Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “SETI Shuts Down Search for Alien Life Due to Lack of Funding”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “SETI Shuts Down Search for Alien Life Due to Lack of Funding”

SETI Shuts Down Search for Alien Life Due to Lack of Funding

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 01:13 AM PDT

The SETI institute has hibernated its Allen Telescope Array, which scans the sky for clues on extraterrestrial life, due to lack of funding.

The telescope array, which consists of 42 20-foot-wide telescopes spread across a field 300 miles north of San Francisco, was originally funded largely by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who donated $25 million to the project. However, state budget cuts have all but halted the project, which will for the time being be unavailable for normal use and run by a significantly reduced staff.

The shutdown is (hopefully) only temporary, as the institute tries to collect the $5 million it needs to restore operation, which is planned to happen in 2013.

The name SETI has become synonymous with search for extraterrestrial life in geek culture. Thousands of users participate in SETI@home, the part of the project which requires donating the CPU processing power of your computer to help interpret the vast amount of data collected by SETI’s telescopes.

You can donate to the SETI institute here.

[via CNN]

More About: alien, alien life, extraterrestrial, research, SETi

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Google’s Eric Schmidt Interviews Tina Fey [VIDEO]

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 10:42 PM PDT

Perhaps former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has a shot at a TV career, if his recent fireside interview with comedic legend Tina Fey is any indication.

The current Executive Chairman of Google spent an hour with the 30 Rock creator and star during one of its Authors@Google chats at its headquarters in Mountain View, California. Fey and Schmidt discussed everything from her experience raising her daughter to her advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs and writers. If you’re a fan of Tina Fey’s improvisational humor, you’ll love this video.

Schmidt, on the other hand, has improved his interviewing skills since we saw him interview James Cameron last year. The ex-CEO apparently has wanted to do TV for some time and even filmed a pilot for a TV show with CNN last year, but apparently it “was a complete disaster.” Schmidt did a decent job interviewing Fey, though she’s a softball interviewee.

Schmidt is also rumored to be in the running to become the next U.S. Secretary of Commerce, though he’d possibly have to give up billions of dollars in Google stock to accept the job.

Check out the video and let us know what you think of the Tina Fey interview in the comments.

More About: 30 rock, Google, saturday night live, snl, tina fey, youtube

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Who Needs a Weatherman? People-Powered Meteorology App Hits iPhone

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 09:52 PM PDT

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Weddar

Quick Pitch: Weddar is a people-powered weather service.

Genius Idea: Defining the weather by how it feels.

Weather conditions are most often defined in terms of temperature, humidity and wind factor. New iPhone application Weddar [iTunes link] challenges this notion with a system that gives users the ability to submit reports based on how the weather feels.

“We wanted a very simplistic approach for all people,” explains co-creator Ricardo Fonseca, “so that they could express their feelings about how they feel the weather.”

Simplistic it is. Weddar presents the user with nine different weather report selections that take the form of color-coded clouds — think Perfect, Hot, Good or Hell — and four optional modifiers so users can specify whether it’s cloudy, rainy, windy or snowy.

Reports are added to the map according to the user’s location, and then visible to other app users in the map view. That’s pretty much all there is to it, though users can also request weather reports by pressing on a place on the map for a second. That action will produce a white cloud on the map and will signal other users to add their reports.

Weddar’s greatest quality is that it’s hyper-local. Because weather reports are tied to a user’s location, they reflect the current feel of an exact locale and offer users more data — as fuzzy as it may be — on the area’s conditions. This means that Weddar can account for microclimates far better than the local TV weatherman.

Of course, that depends on whether anyone is actually using Weddar. The application, released Monday, is seeing some traction, according to Fonseca. He won’t share specific numbers, but he does say that users in 63 different countries have submitted weather reports via Weddar. The app has reached the number two position on the Free Apps chart in Portugal, where Weddar parent-company 96HP is based.

The startup won’t be putting any weathermen (or weathergirls) out of business anytime soon. Sometimes we need a real temperature reading and a bit more to go on than, say, “Fresh”. But the app’s crowdsourced and mobile nature could give it an edge if the idea takes off with enough iPhone users.

Weddar is currently self-funded. The startup plans to introduce new features such as photo uploads in the months ahead.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, iphone app, spark-of-genius, startup, Weather, weather service, weddar

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QR Code Resume Makes Your Embossed Paper Look Lame

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 08:53 PM PDT

Prepare to feel really inadequate about your chosen resume font. This dude has fashioned a custom QR code resume that is sure to break up the monotony of any HR person’s day.

Made by Victor Petit — who was looking for an internship, but recently scored one — this resume is reminiscent of band Cassius’s video and accompanying app [iTunes link] for “I Love You So.” It features a QR code in the middle of a picture of a face (on the back of a printed resume) that unlocks a video of the missing mouth on your phone.

“I realized during my previous job search that getting an interview at a communication agency is the hardest part of the process,” says Petit. “I tried to create a CV that would enable me to express myself vocally as soon as they read the paper version. The combination of a sheet of paper and a QR code felt like the best way to reach that goal.”

We’re not sure what exactly Petit’s skills are from the video alone — it has no sound — aside from being extremely awesome.

More About: pop culture, qr code, video

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Amazon Is On A Massive Hiring Spree, But Why?

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 07:36 PM PDT

Amazon released its first quarter earnings today, and while the ecommerce giant increased sales by 38%, its income decreased by 33%, thanks to a massive wave of hiring and a 42% increase in operating expenses.

Business is booming for Amazon. The company garnered $9.86 billion in net sales in Q1 2011, up from $7.13 billion in Q1 2010 and more than the $9.53 billion Wall Street expected. That wasn’t the only thing that rose in Amazon’s earnings, though. In Q1 2011, Amazon’s expenses totaled $9.54 billion, up from $6.74 billion a year ago.

The result is that Amazon earned 44 cents per share, far below the 61 cents per share analysts expected this quarter. Amazon is down 0.71% in after-hours trading.

Why did costs rise so quickly? While Amazon mentioned things like investments in its Web Services division and in new office space, the bulk of its expenses is likely from its hiring spree. In Q1 2010, Amazon had 26,100 employees (full-time and part-time, minus contractors). In Q4 2010 (just nine months later), that number rose to 33,700, and in Q1 2011, that number reached an astounding 37,900. That’s a 45% increase of its workforce in just one year.

What’s Amazon Doing?

We have to ask: why is Amazon hiring so many people? For the answer, all you have to do is look at the breakneck pace at which it has been releasing new products. In the last month alone, Amazon launched Cloud Player, unveiled a $114 ad-supported Kindle and created its own Android app store. The tech giant is also reportedly interested in entering the NFC mobile payment market.

Its rapid growth has also caused it a few headaches it needs to fix, including the issue that caused its cloud computing service to collapse.

It takes a lot of money and a lot of labor to fuel such an ambitious pipeline of products. Just the entry into the NFC mobile payment space would be a multi-million (or multi-billion) dollar endeavor.

And as Amazon has expanded outside of the ecommerce business, it faces stronger competition. It’s no longer worried about companies like Barnes & Noble. Instead, it’s competing against Apple, Google, Rackspace, Microsoft and other leading tech companies that have a lot more money in their pockets.

Amazon believes this is the right time to go after massive growth. It’s a classic strategy for Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos: focus on long-term growth and prospects and ignore short-term earnings. It may upset Wall Street now, but Amazon has proven on multiple occasions that it knows how to create new revenue sources (AWS, Kindle) from scratch. Investors would be wise to bet on Bezos and his vision for the company.

More About: amazon, Amazon Cloud Player, analysis, Kindle

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Yelp Poised for IPO

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 06:12 PM PDT

Instead of seeking another round of financing, Yelp is considering an IPO.

After announcing in 2010 that Yelp would not likely go public for several years, CEO Jeremy Stoppelman told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the company had put an IPO back on the table.

The crowdsourced local review site has not yet started the filing process, but it recently began searching for a CFO with IPO qualifications.

Yelp accepted a $25 million investment from Elevation Partners in January 2010 to expand its mobile app presence and roll out new check-in features. The company also added a daily deals component in 2010, but most of its revenue still comes from local advertisers.

Despite growing competition in the local space from check-in services and daily deal sites, Yelp has reported a consistently growing userbase.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the startup now reports 50 million users across its web and mobile platforms. When we last checked in this February, the company reported 45 million users, up from 39 million users in November. Yelp has not, however, reported that it is profitable.

Profitable or not, Yelp has good company among its tech peers in considering the time right for an IPO. Pandora, Demand Media and LinkedIn have all recently joined the public market, and both Facebook and Groupon are expected to follow soon.

More About: ipo, yelp

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Royal Wedding Chatter Amps Up on Facebook, Twitter [STATS]

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 05:55 PM PDT

One hardly need look at the numbers to know that talk of the Royal Wedding is accelerating rapidly ahead of the April 29 event. The numbers are nevertheless enlightening, especially in light of where and among whom conversations about the Royal Wedding are occurring.

News stories (as indexed by Bing) are up nearly sevenfold to 7 million per day since the beginning of the month. Blog posts have more than doubled from 46.7 million on April 5 to 102.9 million, according to data obtained from Trendrr.

According to Nielsen, the Royal Wedding has made up more than 0.3% of all news coverage in the U.S. since the engagement was announced. YouTube videos tagged with top Royal Wedding-related keywords (Royal Wedding, Kate Middleton, etc.) have grown more than 10 times from 37.5k per day to 460k per day.

Perhaps the most amusing is the rise in Royal Wedding-related eBay auctions, up from 7,435 in mid-February to more than 400,000 this week.

Just as with the U.S. media, more of the American public is talking about the Royal Wedding than their U.K. counterparts. 40% of Royal Wedding-related, English language tweets originate from the U.S., followed by the UK (31%), Canada (8%), Australia (6%), Indonesia (4%) and India (3%), Trendrr finds.

Interestingly, on a per capita basis, most tweets are originating from small American towns, such as New Haven, CT; Lubbock, TX; and Tulsa, OK, rather than big cities.

Overall, tweets about the Royal Wedding have quadrupled since the beginning of the month, averaging nearly 5,000 per hour over the last week and accelerating quickly in recent days. Sentiment has been mixed; 46% of tweets are positive, 43% are neutral and 12% are negative.

A Trendrr spokesperson says that the data has been difficult to track because of the volume and range of topics related to the wedding. The data doesn’t include, for instance, mentions of Kate’s ring, because tracking “#Kate” and “ring” would “spoil the data pools,” he said, meaning that actual discussion related to the event is undoubtedly much greater.

Thumbnail courtesy of Flickr, The British Monarchy

More About: ebay, facebook, kate middleton, media, prince william, royal wedding, rw2011, social media, Trendrr, twitter, youtube

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New Nook Color Is Perfect for Comic Books — & Graphicly Delivers Them [PICS]

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 05:05 PM PDT

If you’re a comic book geek, or just enjoy the occasional graphic novel, Graphicly is turning the Nook Color into the e-reader of your dreams.

Barnes & Noble announced major upgrades to its Android-based Nook Color Monday — including Flash, email and an app store. The ability to install new apps on the device made it more tablet-like than ever, at the favorable price of $250.

Nook Color owners can purchase and download Graphicly’s graphic novels as individual apps — such as Archaia’s Mouse Guard, Wanted from Top Cow/Image, and BOOM! Studio’s Irredeemable.

“We've worked with Barnes & Noble to specially craft these apps to be optimized for reading on the Nook Color,” writes a Graphicly rep on the company blog, “and I've got to say, they're pretty sweet.”

The startup just rolled out its Android app in February. Prior to that, Graphicly had been available on desktops, iOS devices and in the Chrome Web Store as a launch partner.

Graphicly is also bringing special multimedia content to those platforms. The startup recently told us it was collaborating with heavyweights such as Stan Lee to bring features including videos and soundtracks to popular comic franchises.

Comic book fans: does the Graphicly app cast a new light on the Nook Color for you? Let us know in the comments.

Nook Color Comics, Courtesy of Graphicly

Nook Color Comics, Courtesy of Graphicly

Nook Color Comics, Courtesy of Graphicly

Nook Color Comics, Courtesy of Graphicly

Nook Color Comics, Courtesy of Graphicly

Image courtesy of Flickr, larryvincent.

More About: comic, comic book,, graphicly, nook, nook color

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MySpace For Sale: The Bidding Begins [REPORT]

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 03:36 PM PDT

A handful of venture capital firms and other companies are expected to make News Corp offers for one of its most disappointing properties: MySpace.

News Corp declared it was ready to sell MySpace in an earnings call last February. At that time, in spite of significant layoffs and a massive redesign, the company "recorded a $275 million pre-tax charge for the impairment of goodwill related to the Digital Media Group and an organizational restructuring at MySpace."

Now, The Wall Street Journal, which shares a parent company with the faltering social network, is reporting that News Corp is attempting to get at least $100 million out of the sale. It names Redscout Ventures, Thomas H. Lee Partners, and Criterion Capital Partners LLC , which also owns Bebo, as potential buyers.

News Corp purchased MySpace in 2005 for $580 million. At that time, the year-and-a-half-old Facebook hadn’t even acquired the URL and recorded a net loss of $3.63 million for the year. Even as late as 2007, Facebook’s traffic was disappointing when compared to traffic on MySpace.

But all that changed quickly. MySpace users began abandoning ship for Facebook, and in late 2009, site traffic took a dive from which it never really recovered. By 2010, even relative upstart Twitter was getting more traffic than MySpace.

Even though the network has pivoted to become an entertainment destination (in a nod to the bands and filmmakers that have clung to the platform out of habit or necessity), MySpace is still losing ground in these creative industries.

We’ll continue to keep an ear to the ground for MySpace news. Do you think News Corp will find a bidder to meet its $100 million asking price?

More About: bidding, business, myspace, News Corp, sale, trending

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Sony PlayStation Network User Information Stolen

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 02:33 PM PDT

Sony believes hackers obtained user account information, including home addresses, email addresses, birth dates, usernames and passwords, in an attack that has shut down the PlayStation Network for nearly a week.

The hackers may have also stolen credit card numbers, though Sony says there is no evidence to suggest this. Credit card security codes have not been compromised in either case.

Sony encourages all PSN and Qriocity users to be wary of scams, review account statements and monitor credit reports.

“When the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services are fully restored, we strongly recommend that you log on and change your password,” Sony said in a blog post that details ways to protect users against possible identity theft. “Additionally, if you use your PlayStation Network or Qriocity user name or password for other unrelated services or accounts, we strongly recommend that you change them, as well.”

The company expects to have both networks back online with at least partial service within a week.

More About: anonymous, hackers, playstation, playstation network, sony

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YouTube Video of the Day: “Jersey Shore” Reimagined As Oscar Wilde Comedy

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 02:20 PM PDT

Well, it’s not The Picture of Dorian Gray (although that book caused quite a scandal in its time), but this video featuring Broadway actors reading lines from MTV’s Jersey Shore is quite the amusing diversion.

Presented by The Importance of Being Earnest on Broadway at Roundabout Theatre Company, Jersey Shore Gone Wilde is a “comedy of bad manners,” according to the YouTube description.

What other reality shows do you think could use the Wildean treatment?

More About: broadway, jersey shore, oscar-wilde, video, viral-video-of-day, youtube

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Katie Couric to Leave CBS Evening News

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 02:04 PM PDT

Katie Couric has confirmed to that she is leaving her position as anchor of the CBS Evening News. Couric joined CBS five years ago and made history as the first solo female primetime anchor for a U.S. network news show.

Speaking with, Couric said, “I’m really proud of the talented team on the CBS Evening News and the award-winning work we’ve been able to do in the past five years.”

Couric’s announcement follows months of rumors that her departure from the network was imminent. She has not specified a timetable for her departure or her future plans, only remarking that she is “looking at a format that will allow me to engage in more multi-dimensional storytelling.”

Variety and The New York Times report that Couric is planning to launch a syndicated daytime program in early 2012. All three major networks — NBC, ABC and CBS — have reportedly expressed interest in the program.

Bill Carter from The New York Times quotes a representative of Couric as saying, “ABC is a contender.”

Frankly, we find it interesting that Couric made the decision to announce the news to rather than a more business-oriented media channel. If her future focus is indeed on more mainstream, daytime programming, that decision certainly makes sense.

We’ve reached out to CBS News for comment but have so far received no response.

More About: cbs, cbs news, katie couric

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How Scooters Are Saving the Planet [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Need to justify that gratuitous Vespa purchase? According to research from the Environmental Protection Agency, AAA and other sources, using scooters — even occasionally — can help reduce carbon emissions, save gasoline and increase worker productivity by stunning amounts.

For example, if U.S. cities were made more scooter friendly, we could save almost 4 billion gallons of gas annually by 2020 — and that means decreasing our dependence on foreign oil to $21.4 billion per year. The savings would also include 77.3 billion pounds of CO2 emissions each year.

The research was compiled into a friendly graphical presentation by the folks at VespaUSA (who clearly have an interest in promoting the economic and ecological benefits of the scooter) and, Intuit’s personal finance app for consumers.

Click image to see the larger version.

Lead image courtesy of Flickr, lord enfield

More About: environment, green, infographic, mint,, scooter, scooters, vespa

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Dating Site Lets You Virtually Court Your Fantasy Mate [INVITES]

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 12:52 PM PDT

Remember Cloud Girlfriend, that mysterious startup we covered whose tagline was, "The best way to get a girlfriend is to already have one”? Well, it’s finally launched, and we’ve got invites.

The initial conceit of the site, according to founder David Fuhriman, was that it would employ a legion of women to write on men’s walls as “cloud girlfriends,” demonstrating a dude’s popularity to all of his female friends (who would apparently fly into jealous rages over the digital flirting and pounce #SarcMark).

The current iteration of the site is a bit different — what Fuhriman describes as a mix between and Second Life. Users log in through Facebook and create a profile using a selection of headshots of attractive people (not their own snaps). They then fill out a rather simplistic profile, which allows one to choose between such options as “Books or Movies” (what if you like both?), “Lady Gaga or Lady Di?” (for women only — and there’s no sexual preference options) and “Sunday Church or Sunday Football” (for dudes — apparently it’s church or sports, no in-between).

After looking through a bunch of photos of fake people and their accompanying profiles, you can choose someone to chat with. "We allow people to define their ideal self, find their perfect girlfriend or boyfriend and connect and interact as if that person existed,” Fuhriman says. “It can help in learning how to manage a real relationship, and they then can take it into the real world.” The site makes money by selling virtual gifts and goods.

While we admire Fuhriman’s intentions — he hopes that the site will build confidence and increase sharing and communication (he’s also co-founder of volunteer site 5000Hands) — the whole thing seems a little counterintuitive to us.

By choosing photos that are not, in fact you, the idea could be perceived to be that looks don’t matter. But if that is, in fact, the case, why choose a photo of someone much more attractive than you are in reality when looking to score a date?

The words “ideal” and “perfect” are inherently dangerous when applied to dating and relationships (as rarely anyone is either) — in fact, a recent study by dating site OKCupid shows that women who are more divisive (a.k.a. men find them either ugly or hot) get more attention. Why? Because they let their personality — along with what could be perceived as flaws — shine through.

Why build all your hopes on fantasy when you could get to know a more interesting — albeit flawed — reality?

Still, I guess we can’t really knock it wholly till we try it. Cloud Girlfriend has provided us with 500 invite codes (use the code “mashable”) for men looking to join the site. Apparently, women can join sans code, since the site was initially marketed toward men.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Don Hankins

More About: cloud-girlfriend, online dating

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Aflac Has Found Its New “Spokesduck” [VIDEO]

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 12:18 PM PDT

Aflac named the new voice of its iconic, quacking “spokesduck” Tuesday.

Daniel McKeague, a sales manager from Minneapolis heard about the opening shortly after Gilbert Gottfried, the comedian who served as the voice of the Duck for more than 10 years, was dismissed for posting a sequence of tasteless jokes on Twitter about the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan six weeks ago.

The auditions were conducted almost entirely online and advertised widely on Aflac’s social media channels — a smart move, given that much of the negative reaction to Gottfried’s misfires was centered on those channels. Ninety percent of the 12,500 entrants submitted recordings of their voices via an online entry form. The remaining 10% showed up at live auditions in six major U.S. cities.

The first commercial with McKeague’s voice will air during NBC’s The Voice at 9 p.m. ET. Aflac worked with ad agency Digitas on the campaign.

More About: Aflac, MARKETING, social media

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Coming Soon to YouTube: Major Hollywood Films?

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 12:06 PM PDT

In addition to hosting viral gems like “Friday” and “Bed Intruder,” YouTube could soon become a place to take in major Hollywood films — legally.

The Wrap recently reported that the Google-owned video-sharing site plans to launch an on-demand movie service, which will charge folks to stream big Hollywood flicks.

Apparently, we could see this service popping up this week or next, with studios like Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Brothers, Universal, Lionsgate and Kino Lorber on board for content. Paramount and Disney have yet to sign up, but TechCrunch is reporting that Fox has possibly also jumped on the bandwagon.

We asked YouTube about these reports, to which it replied: “We’ve steadily been adding more and more titles since launching movies for rent on YouTube over a year ago and now have thousands of titles available. Outside of that, we don’t comment on rumor, or speculation.”

YouTube has been testing out movie rentals for a while now — the Google-owned video site debuted online movie rentals in January 2010 on a very limited basis, allowing users to rent five different flicks from the Sundance Film Festival using their Google Checkout accounts. The year before that, it was reported that YouTube was in talks with movie studios to offer rentals of major motion pictures, creating what would be dubbed an instant Netflix killer.

The murder of Netflix has yet to come to fruition — probably because YouTube hasn’t been offering flicks that people actually want to watch — but if this deal is real, YouTube could give Netflix a run for its money. Netflix has almost no first-run titles, so if YouTube could offer such content, it would be a worthy adversary — especially considering recently placed rental windows over at Netflix.

YouTube has been working to further legitimize its content at a fever pitch recently, ramping up livestreaming efforts and allegedly planning to up its curation efforts by organizing its content into channels packed with professionally produced videos.

It will be interesting to see what emerges from YouTube’s corner after the dust of rumors settles.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Evelyn Proimos

More About: business, films, video, youtube

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Lady Gaga To Donate $1 Million via Crowdsourced Charity Contest

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 11:41 AM PDT

lady gaga image

Whatever people may say about Lady Gaga, she has been a positive influence in the philanthropic world. And now she has partnered with the Robin Hood Foundation to launch two Facebook contests to support the New York-based charity, which benefits the poor and homeless.

One contest is designed to increase Robin Hood‘s Likes on Facebook while the other asks Facebook fans to help decide how Gaga should divide a $1 million donation to the charity.

Both contests stem from Robin Hood’s annual May 9 fundraising gala where Gaga will be performing. The Robin Hood sweepstakes is giving away two tickets every weekday to attend the concert. Fans are entered into the lottery by liking the page and inviting friends to join.

It’s a huge chance for Robin Hood to boost its social media presence thanks to Gaga’s millions of fans, says Mark Bezos, Robin Hood’s senior VP of development and communications.

“The exposure that comes from someone who has 32 million Facebook fans is a great opportunity for us, but at the end of the day this promotion, this contest, is about helping people who need it and doing it in a way that is not superficial,” he says

The second contest, hosted on Gaga’s Facebook page, will feature five different charities tackling local issues around poverty and homelessness. Fans can vote for which charity most deserves Gaga’s money. The results will be tiered, with the winner receiving $500,000, the person at second place receiving $250,000 and so on. Gaga will donate $1 million in total to the five charities. Basically, it’s a crowdsourced way for Gaga’s fans to tell her where she should donate.

robin hood image

Crowdsourced giving campaigns are definitely new ground for Robin Hood. Even though the foundation hands out approximately $130 million in grants annually, it has kept a relatively low profile. Bezos hopes the pairing with Gaga will bring greater awareness to the foundation’s mission. “At Robin Hood, we don’t give grants by popular vote, it’s by results,” Bezos said. “We don’t want to go down this path just because it seems like it would a really fun way to engage a lot of people. What we promise our donors is that every dollar is going to work as hard as it can to improve the lives of poor people in New York.”

To that end, each of the five charities in the contest have been vetted and approved by the foundation. The tiered system ensures that none of the non-profits will walk away empty-handed.

Lady Gaga has proven herself to be quite the activist. She donated proceeds of a New York concert to rebuilding efforts in Haiti, she has been selling bracelets to support Japan and she is also an active supporter of LGBT rights. Bezos says the idea to collaborate with Robin Hood actually came from Gaga’s camp. “We don’t trade in celebrity a whole lot, it’s not something that we seek out so when the opportunity comes to us, we just make sure, first and foremost from our point of view, that it’s going to do the most good to the people who need it,” he says.

Robin Hood has found a way to include Gaga without sacrificing its core message or best practices. It’s not an easy feat, but it puts the cause first. Other partners in the campaign include Network For Good, Partnerships for Purpose, Causes and Buddy Media.

What do you think of celebrities supporting non-profits? Is the collaboration a good match? What could they have done better? Sound off in the comments.

More About: charity, crowdsourced, Lady Gaga, non-profit, robin hood, robin hood foundation, social good

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Vevo Now Available in the UK

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 11:18 AM PDT

UK readers: You know how you always get annoyed when the Vevo vids we feature don’t function for you? Well, that should no longer be an issue. The video platform is now available in the UK.

We had been hearing rumors about a UK launch for a while, but now the facts are confirmed: Vevo’s CEO Rio Caraeff announced the news Tuesday on the site’s blog.

Before, UK users could only access limited Vevo content through YouTube, but now they will be able to check out music videos, original series, live events, etc. through or via VEVO mobile (including Android, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad). UK users can also create playlists (Vevo will be providing a Royal Wedding playlist, naturally), favorite videos and share those vids though Facebook and Twitter.

Caraeff does mention that the site is still in its test phase, so we wouldn’t expect smooth sailing right off the bat.

Vevo launched in December 2009 and has already carved a sizable niche for itself in the web video space, even jockeying for prominence with established music video heavyweights like MTV.

According to comScore’s Video Metrix for March 2011, Vevo is the fifth most-viewed video site in the U.S., beating out Facebook.

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How Schools Can Use Facebook to Build an Online Community

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 10:28 AM PDT

David Hartstein is a partner at JG Visual, an Internet strategy company that works with organizations to develop and implement their online presence. You can connect with David on the JG Visual Facebook Page.

The word "Facebook," so ubiquitous across the world, is enough to make any educator uneasy. When I was teaching at an elementary school in New York, the topic of social media came up from time to time. And generally when it did, it was about how teachers were being fired for posting too much information or were receiving disciplinary action for an ill-advised status update. The prevailing thought was, "better safe than sorry." Basically, we were advised to be very careful when mixing our professional and personal lives in our use of social media.

Such an approach seems to be quite common and is understandable to a certain extent. When dealing with children, it is especially important to be mindful of protecting their well-being in whatever ways you can. There is always the possibility that teachers will say something that is inappropriate or share too much information. But "being safe" shouldn’t mean missing out on a key opportunity to engage the community.

It makes sense to have a policy to discourage individual teachers from posting specifics about their students to their personal profiles. But schools should counterbalance such a policy by setting up a Facebook Page to represent the school. Students, families, and faculty members are going to use Facebook regardless of whether or not schools choose to do so. By setting up a Facebook Page, schools can establish a controlled, professional presence that allows them to capitalize on this social space in many important ways, while still protecting their students. It's important to note that while a Facebook Page is an excellent opportunity for schools to supplement their web presence, it doesn't fully replace the benefits of a robust website.

Here are some ways that schools can benefit from establishing an effective Facebook presence.

A Quick Note on Protecting Students

As we discuss the potential benefits of using Facebook, it's important to frame the discussion with a warning about protecting our students. Before launching a Facebook Page, school leaders must ensure they've thought through the types of content they're going to share with the world. Before sharing any information about any student (including pictures, videos, first names, work samples, etc.) school leaders must ensure they've obtained consent from the child's guardian. Additionally, schools should avoid sharing last names of students as this can potentially jeopardize their safety (and in some cases is actually illegal). With a little forethought, Facebook can offer a variety of benefits without risking any safety to students or members of the school community.

Share School News

Facebook is an excellent opportunity for a school to connect with families and share information rapidly. If a school is consistent in keeping the information updated and accurate, students and families will likely come to rely on the Facebook Page as a resource to find information about what's going on at the school. There are many different types of information that a school could choose to share on its Facebook Page.

Share What's Happening

A Facebook Page is a great place to post noteworthy happenings around the school via a status update that posts on the Page's wall. This is an easy way to keep families informed as to what's going on during the school day. Additionally, it only takes moments to do (which in a school is always a good thing). If an event is particularly exciting, take some photos to share. For instance, Citizen Schools shared photos of a recent visit from Arianna Huffington and Tim Armstrong.

Share Upcoming Events

A Facebook Page is an excellent opportunity for a school to post upcoming events using the Facebook Events app. This app not only allows people to RSVP, but also makes it easy for them to share that they're attending. Utilizing Facebook Events can potentially lead to increased attendance at school functions. A school can also update attendees about any change in plans and send out a reminder as the event approaches.

Make School Announcements

Facebook is a great space for schools to make announcements to parents and students. For instance, if there is an ever-coveted snow day, announce it on the Facebook Page. If a school shares the snow day on its Facebook Page, the news will be sent to the walls of everyone that has Liked the page. Consistency is the key here. If the page is consistently updated with school news, followers will develop an expectation that they can count on the Facebook Page when they want to learn about something concerning the school. I'd also bet that news like a snow day will get plenty of Likes, which will spread the news quickly across the community’s social graph.

Use Media to Showcase School Culture

Many schools pride themselves on creating a unique culture that promotes not only academics but also the social development of its students. Facebook provides an opportunity to showcase this unique culture with those who can't be in the building during the school day.

Share Photos

Photos are an excellent way to showcase school culture. A school may choose to use photos to highlight a variety of aspects of the school, including:

  • Students exhibiting values the school encourages
  • Celebrations of student work
  • Field trips
  • Experiential learning activities
  • Assemblies or school-wide celebrations
  • Recognition of individual students for excellence

Share Videos

Videos can be an incredible way for a school to personalize its online presence and actually demonstrate what it is that makes it special. A school may add videos that showcase a lot of different things, including:

  • A variety of learning, including different subjects and age groups
  • Assemblies or school-wide events
  • Community meetings
  • High caliber teaching and student engagement
  • Students, teachers, and members of the community discussing what makes the school special
  • Share songs, chants, or cheers that are used as a part of school culture or academics
  • Sporting events
  • Plays, concerts and other performances

Use as a Recruitment Tool

Facebook has potential to help a school attract talented teachers and school leaders as well as raise the overall level of awareness surrounding the hard work it's doing. By using Facebook, a school can add another layer to their recruitment efforts and help attract staff and, if applicable, attract students as well.

Using Facebook to Attract Staff

Facebook is a logical place for schools to focus some of their efforts when recruiting talented teachers and school leaders. For starters, the aforementioned use of media to share details of the school will provide potential staff members a glimpse inside of the school. I know if I was torn between applying to work in two schools, I would likely favor one that was providing me with photos and videos to complement their description of what they're doing to support students. As long as a school actually has a strong culture and learning community, sharing it effectively can significantly bolster its recruiting efforts.

Additionally, Facebook is a great place for a school to post its job openings. Facebook makes it incredibly easy to share content, which means if I know someone who’s looking for a certain teaching position and come across such a position on a school's page, I can easily send it his or her way. Current teachers can also share job openings with people in their network that may potentially be interested in applying.

If a school has an online system for accepting job applications, it should include the link on the Facebook Page. If a school doesn't have such a system in place, it may want to consider using an application that integrates with Facebook. Here's an example from TEAM Schools, a Network of KIPP Schools, which is using the Job Magic Facebook app to recruit and accept applications.

Using Facebook to Attract Students

For schools that also focus on recruitment of students or enrolling students in a selection lottery, Facebook can be an excellent resource. First of all, a school can share the aspects of the school that make it appealing through photos and videos. But it can also share key information about enrollment, including deadlines, links to an online application, and links to resources that may be useful for a family that is interested in enrolling a student. The fact that information is easily shared via Facebook again bodes well for a school interested in recruiting students.

The Power of Data

Many schools use their strong academic results as a key to their recruiting efforts. Facebook provides a great opportunity for a school to share their aggregated academic data with the world. Not only is it available to those interested in potentially becoming a part of the community, but is also accessible to students and families that are already in the school. These results are easy for students, teachers, and proud family members to Like and share with people in their Facebook network.

Get Feedback from the Community

Facebook allows a school to lower the barriers to participation for members of the community. By effectively leveraging Facebook, a school can make it easier for community members to get involved and share their opinions on a variety of fronts. While some schools may fear this increased participation, others will embrace it as it not only increases involvement, but can also lead to a healthy discourse about what's happening at the school.

Use Facebook Discussions

One opportunity lies in the Discussions tab on the Facebook Page. A school can create a discussion about a specific topic and allow members of the community to share their thoughts within the thread. Admins will be able to moderate the thread and remove any posts that are inappropriate.

Use Polls

Polls provide a chance for a school to solicit feedback directly from its followers. The nice thing about using a poll is that a school can limit the choices available and, with a few simple clicks, blast it out to all of its followers. It's a great way to quickly collect data that can help inform decision making.

Use Facebook Questions

An alternative to polls, Facebook Questions allow a school to solicit feedback from the community while being a little less restrictive. Questions provides the option for a school to allow users to write in answer choices as well as share the question with others in their network. However, it's worth noting that Questions opens responses up to friends of friends, which may not necessarily provide the best sample if a school is trying to poll just members of its community. If only sampling those in the school isn't a priority, Questions could be a good fit. For example, YES Prep Public Schools used Facebook Questions to help determine what mascot they should use for a new school they're opening in the fall. As of the writing of this article, "Titans" is winning handily.

A Note on Settings and Privacy

Once a school has set up a Facebook Page, there are a few settings it may want to consider to ensure it's easy to monitor. Please note that in order to do any of the following you must first be logged in and designated as an Admin of the Facebook Page.

Posting Ability

It's a good idea to control the permissions regarding what content users are allowed to upload. To access permissions, do the following:

1. Click "Edit Page" in the upper-right of the Facebook Page
2. Select the "Manage Permissions" tab on the left side of the screen
3. Uncheck "Users can add photos"
4. Uncheck "Users can add videos"
5. Leave "Users can write or post content on the wall" checked
6. Click the blue "Save Changes" button at the bottom of the page

It's a good idea to start off by limiting these permissions. If a school ultimately decides it would like to expand the permissions it offers its followers, it's easy to do so. It's better to become more permissive than more restrictive.

Also, it's worth noting that unlike with personal photos on Facebook, followers won't be able to tag people in the photos that the school uploads to its Facebook Page. As discussed above in the privacy section, this is a good thing when children are involved for many reasons.

Profanity Blocklist

Facebook allows the Admins of a Page to enable an automatic screener for profanity. To enable this profanity blocklist, do the following:

1. Click "Edit Page" in the upper-right of the Facebook Page
2. Select the "Manage Permissions" tab on the left side of the screen
3. In the dropdown beside "Profanity Blocklist:" select "Strong"
4. Click the blue "Save Changes" button at the bottom of the page

If there are specific words that a school would like to prohibit from being used, it can write them in the box beside "Moderation Blocklist" on the same page. If a user tries to use one of these prohibited words, it will automatically be marked as spam and won't show up on the Facebook page.

Enable Email Notifications

To prevent page Admins from having to constantly be checking the Facebook page, it's a good idea to enable Email Notifications. To do so, do the following:

1. Click "Edit Page" in the upper right of the Facebook Page
2. Select the "Your Settings" tab on the left side of the screen
3. Check the checkbox beside "Email Notifications"
4. Click the blue "Save Changes" button at the bottom of the page

Now, whenever a user posts or comments on the Facebook Page, the Admin will receive an email letting them know that the interaction has occurred.

Make It Personal

The key to any school successfully leveraging Facebook is finding what fits the personality of the individual school. The above ideas are merely suggestions as a way to get started. The important thing is that each school makes their Facebook Page an extension of the amazing things they are doing every day in the classroom.

While Facebook is at times a bit daunting, when used effectively it can provide schools with an excellent opportunity to engage the communities they serve and act as a key component in a school's online presence.

Is there a school in your community using Facebook to its full potential? Do you have any additional tips? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Interested in more Education resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RichVintage

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U.S. Mobile Customers Now Prefer Android Phones Over iPhones [STATS]

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 09:57 AM PDT

Google has won another small victory in the long and documented battle between Android and Apple operating systems.

For the first time, Android phones are the most coveted smartphones among U.S. mobile consumers, according to a survey Nielsen released Tuesday.

In a series of monthly surveys between January 2011 and March 2011, 31% of consumers who were planning on getting a new smartphone indicated that Android was their preferred OS, compared to 30% who preferred the iPhone.

The same surveys in July and September 2010 showed that 26% of these consumers wanted an Android phone while 33% wanted an iPhone.

Comparisons like these aren’t perfect. Android’s OS runs on multiple devices made by non-Google manufacturers, while iOS runs exclusively on Apple devices. Comparing the two pits one manufacturer’s products against a basket of other manufacturers’ collective products.

But Android’s increasing presence on smartphone wish lists does suggest increasing competition for Apple’s iPhone in the future, as do current trends in market share.

In a Nielsen survey conducted in March, 37% of U.S. mobile phone owners indicated that they owned Android devices, compared to 27% who said they owned iPhones. When respondents were narrowed down to consumers who had purchased their phones in the previous six months, however, Android’s share increased to 50% and Apple’s share decreased to 25%. (RIM experienced an even more drastic decrease of 7%.)

More About: android, apple, Google, iOS, Nielsen, trending

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4 Ways Behavioral Targeting Is Changing the Web

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 09:47 AM PDT

The Digital Marketing Series is supported by HubSpot, which offers inbound marketing software that helps small and medium sized businesses get found on the Internet by the right prospects and converts more of them into leads and customers. Learn more.

We've already seen signs of it — targeted ads on Facebook, suggested people to follow on Twitter, even Google Instant seems to know what you're thinking — but how is behavioral targeting changing the Internet at large?

Here's how behavioral targeting works: Targeting companies establish an agreement with a publisher, who puts a piece of code on his website. (That publisher must have a clearly stated policy for the consumer to opt out from having data collected.) Then, when you’re browsing the web, the site will put a cookie on your browser, which populates as you surf. (Though one interviewee, ContextWeb, targets based on content and not cookies.)

Now that your browser has a cookie, the targeting begins. Data points amass as you click your way from site to site, taking note of what you buy, what you read and what you search for. The more time goes on, the more data is collected. Back in 2003, we had audience targeting, which assigned people to various demographics and targeted these demographics based on age, gender and location. Now, with more data, the targeting can be — and is — much more dynamic, and can gauge your interests and preferences. Companies that specialize in targeting can nearly promise more ad engagement by targeting people who have indicated -– through their behavioral patterns on the web -– that they might be interested in the product at hand. It’s a more costly form of advertising, but the conversion rate can offset the increased cost.

All of the data that has been collected by targeters has huge implications for the Internet of the future. We spoke with three experts in the field of behavioral targeting to discuss the biggest effects that targeting will have on the web as we know it.

1. Your Internet Experience Will Be More About You

You know how Amazon suggests items that might interest you, based on the items you've perused? That's how the entire Internet could be soon. With systems tracking your cursor and keeping tabs on your browsing history, the Internet can get to know you better — and be smarter than ever. In fact, Amazon’s algorithm is a paragon of excellence for targeters.

"Amazon does a fantastic job at making the Amazon experience reliable for the consumer. The entire experience is relevant and more efficient," says Jeff Hirsch, president and CEO of AudienceScience.

And since data collection has been ongoing for years at Amazon, the data points and algorithms have been refined. Years ago, a man might buy a princess outfit for his 3-year-old niece and then be presented with ads for toddler items the next few times he logs on. That doesn't happen anymore, says Ted Shergalis, founder and chief strategy officer of [x+1]. "As targeters accrue more data and more sophisticated algorithms, they can lessen the impact of statistical outliers," he says.

And what’s been done to the algorithm at Amazon is happening all over the web. Shergalis cites the advent of Google Instant as a huge shift in the web’s evolution — results are repositioning information in a way that is more focused on the query. "Marketers are hoping to do that with all of their work," he says, meaning that the web might be able to tell you what you're looking for before you even finish typing it.

Hirsch jokes that in 10 years, we may very well look back and laugh that we ever had to type something into Google to find what we were looking for. "Smarter" and "more useful" are two terms he uses to describe how the targeted curation will affect your web experience.

Best of all for marketers, Hirsch says, is that more relevant content can lead to more engagement.

Rose Ann Haran says ContextWeb, where she is the CMO, strives to "curate content so that we can drive a better experience for people online.” She cites how TV and radio, which now have hundreds of content channels, have evolved so that we can curate what to consume. Technology allows us to hand-pick what programs we'd like to watch and when, along with what kind of music we'd like to listen to. That's exactly where the web is going, she says. "If you think about the online experience, you can really make the analogy to TV and radio."

2. The Web Could Change Its Appearance For You

So when the web is all about you, will it also change its interface, too? Shergalis says the data that would drive such customization is available today, but that cost, time and resources are what's hindering us from getting to that next level.

But, he says, "Consumers are going to come to expect it — you can't just have a simple, one-size-fits-all experience" for all consumers.

"I think the expectations are increasing. I don't see people wanting to go back to a less personalized, less social, more irrelevant experience, so I think [the customization] trend is going to continue,” Shergalis adds. Especially because there's so much more information to gather, and the more consumers share their interests with marketers, the more relevant and suited products will be for us, he says.

Haran cites her own Google homepage — and how radically different it is from her daughter's page. She says they have different widgets above and below the fold and they each have a different number of ads, based on their preferences. So it’s clear that customization on the web isn't a farfetched idea, and sites could soon know whether you like a clean page with only two ads, or whether you're tolerant of up to eight ads.

“The tech is there to be able to provide that unique experience for you," Haran says. But since there are so many players in the market, only “an orchestrated approach would allow us to do that [targeting]."

3. It Will View You as a Multi-Dimensional Person With Many Interests

So you browsed through — does that mean you'll only get Nike and Adidas ads from now on? No, because there's more to you than your interest in sports, and the data knows that. It won’t try to pigeonhole you.

This is especially important because there is concern that curation and customization lead to tunnel vision and ignorance of everything else that's out there. That's why behavioral targeters are testing demographics and creating algorithms to determine other interests and speak to a person's depth and varied interests and give them an element of choice. Such algorithms will help marketers "discover a whole new audience and develop a new understanding" of this dynamic, multifaceted audience, says Hirsch.

As mentioned before, ContextWeb targets based on content. Instead of interpreting CNN as a news site, it breaks it down into retirement, personal finance, education — it's no longer a one-dimensional perception of the site. And that precision helps to refine the algorithm.

"We're all multi-dimensional people who consume content in different contexts," says Tanayia Washington, insights and analytics manager at ContextWeb.

4. It's Tapping Into Social and Mobile

To some, behavioral targeting seems like an invasion of privacy, though the FTC has taken steps to ensure that privacy is respected (no data is personally identifiable).

But privacy seems to be less of a priority among millennials, who tend to be more accepting of behavioral targeting than their boomer counterparts. Perhaps it’s because they grew up with LiveJournals and were the first generation on Facebook, so they're used to living their lives out loud. Whatever the reason, the things they broadcast on social networks -– where they are, what they're buying, who they’re with -– are ripe for the picking by marketers, says Shergalis. By virtue of being on these platforms and being so socially connected, young users are essentially opting in and showing a "willingness to participate" for advertisers and marketers. Therefore, behavioral targeters can take advantage of the wealth of consumer information that's out in the open on Twitter and Facebook, learning tweet by tweet about the audience it's trying to reach.

And that's just one aspect of behavioral targeting's branching out — targeting will also impact the web experience on iPhones, iPads, Androids and other mobile devices. "You'll see some pretty amazing innovations … and that will get caught under the heading of behavioral targeting,” says Shergalis.

What's Next?

When you're on your laptop, a targeter can assume that you're the only user. But let's say there's a family of four that shares a desktop computer. How do you know if it's the accountant dad, the PTA mom, the soccer star son or the Bieber-obsessed tween daughter? What if the husband is shopping for the jewelry for the wife, and then the wife starts seeing diamond ads?

"[Data] is not personally identifiable, so in a family of four, you wouldn't really know who was browsing at what point," says Hirsch. "There is some efficiency lost in that respect, which is a good example of why consumers need choice."

In short, behavioral targeting is not perfect, but it has immense potential to change the way we consume and search for information. And this potential is more within reach every day as more data is collected and analyzed. In fact, by the time you read this post, millions more data points already will have been collected, making the Internet that much smarter.

Series Supported by HubSpot

The Digital Marketing Series is supported by HubSpot, which offers inbound marketing software that helps small and medium sized businesses get found on the Internet by the right prospects and converts more of them into leads and customers. HubSpot’s software platform includes tools that allow professional marketers and small business owners to manage SEO, blogging, social media, landing pages, e-mail, lead intelligence and marketing analytics. Learn more.

More Marketing Resources from Mashable:

- The Pros and Cons Of Tumblr For Small Business
- 4 Innovative Ways to Use Web Video for Small Business
- Top 5 Web Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make
- What to Look For When Hiring a Community Manager
- 3 Ways Companies Can Reach Generation Z

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, alexsl, Maxrale, quavondo.

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We Are Hunted Launches iPad App for Music Discovery [INVITES]

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 09:26 AM PDT

We Are Hunted, one of the most intriguing music discovery tools on the web, just came out with a new iPad app for uncovering jams.

If you’re not familiar with We Are Hunted, bookmark it post haste. The site allows you to surf through online, listenable music charts of up-and-coming acts to build your own charts that you can share with friends and other music lovers.

The site also has a "Discover" tool that helps you find new music based on what you like and dislike on the site. (We Are Hunted also recently released an iPhone app called Pocket Hipster, which uses The Echo Nest's API to comb through your musical library and suggest new tunes.)

The iPad app [iTunes link] is much simpler than We Are Hunted’s other iterations, and less up and coming in its offerings. “It is a universal music discovery app for all types of music, not just the indie stuff covers,” says founder Stephen Phillips. “The app is not the official We Are Hunted app, but rather an attempt to take the slick visual grid feel of We Are Hunted to a more mainstream audience.”

Once firing up the app, you can browse music via two sliding scales: one that allows you choose what genre you want, and one that lets you pick style (high energy, ’90s music, slow tempo, etc.). You can also search for specific artists.

Once you select your genre/style, you’ll be presented with a grid of album covers that allow you to listen to 30- or 60-second samples of songs (thanks to a partnership with 7Digital) and from there get more info about the band, “play more like this” (thanks to The Echo Nest‘s API), buy the song, favorite it and share it on Facebook and Twitter.

“We think the app is useful as a discovery tool even with samples,” Phillips says of the time constraints on songs. “It was designed to be something you could dive into quickly when you need inspiration, rather than act as your principal music player.”

While we’re into the app’s easy-to-use UI and slick appearance, we can’t help but compare it to Aweditorium, an iPad app from the folks at TheSixtyOne that presents users with lovely musical discovery experience.

Upon entering that app, a user is privy to an array of musical tiles that one can tap to uncover full tracks, artist info, iTunes links and YouTube videos. That app really takes advantage of the visual, tactile nature of the iPad, a quality that the Music Hunter app seems to lack.

Still, Music Hunter allows users to search and discover music actively, rather than hunting and pecking through a sea of tiles, which highlights its use case — a tool for inspiration, Phillips says.

If you’re in need of inspiration, we have 25 promo codes for Mashable readers keen to check out the app. To score your code, email the word “Mashable” to

More About: ipad, music, music discovery, music-hunter, wearehunted

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Create Photo Books From Your Instagram Photos With Instant Album

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 09:10 AM PDT

Photo album and scrapbook maker Keepsy is releasing Instant Album, a photo book for Instagram photos. The new product, available Tuesday, aims to help users transform those signature stylized, filtered and tilt-shifted square photos into physical keepsakes.

The Instant Album product pre-selects 30 to 35 of the user’s best filtered Instagram photos, as determined by “likes,” and auto-generates an album with pages of photos grouped by time in an experience that strips out the complexities normally involved in the photo book creation process.

Those with a penchant for detail can lose themselves in the Instant Album-making processing if they so choose. Users can edit the album’s layout, drag-and-drop photos onto the same page, edit backgrounds, add artwork, customize text and font and transform each album page as they see fit.

The final result is an 11-by-8.5 inch hardback album that retails for $29.95 for 30 pages, with each additional page costing $0.99.

“We want to be the easiest photo album builder in the world,” says co-founder Blake Williams.

Keepsy, having released its first scrapbook builder for Facebook friends in December, happened upon a bigger pain point in the digital-to-physical photo album conversion process. “People don’t like to build photo albums,” says Williams, “because photo albums are a pain in the ass to make.”

That realization became the impetus for Instant Album, especially after Williams noticed that other developers were using the Instagram API for physical keepsakes such as prints, post cards and picture frames, but not yet for albums or scrapbooks.

For now, Keepsy’s keeping mum on its number of users and printed photo books, in part because it’s in the midst of raising another round of financing. Keepsy’s plans also include mobile applications that simplify and enhance the group photo album creation process.

More About: instagram, instagram API, Keepsy, photo albums, startup

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Evernote Mac App Now Records Audio & Shares Notes to Facebook, Twitter

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 09:02 AM PDT

Evernote, a startup in the midst of migrating from a single-person memory aide to a social note-taking platform, is releasing a new version of Evernote for Mac on Tuesday with Twitter and Facebook note-sharing features and new audio recording functionality.

Evernote for Mac version 2.1 now includes a Share button in the menu bar that introduces Post to Twitter, Post to Facebook and additional sharing options.

The social posting options, replicas of the note-sharing functions added to the web client and Android app in past weeks, give users a way to invite friends to view and collaborate on notes.

Perhaps more exciting, for Evernote users with journalistic tendencies at least, is that the new release introduces a reporter-friendly feature intermixed in the mobile applications but not yet included in the desktop experience — audio recording.

Users can now select the Audio Note microphone icon to attach audio to notes. Upon clicking the icon, a new window will appear — pinned to the top of the note — with audio controls that enable the note-taker to simultaneously record audio and enter text.

Audio Notes are available to all users. Free users are allocated a total note size of 25 MB (up to two hours of audio recording), while Premium users get 50 MB per note (up to four hours of audio recording).

Evernote has promised that the new release also brings with it faster search speeds and bug fixes.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, oonal

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Keith Olbermann Details New Show Name & Start Date [VIDEO]

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 08:50 AM PDT

Keith Olbermann has announced the new details of his Current TV primetime show. It will debut June 20.

The program will be titled Countdown With Keith Olbermann (he quips, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in an announcement video), will debut on the network June 20 at 8 p.m. ET. Olbermann announced details for the new show on Twitter and on his FOK News Channel website.

Olbermann left his previous gig at MSNBC in January. His acrimonious split with the network came a few months after he was briefly suspended for not properly disclosing his political donations.

[via Huffington Post]

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EA Exec Jumps Ship for Zynga [REPORT]

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 08:43 AM PDT

Video game maker Electronic Arts has just lost a key executive to quickly growing social gaming company Zynga, according to a report published by The Wall Street Journal.

On Tuesday, EA disclosed that John Schappert, who served as chief operating officer, resigned on Monday. The Journal cites people familiar with the matter as saying that Schappert has joined Zynga as a senior executive.

The move is an interesting sign of the times. In recent months, EA has invested more of its resources into mobile and social initiatives. In November, the company entered into a five-year strategic relationship with Facebook. Earlier this month, the company launched an advertising tie-in with Toyota and its Monopoly Facebook game.

Meanwhile Zynga continues to grow. T. Rowe Price recently disclosed a $71.8 million investment in the social gaming juggernaut and added Jeffrey Katzenberg to its board of directors.

The success of games like Angry Birds, and social games like FarmVille and CityVille, prove that casual and social games have enormous profit potential and often require just a fraction of the development costs of standard AAA PC and console titles. Time will tell whether or not this is the future of gaming or just a momentary blip in the road.

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PlayStation Network Remains Down Indefinitely After Hacker Attack

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 08:21 AM PDT

Six days after Sony first announced that its Playstation Network had been experiencing difficulties, the network remains down.

Sony shut down both its PSN and Qriocity services last Wednesday after an “external intrusion.” The company has not given any indication as to when the network, which connects more than 70 million users for multi-player games, might be running again.

“Unfortunately, I don't have an update or timeframe to share at this point in time,” reads the latest update from spokesman Patrick Seybold on the Playstation Blog.

Last Thursday, the same blog had cautioned that “it may be a full day or two” before the network was restored.

Angry Playstation users vented their woes on Twitter and on Playstation’s Facebook page, where each of three posts about the outage has accumulated more than 20,000 comments. Many threatened to buy a Microsoft Xbox, mentioned how bored they were without PSN, asked Sony to be more transparent about its rebuilding process or expressed anger at the hackers who allegedly attacked the network.

Some suspected that Hactivist group Anonymous was responsible. The group had previously targeted Sony after the company filed a lawsuit against George Hotz, a 21-year-old hacker who unlocked the PlayStation 3′s operating system.

In order to ensure the network’s integrity, Sony wrote that it is rebuilding both services. Investigations into whether users’ personal information, including credit card numbers, were compromised in the attack are still ongoing, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Update: Sony announced on Tuesday that some user information was likely compromised during the attack.

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Your Creative Workspace Photos & Videos on Mashable & CNN iReport

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 08:10 AM PDT

In our latest collaboration with CNN iReport, we put a call out for photos and videos of one of the places we all spend much of our time in: the workspace.

Whether you work at an office, from home or in a public space, many of you have taken the time to customize your environment to make it more livable. From oversized wall murals to homemade stand-up desks, your photos and videos showcased the vast range of workspace arrangements.

We considered submissions from Instagram with hashtag #workspace and uploads to iReport's assignment page. After seeing a number of creative workspaces in your pictures and videos, we chose some of the best to feature below. For more photos, see iReport’s gallery.

Would you like to work in one of the office setups featured in the gallery? What’s your ideal workspace? Tell us in the comments.

Working From Home in Pasig City, Philippines

Christian San Jose, 21, web designer (shot on "a typical weekday" on a Canon 500d with a wide angle lens in his Pasig City home in the Philippines): "I work from home, so everything's set up to be convenient and productive. The setup is small and everything I need is within reach. My laptop is placed on a low table, and I sit on a beanbag the whole time. Surprisingly, this has been my setup for more than 3 years and it works perfectly, and it's more comfortable than it seems."

Fisheye Corporation in Toronto, Canada

Andreas Duess, 43, partner/chief creative (shot on April 13 on iPhone 4 in Toronto, Canada, in the offices of Fisheye Corporation): "Serene, filled with light, Scandinavian beach hut with a touch of haunted castle...I'd like to think it's pretty close to being ideal."

Fisheye Corporation in Toronto, Canada

Andreas Duess, 43, partner/chief creative (shot on April 13 on iPhone 4 in Toronto, Canada, in the offices of Fisheye Corporation).

Fisheye Corporation in Toronto, Canada

Andreas Duess, 43, partner/chief creative (shot on April 13 on iPhone 4 in Toronto, Canada, in the offices of Fisheye Corporation).

Daily News in Bowling Green, Kentucky

Mark Van Patten, 63, newspaper general manager (shot on iPhone 4 on April 12 in his office in Bowling Green, Kentucky): "Total cost to outfit this vintage office: $175. $25 for the desk, $150 for a vintage mantel (not pictured). The rest was scrounged from the storage room. I was Mad Men before Mad Men was cool."

Working From Home in Wichita, Kansas

Aaron Traffas, 30, auctioneer bid caller, musician, blogger, web developer (shot on Canon SD 1100 IS in his Wichita, Kansas, home office): "Space is crucial. I need to spread out when I work. This is the first time I've used a standing desk and the results are mixed. It's refreshing to be able to move around freely when working, though sometimes it's harder to concentrate."

Dave Chenell and Eric Cleckner, ages 22, graphic artist/animator (shot on November 16 on Canon Rebel T2i and compiled all the time-lapse images in Sony Vegas): “Our workspace is constantly changing. It has no real rhyme or reason to its look, just something that will inspire us everyday.”

Community intern Todd Olmstead contributed to this post.

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Father of Digital Music, Max Mathews, Dies at 84

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 07:55 AM PDT

The forerunner to Dan Deacon, Project Jenny, Project Jan and myriad other bands of that ilk has passed away. Max Mathews, widely known as the progenitor of digital music, died Thursday of pneumonia.

Mathews wrote a program called “Music” in 1957 that allowed an IBM 704 mainframe computer to play a 17-second jam. He also developed other electronic music software and devices as an engineer at Bell Laboratories.

Since Mathew’s death, Mashable reporter Jolie O’Dell recalled a video she made at the SF MusicTech Summit last year in which Mathew spoke about innovation. We felt the video is worthy of sharing again.

“The future will lie in better understanding of what sounds or what sound sequences turn on the pleasure center in the human brain. And the answer to finding this out will lie not in the technology of the machines, the instruments, the computers, but rather will lie in understanding how our brains interpret music,” Mathews said at the time.

We’ve included the video below.

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Top 10 Firefox Add-Ons for Web Designers

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 07:39 AM PDT

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There are plenty of Firefox add-ons at your disposal that can extend the browser’s core functionality. The types of add-ons you’ll encounter have a wide range of utility, from productivity tools that monitor the amount of time you spend on the Internet, to social media tools that conveniently give you in-browser capabilities for using popular services such as Twitter and Facebook.

The Firefox browser is a popular choice for web designers, and there are plenty of add-ons that can make the day-to-day work of web design significantly more efficient and fruitful. Here are 10 highly recommended, top-notch Firefox add-ons for web designers. Let us know what other Firefox add-ons you use in the comments.

1. Web Developer

The Web Developer Firefox add-on is a huge suite of web design tools packed with massively useful functions that will help web designers perform tasks more efficiently. By default, it displays as a toolbar towards the top of the browser, presenting you with various menus such as CSS, Resize and Cookies.

Whether you need to inspect the CSS of page, discover information about a webpage (such as seeing all the alt attributes of images on the page), quickly validate a web design for W3C compliance or measure design elements, Web Developer will likely have a convenient tool for you.

2. Firebug

Firebug is such a popular web design/front-end web development Firefox add-on that there are actually add-ons for it (see no. 5). And if you were to ask any web designer or web developer what Firefox add-on they can’t live without, chances are he’ll say Firebug.

Firebug is an open source add-on that gives web designers powerful tools for inspecting and debugging a web design. It can help you figure out what CSS styles affect certain elements (in case you’re having trouble with a style rule that doesn’t seem to render properly), inspect the document object model (DOM) to learn about the structure of the web page, determine attributes such as color, width, height of HTML elements and much more.

The extension can take a while to learn (trust me, it’s worth the time), but the creators have some helpful documentation to get you started.

3. MeasureIt

This Firefox add-on has a single purpose: It gives you a ruler that you can use on any web page for measuring items. Since web design critically relies on the proper sizing of design elements, this is a valuable tool to add to your collection of Firefox add-ons.

4. ColorZilla

One thing that web designers frequently work with is color. This add-on includes a color picker (much like the one you see in Photoshop) and an eye dropper tool so that you can sample and identify the colors used on any web page. A similar Firefox add-on to check out is Rainbow Color Tools.

5. CSS Usage

CSS Usage is an extension for Firebug (thus requiring you to have Firebug installed) that uncovers unused CSS style rules. It works by identifying the CSS you use and don’t use, pointing out what unnecessary parts can be removed to keep your CSS files as lightweight as possible.

6. Page Speed

A website’s speed is important for usability and the user experience. Research has shown that website visitors hate slow websites, so you should do the best you can to design sites that are lightning fast.

Page Speed is a browser extension (for Firefox and Chrome) developed by Google that analyzes a web page and tells you where improvements can be made to increase the site’s speed. It’s a great tool for testing a web design’s ability to render fast. Alternatively, you can use Page Speed Online, which is a web-based version of the add-on. You can also check out YSlow, which functions similarly to Page Speed.

7. HTML Validator

This nifty Firefox add-on helps to make sure that you’re writing well-formed HTML. It checks your markup for standards compliance, and if it catches anything that doesn’t cut it, the add-on tells you why so that you can update the code.

8. IE Tab 2

Web designers are always concerned about the cross-browser compatibility of their work. IE Tab 2 is a Firefox add-on that allows you to view any web page using Internet Explorer without leaving Firefox. All you have to do is right-click on a web page, and then choose “View Page in IE Tab” in the contextual menu.

9. Screengrab

Taking screenshots in the browser is a common task for web designers. Screengrab is a simple tool for taking full-page or partial-page screenshots. You can copy the screenshot to your clipboard, or save it to your hard drive as an image file.

10. SEO Doctor

Search engine optimization should begin in the design phase, when the site’s HTML is still malleable and open to change. SEO Doctor is a convenient tool for checking any web page’s SEO.

SEO Doctor gives you a score between 0 and 100% and highlights areas in the web page that can be optimized for search engines. One neat feature is that you can export the data for spreadsheets for further analysis and logging.

What other add-ons do you use? Let us know in the comments.

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