Is Twitter worth $4B? Kleiner Perkins evidently thinks so


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Various reports in the past couple of weeks have suggested that Twitter is in the midst of raising a new round of money that is akin to a hot-and-heavy speed dating session. A couple of weeks ago, the rumor du jour put the company’s valuation in the $3 billion range.

But Techcrunch reports tonight that Twitter’s valuation is more like $4 billion, thanks to a bidding war in which Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is now the likely winner.

At the recent Web 2.0 Summit, Kleiner Perkins managing director John Doerr said he regretted that his company didn’t invest in Twitter when the valuation was much smaller. He said it wasn’t clear at the time if Twitter’s popularity would last and if it would figure out how to make money. But Twitter co-founder Ev Williams was quite confident that the company had found its business model in advertising.

Techcrunch says Doerr himself is leading the charge and doesn’t want to lose Twitter again. Doerr and his partner Bing Gordon have recently been saying they think there is a big tech boom coming, not a bubble.





3 Mobile Healthcare Apps that Leverage the Cloud


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HTC_EVO_GL_OB.jpg The mobile healthcare market is finally starting to show significant growth. The number of apps has increased more than 150% on Android and 140% on the Blackberry in the past year.

According to Mobile Health News, more than 4,200 healthcare apps are on the Apple platform and Android users have access to about 500.

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By 2015, more than 500,000 people are expected to be using healthcare smartphone applications.

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Apps that leverage a cloud infrastructure are just emerging. These services help doctors serve patients from remote locations. They can also help people to manage their own health and understand the context of the environment where they live.

AirStrip

AirStrip Technologies has teamed with Sprint on an app that deliver patient data from hospital monitoring systems to mobile devices. It visualizes data such as fetal heartbeat and maternal contraction patterns directly from the labor and delivery unit to a doctor’s smartphone. Physicians can now closely monitor patients from remote locations. They may also access patient information such as nursing notes, vital signs and order results.

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My Place History

My Place History shows your location and the public health and environmental hazards of the region. The app pulls from sources such as the incidence of heart attacks, the National Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Environmental Protection Agency and the Haz-Map of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. ESRI developed the service. The company is the world’s largest maker of geographic information systems.

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Sana

Sana was developed by a group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It is designed to improve healthcare delivery in rural and underserved areas. Sana has developed an open source platform that allows mobile phones to capture and send data for an electronic medical record. It links community health workers with physicians for real-time decision support.

Sana supports audio, images, location-based data and text. Video will be supported in the future.

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These apps give a glimpse of what we can expect to see as more people use smartphones to access health information.

Doctors can’t be everywhere. But their knowledge can travel. Mobile technologies provide a bridge for that information to flow.

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Zynga’s FarmVille Heads To The Land Of The Rising Sun


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It’s already taken over the English-speaking world, and it’s ready for more. Zynga’s juggernaut FarmVille will soon be launching in Japan, marking the first time the game has been translated into another language. A localized, mobile version of the game, which will be called FarmVillage, is slated to launch in Japan in “early December”.

FarmVillage is going to be available on Mixi, which is the top Japanese social network.  But it will only be available for mobile ‘feature-phones’ — there’s no web-based version, at least for now, which could impact adoption. The release is the first from Zynga Japan, the social gaming company’s joint venture with Softbank that was announced over the summer (in addition to a Softbank investment of $150 million).

This is the latest round of Zynga’s international expansion. The company launched Texas Poker in traditional Chinese over the summer, and will soon be launching CityVille simultaneously in English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish (that will also mark the first time Zynga has had an international launch for a game’s initial release).


Zynga launches FarmVille in Japan: will the Japanese like purple cows?


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In a bid to find new markets for its blockbuster social game, Zynga is announcing a localized version of its FarmVille game in Japan today.

Called Farm Village, the Japanese version of the world’s largest game — which has 53.7 million monthly active users on Facebook — will be available in early December on Mixi, Japan’s largest social network which runs on feature phones.

Zynga has made global expansion a big priority as it searches for ways to become less dependent on Facebook. The company has to diversify its risks and expand to new markets. Last week, the company announced that it would launch its newest game, CityVille, in five different languages.

Zynga is a privately held San Francisco company with more than 1,300 employees. It has seen extremely fast growth in nearly four years, with more than 215 million monthly active users playing its games. The company has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from major investors such as DST, SoftBank, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Secondary trading on SharesPost (where employees sell their stock to cash out early) pegs Zynga’s value at $5.6 billion. Revenue for 2010 is expected to surpass $500 million, according to Inside Network. Roughly 10 million Americans play FarmVille every day.

But the dependency on Facebook is a big risk for Zynga. In any given week, Zynga can lose 10 million users or gain that many (based on what I’ve seen eyeballing the numbers over time) That’s why the Japanese launch is so important.

Launched in June, 2009, FarmVille itself is a casual game that users play for minutes a day. The players have been fickle; FarmVille’s audience has shrunk from 83 million monthly unique visitors earlier this year to 53.7 million. Along the way, Zynga markets its other games to FarmVille players. So even if those players stop playing FarmVille, they may move on to other Zynga games. The game is available for free, but users pay real money for virtual goods such as tractor fuel.

Victory in Japan isn’t guaranteed. There are a lot of big Japanese mobile social game companies, such as DeNA, which have entrenched positions. U.S. rivals such as CrowdStar are also moving into the Japanese market. To ensure success, Zynga raised money from SoftBank and created a joint venture, Zynga Japan, to accelerate its entry into the market.

Robert Goldberg, chief executive of Zynga Japan (and a VentureBeat veteran), said that Farm Village will focus on social play where users will play with their real friends, not just virtual friends.

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Hack(s) of the Day: The HTML5 Game Jam Winners


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HTML5 The first HTML5 Game Jam was held last month at both Google downtown San Francisco office SPIL Games‘s Hilversum, Netherlands. Participants spent just over 24 hours creating simple games with HTML5. Today, Google announced the winners on its Code Blog.

The games are all quite simple, but demonstrate how much can already be done with HTML5. Not to mention they were all created very quickly.

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NinjaLeap screenshot

The winner from San Francisco was Ninja Leap, a 2D action game.

Monkey Fortress

The winner from Hilversum was Monkey Fortress, which shows off the Canvas physics engine.

You can check out all of the winners on Google’s blog post and all of the games submitted at the official Game Jam site. I found Fruit Link particularly addictive.

The official site also has a set of useful resources for HTML5 game designers, including game engines, graphics and tutorials.

Lead image by Justin Watt

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When You Wish Upon a List


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It’s official, the holiday shopping season has begun and it’s time to get serious about gift lists. This week, I took a closer look at some online services that could help you—or those shopping for you—find and buy the right gifts.

While there are many services around, I’ll just touch on a handful of them, including some that take advantage of social networking and group buying.


[ See post to watch video ]

Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, is jumping into the wish-list action this holiday season with the Bing Shopping List. Starting Wednesday, this feature lets people add items to a saved wish list by simply check-marking an on-screen box in shopping search results. Shopping search results are displayed by clicking the Shopping tab in Bing search results or by selecting Shopping on Bing.com and going from there. Once an item’s box has been checked, a small, in-browser visual of all items added to the wish list is displayed in the lower left corner of the browser window. Lists are saved between sessions, so you can close your browser and open it another time and work with the same saved list.

In addition to collecting a list of wished-for items, the Bing Shopping List lets people share those lists with their Facebook friends, giving them a chance to see and buy items from someone else’s wish list. Or people can use Bing Shopping Lists to select just a couple items, share them with the Facebook community, and ask for friends’ opinions about which product is better. Users may get feedback from friends they wouldn’t otherwise know were experts in certain areas.

A Microsoft spokesman said the impetus for this came from trends the company saw taking place on the Web—specifically, people using Facebook to solicit opinions about what to buy and to tell others what they want.

A downside to the Bing Shopping Lists is that they don’t yet offer a way to share items with only certain people, which might mean sharing a private gift with all your Facebook friends. And you can’t yet create multiple lists. A way to share items with only certain people and options for create multiple lists are on the product road map for next year, according to a company spokesman.

Speaking of social networks, Sears is taking a unique approach to the group-buying concept with Wish Together, a program launched in mid-November. With Wish Together, Sears puts at least one new item on its Facebook page (facebook.com/sears) each day. If enough people click on the item’s “Like” button before a certain time, a steep discount on the item becomes unlocked, like a diamond necklace that originally cost $285 will cost $100 at its Wish Price if it gets the required 200 “likes.” People can see the number of necessary “Likes” and time remaining (down to the second) displayed on the item’s Wish Together Facebook page.Once a Wish Together deal is unlocked, it’s available to everyone—not just those who originally “liked” it. But those who “liked” the item get an email notification from Facebook as soon as the deal is unlocked so they can buy it while supplies last.

MOSSBERG

Bing is jumping into the wish-list action this holiday season with the Bing Shopping List

The tried and true Amazon Wish List, which has been around for 11 years, can be used to add wish-list items from any website, not just Amazon.com. This works using the site’s Universal Wish List. It can be set up by dragging an “Add to Wishlist” bookmark (http://3.ly/G82n) into your browser’s bookmark bar. Then you just click the bookmark whenever you’re on the specific Web page of an item you’d like to add to your Wish List. A small pop-up menu lets users designate a specific Amazon Wish List or add their own notes about an item. Universal Wish List browser extensions, or shortcuts built right into a Web browser, are available for Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox browser. Some online retailers like ModCloth.com, save you a step by offering “Add To Amazon Wish List” buttons right on their websites. Amazon Wish Lists can be shared to friends through Facebook or Twitter using a link on the list’s webpage.

There are many Facebook apps for creating wish lists and sharing them with Facebook friends. I tried a couple apps, including a basic one called Fulfill My Wishlist (http://3.ly/3u3d). It let me search a shopping portal (that uses Google Shopping in the background) for items to add to my wish list, or let me copy and paste a link for any item to appear in my list. A notes section for each item allows room for describing details like preferred size or style. This list can be emailed to friends or viewed through the Facebook app by friends who use it.

If you’re planning to go in on buying a pricey gift with several other people, a group-gift option like eBay’s might be the right tool for you. EBay introduced its Group Gifts feature (groupgifts.ebay.com) in November. It lets several people pool their money to buy one item without one person chasing down those who owe money.

One person chooses an eBay item and selects the Buy It Now option (auction prices aren’t applicable when you need to tell the group how much they’ll definitely owe). The initiator tells the group how much he or she will pay and then shares the item with others via email, Facebook or Twitter, in hopes of getting contributions. A PayPal account is required for at least one person in the group to ultimately pay for the item, but gift contributors can chip in using credit or debit cards, and they can add their own notes to a gift.

Thanks to technology, there are many ways to direct your friends and family toward exactly what you want for the holidays, taking much of the guesswork out of giving and receiving this year.

Edited by Walter S. Mossberg

Write to Katherine Boehret at mossbergsolution@wsj.com

Create Your Own Archive.org with Reed Tech Web Archiving


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A new service announced today gives companies and other organizations the ability to create a searchable, fully functional archive of their Websites, blogs, social media accounts and RSS feeds.

Reed Technology Web Archiving Services, promises to create an interactive archive of a company’s entire Web presence, something that is often recommend for legal purposes.

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As more and more business communication and interactions occurs online, there is an increased need to make Web archiving a best practice, if for no other reason than to have a defense against certain kinds of lawsuits.

Web Archiving Services uses spidering and archiving technology powered by Iterasi to create a working copy of any Web page. This can be done manually as needed or on an automated schedule.

Iterasi’s technology can duplicate not only static HTML pages, but also content found behind AJAX or JavaScript, as well as password-protected pages.

The service comes from Reed Technology and Information Services, a member of the LexisNexis Group. It will be on the market in January 2011.

Do you archive your company’s Website? Let us know in the comments.

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Come On, People, Let’s Get Convertible Tablets Right This Time


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Back in about 2002 or so when Toshiba and a few others tried to sell tablets to businesses and consumers. This was around when Bill Gates was flogging Windows Tablet PC Edition and we all realized that tablets weren’t quite the trick. Among those tablets were the so-called convertibles – laptops that folded around to become thick tablets. When you wanted to tap on the screen you could and when you wanted to type you could do that, too. They were awful.

Now, suddenly, Dell comes out with the Duo and Apple is patenting something that looks like a MacBook Air with a clever folding screen. Sadly, the Duo is a dud and the Apple patents probably won’t make it to market, but here’s what I’d like to see in the convertible department.


There are some times when you totally need a keyboard. I’d love to see a MacBook Air or Vostro-sized tablet with a slide down keyboard that can also act as a stand. Obviously the stand would have to be able to support the thin piece of glass that is the screen, but the goal would be to add a very thin, very light keyboard to an equally thin and light tablet device.

The problem with most convertibles was an untoward attraction to legacy ports and parts. They were there because laptop manufacturers felt that users needed to have an Ethernet port hanging out in their convertibles like an gaping abscess. This is no longer the case. Something like the Dell Streak melded to a nice, full slide-down keyboard would be ideal and it would force manufacturers to really think about tablet usability versus laptop usability.

This is not to say that the traditional-style convertible doesn’t have a place. I’m sure someone thinks they need it. I’d just like the 7-inch plus tablets to go the way of smartphones like the Droid and offer a physical keyboard plus an on-screen keyboard. It makes sense and it would change the tablet use case immensely.

Will this ever happen? Most probably. Dell kind of did it with the ultra-light Duo and there’s no telling what HP is working on with Palm. Things are looking up, especially when compared to the dark days of the proto-convertibles back at the turn of the century.


FitnessKeeper scoops up $1.1M to build out fitness app


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Startup FitnessKeeper, the parent company of the RunKeeper smartphone app, has raised $1.11 million and will use the money to build out its nine-person operation and dive into the highly competitive world of now-fashionable mobile fitness applications.

The RunKeeper iPhone app uses GPS locating to track your distance, time, elevation, pace and path on a map and has caught the eye of several major investors since the company was founded two years ago, primarily because it has kept up with rapidly developing technologies.

The app now has features that ­let others watch your progress, live, online, as they trace your mileage and can see varying levels of your workout. In addition, it now offers mobile fitness training and routine plans to help runners train for events.

It also raised eyebrows last year when founder and CEO Jason Jacobs ran the Boston Marathon (pictured) dressed as an iPhone to promote the business.

The Boston-based company has raised $1.51 million thus far, including $400,000 in seed money from LaunchCapital last fall, along with angel investors Viewlogic founder Will Herman, BzzAgent CEO Dave Balter and Compete.com CEO Don McLagan.

Its latest round of funding was led by well-known Silicon Valley VC firm O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, which has poured money into startup darlings Bit.ly and Foursquare, and included several new unnamed angels and all its former investors.

“We liked [OATV managing director and co-founder] Bryce [Roberts] and the OATV gang from the minute we met them,” Jacobs said in a company blog post today. “Bryce (who also invested in our friends at Foursquare) is an avid cyclist, and like us, is a big believer in mobile/social/fitness/quantified self.”

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Money pours into the private cloud as Abiquo rakes in $10M


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Enterprise cloud management software company Abiquo has raised around $10 million in a second round of funding. The company is ramping up its global sales and marketing in a bid to compete in an increasingly crowded “private” cloud marketplace.

Cloud computing allows computers and mobile devices to bundle off all their resource-intensive data crunching off site to larger, better-equipped servers. Abiquo creates software that lets companies create and manage private, public and hybrid clouds. This means that instead of relying primarily on an on-premise control policy, like Rackspace and Amazon EC2, Abiquo seeks to give every member of a team, from individual users to entire units of a company, the ability to access the cloud at any given time.

The company terms this a “single-pane of glass” approach because users can manage an entire, globally deployed, computing infrastructure across unlimited physical and cloud resources including private, public and hybrid clouds simultaneously. Each user has a level of access that is then tailored to their various needs at the time.

The Redwood City, Calif.,-based company had long sought to differentiate itself from other internal-cloud vendors such­ as Eucalyptus, VMware, Cloud.com and Nimbula and has racked up some big-name clients such as Telefonica and Ericsson.

Thus far, its approach has netted it almost $15.8 million from a variety of investors, with this round of funding being lead by well-known European venture capital firm Balderton Capital and including existing investors Nauta Capital and Eurecan.

As part of the the deal, Bernard Liautaud, a partner at Balderton Capital, will join Abiquo’s board. Liautaud is best known for being founder and CEO of enterprise software company Business Objects, which SAP acquired in 2007 for $6.8 billion.

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How’s your beta test going? Ask users with Prefinery


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surveyA startup called Prefinery launched last year to help other startups manage the beta testing process, where they only let a small number of users play with an early version of the product. A new feature now allows Prefinery customers to find out what their beta users think of the product.

Previously, most Prefinery features were built around the invitation process. You could create invitation forms and invite codes, see how many invitees actually used your site, and then export that data into sales applications like Highrise and Mailchimp.

Founder Justin Britten said the new feedback feature came from his own frustration with UserVoice, a service that asks users to respond via a feedback button that sits at the edge of your site. Britten’s problem was that only 0.5 percent of his users would actually click on the feedback button — which is okay if you’ve got a hugely popular site, but not very useful if there are only a few hundred people in your test. The answer, Britten concluded, is to be a little less subtle and more direct.

With the new feedback feature, that directness can take the form of a pop-up window that Prefinery customers can attach to any link or image, or a widget that can be embedded on any page.

And the feedback can be connected to the data that Prefinery has already collected, including the new option that lets you divide testers into different groups, for example one group for friends and family and another group for investors. Combining the two new features, a company could look specifically at how one group responded to a particular question.

Back when it launched, Prefinery said it planned to expand beyond beta testing into other areas of product development. This feedback widget is certainly something that could be useful beyond Prefinery’s current user base.

The company is self-funded and based in Austin.

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What TechCrunch Staffers Want Yammer to Spend that $25 Million on (TCTV)


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It’s no secret that we like Yammer here at TechCrunch. We gave the company the top TechCrunch50 honors a few years back, we use the product pretty obsessively for in-house communication, and Mike even uses it as a reporting tool.

But we could like it a lot better…

In part two of our interview with David Sacks we ask him what he’s going to spend that new $25 million in venture capital on, and we oh-so-humbly suggest a few things we’d like for him to spend it on. (Spoiler alert: Jason Kincaid is going to be the happiest.)

I forgot to make my request, which is for a “dislike” button. I asked Sacks over email and he said, “You want to tell people you dislike them? What kind of operation is Arrington running over there?” As he said in the first part of our interview, the Yammer feed is like looking in a corporate mirror.


Run Haskell on Xen – No Operating System Required!


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Galois has released the Haskell Lightweight Virtual Machine today. The VM, released under a BSD license, allows users to run Haskell programs in Xen “on bare metal.” Users will boot right into the Haskell application.

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From the company’s announcement:

What might you do with a HaLVM? Pretty much anything you want. 🙂 Explore designs for operating system decomposition, examine new notions of mobile computation with the HaLVM and Xen migration, or find interesting network services and lock them inside small, cheap, single-purpose VMs.

The seems similar to the Mirage, which we previously covered here. Mirage is based on Objective Caml instead of Haskell, but has a similar goal: creating an ultralight OS layer for cloud applications.

Galaois is an information assurance company based in Portland, OR.

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JSON vs. XML


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JSON James Clark, technical lead for the World Wide Web Consortium’s XML activity, published a blog post today about the perceived competition between JSON and XML. Twitter and Foursquare both recently dropped support for XML, opting to use JSON exclusively. Clark doesn’t see XML going away, but sees it less and less as a Web technology. “I think the Web community has spoken,” Clark concludes. “And it’s clear that what it wants is HTML5, JavaScript and JSON.” Clark cites a few particular reasons why JSON is winning the hearts and minds of web developers.

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  • JSON provides better language-independent representation of data structures
  • JSON has a simpler spec
  • JSON handles mixed content adequately
  • XML seems “enteprisey”

Clark, however, laments the fact that the web community will be missing out on the power of XML. He suggests that the best way forward for XML in the near future is improving XML’s integration with HTML5.

What do you think? Do you prefer XML or JSON, or do you use different ones for different purposes? What future does XML have?

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Gawker’s Nick Denton writes an obituary for old-school blogging


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nick dentonFounder Nick Denton has been talking about Gawker Media’s move away from the standard blog format for a while now. Today he published a long post explaining the thinking behind the changes. You might even call the post a manifesto, if it wasn’t so clinical.

The basic idea behind the redesign — a layout with big images highlighting the day’s most important stories, while the old-fashioned, reverse-chronological news stream runs along the side — is no surprise. In fact, it has been viewable on a test website for months. And it’s pretty obvious that this gives Gawker’s blogs (including Gizmodo, Lifehacker, and of course Gawker itself) a way to highlight their hottest stories, rather than whatever is newest.

To explain the change, Denton offered an example from Gizmodo’s biggest story, when it ran photos of the then-secret iPhone 4 (which Gizmodo purchased from someone who found the phone in a bar):

In order to keep video of the iPhone prototype at the top of the reverse chronological flow, Gizmodo actually stopped publishing for several hours. How ridiculous! In any sane medium, a story as powerful as that, one which was drawing more than 90% of the site’s traffic, would be given commensurate real estate; and it wouldn’t require a hack to keep the item prominent. Hence the splash story; now we can finally create front pages that match the visual impact of a tabloid wood or magazine cover; and we can leave them up as long as they’re generating interest.

(We’ve never had a story quite as insanely popular as the iPhone 4 post, but we struggle with similar issues at VentureBeat around our own scoops, which is why we’ve added our own box of highlighted stories.)

Denton is big on the importance of scoops, but at the same time he acknowledges the necessity of running smaller stories that comment on or just point to coverage elsewhere. Those stories will be de-emphasized in the new layout, and Denton hints that he might restructure Gawker’s editorial staff to reflect the division between different kinds of bloggers: “the curator or editor; and the producer or scoopmonger.”

Beyond the magazine-style layout, Denton said Gawker’s sites will emulate TV and offer more regularly scheduled programming. For example, he said Lifehacker could designate a specific time on a specific day as its personal finance slot, and readers can reliably return to the site at that time to find new articles on that topic. That also creates more opportunities for advertisers — who might want to be the “exclusive” sponsor of a certain channel or type of programming, while also avoiding the more salacious Gawker content that they might not want to be associated with.

Denton’s post prompted caustic responses from his former employees. Former Gawker writer Alex Pareene pointed out that Denton’s blog post is exactly the kind of story that Denton would discourage from his writers: “long, wordy, and of interest only to a niche audience.” And former Gawker editor Choire Sicha (who co-founded his own site, The Awl) dismissed Denton’s strategy as “panic writers & have no ad sales dept.”

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David Sacks: Yammer Wasn’t a Pivot and I Still Love Geni (TCTV)


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Yammer founder and CEO David Sacks came all the way from his office upstairs from us to talk about his new $25 million round of funding. We discuss a lot of interesting things in this clip including why Sacks says Yammer wasn’t everyone’s new favorite word, a pivot; why he still loves Geni, the company Yammer spun out of that we don’t hear nearly as much about; why more social-media-for-the-enterprise companies haven’t taken off; and his defense of the freemium business model.

Make sure you stay to the end, when I ask Sacks about a rumor floating around Silicon Valley that he tried to put a deal together with Yammer and Twitter back before the company even launched. Bonus: Sacks- as tactfully as possible- says what TechCrunch’s Yammer usage tells us about our company culture.


8 Predictions for IT in 2015 From Gartner


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Thumbnail image for gartner-logo-august.gif Gartner today announced eight predictions for IT in 2015. Last week, we looked at the broad trends Gartner and two other analyst firms expect to shape the future of IT. This latest announcement makes some more specific predictions about changes the firm’s analysts expect to see by 2015 or earlier. For example, the firm predicts that 80% of enterprises will support tablets by 2013 and by 2014 90% of organizations will support enterprise applications on personal devices.

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The predictions are as follows:

  1. By 2015, a G20 nation’s critical infrastructure will be disrupted and damaged by online sabotage.
  2. By 2015, new revenue generated each year by IT will determine the annual compensation of most new Global 2000 CIOs.
  3. By 2015, information-smart businesses will increase recognized IT spending per head by 60%.
  4. By 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25% of labor hours associated with IT services.
  5. By 2015, 20% of non-IT Global 500 companies will be cloud service providers.
  6. By 2014, 90% of organizations will support corporate applications on personal devices.
  7. By 2013, 80% of businesses will support a workforce using tablets.
  8. By 2015, 10% of your online “friends” will be nonhuman.

The second prediction, that revenue generated by IT will be a CIO compensation factor, is the most interesting to me. It assumes IT will be a profit-center instead of a cost-center for most Global 2000 companies by that time.

What do you think of these predictions? Safe bets? Wishful thinking? A mixture of both?

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Must the Future of Work Mean Information Overload?


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As companies add social software to help their employees work together more efficiently, and software makers add social features to existing products, there is a growing risk that workers could get overloaded by all the information coming at them, says Jive Software chairman and former CEO Dave Hersh. A big part of what companies and workers have to deal with now is simply “noise management,” Hersh says, because the amount of data coming at them is so overwhelming.

“There’s just so much information out there, and it’s coming at people at a deafening rate,” the Jive founder chairman said in a recent interview. The risk, Hersh says, is that some employees are going to start retreating from these newer tools (if they haven’t already) and take refuge in the old applications and behaviors that they are comfortable with — even if they don’t work very well. “Many people are reverting back to the things they are familiar with, such as email and face-to-face meetings,” says Hersh, because they feel overloaded by all the new tools they have to use.

The Jive founder chairman and I will be talking about these and other issues involving what we call the “human cloud” and the future of work at our Net:Work conference in San Francisco next week, at the Mission Bay Conference Center on December 9th. I’ll also be talking with Google’s vice president of product management Bradley Horowitz, as well as former Xerox PARC director John Seely Brown (the full list of speakers for the conference is here). There isn’t much time left, so be sure to get a ticket soon.

Hersh says that the increasing problem of information overload puts pressure on both companies and software makers to emphasize ease of use and the needs of users over feature-creep and the desire to have an all-in-one solution. “It’s like the TV remote problem,” the Jive founder chairman says. “Everybody has eight remotes and they are a hundred buttons on each one, so eventually people just give up.” New tools need to be designed in such a way that they make people want to use them, he says. “They have to understand inherently why they are worth using or they just won’t do it.”

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub. req.):

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Andrew



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100 Years of Sears Catalogues: The Answer to the Question "What’s the Internet For?"


This post is by from ReadWriteWeb


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ancestry.com logo.pngFinally. The Internet is now good for something. Ancestry.com, leaders in putting freaky shit online, have fired 100 years of Sears Catalogues through a series of tubes and straight into your eyeholes.

250,000 pages of cataloguey goodness are yours for perusal, covering the years 1896 to 1993, when it ceased production as a paper artifact.

Sponsor

Ancestry, the Utah-based online genealogy company, is really stretching, not just to help you find out who your progenitors were, but Who they were. What they wore. What they used in the kitchen.

Righteous.

anc_buggy_whip.pngBut like any wholesale sharing of previously-unavailable material online, people will find new uses for the materials. Historians and designers in particular should be able to make hay from this trove.

“The original 1888 mailer carrying watches and jewelry expanded into a catalog in 1894 that kept growing offering an ever-widening range of products: sewing machines, sporting goods, musical instruments, saddles, firearms, buggies, bicycles, baby carriages, and clothing.”

(And houses, of course – that goes without saying.)*

Now, if you grew up with the Sears catalogue (I’m talking to the grown-ups here), you probably know all that. Here’s what you might not know. Big wigs were involved in the catalogue’s production. Big. Wigs.

“Big name 40s and 50s film stars Lauren Bacall and Susan Hayward model fashions in pages of the catalog. Also featured are Ted Williams, a major baseball player in the 40s, Al Unser, a race car driver, and Gene Autry, ‘The Singing Cowboy.'”

As one of my co-workers** so sagely said, and I quote, “Squeeeee!!!!”

Squeeeee indeed, my young friend. Squeeeee indeed.

*In case you were wondering, no, you cannot use this system to go back in time and order an original Slinky.
**This may have been me.

Discuss


Countries And Companies Talk Climate Change At COP 16 In Cancun


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The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP16 kicked off yesterday in Cancun, Mexico. Delegates from 192 nations are attending through December 10 hoping to determine a collective, international approach to slowing and preparing their countries for an increase in global temperatures.

Conference goals— laid out at an opening address by Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)— include the establishment of: commitments from countries to stop deforestation, a fund worth approximately $100 billion-a-year by 2013 to help poor people cope with climate change, and mechanisms that facilitate technology transfer between nations.

Last year’s COP 15 conference in Copenhagen failed in its primary mission to draw countries into a legally binding agreement to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. After the event, however, seventy countries signed the Copenhagen Accord, a voluntary political agreement to address climate change. As part of the accord, the U.S. said it hoped to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 but made no firm promises.

Studies published today by the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions A journal predict that world temperatures could rise by 4 degrees Celsius (7.2F) as soon as 2060 if humanity’s contributions to climate change go unchecked.

The effects of warming that aggressive would include everything from drinking water shortages, to the loss of marine life (and important seafood supplies) as oceans become more acidic. The costs for nations to cope with such changes would be astronomical.

Climate change deniers continue to shrug off studies illustrating how people exacerbate climate change. Although the heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century, skeptics still believe a rise in global temperatures is all natural, or that there’s little we can do about global warming save to accept it and adapt.

NASA rsearchers, however, have confirmed that the world has been warming up more quickly in the last thirty years than ever before, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years, thanks in measurable part to greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human energy consumption and industries.

The executive director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) in Washington D.C., Carol Werner, says that even climate change deniers should hope for some COP 16 outcomes:

We would like to see a formal agreement between countries and companies to curb black carbon, or soot, produced from diesel, inefficient cookstoves and open burning heat and energy sources. And we would like to see continued, respectful negotiations led by the United States and China that will shape the way that countries agree to monitor, report and verify their energy consumption, production and emissions.

Transparency helps businesses and trade policy makers not just environmentalists, while soot in the air has preventable negative health impacts besides contributing to climate change, Werner notes.

If nations do not make concrete promises and legally binding agreements to address climate change, the private sector may outpace them quickly enough to make an impact. Hundreds of c-suite level executives are attending COP 16 and ancillary summits such as The World Climate Summit, Green Solutions, the World Business Council For Sustainable Development’s Building Bridges event, and the Climate Group’s Climate Leaders Summit.

EESI’s Werner says the COP has become a place where companies— perhaps even more than countries— now go to showcase their own clean technologies and environmental best practices, while lobbying for policies that will benefit, or at least not adversely effect their industries.