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Only YOU, Or A Wireless Network And Sensors, Can Prevent Forest Fires

Posted: 12 May 2011 08:03 AM PDT

Networks and wireless sensors have been used for years — by companies like Lighting Science Group, Arch Rock (acquired by Cisco) and D-Link — in a variety of smart building, smart grid and security applications. Their systems can sense occupancy, control lighting and temperatures, and make energy-sucking devices a little more efficient, or make buildings a little easier to patrol and keep safe.

Now, a startup called Insight Innovation & Technology Ltd. (a.k.a. Insight) is using wireless sensors and networks in the wild to predict, prevent and track forest fires. The company installed its technology in Hong Kong’s Tai Lam Country Park with the cooperation of the Guangdong Forestry Department.

The sensors were placed strategically (image, right) to monitor environmental factors like temperature and humidity throughout the forest. The data they pick up is transmitted in real-time via 4.2Ghz radio frequency communication networks. Insight won two awards today for this project, from a major research park and incubator: the Honk Kong ICT 2011 silver award for the "Best Innovation & Research (Postgraduate & Open)," and a certificate of merit for “Best Social Responsibility.”

Twitter Updates Mac Client With Multiple Timelines, Cleaner Design, Auto-Complete And More

Posted: 12 May 2011 07:37 AM PDT

Twitter for Mac, which launched earlier this year with the rollout of Apple’s Mac App Store, is getting its first major update today.

Besides a design update, you can now see multiple timelines at once and open more than one window in the client. You can click back to previous pages from the client and there is now a separate "New Tweet" button in the bottom left corner of the app. This feature is good news as one of our major pain points with the earlier version of the app was that there was no Tweet box.

Twitter has also updated the design of Direct Messages and user profiles, making it easier to view both features. And the client now has username and hashtag auto-complete.

As we wrote in our initial review of the app back in January, the Mac client was essentially a stripped down version of Twitter’s iPad client. Perhaps with these new updates, the client will become more of a full-fledged client.

Twitter also just updated its mobile site.

It Is Finished: The New Yorker iPad App Is The Beginning Of The End Of Print

Posted: 12 May 2011 07:21 AM PDT

I’m a die-hard paper fan. I have a few shelves of books in almost every room of the house and I love taking a stack of magazines or newspapers on a plane – this is so ingrained in my psyche that I actually save magazines a few weeks before a long trip so I have something to read. But slowly, ever so slowly, this love of paper is leaving me. First I abandoned print journalism for the bare-knuckle punch-fest that is blogging and then I stopped reading print books and instead took up the Kindle then the iPad. I literally have not cracked a paperback or hardback for a full, long read in more than a year. I’m not writing this to prove my early adopter cred but because the thought amazes me.

I still read the NY Times in dead-tree form and, although for a little while I thought The Daily would be the future of daily news, I think I’ll stick with the paper version for a few more months, at least until I wrap my head around the psychological process of reading general daily news online.

But the one thing I thought I’d never do was abandon my magazine habit. But slowly surely magazines fell off my radar. First it was Wired because all the news in there I had read months before on the Internets. Then it was the Economist because I’d end up with a stack of magazines full of great stuff that I’d never read. I let my subscription to Fortune lapse and haven’t missed it. But if there’s one magazine I can’t get enough of in print form it’s the New Yorker.

Read more…

(Founder Stories) Meebo’s Seth Sternberg On Hiring, Growth And Flying High.

Posted: 12 May 2011 07:05 AM PDT

Like many start-ups, Meebo has been on a recent hiring spree. In this episode of Founder Stories, CEO Seth Sternberg tells Chris Dixon, "for 12 weeks we had to hire a salesperson a week and if we didn't we would have missed our revenue numbers later this year."

But it's not just new salespeople populating Meebo's workstations. "We started this year at about 130 employees.  I think we are at 175 now, and so for us that is really fast growth" says Sternberg.

From CFO to engineer, Sternberg discusses how Meebo weeds out candidates by running them though, "the sim." This is a simulation of Meebo’s real-world working environment.

In our "rapid fire" segment below, Sternberg tells Dixon some of his favorite products, what he would do if he ever left Meebo and discusses his thirst for hitting the road—and air.

Make sure to watch Part 1 and Part 2 of this interview, as well as prior episodes of Founder Stories here.

Vente-Privee And AmEx Team Up To Bring The European Flash Sales Site To The U.S.

Posted: 12 May 2011 07:04 AM PDT

Vente-Privee, the European flash sales giant, has announced a joint venture with American Express to bring the site to the U.S.

Vente-Privee, which was founded in France in 2001, is one of the pioneers of the flash sales model. Because of the site’e massive reach and scale, companies like Amazon and eBay have been rumored to be eying the company for an acquisition.

Currently, Vente-Privee has approximately 13 million members and more than $1 billion in European sales. As part of the agreement, each organization will own 50 percent of the new U.S. entity. This marks the first non-European market entry for, and allows American Express to expand its presence in the flash sales business.

Of course, a Vente-Privee’s U.S. site has a host of established competitors in the country, included the well-funded leader of the pack, Gilt Groupe. Gilt just raised $138 million and has a growing family of flash-sales sites, including the original Gilt, Gilt Home, Gilt City, Gilt Children, Gilt MAN, and Jetsetter. Other flash sales sites in the U.S. include HauteLook, RueLaLa, BeyondTheRack and Ideeli.

For AmEx, the new site is another way the credit card and payments company is investing in e-commerce and technology, The company just partnered with LevelUp and also teamed up with Foursquare as well.

Are Comcast And Other ISPs Now Actively Blocking ThePirateBay?

Posted: 12 May 2011 06:35 AM PDT

Talk about sinking to a new low. It seems that Talk about sinking to a new low. It seems that Comcast and perhaps other ISPs are blocking access to the notorious torrent site, The word comes from TorrentFreak who also reached out to the TPB team who indicated that they can’t confirm if an ISP is blocking the site but “there's a significant drop in visitors from the U.S.” All I know is I, a Comcast subscriber, cannot access the site.

Comcast isn’t exactly known to be friendly with the downloaders or streamers. In the past they’ve limited and even blocked seeding of torrent files. The term throttling was synonymous with Comcast a few years back. The company eventually entered into a partnership with BitTorrent, Inc and was later asked by the FCC to stop the practices, but perhaps the company just moved to block specific sites in an effort to kill the bandwidth-sucking practice of torrenting.

Update: Comcast responded.

Read More

Demandbase Raises $10 Million For B2B Marketing Software

Posted: 12 May 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Demandbase, a company that develops B2B marketing software, has raised $10 million in funding led by Sutter Hill Ventures with Sigma Partners, Altos Ventures, and Adobe Systems participating in the round. This brings the company’s total funding to $18 million.

Demanbase allows B2B marketers to improve marketing conversions and turn web traffic into sales. The company provides a B2B marketing performance-improvement software to deliver a more personalized web experiences and a higher ROI from sales and marketing programs.

Demandbase, which was founded in 2006, offers a Real Time ID service that identifies business web traffic without using cookies, and delivers that information to businesses on demand. Demandbase says it has mapped over 85 percent of B2B traffic on the web and its software is currently being used by over 1,000 companies.

The funds will be used for sales and marketing as well as further expansion of the data network globally.


Search Contrarian Blekko’s Next Move: Limiting Its User Data Retention To 48 Hours

Posted: 12 May 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Search engine Blekko, ever eager to differentiate itself and make headlines with its countless product development advances, is announcing today that it will reduce its data retention period to 48 hours, retaining far less user personal information (like IP addresses) than the the dominant players in the space.

For comparison, competitors Google and Yahoo are currently at 18 months of user data retention and Bing is at six months, which is the European standard. In fact, Yahoo recently extended its data retention policy from 90 days to 18 months because it needed it to “compete” with Google in offering personalized recommendations.  Ha. With this move Blekko is essentially saying, “Unlike Yahoo, we don’t need to compete.”

Granted, with $24 million from US Ventures, CMEA Capital and Marc Andreessen, Blekko can keep pulling stunts until the cows come home. In addition to this move Blekko will now be introducing its HTTPS Preferred offering, which will automatically point searchers to Https secure websites when available.

Blekko has also amped up its ad opt up services with Super Privacy and No Ads privacy opt out settings which allow users to opt out of advertising while searching. Guess we know where to go when we’re looking for um, well you know.

“Search engines know too much about their users. Our goal at Blekko is to find a balance between retaining information to improve our search engine, and not retaining information that a user prefers to keep private,” said CTO Greg Lindhal.

Blekko is basically pulling out all the bells and whistles, performing parlor tricks like adding Facebook comments to search because it has to, as the search market is currently comprised of Google at 65.7%, Yahoo at  15.9% and Microsoft at  14.1% with Blekko not even ranking in the top five. Right now the company indexes 3.5 billion URLs, compared to Google and Bing which are both over 15 billion.

And a search engine’s gotta do what a search engine’s gotta do. But is garnering press attention with its weekly reactive maneuvers necessarily worth the effort? Heh. In the meantime enjoy your more private searches on Blekko. I sure as hell will.

Score Media Plays Ball, Acquires Rival Mobile App SportsTap

Posted: 12 May 2011 04:53 AM PDT

Score Media has acquired sports-focused mobile apps maker SportsTap, whose Android and iPhone apps compete with Score Media’s multi-sport app ScoreMobile.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but SportsTap will be maintained as a stand-alone smartphone and mobile browser app.

Launched in 2007, SportsTap is currently the third most popular free sports app on Android (right behind the 2nd most popular app, ScoreMobile). Both apps offer users access to real-time sports results and statistics from major professional sports leagues.

This acquisition makes a lot of sense for all the right reasons.

According to comScore’s MobiLens March 2011 report, which ranks mobile sports app audiences in the United States, the combined monthly audience of ScoreMobile and SportsTap would rank as #3 behind ESPN and Yahoo and ahead of competitors FOX and CBS.

The strategic acquisition of SportsTap will increase its global monthly unique user base to more than 3 million.

Score Media is a media company delivering interactive sports entertainment. Created in 1997, the company operates the theScore television network in Canada as well as a number of digital media assets, including, a theScore iPad app and mobile sports apps ScoreMobile and ScoreMobile FC which are available for BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone 7.

Facebook Loses Much Face In Secret Smear On Google

Posted: 12 May 2011 02:21 AM PDT

Facebook secretly hired a PR firm to plant negative stories about Google, says Dan Lyons in a jaw dropping story at the Daily Beast.

For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people's privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.

The plot backfired when the blogger turned down Burson's offer and posted the emails that Burson had sent him. It got worse when USA Today broke a story accusing Burson of spreading a "whisper campaign" about Google "on behalf of an unnamed client."

Not good.

The source emails are here.

I’ve been patient with Facebook over the years as they’ve had their privacy stumbles. They’re forging new ground, and it’s not an exaggeration to say they’re changing the world’s notions on what privacy is. Give them time. They’ll figure it out eventually.

But secretly paying a PR firm to pitch bloggers on stories going after Google, even offering to help write those stories and then get them published elsewhere, is not just offensive, dishonest and cowardly. It’s also really, really dumb. I have no idea how the Facebook PR team thought that they’d avoid being caught doing this.

First, it lets the tech world know that Facebook is scared enough of what Google’s up to to pull a stunt like this. Facebook isn’t supposed to be scared, ever, about anything. Supreme confidence in their destiny is the the way they should be acting.

Second, it shows a willingness by Facebook to engage in cowardly behavior in battle. It’s hard to trust them on other things when we know they’ll engage in these types of campaigns.

And third, some of these criticisms of Google are probably valid, but it doesn’t matter any more. The story from now on will only be about how Facebook went about trying to secretly smear Google, and got caught.

The truth is Google is probably engaging in some somewhat borderline behavior by scraping Facebook content, and are almost certainly violating Facebook’s terms and conditions. But many people argue, me included, that the key data, the social graph, really should belong to the users, not Facebook. And regardless, users probably don’t mind that this is happening at all. It’s just Facebook trying to protect something that it considers to be its property.

Next time Facebook should take a page from Google’s playbook when they want to trash a competitor. Catch them in the act and then go toe to toe with them, slugging it out in person. Right or wrong, no one called Google a coward when they duped Bing earlier this year.

You’ve lost much face today, Facebook.

How TechCrunch Got Onto The Apprentice… Just.

Posted: 12 May 2011 01:51 AM PDT

Well, TechCrunch readers, we thought we owed you an explanation as to why the hell we got onto the UK version of the TV show The Apprentice last night, and here is it.

Back in September last year I was contacted by TalkBack Thames TV, the independent production company that makes The Apprentice for the BBC. They said they were going to make the creation of a smartphone app a task on the show and would I be a judge. “Why the hell not?” I thought, and a date was set for filming.

WITN: Paul’s New Book Published, Movie Option Sold On The Same Day [TCTV]

Posted: 12 May 2011 01:30 AM PDT

There are two things we love to do on Why Is This News. The first is to break news about things that are happening outside Silicon Valley. The second is to find excuses to promote our respective books (about things that are happening outside Silicon Valley).

Rare indeed though is the occasion when we’re able to combine both of those things and break news about one of our respective books, from outside Silicon Valley.

This week all of Paul’s Christmases have come at once as he calls in from the UK to share some exciting news about his new book, The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of a Life Without Reservations. Not only has the book finally gone on sale in most of the world but the movie rights have just been optioned by production company Neon Park.

In the video below, we talk about the news, and also discuss why, in The Upgrade, Paul feels so comfortable sharing the most intimate details of his life with total strangers. Finally, we speculate on who might play the role of Mike Arrington if a movie version of the book ever makes it into production.

(UK and European readers can buy The Upgrade from Amazon in paperback or Kindle formats. US and international readers can get it with free global shipping here. )

InsideDeal! WebMediaBrands Acquires Inside Network For $14 Million

Posted: 11 May 2011 10:38 PM PDT

When it comes to in-depth news about Facebook, there has been no better site than Inside Facebook. In fact, the flagship site of Inside Network became so successful alongside the meteoric rise of Facebook that they launched several other vertical sites to bet big on their brand of news and analysis. And that bet just paid off. Big time.

WebMediaBrands has acquired Inside Network for roughly $14 million, we’ve learned. The deal should be formally announced soon and is said to be a roughly half cash and stock deal. It’s a big win for Inside Network, which was founded by entrepreneur Justin Smith in April 2006, and has taken no outside investment.

The entire Inside Network team (which includes a former colleague of mine, Eric Eldon, who is editor and junior co-founder) will remain intact, we hear. And they will remain in their Palo Alto-based office.

It’s a smart deal for WebMediaBrands as Inside Network will provide WebMediaBrands with insight by way of their content, research, and rich data they pulled in from their App Data product, which tracks social applications.

Of course, those who have followed the situation surrounding Facebook coverage perhaps shouldn’t be too surprised by this deal. After all, Social Times (the company behind Inside Facebook rival site AllFacebook) was acquired by WebMediaBrands in December 2009. They also bought Charles Hudson’s 3rd Power LLC in late 2009. Hudson is the co-author of Inside Networks’ Inside Virtual Goods research reports.

We congratulate the Inside Network team of Susan Su, Kim-Mai Cutler, Josh Constine, AJ Glasser, and Smith, and Eldon on the deal. Now back to work, as we aim to crush you in the Facebook news category.

How Amazon Controls Ecommerce (Slides)

Posted: 11 May 2011 09:49 PM PDT

When you think about ecommerce, you think about Amazon. But how did a company that started with online books come to dominate an estimated one third of ecommerce in the U.S.? In the 72 slides above, global consulting boutique faberNovel breaks down Amazon’s business and strategy. The keys to Amazon’s success are 1) the Internet imposes no limits on how much Amazon can sell; 2) its control of customer accounts and loyalty, and 3) and a growing ecosystem that is helping it cement its place in the world of digital goods as well.

It’s instructive to see how Amazon has expanded over the years and moved away from its reliance on books, music, and movies. You also forget that along the way, Amazon piled up $3 billion in losses between 1995 and 2003. Now it’s got $34 billion in annual revenue, and is spitting out $1 billion a year on profits. Who says you can’t spend your way to profitability?

The slides are a real deep dive into Amazon’s business model and future prospects. Every year faberNovel puts together one of these strategy presentations. In the past it’s analyzed Google (twice), and Apple.

Yahoo To Acquire Advertising Platform 5:1

Posted: 11 May 2011 07:56 PM PDT

Yahoo is likely to acquire advertising platform 5:1 for around $30 million, we’ve heard from multiple sources. The company first launched at TechCrunch50 in September 2009, and had raised around $13 million in various rounds of funding. About half of that was raised in November as part of a reverse merger IPO.

The company has deep ties with Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo’s EVP Americas and formerly the President of Fox Interactive Media. Levinsohn is actually a cofounder of the company and a former board member and shareholder (he divested himself after joining Yahoo). Cofounder and CEO Jim Heckman worked with Levinsohn at FIM. We first covered the company, including their management team, in June 2009.

This is almost literally a case of “getting the band back together.” This is the team that oversaw MySpace in the glory years, including their nearly $1 billion search deal with Google. CRO Peter Foster, CFO Mitchell Chun, EVP John Smelzer and COO Mark Stieglitz are all former FIM executives.

5:1 has signed contracts with 25 or so media companies that reach some 200 million people, say sources. Those relationships, along with the team, are the key assets. “5:1 effectively hasn’t launched yet, they’ve been focused on putting together a massive inventory syndicate” said one source. “Yahoo basically gets to add their own inventory and launch the platform with all of these inventory partners to Yahoo’s existing advertisers.”

We reached out to Yahoo and 5:1 for comment. Yahoo said “As a policy, we don't comment on rumor or speculation.” 5:1 did not respond.

Behold: The Chromebook (Samsung Series 5)

Posted: 11 May 2011 07:40 PM PDT

Here she is.

Earlier today, Google unveiled the first notebooks running Chrome OS. Or as they’re calling them, “Chromebooks”. The first two partners producing them will be Samsung and Acer. And at an event tonight in San Francisco, we got some extensive hands-on time with the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook.

Initial reaction? That’s still to come. For now, enjoy a bunch of pictures.

Defaceable Lets You Comment Anonymously On Facebook Comments

Posted: 11 May 2011 05:57 PM PDT

Miss being able to blather on about Android versus iPhone or express your irrational hatred of a certain author, startup or device on TechCrunch, without having to attach your Facebook account (and don’t want to go through all the trouble of creating a dummy Yahoo/Aol account)? Well you might be in luck with a new Chrome extension that lets you comment sans identity on Facebook Comments.

Defaceable allows trolls commenters to leave and see anonymous comments by other Defaceable users, both on the Facebook platform and on sites that use Facebook Comments like TechCrunch or the LA Times. Defaceable works by parsing the html code and extracting the ID of the comments you’re looking at, checking against the Defaceable database for defacements it can show you.

Inspired by the anonymity system of Likealittle, Defaceable users comment as fruits (“Posting as Peach,” “Grape said” etc) and can check back into the Defaceable website to view and vote on top posts and trending topics. While this does defeat the purpose of having Facebook Comments in the first place, the fruit thing seriously makes it hard to be negative; Just try posting something, anything mean, when your user name is Watermelon.

You can download the Chrome extension here (you can’t see the comments if you don’t have the extension).

The Future Of Chrome: Synced Tabs, Profiles, Native Client, And Chrome OS On ARM

Posted: 11 May 2011 05:11 PM PDT

Today at Google I/O there was a fireside chat with a number of Chrome team members. Their goal was simply to answer questions — both from the web and from the audience. Among those, there was a common theme: what’s next?

One question asked each panelist what features they were most excited about going forward? Some answers were general — excitement about pushing HTML and CSS work forward. But other answers were more specific. One member noted how excited he was about expanding the personalization aspects of Chrome. Whereas now you can sync much of your data across the browser on different machines, soon you’ll be able to sync more things that will make the experience more personalized.

He elaborated a bit to say that one of these features is internally called “Profiles”. This feature (which you can already see hints of in builds of Chromium) allows users to have different Chrome features enabled on the same machine based on which Google account they’re logged into.

This means that you’ll be able to have multiple Chrome windows opened side-by-side on the same machine that can have different themes, extensions, etc. All of this personalization will be siloed in that one browser window.

Another feature that team members were excited about was the syncing of tabs. They’re still figuring out exactly how this should work, but the idea is a welcomed one. Essentially, you’ll be able to have a bunch of tabs open on one machine and quickly open those on another as well.

Other features comes soon include GPU acceleration, syncing data from within extensions, and a new tab page.

And then there’s Native Client. A team member noted that this feature would finally be coming later this year. Google has been hinting at this for a while now. And it’s important because it may well be the missing link between native and web apps.

Another question asked about the possibility of Chrome OS working on ARM chips. Work is already well underway to make this a reality, team members said. Right now, they’re focused on the first two Chromebook partners, Samsung and Acer (both of which use Intel chips), but for low-power, thin machines, they’re very much thinking about ARM.

One thing probably not coming anytime soon: a Canary build of Chrome for Linux. They noted that Linux users tend to be more savvy about getting developer builds of Chromium, so they’re just not sure how big of a need this is. Still, they might offer one down the road.

Another Oprah Moment At Google I/O: Game Developers Get Free Xperia PLAY Phones

Posted: 11 May 2011 04:07 PM PDT

New product giveaways have become something of a tradition at Google I/O. Last year attendees to the developer-focused conference walked home with two new Android phones (an Evo 4G and a Nexus One or Droid, depending on where they live). This year, everyone was given a new Galaxy 10.1 Honeycomb tablet a month before its release. And a few minutes ago, several hundred Android developers were given the Xperia PLAY, the Android-powered ‘PlayStation phone’ that comes with a unique gamepad.

The giveaway took place in the C++/Game Developer panel, which discussed the use of native code in Android applications (games, in particular, are likely to use the NDK as opposed to standard Dalvik). And aside from winning some karma points from developers, Sony’s motivation for handing out the phones are pretty clear: give developers a phone that features the gamepad, and they’re much more likely to make sure their games work flawlessly with it.

Google also handed out the Android Open Accessory Development Kit (ADK), an Arduino-powered chipset that will help developers build Android accessories, at a panel yesterday.

Google’s strategy of giving out so much stuff at the I/O conference has probably contributed to the fact that it now sells out in a matter of minutes. But I doubt they’ll be moving away from it. I’ve seen countless developers toying with their new tablets throughout the conference, many of whom are using Honeycomb for the first time. Time will tell if that leads to an increase in tablet-friendly Android apps, but I’m guessing it will help get the ball rolling.

GridGlo Raises $1.2 Million To Help Utilities Understand How Customers Use Electricity

Posted: 11 May 2011 03:35 PM PDT

A New York research firm that turns massive amounts of data into streamlined information, CUBRC (pronounced “coo-brick”) invested $1.2 million in seed finance, and established a strategic partnership with GridGlo — a smart grid technology startup from Delray Beach, Florida, the companies revealed today.

GridGlo sells software and services that help utilities see how and why their customers, primarily homeowners, are using electricity in real-time. They also provide utilities with an Energy People Scoring Mechanism, or EPM score that the company hopes will become a standard like the FICO score is to credit card issuers and other financial institutions.

The EPM (see screenshots, below) is based on four criteria: how much power a customer uses and from which sources including things like rooftop solar panels (consumption); how efficient a consumer is compared to neighboring customers or their own past behavior (efficiency); whether or not they frequently try or are willing to try things that the utility suggests like buying a more efficient refrigerator or shutting off the air conditioner during peak hours (engagement); and whether or not the consumer is consistent in their energy related habits (predictability).

How is GridGlo’s offering different from those of well-established smart grid intelligence businesses, like OPOWER, Silver Spring Networks and Comverge?

The chief executive of GridGlo, Isais Sudit, explained:

“Several companies doing great things to move the market forward, here. At GridGlo, we’re using a deeper level of analytics, though, and handling a greater amount of data — 1,300 criteria to start — than any other companies in the energy space. Also, we focus strictly on helping the utilities. We don’t have a consumer-facing app or product. It is our aim to help the utilities offer what works best for their business, and their market to the energy consumer.

Our technology can tell a utility if their customers are married, have kids, living in a 5,000 square foot home, if and when they installed solar panels, if they drive a hybrid electric vehicle, if they had the same job for the last ten years, haven't moved in that time and more. You put those components together and you begin to build an understanding of how this is all related to energy consumption.

When that happens, your relationships with customers improve, and your business becomes more predictable.”

Ostensibly, if utilities can make sense of a plethora of energy data — coming in every fifteen minutes or even more quickly from smart meters, smart appliances and home energy management systems — and fuse it with other available information about their customers, they will be able to motivate those customers to use electricity more efficiently, or to use electricity from renewable and clean sources more often.

GridGlo is still in a proof-of-concept phase, Sudit admitted. He could not yet provide firm evidence that the EPM, or other GridGlo technology will actually help utilities engender this behavioral change — yet.

Images and captions via GridGlo:

    1. A map that shows GridGlo's Energy People Meter scoring and ranking technology for different zip codes. The component scores for one of the zip code areas is shown in the pop-up window.

    2. A map that color codes different zip codes based on the energy that households in the area are consuming. Attributes contributing to the model (e.g. average square footage, average household size) are shown in the lower panel.

Yelp Moves To Spain As International Traffic Doubles

Posted: 11 May 2011 03:00 PM PDT

Yelp’s international sites have been growing like crazy, with non-U.S. traffic doubling in the past year. Today, it is adding a fifth non-English international site, Spain, to its roster. (The other international Yelp sites are in France, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands).

Yelp is now at 50 million unique visitors per month, mostly in the U.S., according to its internal stats. ComScore shows 87 percent growth in non-U.S. unique visitors over the past year (Yelp’s internal stats show more than 100 percent growth).

Yelp is also seing growth along some other dimensions: reviews and mobile. Yelp now hosts 18 million customer reviews, with 2 million written in the first quarter alone and another million last month. Yelp’s reviews—both their number and quality—are one of the key pieces of content that differentiates it from other local sites.

Mobile is also growing at a nice clip. Yelp had 4 million mobile users in April, which is more than double where it was about year ago. Yelp’s iPhone and Android apps will be available in Spanish now as well.

Twitter Rolls Out Slick Mobile Web App: It’s Like Twitter For iPhone But Upside Down

Posted: 11 May 2011 02:49 PM PDT

Finally. Twitter has just unveiled a much needed revamp of its Twitter for mobile page, turning what was a pretty clunky looking mobile page into a more dynamic web app with top aligned icons for @replies, messages, your stream and search (which was missing from the mobile app previously). The app should work on any mobile browser.

From the Twitter blog:

“The app is fast – you can quickly scroll through your timeline, move between tabs and compose Tweets. It's rich – it takes advantage of capabilities that high-end device browsers offer, such as touch gestures and a large screen. And it's simple – it's easy-to-use and has the features you'd expect from a Twitter application, including your timeline, @mentions, messages that you can read in conversation view, search, trending topics, lists, and more.”

From a pure interface standpoint the HTML 5-powered app is already far better than the existant mobile page. And it’s clearly an appeal to users accustomed to Twitter’s mobile apps; It’s landing page is exactly like the Twitter iPhone app interface (designed by Tweetie founder Loren Brichter) but reversed and the Twitter for Android app has this exact upright positioning, with a different assortment of icons.

One noticeable difference between the mobile page and the phone apps is when you drill down into a tweet. Click in to a tweet on the mobile app and media is displayed flush to the screen, with the retweet, star and reply buttons appearing below the tweet but above the image.

You still can’t upload photos themselves to the web app, which is sort of a bummer.

One (Small) Hidden Cost Of Chromebooks For Business: Google Apps Not Included

Posted: 11 May 2011 02:34 PM PDT

If there was any question about Google’s commitment to Chrome OS, you clearly haven’t been following day two of Google I/O today. It’s all Google is talking about. And in every way possible. But the biggest angle being talked about is probably the opportunity for businesses.

And that makes sense. Getting Chromebooks into the business market solve two problems for Google: Microsoft and a new revenue stream. If Google’s strategy works here, it could become a massive business for them. And it’s one that directly threatens Microsoft more than ever. All of that sounds great, but there is one curiosity in the business strategy: they’re not including Google Apps.

That’s right, even though Google has created a $28-a-month program to get Chromebooks into businesses, that cost does not include Google Apps for Business. If you want Google’s app suite, you’ll have to pay separately.

Granted, it’s not a huge fee. Google charges $50 a year for businesses apps. The means it’s only an additional $4 or so dollars a month if you want to add it on. But that almost makes it weirder that Google isn’t including apps with the program.

Maybe it’s a concern that Google would face scrutiny for bundling their own apps — something Microsoft knows something about. Who knows. It’s just a bit odd. If you want to get the full Google business experience with Chrome OS, it’s actually going to cost you more like $32 a month, instead of $28.

MySpace Stabilizes Unique Visitors, But All Other Usage Stats Plummet

Posted: 11 May 2011 01:45 PM PDT

Check out the graph in my March post about MySpace’s free fall in usage. After a long decline you’d expect a site like MySpace to plateau and find some sort of stable group of users. Instead, all the data says their decline is actually accelerating.

So I was surprised to see unique visitors level off over the last two months, according to Comscore. And by level off, I mean a straight line floor at about 62 million worldwide monthly visitors and 37 million U.S. visitors. Look at that chart. It’s just weird. Uniques should have fallen another 8 million or so. Instead, MySpace held the line.

Curious, I dug a little deeper into their stats. Not good.

While worldwide uniques were flat at 62 million, average daily visitors dropped 13% during the month, total time on site dropped 23% and total page views dropped 23% to 3 billion.

U.S. usage dropped even more dramatically. Uniques were flat at 37 million, but daily visitors fell 28%, total time on site dropped 48% and page views dropped a whopping 50% from February 2011 to April 2011 (a two month period).

That’s a 50% drop in page views at MySpace in roughly 60 days.

None of this adds up. MySpace has long talked about making changes to improve user experience that would impact page views but actually increase time spent on site. That isn’t what’s going on here. What is going on here is that overall usage continues to disintegrate at an increasing pace, but somehow unique visitors are flat and not decreasing along with the other usage stats.

It’s extremely unlikely that something like this would just “happen.” Either MySpace bought a ton of traffic that hit the site and then vaporized, or they engaged in some sort of marketing to users like a massive email drive, or something else. From what we see MySpace has actually curtailed email marketing to users after a big push late last year that didn’t seem to work.

MySpace clearly doesn’t want to see their usage numbers deteriorate so quickly right in the middle of a sale process. I understand the incentive to have unique visitors level off. What I can’t figure out is how they did it. It just doesn’t look like a natural event to me with the other usage stats continuing to fall off a cliff.

Sergey Brin On New Role: Beyond Chauffeur, Nothing To Show Yet — Hopefully Next Year

Posted: 11 May 2011 01:12 PM PDT

Today during a press Q&A following the Chrome keynote at Google I/O, Google co-founder Sergey Brin joined the panel to take questions about the announcements. Naturally, the questions strayed a bit. But Brin still did his best to answer them — sort of.

One question asked Brin about his new role at the company. Google recently saw the triumvirate of power swap places, which co-founder Larry Page becoming CEO and Eric Schmidt becoming Executive Chairman. Brin’s role has been talked about much less. And there’s a reason for that: he’s pretty secretive about it.

Before addressing his role, Brin made sure to note that Schmidt is “actually very involved.” He said that while Page is running a lot of the internal processes now, Schmidt is doing a lot of the external stuff. As for Brin himself? “I get the luxury of doing fun things. I got the sweetheart deal of this exchange,” he quipped.

Funny, deflecting, and vague all in one statement!

“I don’t have anything to show yet,” Brin continued. The only project he is working on that he would name is “Chauffeur”, the name of Google’s now well-publicized autonomous car project. Beyond that, all he would say is that if he’s lucky, by this time next year, he’ll be able to talk about some of his other projects.

The only other thing Brin has been rumored to be directly involved in recently beyond Chauffeur are Google’s social projects. The search giant has gone out of its way this conference not to talk about any of these projects — because they don’t want to build them up unnecessarily or prematurely.

It’s known that Vic Gundotra (who has been quite visible here — though not as much as last year) and Bradley Horowitz are leading Google’s social push. Brin’s role isn’t clear, but he’s still believed to have a big presence within these groups.

When someone asked about the recent news that Google was being forced to pay $500 million by the DoJ after an advertising investigation, Brin took advantage of his new role, stating that he was “fortunate” to report that he no longer knows much about what goes on with Google and acronyms like the DoJ. Instead, he focuses on acronyms like Cr-48, he joked.

And yes, Brin is still rocking the Vibrams.


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