Resignation Media Hires CEO John Ellis To Run Tapiture, Its Fast-Growing Pinterest For Men


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tapiture

The idea of a “Pinterest for men” is something that gets thrown around a lot — a few months ago, it seemed like I’d get a pitch for a new one every day. Tapiture is one of the newer contenders, but its traffic numbers suggest that it has a chance at claiming the title.

It helps that the site is associated with an established property, namely humor site theCHIVE. Leo Resig, co-founder of Resignation Media (which owns both properties) tells me Tapiture has its roots as a photo-tagging system on theCHIVE, before growing into a site of its own, where users can share (or, in Tapiture’s terminology, tap) photos of attractive women, cool products, funny jokes, and anything else.

Resig sounds almost gleeful when he describes the chaotic mix of content on Tapiture’s home page as “a shit show.” It turns out that mix is a product of human curation, without which the site would probably be nothing but scantily clad women. (One of the curation team’s other big tasks is eliminating content that’s outright pornographic.) Ultimately, Resig wants to turn Tapiture into “the most interesting homepage in the world” (at least for the site’s target audience): “It’ll rival Reddit.”

That approach is already attracting an audience. Tapiture launched about three months ago, and it’s currently bringing in 26 million monthly pageviews from 1.5 million unique visitors. The average visit time is seven minutes. And the company points to Alexa data suggesting (and it’s always risky to take these kinds of third-party numbers as fact) that it’s well ahead of competitors like Dudepins, Manteresting, and Gentlemint.

To turn Tapiture into a real business, Resig just hired John Ellis to serve as the site’s CEO. (Previously, Resig was running Tapiture himself.) Ellis previously led operations at marketing network Webxu and served as both COO and CMO at ad exchange NextMedium (which was acquired by Brand Affinity Technologies).

Right now, Resig says Tapiture is very much still in the beta stage, but eventually, he wants to build up a business around e-commerce. Resig says he has already seen “male buying power first hand” through Resignation Media’s e-commerce site theCHIVERY, and he thinks the model should be a good fit for Tapiture, too. As the company hires more curators, some of them will turn their attention away from zapping porn and instead “plow through the Internet to find the coolest shit online” — not the aspirational, expensive stuff featured in glossy magazines like GQ, but items in the $20 to $40 range.


Sorry Facebook, This Was A Privacy Bungle! Here’s What You Should’ve Done


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A week ago Facebook got itself caught up in yet another privacy controversy, when old Wall posts from 2007-09 were automatically converted into Timeline posts. The confusion was that for some people, those old posts seemed private in nature. So it was thought that Facebook had mistakenly turned private messages into Timeline posts. Facebook responded that no, it only converted “older wall posts that had always been visible on the users’ profile pages.” That makes sense, but its users have every right to be angry.

The Facebook of 2007-09 is a totally different ballgame to the Facebook of 2012. Here are three of the more obvious reasons why:

  1. Your Facebook profile page used to be a “Wall” of messages to and from your friends. Now it is a multimedia-filled “Timeline” of your everyday life.
  2. These days we’re accustomed to using lists to segment our friends. We post different things to different lists.
  3. Facebook now allows you to post updates publicly, a concept which didn’t exist back in 2009. Related, people you don’t know can now “subscribe” to your public updates.

The upshot: while those old Wall posts probably were always visible on a user’s profile page, that’s a very different thing to those posts being visible on today’s Facebook Timeline.

Even the concept of a “friend” has changed. In 2008, your entire Facebook network may have been what is now labeled “Close Friends”. In 2012, we also have “Acquaintances” (as the name suggests, people you don’t know very well) and “Subscribers” (people you probably don’t know at all). Not to mention the many custom lists we’re encouraged to create – I have one entitled “Tech Influentials”, for example. These aren’t necessarily friends of mine, but they’re people who I befriended for professional reasons.

The point is, being social on Facebook encompasses far more today. Back in 2008, if you posted something on your Wall then it was very likely meant for real-life friends. But nowadays, if you post something to all your Facebook friends, then it will almost certainly be seen by people you don’t know in real life. Some of us have several hundreds of such “friends”. That’s a big change in context.

Put another way: in 2007-09, Facebook was an exclusive, private social network. You had no reason to think that would ever change. But change it did, from December 2009 when Facebook suddenly set the new default for status messages as public. Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote on ReadWriteWeb at the time that “this move cuts against the fundamental proposition of Facebook: that your status updates are only visible to those you opt-in to exposing them to.”

And that’s the crux of this latest privacy bungle from Facebook. Once again, the company has unilaterally decided to impose a new concept of privacy onto its users. It may be technically correct of Facebook to claim that what you posted to your friends via your Wall in 2008 is equivalent to a Timeline post to your friends in 2012. But for most Facebook users today, a friend in 2012 simply doesn’t mean the same thing as a friend in 2008.

So the problem isn’t that Wall posts from 2007-09 “were always public [and] looked like something you might say privately today,” as Gizmodo and other publications are characterizing this.

The problem is that Facebook in 2007-09 was actually a private space. Not quasi-private. Not public-but-looked-like-private. In 2008, Facebook was – hard as it may be to fathom nowadays – private.

But in 2012, that is no longer the case. So when we have something to say to real-life friends, we either use private messaging or we do a post to a small subset of our friends – our “Close Friends” or a custom list of people (such as “Family”).

So this isn’t the fault of Facebook’s users. We knew what we were doing then, when we posted to our Walls. And we know what we’re doing now. The lesson here is that Facebook should have given us the option of selecting the privacy setting for those old Wall posts. Or maybe even made those old posts available to “Close Friends” only, as the default. Then we could adjust if we wished.

Facebook’s mistake was that it had no right to assume that our “Friends” of 2007-09 means the same thing as “Friends” in 2012.


FreedomPop’s freemium 4G data service goes live


This post is by Kevin Fitchard from GigaOM


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FreedomPop has officially launched its long-awaited beta service, giving all comers a free 500 MB of 4G data each month. The mobile virtual network operator, which users Clearwire’s WiMAX network, will offer an array of prepaid plans for customers who want more data, but, as promised, it is supplying the means for customers to “earn” more megabytes through its unique social media strategy.

Customers can bring their total monthly data allotments to 1 GB via two means: by adding other FreedomPop subscribers to the carrier’s internal social network of users and through special promotional offers such as filling out an online survey or watching a video ad. The social element, however, isn’t a mere referral service in which you get a one-time bonus for bringing a new customer to the network. You keep receiving the 10-MB per-person bonus as long as your contacts remain active subscribers to the network (and they remain your friends).

Right now there is a limit to how much freebie data a customer can earn, capped at 500 GB. But according to FreedomPop COO Steven Sesar, FreedomPop eventually plans to ease that restriction. Sesar said FreedomPop will not only allow customers to rack up data bonuses from more friends, but it will overlay onto its social platform more value-added services, the of use of which will also accrue extra megabytes. One of the ideas FreedomPop has in the works is its own VoIP service. Eventually customers will be able to trade data like currency, allocating unused megabytes to friends.

We’ve already detailed many of the aspects of FreedomPop’s unique freemium business model and its wholesale relationships with Clearwire and Sprint. However more specifics on its plans and pricing emerged for this week’s launch:

  • FreedomPop is offering customers two modems: a mobile hotspot and USB dongle. Both devices are technically free though customers have to put down a $49-$89 deposit, but it’s fully refundable. The company will begin selling sleeve modems that fit over the iPod Touch and iPhone 4 and 4S in coming weeks.
  • Though FreedomPop isn’t limiting what you consume with your free data allotment, it is putting restrictions on how fast you consume it. Though the specific details aren’t spelled out on its website, it appears non-paying customers won’t have access to the WIMAX network’s full mobile broadband speeds. FreedomPop is selling a “Speed Plus” service for $3 a month, which doesn’t throttle speeds and prioritizes packets over those of non-paying customers.
  • Apart from the Speed Plus plan, FreedomPop is selling two prepaid data plans both of which undercut the prices charged by the major operators. The first comes with 2 GB of data for $18 a month, while the second has 4 GB for $29 a month. Customers on those plans pay 1 cent for each megabyte of overage, while on the free and $3 plans customers pay 2 cents for each additional megabyte.
  • The beta is open to all comers, but FreedomPop has an upper limit to the number of customers it will accept. Sesar wouldn’t identify the specific number, saying only it was restricted to the number of devices the MVNO has in inventory.
  • Another reason for limiting subscribers in the beta is that FreedomPop can’t yet offer nationwide service. Since it’s solely using Clearwire’s WiMAX at launch, it’s limited to that operator’s 4G footprint, which covers roughly one-third of the US population.
  • Next year, FreedomPop will switch wholesale partners, trading Clearwire’s WiMAX for Sprint’s new LTE network. Sprint’s 4G service won’t be complete at that point either, but FreedomPop will also tap into Sprint’s 3G CDMA network giving it near nationwide coverage.

Most interestingly, FreedomPop isn’t restricting customers to a single device. Seras said that he expects families and even some individual subscribers to sign up for two or more devices, and each device will get access to its own separate free 500 MB allotment.

The potential for abuse, though, is obvious. A customers could order multiple devices and spread his or her monthly usage among them. That customer could even rack up more free data on each device by making each device “friend” the others on FreedomPop’s social network. Sesar, however, said FreedomPop will restrict that kind of behavior and will shut off customers that have too many devices linked to a a single account or credit card.

Sign image courtesy of Flickr user frankh

FreedomPop Opens Its Freemium Internet Service To The Masses With New Public Beta


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BOLTPHOTON

It’s been nearly a year since a company called FreedomPop announced its intentions (through a cryptically ambitious press release, no less) that it planned to bring “free broadband” to data-hungry users nationwide. The early FreedomPop site didn’t inspire much confidence, but it wasn’t long before the team’s practical vision came to light.

Put simply, users would get 500MB of free 4G wireless data each month, and a neat social layer would let those users trade data like the commodity FreedomPop thinks it should be. Now FreedomPop is taking another big step forward — the company has just launched its public beta, allowing users to take the nascent freemium Internet service for a spin.

First things first: remember those neat WiMax-enabled iPhone and iPod touch cases? The ones that promised to set users free from the clutches of more traditional (some would say greedy) wireless carriers? Well, for better or worse, they’re not available as part of the public beta just yet. According to FreedomPop COO Stephen Sesar, those so-called Freedom Sleeves are currently four to six weeks away from their official debut. For the time being, early FreedomPop adopters will be able to choose from one of two gadgets — the Photon wireless hotspot and the Bolt USB modem. Expect to plunk down security deposits of $89 and $49 for the Photon and Bolt, respectively.

Yes, that’s right, deposits. A trusted source inside FreedomPop told TechCrunch last May that the company had given up the deposit model because of the accounting headaches it would induce, but FreedomPop has apparently come full-circle on the idea in an attempt to keep things “as free as possible.” Interestingly enough, the iPhone and iPod won’t require deposits — that same source revealed that the company has locked up key retail deals for them and therefore have to sell them in order to avoid “channel conflict.”

In the event that free 500MB just isn’t enough and you don’t have any friends to spot you some bandwidth for the month, the company offers prepaid data plans starting at $10/month for 1GB of WiMax data. FreedomPop’s pricing matrix doesn’t end there, though. Consumers will also have access to a 5GB/month plan for $35, and the truly data-hungry can get set up with 10GB of monthly WiMax data for $59.99 should they really need it.

Naturally, just because FreedomPop has opened its doors to the public doesn’t mean that the company is suddenly ready to spill the beans on everything. One of the biggest service components that FreedomPop is still being cagey about is its slew of premium features, which Sesar expects to be a critical revenue driver for the young company as it gives away free data to the masses. All in all, the company tested nearly 114 potential value-added features that ran the gamut from security to data backups. In the end only three or four of them have been deemed appropriate and useful enough to the service’s potential users.

FreedomPop Marketing VP Tony Miller hinted to GigaOM back in July that one of those services would allow users to make voice calls over the network (further blurring the line between FreedomPop and any other wireless carrier), but Sesar wouldn’t confirm that was the case. What users can do, though, is pay an additional $2.99 a month to pump up their data speeds, as well as complete certain tasks, courtesy of FreedomPop’s partners (think watching ads and the like) in exchange for more monthly data.

If that particular angle sounds familiar, then congratulations — you lived through the 90s. Companies like NetZero offered free dial-up back in the day in exchange for plastering ads everywhere, and COO Sesar himself was quick to point out the parallels between FreedomPop and the free ISPs of days past. (As it turns out, NetZero is still at it and offers free wireless broadband, as well. Go figure.) Can a modern twist on an old concept really disrupt the wireless industry? Only time will tell, but with freemium products picking up traction, it seems that FreedomPop just may be the right service at the right time.


Online brands move to real world as Hasbro launches line of Zynga-branded board games


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Turning traditional game branding on its head, Hasbro and Zynga are teaming up to launch popular Zynga social games as Hasbro-produced board games for U.S. retailers.

The four games will hit store shelves this month and include Words With Friends, FarmVille, CityVille, and Draw Something. Together, these games have been played by hundreds of millions of users on Facebook and mobile platforms. Zynga currently has 306 million monthly active users for its mobile and social network games.

Because these social online games have reached deep in the zeitgeist of mass culture, the companies have decided to take the digital game brands and introduce them to the real world of family board games. Usually, board games are adapted to become online games.

The Hungry Hungry Herd (pictured right) game draws inspiration from the characters of FarmVille. In that game, players try to gobble up the most apples. This game and the CityVille and Words With Friends titles include special digital values that help enhance a player’s online or mobile game play. Parents can redeem 50 Farm Cash digital currency to keep their farms going online. You can choose from among a Gobbling Horse, Munching Pig, Snacking Sheep, or Chomping Cow. You let loose marbles into the middle and try to eat at many as you can. The game will sell for $22.99 and is for players ages four and up.

In CityVille Monopoly (pictured left), players race to build their dream cities. You can buy locations such as the train station, the toy shop and the bakery. You can use stackable houses to build businesses, apartments and homes. And you can give and receive Mystery Gifts to improve the value of your neighborhood. It sells for $24.99 and is targeted at kids eight and up. It also gives players 85 City Cash to use in the online version of CityVille.

In Words With Friends, which closely resembles the Scrabble board game, players can play word combinations in the hope of scoring the most points. But there are probably more people playing Words With Friends on the planet than there are playing Scrabble. Players get access to a bundle of digital features, including Word-O-Meter, The Count, and Tile Pile to boost their scores in the mobile or online versions. You get letter tiles and arrange them in a rack.

As with the online version, the game gets more interesting if you can land a word in the Double Word or Triple Letter squares. The game has four tile racks and 104 tiles. The game is available at most major retailers this month for $19.99. It is targeted at ages 13 and up and can accommodate two to four players. It is also available at HasbroToyShop.com.

In Draw Something (pictured below right), a title that takes on Pictionary, players will be able to show off their artistic capabilities. You choose a card and pick one of three items to draw, ranging in difficulty from easy to hard. The more difficult the item you’ve chosen to draw, the more coins received if another player guesses correctly. The game will sell for $19.99 and is for kids eight and up.

“We are thrilled to be working with Zynga to give their millions of fans an exciting experience with the Zynga games they love,” said Eric Nyman, senior vice president and global brand leader of Hasbro Gaming in Pawtucket, R.I. “We love how gaming brings people together, especially during the holidays, and we can’t wait to offer friends and families even more great options to play.”

“We are proud to team up with Hasbro and excited for our players to experience their favorite Zynga games in a new way,” said Barry Cottle, executive vice president of corporate and business development at Zynga. “Our hope is to enhance relationships through play through our web and mobile social games and now, with the new Hasbro games, we can make those connections even stronger for our players.”

“Hasbro’s new games bring popular Zynga brands to life, offering fans a unique new gaming experience,” said Laurie Schacht from Toy Insider.

Filed under: games, social, VentureBeat


FreedomPop kicks off free 4G service with a hotspot and USB stick


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FreedomPop has built quite a bit of hype over the past few months for its proposed freemium 4G service — and starting today, we’ll finally get to see if it can live up to its many promises.

The company kicked off a public beta test Sunday, which will offer 500 MBs of free monthly 4G service (provided by Clearwire) on two devices: a wireless hotspot and a USB stick. Both devices are technically available for free, though you’ll have to put down a refundable security deposit of $49 for the USB stick and $89 for the hotspot.  For more data-hungry consumers, FreedomPop is also offering inexpensive monthly plans starting at $17.99 for 2GB of data and $28.99 for 4GB.

You can preorder the Photon wireless hotspot and Bolt USB stick on FreedomPop’s site, and they shipping is on0 on a first-come. first-served basis. The Photon can connect up to eight devices, while the Bolt stick boasts complete plug-and-play capabilities, allowing you to run it on any PC without additional software.

“We’re really trying to disrupt the industry on all levels, from pricing — carriers are squeezing revenue on a lot of data — all the way to breakage, where they [carriers] make a lot of money,” said FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols in an interview with VentureBeat.

Indeed, if FreedomPop delivers, it has the potential to shake up the wireless industry as we know it. The notion of completely free wireless service is unheard of — it’s the sort of thing that could bring people online who would otherwise have no need for a home Internet connection. And unlike free Internet services from the ’90s, you’re not stuck viewing ads, either.

Instead, the company will make money off of its monthly plans (which are cheaper than prepaid wireless competitors), and additional services, like a $2.99 monthly FreedomPop Speed Plus feature that guarantees you the fastest wireless service. FreedomPop has also partnered with around 50 partners, which will grant you additional bandwidth for signing up for their services.

FreedomPop also has a social component: You can earn an additional 10MBs of monthly service per friend you bring to the service (up to 1 GB).

FreedomPop’s long-awaited iPod Touch case and iPhone case should start shipping in late this month/early November, according to Stokols. Both of those devices are available for preorder now for $99, and they’re each intriguing in their own right: The iPod Touch case will practically turn it into an iPhone, and the iPhone 4 case can also extend your phone’s battery life by six hours.

Currently, FreedomPop is relying on Clearwire’s 4G WiMax network for its free service. While faster than typical 3G speeds, WiMax is nowhere near as fast as 4G LTE. Starting next year, the company will show off devices running on Sprint’s upcoming LTE network, Stokols tells me.

Los Angeles-based FreedomPop recently raised $7.5 million in a first round of funding led by ManGrove and DCM.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat


Dish And The Dream Of Internet TV


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dishmobile

So Dish is the latest company interested in building an Internet TV service, as Bloomberg reported last week that it was in talks with various networks about licensing their content and delivering it over-the-top. But while an over-the-top live TV would certainly be a welcome choice among video options, it’s unlikely to be as cheap or as competitive as everyone would like it to be.

Dish isn’t alone in this pursuit: Over the last several years, we’ve heard about tech companies like Apple and Microsoft being in discussions with media companies to create their own bundled Internet TV services. Both of those companies backed down, reportedly due to the high cost of putting such a service together, as well as fundamental disagreements over how such an offering would be packaged. I’ve been told that Intel is building an Internet TV service, led by former BBC exec Erik Huggers, but sources say that project has hit delays in recent months.

Of course, Dish has something that none of those tech businesses have — which is actual experience operating a multichannel video business. It’s got existing business relationships with the media companies and knows how to create and market packages of content. That is its entire business, after all. Perhaps more importantly, Dish doesn’t have other lines of business to fall back on — TV is no experiment — which is why going over-the-top is so important to it.

According to Bloomberg, Dish is in discussions with MTV and Comedy Central owner Viacom, Spanish-language specialist Univision Communications, and Scripps Networks, which is best known for lifestyle channels like Food Network and HGTV. It’s no coincidence that those are the first three companies that Dish is talking to — each has big reasons to embrace the Internet and consider the possibility of being in an over-the-top video package.

In Viacom’s case, it’s facing the possibility of losing its audience, as more and more young people shun cable and turn to the Internet for their video entertainment. MTV has had a bit of a renaissance over recent years, thanks in no small part to shows like Jersey Shore. But it’s facing increasing competition for eyeballs from YouTube and VEVO — where viewers can get more than their share of music videos and youth-oriented programming. Viacom is also seeing its youngest viewers turn to the Internet, as Nick and Nick Jr. are being disrupted by on-demand kids programming on services like Netflix.

Scripps, meanwhile, might be most at risk from a growing number of lifestyle brands and content going straight to consumers on YouTube. While its shows are still popular with DIY homemakers and aspiring chefs, on-demand videos from aspiring, independent creators are getting a lot of interest. That’s especially true since, unlike live TV, viewers can search for particular content — like a certain recipe or certain home project — rather than hoping for it to someday show up on TV. Also, web video comes at a fraction of the cost HGTV might pay to produce it.

Univision, meanwhile, sees a huge opportunity to capture a growing audience of Hispanic broadband users. In addition to its linear TV channel, the company has also aggressively expanded online with a series of web and mobile web sites targeting those viewers online. It’s also rolled out a ton of local web properties, aimed at being the go-to place for Spanish-language content.

One type of content that isn’t included — and you shouldn’t expect to see in any online package — is sports. That’s because sports channels are expensive: ESPN by itself gets about $5 per sub per month from its distributors.

If anything, the online package that Dish is trying to piece together might be as much about getting rid of those sports networks as anything else. Those who won’t cut the cord often cite sports as the reason why. But those who have cut the cord, who might want to watch broadcast TV but don’t care about sports, might find a basic cable package delivered over the Internet actually attractive.

Delivering an online option is also a way for Dish to diversify, which is something it desperately needs to do. Satellite TV, like pay TV in general, is a mature business. There’s little subscriber growth left, if any, as cord cutting looks like it’s finally actually becoming a thing. Worse, satellite providers don’t have multiple revenue streams from Internet or voice services — although Dish is trying to change that with a satellite broadband offering. Dish is going over-the-top in part because it has to, because, increasingly, that’s where the viewers are.

Unlike previous attempts, it seems like Dish’s plans to roll out a virtual MSO might actually work, in part because the network infrastructure is actually ready, and in part because the networks are finally ready to consider it. That said, those hoping for a low-cost, high-quality alternative to cable will probably have to keep waiting. Dish might be able to roll out a less expensive package of networks, but it’s unlikely to have the breadth of choice that its satellite packages have.


Adobe finally brings Acrobat into the cloud


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Here’s some news to perk up your office space: Adobe has just unveiled the eleventh version of Acrobat, its PDF reading and editing software, and the newest version brings a few cloud-friendly features to the mix, as well.

This announcement comes on the heels of the company’s big launch for Edge, a web-focused suite of development and design tools. In chats with Adobe execs last week, we learned that the company is “certainly looking at what makes sense to run in the cloud. We don’t want to make something run in the browser just because.”

The goes for Adobe’s big-ticket design software as well as for its lightweight document management tools, today’s news shows. Acrobat will now feature complete PDF editing (including image and object editing) and touch features for tablets, as well as cloud services like EchoSign (a signature software company Adobe acquired last year) and FormsCentral, Adobe’s software for building forms and using the data they collect.

Oh, and there’ll be Office and SharePoint integration and PowerPoint, Word, and Excel exports for the Microsoft faithful. In fact, SharePoint and Office 365 are part of Acrobat’s big push into the cloud.

“Working with online forms, collaborative PDF reviews, and signatures are the everyday norm for business professionals who were once simply content creators,” said Acrobat czar* Kevin Lynch in an Adobe-issued statement on the news.

“IT departments need to support these changes while maintaining and maximizing the use of existing infrastructures and systems, as well as provide support and services that enable their organizations to take advantage of new business opportunities, improve results, justify return on investment, and lower the total cost of ownership.”

* Actual title: “senior vice president and general manager of Acrobat and Document Services at Adobe,” but we thought “czar” sounded snappier and conveyed roughly the same sentiment.

Filed under: cloud


Tablets & phones are augmenting, not replacing, traditional news outlets, study shows


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Print’s not dead! According to a just-published study from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that more than half of all U.S. tablet and smartphone owners read news on their mobile devices at least once a week, but they’re still turning to more old-school sources of news, too.

According to the study, which surveyed nearly 10,000 U.S. adults, around half of whom owned some sort of mobile device, a full 64 percent of tablets owners and 62prcent of smart phone owners said they used their devices for news at least one per week, meaning that one third of adults in the United States get some kind of news on a tablet or phone on a weekly basis, if not more frequently.

It’s interesting to note that these mobile newshounds aren’t just scanning Twitter for headlines from MSNBC. Around three quarters of tablet news-readers said they sometimes read full-length, in-depth news articles. Nearly one in five said they read in-depth articles on their tablets every day.

Still, most of these people are only using these devices to check the news around once a day tops, and they’re usually doing so from home.

“Even with the broadening population and wide range of competing activities, mobile owners are drawn to news on their tablet and smartphones,” said the project’s deputy director, Amy Mitchell, in a statement accompanying the official report.

“The evidence is also mounting that mobile devices are adding to rather than replacing how much news people consume,” said Mitchell.

The study further showed that almost half of tablet news readers said their tablets add to the total amount of news they consume. Around one third of tablet news readers said they’re exposed to more sources of news than they had access to previously.

Around half of tablet-using news junkies said they also used a smartphone to access news; three quarters said they consumed news on a laptop or desktop computer, and — brace yourselves — half of these tablet users are also still reading print newspapers and magazines.

One out of four tablet owners who use their iPads and Kindle Fires (and other tablets) for news said they read and watched the news on all four platforms.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat


HP ElitePad 900 takes on enterprise tablets with a sturdy chassis and ‘smart jackets’


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HP ElitePad Lead

The HP ElitePad 900 might seem a bit familiar — it’s the mystery device that snuck its way into a few HP commercials over the last few months. It’s a sturdy 10.1-inch tablet, wrapped in an aluminum chassis with a Gorilla Glass display. The imple silver body is interrupted by a black plastic band running along the top edge that makes way for wireless radios and NFC. At 1.5 pounds the ElitePad sidles up alongside Dell’s Latitude 10, but lacks that device’s removable battery. The screen is appreciably bright with a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution and generous viewing angles, but reflections were an issue in the venue’s admittedly harsh fluorescent lighting.

Still no data on Clover Trail performance

The tablet is powered by an Intel Clover…

Continue reading…

HP’s New ElitePad Business Tablet Is All About The Accessories


This post is by Fredric Paul from ReadWriteWeb


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If nothing else, Windows 8 is spurring some creativity in tablet design, even for business users. Hewlett-Packard’s new ElitePad 900, for example, offers an innovative expansion strategy and other accessories to try to position it as a primary business computer. One big question: How much will it all cost?

I got a chance to play with the new ElitePad at a recent HP launch event in San Francisco, and I was intrigued by the sleek device and accessories designed to turn the tablet into a primary computing device. I instinctively support any attempt to expand computer and mobile-device options, and my initial impression is that this felt like a truly new approach that could add real value.

But many questions remain as to whether professionals, who HP is aiming at with the ElitePad, will embrace the new model.

First The Basics

The ElitePad’s machined aluminum case holds Intel’s new Clover Trail processors,  a 10.1-inch Gorilla Glass screen with 1280 x 800 resolution with a 16:10 aspect ratio. The screen looked great in a dimly lit hotel room.

There are twin cameras, a dual-array microphone and stereo speakers. There are 2GB of RAM and up to 64GB of storage. A service door opens to reveal slots for a SIM card (the ElitePad supports 3G, 4G and NFC wireless connections) as well as a MicroSD slot. (In a very un-Apple approach, many parts of the ElitePad are consumer-servicable, a perk that corporate IT shops will no doubt appreciate.)

The whole thing weighs 1.5 pounds and is 9.2mm thick. But those numbers are misleading because the ElitePad doesn’t really get going until you start adding accessories.

One Tablet For All Tasks?

Because the ElitePad is fully compatible with Windows 8, HP wants to position it as a professional’s primary computer, but computing horsepower aside, clearly a tablet lacks all of the required connectivity and interface options. So HP has surrounded the tablet with a collection of options designed to configure it for whatever purpose is required at the time.


HP ElitePad 900 in a docking station.



There’s a docking station, for example, with connections for an external monitor and other ports to turn it into a desktop. (Other options include a simple external Bluetooth keyboard, an optical drive and a Tablet Pen.)

But by far the most interesting accessory is HP’s “smart jacket,” designed to add capabilities for specific roles. Slipping on the productivity smart jacket adds a hard-connected keyboard, a second battery, better speakers, more ports and more slots. Presto, you’ve got a fully functional laptop.



Will the idea of using a tablet as a primary computing device take off in corporate America? That depends on pricing, of course, and HP is not saying how much any of this will cost when it hits the market early next year.

But the bigger question is how well a Swiss Army knife of a computer can perform each task it attempts. If it fails significantly on any one of them, the whole value propostion crumbles.

Either way, though, I give HP — and ultimately Microsoft, too — credit for at least trying to expand the category and to address computing problems. Since the introduction of the iPad, we haven’t seen that much innovation in form factor, but Windows 8 seems to be starting that process. Not all of the results will be pretty or successful but it’s still a good thing.


Adobe’s Acrobat XI Boasts New PDF Editor And Touch-Friendly Interface — Upgrades Start At $139


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Content Editing-AXI

Adobe is ready to share the details behind Acrobat XI, the latest version of its product suite for creating, editing, and viewing PDFs.

The company demonstrated the product at a press event earlier this month, where the big emphasis was collaboration and productivity – more specifically, the “productivity gap” created by the challenges of working with documents. The company is releasing an IDC study that it commissioned showing (for example) that a company of 1,000 spends an average of 3.5 hours a week compiling different files and formats into one format, 3.7 hours gathering and consolidating feedback, and 3.4 hours consolidating data from forms. That adds up to an annual productivity cost of $15.9 million per year, the study says.

Adobe’s underlying message: By adding features (even relatively small ones) to Acrobat that address these inefficiencies, it can make a big difference on a company’s bottom line.

One of the big additions is a new tool for editing text and images. PDFs have already become less static thanks to Acrobat’s existing PDF editor, but the company says that with Acrobat XI, PDFs have become “completely editable.” For one thing, all the editing capabilities are unified in the Edit Text and Images tool (pictured above). Adobe has also added a “find and replace” text editing feature, and edited text automatically reflows, so you don’t have to worry about things like line breaks. In other words, it’s a lot more like editing any other document.

Acrobat XI also offers a drag-and-drop interface for merging multiple files into a single PDF. You can rearrange the documents within the PDF to your liking, as well as the pages within those documents.

Acrobat XI boasts improved integration with a number of other services, too. On the Adobe side, there’s integration with EchoSign, making it easier to provide electronic signatures from directly within the product. Beyond Adobe, users can also export their PDFs as PowerPoint presentations (expanding on the existing ability to export into Word or Excel).

Given the growing use of tablets and smartphones in a business context, it’s not surprising that Adobe Reader also comes in a touch-friendly interface now (pictured above), allowing users to not just read PDFs, but also annotate, fill in, and sign them.

Acrobat XI will be available within 30 days, Adobe says. Acrobat XI Standard has a list price of $299 ($139 for an upgrade from a previous version of Acrobat), while Acrobat XI Pro has a list price of $449 ($199 for an upgrade).


Testing Out Bodymetrics, The Startup That Wants To Be A Denim Shopper’s Best Friend [TCTV]


This post is by Colleen Taylor from TechCrunch


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Screen Shot 2012-09-30 at 8.32.01 PM


Few industries with mainstream visibility and appeal have remained as unplugged from serious tech disruption as apparel and fashion. Of course, the realm of shopping has had major shifts, as has the marketing of clothing from the runway to the mall clothing rack. But the way that clothes are actually made has remained surprisingly unchanged in many ways.

When it comes to the incredibly popular category of blue jeans, for example, clothing samples are typically designed to the proportions of a single human “fit model.” Then, versions of that design are replicated in smaller and larger sizes to be sold to the masses. Different brands are known for having different shapes, but with the ever-increasing variety available in the premium denim category alone, it can be pretty daunting to know where to start. Basically, if you want more customization for fit, you better have a good tailor.

A Bodymetrics scanner

A company called Bodymetrics is keen to bring a bit more personalization to this whole process. The company, which is jointly headquartered in London and San Francisco, makes walk-in pods that use the same technology found in the Microsoft Kinect to get a full rendering of the shape and size of each shopper’s body. The program, which has software and hardware components, then recommends to you the best brands, fits, and sizes for your body type.

Bodymetrics has made quite a splash in the UK for several years, but just landed stateside this past summer when it installed a scanner at the Silicon Valley outpost of Bloomingdale’s. Like a lot of people I know, I’ve been eager to check it out, but also a bit skeptical — about both the technology and the platform’s actual usefulness.

So I solicited TechCrunch’s head of events and partnerships (and resident fashion bug) Leslie Hitchcock and TechCrunch TV producer Ashley Pagán to make the trek down to the Palo Alto Bloomingdale’s to try out the Bodymetrics scanner in person. You can watch her experience with the technology along with Bodymetrics’ creative director Tania Fauvel in the video embedded above.

It was also a big pleasure to meet with Bodymetrics’ co-founder and CEO Suran Goonatilake, who was on-hand to dive a bit deeper into the company’s technology and business strategy. You can watch our interview with him in the video embedded below.




Up Close With The Next Big Home Commodity: LED Lighting


This post is by Sal Cangeloso from TechCrunch


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LED_book_Cangeloso-Decontructed_Philips

Editor’s note: Sal Cangeloso is the editor of Geek.com and wrote a new book on an odd topic. It’s called LED Lighting: A Primer to Lighting the Future and it focuses on the upcoming explosion in LED manufacturing, offering a basic understanding of the technology and an interesting look at the history of LED lights.

You can buy LED Lighting: A Primer to Lighting the Future here and the first three commenters below get a copy of the book. Here is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book discussing the growth of lighting from old-timey incandescents to modern LED technology.

The incandescent bulb is a good place to start with any talk about lighting. This design has had tremendous longevity (over 130 years) and it makes for a cheap, versatile bulb. Unfortunately, this design is also power-hungry, inefficient, short-lived (with some exceptions), and fragile. They produce a minimum amount of lumens-per-watt, though they’ve made appreciable gains over the years, and are highly sensitive to power conditions. For example, a 5% reduction in voltage could double the life of a bulb while only decreasing light output by 20%.

One of the most notable strengths of the incandescent is the quality of the light it provides. This isn’t as easy to define as some of the other characteristics that will be covered, but it’s an important one when it comes to consumer adoption. After all, it’s nice to try to sell people on longevity and power savings, but if they think that the new bulbs are ugly or are too different from what they know, you’ll find them hoarding 75W and 100W incandescents before such bulbs are removed from the shelves.

Quality of light means that in order for people to be comfortable with the light these bulbs provide, the bulbs will need a color temperature that they find to be in an acceptable range, a high degree of color accuracy (usually measured by CRI), and a usable light pattern, to name a few qualities. The bigger point, as any early CFL or LED bulb buyer could tell you, is that if the bulbs don’t produce attractive light that people are comfortable being around, it won’t matter how long they last or how little power they consume.

Incandescents have good qualities, but ultimately their inefficiency means they are not a viable solution moving forward. Even modern incandescents can turn about 90% of the energy they take in into heat, which is obviously wasteful and inefficient in the extreme. Physicists might argue that this isn’t wasteful at all, and you might enjoy the heat they provide, but most of us want to leave the lighting to the lights and the heating to our furnaces. Before we demonize the long-standing bulb design, it’s worth noting that there is such a thing as efficient incandescence. While these are in fact more efficient versions of the incandescent bulb, they are still not at the level of top CFLs and LEDs. In fact, GE was working on a high-efficiency incandescent (HEI) for about 18 months, but gave up on it in order to focus its efforts on LED and organic LED (OLED) bulbs. HEIs were said to produce about 30 lm/W with the ultimate goal of doubling that amount.The halogen lamp is a type of incandescent that operates hotter and lasts longer, but its efficiency gains are minimal.

The much-maligned CFL solves some of the efficiency problems of incandescent bulbs, usually producing around 50 lm/W. Unfortunately, each bulb contains a small amount of mercury (about 4 milligrams per bulb), so disposal can be a problem, especially if the thin, usually helical, glass breaks. The bulbs have reasonably long lives, usually rated for 5,000 to 15,000 hours—but they don’t last nearly that long if they are used in short time spans as rapid cycling is bad for the bulbs. That means a CFL in a bathroom or closet might not last much longer than an incandescent bulb, despite what it says on the package. In fact, a CFL that runs for an average of 15 minutes at a time might last just 40% of its rated lifespan. Alternatively, a CFL that is used continuously from the first time it was turned on might last close to twice its expected lifespan.

CFLs saw a big jump in marketshare in 2007, capturing around23% of the market, but have been in decline over the last year or so, despite the bulbs being widely available, affordable to purchase, and much cheaper to operate than incandescents. Part of this is due to an increasing number of consumers learning about the CFL’s use of mercury, but current economic conditions also indicate that people have simply been looking for a more affordable option. In that respect, incandescents still cannot be beat.

One of the most important characteristics of LED lighting is that they are solid-state. “Solid-state” might be a term we normally associate with computer parts (as in the solid-state drive) but it’s not something the casual LED buyer will ever consider. The concept is quite simple: rather than generating light through burning or gas-discharge, LEDs use semiconductors. The is the most fundamental and important distinction that determines why LED lights have their unique characteristics and will be able to have such an impact on the lighting market. As seen in other industries, semiconductors improve at an exponential rate and have a way of taking over wherever they are used. Lighting should prove to be no different.

Of course, LEDs are just one type of solid-state lighting; there are also organic LEDs (OLEDs) and polymer LEDs (PLEDs). Right now, the LED is the main focus of SSL adoption and its future looks quite promising, thanks to the efficiency gains it brings to the market. OLEDs and their carbon-based semiconductors have potential, but high costs mean they won’t be a viable option as soon as standard LEDs.

The advent of solid-state lighting doesn’t just mean more efficiency. Just as with the introduction of high technology to other parts of our lives—from our phones, to our mail, to our televisions—light is now high-tech. In this case, it’s not the tech that makes the difference, it’s that this latest step means our lights could soon be gadgets. Today’s technology brings with it intelligence and connectivity, which makes way for lights that can be tracked, controlled remotely, and designed to work with other devices. While the humble incandescent was just a conduit for electricity and output both light and heat, a modern-day bulb can be and do much more.

What does this all mean for the LED lamp? Basically, the time is ripe for growth. LED adoption is low at the moment, but not because purchasing one won’t pay off. An LED bulb will pay for itself many times over thanks to its energy savings, but the high initial cost is just too much of a hurdle for many businesses and is unpalatable for even more consumers. As prices drop we’ll see a dramatic growth, just as CFLs grew when it was clear that they could lead to long-term savings and could, in fact, provide acceptable light for our kitchens and living rooms, not just offices.


Push + place: Urban Airship unveils Location Messaging Service


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After making a name for itself as a leading push messaging provider, Urban Airship is today unveiling its new Location Messaging Service, which will add another layer of information for the company’s push platform to target.

It’s a particularly enticing play for marketers, since it means they’ll have access to current locations and location histories from consumers. And for the consumer, the Location Messaging Service will make push alerts even more relevant — for example, you could see deals from sports venues while they’re attending a game, or receive targeted alerts when they’re near a favorite retailer.

“Our tagline [for this announcement], ‘turning location into loyalty,’ is really kind of a synopsis,” Urban Airship chief marketing officer Brent Heiggelke told VentureBeat in an interview earlier this month. “We don’t view this as a brute force customer acquisition initiative, but rather how do you take location and use it to build a relationship.”

Heiggelke pointed out that apps are becoming the center for marketing initiatives from many brands. And at the same time, they’re becoming increasingly popular with consumers who not only want useful functionality from their favorite brands, but also want to show off their brands they’re loyal to. Ultimately, adding location capabilities is yet another way for Urban Airship to avoid “appathy,” the company’s cute term for when consumers stop using apps.

Proving that Urban Airship continues to grow in popularity, Heiggelke revealed that the company has powered 30 billion push notifications through all of its platforms, up from 20 billion in May. That’s a particularly impressive figure, since it took the company two and a half years to reach 10 billion notifications, and it hit the 20 billion mark just four months later.

It was only a matter of time before Urban Airship jumped into location capabilities — the company acquired the location platform maker SimpleGeo last fall (whose technology powers the new location service), and we’re also seeing increased excitement over companies that can take advantage of consumer’s location data. Just look at the location analytics company Placed, which ended up winning the top mobile service prize at our MobileBeat conference this year.

Heiggelke is particularly proud of the accuracy in the new location service. Instead of having its users create geofences on their own, which are generally wide circular areas that can’t accurately cover real world locations, Urban Airship has created 2.5 million geofence locations across the globe that are specific to locations. For example, with traditional geofencing methods you’d have to create several small geofence areas to cover a location like Central Park — but Urban Airship’s solution has a single “Central Park” geofence that covers its entire length. Ultimately, that means easier setup for marketers, and more accurate push messages for consumers.

The geofences range in size from individual buildings and neighborhoods, to entire continents. Urban Airship’s location data is powered by Maponics, Nielsen DMA, and OpenStreetMap. That means the company shouldn’t have to worry about any of Apple’s iOS 6 Maps gaffes.

Urban Airship revealed this week that its Location Messaging Service was heavily used by the London 2012 Olympics to send more than 10 million location-powered push messages through the Olympics mobile app. According to statistics from the London Olympics, around 60 percent of its mobile app users enabled location-sharing and location-based push messages had 60 percent clickthroughs.

Urban Airship is based in Portland, Oregon and has offices in San Francisco. It has raised around $22 million so far from True Ventures, Foundry Group, Verizon, Salesforce, and others.

Map pins photo via Shutterstock

Filed under: dev, mobile, VentureBeat


New California laws will provide free digital textbooks to university students


This post is by Andrew Webster from The Verge - All Posts


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California governor

The Obama administration has said that it wants all students using digital textbooks within five years, and newly signed legislation in California should help to bring that goal closer to reality. Last week Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr signed a number of education-related bills, two of which relate to the use of digital textbooks. Bills SB 1052 and SB 1053 will give students access to free textbooks for “50 strategically selected lower division courses” at both the University of California and California State University, as well as community colleges throughout the state. In addition to the free digital versions, students will be able to buy hard copies for $20 each, and the Los Angeles Times reports that the first batch is expected to…

Continue reading…

Shocker! Oracle takes on Amazon with all-Oracle-all-the-time cloud


This post is by Barb Darrow from GigaOM


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Updated: Oracle has found a market for its big, pricey engineered hardware systems — and it’s in new public and private Oracle clouds. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison laid out the company’s new all-red infrastructure-as-a-service cloud plan at Oracle OpenWorld on Sunday night.

Oracle is jumping into the public infrastructure as a service (IaaS) business — the market pioneered and dominated by Amazon Web Services — with infrastructure that is all about  Oracle.

Oracle cloud will use “our OS, our VM, our compute services and storage services on the fastest most reliable systems in the world — our engineered systems, Exadata, Exalogic, Exalytics, all linked with Infiniband,” Ellison told thousands of Oracle customers, partners and others at San Francisco’s Moscone Center Sunday night. For banks and other companies with requirements to run infrastructure in house, Oracle will offer a private cloud based on the exact same technology and run and manage it customer data centers, Ellison said.

The promised Oracle 12c (the “c” stands for cloud) database will be the software foundation and Ellison said this iteration of the database will put multitenancy — the ability to securely keep separate sets of data in one place — at the database level where it belongs.

“Back in 1998 and 1999 when NetSuite and Salesforce.com came out, the only way to do multitenancy was at the application layer,” Ellison said, adding that he had problems with that. (Ellison had stakes in both of those pioneering SaaS companies and still owns a big piece of NetSuite.)

By moving multitenancy into the database, software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) providers can relinquish that workload to the database and use database query and business intelligence tools to work with them instead of having to come up with application-specific tools.

Ellison: Our SaaS customers want this

Ellison said SaaS and PaaS customers asked Oracle to supply this infrastructure so it will be interesting to see if either Salesforce.com or NetSuite — both SaaS companies which use Oracle databases — makes a move. That’s doubtful in Salesforce.com’s case since that company is competing more and more with Oracle.  And, NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson will speak at OracleOpenWorld so stay tuned.

Update: Reached by email, NetSuite’s Nelson said: “NetSuite wouldn’t choose to run our application on anyone’s public cloud — Oracle’s, Microsoft’s, or Amazon’s. We need to manage every aspect of our infrastructure to ensure service level commitments we have made to our customers.” No word back yet from Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff.

The hardware foundation for Oracle Cloud will be Exadata X3, a new “engineered system” which packs 26TB of memory — 4TB of DRAM and 22TB of Flash memory, Ellison said.

Oracle’s problem in all this is that it has not made much of a case for its hardware to date. Oracle’s hardware business was off 24 percent year over year in its last quarter. It also has a bit of an ecosystem problem. Yes it has SaaS customers, but as several on Twitter commented, they would be more impressed if Oracle had trotted out a list of customers and/or partners that signed up for this cloud effort.

Playing catchup in cloud

And, Oracle’s entry into public cloud is late given that competitors including IBM, HP, and the OpenStack players are already there.

And, Oracle’s decision to use very high-end specialized hardware to power its cloud flies in the face of conventional wisdom espoused by web giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon that yoke together thousands of commodity servers in webscale data centers. Oracle’s take is definitely scale-up in a scale-out world.

Cloning Instagram For Video Will Not Revolutionize Mobile Video


This post is by Sandeep Casi from TechCrunch


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Sandeep Casi

Editor’s note: Sandeep Casi is founder and CEO of Cinemacraft. Previously, he worked on Virtual Reality at General Motors, led the Systems Group at Industrial Light + Magic (a division of Lucasfilm), and was a research scientist at Fuji Xerox Palo Alto Lab. He currently lives on a plane traveling between Tokyo and San Francisco. You can follow him on Twitter.

Peter Csathy’s recent article on TechCrunch does an excellent job of addressing the requirements of mobile video sharing and the need to rethink how video services are built. Peter is right about the six “ingredients” that will make an “Instagram for video” a success, but there is a critical point that should be added to his list: the inherent difficulty of video discovery, access, and engagement.

Most of the players hoping to monetize video on mobile by following in Instagram’s footsteps are assuming that video is basically the same as photos – just longer and with bigger files. But video is a fundamentally different experience than still images, and any startup that thinks it can just apply the Instagram model to video is doomed from the start. First let’s look at what made Instagram so popular to begin with.

Obviously the social aspects and the general ease of use were important. But the feature that I think really cinched the deal for most users was the rich set of fun and distinctive photo filters. The filters are such a critical component for Instagram because they gave the users a reason to switch from simply shooting the photo with the built-in camera and sharing the images via MMS or email. Filters were the visual hook that made the whole process more fun and engaging. Without filters there was little reason to switch to Instagram, because you could do almost everything else with the built-in capabilities of the phone and your existing social networks.

But video is different, and engaging video users on a mobile device requires an entirely different set of tools. While filters can, and should, be part of the video experience, on their own they cannot solve the problem of how to get consumers to discover and engage with video. The best video filters in the world aren’t going to make a bit of difference unless the consumers are motivated to watch the video in the first place.

The primary reason that photos inspire such massive user engagement online is that consumers can flip though lots of photos in minutes and visually engage with the content immediately. With a glance they can determine if the picture appeals to them and can like or dis-like them in a matter of seconds. This enables more comments, likes, and shares – leading to massive engagement.

Video, unlike still images, consists of a stream of dynamic visuals. While it is compelling as part of a long period of engagement (television, DVD, cinema), it is not as instantly suitable in its current form for mobile consumption due to the short attention span of consumers on mobile combined with the issues of oversubscribed, congested mobile networks.

Following are the primary reasons why video lags behind photos in terms of user engagement.

  • The thumbnail of the video is the single point of advertising for the video. In most cases the thumbnail may not fully communicate the context of the video’s content. If the thumbnail doesn’t engage them visually, users will choose not to click on the video.
  • Consumers do not want to invest time to view the whole video if it is not engaging. In most cases they will close the video in fewer than 10 seconds. The content could be compelling later on in the video, but it was not interesting enough in the 10 seconds that they chose to view.
  • In other situations, a consumer will like only a portion (clip) of the video and doesn’t want to share or like the entire video. Even when they do choose to share or like the whole video, it is extremely difficult to communicate to the recipient where the most interesting parts of the video are located.
  • While the cloud (and cheap local storage) solves the issues of archiving for home videos, it doesn’t eliminate the pain of searching for clips from the archives and sharing clips with friends and family seamlessly to or from a mobile device.

These problems are complex but solvable, and the process of addressing them promises to be both interesting and lucrative. There is a need for video solutions such as search, visual cues to interesting clips of the video, thumbnails that offer visual summaries of the video, and embedded objects that can engage consumers with contextual commerce. Startups that can innovate with solutions to these challenges will be able to help publishers monetize and continually re-engage consumers with their content more efficiently and effectively.

There are numerous startups competing to create a video “clone” of Instagram. Even if one does emerge a clear winner in this race, it will ultimately fail if it does not solve any of the significant problems of video discovery and engagement. The revolution will not begin when Instagram for video comes to your mobile device. The revolution will begin when video engagement becomes as seamless, fun, and immediately engaging as mobile photos.


(R)evolution


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Millet, Gleaners

I love my iPhone. I love connectivity. I hate the resulting obligation of connectivity – and that removing one’s self from it now makes you the crazy person, the weirdo in the room. I recently saw a girl on some Bravo reality TV show the other day – entirely by accident, I swear* – talking about men she would and would not date. “I don’t want someone who’s not on Facebook,” she said. “I don’t want a man who doesn’t have an iPhone or an email that isn’t Gmail. If he has Yahoo or Hotmail, I think that’s a big no-no,” she added. Profound social commentary, actually: participate appropriately, or be abandoned by society. Become the un-dateable. The loser. The left behind.

But our obsession with technology, the right and wrong of it, the speed with which we have to create, consume, and engage with it, is not sustainable. People aren’t meant for this, not forever.

It’s an imperfect state of being. We humans are always looking for balance. Today’s parents are realizing that they can’t achieve work/life balance with their children, for example. The same goes for technology. Tech/life balance is a similar myth. There’s no such thing, not really. You’ve just gotten used to it in the same way a coffee drinker gets used to caffeine. The effects are still there, but you don’t feel them until the drug is gone.

People can function like this for months, years, a decade, decades maybe if they’re good. But at some point, you have to stop, have a genuine moment outside of the hyper-interlaced web mob. Watch a sunset without posting to Instagram; think a thought that isn’t tweeted. And then string those moments together and together, without deadlines forcing a return to the land of the infinite feedback loop. Remember, relax, breathe, dream, think. We long for more than a vacation; we’re a society longing for an off switch.

We’re burning out.

A journalist at the New York Times had to switch her phone this summer because of a “no cellphones” policy at a pool. It was so incredible, so positive an experience that she then had to write not one, but two articles for the paper about its meaning. The reactions to the piece were par for the course, except for one guy who chastised our tendency to fetishize the “IRL” experience. We’re congratulating ourselves too much when we manage to obtain peace outside the grips of the digital world. We’re getting smug about it. Elitist.

Or something like that.

Fuck that.

We should damn well fetishize it, because it’s increasingly rare. It’s something that’s nearly impossible to achieve, or rather, it’s easy to achieve if you don’t care about others’ perceptions of you. If you’re fine with the fact that some (arguably shallow) girls will think you’re a loser. If some (arguably fair weather) friends abandon you because you don’t update your Facebook. If you don’t respond to email, you somehow cease to exist (to arguably impatient people). But we’re programmed to please. We want to be liked. And the guilt. Oh, the guilt in disconnecting. It’s awful.

And it’s not just the lone reporter affected – someone whose job forces them to spend entirely too much time engaged with the pulsating beast of the web. It’s everyone. Everyone who wakes up and grabs their phone before wiping sleep from their eyes. Checks email from the toilet. Tweets drunk. Swerves out of their lane to text. Can’t maintain eye contact. Takes pictures, pictures, pictures and videos of everything. Feels naked, alone and desperately bored when device-less.

It’s society. And yes, it’s a first-world problem.**

Today, our society’s secret craving for an off switch is being thrown back in our faces, through what I’ll dub “disconnect porn.” For those of you who only watch Netflix, let me explain. There’s a new TV show called “Revolution” whose entire premise is that something happened to Earth that made all the power shut off at once. No more computers. No web. No more iPhone. No lightbulbs or air conditioning. No email. No cars. No planes.

“I used to work at a place called Google,” says the bearded, nerdy character in episode one.

“That’s a computer thing, right?” asks the child of the new world, where buses and skyscrapers are covered with vines.

If only, breathes the subtext of that exchange. If only.

Americans are now collectively fantasizing as a culture about a disconnected world. “Revolution,” by the way, set a ratings record for NBC. And it’s holding. People want this. It’s an escape fantasy.

What now? The call to action: make something that reflects society’s desire. Stop building more of the same. Build things that speak to our souls, our secret longing for the disconnect. Our cravings for simplicity.

Use up your youth and hyperlinked years to build something entirely different, before you burn out and long for things only, ironically, the young and connected have the energy and time to devote to, yet not the mind that could originally envision these things or actively want them. Build tools to allow us to disconnect.

Build “slow web” apps that aggregate, analyze, summarize and discover the meaning from a thousand posts. Create sharing applications that work in the background, on auto-pilot mode. (Hello, Flock). Build intelligent presence devices and tools that auto-respond so you don’t have to without sounding like the bots that they are. Build them for normal people, too, not just businesses. Make calendars that reply to appointment requests. Buttons that send auto-responses to emails when clicked. Build smartphones that adaptively learn which calls to put through and when notifications should be read or hidden. Digital assistants that can tell you about the advances the digital world made when you leave it for an hour or a day. (Siri, catch me up.) Make cameras that take photos by themselves, which can be scattered Internet-of-things style around your home snapping and recording moments with no button push needed. Build apps that disappear into the cloud when you forget them, and replace themselves with new versions and sequels to bring you back, appearing on your screen automatically.

You decide. Do this:

Go offline today.

Come back tomorrow.

What did you really miss? Name one thing. How did you have to catch-up? What would have made that process easier for you? Can you make something that would have improved it?

Build that.

* Not really.

** P.S. From now on, anyone who says “first world problem” will be shot. Or the online equivalent: de-friended, marked as spam, blocked. Whatever. So sick of that meme. Everything is a first world problem if you’re not starving to death or dying of preventative disease. It’s fucking understood. Shut up about it.

Image credit: D.Munoz-Santos


An Analysis Of Market Demand For Web Programming Languages


This post is by Marc Gayle from TechCrunch


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MarcGayle

Editor’s note: Marc Gayle is a Rails developer and founder of 5KMVP, where he builds Minimum Viable Products for just $5K. Follow him on Twitter.

A few months ago, I got the idea that one way to get leads for remote freelance gigs was to scour Craigslist. So after doing the manual work of “crawling” through at least 100 job postings by hand, I wrote a Ruby script to do the heavy lifting and filtering for me.

Once I started looking through the data, some interesting things started jumping out at me. Even though I don’t actually live in the Valley (I live in Jamaica), I consume a lot of the news, blog posts, and articles that come from the Valley. Suffice to say, I am affected by the “Valley echo-chamber.” One side effect of that is an obsession with Ruby and Ruby on Rails as my development stack and a general expectation that the rest of the world has woken up to its beauty and elegance.

Alas, much to my surprise, that is not the case.

Before diving into the data, let me explain exactly what this script does. Throughout Craigslist, there are two URL subpaths that tend to have the majority of the web development freelance gigs: /cpg/ and /web/. So the script creates a list of all the cities on Craigslist (because CL doesn’t provide a clean, RESTful API that allows you to get this info easily) and then simply adds /cpg/ and /web/ to the end of that URL.

Then, on each link, it checks to see if the current link actually has gigs posted in that city. The reason for this is that whenever there is no gig posted in the current city, what CL does is shows gigs from “Nearby cities.” To prevent duplication, the script automatically checks for that and eliminates those cities that don’t have uniquely posted gigs. However, it does not eliminate a gig that has the exact text and is posted in two different cities – because, well, I hadn’t gotten there yet.

Once the script has a list of valid cities with gigs posted, then it starts to parse each of the links on the first page of those cities (i.e. up to 100 links in each city – CL does pagination by the 100 links) for keywords that I specified. The upside to only using the last 100 links in each city is that those are the most recent. The downside is that in active cities, the last 100 links aren’t always a good sample from the entire population.

For the Rails results, I have the following keywords: rails, (ruby on rails), (ruby on rails 3), (rails 3), (rails 2).

For the Ruby results, I have the following keywords: ruby, (ruby 1.8.7), (ruby 1.9.2), (ruby 1.9.3), ruby187, ruby192, ruby193.

The searches are case-insensitive, so any link containing Ruby, rUbY or RUBY will be found and included. I am trying to capture every permutation that someone would use “Rails” in a web dev sense.

The downside to this basic approach is that for technologies that share similar keywords – e.g. Ruby on Rails (the framework) and Ruby (the language) – there will be overlap. So in this case, the Ruby results contain a ton of Rails links, i.e. Rails is basically a subset of Ruby.

I have done my best to fine-tune as many obviously spam-like CL posts out of the results to really get at the legitimate posts.

So it is fair to say, I think, that these results give us a relative proxy for what the marketplace for freelance programming gigs is actually looking for.

Without further ado, here is the data and analysis.

General Stats
  • Cities Parsed: 720
  • Total Gigs Found: 11,992-12,076 (scripts were run multiple times – for accuracy purposes – and the results returned were within this range)
  • Time Script Takes to Run: 16 minutes-1.25 hours
Languages Searched For

Server-Side Languages and Frameworks

  • C# (C-Sharp)
  • CodeIgniter (PHP Framework)
  • Django (Python Framework)
  • Dot-Net
  • Java
  • Lisp
  • Perl
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Rails (Ruby Framework)
  • Ruby

Client-Side Languages and MVC Frameworks

Batch 1 – Languages

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Javascript
  • Flash

Batch 2 – JavaScript MVC Frameworks

  • Backbone.js
  • Closure
  • Ember.js
  • Knockout.js
  • Node.js

On the server side, you can see that PHP wins by a long shot, with an almost Bolt-like performance, blowing everybody else out of the water. In fact, Ruby comes in at a paltry fifth place, Java comes in second, and Dot-Net and C# come in third and fourth, respectively.

The most surprising result from the above is that Flash is still in demand, even with all the “Flash is dead” rhetoric flying around the tech presses and blogs. It’s almost as much in demand as JavaScript! Who woulda thunk?!

As for the JavaScript frameworks, there is a silent battle going on with the multitudes of JavaScript frameworks in existence and being released regularly. Here is where the unscientific-ness and imprecision of this little exercise rears its head again.

Upon first glance at the results, the script says that Ember had an output of 14 gigs. However, because the keyword being searched for is “ember,” Ruby finds any string with a substring of “ember.” So it had 14 links with “Member” and “Membership” in the link title. Not one with Ember.js or the Ember we were looking for. So after I manually reviewed the links, 0 results were returned. So the only two client-side MVC frameworks that the script found that is in-demand is Backbone and Node. Both, just barely.

That being said, please take that with a grain of salt. Here is an alternative data point for you. I was told by one of the founders of GroupTalent a few months ago that the largest demand from clients they are seeing is in fact for client-side JavaScript frameworks. Even more so than server-side frameworks.

Below is the combined data:

Conclusion

This post is not meant to start a flame war between the various camps. It is just an unscientific analysis of what the general marketplace (using Craigslist as a proxy for that marketplace) is looking for in web development talent.

If you are considering learning one of these languages or frameworks, using what the marketplace requests is one factor to consider in your decision-making process. I wouldn’t necessarily encourage that, though. I certainly didn’t.

I chose Ruby and Ruby on Rails and love every minute of it. I would encourage you to try out various languages and see which you feel most comfortable with, because the vast majority of the time you spend in the language (assuming you really want to get better) will be non-billable stuff.

In the web applications I build for clients at 5KMVP, I use Ruby and Ruby on Rails because that’s what I love. Clients have been satisfied and seem to love it, too.

If you want me to do an analysis of anything else – say Mobile vs Server languages or anything else, let me know in the comments or drop me a line on Twitter.

If you found this interesting, you may find a piece I wrote about Dropbox, or a guide to understanding cashflow vs profit, similarly interesting.

You can find the Ruby script I created on GitHub, along with some sample output files that have a list of all the gigs generated for this article.

Do look around, and if you submit any pull requests for any improvements you may have, the Karma Fairy shall multiply your lineage ten-fold and your seed shall outnumber the celestial bodies.