Posted by joni , Monday, April 16, 2012 5:17 AM
- Meet the Kickstarter for Dinner Parties: Zokos
- Facebook Ad Engagement Down 8% in U.S.
- Mashable Weekend Recap: 39 Steps to Digital Bliss
- How Work Email Has Ruined Leisure Time [INFOGRAPHIC]
- Sergey Brin: I’m Worried About the Internet
- Samsung to Unveil the Next Galaxy Phone on May 3
- What Apple’s Ebook Fiasco Means for Amazon and the Book Business
- Brands on Pinterest: To $ or Not to $? [STUDY]
- 11 Adorable Kid-Proof Device Cases
- 10 Tech T-Shirts You Can’t Live Without
- 10 Indie Games Worth the Cash
- 5 User-Friendly Tools for Building Your Online Portfolio
- 14 Tech-Forward Concepts Reshaping Our Future
- Cruises Then and Now: The Tech Behind Titanic [VIDEO]
- Mobile Mistrust: Are Texters Cheaters? [INFOGRAPHIC]
- Baseball Home Openers: Social Media’s Best Shots [PICS]
- 5 Retro Games Brought Back From the Dead By Kickstarter
- Where and When Do Most People Lose Their Phones? [INFOGRAPHIC]
- Why Was Apple Meeting with Game Developer Valve? [VIDEO]
- J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore Site Is Now Open to the Public
- Working Remotely: Is It Right For You?
- 8 Hilarious ‘Titanic’ Parodies to Lift Your Sinking Spirits
- 5 Socially Conscious Startups Innovating for Good
Posted: 16 Apr 2012 05:08 AM PDT
Nobody wants to collect cash at the door of their dinner party, but feeding a group of friends can be expensive. A new startup wants to stop this conundrum from leading to fewer dinner parties.
The site, Zokos, gives guests a way to pitch into dinner party costs without an awkward exchange of cash.
Using the platform, hosts can set a minimum and maximum number of guests they’d like to invite to dinner, send invitations through Facebook or email, and request that each guest contribute a certain amount to the cost of the party. RSVPed guests’ PayPal accounts are only charged if the minimum number of guests are reached, similar to the way Kickstarter funders only pay when a funding goal is reached. Zokos charges $.30 plus a 3% fee for each transaction.
“It’s not really crowdfunding, it’s friend funding,” co-founder Christopher Kieran says.
Kieran and his co-founders first hatched the idea of a dinner-party-promoting system while in graduate school at Yale. They were members of Veggie Dinners, a 300-person club in which each member hosts one dinner party per month in exchange for the right to attend other members’ dinners.
When they founded Zokos, their original idea was to bring Veggie Dinners to the masses. The product quickly evolved into a way to share dinner party costs, however, when it became apparent that a group-based system was hard to scale.
Zokos’s current site retains the likelihood of meeting new people that was inherent in a dinner party club of 300 people by allowing invited guests to invite their friends. There’s also a public dinner party option that lets you open your tablet to the world, but Kieran says that it’s taking off in San Francisco “and nowhere else.”
If you’re planning a party, there are plenty of established site such as Evite and Paperless Post that you can use to manage invitations and RSVPs. The real value proposition of Zokos is making hosting less expensive, and if what prevents people from hosting dinner parties is the cost rather than the hassle of cooking and cleaning, it’s a good one.
“I think the potluck is a solution to the same problem that we're dealing with, which is that it's expensive to host a party,” Kieran says. “It’s the new potluck.”
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RapidEye
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Posted: 16 Apr 2012 05:02 AM PDT
Engagement with Facebook ads in the U.S. dropped eight percent between the final quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012.
Meanwhile, the average cost-per-thousand impressions for Facebook ads has increased by 41% worldwide over the past year. Cost-per-click rates have risen as well, and Facebook has become increasingly competitive with Twitter in directing readers to news sites.
This all comes from a first-quarter Facebook analysis by the advertising agency TBG Digital, which works with an extensive roster of high-profile clients including jetBlue, Heineken and Coca-Cola. For the study, Facebook measured 372 billion ad impressions in nearly 200 countries for 235 clients over the past year.
While click-through rates of ads served in the U.S. dropped over the past three months, TBG Digital CEO Simon Mansell says that’s not cause for alarm for the social networking giant.
“They’ve gone from four to seven ads on a lot of pages, so even though click-through is declining, that’s okay,” Mansell told Mashable in an interview. “If you isolate that and point to to you could say it’s a negative thing, but I think that’s a bit of a red herring.”
By hosting more ads, and with increased demand boosting the price of buying ads on the site, Mansell says, Facebook’s revenue stream is in great shape despite the dip in engagement.
Another interesting finding of TBG’s report is that Facebook has managed to become more competitive with Twitter in driving traffic to news sites. TBG found a whopping 196% increase in click-through rates for news sites, driven in part by the successful Facebook social readers of news organizations such as Yahoo, The Washington Post and The Guardian.
“Clients with social readers have started to get some traction,” Mansell says. “Before, only Zynga had really made money by building a business on top of a platform. Now the social readers and Spotify are an indication that Facebook can help more industries by plugging into the social graph.”
Do you think Facebook’s advertising business will continue to grow, or hit a plateau? Let us know in the comments.
Posted: 16 Apr 2012 04:38 AM PDT
To say the weekend social media and tech news was eclectic would be an understatement. We figuratively traveled from the icy clouds of Uranus to the gloomy depths of the ocean, taking in all the spectacular sights and sounds in between.
And you’re in luck! We’ve gathered all we found right here in the form of your trusty Weekend Recap, listed in a neat column for your reading pleasure.
What better way is there to start the week? Dive in, and then go out there and attack the week with gusto:
News & Opinion Essentials
Posted: 16 Apr 2012 04:04 AM PDT
When you clock out of work, do you leave your email behind as well? If so, you’re definitely in the minority.
A recent survey of 543 business execs by ad agency Gyro and Forbes Insights found 98% of such workers check email during their “off” time. If that’s not bad enough, 63% say they check on their email at least every one or two hours when they’re out of the office. The trend holds up when the execs are on vacation — only 3% say they don’t check work emails.
Despite the impingement on their leisure time, most of the workers surveyed say they like being able to check in when they’re away. As the following infographic shows, they have their reasons.
What do you think? Have such tech innovations made your life better or worse? Sound off in the comments.
(For the full-size version of this infographic, click here.)
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Posted: 16 Apr 2012 03:48 AM PDT
Google co-founder Sergey Brin is worried about the future of the internet. There are “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world,” he said in an interview with The Guardian.
According to Brin, one of the biggest threats to the openness of the internet is pressure from governments, which are trying to control the information flow on the internet.
The overzealous entertainment industry, which is trying to end piracy, is another threat, and walled gardens raised by companies such as Facebook and Apple, which control what software can be released on their platforms, is equally dangerous, claims Brin.
“I am more worried than I have been in the past. It’s scary,” he said.
Brin specifically targets Facebook for its unwillingness to share its users’ data with others, claiming it would be impossible to create a company like Google if the internet was dominated by Facebook. “You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive,” he said.
Brin is directly criticizing Google’s competitors here, but he’s in a unique position.
On one hand, Google famously pulled out most of its operations in China in the name of free speech in January 2010. Furthemore, Google’s Android mobile platform is open-source, in contrast of Apple’s closed and proprietary iOS platform.
“We do everything possible to protect the data. If we could wave a magic wand and not be subject to US law, that would be great. If we could be in some magical jurisdiction that everyone in the world trusted, that would be great … We’re doing it as well as can be done,” claims Brin.
What do you think: Is Google one of those “powerful forces” lined up against the open internet, or is it one of the good guys? Or is the truth somewhere in between? Share your opinions in the comments.
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Posted: 16 Apr 2012 01:34 AM PDT
Samsung has started sending out invites for the launch of the next Galaxy smartphone, which is slated for May 3 in London.
The invite doesn’t give any details about the upcoming device(s) — it merely says “come and meet the next Galaxy.”
However, we know that the company plans to reveal Samsung Galaxy S III, which was rumored to be launched at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but Samsung decided to move the launch to a later date.
In any case, Samsung will have to show something truly spectacular if it wants to top the Tegra 3 powerhouses from HTC.
What features/specs would you like to see in Samsung Galaxy S III? Share your opinions in the comments.
For more Mobile coverage:
Posted: 15 Apr 2012 11:55 PM PDT
Now that the Department of Justice is officially probing the alleged price-fixing conspiracy on ebooks between Apple and many of the major publishing houses, some clear winners and losers have begun to emerge.
Winner Number One: Amazon, which said earlier this week it drop prices once again on ebooks, many of which it had been selling for $9.99 before the so-called “collusion.” Basically, Apple made an agreement that let publishers set the price, but also got the guarantee that its iBookstore could not be undersold (for its part, Apple has said it did nothing wrong). If Amazon dared keep it’s $9.99 pricing, it would risk losing those titles altogether. Amazon had no choice but to raise prices on ebooks, which typically run for about $14.99.
But the government called shenanigans on the publishers’ deal with Apple, so it looks like Amazon is free and clear to drop prices again. Which brings us to Winner Number Two: consumers. Anyone interested in buying ebooks should be happy about the lawsuit, since it means you’ll be spending less for ebooks. Yay!
Publishing Goes Down
Of course, that leads one of the main losers here: Publishers. Amazon is now free to pursue its strategy of selling cheap ereaders and cheap ebooks — both of which the company is widely thought to be losing money on — in order to cement a dominant position in the ebook marketplace. Since Amazon makes money in other ways (and is profitable), it can do this more or less indefinitely.
“Amazon has a history of operating at a loss,” says Paul Levinson, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University and author of the book New New Media. “Back in the 1990s, year after year, they would operate at a huge loss and they would say, ‘We’re succeeding. This is part of the master plan to get people accustomed to online shopping.’ Whenever you’re trying to break a decades-old trend, you have to do unusual things in terms of business. People’s habits run very deep.”
But Amazon won’t endure losses on ebooks forever, though, since it doesn’t make sense to keep a business where you lose money on both the hardware and the software in the long term. Amazon’s master plan is clearly based on gobbling up as much market share as possible for its Kindle platform. And it appears to be working.
But then what? Once it has de facto control of the market, will it raise prices in a “gotcha” move on consumers? Extremely doubtful. More likely, it’ll use its dominant position to force publishers to lower their wholesale prices. Then Amazon can actually start to make money on the ebooks themselves — what it wanted all along. It doesn’t matter if the margins are thin, either — there will be so many Kindles out there that it’ll add up to real dollars for the company.
What if the Kindle doesn’t dominate as much as Amazon hopes? Doesn’t matter. Even if the iPad/iBookstore and Nook/Barnes & Noble platforms — Amazon’s main competitors in the ereading space — build a significant market share, Amazon will still have enough clout for its plan to work. If Amazon’s ebook prices are low, they’ll have to cut prices, too.
Also, Apple has no dog in this fight anymore. The publishing industry may have pinned its hopes on the Cupertino giant to save it, but Apple doesn’t need the publishers. It’ll sell iPads hand over fist regardless of what happens to them — or reading in general. They’ll insist on lower wholesale prices, too, and the publishers will simply have to agree.
All this will lead to a general downsizing of the industry, though it won’t die, or even come close to dying. To save money, the publishers may cut back on lucrative advances and book tours for some authors, and there may even be some layoffs, but the most direct response will probably be to save money by simply printing fewer physical books. That could even lead to greater profits down the road.
“As far as publishers are concerned, they are in it for the money,” says Levinson. “They’ll do whatever’s necessary to stay afloat and make money. It’s not like they’re trying to fight to maintain some kind of traditional standard for its own sake. I think prices will be lowered, but publishers may make more money. They’ll stop printing books and they’ll sell more of them. It’s a lot easier to distribute to a million people on Kindle than in bookstores.”
Book Selling 2.0
So the publishing industry will still exist, just in a leaner form. A lot has been made of Amazon’s move to help authors self-publish. Although the publishers certainly took offense, it’s an overstatement to say Amazon is now competing directly with them. Basically, Amazon is just providing a last resort for authors who wouldn’t otherwise get their books published. Advances, promotion and book tours will remain the domain of the publishing industry, and they’ll always be the first choice for almost any author.
“[Publishers] still have some very powerful cards,” says Levinson. “One is the advance. If you can get $25,000 from a publisher, that’s very good money. Amazon doesn’t do that. Also the whole production editing of the book, which includes copy editing and careful proofreading — publishers are still good at that. And if an author can get a publisher to do some promotion, that’s helpful also.”
So authors and publishers may make out okay, but the obvious consequence of fewer physical books is the demise of the bookstore. It’s a sad and painful development, but believe it or not, it’s progress. Even if you put aside the convenience of ebooks, they put physical books to shame in terms of environmental impact: no trees chopped down, no ink used and no trucks on the roads delivering them. If a few bookstores need to become antique shops in the process, so be it.
That leads us to the biggest loser in this whole affair: Barnes & Noble, whose stock price has taken a beating since the lawsuit was announced. Even though its budding Nook platform is generally well-regarded, as a company that’s essentially still a retail business, its future isn’t looking too bright. It’s hard to see its physical book business going anywhere but down, and the Nook appears destined to play second fiddle to Amazon.
What consequences do you think the government’s lawsuit will have on the publishing industry? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Posted: 15 Apr 2012 08:37 PM PDT
Brands should be wary of attaching price tags to the products they pin on Pinterest, a new study from analytics startup Pinreach and Joshua Yang, a MBA candidate at Harvard Business School, indicates.
The two parties discovered that pins with price tags are just as likely to be shared as pins without price tags. Both types were repinned between 5.4 and 5.5 times on average. Pins with price tags received slightly more likes, however: 1.4 likes per pin versus 1.1 likes per pin.
Users can attach price tags to pins by typing in a “$” sign followed by one or more numbers in the description box. The price tag appears not only in the description, but also in the upper lefthand corner of the pin thumbnail and image, like so:
The results were based on a randomized sample of 1 million pins, 1.2% of which bore $ tags.
When brands affixed price tags to product pins however, users behaved differently. An analysis of 2,588 pins across three “major ecommerce sites” showed that followers were far less likely to repin images with price tags. One site, which averaged 135.6 repins per pin, only received 54.6 repins on items with $ signs, the study found. A major group-buying site fared even worse, averaging 0.2 repins on pins marked with a dollar sign, versus 1.8 repins on pins that bore no sign at all:
Why the behavior shift? Yang and Pinreach suggest that when users include $ in their pin descriptions, it doesn’t feel overtly commercial, but when brands do, it does. “When Pinterest users see $-pins from brands, it feels very much like an advertisement to click-through and buy, and they are less likely to share (i.e., repin) advertisements, as it degrades their own social proof with their followers,” the study reads.
The lesson here is readily apparent: If you’re a brand and want your products to be shared, don’t affix a price tag. But the study also underlines users’ more subtle aversion to brand-driven commerce within the Pinterest environment, even as a growing contingent of users prove eager to purchase products found on the site.
More About: pinterest
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Posted: 15 Apr 2012 05:43 PM PDT
Toyota Creatures like YetYet (pictured) protect your iPad and iPhone from rambunctious behavior. The alien "creature" lives in an app, which interacts with kids through sound effects and touch controls. Apparently, YetYet even likes to eat dragée pudding -- whatever that is. Price: $79.70
Drool, sticky fingers, crushed Goldfish crackers. If you’re a parent, chances are your digital devices have been affected by one or more of these substances. So, why not childproof them — as soon as possible?
We’ve found 11 adorable cases to childproof your iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The best part is they’re all super kid-friendly, featuring plush coziness and jolly characters. Many of the cases even come with apps that interact with your child via songs, games and giggles.
So, take a breath, because your child will be entertained with new toys like these — for at least 35 seconds. Let us know how your kids are interacting with devices these days!
Posted: 15 Apr 2012 05:07 PM PDT
When you and your significant other wear these t-shirts, two and a half pixelated hearts will light up. When you get within "hugging distance," the shirts will light up until you're fully powered.
If you’re going to talk the tech talk, you better walk the tech walk — or at least dress like it, anyway.
There are tons of clever tees tailor-made to be geek chic. Some are video game-themed, others are for the code-savvy. There’s even one to decipher which genre of geek suits you best.
We’ve round up ten tech-themed t-shirts for the nerd in all of us. Which shirt will you be rocking? Let us know in the comments.
Posted: 15 Apr 2012 04:26 PM PDT
If you're a fan of classic arcade puzzle games, Wizorb will make you grin like an idiot. It's got the feel of an old-school NES RPG, but with all the elements of a super-addictive puzzle game. Gameplay revolves around an eternally bouncing ball that clears blocks, but you can use magic to help direct its course. Wizorb is available for XBLA and PC.
Over the past few years, indie gaming has exploded from a hobby of few to a viable business for those with great game ideas.
Thanks to distribution services like Steam, the Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, console and PC owners have a wide variety of instant entertainment right at their thumbs. Add to that the exploding mobile markets that are opening games up to previously unreached audiences. Plus, the low barrier to entry — most indie titles range from $5 to $15 — can make for an epic win.
Many indie titles represent new twists along well-trod gaming ground. Independent gaming studios are rarely beholden to publishers’ whims, and can take bigger risks with game design or art style. Many of the games on our list also heavily pursued classic gaming styles that are still popular with gamers, despite no longer being produced commercially.
Check out our list of indie games worth spending your cash on, and let us know what you think in the comments.
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Posted: 15 Apr 2012 03:42 PM PDT
In today's digital world, your job search has to be as much online as it is on paper. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can help you establish your personal employment brand and connect with potential employers — in fact, almost 90% of employers are using social media to recruit potential employees [PDF]. What better way to have all of your online and offline job search tools in one place than in a portfolio?
An online portfolio allows you to compile what makes you employable — it should include things like your resume, cover letter, references, certifications, transcripts and any examples of your work (including writing samples, press clips, artwork or lesson plans). Plus, you should include basic contact information, such as a phone number and email, and more modern information, like a Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, or Facebook URL. Put all of this into one online package that's easy to browse and voilà — you have an online portfolio!
Here are five great options that can host your online portfolio. There's a breakdown of each one, so you can pick which one works best for you and your career goals.
Summary: WorkSimple is the first work portfolio that helps you manage your career and performance inside your organization. Users have endorsements, followers, goals and accomplishments, which can help you build your professional and social reputations. Set your professional focus, add your goals, and get recognition for your work.
Additionally, WorkSimple allows users to brand themselves by sharing goals and contributions with co-workers in real-time. Essentially, it's a Facebook Timeline for professionals.
Best Feature: WorkSimple encourages you to set career focus and add “Social Goals” that support your direction, which help you keep track of your accomplishments, efforts and successes as you build your reputation. Plus, you can get great feedback from co-workers.
What Needs Work: Those looking for a traditional portfolio to display resume, work samples and more may not find these features in WorkSimple.
Ideal User: A corporate worker who is tech-savvy and wants to establish goals and stay synced with co-workers. Like the other portfolio platforms, you can add images, but this portfolio is not solely image-based.
Cost: Free for an individual plan but pricing plans exist for team or company plans.
Summary: Behance is a platform for creative professionals to gain exposure and manage their careers. Users can create multimedia portfolios that showcase their work to millions of visitors.
Best Feature: Behance turns your work into an online gallery; It claims to get 15 times the traffic of all other leading portfolio sites combined (including Carbonmade, the next site on our list). Recruiters can find and track talent and post jobs for the creative professionals on the site.
What Needs Work: In order to have your own personal portfolio website, rather than just a profile on Behance, you need to join ProSite. This costs $11 a month, but it allows you to create a full website without coding, and it syncs with your Behance portfolio.
Ideal User: Any creative professional wishing to showcase multimedia projects — images, text, audio or video. The layout of the site is better for viewing visual projects, so anyone from graphic designers to photographers to industrial designers can benefit.
Cost: Free for a Behance profile, $11 a month for the ProSite.
Summary: Carbonmade is an online portfolio platform that helps users show off their work — especially creative work like design, illustration and art.
Best Feature: Carbonmade makes portfolios easy. Users can create a profile in a snap, and the service offers tons of ways to personalize your portfolio. Plus, users can establish their own URL — for example, yourname.carbonmade.com.
What Needs Work: The site isn't conducive to any text, audio or video work — a still image is best for this portfolio.
Ideal User: Again, this portfolio service is primarily for creative professionals. In comparison to Behance, Carbonmade seems even more geared toward visual art. Any professional who can share an image of their work — fashion designers, illustrators, architects and more — would find Carbonmade useful.
Summary: Pinterest is basically an online pin-board. It's primarily a social photo-sharing website where users can create separate boards for various things. For example, you could have a board for recipes, pictures of places you'd like to travel or, in this case, your professional creative work.
Best Feature: Pinterest is far more social than Behance or Carbonmade, so you can have eyes from all parts of the globe on your work. Plus, you can "pin" any image, and when users click on a pinned image, they’re redirected to the original website. For example, if you "pinned" a piece of your artwork from, say, your personal blog, you can attract more traffic to your blog.
What Needs Work: The platform was not made to be a professional portfolio site. Therefore, the site may have a different audience of viewers than an actual portfolio platform. Plus, like Carbonmade, text or audio works cannot be "pinned."
Ideal User: Pinterest only allows photos or videos (which will be "pinned" as a still picture), so creative professionals with image-based work will find this site most useful. Any professional with visual work that can be put into image form can display their portfolio on Pinterest.
Cost: Free, but you do need to request an invite.
Summary: Dribbble is a "show and tell" for designers, where users can share small screenshots of their work.
Best Feature: The platform shows off your work with screenshots of your progress or completed project. Plus, it’s easy to browse other people's work by tags or color.
What Needs Work: Dribbble isn't useful for anyone with non-visual works; it’s really only conducive to visuals.
Ideal User: Anyone who creates visual work that can be shared via an image, especially graphic or web designers, illustrators and logo designers.
All online portfolio platforms have their pros and cons, and different sites work better for varying types of professionals in myriad industries. There are many portfolio services to explore aside from the ones mentioned above, but what all of these sites have in common is that they allow professionals to display their work online and continue to build their personal brand.
Do you have an online portfolio? What service do you use? Let us know in the comments.
Social Media Job Listings
Every week we post a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we publish a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the top social media job opportunities from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!
Posted: 15 Apr 2012 02:56 PM PDT
For the Global Innovation Series, presented by BMW, we’re focused on one simple question: In what ways is technology drastically changing our lives for the better? In a lot of ways, living in a city is challenging — urban citizens are constantly thinking about mobility, energy, shelter, safety and efficiency as they go about their daily lives. Many projects and startups in cities all around the globe are developing and implementing new technology to ameliorate these daily problems. If these concepts come to fruition, then the future of cities is looking bright.
Whether you’re thinking easier ways to park your car or ideas for the home of the future, studying how we’ll live in the next 10, 50 or 100 years can reshape the habits and challenges we face today. Take a look at a roundup of 14 of these revolutionary ideas below. Looking for more? Make sure to follow the series — each week, you’ll get a new article on the future of urban life.
The sun may be our greatest energy resource, but we still rely on fossil fuels in the United States. According to the Energy Department, solar power accounts for just 1% of America’s alternative energy production.
While the industry isn’t booming just yet, it is growing quickly and there is promise — Google invested $280 million in solar energy in June and another $94 million in December, and Warren Buffett recently bought a photovoltaic farm for $2 billion.
We live in a loud world. With cars whizzing past, construction sites pounding away, ambulances roaring around and the dull ache of idle chatter constantly bombarding the sound wall, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in a noisy environment. And there’s good reason for that: Although it’s usually pushed into the background, noise is a form of pollution.
When it comes to pedestrian traffic, safety should be the number-one concern, but transportation infrastructure in the United States is built to accommodate cars, not people. This focus is putting lives at risk and the data shows it — in 2010, pedestrian fatalities rose 4.2%, and pedestrian injuries due to motor vehicle crashes increased by 19% from the previous year, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. With 4,280 pedestrians killed and 70,000 injured in 2010 in the U.S. alone, cities are installing technologies that will improve pedestrian safety on busy streets.
Tasked with teaching an elementary school class stories, customs, holidays, foods and popular culture of many different cultures, student-teacher Maggie Holmes hopes to squeeze in some first-hand accounts. She’s asked teachers of global elementary schools to set up an exchange with her class.
Until recently, connecting students with those living elsewhere would have likely been a bigger headache than it was worth. But as more teachers look to the Internet to make such global connections, it’s become a matter of posting a short blog post in the right place.
Farming has a lot of romance in it. The idea of tilling the land, growing something from scratch and providing for yourself from the gifts of the land is a primal urge that runs through even the most cynical techie. Well, you don’t have to give up your iPad to get a piece of the farming pie with the growing interest in “urban farming,” which is finding ways to bring the farming lifestyle to cities, high-rises and other urban environments.
Worldwide revenues from zero-energy buildings are predicted to increase to just under $1.3 trillion by 2035, according to a recent report published by Pike Research. The report also noted that the market for such buildings, including both commercial and residential real estate, currently sits at $225 million.
A zero-energy building is one that produces as much energy as it consumes, making it a net-zero energy property and eliminating energy bills for its owners. Although zero-energy homes and buildings are quite rare today, increasing concerns about energy waste have set the stage for a growing market.
Finding sources of renewable energy is a growing challenge for the modern world. As we strive for energy efficiency and sustainable resources, avenues are opening up for different and exciting ways to power our lifestyles. Companies across the globe are harnessing the potential of renewable energies, including solar and geothermal methods.
If modern technology is a universal language, the world is getting schooled in innovation, especially in the public transportation sector.
The global transportation industry has become a proving ground for new payment systems, as cutting-edge technologies have been introduced to taxis, buses and trains worldwide to streamline jaunts around town. From reserving and paying for a cab with an app to purchasing train tickets via an iPod, various countries are experimenting with new ways to reach out to travelers and make payment and transport a whole lot easier.
“A lot of people face pretty profound constraints on mobility, enjoy only limited access to opportunity, and face serious difficulty in getting timely, accurate information about services available to them,” says Adam Greenfield, founder of Urbanscale. “As far as we’re concerned, it’s both a matter of basic morality and in our own long-term best interest, to ensure that everyone living in a society has open and unfettered access to these things.” And that’s exactly what his Manhattan-based company is working toward.
In a perfect world, with perfect circumstances, who wouldn’t want a self-sustaining smart home? These days, there are so many goals towards home efficiency and sustainability that many are clamoring to “green” their homes as best as possible — with the ultimate achievement of creating a zero-energy home on the horizon.
In the real world, building an energy-friendly home is a lot more difficult than it sounds. While you can make a fairly sustainable home simply by employing sensible green building adjustments to insulation, home materials, lighting and heating, that’s not all that goes into a truly efficient home.
Yellow curb, red curb, white curb, blue curb — figuring out where to park, especially in a big city, can make you feel like you’re in a zany Dr. Seuss story. And when you do snag a sweet street spot, it can feel like a mini moment of glory.
If you live in a crowded metropolis, then finding a parking spot is a task you’d like to see simplified. Here are seven helpful parking apps to help you find a safe place to park.
Tech manufacturers are making it easier for eco-conscious consumers to welcome a greener lifestyle. But going green doesn’t mean sacrificing the allure of cutting-edge technology.
From controlling lights at home through a mobile app to investing in smart appliances that cut down on energy use and costs, there are myriad high-tech options on the market that make the home more sustainable.
The urban environment is daunting. In a bustling community of millions and millions of citizens, the mere constraints of having so many people in one place can force innovation to materialize out of sheer need.
Over the years, popular culture has tried to mold and shape the way an urban environment will look an act ten, fifty or even a hundred years from now. Will the cities of the future look like The Jetsons or Blade Runner? Well, if current, feasible development is any indication, the answer is actually neither.
Today’s clothing isn’t just about fashion — it’s about function. We’re not talking about Scottevest’s Inspector Gadget-esque trenchcoat to store your iPhone, iPad, iPod and even a few changes of clothes. Sure, that’s handy, but the jacket itself isn’t high-tech (though it is well designed). Mashable has explored ways in which tech companies and fashion brands have come together to create prototypes of new kinds of apparel, and we spoke with independent designers who’ve conceived mind-blowing gear that essentially transforms your body into a generator.
Posted: 15 Apr 2012 02:26 PM PDT
The Titanic hit an iceberg and sank 100 years ago today, ending up in a watery grave 12,600 feet below the surface of the sea. But that was 100 years ago. Could that happen today?
Let’s take a look at the tech behind the Titanic, explore the innovations made since April 15, 1912, and try to determine if newer tech could prevent such an accident from happening again.
Makes you wonder, is any ship truly unsinkable?
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Posted: 15 Apr 2012 01:54 PM PDT
Do mobile phones make you suspicious? Do texters have something to hide?
That’s what a couple of recent studies suggest. College students trust text messages less than phone calls, video chats and face-to-face conversation when communicating with their peers. And it may be a case of guilty consciences — 35% of teens admit to having used their mobile devices to cheat on a test. Nearly one-fifth say they use their phones to take photos of test questions and send them to others, 20% say they search the Internet via cellphone and 26% say they use their devices to store information.
This all comes from Online-Education.net, which pulled together separate studies by the University of British Columbia and Common Sense Media to create the below infographic. Check it out to get the full picture of how mobile devices relate to mistrust.
Do you feel like texters have something to hide? Let us know in the comments.
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Posted: 15 Apr 2012 12:37 PM PDT
1. A head of the game
The New York Mets tweeted this photo of a fan with a Shea Stadium-inspired piece of headwear.
The social web lit up with photos recently as another summer at the ballpark got underway.
For fans and players, Opening Day (or night) is always a special occasion — familiar sights and sounds return, and hope for a successful season springs anew. Friday’s game between the Mariners and Athletics in Seattle marked the last of 30 home openers for Major League Baseball teams.
This year, Opening Day festivities were documented on social networks such as Twitter and Instagram perhaps more than ever before. Teams, fans and players all posted shots celebrating the beginning of the 2012 baseball season in a variety of ways.
What were the best shots from Opening Day? Pixable is a New York City startup that sorts the most popular and timely of the millions of photos posted to social networks daily. The company provided Mashable with access to feeds showing which Opening Day baseball photos were gaining the most buzz and best capturing the magic of a new season.
Scroll through the gallery above to see a sampling of this young baseball season’s best shots.
Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.
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Posted: 15 Apr 2012 12:05 PM PDT
Who can forget their first computer game? It wasn’t just kind of awesome, it’s what took up most evenings and every weekend. If you’re the type to have spent far too many hours playing these games in the 1980s and ’90s, you might want to clear your schedule now.
Some of the best gaming franchises are making a comeback. Here are five being revived in a new-school way, thanks to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
1. Double Fine Adventure
The Double Fine Adventure project is an effort to revive an old style of gameplay — the point-and-click adventure game. And who better to bring it back than Tim Schafer, one of the most creative and quirky innovators in the genre?
Throughout the 1990s, Schafer played a major part in classic adventure games such as The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, and, what many consider his magnum opus, Grim Fandango.
But even that kind of clout couldn't help him find a publisher that would finance this recent venture. So he turned to Kickstarter in February, looking to bring in $300,000 for a new game, plus an additional $100,000 to film a documentary on the game-making process.
Shafer's past success might not have had much sway with game publishers, but it definitely had some pull with fans. The Kickstarter campaign met its goal in eight hours and reached $3,336,371 by the time it ended on March 13. Shafer's wildly successful campaign has inspired other developers hoping to revive an old franchise.
2. Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Reloaded
In the late 1980s, most computer games were created primarily for kids. However, there was one mainstream franchise that was made with adults in mind, Leisure Suit Larry, from famed adventure game publisher, then called Sierra On-Line.
The six-game series followed the exploits of Larry Laffer, a leisure suit-wearing loser looking for love in all the wrong places. Filled with humor that was a little bit seedy and a whole lot funny, the series was widely played around the world. In fact, the first game was so popular that it’s been called one of the most pirated games ever.
The last franchise game was released in 1996, but Replay Games later convinced series creator Al Lowe to come out of retirement. The result: Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Reloaded. This remake will feature updated graphics, a touchscreen interface, and will be available on PCs and tablets — if it reaches its $500,000 Kickstarter goal. The company is well on its way to 100% funding, and has until May 2.
3. Shadowrun Returns
Shadowrun is a pen-and-paper role-playing game mixing elements of Tolkien-esque fantasy and William Gibson-style cyberpunk, creating a world filled with trolls, elves, hackers, and cybernetically-enhanced street samurais. First released in 1988, the game was adapted into two American role-playing video games in the mid ’90s, and a poorly-received first-person shooter for Xbox 360 in 2007. The problem is, every version has had to make certain compromises to the gameplay style, leaving many fans disappointed.
Fast-forward to April 4, 2012, and game developer Harebrained Schemes has brought Jordan Weisman, the creator of Shadowrun, on board for a Kickstarter campaign that promises fans an old-school, turn-based computer RPG set in the dystopian streets of Seattle.
Shadowrun Returns set out to raise $400,000, and surpassed that goal in 28 hours. (The campaign ends on April 29.) But it’s not just going to create a game with that money. The company is also giving players the ability to create their own Shadowrun adventures with an integrated game editor, which should help keep the Shadowrun world alive and kicking for years to come.
4. Wasteland 2
America has been devastated by nuclear war. Misfits, mutants and man-eating machines have made the deserts of the Southwest an inhospitable place. The only hope for mankind are the Desert Rangers, a small group of men and women trying to bring civilization back, one bullet at a time.
This was the world of 1988′s Wasteland, a post-apocalyptic computer role-playing game well known for its sense of humor, a "sandbox" world ripe for exploring, and a branching narrative where decisions made early in the game could have an impact later on. Despite an outcry from fans, Wasteland never received a direct sequel. However, many of the same developers created the early entries of the Fallout series.
Brian Fargo, the creator of Wasteland, tried for many years to get a sequel made, but he wanted to stick to the same gameplay that made the original famous. Modern game publishers refused to back a game that wasn't a first-person shooter, so Fargo and his company, inXile entertainment, turned to Kickstarter. The initial goal for the Wasteland 2 campaign was $900,000, but fans have spoken to the tune of more than $2.5 million and counting.
As a way to give back to the Kickstarter community, Fargo has started a grassroots program called “Kicking it Forward.” The gist is that any Kickstarter campaign that gets funding and joins this group agrees to reinvest 5% of its profit to help fund other Kickstarter campaigns. There's no oversight committee or auditing process; Kicking it Forward works purely on the honor system. And it's already gaining support, with dozens of campaigns involved, including two retro revival games, Shadowrun Returns and Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded.
5. Project Fedora
Heavily inspired by Blade Runner, the Tex Murphy games continually pushed the envelope of computer gaming technology between 1989 and 1998. This immersive world of gun molls and gangsters, developed by designer Chris Jones, left fans clamoring for more.
However, the developer, Access Software, was bought by Microsoft in 1999, and the team shifted its focus from back-alley deathtraps to back-nine sand traps as it worked on the successful Links series of golf games. The division was sold off again and changed names numerous times, before finally going out of business in 2006.
Although Jones, now head of Big Finish Games, has tried to revive the franchise nine times with a new game called Project Fedora, he has yet to find the funding to make it happen. Now he’s giving it one more shot with a Kickstarter campaign set to launch on May 15. If Jones and Big Finish are able to drum up the kind of funding other retro games have, who knows what kind of groundbreaking game we’ll see added to the Tex Murphy legacy?
The game that made dysentery fun was released as a Facebook app last February, much to the delight of grown-up school children everywhere. It's now social, of course, but the decision whether to ford the river is all your won.
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Posted: 15 Apr 2012 11:20 AM PDT
If you’ve never lost a cellphone, you’re either very lucky or a big ol’ liar. With $30 billion worth of phones lost in the U.S. every year, we bet your phone has contributed to the heap at one time or another.
I can count on 47 hands the times I’ve seen a Facebook status update that says something along the lines of, “Holy crap, last nite was crazy weird. Lost my phone ugGGGhhhhhhHHHHHH. Send me your numbers or else we’re no longer friends.”
Then again, bars and nightclubs are not among the top places that people lose their phones. You should be most careful about dropping your device in coffee houses, pizza and church, among others. And keep an eye on your phone during Christmas and New Year’s Eve, too — those are the times of year Americans are most likely to misplace their mobiles.
The below infographic was created by BackgroundCheck.org, which used research by Lookout Mobile Security. It details where and when Americans most often lose their precious phones. Basically, don’t travel to Philadelphia to eat pizza at 2 a.m. on Christmas morning — or at least, don’t bring your phone when you do.
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Posted: 15 Apr 2012 10:37 AM PDT
Apple CEO Tim Cook might want to consider sneaking around in disguise, because when he was spotted meeting with game developer Valve at the gaming company’s headquarters, rumors immediately began to fly. What should we make of this?
Could Apple be working on a game console to go into its rumored Apple TV? Might Apple want enhanced games for its iOS, making iPhones, iPods and iPads even more game-centric? Is there “wearable computing” in the offing for the Cupertino company?
Let’s see if we can get to the bottom of Tim Cook‘s rendezvous — or at least into the middle of it — in this video.
However, before you watch, we must warn you: Reading the Apple tea leaves always involves guesswork and speculation, so we’re inviting you to join us in the comments, adding your guesses to those that have already been posited around the echo chamber that is the blogosphere.
Posted: 15 Apr 2012 10:09 AM PDT
With the books and movies all finished, are you suffering from Harry Potter withdrawal?
Maybe it’s time to head over to Pottermore, an online hub developed by J.K. Rowling for fans of the boy wizard. The free site is now open for all to join.
Users will be treated to additional writing from Rowling that augments the books, digital games extending the series’ themes and plot-lines, e-book reading and a platform to talk muggles and magic with other Harry Potter fanatics.
“The digital generation will be able to enjoy a safe, unique online reading experience built around the Harry Potter books,” Rowling says in a video introducing Pottermore.
After signing up for the site, you’ll get assigned to a Hogwarts house by the Sorting Hat and be specially chosen by a compatible wand before diving into the site’s content. You’ll be able to friend other Pottermore users, take on magical missions, compete with other Hogwarts houses and more deeply explore Harry’s world.
The site also promises “exclusive new content from J.K. Rowling,” reportedly including 18,000 words of background material filling out the books’ characters and settings. For newbies, Pottermore will sell e-book and audiobook versions of the series.
While anyone can sign up now, the site says in a blog post that it will activate new registrations in waves, so you may have to wait just a bit longer to add that digital twist to your Pottermania.
Will you join Pottermore? Let us know in the comments.
BONUS GALLERY: Top 10 Harry Potter Spoofs
1. Harry Potter, Bad Roommate, Episode 1
This witty mini web series reimagines Harry Potter as a sitcom character. Chortle alert!
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Posted: 15 Apr 2012 09:41 AM PDT
Sara Ferraioli is a Manager in the Human Resources Contracts division at Winter, Wyman, the largest and one of the most recognized staffing organizations in the Northeast. Find out more on the Winter, Wyman blog or follow on Twitter .
More than 34 million Americans work at home at least occasionally, according to the research firm Forrester. By 2016, that number is expected to hit 63 million, at which point virtual workers will comprise 43% of the workforce, nearly doubling today's count. Technology has made it easier than ever to work remotely — wireless Internet, instant messaging, web conferencing and collaboration software allow us to do our jobs seamlessly, regardless of location. Remote working — even occasionally — is a breath of fresh air for people who have long commutes, young children to shuffle off to school or aging parents who need attention. The word "work" is actually morphing from a place into an action.
Corporations can also see the benefits of virtual work. First, they can cut down on the cost of physical office space if employees work remotely at least some of the time. For example, if a company employs 200 people but only needs office space for 150, that can represent a significant cost savings. Another advantage for employers is that they can expand their pool of job candidates if they aren't limited by geography. For example, a person who only needs to come into the office once a week or less often may be willing to take on a longer commute in exchange for working from home on other days. If the employee doesn't ever need to come into work, he or she could be anywhere in the world. Telecommuting is considered another perk in the work-life balance. As more companies begin to offer it, remote working actually makes employers more appealing to candidates.
But there is still some uncertainty about remote working among employers and employees. Many employees want to consider it, but aren't sure if it is the right fit for them. Employers, on the other hand, realize that offering virtual work relationships can be beneficial, but don't want to give up control or security. Here are some tips for determining who will make a good candidate for remote working, as well as some guidance to ensure that the situation goes smoothly for both workers and employers.
Is it Right for You?
While telework is an attractive option for many people, it isn't for everyone. If you're an employee considering going virtual, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself to determine if you're a good candidate for remote work:
Do I have the discipline?
It can be incredibly difficult to stay on task with a work project when the sink is full of breakfast dishes and there's a pile of laundry on the floor. There are many distractions at home, and you have to be able to put them aside to focus on work. If you're the type that just can't get started on work until your house is in order (is it ever really in order?), working from home may not be for you.
Do I have the motivation?
Are you awake every morning at 5:30 ready for your run or do you need to have your personal trainer barking orders to make sure you get in your workout? People who are self-motivated do well working remotely. Others work better when a taskmaster is there to keep them focused.
Do I have the space?
Remote workers are more successful when they have a designated office space with the proper equipment setup. While it is possible to work while lounging on your bed, it isn't advisable. It is best to have a place to "go" so you can mentally leave home and go into work mode. It is also easier to stay organized if your projects aren't mixed up with your grocery list and kids' homework.
Do I have the right personality type?
Some people love the freedom of working remotely, while others find it downright lonely. If you are an extrovert who derives energy from people around you and enjoys the camaraderie of others during the work day, you may want to go into an office to work.
The Next Step
If you determine that working remotely is for you, you still need to address the logistical hurdles with your employer. Here are some questions employees and their managers should discuss before starting a remote-working arrangement:
If employees and employers have concrete answers to these questions, they will be better able to navigate virtual work arrangements.
Statistics show that the telework trend will only continue to get more popular. Employees should first establish that they are good candidates for working remotely and then work with their managers to solidify parameters upfront and ensure a successful virtual work experience.
Social Media Job Listings
Every week we post a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we publish a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the top social media job opportunities from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!
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Posted: 15 Apr 2012 08:45 AM PDT
1. Titanic Super 3D
This spoof digitally upgrades the 3D movie with motion feel technology.
The upgraded version of the classic Titanic, now in 3D, has received mixed reviews — some of nostalgia, and others were delighted and disappointed.
Regardless, there are a plethora of videos to keep you entertained right in the comfort of your own home.
Whether it’s spoofs of the trailer, or hilarious renditions of the famous Celine Dion song, we’ve gathered eight funny videos in honor of the film’s resurgence.
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Posted: 15 Apr 2012 08:14 AM PDT
In our new series, The World at Work, Mashable interviews the people behind the startups and projects that are working to make a global impact.
It’s not easy to dedicate a business to a social cause. The challenges these companies have faced, whether it’s developing services for veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq or creating sustainable energy solutions in developing countries, have only made those involved hungry to affect more change. Fortunately, helping others — stateside and abroad — has become much more effective with the aid of technology and the digital community.
Here’s a roundup of featured programs from the last week, including exclusive video interviews. To read more and watch the videos, click through to the full story, and follow the series to learn about more breakthrough companies.
Big Idea: MassChallenge.org
Why It’s Working: Boston native John Harthorne was heavily involved with startups during his undergrad years at MIT — and he’d been itching to get back to the startup world ever since — but debt, family and a new baby deterred him from doing so. At the height of the recession, he founded MassChallenge with a co-worker. MassChallenge is mission-driven and works with “high-impact” startups. The accelerator doesn't take equity in the companies it works with and it’s helped the startups raise more than $100 million and create 500 jobs.
2. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
Big Idea: IAVA is the first and largest non-profit for returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Why It’s Working: When Paul Rieckhoff came home after a tour of duty in Iraq, he realized that services for recent veterans didn’t meet his needs or the needs of his military peers. He launched IAVA, which provides more than 2.3 million men and women returning from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan with education, job, health care and community-building opportunities — an immensely valuable tool for soldiers readjusting to civilian life.
Why It’s Working: WeTopia takes popular social gaming fundamentals proven enormously successful on Facebook and introduces an element of philanthropy to help users game for good. The company has also donated 50% of its profits to charities for children. The game capitalizes on the enormous social gaming population — which is expected to reach 68.7 million players by year’s end, according to a report by analysis firm eMarketer — to democratize philanthropy.
4. New York Tech Meetup
Big Idea: New York Tech Meetup brings together entrepreneurs, investors, developers and tech nerds. Their goal is to level the playing field and change the way the world is run.
Why It’s Working: New York Tech Meetup mobilizes Silicon Alley’s eco-system into a powerful social and political force. “The Internet is much more mature than it was ten years ago,” says Andrew Rasiej, chairman of New York Tech Meetup. “The systems that were designed in the 20th century are now being challenged by networks, and those networks don’t really care for top-down hierarchy, they don’t really care about nation-state borders, they don’t really care about diplomatic channels — they care about connectivity, they care about openness, they care about trust.”
5. Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF)
Big Idea: SELF is spreading access to solar power across the developing world to fight energy poverty.
Why It’s Working: More than one billion people live without access to electricity, according to World Watch. But SELF’s sustainable energy solutions help people bring themselves out of poverty, granting them access to safe drinking water, a secure food supply, vaccinations from diseases, home and office lighting, and computers.
What do you think of the efforts of these startups and foundations? Let us know in the comments below.
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