VoxOx: Voice, Video, Texting and Instant Messaging In One Package [WebWorkerDaily]


This post is by Charles Hamilton from GigaOM Network


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




VoxOx_logoI spend a lot of time each day communicating with colleagues and clients, by phone, email, on social networks, and via the occasional fax. But when I need to have a short conversation and get an answer right away, instant messaging is hard to beat. Unfortunately, there are several IM protocols, and most of them don’t talk to each other. That’s why I use the multi-protocol IM software Adium on the Mac and Pidgin on the PC. I can also use a web-based alternative like Meebo or the new Imo.im.

VoxOx wants to take multi-system communication several steps further. In addition to the various IM protocols, it supports social networks (Facebook, MySpace and Twitter); SMS texting; faxing; private email; file sharing; video conversations; and voice connections. VoxOx also supports Skype messaging, although you have to have the Skype software running, which sort of defeats its purpose.

When you sign up for the service, you are assigned a telephone number in southern California (other locations are apparently on the way). Incoming calls to that number, and voice conversations between you and other VoxOx users, are free; other calls are charged at rates similar to other VoIP services. VoxOx has just begun offering flat-fee voice and texting plans, at prices it claims are significantly cheaper than Skype’s. VoxOx’s other services are free.

In recent days, VoxOx has released beta 2.0.5. The software has improved since I first tried it a year or so ago, but it is very definitely still a work in progress. Its dark background with white text theme is hard on the eyes and isn’t editable, and its contact manager has no provision for importing from or syncing with other address books.

VoxOx seems to be trying to collect the useful features from Skype, conferencing services, virtual PBX services, instant messaging and file sharing services, and putting them all in one place. It’s a pretty cool idea, and VoxOx is definitely worth trying, but I’m not quite ready to make it part of my daily workflow yet.

Have you used VoxOx? What did you think of it?

Don’t Forget to Enter CrunchGear’s Spooky Halloween Contest


This post is by John Biggs from TechCrunch


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Wait! Before you head off to that weekend costume party, snap yourself in your Halloween costume and enter our First Annual(TM) Halloween Costume Contest.

We’re offering one Xbox 360 Modern Warfare 2 Limited Edition Console to the winner of our First Annual CrunchGear Halloween Costume Contest.

Here’s how to enter.


Afloat Updates with Snow Leopard Support, New Features [Downloads]


This post is by Whitson Gordon from Lifehacker


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Mac only: Open-source window manager Afloat updated to version 2.0 today, with complete support for Snow Leopard and a couple new features, such as pinning to the desktop and resizing windows from anywhere using keyboard shortcuts.

We’ve talked about Afloat before, but ever since Snow Leopard’s release, it and many other InputManager-based utilities no longer work, so early OS adopters have been left behind. Today, Infinite Labs updated Afloat to version 2.0, giving Snow Leopard all the features we’ve come to know and love, including window transparency, keeping windows on top, and turning windows into an unobtrusive overlay, where all clicks “fall through” the window onto the window below it.

Also notable is its ability to move a window from anywhere (not just the title bar), show a window’s file location in the Finder, and keep a window on all of your spaces. Each of these optional features is just a keyboard shortcut away—though if you’re not the shortcut type, they are also all available under the “Window” menu of the application in question.

The new version of Afloat doesn’t just fix its Snow Leopard incompatibility, either—it includes some new features, like “pinning” applications to the desktop and resizing a window from anywhere (not just the corner). The only downside is that Afloat only works in Cocoa applications—which means that carbon apps such as Firefox and iTunes are out, sadly—but nowadays, most Mac applications are written in Cocoa, and thus should work with Afloat.

Afloat is a free download, Mac only.







GE Puts Wind Converter to Work for Solar [Earth2Tech]


This post is by Jennifer Kho from GigaOM Network


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




GE 600 kW InverterAs utilities start to build large solar projects and solar power makes up an increasingly larger portion of the electricity mix, integrating this energy into the grid will be a challenge. Solar, like wind, is intermittent — power from the sun fluctuates when clouds pass overhead and wind doesn’t blow consistently. Now General Electric, which has been a major player in helping to integrate wind into the world’s power grids, wants to do the same for solar.

The company has turned a 1.5 MW wind converter into a new, 600 kW solar inverter for utility projects, Rick Robertson, an inverter program manager at GE, told us at this week’s Solar Power International. The inverter, pictured above, is targeted at multimegawatt solar projects with multiple installations on a single site, he said. GE is now taking orders for the inverter, which was introduced at the conference, and plans to ship its first units by the end of this year, he added.

Solar Monitoring and Controls

The inverter is another sign that GE sees solar as “the next wind.” It said last month that it plans to grow its solar production next year, and has also invested in technologies that could make solar cheaper.

To modify the inverter for solar, GE changed the way it connects to power projects, because solar panels generate direct current, which must be turned into the alternating current used by most appliances, whereas wind turbines generate alternating current, said Minesh Shah, a product line leader for renewables systems. GE also modified the software to enable utilities to monitor and control the solar power plants, he added. And the inverter had to be packaged with a new skin suitable for outdoor installations, as wind inverters are usually kept inside the towers, while solar inverters need to be able to survive the elements, said Tony Galbraith, an inverter program manager for GE.

When it comes to the hardware, however, GE says it hasn’t changed much, with the idea being to leverage its experience — and volume — in wind converter manufacturing. The conglomerate already makes 4,000 wind converters annually, and keeping the hardware similar will allow it to simply add new solar volumes on top of that, according to Robertson. GE also believes its reputation and track record with the wind converters will give investors confidence in its solar inverters, as it has 12,000 wind turbines in the field with 175 million operating hours at this point, Robertson said.

One of GE’s main advantages in this space is the company’s understanding of what utilities and power plant operators are looking for, so that it can make solar projects look similar to other power plant interconnections, Shah said. “We know how to turn a 30 MW system from just a collection of panels and modules into a power plant.” The software that comes with the inverter presents information about solar projects in the same way that utilities and power-plant operators are already familiar with viewing power plant data, he said, and it also enables the same level of control to manage the voltage of the electricity output so that it can be smoothly interconnected with the grid.

GE’s move into utility solar is a sign that big companies are starting to see solar as a potentially significant part of the energy mix. But in order to make that happen, the industry needs to start preparing to integrate solar into the grid now, Shah said. “In the solar industry today, people are not thinking about these types of issues,” he said. While other companies are working on smoothing the load from variable renewables, it’s true that the work at the utility level is just beginning.

Jenny Chase, head of solar research for London-based New Energy Finance, said she’s seeing a growing number of companies working on integration. With the world’s largest solar projects underway, “it’s probably quite a good thing that people are thinking about this now,” she said. You can expect to hear more about it soon. Hundreds of megawatts of utility projects are already underway in the U.S., with more announcements expected as utilities work to meet state renewable energy standards.

Graphics courtesy of GE

YouTube Spotlights The Colorful Wonders Of Fall’s Foliage


This post is by Jason Kincaid from TechCrunch


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




YouTube has just posted a series of videos highlighting one the more impressive feats of Mother Nature: the colorful transition from summer to fall. It may sound a bit lame, but if you’ve ever enjoyed the changing colors of autumn leaves or the charming landscape of a local pumpkin patch, the videos are well worth a look (they remind me a bit of the Planet Earth series that came out a few years ago). You can find the four videos featured at the top of YouTube’s homepage, or you can check out the ones we’ve embedded below.

Videos include one called “Autumn on the Blue Ridge”:

And here’s one of a local pumpkin patch:

Image by Micky

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With Ribbit, BT Is Rethinking Its Voice Business [GigaOM]


This post is by Om Malik from GigaOM Network


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




When BT, formerly known as British Telecom, splurged and bought Mountain View, Calif.,-based Ribbit for $105 million some 15 months ago, I dismissed it as an attempt by an aging incumbent carrier to reinvent itself as a web-savvy, next-generation communications provider that was unlikely to succeed. “BT has always been long on promise, but short on execution of its grand vision,” I wrote.

Fast-forward to today and BT has fully embraced the new communications reality, one that goes beyond mere voice calls. And to show how serious it is, the company has made Ribbit founder Ted Griggs the chief technology officer of BT Voice.

When I caught up with him on the phone last week, I asked him about the bold move by BT to put someone like him in charge. To some insiders, that might seem like letting the inmates run the asylum, Griggs quipped. Ribbit, if you remember, was started about three years ago with the promise of bringing together web and voice using a new kind of a platform, one that was able to take inputs from different communication tools — XMPP, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, MSN and Flash Media Server –- and make them talk to their “switch.”

More Than Just Voice

JP Rangaswami, managing director of service design at BT who was recently named BT’s chief of digital communications, has championed Griggs’s ascension to his new role. Griggs has always believed that when it comes to service providers, thinking about communications as just voice doesn’t cut it, which is why Ribbit’s products merge traditional notions of communications with web applications and extend them. In other words, voice is viewed as just another API that can be used to enhance a user’s experience. Ribbit for Salesforce and Ribbit for Oracle are two examples of voice and the web coming together, said Griggs.

BT’s big bet is good news for like-minded startups such as TringMe and Twilio, which are also seeking that elusive pot of gold based on the voice-web marriage premise. Now might be their time. Why? Because the very notion of communications is changing. As Alec Saunders, CEO of iotum, writes:

Let’s instead change the conversation –- acknowledge that the carrier network is a platform, and that the carrier has a need for an application community, and begin the dialog between network partners and developers about the ability for those operators to help us get to market.

The New Dial Tone

Indeed, people are increasingly using different modes of communication, from Facebook to Skype to Twitter to SMS, and carriers need to embrace such a change. That means they need to offer new kinds of services, such as voice-to-text, asynchronous messaging, asymmetric voice and low-cost dialing.

In other words, carriers will have to stop thinking like resellers of boxes and more like software-based network operators. Juniper Networks CEO Kevin Johnson recently started talking about how the next evolution of the Internet is going to be less about router and switches and more about software. His company has made its money selling routers to operators, so he does have an idea as to how operators are thinking.

Carriers Do It Best

Large carriers have many things going for them: global infrastructure, deep pockets and the ability to sell to larger companies. Innovative VoIP startups, on the other hand, have the right ideas, but don’t have the footprint or the resources to grow, Griggs said. To that end, he added, “We are doing what we were doing at Ribbit at a much larger scale at BT.” Carriers provide the nuts and bolts including the software platform, and developers do the rest, he said. (Related post: Is There Money in Voice APIs?)

But again, in order to do that, carriers need to change their thinking –- much in the same way that Salesforce.com did with CRM, Skype with voice and Google with advertising. For BT, Ribbit is trying its best. Will it succeed? Let’s wait and see!

platform_large.gif

Bling Nation gets another $20M funding for its pay-by-cellphone system


This post is by Paul Boutin from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




blingBling Nation, a Palo Alto-based company, has created a mobile payment service called Redi Pay that lets phone users pay for things in stores with their phones. I wrote about Bling Nation in July, when the company landed $8M in funding $from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Meck and Camp Ventures.

Today, TechCrunch reports Bling Nation has closed another $20M round from London-based Balderton Capital, bringing the company’s total funding to date to $33 million.

Bling’s payment system is one I’m skeptical of, because it requires retailers to install Bling Nation credit card machines in their stores. The devices scan the customer’s Bling info off their phone screen. Bling takes a cut of each transaction. The company says it is doing well in two small test towns in Colorado, says TechCrunch, because the company can close deals with all the local merchants, making Bling payment locally ubiquitous.

It’s tempting to say Bling’s ability to close deals doesn’t seem to scale. But people laughed at Wal-mart, too.


Photo of the day: Google’s Android dressed in its Halloween finest (and more)


This post is by Kim-Mai Cutler from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




droid

Standing in its rightful place between a donut and a cupcake on Google’s campus in Mountain View, Google’s Android, dressed as a pirate for Halloween, salutes passersby. I have no idea why it’s holding a shopping bag, but it does have a peg leg!

Google’s not the only company celebrating. If you tweet ONLY ‘#trick’ or ‘#treat’ on the Twitter.com Web site, your dashboard will get a friendly visit from this bird:

Picture 21

For overly enthusiastic cube monkeys in need of costume ideas, here’s inspiration from Twitter employee Charles Magnuson.

twitter

And last, but not least: Zuckerberg in a Very Important Meeting.zuckerberg

If you know of other startups doing silly and/or ridiculous things today, e-mail them in at tips@venturebeat.com and we’ll add.


Keep Onion-Cutting Tears at Bay [Food Hacks]


This post is by Whitson Gordon from Lifehacker


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




While we’ve featured one or two ways to avoid crying while cutting onions in the past, this tip requires absolutely no preparation and should keep your eyes clear next time you’re cooking.

Photo by Jennifer Dickert.

Instead of going through a lot of trouble to avoid the waterworks, weblog Daily DIY says you can stop tears by merely putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth while you’re cutting. Whatever you do, though, don’t breathe through your nose—breathe through your mouth. You may look a little silly, but it barely requires any work on your part, and it’s sure to be a conversation starter with your dinner guests.

I couldn’t find any definitive information about this one, but a quick Google search shows that quite a few people swear by this solution. If any of you cooks out there get a chance to chop up some onions—or you already do this—give it a try and let us know how it goes in the comments.







Customer Service Tips for Early Stage Startups


This post is by Dana Oshiro from ReadWriteWeb


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




zendesk_helpdesk_oct09.jpgFew companies put as much effort into customer service as they do into member acquisition. However, in order to retain members, community-driven startups need to be conscious of the entire customer experience. No stranger to support techniques, Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane spends most of his time perfecting the end-user experience for his clients. Best known for its web-based help desk services, Zendesk launched in 2008 and even then ReadWriteWeb gave the company a favorable review. In 2009, Zendesk continues to establish itself as a great alternative to the traditional call center experience. Svane offers some helpful tips for our ReadWriteStart readers.

Sponsor

earth_zendesk_oct09.jpgSays Svane, “The good news for businesses starting out today is that the web offers a whole host of easy, affordable tools that can help to ensure businesses have a meaningful dialogue [with their customers].” Some of those tools include:

1. Web-hosted Solutions: Rather than investing in an in-house legacy customer support service, Svane advises startups to consider a web-based help desk product to eliminate any headaches associated with security, scalability, and ongoing maintenance. Says Svane, “Keep the human touch in-house but outsource the infrastructure.” In addition to Zendesk, companies can look at services like Openbravo for web-based support.

2. Crowdsource Solutions: In addition to a Frequently Asked Questions page, consider incorporating a discussion forum or dialogue tool into your website. These tools allow customers with questions to interact with your best advocates. In addition to Zendesk’s forum tool, companies can also look to Get Satisfaction, FixYa or Lefora for help.

3. Social Media: When your customers or ex-customers are going to complain about your company, they’ll often do it via Twitter or Facebook. Take advantage of these tools and use them to keep a positive conversation going. Having a dedicated staff person that interacts with customers to answer their urgent questions on Twitter shows how responsive and committed a company is to its customers.

Discuss


Nokia Kills N-Gage. Again. [GigaOM]


This post is by Colin Gibbs from GigaOM Network


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




logosmNokia is now zero for three when it comes to mobile gaming; the company said it will shut down down its N-Gage service next year and fold it into its Ovi brand of mobile data offerings. The doomed service rose from the ashes of the game-centric phone of the same name that proved an epic failure after its 2003 launch.

The emergence of the iPhone has proven that a real market exists for mobile games, but Nokia for years has failed to grow its gaming business beyond a small crowd of users on high-end phones. There may yet be a market for a phone built specifically for gamers (as opposed to a mass-market handset with decent gaming features like the iPhone),which is why Sony Ericsson should try its hand with a PSP phone. But the N-Gage service seemed unnecessary and confusing given the presence of Ovi, an umbrella brand that includes an app store for Nokia users. If Ovi truly gains mass market traction among smartphone users in Western markets, the existence of a separately branded service exclusively for gamers doesn’t make sense anyway.

Fall TV Season Boosts Online Video Stats [NewTeeVee]


This post is by Liz Gannes from GigaOM Network


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Though the summer season did little to slow web video down, the last four weeks of fall TV helped drive September viewing to new highs, with nearly 26 billion videos delivered to more than 168 million U.S. users, another all-time record, according to comScore. Hulu jumped back to second place behind Google/YouTube with 583 million views after sliding to the fourth place last month. Of course, YouTube obliterated everyone else’s numbers, with 10.3 billion measured video views. And Hulu watchers are real content junkies, each seeing an average of 15.1 videos lasting a total of 1 hour and 32 minutes.

comScoreSept1

TV networks did especially well on the Top 10 chart for most unique viewers. Fox Interactive, CBS, Viacom, Hulu, NBC and Turner all made the list.

comScoreSept2

The other big jump for the month was percentage of U.S. Internet users watching online video; we’re now at 84.4 percent, up from 81.6 percent last month. And the duration of an average video held steady at 3.8 minutes, with the average viewer watching 9.8 hours of video throughout the month (but that’s not entirely lost productivity; remember, you can fold laundry while watching online video!).

The top video ad network by both potential and actual delivered reach was Tremor Media.

comScoreSept3

Meanwhile, back in the world of traditional distribution, fall season broadcast network ratings are not exactly looking pretty. Fox and CBS are up 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively, while everyone else is down (see the chart from TVByTheNumbers).

SeasontoDate

TweetDeck Promises to Add Twitter Lists Support Soon


This post is by Louis Gray from louisgray.com


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




In July of 2008, when TweetDeck launched, it was the first Twitter client to support the ability to group those you follow – so you could see like-minded folks in a single column and ensure you didn’t miss their updates. Now that Twitter is rapidly rolling out their own Lists functionality, many have been curious as to how TweetDeck would adapt to the change. In a blog post issued today, the company promised that support for Lists will be coming soon, “at the heart of the application”.

The post didn’t say just exactly how list support would be rolled out, or if you could export the groups you had already created into these new lists, but it is easy enough to assume they are working on it. In fact, the post says, “we’re not just planning any old run-of-the mill integration…oh no. We think you’ll find that what we have planned for Lists is going to take your social media experience with TweetDeck to new heights.”

So if you are a TweetDeck user, worried about making more groups or starting your own lists, it sounds like Iain and team have you covered.

Update: Shortly after this was posted, Loic LeMeur of Seesmic said that his desktop program would also be soon supporting lists, in a tweet, saying: “OF COURSE Seesmic will have user lists very soon. I have them on my Seesmic Desktop already testing.”

DEMO’s visits to London and Boston show California is great place to launch


This post is by Matt Marshall from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




DEMO LaunchI’ve been on the road lately, in a continued effort to find and meet with the best companies around to launch new products at the DEMO conference, and have been developing some cool ideas for DEMO’s next conference in March. I’ll share more about those ideas in future posts.

First, here are a few thoughts, after wrapping up a trip to London this week, and Boston last week.

In each of these places, there are hordes of ambitious, talented entrepreneurs. As I mull whether to keep the conference in California, or to possibly hold it in some other city (or at least alternate locations), the feedback I get suggests there are very compelling reasons companies should launch their product at a conference like DEMO — precisely because it takes place in California. The next DEMO is in Palm Springs, on March 21-23. The DEMO conference draws much of the U.S-based tech media, as well as venture capitalists and corporate development people — all in a single place where companies can both launch and grab time with all of these players at the same time. It’s quick (in a day and age when quick is crucial) and efficient. The almuni companies that have launched there include names like Saleforce.com, TiVo, Palm, ETrade, Adobe’s Acrobat — the list goes on.

On Wednesday, I met about 70 entrepreneurs in London at the Sanderson Hotel, after meeting about 100 people in Boston at Vox. The refrain I heard from these entrepreneurs was the same: It’s fine to launch companies anywhere in the world, but traveling to California, at least for visits, is often unavoidable.

Take, for example, the case of Shazam. Today I visited with the fast-growing company, which lets you hold up your phone to a radio and instantly recognizes the song that is playing — so that you can find it later, buy it or share it with friends.

Shazam is based in London and just became the first ever English company to get funding from Kleiner Perkins, the Silicon Valley venture firm that has helped build big consumer brands, including Google and Amazon. Shazam chief executive Andrew Fisher told me he reached out specifically to Kleiner in order to get the help needed to build such a brand. If you’ve heard the meme about how Silicon Valley has lost its edge, ask Fisher what it’s like to run a music business from London. He can manage, but he lives near Heathrow airport and basically spends half his time in the U.S. doing deals.

shazamHe provided other reasons why the U.S. market is crucial if you’re a web company building a consumer brand. Earlier in its life, Shazam focused mostly on striking deals with U.S. mobile phone operators (Verizon, AT&T, etc), because it wanted to get its application on the decks of phones. This need wasn’t enough to force the company to move to the U.S., because Fisher still had to travel throughout the U.S to visit each carrier’s offices; these were spread out enough so that no single U.S.-based office would have served Shazam’s needs (Fisher found it just as easy to fly over from London).

However, the mobile locus of power is now moving away from the operators, and Shazam is striking deals with all kinds of other players. Shazam needs agreements with music labels — to list songs within its database. It’s doing deals with advertisers and partnering with other Web companies (it is not a music store itself and wants to work with existing companies where users have profiles, including Facebook, Myspace and Twitter), and here again, California is a more central base to do this from. More recently, the company is doing deals with major handset manufacturers, in part because Google’s Android operating system has given manufacturers more ways to customize their interface (including highlighting certain applications like Shazam). Again, this is arguably easier to do from California than the UK. So Shazam now has an office in San Mateo, Calif., not far from the San Francisco airport. And it’s expanding staff there: The company is looking to hire a senior level strategic marketing executive.

In the valley, Fisher says, “everyone is an entrepreneur.” Most employees, even if they’re not CEOs, think about a company’s business value. In London, by contrast, fewer people have the same work ethos. So his team been very selective while hiring. Shazam, he says, has a “mini valley culture,” and a high proportion of its workforce are people not originally from the UK.

We’ve also heard through the grapevine that Spotify, another English music company, is in the same boat. Its executives have been visiting the U.S. regularly (to sign deals with labels and strike other partnerships) and is searching for a CEO for a separate U.S. operation it is setting up. Legally, you have to have a U.S.-based organization in order to strike licensing deals for the tracks (Kazaa showed the labels how dangerous it was to deal with companies outside of the U.S.).

Clearly, there’s no doubt you can build a modern Web company anywhere in the world. But if you’re building a global brand, there’s a big chance you’ll need to be in California. And what better stage of a company’s life to be there than at its product launch — when it can get in the same room as all of the main players.

I’ll be talking more about DEMO’s plans over the next few weeks. One idea we’ve been mulling is how to create more focus on specific verticals, such as consumer internet, cleantech, healthcare, mobile, enterprise, software, social media, etc.

Meantime, the next DEMO tour stop will be in San Francisco on Dec 2. Sign up now. This is going to be fun; we’ll have a live jam session.


MyYearbook deepens push into virtual cash with toolbar, Target cash cards


This post is by Kim-Mai Cutler from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




A little bit of lunch money can go a long way.

Teen social network MyYearbook reached profitability earlier this year on the back of its virtual currency called Lunch Money. So it’s no surprise that the New Hope, Pennsylvania-based company is aggressively pushing it forward, with a new browser toolbar and partnership with Target for redeemable cash cards.

Picture 20Launched about a year ago, Lunch Money and virtual goods now bring in about one-third of MyYearbook’s roughly $1 million in monthly revenues, according to CEO Geoff Cook. Started with his two teenage siblings, Cook’s company now has 20 million members.

The company launched a new toolbar this week, that travels with a user across the web (like Google’s version). But in this case, a user can earn virtual cash by performing searches. The toolbar helps MyYearbook understand what its users are interested in and earn revenue from affiliate fees when they buy goods off sites like Amazon.com. MyYearbook is also partnering with Target to sell special VIP cards that are redeemable for virtual currency and other privileges on the site. (The reason MyYearbook is doing this on top of offering memberships directly on the web site is that many of its younger users don’t have credit cards. So they it’s hard for them to buy virtual cash online.)

While other social networks have prioritized user acquisition and growth above monetization, Cook has done the reverse, pushing very aggressive advertising and virtual payments systems. MyYearbook will even pay users virtual cash to watch video advertisements and answer questions about them later.

The company has built special takeover advertising experiences, where Target’s red logo will cover the web site’s background or where users can take photos of their friends’ faces and put them into animations. A Six Flags promotion that let people stick their friends’ faces in a roller coaster animation drove 1 million user actions (e.g. comments, “likes”, e-mails, etc.) That’s in contrast to Facebook’s more discreet engagement and text ads.

“We find the currency powerful at driving user behavior,” Cook said. “We’re constantly working on expanding Lunch Money — coming up with more things people can buy or syncing it with other services in unusual ways.”

Picture 19

Cook says the social networking site’s users overlap pretty heavily with Facebook. But MyYearbook is where you go to meet new people, while Facebook strengthens connections with your existing friends.

The company has about 80 employees and has raised more than $17 million in funding in two venture rounds involving Norwest Venture Partners, US Venture Partners and First Round Capital.

I’ve embedded a few videos about the company for background below:


Twitter Tricks And Treats For Halloween


This post is by Leena Rao from TechCrunch


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Twitter tweeted out a message today about a special Halloween feature if you Tweet “#trick” or “#treat.” It was difficult to figure out at first, but if you tweet either from your Twitter home page (this is key, you can’t enable the feature when you are on a client), your home page background will go “ghoulish” and the avatars on the Tweets on your page will turn into zombies and ghouls.

The way to trigger it is by tweeting ONLY “#trick” OR “#treat” with nothing else. #Treat is the top trending topic on Twitter so it looks like the masses haven’t figured it out. If you only post #trick or #treat, it doesn’t actually Tweet it out (if you post from Twitter’s site). Happy Halloween!

There are a few variations of backgrounds that Twitter is featuring in the trick. Here are the ones we found.

Thanks @orli!

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Don’t Be A Featured Loser: Facebook Helps Out The Unpopular


This post is by Michael Arrington from TechCrunch


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Nobody wants to be the kid who only gets invited to birthday parties because his mom calls up the other mom and asks. Everyone knows that only succeeds in making you even more unpopular.

Our guess is a fair number of the geeky employees at Facebook were exactly that kid. Which is why I’m sort of surprised that they’d think asking people to help out Facebook friends who don’t have a lot of Wall activity, or even many other friends. These people get mocked. Obviously.

We’ve all seen the messages under Suggestions on the Facebook home page. So and so only has two friends on Facebook, suggest friends for him? Others are urged to write on the Wall of unpopular users.

A reader writes to us today with a screenshot:

So, apparently facebook is now suggesting you write on a friend’s wall to “make facebook better for them” or “reconnect with them” if they are not getting many wall posts. It’s nice to know that if I’m a facebook loser my virtual mom will call up the other kids and ask if they’ll come play with me. Because that sure worked in the real world when I was 10.

Who knows what levels Facebook will go to to ensure that your unpopularity turns into a mocking sideshow like the one above. Don’t be that guy. Find some friends and convince them to leave a wall post every week or two. The last thing you want is to be a Featured Loser

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Stealth Startup Zkatter To Launch Real-Time Broadcasting Site To Capture “Live Moments”


This post is by Leena Rao from TechCrunch


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British stealth startup Zkatter is launching a real-time microblogging service in the next few months that could be a hit. Similar in theory to Twitter, Zkatter asks users “What do you see now?” vs. Twitter’s “What are you doing?”

The service, which has been in development since 2008, will allow anybody to broadcast and archive ‘live moments’ comprising location, media (image, video and text) to ‘friends only’ or ‘the public’ which can then be discovered instantly via search and friends time-lines. Zkatter’s focus is towards capturing information that you physically see live which offers a interesting addition to the real-time space.

Zkatter, which has received $1.5 million in Series A funding, is also developing iPhone and Android apps to work in conjunction with the standalone site, with the platform updated in real-time across all devices. So if you post an update on your iPhone, it will automatically show on the site. And Zkatter will be integrated with Facebook and Twitter, so you can publish you updates to both social networks as well. There are additional features to the site but this is the general idea of what the Zkatter will be able to do.

We took a little test run of the site, and it’s impressive. Not only is the user-interface easy to use, but the seamless real-time integration between mobile and the web. But Zkatter will still face competition from Twitter and the plethora of content-sharing Twitter applications, like TwitPic or TwitVid, which also let you broadcast “live moments.” The site is also similar to DailyBooth.

Zkatter’s founder Matt Hagger tells me that there is still a good amount of development that needs to be done for the site but he’s confident that Zkatter will find a place in the real-time space. There’s no doubt that the rise of real-time streams is fundamentally altering the way we communicate and interact with one another, which is why we are holding our second RealTime CrunchUp on November 20th. You can buy tickets for the event here. Startups will be launching their latest real-time products and we are bringing together a host of notable panelists to share their thoughts on the realtime stream.

Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0




Novell’s Blog Wheels Out Tired Criticisms of Open Source [OStatic]


This post is by Sam Dean from GigaOM Network


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In response to the news this week that the city of Los Angeles is going Googlefied with a $7.25 million, five-year deal to adopt Gmail, Google Calendar and other applications, Novell’s blog has an interesting rebuttal. Of course, the reason for the city’s switch to Google’s corner of the cloud is to save money that it would otherwise spend on expensive software licenses, and it will save. Still, the Novell blog post is intriguing because it’s a missive from an open source-focused company criticizing the Los Angeles decision with barbs frequently aimed at open source solutions. It claims that L.A. should have opted for Novell’s fee-based Groupwise solution. Huh?

According to the post on Novell’s site:

“Like the LA Police department and others, we continue to doubt the economics and security of the City’s decision to move to a Google system. The City Council was presented with clear evidence that Google posed a very significant risk to the security of City and citizen data, much of it highly confidential. In addition, independent financial data showed that the new system will actually cost more, not less.”

Why will the Google apps (which aren’t open source but aren’t expensive proprietary solutions either) cost more, according to the post? You probably already guessed that the post claims that there are “significant costs to migrating, training and securing Google Apps.” Does this sound like the classic set of questionable responses that enterprise I.T. administrators deliver when asked why they don’t migrate to free, open source software?

The post at Novell’s site then goes on to say:

“To set the record straight, Novell GroupWise is a world-class product with more than 30 million users in 120 countries around the globe…The City of Los Angeles should have opted for this proven product to ensure the security of its data and to save taxpayer money.”

Groupwise is, of course, typically sold to enterprises through software licenses, as Microsoft’s applications and platforms are. The missive at Novell’s site is just a blog post, and not necessarily the postion of the company, but it still is pretty jarring to see tired old criticisms of open source appearing on the site of one of the only publicly traded open source-focused companies. 

 

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