Farewell Flash? Adobe Launches HTML5 Web Animations Tool "Adobe Edge"

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Html5 150x150Today, Adobe is launching a new tool called Adobe Edge which will allow creative professionals to design animated Web content using Web standards like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. Not Flash.

Aimed to coexist with Adobe Flash, not replace it, the Web design software is Adobe’s big bet on how it will continue to solidify its position as a top player in the infrastructure of the modern Web, especially as the Web goes increasingly mobile. In this new mobile context, the Web has become a more hostile environment for Flash, which has no place on Apple mobile devices, and likely never will.


HTML5 vs Flash…or HTML5 and Flash?

Although Flash still accounts for the majority of website animations today, that won’t always be the case.

So does Edge’s launch mean that Adobe caved and ceded the battle to HTML5 over Flash? Adobe doesn’t see it that way. Although battles make for good headlines here in the world of tech journalism, it’s not really an either/or scenario when it comes to the “Flash vs. HTML5” conundrum in the professional world. For today’s Web designers and developers, both technologies are still used.

Adobe’s Support for HTML5 Continues with Edge

“HTML5 is an opportunity for Adobe,” explains Devin Fernandez, Group Product Manager for Adobe’s Web Pro Segment, “that’s not to say there aren’t opportunities for Flash.” He contends that Flash will continue to push forward, and, as we have reported previously, it will focus on areas that HTML5 cannot yet address as well – like 3D gaming for example. (Although even there, HTML5 is making inroads.)

Still, with HTML5 being a relatively new technology, it doesn’t today deliver a consistent experience across the widest range of devices and browsers. For example, Windows XP, which even to Microsoft’s own chagrin remains a fairly popular computer operating system, can only run up to Internet Explorer 8. That means it can’t take advantage of the many major leaps in terms of HTML5 support introduced in IE 9.

In other words, Adobe believes Flash still has a solid future here on the Web for some time. But when the Web is ready for an entirely Flash-free existence, this is surely Adobe’s plan for maintaining its relevance among the creative professionals crowd, including developers and designers alike.

What Does Edge Do?

Adobe claims it has been a strong player in HTML5, going back to April 2010, when it first began introducing support for the technology in its product line, including Dreamweaver, Illustrator, its Digital Publishing Suite and, more recently, its Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tool, Wallaby.

Now, with Adboe Edge, it aims to provide the tools that will help professionals build Web animations, and in the future, even simple games. At present, Edge will focus on its core animation engine, but in the future, it plans to add more HTML5 features, including Canvas support, support for HTML5 Audio and Video tags, richer support for animating SVG graphics and more.

Edge 2 screenshot 072711

The software (for both Mac and PC) is designed to have an intuitive paneled user interface, a fast startup time, and will include, at the bottom, the familar timeline feature creative professionals already know and understand. Edge users can import existing HTML documents and graphic assets including SVG, PNG, JPG and GIF and then sytle them with CSS3. Panels on the left and right provide access to properties of the .EDGE file and the various elements the designer is working with. And in the center, there runs an embedded version of the WebKit browser.

When a project is complete, it will work on modern Web browsers like those that run on Android, iOS, HP’s webOS, the BlackBerry PlayBook, plus Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer 9.

Where to Get Adobe Edge

Starting today, Adobe Edge is available as a free download while in its public preview period. The 1.0 product is expected to launch next year.

This is a hugely important launch for Adobe – one that IDC analyst Al Hilwa, says is “the biggest thing they have done so far.” Hilwa likes Adobe Edge, and believes it shows that Adobe is really in-tune with designer needs.

“Adobe has started working on HTML5 and has brought many little things, showing that they can pivot nicely to new trends,” Hilwa told us. “It shows that they can remain the premier tools vendor no matter what the technology inside is.”

Will designers agree with Hilwa’s sentiment, though? In time, we’ll know.

Edge 1_Screenshot_072711.png

YouTube’s Creator Playbook: Your Guide To Achieving Internet Fame*

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Looking to turn yourself (or your show) into a YouTube star but don’t know where to begin? YouTube’s looking to help — the video portal has launched a comprehensive guide outlining how content producers should be approaching the platform and which features they can take advantage of. The 70 page guide has a fitting title: The Creator Playbook.

The new document was discussed today at the VidCon conference in Los Angeles, and is part of YouTube’s broader goal to help creators produce high quality content (YouTube’s recent acquisition Next New Networks is the driving force behind this mission).

Of course, YouTube is quick to clarify that while this should be a useful guide, there isn’t anything that’s guaranteed. It’s really just a well thought-out set of best practices — if your content isn’t any good, optimizing the first five seconds of your video isn’t going to be much help. From the first page:

The Creator Playbook is not a collection of rules or guaranteed ‘tricks’ to get more views. Instead, it presents best practices, optimization tips, and suggested strategies for building audience and engagement on YouTube.”

The document is a hefty 70 pages long but isn’t as daunting as you’d think. YouTube has broken each of its miniguides into three sections: Programming & Producing, Publishing & Optimization, Community & Social Media. And each tip within a section gives an at-a-glance overview of how long it will take to implement (the easy ones are five minutes, the harder ones a day or more), which metrics the tip will impact, and how much of an effect content creators should expect.

Some of the topics will be obvious to TechCrunch readers (use Facebook and Twitter a lot!) but it’s unlikely that you’ll already know everything in there. The sections outlining how video metadata can impact your search result rankings is particularly useful — and there’s a checklist at the end you can run through each time you upload a video.

Note that while there’s an entire section dedicated to thumbnail optimization, there’s nothing in there about using a woman’s cleavage as your thumbnail photo, which seems to be a curiously popular strategy on the site.

Best Buy tests the connected TV market

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Big box retailer Best Buy has been selling connected TVs for years now, but until recently it’s been reluctant to jump in with its own products in the fast-growing segment. That changes Monday, as the company is introducing two models of connected TVs from its Insignia brand of consumer electronics devices.

While other consumer electronics manufacturers are betting big on Internet-connected TVs, Best Buy is treading a little more cautiously. It will sell 32-inch and 42-inch models of the new Insignia-brand TVs, which will retail for $499 and $699, respectively. According to Patrick McGinnis, Best Buy VP of Product Management for its exclusive brands, the retailer decided to go with those model sizes, at least initially, because they were its best-selling TV models.

The new Insignia TVs are equipped with a TiVo-powered user interface (UI), the result of a partnership first announced a year ago. The look-and-feel will be familiar to anyone who’s ever used one of TiVo’s DVRs. And in addition to a simplified way to navigate a series of different types of streaming video, music and other apps, the TiVo UI also provides suggested content based on what a user has watched in the past. That said, it’s important to note that the TVs won’t have built-in DVR functionality, nor will they have the kind of universal search functionality that TiVo DVRs have.

Best Buy was clearly focused on building a TV first, with an impressive group of TV features. The LED screens feature 1080p video quality with a 120Hz refresh rate. They also come with enhanced SRS audio built-in and are ready to be integrated with its Rocketboost wireless digital audio system.

And according to McGinnis, Best Buy wanted to ensure that its Insignia models would be easy to use, and that they wouldn’t suffer from some of the same setbacks that other devices have seen as the market has grown up. It wanted to make sure that its apps wouldn’t crash, for instance, and that any firmware updates or new apps and content would be loaded seamlessly in the background, rather than asking users to download and reboot their TVs.

By doing so, Best Buy hopes to avoid some of the customer service calls or returns that other manufacturers have dealt with, while also providing a better customer experience. But by simplifying things, Best Buy is also taking away some of the actual reason to buy a connected TV. The Insignia products being released have pretty limited access to the types of online services that make such a purchase worthwhile.

On the video side, Insignia TVs only have access to Netflix, Best Buy’s CinemaNow, YouTube and Insignia On Demand (a Flingo-powered video service). It can also connect to Pandora and Napster for music streaming. That might be good for some entry-level TV buyers, but the lack of comparable services like Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Videos (which CinemaNow replaces) could be a big disappointment to those looking for a more robust set of online services. While Best Buy hopes to add more video services, it’s not clear how soon they will appear.

Rather than introducing a whole new application development platform to the market or use a platform like Google TV for app developers, Best Buy’s TVs rely on Chumby apps for additional widgets and functionality. That might give users access to some additional widgets for social networking, news, traffic or weather, but there are very few additional video apps that are available on the nascent Chumby platform.

Relying on an open platform like Chumby could make it easier for developers to make apps for the devices. However, since these two Insignia models are some of the first to actually use the platform, developers could choose to hold out until other CE manufacturers also integrate it into their own devices.

For Best Buy, the introduction of connected TVs is clearly a big deal, especially since it spent so much time trying to make the end product foolproof and easy to use. For entry-level users, that could be a big selling point as they try to choose between connected TVs. But the dearth of streaming content and apps actually available through the new products could end up being a disappointment for users that are looking for a more advanced connected TV.

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Adobe steps into HTML5 design with Edge

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Adobe is doubling down on HTML5 today with the public preview release of Edge, a new design tool for HTML5 web motion and interaction.

The company “sees a huge opportunity to help people be successful with HTML5,” Adobe’s Devin Fernandez told me in an interview last week. HTML5 is emerging as a competitor to Adobe’s dominant Flash technology, but the company clearly doesn’t want to be left out as HTML5 becomes more widely used.

Edge allows developers to easily edit animations and interactive Web page elements based on HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript. Fernandez tells me that the software relies on strict HTML standards, so there won’t be anything additional to muck up your code.

Adobe’s Mark Anders demonstrated to me how Edge could be used to easily create an animated HTML5 ad. While the software doesn’t offer the same robust animation elements as Flash, it’s certainly going to be useful for developers who choose to work with HTML5, as there aren’t any professional-level editing tools dedicated to the standard yet.

“Edge shows that Adobe can remain a premier tools vendor for designers no matter what the runtime,” Al Hilwa, program director of applications development software at IDC told VentureBeat.  “The tool chain for creative design is how Adobe makes its money and there is a great need for HTML5 tools right now.”

Edge isn’t meant to replace Adobe’s existing web design tools like Dreamweaver or Flash — instead it’s just another option for developers. Adobe is making the software free during its initial testing period, and it’s encouraging feedback from developers. The company says it will update the software faster than anything it’s released before to keep up with the rapidly changing world of HTML5.

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Wind could supply electrical power to portable data centers off the grid

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It was a novel idea a few years ago to create a “data center in a box,” which was essentially taking corporate computers known as servers and putting them into a big shipping container. The box could be deployed just about anywhere you could get power into it. It’s an even more novel idea to put some wind-powered generators on top of the shipping containers to have them generate their own electricity.

Advanced Micro Devices, Hewlett-Packard, Clarkson University and a New York state energy research group have banded together to test the idea about how to supply renewable energy to the highly flexible data centers. All of the parties will deploy some of the data centers in and box and study whether they can be sufficiently powered by either wind or solar power.

“We want to develop more renewable energy sources for future data center computing needs,” said Steven Kester, AMD’s director of government relations and regulatory affairs, in an interview.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the rest of the team will study critical questions of how to maintain reliable power for these data centers and how to automatically shift a computing load between the data centers. The study is being funded by a $374,000 NYSERDA grant and private funding sources. AMD engineers developed the proposal with Clarkson University.

Students will run experiments on effectively managing data through a distributed network powered by renewable energy, said a project manager at NYSERDA, in an interview. Then the second phase of the project will incorporate the hardware, including HP’s performance-optimized data center (POD), which uses AMD’s Opteron processor chips for energy-efficient cloud computing.

The whole point is to create cloud computing capability with distributed computing as well as distributed power generation, said Kester. The key challenge is to get enough power to the data centers with relying on a traditional power grid is a key challenge, particularly because these data centers are usually located in big cities. Wind power generators, on the other hand, are usually located in remote areas where the wind is plentiful.

Ultimately, the goal is to co-locate dynamic energy sources with dynamic computing sources to improve the economics, performance, and environmental benefits of wind power and portable data centers. HP created its POD data centers in a box to be modular, so customers can easily order more of them to deal with fluctuating computing demands. They can be quickly added to places with aging infrastructure, limited space and shrinking budgets — even as computing demands increase. The PODs are easily removed and serviced, and they have their own heating and cooling systems, as needed.
HP recently added a new POD solution, dubbed the EcoPOD, which can offer 95 percent greater energy efficiency compared to traditional data centers. HP will lend its expertise in energy-efficient design to the experimental project, which will take place in the Hudson Valley in New York.

“Electrical power demands for data centers are skyrocketing,” said Kester. “As demand for data centers goes up, we see a collision coming as the electrical grid hits its limit. The power consumption will be a restriction on the industry. The costs will be unsustainable. The question is how do we get to 100 percent independence from the grid. “

Filed under: green, VentureBeat

Best Buy moves into the connected TV business with Tivo’s user interface

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Internet connected TVs are becoming a lot more mainstream. The latest sign of that is that Best Buy is announcing its own house label model, dubbed the Insignia Connected TV.

Best Buy, the nation’s largest gadget retailer, hopes to capture more margin in the increasingly competitive electronics business by selling its own equipment under Best Buy’s house brand, rather than selling more gadgets under brand name such as Sony or Samsung. It’s a strategy that has been working for a while.

This TV will be the first to use Tivo’s design interface, giving Best Buy’s customers a user interface that is well-known as a good way for browsing for shows and watching TV — without a TiVo subscription.

The TV will be available in 32-inch and 42-inch models for $499 and $699 respectively at BestBuy.com and Best Buy stores nationwide. The TVs offer a variety of ways to access movies over the web, such as Netflix, CinemaNow and YouTube. It also has applications such as Pandora, Napster, Facebook, Twitter and Photobucket.

Minneapolis=based Best Buy developed the Insignia TV from the ground up, focusing on the ease of setting it up and ease of use, said Patrick McGinnis, vice president of exclusive brands at Best Buy. The user interface allows people to search for online entertainment from a variety of services.

“We’ve heard from customers that smart TVs can be intimidating,” McGinnis said.

TiVO, which once focused on selling or licensing its own digital video recorders, is now licensing its user interface to other parties. Jim Denney, general manager and vice president of product marketing at Tivo, said his company collaborated with Best Buy on the design. The Insignia Connected TV also comes with applications from the popular Chumby content platform, which is used in gadgets like Sony’s connected alarm clocks.

Chumby is the way that the TV accesses apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Photobucket, Accuweather, Reuters News and Sports, stocks and traffic. People can customize their experience by selecting additional content from the Chumby network, which supports hundreds of applications.

The TV has a light-emitting diode (LED) screen running at 1080p (high-definition) resolution and 120 hertz. It comes ready for Rocketboost wireless digital audio technology (another Best Buy in-house brand).

Filed under: gadgets, VentureBeat

BigCommerce Raises $15 Million To Help Retailers Manage E-Commerce

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BigCommerce, a company that provides e-commerce software to online retailers and merchants, has raised $15 Million in Series A funding from General Catalyst Partners.

Launched in 2009, BigCommerce provides a comprehensive SaaS for retailers and merchants to manage e-commerce online. BigCommerce helps small businesses power anything and everything related to an online storefront from search to inventory to online payments to marketing and SEO. And the price for the software is affordable for small businesses, with basic plans starting at $25 per month.

Features include multi-channel retailing, automated email marketing, inventory control, an online storefront, and more. The company, which has 20,000 clients and is profitable, also launched an application for merchants to list inventory on Facebook.

The company has $200 million in total transactions via its SaaS and is adding 1,000 clients per month. The new funding would be used to expand the company’s headcount in Sydney and Austin, Texas operations, sales and marketing initiatives and more.

The web sharing economy & its biggest risk

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The Airbnb horror stories that have emerged in recent days expose the biggest pain point for the economy that has built up around using the web to share “stuff,” whether that’s a house (Airbnb, Crashpadder), a car (RelayRides, GetAround), or an item like a tool (Zilok, NeighborGoods). Protecting the item that is being rented, as well as the person who owns the item, and maintaining the trust of the community of users, should be the largest investment that these “collaborative consumption” companies are making — Some of these companies have seemed to realize this early on, while others haven’t.

In case you haven’t heard about the at least two Airbnb nightmare stories, essentially renters used fake identities and trashed the apartments they had rented and stole items in the apartment. Both victims gave accounts to the media of Airbnb execs being both sympathetic and attentive, but also giving mixed messages about compensation for the damages. The story is still spinning out of control, mainstream publications have picked it up, and Airbnb have a major PR problem on their hands, which they seem ill equipped to deal with.

What is the right way?

Social Web and the Green Economy: Shelby Clark, RelayRides, and Joe Gebbia, AirBnB at Green:Net 2011If you look to the peer-to-peer car sharing companies, which include RelayRides, GetAround and Spride Share, they only were able to launch their companies after they figured out how to supply users enough insurance, which included some business model innovation and also lobbying to get a bill signed that maintained drivers’ insurance while participating in car sharing. RelayRides holds a $1 million supplemental insurance policy that goes into effect during each reservation period.

Because of the nature of cars being potentially dangerous, and because car drivers already have a model for insurance already set up, peer-to-peer car sharing companies have seemed to have taken a proactive stance for protecting car renters and owners in their networks. Some companies like RelayRides have gone even further to maintain security, and use technology like immobilizers, which keep the cars from being started without valid reservations.

Insure Success

It would seem natural that renting out something as valuable as an apartment would have similar significant insurance policies. Other collaborative consumption sites that have built an economy around less valuable goods (like CDs or tools) might not need as robust insurance, but every site needs some baseline security system.

Beyond security, and damage control, there are also privacy risks involved with renting out cars and apartments into peer-to-peer networks. One of the Airbnb victims was concerned about a birth certificate being taken and his identity being co-opted. This new breed of collaborative consumption sites need to be much more diligent for protecting privacy than their early peers like Craiglist.

The major concern for me is that this budding movement of using the web to share stuff — which is a disruptive and sustainable new trend compared to ownership — could be dampened by companies that don’t invest enough in security and privacy tools. As Craig Shapiro, a partner at the Collaborative Lab, told me “for pretty much anything related to sharing resources, thinking through trust and reputation is a critical first step – particularly as it relates to user acquisition.” If these companies don’t make their communities feel safe, they won’t have communities any more. And the new green web sharing economy could suffer.

Images courtesy of GigaOM, Collaborative Labs.

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Get Your Disrupt Startup Battlefield Applications In Now

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It’s time to bring TechCrunch Disrupt back home to San Francisco. We are accepting applications for startups to launch at the Disrupt Startup Battlefield until midnight tonight. Applications for the Startup Battlefield can be submitted here.

Does your startup have what it takes to be the next GetaroundQwiki, or Soluto—and make it through the judges gauntlet to claim the top prize of $50,000, the “Disrupt Cup” and accolades of the crowd?  If you think so, make sure you apply.

Disrupt is the premiere startup launch competition where the most promising founders and entrepreneurs vie to launch their companies on technology’s biggest stage in front of all-star judges. We will have some of the most influential innovators, angels, and VCs judging in front of an audience of 2,000 investors, technologists, and press.

Applications will be open until midnight PT, tonight. Applications have been reviewed on a rolling basis, so please get yours in now. A video will be required as part of the application process. We will not accept any videos longer than 5 minutes and they should not exceed 50MB. In the video be sure to show us the product, its key features, and what makes it different. If selected, we may use segments of submitted videos during the Startup Battlefield competition at Disrupt SF. Applicants are also expected to attach a file with up to 5 power point slides summarizing and reinforcing the application. Don’t worry—all submissions are confidential.

In order to compete in the Startup Battlefield, preference will be given to stealth startups that will be launching for the first time to the public and press at Disrupt SF.  All startups must be live for fewer than three months at the time of application submission.  The competition will be taking place in San Francisco, but companies from all around the world are welcome to enter and we highly encourage them to do so. Companies that have already presented at other public launch evens are not eligible.

Be sure to read through all of the rules and take a peek at the finalists from New York before submitting.

Disrupt SF will be on September 12th – 14th, preceded by our hugely popular Hackathon on September 10th – 11th.

A huge thank you to all of our sponsors who made TechCrunch Disrupt NYC possible:

KAYWEB Angels: a New York City based angel investment group with a twist, providing development services and mentoring to web and mobile startups in exchange for equity.
Watchitoo: a collaboration platform that can be embedded on any site.
iSpeech: gives developers free access to human quality speech recognition and text to speech.
Ambrose : provides an outsourced human resources, payroll and benefits solutions.
Mashery: API management tools and strategic services help companies connect with customers and partners.
CreditLoan: provides financial articles, information graphics, calculators and online applications for bad credit consumers exploring personal loans, credit cards and debt consolidation services.
3Scale Networks: API Management solution enables API providers to open, control, manage and monetize the distribution of their data/content to multiple mobile or web applications.
Launch Pad Ignition: helps hustlers and hackers build great companies in a city where our impact matters, New Orleans.
Twilio: the cloud communications company, reinventing telecom with simple, powerful, pay-as-you-go APIs enabling developers to programmatically make and receive phone calls and text messages.
Shareplow: the first cost-effective PaaS that lets you envision and rapidly deploy integrated, data-centric, web and mobile applications for consumers and businesses.
FireHost: the leader in secure cloud hosting.
Metanga: offers enterprise-class online subscription billing and payments management.
Quixey: a functional search engine for apps that lets you find apps by describing what you want to do
Unison: gives businesspeople simple IM, calling with video and “walls” to share and comment on what’s new.
BrightIdea: the market leader in Cloud-Based Innovation Management Software.
ReImage: takes the sting out of PC Repair by automatically restoring your PC to factory settings while leaving your data intact! No technical knowledge needed.
Lark: Wake your potential. Not your partner. LARK’s Silent Un-Alarm Clock, Sleep Sensor and Coach works with your iPhone to wake only you and improve your sleep.
3taps: a platform for collecting and distributing exchange-related data.

Unboxing Live 072: Verizon 4G LTE MiFi Mobile Hotspot

This post is by Andru Edwards from Gear Live

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We open up the Verizon 4G LTE MiFi hotspot in this episode of Unboxing Live. The MiFI is a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that connects to Verizon's vast 4G LTE network at speeds that meet, or in some cases, exceed, the typical home broadband speeds that we are all used to. You can connect up to five devices to the network that the MiFi creates, allowing you fast Internet access on the go, anywhere within Verizon's 4G footprint. Leave a 4G area, and the MiFi will drop down to 3G speeds, which is a nice backup, and not something that all current 4G hotspots offer. It also has a low power e-ink display to show the status of the connection and battery life, something Samsung's SCH-LC11 4G hotspot surprisingly left out.

Big thanks to our sponsor – GoToMeeting makes it easy to collaborate with anyone, anywhere – and they have just released their new HD faces feature that lets you see the webcams of up to 6 users as a time, which means you're collaborating face-to-face. Also,  be sure and grab a free $5 credit from JackThreads now!

Here’s how to get the show:
Subscribe: iTunes iPod / H.264 | iTunes MPEG-4 | RSS H.264 Feed | RSS MPEG-4 Feed

|Download| – iPod-formatted H.264
|Download| – Apple TV High Resolution
|Download| – MPEG-4


Unboxing Live 072: Verizon 4G LTE MiFi Mobile Hotspot originally appeared on Unboxing on Sun, July 31, 2011 – 6:35:10

Pixable Filters Photos and Videos Shared by Facebook Friends [Facebook]

This post is by David Galloway from Lifehacker

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Pixable is a free webapp that, after connecting to your Facebook account, creates feeds where you can view photos and videos shared by friends. It does not display status updates, polls, Farmville posts, or check-ins, so if you’re annoyed by your friend’s updates Pixable is right up your alley. More »

Social Broadcast Network

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Every day I try and do the media rounds to see what’s happening. The Journal, the Times, the Techcrunch, and the Twitter. Twitter is consumed via a number of aggregators that I rotate, mostly settling for News.Me and the Media something newsletter that the guy from MySpace produces.

Techmeme gets my votes about once a day, in the following order: upper right hand corner for the latest breaking, lower right hand corner to see what’s falling off the edge, then straight to the middle clump where two or three stories reside if anything’s really jumping. I’ve usually read the top in the other venues by then.

Google+ is not on this list, yet. Mostly because I haven’t got a handle on its core value as a news trigger. If you’re Scoble, the value is obvious as he is now demonstrating by turning it into his blog. But sooner or later the service will have to decide what it wants to be when it grows up — a conversation hub with no tools for rapid synthesis of knowledge, a social graph to challenge Twitter (it’s getting there fast), or some other thing perhaps more substantial than currently appreciated, like a stalking horse for YouTube live streaming aka the social broadcast network.

SBN we’ll call it has all the earmarks of a Gmail beta operation. Launching it on top of Hangouts with their limited reach even if daisy chained will not scare the networks until google flips the bits around and couples live streams with API access to embedded comment streams like the ones we use on Gillmor Gang sessions from the Friendfeed API. 10 Hangouters is more than enough in the context of a live chat of hundreds, and the API can be broadened to allow concentric groups to nominate or be given the microphone from a joint console.

This will put pressure on Google to provide a way in for the Tweet stream, since aggregators like Seesmic and others will have the same API access and an incentive to merge the multiple social networks. Facebook will be in the odd role of having little to offer here, what with YouTube’s huge clout in video marketshare. The Skype deal is a longer term strategy for climbing into a classic 3 or 4 network clump, with Apple/Twitter bargaining access to AirPlay all the more important.

G+ project manager Bradley Horowitz buttonholed me at the TechCrunch August Capital party to say he enjoyed this week’s Gillmor Gang live cast earlier that afternoon. The team’s proactive approach to interacting with field test users is good politics, but it also underlines the need to respond to criticisms such as Scoble’s laments about a buggy and crash prone iPhone client. If SBN is a not so hidden priority for Google (especially in the wake of Google TV’s Wave/Buzz like performance) then the kinds of viral crowds live streaming will invite will make fixing the Scoble-sized instability on iOS mandatory.

The last thing G+ needs is to go directly against Twitter (and Apple) in an Android/iOS shootout. For one, it blows a huge hole in the G+ social graph while it is still forming. For another, given Facebook’s Microsoft-induced stupidity about an iPad client, what part of 90% share of the tablet market do you want to lose. The only thing G+ HTML 5 on the iPad has going for it is that it sucks less that HTML 5 on the iPhone. SBN makes iPad native more likely.

The last few weeks in Washington make it clear that both parties have decided on waging the political campaign in realtime via social. Live casting blends just as well today with party fundraising if not more so than when Obama ran the table starting early with the Iowa caucuses. The Republicans have clearly understood the need to frame their agenda in a way that promotes realtime tracking of what is now a Twitter news cycle. The cable networks may offer round the clock coverage, but even political junkies like myself tune in once Twitter alerts hit the push notification bus.

CNN jumped out ahead last week with the ability to broadcast live to the iPad if users already subscribed to Comcast or several other cable or satellite services. Once iOS 5 hits with its notification hub, we should be able to move from a push notification directly into the cooperating video stream. SBN can take advantage of the same opportunity in September, but they need to convince Horowitz and Gundotra to put some engineering cycles into pulling Twitter alerts not only from iOS but from the other platforms.

Scoble doesn’t like the idea of a Friendfeed-like aggregation of the Twitter stream, but that speaks more to the lack of filtering tools in G+ than anything more fundamental. And the firestorm over businesses not having first class citizenship would be significantly neutralized while we wait if we could push brand stories into our G+ streams to seed the live cast model. Frankly, this is going to happen sooner than later, and I vote for sooner so that the resulting feedback loop will prompt Twitter to accelerate its live streaming and Tracking to feed the push notification network. I’ll call that PNN.

Another Airbnb Victim Tells His Story: “There Were Meth Pipes Everywhere”

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This last week we’ve all watched in horror as the story unfolded about an Airbnb user who had her home ransacked a month ago.

Other than the sideshow of us getting dragged into the story, it seemed to be winding down yesterday. The company appears to be bending over backwards to compensate the victim and avoid another of her blog posts where she writes about how scared she is, still homeless and shaken after the ordeal.

Now another victim has come forward.

Troy Dayton first wrote about how his Oakland home was rented by a meth addict with a stolen identity in a comment to one of our posts about the company. I contacted Troy and we spoke by phone today about what happened. His situation is very similar to EJ’s.

Here’s Troy’s original comment:

Something very similar happened to me about 2 months ago.

In addition to valuables stolen, the thieves/addicts did thousands of dollars of bizarre damage to my rented home and left it littered with meth pipes. They were identity thieves, too and all my personal information was strewn about. Further investigation of my own led me to evidence that the people were not just thieves but were also dangerous. I too, feared for my own safety and would not stay at my house for some time.

I had a similar problem with haphazard communication from people at AirBnB. I gave them multiple opportunities to make me a happy customer to which they did but then retracted their offer after their was miscommunication among the team. Sometimes days went by without hearing from anyone, while I was fear-stricken, totally disoriented, and angry. It was almost the most absurd customer service crisis one could ever imagine. But I am one squeaky wheel, and we eventually found an agreeable solution that I was generally pleased with.

I have since both rented my place out and stayed in others’ homes from airbnb.

Here’s what I learned: if you rent out your home, there is a limit to how much AIrbnb can do to protect you. It’s not their fault, but it is their fault that they up-play how much they protect you and downplay what people should do to protect themselves. At the end of the day you are renting to a stranger. You should check there ID’s and phone numbers to make sure they match. I would ask for a link to a social networking site like linkedin, FB, or couchsurfing if there are not credible testimonials on AirBnb. I would chat with them on the phone prior to agreeing to rent to them. Had I done these things, the people that ruined my house would have never made it in.

Also, go with your gut. My gut said something wasn’t right about the people that rented my place, but I didn’t know how to handle that gut feeling and wasn’t sure how airbnb would have treated me or them had I told them I didn’t want them to stay even after they booked it.

Here’s a way Airb’nb can turn this into another revenue stream: Most rental insurance won’t cover this because you are essentially subletting. If major theft and damage is as rare as Air bnb says it is, which I believe is true, then they should be able to get a great insurance policy tailored just for their customers that they can sell for an additional fee to the renters.

Also, as short-term renting like a hotel becomes more common and other websites move in on Airbnb they are going to need more value to justify their very high fees, perhaps insurance and background checks would be a great addition. Of course, if I was the insurance company, I’d require the owners of the property being rented to double check the ID’s of the people checking in to be sure that the background checks are actually for the people checking in.

At the end of the day, I think AirBnb is well-intentioned but I think they are struggling with such fast growth and the management and communication systems have not scaled as fast as their business. Some PR and customer service nightmares are to be expected. My understanding is that they are hiring as fast as they can…but having been a part of teams of 20 somethings that multiply by orders of magnitude in a few months I can attest to the mayhem that surrounds this process. I hope they make dealing with catastrophic problems like the ones EJ and I experienced a top priority.

By phone today Troy told me about how the woman brought in friends to his home. They went through everything he owned, he said. “There were meth pipes everywhere,” he says, and damage to the bathroom and closet doors caused by, he guesses, a human foot or head, and probably an axe. They stole a computer from him as well as small amounts of cash that he left in the apartment. Any electronic device with a light they took apart (he guesses they were paranoid about being monitored). They unscrewed everything in his refrigerator and mixed things together. They stole his clothes, or shredded them. He found a sweater in the freezer.

They also stole his birth certificate, and left evidence behind that they were running a identity theft operation.

When they finally left the apartment, they left more than meth pipes behind. “They also left a cat” says Troy. He eventually got the cat back to the original owner

I then traded the cat for the return of my keys. The owner of the cat was a friend of the girl who rented the place’s boyfriend and had no idea about anything or how his cat wound up in a trashed apartment in Oakland.

A knife was left behind with a man’s name written on it in whiteout. The police said he was a known person, and dangerous.

Troy didn’t feel safe returning to his home. He contacted Airbnb as soon as he discovered what happened. There was one surreal moment, he said. He finally tracked down an emergency email address – urgent@airbnb.com, but when he emailed it autoresponded with a message to email the email address he just emailed.

From: Airbnb Community Support
Date: Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Subject: Request received: Emergency Situation: tenants ruined my apartment and stole things
To: Troy Dayton

– Please respond above this line. –
Thanks for contacting Airbnb community support!

Your request (#124683) has been received, and is being reviewed by our support staff. Please note that, due to an overwhelming number of inquiries, our responses may be delayed. Thank you for your patience.

If this is an absolute emergency, please e-mail urgent@airbnb.com and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.

The Airbnb Team

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Troy Dayton
Subject: people ruined my apartment and stole stuff
To: urgent@airbnb.com

please call me asap [phone number redacted]

He says “This freaked me out when I was frazzled. Hundreds of millions in venture financing, millions of dollars in fees, and no 24-hour help desk for emergencies? What am I paying them the exorbitant fees for?”

He did finally talk to someone at Airbnb. At first he asked for $1,000 and new birth certificates, which were stolen. They never responded to that:

“In the end, $1000 dollars and the return of my birth certificate would make me whole in this situation. Anything you can do to help that be the outcome would be greatly appreciated.” Interestingly no one from AIrBnb ever addressed that request.

He then asked for a month of free nights at Airbnb. They eventually said yes, as long as he kept it to studios and one bedroom places. But they gave him no instructions. He started booking places, but they then told him he could only book places at the same cost as his apartment. They eventually reimbursed him for the places he already stayed at but cancelled future bookings. In the end they allowed him 21 days, and up to $125/night.

They also said they’d cancel future bookings at Troy’s home, but failed to actually do that, he said, causing more confusion.

Remarkably, Troy was happy with that. He doesn’t think the company owed him money for damages because he thinks it’s his own fault for letting the woman in.

Troy also still uses Airbnb. He insists on seeing identification, though, and doesn’t rent to people with new profiles without pictures. He thinks Airbnb should post more suggestions on its site about how to avoid bad renters, and they shouldn’t promise so much. “The reason they’re able to charge these high fees is becuase they lull people into a sense of false security. If they disclosed that, people would just use Craigslist.”

In the last few days Airbnb has suggested that nothing like EJ’s situation has happened before. A typical quote:

With a single booking, one person’s malicious actions victimized our host and undermined what had been – for 2 million nights – a case study demonstrating that people are fundamentally good.

Most of us read that as saying that this is the first time something like this has happened. As I read it again, though I see how it doesn’t say that. It’s carefully worded to suggest these things never happen, but it doesn’t outright say it.

What’s really hurting Airbnb is all this massaging of statements to victims and the press. With both EJ and Troy the company seemed to express lots of empathy, but negotiated hard and delayed on any actual compensation.

I haven’t contacted Airbnb about this new story since they dispute what they told me on record for the last story. If they have anything to say, I’m happy to post it. Just send it to me in writing, please.

Here are pictures Troy sent me of some of the damage. I don’t know why, but what I really want to see is the sweater in the freezer, and the cat.

The first pic is the holes made to the closet doors.

Second pic is the axe slash that split a major portion of the bathroom door

third pic is the kitchen they trashed which show that they had started
packing up all my food, presumably to take with them. It also shows my
personal files strewn about.

4th pic is of a meth pipe

Yahoo’s China Settlement Fails to Stem Its Stock Decline

This post is by from AllThingsD » Kara Swisher

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You would think the settlement of a major dispute would goose the stock of a company, but Yahoo’s deal with its Chinese partner Alibaba Group on Friday did exactly the opposite.

Despite the clearing of an obvious overhang to its shares, the stock of the Silicon Valley Internet giant dropped almost three percent Friday to close at $13.10. While the ongoing federal budget wrangling was partly to blame, it was only a very small part with an overall market decline of under one percent.

A tepid reaction to the deal — in which Yahoo, Alibaba and Japan’s SoftBank came to terms over the spinoff of Alibaba’s Alipay payments unit after much wrangling over the move — came quickly from Wall Street analysts.

A report titled “Yahoo Inc: Alipay Agreement: Better than Nothing, But Not That Great,” by J.P. Morgan’s Doug Anmuth, was typical. Pointing to no clarity on an IPO of the Chinese assets of Alibaba and that “prior to the divestiture, Alibaba Group owned 100% of Alipay and all of its income, which is now reduced to 37.5% ownership of Alipay and 49.9% share of the pre-tax income,” he noted that Wall Street “has recently assigned no value to Yahoo!’s share of the asset.”

Well, less than zero, if the stock decline is taken into account, which means Yahoo’s market cap is now just over $17 billion.

According to sources close to the situation, especially since Yahoo’s Asian assets make up more than $9 billion of that valuation, private equity investors and others are pulling out their spreadsheets once again about a possible takeover or privatizing of Yahoo.

Several months ago, for example, former News Corp. exec Peter Chernin had been contemplating a friendly bid with partners such as Providence Equity Partners and others. While there have been rumors recently that he has reengaged in that effort, that is unclear.

Sources also note that Yahoo’s top execs, especially CEO Carol Bartz, and also members of its board, are perplexed that the settlement in China — a positive development — had the opposite effect on the stock.

It’s part of a continuing decline. Yahoo shares are down almost 26 percent in the past three months. Most Web stocks — such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft — are strongly up in that period. The only other obvious laggard is AOL, which is down almost 16 percent in the past three months.

OMG/JK: The Man In The Yellow Jacket

This post is by from TechCrunch

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We’re back for a new episode of OMG/JK — featuring both of your hosts reunited in the TCHQ studio (I was back in SF for our Mobile First CrunchUp). Oh, and this episode also includes a cameo by a man in a large yellow jacket. I won’t spoil it.

We kick off this week’s episode by diving into Twitter’s new ad format, which allows brands to place Promoted Tweets at the top of their followers’ streams. Twitter has long been toying with various ad formats — will this one please users, or just annoy them?

Next up we have Facebook’s secret iPad application, which leaked out as part of an official update to its iPhone application. MG got his hands on the app and tested it before Facebook cut off access, and his first impressions are good — tune in to get the details.

Finally we discuss Airbnb’s recent fiasco, where a host had their home destroyed by guests,and how the startup has responded to the issue. Note that this episode was shot a few days ago, so we don’t discuss our most recent post about the situation.

Here are some posts relevant to this week’s episode:

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Don McGregor Could Use A Hand

This post is by Andru Edwards from Gear Live

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Amazing Adventures - KillravenI've written before about my history with writer Don McGregor (Killraven, Black Panther, Detectives, Inc. and so much more).

Now, Clifford Meth, who in the past has helped out Dave Cockrum's widow and Gene Colan, is reporting that Don could use a little help.

Clifford is organizing a worthwhile effort to help Don meet some unexpected and sad expenses. So get over to his blog and see what you can do to help out.

If you're not familiar with Don or his work, here's a Mile High interview with him that covers a lot of ground.

[Artwork: Amazing Adventures #29 featuring Killraven © Marvel Comics]


Don McGregor Could Use A Hand originally appeared on Comix 411 on Sun, July 31, 2011 – 10:36:50

Foxconn plans to create a million robots to replace workers within three years

This post is by from VentureBeat

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Foxconn plans to replace some of its workers with 1 million robots in the next three years in order to cut rising labor expenses.

The Taiwanese company, which makes the highest-profile products for companies such as Apple and Hewlett-Packard, will use the robots to do simple tasks such as spraying, welding and assembling work which is currently done by workers, said Terry Gou, founder and chairman of the company.

He made the announcement at a workers dance party on Friday night, and we’re pretty sure that was a damper on the festivities. The robots will cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency. Right now, the company has 10,000 robots and the number will hit 300,000 next year and 1 million in three years. It seems both humane — as robots can do drudge work that humans don’t want to do or aren’t fit to do — and inhumane, as it will likely put a lot of people out of work.

Foxconn has become the world’s largest maker of computer components. It has been in the spotlight after a string of suicides at its giant Chinese factories, where working conditions are tough. The company has 1.2 million employees, with about 1 million on the Chinese mainland.

Filed under: VentureBeat