks out your online purchases in person to avoid fraud and misrepresentation.

Genius Idea: Building a large network of “lookers” that can be dispatched just about anywhere in the U.S.

Mashable’s Take: Is that sublet on Craigslist really “sunny and spacious?” And just how “used” is that car on eBay? It’s usually not worth the airfare to go check it out yourself. But WeGoLook offers to send someone for you.

The company has signed up more than 7,000 “lookers” that can be dispatched to go check out your potential Internet purchase before you add it to your shopping cart. For as little as $49, you get a report that includes 10 photos and answers to your custom questions.

You can request similar service at a better price from a peer-to-peer flexible market such as Zaarly or TaskRabbit. But you’ll loose the background checked status of “lookers” and the quality control WeGoLook provides.

Qwips: An App That Puts Your Voice in a Tweet

Quick Pitch: Qwips makes it easy to share voice clips through social media.

Genius Idea: Adding a voice to social content.

Mashable’s Take: Qwip takes anything you might share on Facebook or Twitter — a photo, a comment or your location — and adds up to 30 seconds of your self-recorded audio to it.

Voice is an important communication tool, so it’s no surprise that Qwip isn’t the first company to think of adding it to the social web.

Social voice apps have safely entered the pick-your-flavor category. Fotobabble adds voice to photos, and TinyVox lets users record up to 30 minutes of shareable audio through an old-school tape recorder interface. Qwips is just as valid a flavor as any other (and, hey, MC Hammer is using it).

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mbortolino

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

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

More About: Gym-Pact, Qwips, WeGoLook

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The 10 Most Popular Photos on Twitter This Week [PICS]

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 11:28 AM PST

1.Bieberfore and after

We'll give you three guesses on who is this week's number one. Right, Justin Bieber. This week, his most-retweeted picture shows two shots of himself singing for Obama; now and a few years ago. The tweet reads, "Then and now. thanks for always standing by me." Last week, Justin Bieber's most-retweeted picture was number 4 in the top 10.

Click here to view this gallery.

If you’re looking for the week’s most popular photos on Twitter, you’ve come to the right place. This week, the pics that were most often re-tweeted in the English language were a fascinating combination of pop culture and pathos, with some of the usual absurdity mixed in.

See for yourself, and as you peruse the 10 most popular Twitter photos posted between Dec. 9 and Dec. 15., compiled for Mashable by real-time photo search engine Skylines.

These pics were the top group among over 30 million tweets, with our expert analysts eliminating spam pics to heighten your enjoyment. Keep in mind that if you click through to the pics’ originating pages, the number counts might be different because Skyline made its determination a couple of days ago.

And if you still haven’t gotten enough after this cacophonous cavalcade of chaos, take a look at last week’s roundup of top Twitter photos.

More About: instagram, Photos, twitpic, Twitter

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Santa Will Robocall Whomever You Choose, Thanks to Google

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 10:21 AM PST

Santa Claus is awfully busy this time of year, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have enough time to robocall the person of your choice, free. He’s also ready to listen to his voicemail.

There are two separate Santa-related delights Google is offering this year. First, you can let Santa know what you want for Christmas by leaving him a message at his Google Voice number — 855-34-SANTA (855 347-2682). According to the official Google blog, it’s a free call for residents of the United States and Canada; outside those areas it will cost $.01 per minute.

If you live in the U.S., you can delight your favorite kid (or amuse your friends) by having Santa immediately send a customized voice message, complete with the person’s name, state, and a variety of other customizations, which can all be combined for hilarious results (see graphic below). It’s fun — try it at Google’s Send a Call From Santa site, or listen to a sample message here.

Here’s the interface:

Google’s being coy about additional Gmail features that will be rolled out as Christmas draws nearer. The company urges you to continue checking the Send a Call from Santa site to find out more about Santa’s “extra special way to spread the holiday cheer.”

More About: Christmas, Google, Send a Call From Santa

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Top 8 Mashable Comments This Week

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 09:19 AM PST

We’re back with another weekly roundup of the top Mashable comments of the week.

In this post, we showcase the week’s best comments on our site. We always look for thoughtful comments that engage the community and drive more conversation as well as those that make us laugh. This weeks comments were insightful, well-supported and, most of all, exciting to read.

Take a look at this week’s top comments on Mashable:

The .xxx Extension, Pt. 1

Barry Garner gave his insights on how the .xxx domain is both good and bad for the adult industry and non-adult users. Barry even mentioned how it's a great opportunity for companies to brand themselves.

Comment originally posted on: XXX Domains: An Obvious Failure

Click here to view this gallery.

If you haven’t commented on a Mashable article before, check out Mashable Follow, our content curation and social tool, as well as our comment guidelines to learn more. We’d love for you to join the conversation.

Be sure to comment and see if you make next week’s top comments roundup!

More About: comments, community, mashable follow, top comments

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Type “Let It Snow” on Google for a Pleasant Surprise

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 08:26 AM PST

In the spirit of the Google “barrel roll,” the company has another tricky search result today: Search the words “let it snow” and watch what happens.

Of course, your Google search results will contain videos of that old favorite song, but what’s that? Snowflakes falling in your browser? Frost on the Google bar? Could this be some mistake?

Watch your browser fill up with snow, and then skate around with your mouse, where your browser acts just like a frozen lake, showing the path your cursor has taken. Want to start over? Simply click the “defrost” button and again you’ll see a clear screen, adorned by that easy wind and downy flake filling it up anew.

SEE ALSO: Hey Yahoo, Do a Barrel Roll: How Google Wins With Whimsical Tricks

What a lovely Easter egg Google has given us this cold and snowy (in some places) December morning, just five days shy of the darkest evening of the year! Nice, Google.

UPDATE: Google’s also celebrating Hanukkah! Type the word “Hanukkah” on the Google search form and you’ll see a special surprise.

Want more? Well, you have miles to go before you sleep, because here are 10 more fun built-in Google tricks you can amuse yourself with right now. Check them out, and let us know in the comments if you have any other favorites:


Enter "Google Gravity" in the search bar. Hit "I'm feeling lucky" (if you have Google Instant enabled, it's on the right hand side of the suggested searches). Then watch your world fall down.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: browser, easter egg, Google, Let it snow

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The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 07:10 AM PST

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

You don’t have to be a big corporation to outsource. In fact, you don’t even have to be a company. As Timothy Ferriss outlined in his 2008 book The 4-Hour Workweek, you can just be a guy who wants to hit the beach while someone in Bangalore does your work.

That’s the dream, anyway. If you’re looking to outsource website design, SEO or other technical work, then the firm that Ferriss cites in his book, Your Man In India, may make sense. But if you want to get someone to do the non-technical stuff Ferriss outlines, like checking emails, screening his phone calls and sending gifts to family and friends, then Your Man in India will direct you to its subsidiary, Get Friday.

Get Friday does what’s known in the business as “virtual assistant” work. It’s a vague term that encompasses a host of activities including calendar management, secretarial, online research and travel scheduling, but the company’s website outlines some other “pretty crazy tasks,” including finding a lost dog and teaching algebra to a sixth grader.

Nevertheless, Get Friday doesn’t offer “specialized” work. For example, when I asked them if they could write this article for me, a representative said the company doesn’t have people on hand who can write, though there are people who can research an article. (I declined the offer.) If you’re looking for something that takes higher-level communication skills, then Get Friday will refer you to the Mountain View, Calif.-based Elance, in which case you’re back in the U.S., paying U.S. rates.

What are those rates? Elance declined to say, but Doreen DeJesus, president of the International Virtual Assistants Assocation, says you can expect to pay $40 and up, per hour, for a VA skilled in communications. (A VA with a lot of technical know-how might fetch you as much as $120 per hour.)

Despite the disparity in pricing — India-based VAs can cost as little as $1 a day — DeJesus says there are a lot of benefits to working with a U.S.- or Canada-based VA. At the very least, she says, you avoid the two major pitfalls of working with a far-flung VA: time zone differences and a language barrier.

Mumbai is 10 hours ahead of New York time, for instance, meaning that if it’s 9 a.m. and you need something done right away, you’ll probably have to wait a few hours. As for language, although India-based VAs generally are quite conversant in English, they can get tripped up by the nuances of the language, which could create misunderstandings. “I’ve had many people who’ve tried to outsource abroad,” says DeJesus, “but a lot of times the language barrier and the time difference send them back this way.”

Fabio Rosati, Elance’s CEO, says that despite such drawbacks, going with a foreign VA makes sense sometimes. For instance, for a project that’s not that time-sensitive, like a Christmas circular you’re preparing in August, going with a VA in India or the Philippines might be a good option. But generally, “You want to be able to pick up the phone any time and talk to your assistant,” he says.

That relative luxury may cost you more, but it fits Rosati’s conception of a VA, which is basically a cloned version of yourself that takes care of the duller tasks. When asked why someone should consider a VA, Rosati replied immediately: “You can amplify yourself and your business. You can do a lot more than you are able to do.” In Rosati’s estimation, those 15 minute periods you spend every day answering emails or entering data on add up. If you don’t have to worry about executing such protean tasks, you can spend your time being more creative.

One challenge to this argument, though, is that hiring an assistant, virtual or otherwise, can also be a time suck. Despite the sour economy, it’s not uncommon to hear that good help is hard to find. Rosati has a couple of tips to make working with a VA easier, though. First, if you can afford it, hire two or three people for one opening and then, after a week, pick the best candidate. Second, work with your VA on a mutually agreed upon schedule. That way, you’ll avoid situations in which you need to hear back right away and your VA is MIA.

By this point, it should be clear that hiring a VA and then spending the rest of the day surfing, as Ferriss advocates, may be trickier than it appears. But if your workweek is more like 40 or 50 hours, hiring a good VA may ease your stress. If you’re on the other side of the equation, or the other side of the globe for that matter, it may also provide a lifeline in a brutal economic climate.

Image courtesy of Flickr, pawpaw67

More About: Business, features, mashable, outsourcing, virtual assistant, work

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