Squidoo Backs Down On ‘Brand Campaign’ As Many Are ‘Not so Happy’ About It

seth-godin-fail

Squidoo founder and author Seth Godin has backed down on creating company pages by default as part of their new ‘Brands In Public’ service that launched a few days ago. The idea behind the new service is that brands are able to track feedback from customers on a public ‘lense’ (aka. a web page).

Feedback is aggregated from multiple sources, but mostly twitter and mostly by matching against the brand name. The concept itself is not an evil one, but Squidoo setup feedback pages for over 200 brands at launch without the express permission from the vast majority of them. The hitch was that if a brand wanted to control the lense and the feedback, they would have to pay Squidoo $400 a month – and it was that part of the deal that made a large number of people rightfully angry.

Godin says in a blog post today that they will remove the brands they created by default, and instead make the program opt-in. This is a big step back from yesterday where he left a comment on an excellent blog post by Lisa Barone, who criticized the product as being ‘brandjacking’, by saying:

I’m not sure it’s brandjacking any more than a Google search or a Twitter search is brandjacking. I guess the difference is that we’re making it really easy for the brand to show up next to the stream of comments.

Godin has built a reputation, on the back of his books, as being a marketing and community guru. He must have read some of his own work overnight because today on his blog he says the policy has changed to:

When a brand wants a page, we’ll build it, they’ll run it and we’ll both have achieved our goals.

Godin opens his post today with:

The response from the brands we’ve shared it with has been terrific, but other people didn’t like elements of it. And they were direct in letting me know.

Well we know he didn’t hear that ‘direct feedback’ using Squidoo’s own ‘Brands in Public’ page, which during the storm yesterday conspiquously didn’t mention a single point of negative feedback about the campaign.

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Godin also does not have comments enabled on his blog, but the launch of the new Squidoo service just happen to time with the launch of Google Sidewiki – which allows users to leave notes on a website. Many flocked to Sidewiki out of frustration, including SearchEngineLand editor Danny Sullivan, and left constructive and well thought out arguments against ‘Brands In Public’. It is ironic that the ‘customer feedback’ for a product that is meant to aggregate just that all came from other sources such as sidewiki, blog posts, twitter and comments on blogs.

We were going to reach out to Godin yesterday, but instead figured we could write this story by aggregating what everybody in the world thinks of Squidoo, and then asking him to pay us $400 to remove the parts he may not agree with.

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Sorry, Whedonistas, No Dollhouse Web Content for You! [NewTeeVee]

dollhouseNerdgod Joss Whedon proved last year with the still-talked-about Dr. Horrible, that he knows how to tell a story for the web. Sadly for Whedonauts looking for more Jossy web goodies, there will be no Dollhouse content to sate your appetite until Neil Patrick Harris dons the goggles again in Dr. Horrible 2.

Complex magazine (via io9) has an interview with Whedon himself where he explains:

Complex: Are you guys producing web content this year for the show too?

Joss Whedon: We’re not. Just because they’re not really looking to spend extra money on the show. The network has dropped their licensing dramatically, it’s the studio who has really picked up the slack to make this happen. Ironically, we actually have what would be fabulous web content, which is the whole 2019 storyline from “Epitaph One.” Whereas last year, it was like “I don’t think we have anything for the Web.” When they added 10 minutes to every episode, they gave it up. This year I’m like, “We have some great ideas for the Internet!” and they’re like, “Yeah…no.”

Sigh. Bummer.

Oh well. For the web, we’ll always have The Astonishing X-Men motion comic… On second thought — never mind.

Greener Capital raises $16M for unusual cleantech investments

Greener Capital Partners, a new venture firm founded by Charles Finnie, formerly of Crosslink Capital, has brought in $16 million for an inaugural fund dedicated to backing unusual cleantech investments, reports Dow Jones Venture Wire. The fund hopes to raise more before closing the fund.

The fund has already made one investment in Sungevity, a company that uses satellite imagery to make it easier for homeowners and small business owners to have rooftop solar panels installed on their buildings. Any of these prospective customers can enter their address on the Sungevity site, which then uses satellite data to measure and analyze the rooftop in question to automatically determine size and placement. This is a new twist on the rooftop solar panel installation game, dominated by companies like SolarCity and SunRun.

It will be interesting to see what Greener Capital decides to finance. With such a small amount of money, it will be difficult for it to seriously invest in capital intensive projects that define most promising cleantech companies, as Dow Jones points out. Perhaps, it will be takinga closer look at software and networking opportunities in the space.


Chinese iPhone Pricing Revealed: It’s The Exact Opposite Of Ours

China Unicom, the country's second-largest carrier, will offer the iPhone starting in mid-October. And in pricing that is rather the opposite of the low upfront cost and high monthly pricing at AT&T, they'll be selling the device almost at cost and pairing it with plans that make ours look positively extortionate. Prices will start around $300 for an 8GB iPhone 3G, which seems a bit high until you consider the fact that they'll be paying less than $20 per month for service.
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Examine Hand Gestures and Smiles to Detect Lying [Communication]

Some people are better liars than others. The next time you want to gauge whether someone's pulling your leg, try searching for clues based on their hand gestures and smile.

It goes without saying that the following suggestions are not hard-and-fast rules, but more potential tip offs that someone may be fibbing.

At how-to and advice site Howcast, they offer some guidelines. Liars tend to excessively touch their faces and engage in nervous ticks like scratching their noses when speaking, more so than the average honest Abe. Liars also tend to smile half-heartedly, doing so with just their mouths rather than giving the warm and full-face smiles that accompany honest statements and real emotions.

Watch the above video for the other lie detecting methods, then check out our previous posts for phrases that may tip you off to a lie as well as an explanation on how our eyes indicate lies.



Routesy, a public transit iPhone app, makes comeback

routesy-logoThings seem to have turned around for Routesy, a public transit iPhone application that disappeared from Apple’s App Store a few months ago. After returning to the App Store in August, it’s now featured in the DataSF App Showcase, a site that highlights web and mobile apps doing cool things with San Francisco data.

This was one of the first apps that I downloaded for my iPhone, and I used it constantly to find out when buses were arriving at nearby stops. Then, back in June, Routesy was caught up in a complicated legal dispute with a company called NextBus Information Systems (NBIS). The company accused Routesy of making unauthorized use of its data, and convinced Apple to stop approving updates, essentially killing the app.

When I last wrote about Routesy, the app’s fate looked uncertain, but the situation has improved for developer Steven Peterson. Apparently, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (the one that actually runs the buses and trains) didn’t agree with NBIS’ assertions — it said actually, the MTA owns the data. Shortly afterward, Routesy was back in the app store. (You can read more in-depth coverage of all twists and turns at the SF Appeal.)

The app received some additional vindiciation today, when San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom announced the launch of a “city app store” featuring Routesy. Now, there’s some legalese indicating “the City neither endorses these applications nor warrants that they operate as described,” and the so-called app store is really just a web page highlighting different apps. But it’s still nice placement for Routesy, especially since Newsom specifically mentioned it as a good example of “new ways in which Bay Area constituents are using City data to improve San Francisco.” (Not to mention that competitors like iMuni, which I switched to when Routesy broke, aren’t featured in the city app store, at least not yet.)

By the way, the App Showcase highlights some other cool tools, like EveryBlock, which provides a news feed for individual neighborhoods (and which I keep meaning to try out), and Cabspotting, which creates real-time maps of Yellow Cab taxis in San Francisco.

I’ve emailed Johnson for more details about how Routesy is doing, and I’ll update if I hear back.


Seedcamp Winners Announced; 6 Teams to Receive Funding, 5 Coming Stateside

When we wrote about the 22 finalists selected to pitch at Seedcamp Week 2009, there were several teams whose ideas excited us in particular.

Three of our eight picks have now been announced as Seedcamp winners and will receive €50.000 and three months of advisement and assistance from the European startup accelerator program. Read on for video and details on who gets the cash, who gets to come to America, and what exactly happened this week in London.

Sponsor

The first three startups on Seedcamp's list of winners were also on the RWW list of startups to watch. The last winner, Talasim, we couldn't judge because we couldn't read the Arabic text on the site; after reading more about the concept in the comments section of our last Seedcamp Week post, we're not surprised this team emerged victorious.

And the winners are:

Boxed Ice (Birmingham, UK) - Server monitoring for all website owners.

Brainient (Bucharest, Romania) - Helping video publishers monetize on the increasingly growing video content.

Codility (Warsaw, Poland) - First line of testing of programmers, saving employers a time and money.

Erply (Tallinn, Estonia) - ERP on the web. Comprehensive CRM, accounting, billing and inventory management for SMEs.

Patients Know Best (Cambridge, UK) - Revolutionizing how patients ineract with doctors as a start to better provided care.

Talasim.com (Amman, Jordan) - The Comedy Channel of the Middle East, providing a space for self-expression and sharing humour.

Check out the presentations and commentary in this rather well-put-together video:

Moreover, the following Seedcamp alums have been tapped to participate in Seedcamp on the Road, making the trek to New York, San Francisco, then back across the pond. We Yankees look forward to seeing startups Advertag, Fabricly, Pearl Systems, Joobili, and VouChaCha during their American tour.

Congratulations to all the winning startups! What do our readers think - were these the teams you expected to come out on top in this competition? Or do you think a great idea or two may have been passed over? Leave a comment and tell us all about it.

Discuss


AT&T Goes After Google Voice, Net Neutrality And Double Standards (Full Letter To FCC)

attvoiceWell this is interesting. Fresh off a wave of good karma following the revelation that it was not behind blocking Google Voice on the iPhone, AT&T appears to be looking to draw the ire of consumers with regards to the service once again. The telco giant has sent a letter (attached below) to the FCC asking them to investigate Google Voice. Yes, you read that right. But this actually goes much deeper than that. Once again, this is about net neutrality.

While AT&T may have not blocked Google Voice from being on the iPhone, it clearly does not like the service (no surprise there). From AT&T’s letter:

According to Google, non-discrimination ensures that a provider “cannot block fair access” to another provider.9  But that is exactly what Google is doing when it blocks calls that Google Voice customers make to telephone numbers associated with certain local exchange carriers.

Yes, AT&T is calling out Google for violating net neutrality principles.

Here’s where this gets pretty interesting. AT&T is really upset because they tried to do the same thing a couple years ago. Back in 2007, AT&T and the other telecos were trying to block access to some rural phone customers because the giants felt local carrier fees were too high, WSJ reports. Google has acknowledged that it does block some access, but says that it’s to things like adult voice lines. That’s obviously a big difference, but AT&T is claiming that Google doing exactly what it was banned from doing by the FCC two years ago. From Reuters:

AT&T cited media reports that Google Voice was blocking some calls to phone numbers in certain rural areas in order to cut down on expenses. Phone companies are banned from blocking calls.

And so now we’re stuck with the rather humorous situation where AT&T is playing the net neutrality card. Of course, what’s hilarious here is that AT&T (and Verizon) just got done saying that net neutrality should not apply to wireless communications mere days ago.

AT&T is trying to argue there’s a difference between regular Internet net neutrality and wireless net neutrality, but that’s garbage. More and more, the lines are blurring with the way people access the web. Sure, it used to the case that people used wireless lines only for phone calls and text messages, but the rapid rise of smartphones and other mobile devices that use things like AT&T’s 3G wireless cards have changed everything.

Meanwhile Google, a huge proponent of net neutrality, also appears to be going against it in this case. What a mess. Both of these companies need to realize that you can’t be selectively for and against net neutrality.

Update: Google has responded on its public policy blog. Basically, they are saying that software should not have to be regulated by net neutrality rules, despite what AT&T says. Interesting, but it seems that Google Voice is going well beyond the range of your typical software. We’ll have more on this shortly.


ATT Letter to FCC on Google Voice v7 clean

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TransFS Launches Comparison Shopping Site For Credit Card Processing Fees

Accepting credit cards is crucial for any merchant but the obvious downside of this are the associated credit card processing fees which can amount to significant chunks of change. Usually fees range anywhere between 2 percent and 4 percent. Startup TransFS is hoping to help businesses sort through this issue by offering a comparison shopping website for credit card processing fees.

On TransFS, businesses submit information about their transactions including the percentage of online, in-store, mail-order and phone transactions; the merchant’s current credit-card processing fees; and monthly volume of sales and average transaction size. This is all variable information used by processing firms when determining fees for a particular merchant.

Once a merchant submit the form, their “auction” will begin. They will be presented with a series of competing bids from credit card processing companies and can review each proposal and select the bid that saves the most money. Bids are presented side by side to help users compare offers more easily and TransFS will also show businesses how much they will save vs. the fees associated with their existing credit card processing service. It’s a fairly simple and transparent process.

TransFS says that from the data collected from beta testers, their comparison engine can save businesses and average of 40 percent from their credit card processing. Another comforting feature is that TransFS vets all bidders in the site to make sure the the companies can put the money where their mouth is, so to speak.

The engine is completely free to the business or merchant and generates a small revenue from the processors if, and only if, a business chooses a new processor. And TransFS won’t pass on any merchant contact info to the bidders on the site until the business chooses a winning bidder (at which point the site only passes the info on to the winning bidder), assures TransFS’s co-founder and COO Eric Olsen.

Olsen says that TransFS will eventually extend its comparison shopping engine functionality to help companies compare employee health insurance fees, payroll processing, and property insurance. TransFS faces competition from lead-gen sites like BuyerZone.

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The Greenest Apple Yet [TheAppleBlog]


In the latest example of Apple going green, the technology company has launched a revised and expanded web site, Apple and the Environment.

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While the company, to date, has largely focused on reporting the environmental impact of its manufacturing processes, the updated site also examines Apple products over their entire life cycle, including consumer usage. In conjunction with the site launch, Peter Burrows of BusinessWeek reports on Apple’s effort to change the “terms of debate” over the environment.

For Apple, that debate has often been with Greenpeace. The environmental organization’s periodic reports on the green efforts of technology companies have often graded Apple poorly. In the BusinessWeek article, Steve Jobs was his usual candid and caustic self, saying that “I thought Greenpeace was being very unfair with us at the beginning, and that they were using us to get visibility.” While that may be true (I think it is), more objectively, one of the many problems with the methodology Greenpeace uses in its reports is that it takes into account future commitments as well as actions in the present.

Another issue Apple has with some green rankings is the exclusive focus on the operations of a company, often without even taking into account the environmental impact of the products. Jobs likened this to “asking a cigarette company how green their office is.” To that end, Apple is coming clean on its true carbon footprint, and it’s a big one.

For Apple, that’s 10.2 million tons of carbon emissions annually, more than half the the company’s total output. In contrast, HP and Dell, both far larger companies in terms of manufacturing and numbers of products sold, report smaller emissions totals. For HP, that’s 8.4 million tons annually, while Dell reports a seemingly miraculous 471,000 tons. Of course, neither company counts the emissions totals of products in the hands of consumers, and that is a big deal. Apple’s decision to report those totals “could completely change how companies are evaluated,” according to Alexandra McPherson of the environmental group Clean Production Action.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether Greenpeace will give Apple credit where credit is due. After all, how much publicity can Greenpeace get from badgering a beleaguered company like Dell?

Confirmed: Twitter is Saving All Your Tweets, After All

Forest fires in California, the plane landing on the Hudson river, the Mumbai hotel attacks - these historical events and many more have been recorded by everyday people on the ground, using Twitter. The historic record may be much, much richer as a result - but you can't access it through search.twitter.com right now.

Many people have worried that the inaccessibility of historical Twitter search results might mean that the messages weren't being saved at all. Company co-founder Biz Stone told us otherwise by email today, though. Twitter is in fact saving all the tweets. You just can't access them through search "right now."

Sponsor

We wrote to Twitter to inquire about the company's stated plans to scrub forthcoming geolocation data from messages after 14 days. That plan is said to be aimed at avoiding subpoenas, though the publishing of the location data at all is opt-in in the first place.

Scrubbed geolocation data after two weeks and no way to access historical information at all? That sounded like a pretty bum deal for a world-changing new communication platform. So we emailed to ask.

This was the reply we received from Biz Stone: "We definitely save all the tweets although you're right in noting that our search focuses more on newer content right now. And yes, the plan is to drop the coordinates after 14 days."

There you go. Now that Twitter is putting $100 million more into the bank, it would be great to see some of those resources dedicated to making information retrieval on the service a first class function. The future would be thankful.

Discuss


MMS vs 12seconds — videomail wars begin

12mail_receiveAT&T supposedly turned on MMS service for iPhones today, enabling video message transmissions. If you’ve got an iPhone with an unlimited data plan, though, there are already apps that remove the need for MMS. 12seconds’ 12mail is my favorite because of its Twitter-like hook: Instead of 140 characters, you get 12 seconds of video limit.

Why 12 seconds? Co-founder Sol Lipman says they started with 10 seconds, but it was always a couple of seconds too short. 15 seconds was too long. Twelve seconds feels just right.

I asked Lipman to compare 12seconds to MMS video:

- 12mail is free, MMS costs money
- MMS does not integrate with your networks on Twitter and Facebook.
- 12mail will work on 3G and Gen 1 iPhones by sending a picture with a twelve second audio overlay. MMS does not support this.

I don’t have any brilliant insights here except that it’s 100% certain that MMS will spawn some immensely popular iPhone app that no one thought of until MMS went live. But I really do think that 12mail could become the people’s choice for video messages. Why? Because knowing all incoming messages will be cut off after 12 seconds makes me enthusiastic about video mail, instead of afraid of it.


Force Snow Leopard to Report Hard Drive Capacity in Base 2 [Disk Space]

A lot of people were upset when they found out Snow Leopard was reporting hard drive capacity "correctly" in base 10; if you were one of them, here's how you can fix it.

In a nutshell, the base-2 numbering system—a.k.a. binary numeral system—is how computers actually use space (zeroes and ones). Hard drive manufacturers use base 10 when calculating space because it makes for bigger numbers. Snow Leopard's tweak to calculating hard drive space in base 10 rather than base 2 made hard drives appear more consistent with what users read on the hard drive's box, but it's not how software actually uses space. Rather than dive head first back into this debate (read through the previous post for that), let's just agree that some people like the change, some people hate it, and a lot of people don't really care one way or another.

If you're one of the people who hate it, however, a user on the MacRumors forum offers a solution with a simple executable that changes "the base number [Finder] uses to calculate sizes from 1000 to 1024." After that, Finder, Disk Utility, and a few other default apps should be back to the classic base 2.



Filter Your Front Door: Buzzeromatic Makes Doorbells Smarter

Apartment-dwellers, rejoice. Seattle-based startup Buzzeromatic is letting you take control of your own front door in a way that's smart and flexible.

The premise is simple: Using Twilio's VoIP API, Buzzeromatic allows subscribers to grant access to visitors, allow delivery folks to leave voice messages,and create passwords for frequent guests, all from a web interface with SMS commands for when users are on the go. And yes, there's an app for that: The team told us their fully functional iPhone application is in the hopper.

Sponsor

Co-founder Andres Krogh told us that he and a friend bootstrapped their startup. "The only reason we're able to pull it off is because of the explosion of commodity VoIP APIs like Twilio lately that make it somewhat cost effective."

Users can customize their building buzzers' behavior from the web interface at any time. Krogh explained, "You can set up passwords for folks to let themselves in with, or have it call a bunch of numbers until it finds you (similar to Google Voice), or both. You can also let people leave voicemails at the door, if all else fails."

They feel the password function will be particularly useful for those who have party guests or others, such as family members or a cleaning service, who need to be granted regular access to a user's apartment.

Access can also be narrowed to a particular time of day; for example, your maid's password would only work during the day, but your pizza delivery guy's password could grant him access any time between noon and midnight.

The service will be free for beta users during the first phases of testing; eventually, Buzzeromatic will operate on a subscription model, with packages starting at $9.95 for unlimited door buzzes and two passwords.

So, what do you think, ReadWriteWeb apartment- and condo-dwellers? Would you pay ten bucks a month to have that kind of control over your building's front door? More importantly, what do you think of this team's idea - will this startup sink or swim? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Discuss


StatShot: U.S. Web Users’ Time on Social Networks Has Tripled [GigaOM]

U.S. web users tripled the amount of time they spent on social networks in August from the same month last year, according to Nielsen. And advertisers took note — estimated online advertising spending on social networks more than doubled over the same period.

Around 17 percent of all time spent on the web in August in the U.S. was on social networks, up from 6 percent during the same period a year ago, suggesting that sites like Twitter and Facebook have not only grown their audience size, but augmented user engagement. Meanwhile, advertising on social networks rose to $108 million last month from $49 million in August of 2008, an increase of 119 percent.

In the meantime, Facebook’s sale of self-serve ads has helped the social network become cash-flow positive, something to which Twitter — which doesn’t generate any significant revenue despite now being valued at $1 billion — may want to pay attention. A report from research firm Interpret found that Twitter users are twice as likely to click on advertisements or sponsors than people who belong to MySpace and Facebook. But while the San Francisco-based micromessaging site recently changed its terms of service to allow advertising, co-founder Biz Stone said earlier this week that Twitter won’t put ads on the site this year.

ad spending nielsen

AT&T Launches MMS for the iPhone [NewTeeVee]

All eyes are on AT&T today, as the company has started rolling out multimedia messaging service (MMS) for the iPhone. Stacey at GigaOM pondered this morning whether AT&T’s network will be able to handle the crush of iPhoners sending videos and pictures to one another, and over at TheAppleBlog comes word that people aren’t just hoping for an AT&T fail, but are actively organizing to try and make it happen so that Apple ends its exclusive deal with the telco.

Have any NewTeeVeers tried the iPhone MMS? Let us know how it went in the comments. To activate the service you need to update your iPhone in iTunes (full instructions at TheAppleBlog).

Spotted: Ultimate Apple Fanboy Visits The Mothership

photoPeople always send in tips about Steve Jobs‘ Mercedes being spotted (usually parked at some weird angle or in the handicap spot) at Apple HQ in Cupertino, CA. But today we have an even better Apple parking lot tip.

Just look at the license plate of the car that was parked at Apple HQ this morning. For those non-religious readers, or those less versed in comedy, I’ll go ahead and spell it out for you. WWSJD stands for What Would Steve Jobs Do? — a take on the popular religious meme WWJD? which stands for What Would Jesus Do?

Yes, this person is directly relating Steve Jobs to Jesus. And yes, they’re at Apple HQ today. Steve Jobs, if you are reading this, you may want to hide in your office. Stalker alert!

Or what if this person actually works at Apple? Awkward.

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Five Linux-Compatible Online Backup and Storage Services [OStatic]

http:__www.flickr.com_photos_skrewtape_851672959_

Of course, you know regular computer system backups are important and it's always a good idea to store your most critical data offsite for added security. If you're a Linux user, finding a service that's compatible with your operating system isn't easy, but they do exist. Here are five online backup and storage services for personal or business use that work great with Linux.

JungleDisk - This powerful paid service provides support for both Amazon S3 and Rackspace Cloud Files storage. It completely encrypts all data and will automatically restart all background operations following a system crash or shutdown. JungleDisk archives old and deleted files for later retrieval, and relies on multiple data centers to keep your files safe. The Desktop Edition for Linux requires Linux x86, works with KDE or GNOME desktops, and includes a command-line only version for power users.

Jungle Disk

SpiderOak - If you want to be able to grab files from any Internet-connected device, then have a look at this backup and sync service. Although all of SpiderOak's tools aren't open source, many are and the company says it's committed to the FOSS community. SpiderOak offers a number of features and benefits, including consolidated online storage, automated backup, and easy data sharing. The software currently works on Ubuntu, Debian, and Fedora, with support for more distros expected in the future.

SpiderOak

Zmanda - You've got a lot of options to choose from with open source product line. Amanda, available in both Community and Enterprise editions, is great for companies that want to back up several networked computers to a cloud storage system. The company also offers Zmanda Recovery Manager for MySQL that's perfect for scheduling backups of your MySQL database.

Zmanda

Dropbox - Here's a service that's dead-simple to use and offers both paid and free options. Simply Dropbox on your desktop and start backing up right away. It can handle huge document and image files so uploading your presentation slide deck or pics from your latest trip is a snap, plus you can access your files online from any computer or Web-enabled device. Dropbox is a terrific no-cost service for personal use, but if you do a lot of syncing and sharing, you might want to look at the Pro plans.

Dropbo

ThinkFree - This commercial productivity suite and backup solution has a few things going for it. There's a paid edition of the software designed for Linux-based netbooks and a desktop widget for easy synchronization between ThinkFree Online and your computer. There's even a mobile version for Android phones. If you only need a backup solution and nothing else, then ThinkFree probably isn't for you. However, if you want a set of productivity tools that come with an offsite data storage option, then be sure to check out ThinkFree's trial offer. ThinkFree

What online backup and storage services do you use? Let me know in the comments.

Flickr image courtesy of Skrewtape.

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