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Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Make Your Own Subscription Service: Introducing Memberly”

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Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Make Your Own Subscription Service: Introducing Memberly”


Make Your Own Subscription Service: Introducing Memberly

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 10:07 PM PDT


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

readName: memberly

Quick Pitch: Memberly is a platform for subscription programs.

Genius Idea: Promoting subscriptions as a sustainable business model.


Jack Cheng and his two cofounders launched Steepster, a social network for tea drinkers, in 2009. It soon occurred to them that a tea club, in which members receive a shipment of new teas each month, would be a perfect complement to the site. But they were working long hours to get their site off of the ground, and never thought about making the investment of time and money that starting such a program would entail .

Three years later, they decided to revisit the project — and while they were at it, solve the subscription program logistics problem for everyone else, too.

“With blogs, you don’t need to understand the backend [in order to make one],” Cheng says. “We wanted to give the same simplicity to running a subscription program.”

On Thursday, the team launched Memberly. The platform makes it easy to start and organize such a program — by offering a subscription page that doesn’t require coding, automatic billing of customers, auto-generated labels or a portal for handling customer correspondence.

Right now the only programs using the site are Steepster and a vegan boutique called Little Otsu that is selling a subscription for mini art books. More are scheduled to roll out in the coming weeks.

Cheng says he hopes to appeal to businesses that would traditionally run a subscription service — such as coffee shops and wine sellers — as well as encourage people to be creative with new services.

“The subscription model is a really great business,” he says, “With something like Etsy, you have to be on call waiting to fill orders of your business will suffer. You might not get any orders for weeks and then get 15 in one day.”

With subscriptions, you can plan ahead and order supplies in bulk. And, Cheng hopes, pay a 5% cut of any sales to Memberly in exchange.

Image courtesy of istockphoto, sjlocke


Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark


Microsoft BizSpark

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

More About: Birchbox, bizspark, Memberly, startup

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This Week in Digital & Politics: GOP Edition

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 09:48 PM PDT

republican image

Republicans are taking to social media in an attempt to curb the Democrats’ digital momentum. Facebook is courting the red states. And a study shows that Republicans are more cohesive and effective on social networks. That’s the news from this GOP-themed edition of our weekly series looking at stories in the intersection of digital technology and politics.


Republicans Beat Democrats on Twitter

elephant image

Despite President Barack Obama’s prowess on social networks, Republicans came out ahead of Democrats when it comes to effective use of Twitter, at least in the 2010 race. That’s according to a study from the U-M School of Information and the College of Engineering. The study looked at more than 460,000 tweets — that’s three years worth of tweets from 687 candidates running for House, Senate and guberntorial seats during the 2010 midterm elections.

Republican tweets were more cohesive, covering a single basic topic. Top terms included “spending,” “bills,” “budget,” and “deficit.” Democrats sent an average of 172 fewer tweets, and they covered more diverse topics, including terms like “education,” “jobs,” “oil_spill,” “clean_energy,” “Afghanistan” and “reform.”

Tea Party Members showed more cohesion than either Democrats or Republicans. They retweeted a colleague’s message an average of 82.6 times compared with 52.3 retweets for Republicans and 40 for Democrats. Tea partiers also used hashtags an average of 753 times, while Republicans averaged 404 times and Democrats were at 196, the study said.

Facebook Courts Top Republican Candidates

briefcase image

The worlds most popular social network has historically leaned towards the Democrats. President Obama has 22 million fans, which is 10 times more support than the 10 declared GOP presidential candidates combined, says the Atlantic Wire. Now Facebook is working to close that huge number disparity.

“The color of the site is blue, but the color of the company is purple,” Joel Kaplan, former deputy chief of staff in the George W. Bush administration and Facebook’s current vice president of U.S. public policy, told RCP. Facebook has recruited five high-profile GOP strategists to join its outreach team in recent months.

Republican’s Hold a Twitter Debate

republicans image

Following on the heels of President Obama’s Twitter town hall, Republican presidential candidates will be holding a Twitter debate on July 27 sponosored by TheTeaParty.net, reported the Washington Post.

The forum will include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R,-Pa), former Gov. Gary Johnson (R,-NM), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R,-Minn), Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R,-MIch) and Georgia businessman Herman Cain.

Images courtesy of Flickr, outtacontext, Combined Media, Truthout.org, http://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/

More About: democrat, facebook, facebook chat, politics, Republican, social media, twitter, twitter debate, week in digital politics

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Norway Attacks: Suspect’s Social Media Trail Examined

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 08:33 PM PDT


As the death toll mounts in the most horrific violence Norway has seen since World War II, local police have arrested the suspected perpetrator of both the bombing and the shooting at a children’s summer camp. His name is Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old man reportedly spotted at the scene of the bombing. Police believe he was acting alone.

According to multiple news reports in Norway and Sweden, Brievik belonged to Oslo’s extreme right wing. He was a frequent poster in Norwegian right-wing online forums, the accounts said, and had two guns registered to his name. He also appears to have launched a social media presence just days before the attacks.

In Breivik’s Facebook account, now removed, the suspect identifies himself as a Christian conservative. However, that was far from his only interest. Breivik also listed himself as a fan of World of Warcraft, Modern Warfare 2, bodybuilding and stock analysis. The account, which appeared to have only been started last week, was mostly filled with music videos. Breivik, who listed himself as single, said he had completed “3,000 hours of study in micro and macro finance, religion.”

Breivik appears to have started a Twitter account on the same day as he launched his Facebook presence, July 17. The account, which has not been removed, has just one tweet to its name. It’s a quote from the philosopher John Stuart Mill: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests.”

The attacks may well have been politically motivated. The bombing took place outside a building where the Prime Minister, who wasn’t present, has an office. And the purpose of the summer camp on the island of Utoya was to teach teenagers about politics.

More About: facebook, Norway, oslo, oslo shooting, politics, twitter

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Dexter Slice of Life: A Facebook Game for Your Inner Serial Killer

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 07:11 PM PDT

Those of you who have a need to satisfy the Dark Passenger within — and who know what that means — will find relief in “Dexter Slice of Life”, a social game for Facebook that’s based on the decadently sinister Showtime series Dexter and its vigilante serial killer.

Showtime released a trailer and screenshot for Slice of Life, developed by Ecko Code, at Comic-Con. The game will be released in September.

What can we expect? Based on the trailer, our interview with Ecko Code founder Mark Ecko and information shared exclusively with Mashable, we can reveal several key details.

The game will launch on Facebook alongside the Season 6 television premiere. Players will take on the role of Dexter Morgan — the serial killer of serial killers — and they’ll be tasked with stalking victims, satisfying the dark passenger, finding evidence and completing missions. It’s the first Facebook game to offer real-time stealth gameplay.

The game will mirror the events of each new episode. In fact, “Dexter Slice of Life” players can expect to awake to updates Monday after each Sunday evening airing.

Ecko, a game publisher for more than a decade, has no intentions of disappointing Dexter fans. To that end, his team will use a variety of social media analysis tools to figure out the story lines, characters and show moments that are resonating with fans in real time. The idea, says Ecko, is to blur the lines between the show’s content and gameplay.

SEE ALSO: Dexter Fans: Michael C. Hall Answers Your Questions [VIDEO]

“This is a living, breathing narrative-based consumer product, no different than the show,” says Ecko. “[Fans] want it and expect it to be as good as the show.”

“Slice of Life,” inspired by Zynga’s social games, takes the casual genre to the next level. Ecko calls it “Cas-Core gaming” — a blend of casual (because it’s on Facebook) and hardcore games (because all the game assets are built in a 3D massively multiplayer online client).

Some trivia for non-fans: “Dexter Slice of Life” gets its name from the name of the boat the show’s lead character uses to dispose of the bodies he kills and dismembers. Something tells us this game won’t be much like your typical casual game.

Check out the game trailer above and the screenshot below, and let us know your thoughts on the soon-to-be released Facebook game.


More About: comic-con 2011, dexter, Dexter Slice of Life, facebook, marc ecko, Showtime, social game

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Why Dependability is the Most Important Quality for Businesses [OPINION]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 06:23 PM PDT


This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Shane Pearlman tweets about his misadventures in running a 100% freelance driven agency at @justlikeair.

Early in my career as a business owner, I thought being clever was more important than being on time. In retrospect, I probably would have never renewed a contract with my 20-year-old self.

Flash forward and today my partners and I run a service business that thrives for a simple reason: we consistently deliver, time after time. As one of our longest clients recently told me, “I am buying peace of mind. I could give it to someone cheaper, and then either manage it myself or have to worry they might fail. I can trust you guys to take care of it and I will go focus on what matters most to my business unit.” In short, we’re successful, because we are dependable.

If You Can Be One Thing, Be Dependable

Finding a vendor, employee or partner who will consistently play their part is one of the great challenges in business. Want to win in this world? I’ve found that the most simple and effective tactic is to be the most dependable. Unfortunately, that’s a quality that’s often severely lacking in the service industry.

My family and I are in the midst of buying our dream house. It had everything we wanted and in a location we love, so we put in an offer. The offer was accepted and we were quickly approved by the bank with an amazing rate. The under-writers signed off, we released our contingencies and put $25k down. Things were clean as a whistle until we showed up to sign the final paperwork and there were no papers to sign! The bank with whom our loan was being processed had apparently changed its lending policies — we “no longer qualified.” Now we needed to put down a full 30% to get the loan.

We had two options: 1. Loose our deposit, or, 2. come up with an additional $65k we didn’t have — within 2 days.

Thankfully, we were able to secure a “gift loan” from family and get the house. Tragically, though, my story is far from unique, both in real estate and among service businesses in general. Dependability is becoming a rare trait in business. Though it wasn’t necessarily his fault, I no longer have any real incentive to work with that particular mortgage broker again. And I certainly have no plans to deal with the bank any more than I already must.

My story is an illustration of the importance of dependability, both for your customers and as a quality to seek in your business partners.

Dependability Relies on Accountability

I wish my mortgage broker called me weeks before the signing and said, “Shane, I think something weird is going on. I’ve never seen this in my 30 years of lending. The bank is changing their guidelines and has implied that it might affect your loan, despite already having been through underwriting. Lets brainstorm together some backup options just in case.”

But he didn’t. He and his team figured they would battle the issues quietly without “bothering me.” I’m sure they worked hard — probably harder than on most loans, yet despite all that, I will most likely never use their services again. Not because of what happened with the mortgage, which ultimately wasn’t his fault, but because he failed the test of accountability. Dependability simply comes down to meeting expectations, and accountability is the relationship side of that.

You have to do what you say you are going to do. In principal, that would be awesome. In reality, of course, life is complicated and things change. So, in this world of continuous change, how do you stay dependable? By managing expectations and always being accountable.

Sometimes Dependability Trumps Talent

How many people would consider the Big Mac to be the best tasting hamburger in the world? Probably not many. Yet, despite its culinary shortcomings, the McDonald’s signature hambuger is so successful and ubiquitous that The Economist uses it as a reference point for comparing the cost of living in different countries.

How is it that a mediocre hamburger has become so successful around the world? I believe the reason has a lot to do with dependability. No matter where in the world I am or what time of the year it is, if I walk into a McDonald’s, I can depend on getting the exact same Big Mac. The fry machine will be on left. There will always be ketchup. The entire business is built upon the philosophy of amazing consistency with just acceptable quality.

After years of working with freelancers, I’ve concluded that dependability often trumps talent. I would rather have a solid coder who consistently delivers than a temperamental genius. I’m not in business to gamble. I will choose 100 small wins stacked on top of each other, day in day out, over a few meteoric successes surrounded by an unstable pattern of failures. You might make the world’s best burger on your best day, but McDonald’s makes more money than you do, and they do it by being dependable.


Images courtesy of Flickr, piblet, v1ctory_1s_m1ne.

More About: advice, business, customer service, op-ed, small business

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Captain America: The First Avenger Targets Social Media Success

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 05:20 PM PDT


The Summer Blockbuster Series analyzes the social media campaigns behind major summer movie releases and runs each Friday.

Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The First Avenger opens in theaters in the United States today — and could well be the first superhero film to break through the summer slump and soar to box office success.

The film stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, a World War II vet who is enhanced to human perfection by an experimental serum. Directed by Joe Johnston, the film and characters are part of a broader Marvel Cinematic Universe, which includes the films, The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Thor. Many of the characters will team up in next summer’s The Avengers.

Since the movie is based on a comic book with a 70-year legacy, it makes sense that much of the social media campaign around Captain America is targeted squarely at comic book and Marvel Universe fans. Let’s look at some of the bigger initiatives.


Digital Comic Book Series


The first teaser for the film, Captain America: The First Avenger premiered during Super Bowl XLV. That day, Marvel released the first issue from Captain America: First Vengeance, a digital comic book series. Each issue of the eight-part series, available online and via the Marvel Comics iPad app, focused on a different character from the film. The series ended right at the point when the movie begins.

Not only did this campaign engage with existing comic book fans, it also used the power of the Super Bowl’s reach, online video sharing sites and the iPad to spread the buzz.

The first full-length trailer for Captain America was released on YouTube in March.


Marvel.com Universe


Marvel’s homepage has become the most informative site on the web for all things Captain America. The comic publisher dedicated an entire hub page to the film, chronicling the latest news and information, including trailers, posters, special clips and behind-the-scenes photos.

On July 19, 2011, Marvel livestreamed the red carpet premiere on its website and offered playback for fans.

The fan forums at Marvel.com are also full of fans who are engaging in conversations not just about the film, but about the entire cinematic Marvel universe and the comic canon. Fans are congregating online to discuss the best ways that they can help spread the word about the film on social media sites, which is a huge potential win for Marvel.


Facebook


The official Captain America Facebook Page has updates and information for the film, but the real meat is at Marvel’s Facebook Page.

Marvel’s page includes a promotional widget from Harley-Davidson that offers access to video clips, photos and the ability to send badges to friends.

The Marvel Facebook Page also includes links to other characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and news coming out of Comic-Con 2011.


GetGlue


Marvel teamed up with GetGlue to offer five exclusive digital stickers for the film. Fans can earn the stickers by checking into the movie.

GetGlue is becoming an increasingly common service for studios to use to spread the word and reward die-hard film fans for engaging.


Dunkin’ Donuts


What’s more American than Captain America? Donuts. So it makes sense that Marvel Studios partnered with Dunkin’ Donuts, and sister-chain Baskin-Robbins, to create a promotional campaign around the film.

Dunkin’ Donuts is offering a special three-flavor beverage container — but more importantly, it created a special Unlock The Lab online sweepstakes.

Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins also worked with Facebook to launch a USO-supported “America’s Super-Soldiers” contest on Facebook.


Results


It’s too early to predict Captain America‘s box office performance. But the film is already off to a solid start, raking in $4 million at midnight screenings.

Will social media help Captain America soar? Give us your take in the comments.

More About: captain america first avenger, captain-america, comic-con 2011, comics, Movies, Summer Blockbuster Series

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Comic-Con TouchWall: See Lionsgate’s Giant Interactive Movie Display [VIDEOS]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 03:44 PM PDT


Comic-Con exhibitors tend to use celebrity signings, booth babes and massive displays. This year, Lionsgate aims to make a bigger splash with a giant 10 foot by 11 foot interactive TouchWall.

The TouchWall, composed of six 65-inch VIZIO HDTVs that make one giant touch-sensitive installation, is designed to lure the crowds at the 2011 Comic-Con, and get them physically engaged with Lionsgate films — especially the upcoming 3D flick Conan the Barbarian.

Attendees can touch the double-sided wall to swipe through photos, view movie trailers and take snapshots of themselves with extra-large portraits of Lionsgate’s celebrities, including Conan star Jason Momoa.

“Once an hour, all 6 touchscreen panels lock into place and display a giant version of the trailer that truly has to be seen to be believed,” a Lionsgate representative tells Mashable. “This is the first instance of a studio bringing this large [of a] touch experience to the masses.”

Check out the TouchWall in the videos below.


Lionsgate TouchWall



Lionsgate TouchWall


sponsored by: Vizio built by: Ignition Interactive


Lionsgate TouchWall


More About: comic-con 2011, entertainment, Lionsgate, san diego comic con, san diego comic con 2011

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Our Favorite YouTube Videos This Week: The Heat Wave Edition

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 02:57 PM PDT


Are you one of the lucky citizens of the world currently wrapped in the moist, searing hot embrace of the most cruelest of seasons? Well, then, this YouTube Roundup’s for you.

Queue up the below vids, stay inside and crack open a frosty beverage. We still have a least another month of this weather left on the mirage-laden horizon.


Wicked Witch Melting


Lauren Drell: I would love to be doused with a bucket of water today, because when I walk outside, I just want to scream, "I'm meltinggggggg! What a world, what a world!"


"Wipe Out"


Josh Catone: Summer heat always makes me think of this.


"I Do (Cherish You)," 98º


Stephanie Haberman: Because at this point, we all WISH it was 98 Degrees.


Kool-Aid Commercial


Chelsea Stark: Because when it's hot, you really want to reach for a glass of "The Koolest." OH YEAH!


Dog and Ice Machine


Amy-Mae Elliott: It's not just humans that suffer in a heat wave...


Do The Right Thing NSFW


Stephanie Buck: Today feels as hot as Spike Lee's rad movie, Do the Right Thing. (NSFW, language)


A Vodka Movie


Lauren Rubin: I say we toast... to cooling off


1980s Kool-Aid Surfin' Berry Punch Commercial


Stacy Green: OH YEA! Kool Aid! Surfin' Berry Punch, yum.


"Heat Miser Song"


Sarah Kessler: I blame this guy.


NYC Subway Graffiti from the 1980s


Ada Ospina: Heat waves make me think of summer which makes me think of NYC in the '80s... I miss graffiti.


"Wildfire," SBTRKT


Brenna Ehrlich: Nothing says "hot" like a wildfire... And a song by one of the summer's hottest bands.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Klearchos Kapoutsis

More About: our-favorite-youtube-videos, summer, video, youtube

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HOW TO: Follow the Norway Terror Attacks Online

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 02:39 PM PDT


On Friday morning, news of an explosion in an Oslo government building followed by shootings in a nearby island spread quickly across the web.

Social media has been serving as a key way for people around the world to send out and receive information. Many of our Twitter followers reported turning to Twitter, Google+ and live streaming news organizations for updates on the story. Most people told us that online news reports were delivering the news faster than television.

We now know that at least seven people were killed Friday in Oslo after a bomb exploded in the main government district. Later in the day, reports said a shooter entered a Labor Party rally on the island of Utøya dressed in a police uniform and opened fire. At least nine people were killed in that incident. The two acts are related, according to The Wall Street Journal, with police saying that the suspect is Norwegian.

To follow developments on this story, here are the resources recommended by our readers.

Twitter Hashtags

#oslo, #oslobomb, #utøya

Live Streams to Follow

Other Resources

Google+ Resources

Twitter Accounts to Follow

More About: breaking news, oslo

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Sesame Street Takes on the Beastie Boys [VIDEO]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 02:27 PM PDT

Jim Henson’s myriad puppets have covered — mostly against their will — everything from LCD Soundsystem to Kanye West. Now, may we present, the furry ones’ take on the Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot.”

This little vid comes courtesy of The Wonderful Creative Agency, and serves to fill the gaping holes in our work-addled hearts.

More About: beastie boys, humor, music, pop culture, sesame street, television, video, Vimeo

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Spotify Hits 70,000 Paid U.S. Users After 1 Week [REPORT]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 02:10 PM PDT


Spotify appears to be off to a good start in the U.S., with the service reportedly signing up 70,000 paid subscribers in its first week of availability.

Billboard cites “three distinct label/publisher execs” as saying that Spotify has managed to accrue 70,000 paid users after one week in the U.S. Prior to its stateside debut, Spotify had 10 million registered users with 1.6 million paying for the service.

We’ve reached out to Spotify about these numbers, and await its response. The service’s response to Billboard, gives little away: “The launch of Spotify in the US has exceeded our expectations in both the response to invitations for the free service as well as subscriptions. We aren’t going to discuss numbers at this stage but we are excited to be here and confident that Americans will love Spotify as much as they already do in Europe.”

For comparison’s sake, Rhapsody has about 800,000 users (after launching in 2001). Services with free tiers have several million (not all active) — like Slacker Radio and Grooveshark — and others like Rdio and MOG do not release user numbers.

If the 70,000 number is accurate, it looks like Spotify could be a hit in the U.S. It remains to be seen, however, if it will reach the projected 50-million-U.S.-users-in-one-year figure we saw in leaked documents pre-launch.

More About: grooveshark, MOG, music, music subscription services, rdio, rhapsody, spotify

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Paranormal Activity 3 Teaser Hits the Web [VIDEO]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 01:34 PM PDT

The first teaser trailer for Paranormal Activity 3 was unveiled at Comic-Con 2011.

Additionally, Paramount handed out flyers to convention-goers showing off a new viral campaign surrounding the film. The original Paranormal Activity was a big success at the box office, grossing $193 million worldwide on a shoestring budget. Paranormal Activity 2 was also a big hit, taking in $176 million worldwide on a budget of $3 million.

The viral site that Paramount has set up for the film, Darren’s Timeless Memories, features home movie clips from a seemingly normal family. The cinema verite style meshes with the previous films with the series, and if you follow through the videos, it ultimately leads to the teaser trailer.

Paramount sent us a copy of the postcards that it is handing out at Comic-Con and you can check them out below.


More About: comic-con 2011, movie trailers, paranormal activity, paranormal activity 3, teasers, viral campaigns

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HOW TO: Integrate Google+ Into Your WordPress Site

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 01:15 PM PDT


Already using Google+? Follow Mashable’s Pete Cashmore for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as our top social media and technology updates.

This month’s hot topic has been, without a doubt, Google+. Whether the new social service from the world’s largest search company will be a “Facebook killer” remains to be seen, but one thing’s for certain: This is one social network you don’t want to ignore.

When it comes to getting found, Google+ is fast becoming a great asset for bloggers and content producers thanks to its ever-expanding user base and simple sharing tools. In this post, we’ll show you a few ways to start spreading a little of that Google+ love on your WordPress-powered website.


Display Your Google+ Profile Information


google card imageSoftware developer John Henson from PlusDevs has developed a handy, easy to use WordPress widget that displays your Google+ profile on your blog. The setup is quick and simple: Install the plug-in and drag the widget into your sidebar. Just fill out the form and you’re done.

You can also incorporate the widget into your template with only a few lines of PHP code, giving you the flexibility to place it anywhere within your layout.

You can learn more about the widget in the official blog post or jump straight to the code on GitHub.

Unofficial Google+ user tracking site SocialStatistics.com also offers an embeddable Google+ widget. Simply add your profile to their database and grab the widget code from your page on their site.


Add the +1 Button


If you’re not already using the Google +1 button, consider taking a moment to add it to your site. This is a great way to let users save, promote and find their favorite content. The +1 button only takes a few minutes to integrate with your site and works with any Google profile. While this isn’t a Google+ specific feature, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it integrated with the service. Either way, it’s another great way of adding an additional avenue for promotion and sharing.

You can learn more about the +1 button from Google.

To add it to your WordPress site, you can either use the official +1 button code generator from Google or take a look at the myriad +1 button WordPress plug-ins available.


Use a Google+ Inspired Theme


Do you love the look of Google+’s clean, intuitive layout and unobtrusive interface? For the die-hard fan (or, hey, maybe you run a blog that’s centered around the service), there are already a few Google+ inspired WordPress themes for your perusal.

WP Plus

wp plus image

WP Plus is a fixed-width, 3 column Google+ inspred WordPress theme supporting custom content menus, styled sticky-posts and valid XHTML/CSS code. Clean, fast-loading and SEO optimized, WP Plus gives your blog the Google+ look and feel in just minutes.

PlusOne

plus one image

Similar to WP Plus, PlusOne is another 3-column, fixed-width Google+ styled theme that supports custom WordPress menus. It’s a clean and well-designed theme, but it does take some liberties with how it translates Google+ to WordPress (so it doesn’t look quite as accurate to Google’s own design).

Reflex+

reflex plus image

Reflex+ shares all of the features mentioned in the above two theme but it also brings in jQuery and incorporates AJAX for some tasks, such as the “read more” post navigation, helping it appear more fluid and seamless.


Want More?


Google+ is still a relatively new service locked behind an invite-only registration system. No doubt as time progresses and the service grows, there will be more options for publishers. Right now there are a couple of options if you’re a developer interested in having a go at creating your own Google+ plug-in.

If you’d like to gain access to the official Google+ API, you’ll need to sign up with Google to register interest in a Google+ developer account. Unfortunately, the API is not yet public. It’s unclear whether this will change as the service matures, but inquiring about developer access is certainly worth looking into if you want serious Google+ integration and sharing between your site and the service.

For a more portable (and presumably trimmed-down) solution, software developer Jason Striegel has put together a collection of PHP utilities for a locally-hosted Google+ API service. In its current state, the API will allow you to retrieve post and profile data and post to Google+. You can check out his code on GitHub. This is a great option to include within your own distributed code, such as WordPress plug-ins and widgets.


More About: dev, Google, Google Plus, WordPress

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Facebook Wins Another Legal Round Against the Winklevoss Twins

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 12:46 PM PDT


In the latest chapter in the Winklevoss twins vs. Facebook saga, a U.S. district judge has dismissed a second lawsuit by the two, who sought to increase their $65 million settlement with the company and founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Judge Douglas Woodlock dismissed the case Friday, a month after Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss and business partner Divya Narendra abandoned a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

After that appeal, on June 22, the two and Narendra asked Woodlock for permission to investigate whether Facebook had surpressed evidence during their settlement talks.

As dramatized in the hit 2010 film The Social Network, the Winklevosses and Narendra allege that Zuckerberg stole their idea — or at least part of it — to create Facebook, which has been valued as high as $100 billion. The twins opposed the 2008 settlement shortly after they agreed to it, arguing that Facebook hid information that revealed the true value of their stock. At the time, they said they were led to believe the 1.2 million shares they received in the settlement were worth almost $36 each, when they were actually worth $8.80 each. In December 2010, though, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruled that the settlement would stand. In May, the three decided to take the case to the Supreme Court.

It's unclear how the Winklevoss twins will proceed with their case at this point.

To add to the their humiliation, Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard University, was quoted at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference calling the two "a**holes." Said Summers: “One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o’clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they’re looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an a**hole. This was the latter case.”

True to form, the WInklevosses and Narendra rebutted Summers' remarks with an open letter to current Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust.

"It was not his failure to shake hands with the three of us upon entering his office (doing so would have required him to take his feet off his desk and stand up from his chair), nor his tenor that was most alarming, but rather his scorn for genuine discourse on deeper ethical questions, Harvard's Honor Code and its applicability or lack thereof," the letter says. "It's deeply disturbing that a professor of this university openly admits to making character judgments of his students based on their appearance."

More About: Divya Narendra, facebook, mark zuckerberg, Winklevoss twins

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Listen & Spin in the Mashable Turntable.fm Room With Up-and-Coming Singer-Songwriters

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 12:29 PM PDT


Hey there, sweat-stained denizens of the working world. If you think you’re hot now, step into Mashable‘s Summer Fridays Turntable.fm room and prepare to chair dance (unless you have a standing desk, in which case, carry on vertical grooving).

If you’re unfamiliar with Turntable.fm — well, then get ready for a litany of bouncing avatars to start haunting your very dreams. The startup, which is still in beta, comes from the Stickybits team and is basically like (musical) AOL chatrooms of old — a series of user-created browser-based chatroom/listening rooms where "DJs" (a.k.a. you and others) can play songs, vote on how "lame" or "awesome" those songs are, score points for picking good tunes, and chat with others in a sidebar. You can choose songs from a MediaNet-powered library or upload your own. Sadly, the site is no longer open to anyone outside the U.S. because of Turntable’s efforts to stay DMCA compliant.

We’ve had a few Friday jam sessions thus far — courtesy of the MuseBox and their bands — and today we continue that tradition with singer-songerwriters Ian Axel, Andrew Belle, and Laura Warshauer on the decks with Mashable staff. Come chill with us (click here to join) and eradicate this cruel, cruel summer with tunes.

More About: Andrew Belle, Ian Axel, Laura Warshauer, music, startp, turntable.fm

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T-Mobile Offers iPhone Users Micro SIM Card To Access Service

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 12:19 PM PDT


T-Mobile this week began offering a Micro SIM card that lets iPhone users access the network.

The card, available here, carries a $9.99 suggested retail price, but is free with a two-year contract with the carrier. iPhone users have been able to access T-Mobile with an unlocked iPhone since June.

Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics, says iPhone users can access T-Mobile by getting a normal SIM card cut to a Micro SIM card at phone shops.

iPhone users on T-Mobile don't get access to a 3G network and can't use Apple’s visual voicemail. Despite those limitations, T-Mobile claims to have more than 1 million iPhone users on its network.

Meanwhile, AT&T is in the process of purchasing T-Mobile. Even if that comes to pass, T-Mobile promises to offer the same plans it does now — rather than AT&T's service plans — for a year or so. Piper Jaffray analyst Chris Larson also said earlier this month that the iPhone 5 will be available to T-Mobile and Sprint.

More About: apple, att, iphone, iPhone 5, T-Mobile, verizon

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Amazon.com Facts: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Web’s Biggest Retailer

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 12:09 PM PDT

One of the giants to survive the dotcom crash, Amazon.com is as much of a landmark on the web as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. In 16 years, “Wall Street Wunderkind” Jeff Bezos has grown the business from a tiny startup operating on second-hand computers in his garage to a global company with 12 major retail websites.

Amazon.com may account for around a third of all U.S. ecommerce sales, boast over 33,000 employees around the world and own such big names as IMDB, Zappos.com, Woot and LOVEFiLM, but how much do you really know about the web’s largest retailer?

We’ve dug deep and found 10 fascinating facts about the etailing behemoth that you may not know. Take a look through the slide show and let us know in the comments any Amazon.com tidbits you find interesting.


1. How Amazon.com Got Its Name





Amazon.com was very nearly called "Cadabra," as in "abracadabra." Founder Jeff Bezos rapidly re-conceptualized the name when his lawyer misheard the word as "cadaver."

Bezos instead named the business after the river reportedly for two reasons. One, to suggest scale (Amazon.com launched with the tagline "Earth's biggest book store") and two, back then website listings were often alphabetical.


2. The First Book Sale




Amazon.com sold its first book from Jeff Bezos' Seattle area garage in July of 1995. The book was Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.

During its first month in business, Amazon.com received orders from people in 50 U.S. states and 45 countries across the world.


3. The Dotcom Crash & Jeff Bezos' Optimism




Amazon.com survived the dotcom crash, but was hit hard. From a high of around $100, at one point its shares reached a low of just $6.

In fact, Amazon.com saw losses of $3 billion in its early years and didn't report a profit until the last quarter of 2001 -- six years after launch. It didn't see full-year profit until 2003.

Bezos, however, was not fazed by the drop. Fast Company reported on a presentation the Amazon.com founder made to a PC Forum conference in 2001:

"First, Bezos showed a slide focusing on Amazon's stock as it fell from its $100-a-share peak (adjusted for splits) to its $6 nadir. If you look at things this way, he said, you're a pessimist. Then he displayed a slide charting Amazon's cumulative wealth creation as a sharp upward line between two points: the day the stock went public ($1.50, split-adjusted) and that day ($11.64). I prefer to look at it this way, Bezos told the tough crowd, and that's why I'm an optimist."


4. Amazon.com's "Door Desks"




One of the reasons that Amazon.com managed to survive was that it didn't go for the dotcom excesses to which other startups of the time succumbed.

In fact, Amazon.com's offices boasted cheap "door desks," described by former Amazon.com employee (and creator of the site's recommendation engine) Greg Linden as "the quintessential example of Amazon's frugality."

"Buy a wooden door, preferably a hollow core wooden door with no holes predrilled. Saw a couple 4" x 4" x 6' pillars in half. Bolt them to the door with a couple of scary looking angle brackets. Put it in front of a programmer. Door desk," explains Linden.

Some of the desks are still around today. The example in the photo above was caught on camera at Amazon.com's PAC-MED offices in Seattle.


5. The Meaning Behind the Amazon.com Logo




As you can see in slide two, the Amazon.com logo began as an abstract river design. After a few design changes, in 2000 the logo was re-imagined as the Turner Duckworth design we see today.

In the words of the brand design agency, the smile and arrow say "we're happy to deliver anything, anywhere."

In an Amazon.com press release from the time, the retailer stated "a smile now begins under the a and ends with a dimple under the z, emphasizing that Amazon.com offers anything, from A to Z, that customers may be looking to buy online."

When introduced in the early '00s, the logo was sometimes animated with the arrow moving under the letters, but it was nixed after some suggested the arrow looked a little, er, phallic.


6. Call the Service Desk and You Might Get the CEO




To help understand the customer service process, every Amazon.com employee spends two days every two years on the service desk handling calls -- even the CEO.

"It's both fun and useful," Jeff Bezos told Bloomberg Business Week. "One call I took many years ago was from a customer who had bought 11 things from 11 sellers -- and typed in the wrong shipping address."


7. Amazon.com Once Sold a CD-ROM for $2,904,980,000




In 2010, Brian Klug saw an unusually expensive item for sale from an Amazon.com affiliate -- for almost $3 billion. Out of curiosity Klug decided to try and buy the item, despite the $3.99 shipping cost.

Although the order for the CD-ROM initially appeared to have been processed, Klug later received an email from Amazon.com saying it was "unable to complete the order." Klug also received a follow-up phone call from Amazon.com to make sure he had received the order cancellation notice.


8. Susan Boyle Broke Amazon.com Records




In October 2009 Britain's Got Talent's Susan Boyle was the unlikely star to smash Amazon.com records.

Her album, I Dreamed a Dream, became the largest CD pre-order both in the U.S. and globally. It beat Norah Jones, U2, Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay to nab the top slot.


9. Jeff Bezos is Building a 10,000 Year Clock




It might sound like a mad scientist's magnum opus, but Amazon.com boss Bezos is currently involved in a project to build a 10,000 Year Clock.

The clock will tick once a year, the century hand will advance once every 100 years, and the cuckoo will make an appearance on the millennium.

In Bezos' own words "It's a special clock, designed to be a symbol, an icon for long-term thinking." Described as being "of monumental scale" it's being built inside a mountain in West Texas.


10. Amazon's Own Brands




As well as AmazonBasics and the Kindle brand, Amazon.com has three more "house" or "private" labels. The "Pike Street" and "Pinzon" ranges are made up of kitchen and household goods while "Strathwood" covers garden furniture.

As far as the names go, speculation suggests "Pinzon" is named after Vicente Yanez Pinzon, a Spanish explorer who discovered an estuary of the Amazon River. We guess "Pike Street" is named after the Seattle location, but aren't sure where "Strathwood" comes in. If you have an idea then shout it out in the comments below.

More About: amazon, amazon.com, business, ecommerce, facts, gallery, List, Lists, online shopping, retail

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What Would You Give Up To Work From Home? [POLL]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 11:42 AM PDT


You know those mornings when you would sell your soul to avoid the commute to work? Well, according to a recent survey, 40% of people would make a less-than-comparable sacrifice: a pay cut.

Staples Advantage recently conducted an online survey about telecommuting with 140 respondents across various industries. Yes, that pool is admittedly small, but the results got us wondering about how our readers feel about the prospect of working from home.

The survey found that 54% would give up their favorite TV show to work from home, 48% would nix an hour of sleep for the opportunity and 40% would swear off a favorite food. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed who telecommute said that they were productive at home, and 73% said that they eat healthier when on the homestead.

What do you think of these findings? Do they jibe with your own experience? Weigh in below.


Image courtesy of Flickr, Ollie Crafoord

More About: telecommuting

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Sonos Play:3 Wireless Speaker Delivers Big Sound In a Smaller Package [PICS]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 11:31 AM PDT


Sonos released its smaller but still powerful Play:3 all-in-one speaker this week. We tried the new speaker side-by-side with the larger Sonos Play:5 (formerly the S5) to determine if there’s any sacrifice to spending $299 on a Wi-Fi compatible speaker compared with the Play:5′s $399 price.

These wireless (except for an electrical cable) speaker systems can be configured either as single speakers or in stereo pairs, and placed throughout the home. They can play the same music at the same time, or each can play different songs. And they can connect with practically any Internet music source (think Spotify and Pandora) as well as iOS devices, mobile phones, music players, Android phones and tablets.

With a $49 Sonos wireless bridge plugged into your home network, the speakers communicate with each other, your computers and mobile devices via Wi-Fi, allowing you to place up to 16 of the speakers wherever you like.

The Play:3 (available in black or white) is intended to offer the same robust sound of its larger and more expensive brother, but costs $100 less and fits in tighter spaces. The Play:3 has three drivers inside — two woofers and a tweeter — along with three digital amplifiers. The Play:5 has five drivers and five digital amplifiers.

How does the Play:3 sound? In a word: clean. In a sentence: It’s almost as powerful as the Play:5, but you probably won’t notice the difference unless you compare them side-by-side.

The Play:3 can’t play quite as loud as its bigger brandmate, and I detected slightly less bass response. But that’s not to say the Play:3 is a slouch in the bass department — to the contrary, it cranks out a surprising amount of thump for its size.

As can be expected, the larger Play:5 sounds slightly tighter and cleaner in the midrange when directly comparing the two models, delivers floor-shaking bass powerful enough to irritate even the most patient neighbors, and will play so loud that someone will be yelling “turn that down!” before you reach the end of your first song.

It’s been said that once you go Sonos, you’ll never go back, and even though the company’s speaker systems are more expensive than most, they sound better than most, too. You actually get what you pay for here, and once you start collecting these Sonos speakers, you’ll probably want one (or maybe a pair of these playing in stereo) in your bathroom. Perfect for small rooms, the Sonos Play:3 is a worthy addition to this exclusive club.

Check out the tour of the Play:3 below, where we compare its size and girth with that of its larger sibling:


Sonos Play:3 Gallery




Here's the Sonos Play:3 next to an average-sized apple, to give you an idea of its size. For the numerically inclined, its dimensions are 10.5" x 5.2" x 6.3".


Sonos Play:3 Front View





Sonos Play:3 : Side View




Notice the rubber feet, allowing you to orient the speaker vertically as well.


Sonos Play:3 front/side view





Sonos Play:3 Rear View




There's an Ethernet port if you're not using Wi-Fi, and there's also a tripod mount for placing the unit on a stand.


Sonos Play:3 Top View





Sonos Play:3 Controls




Situated identically to the larger Sonos Play:5, the Play:3's controls are simple -- a volume up/down rocker switch and a mute button. Between them is a pilot light. For setup, you push the up-volume and mute buttons at the same time.


Sonos Play:3 and Play:5 Comparison




Here are the two side-by-side, with an apple between to give you an idea of their size. For the amount of sound these speakers emit, they're surprisingly small -- the Play:3 is 10.5″ x 5.2″ x 6.3″ (W x H x D) and the Play:5 is 14.4" x 8.5" x 4.8".


Sonos Play:3 and Play:5 Comparison




The $299 Play:3 has three drivers and amplifiers inside, while the $399 Play:5 has five of each.


Sonos Play:3 and Play:5 Comparison




The Play:3 is smaller overall, but about 2 inches deeper than the Play:5


Sonos Play:3 and Play:5 Comparison




Both are equally handsome.


Sonos Play:3 and Play:5 Comparison




Another depth and size comparison

More About: review, S5, sonos, Sonos Play:3, wi-fi, Wireless speakers

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Oslo Bombing Prompts Experimenting With Google+ as Breaking News Tool

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 11:06 AM PDT


When a massive vehicle bomb went off Friday in Oslo, Norway, it was easier at first to find news about it on Google+ than Google itself. The search giant may have lost the relationship with Twitter that enabled its realtime search, but it has created a tool that can potentially compete with Twitter’s instant information fire hose.

Like Twitter, one advantage that Google+ has in breaking news situations is the ability to easily create a feed around any topic. On Twitter, this feed is called a list. On Google+, circles can be used the same way. Google+ user Siegfried Hirsch, for instance, has already suggested a list of Google+ users for following the Oslo bombing that includes reporters and residents of Oslo.

The latter group used Google+ to react to the bombing and post updates, similar to how many have used Twitter or Facebook in the past.

Google+ as a breaking news tool is far from perfect. Ironically, its biggest problem is search. Profiles include a “people search” but no topic search. The platform does have a content recommendation and discovery platform, Sparks, but its results for “Oslo bomb” look sparse compared to the results that a query for “Oslo site:plus.google.com” turns up on Google’s general search engine.

There’s also no way to easily pass on circles to other people. So while assembling a dedicated newsfeed is easy, sharing it requires that someone else visit each profile on the list and add it manually.

Despite its flaws, Google+ seems to be holding its own as a tool for breaking news, especially for a platform that is still invite only. We don’t know what tweaks to the platform are in the pipeline, but if they’re the right ones, there’s a chance that Google won’t miss its Twitter-enabled real-time search as much as we thought.

Image courtesy of Twitpic, Geir-Olav Goksoyr

More About: Google, Google Plus, oslo, twitter

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Dexter Fans: Michael C. Hall Answers Your Questions [VIDEO]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 10:49 AM PDT


Showtime kicked off the opening night of Comic-Con 2011 with an event to promote the release of “Dexter Slice of Life,” a complex show-themed social game for Facebook, developed by Ecko Code, that will follow the episodic narrative of Season 6 and include game updates immediately after each new episode airs.

Mashable was invited to interview Michael C. Hall, the man who plays the serial killer of all serial killers, at the event. We asked you, our readers, to submit your best questions.

Reader Cam McNeely wanted to know if Hall brings any nuances or traits of his character David from Six Feet Under to his role as Dexter. Djamel Mimoun asked about Hall’s favorite season and episode, which prompted a very provocative response from the actor.

We followed that one up with a question, courtesy of Mashable reader Craig Johnson, about whether playing the role of a dark serial killer has taken a toll on his off-screen life.

Meanwhile, Adam de la Mare had a very Comic-Con appropriate question — is Hall a Batman or Spiderman kind of guy? Finally, Shauna Stroud was curious about whether the show would incorporate more of the themes and stories in Jeff Lindsay’s novels.

What did he say? You’ll have to watch to find out.

More About: comic-con 2011, dexter, Dexter Slice of Life, michael c hall, san diego comic con 2011, Showtime

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Rdio Hits 10 Million Songs, Music Subscription Service War Rages On

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 10:06 AM PDT


Spotify may have launched in the U.S. at long last, but that doesn’t mean that all other offerings laid down and died at the service’s feet. Case in point: Rdio‘s catalog has just hit the 10 million song mark.

The social music service was previously reporting that it had “more than 9 million songs,” and now that number is up to 10 million. For comparison’s sake: Spotify has 15 million songs, MOG has 11 million, Rhapsody 12 has million and Slacker Radio boasts more than 8 million (check out our music subscription comparison chart for more info).

Yes, the change from 9 million to 10 million songs may not seem like that much of a leap, but it speaks to the growing digital music space, now replete with contenders and plucky upstarts like still-in-beta Turntable.fm, which recently (and notably) reached licensing agreements with BMI and ASCAP.

Image courtesy of Flickr, all that improbable blue

More About: MOG, music-subscription-service, rdio, rhapsody, Slacker-Radio, spotify

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5 Social Good Websites Aimed at Youth

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 09:39 AM PDT

kids image

Adora Svitak is author of three books — Flying Fingers, Dancing Fingers and Yang in Disguise. She is one of the TED Conference's youngest speakers and the curator of youth event TEDxRedmond. Since age 7 she has been drumming up excitement about reading and writing among fellow students.

You know that teenagers are using the internet for social networking, self-expression and even school-work. But that stereotypically self-absorbed, trite teen you see on Facebook might just have an altruistic side. Throughout the years, countless youth have founded charities, raised money, and dedicated time and money to service; today, new websites help more students do exactly that.

A growing number of websites are centered around youth activism — whether networks of like-minded young people trying to solve problems, or large charities attracting awareness and donations through trivia websites. Below are five major websites attracting young people who want to help the world and prove that “adolescence + Internet” can be a worthwhile equation .


1. TakingITGlobal




TakingITGlobal, an online social network for young people, is centered around linking youth around the world in order to solve problems. Joining the community opens up forums where students can write their ideas and ask for suggestions from fellow TakingITGlobal members. Students can then go to "Action Tools" and start enacting a solution.

One example is the DeforestACTION campaign, which aims to halt the destruction of rainforests. Sleek graphics and gamification elements help the project attract users, sign pledges, donate money and spread the word online.


2. RandomKid




RandomKid emphasizes three-step solutions where you select a world issue (clean water, animal welfare, etc.), choose a solution (provided by various organizations, or create your own) and "Make it Happen" by collecting donations on your project's page and spreading the word.

Students can donate to other youth projects that come under RandomKid's 501(c)3 umbrella and contribute to a community seed fund.


3. KooDooz




KooDooz is an interactive social network for "youth who want to make a difference." Challenges are customized based on the age inputted by the user. For example, a challenge relating to stopping teen dating violence might not appear for an eight-year-old while it would for older users. KooDooz requires users to register in order to access challenges and information.

Registration is free but requires a parent or guardian's permission. Donation buttons are well-placed across the site, while privacy safeguards, like the parental permission, help attract a younger audience.


4. DoSomething.org




DoSomething.org features more teen-related content and has a simple interface. With its drop down-list search questions, teens can look for projects based on four criteria (What Cause? Who With? Where? and How Long?). The site's "How Long?" search criteria allows teens to find project based on how much time they can commit, from one minute up to one year. DoSomething also offers grants to worthwhile projects, and online resources.


5. FreeRice (World Food Programme)




Unlike the other sites on this list, Freerice (which benefits the World Food Programme) is not a social network and appeals to a wide audience of users. Adults can (and often do) visit the site which asks users to answer questions in return for donating rice to needy communities. The site was initially established by a dad looking to prepare his teenaged son for the SATs. It attracts a dedicated following of educators and students alike. Sponsors donate grains of rice for each correct answer.

Many teachers use Freerice as a teaching tool. The "Groups" tool allows a school or classroom to compete against one another to do good. Even with all the healthy competition, the rice raised by gameplayers all goes to further the same cause: Eradicating hunger.

Other websites for education, like iEarn and ePals, link young people from around the world to fellow students in other nations, like digital pen pals. They can work together to solve problems and learn about each other's cultures. Youth do frequently organize on a local scale, as well. Teenage Simone Bernstein founded St. Louis Volunteen, for example, a comprehensive website of youth volunteering opportunities in the St. Louis area.


Image courtesy of Flickr, paul goyette

More About: charity, Children, kid, Kids, non-profit, philanthropy, social good, social media, social platforms, web, websites, youth

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10 Reasons Why City Governments Should Embrace Hackathons

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 09:05 AM PDT

nyc image

Rachel Sterne is Chief Digital Officer for the City of New York, where she focuses on the City’s digital media strategy. You can follow her on Twitter @RachelSterne or follow the City @nycgov.

Today is the last day to sign up for Reinvent NYC.GOV, the City’s first-ever hackathon. Civic-minded designers and developers who want to help improve NYC government are encouraged to apply at: reinventnycgov.com.

Why have we decided to invite the best and brightest of NYC’s tech community to help us improve NYC.gov? Here’s the backstory.


Improving Our Digital Footprint


When we asked New Yorkers for their input on New York City’s “Road Map for the Digital City,” one of the biggest topics of feedback was NYC.gov, the City government’s main digital presence.

Some New Yorkers praised the scope of information offered and ability to pay bills and look up records online. Others suggested we had room for improvement. Comments included: “NYC.gov is a little hard to navigate/search,” “NYC.gov could use a refresh” and “NYC.gov is just too unwieldy.” The refrain was clear: The site was muddy, but we had an opportunity to make NYC.gov more cohesive and user-centric while integrating it with different communication channels in social media.

Last week, New York City Government and General Assembly announced Reinvent NYC.GOV, our first-ever hackathon to help solve this challenge in an open, transparent, participatory environment.

Taking place July 30 to 31 at entrepreneurship-focused community learning space General Assembly, it’s an important step in our our Road Map to realize NYC’s digital potential. Here are a few reasons why we’re doing it:


Why NYC Is Hosting a Hackathon


  • 1. It will bridge sectors and connect the government and technology communities around a shared challenge.
  • 2. It will encourage collaborative problem-solving and a more open government. We’ve invited developers to share their ideas for improving a major digital “public space.” NYC.gov has almost as many visitors each year as Central Park and should be similarly cared for.
  • 3. It will create a mechanism for the public to share feedback and ideas for a website that exists to serve them.
  • 4. It can serve as a model for other governments, helping to affect national and international change.
  • 5. It will introduce creative and innovative concepts that could help to evolve NYC.gov to be more efficient and effective in serving and empowering New Yorkers.
  • 6. It will provide both individuals and teams with face-to-face access to the City’s decision makers.
  • 7. It creates a precedent and platform for evolving government through open innovation and participation.
  • 8. It will serve as the first step in a transparent design process. We want to gather as much input as possible. This is a way to move quickly to achieve our goals.
  • 9. It helps remove subjectivity from the design process by clearly showing what the public wants and needs.
  • 10. It equips developers with the internal data they need to make user experience decisions, such as analytics, as well as support from our tech partners, including DonorsChoose, ExpertLabs, Facebook, Foursquare, Google, Meetuo and YouTube.

We think this model is an important part of New York City’s digital Road Map and feel that it can be an effective piece for other cities, as well. What are your ideas for the future of NYC.gov? Tell us in the comments below or tweet using the hashtag #reinventnycgov.


Image courtesy of Flickr, houyin

More About: dev, developer, government, hack, hackathon, new york, new york city, NYC, nyc.gov, politics, social media

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Google+ Hits 20 Million Visitors, Gender Ratio Begins To Even [STATS]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 08:46 AM PDT


Already using Google+? Follow Mashable’s Pete Cashmore for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as social media and technology updates.

Google+ has hit 20 million unique visitors, 60% of whom are 18 to 25 years old and 63% of whom are male, according to comScore.

Only 5 million of those visitors are from the U.S., according to the data. The next biggest audience for Google+ is in India, which is closing in on 3 million visitors.

Austin, Texas, ranks highest in the U.S. for Google+ penetration. New York is the biggest market, but when comparing the number of unique visitors in the city to its large population, it doesn't make the list of top indexing U.S. cities. A recent report from Hitwise offered a breakdown of Google+’s U.S. market share, showing New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco were driving the most traffic to the network.

Andrew Lipsman, vice president of industry analysis at comScore, says despite some claims that Google+ growth has slowed, he has never seen a web property take off so quickly. Lipsman, who has been studying web traffic figures for six years, says Twitter's growth in the spring of 2009 from 4 million uniques to 20 million uniques comes the closest, but that took Twitter a few months.

ComScore also found that despite early reports that Google+ visitors were nearly all male, the ratio is now 63:37, which is closer to Hitwise’s recent figures. For a deeper dive into the data, see the charts below:


Google+ Visitors




Google+ is now at around 20 million unique visitors after launching on June 28.


Google+ International Breakdown




Google+'s biggest market is the U.S., but India isn't far behind.


Google+ Gender




After initially skewing heavily male, Google+'s gender breakdown is approaching 50/50.


Google+ U.S. Markets




Austin, Texas, has the highest penetration of Google+ users, though New York is the biggest market in terms of size. The numbers show percentage of users compared to city population; a 100 index denotes the average.

More About: ComScore, facebook, Google, Google Plus, twitter

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Oslo Bombing Captured on Twitter & YouTube [PHOTOS]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 08:21 AM PDT


A massive vehicle bomb went off in central Oslo today late afternoon local time, injuring dozens and damaging several government buildings.

ABC News cites a Norwegian news source that says one person has died. The bomb went off near government buildings, including the prime minister’s office. The prime minister is safe.

The Mirror reports that the explosion was enough to set the nearby oil ministry on fire.

Oslo residents in the area have already started to chronicle the situation via Twitter and YouTube. We’ve compiled some of these videos and photos.


Oslo Bombing




Courtesy of VGanders


Outside




Courtesy of Twitpic


Street View




Courtesy of Twitpic


Aerial View




Geir-Olav Goksøyr, Twitpic


Oslo Building




Courtesy of Twitpic


Oslo Blast




Courtesy of Twitpic


Exterior




Courtesy of Twitpic


Windows




Courtesy of Twitpic


Outside




Courtesy of Twitpic


From Above




Courtesy of Twitpic


Inside




Courtesy of Twitpic

Image courtesy of Bruise Pristine

More About: Norway, oslo, politics, terrorism, trending

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Twitter Finally Unlocks New St. Vincent Track, “Surgeon”

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 07:47 AM PDT


On Tuesday, musician St. Vincent (a.k.a Annie Erin Clark) launched a Twitter campaign asking fans to tweet #strangemercy to unlock a new track from her upcoming album, Strange Mercy.

A few days and 5,000 tweets later, the track has finally been set loose on the world, just in time for the heat-soaked weekend: It starts off a lazy, floaty summery jam and then spirals off into an electronic melee toward the tail end.

You can nab the track via the dedicated website, which also features a series of videos playing on the theme of “strange mercy.” Check out my favorite below, featuring a voiceover from the velvet-voiced Devonté Hynes — a.k.a. Blood Orange.

You can also nab the song here.

More About: music, St. Vincent, strange-mercy, twitter

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This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

6 Smart Steps to Mastering Engagement with Your Target Audiences [SPONSORED]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 07:46 AM PDT


This post is brought to you by Marketwire, which helps communication professionals bridge the gap between the old and new media environments. For more information on sponsored posts read here.

The way we communicate today has changed. And – oops! – there it goes again. Changes in how we engage and the tools we use are constant, and they are only going to get faster and faster. So how can anyone really keep up, let alone master this new world of communications?

Easy. Learn more in Marketwire's free eBook series at Engage.Marketwire.com.

We've pulled together some of the industry's wisest voices to serve as your consultants, including Paul Gillin, social media marketing guru and co-author of the new "Social Marketing to the Business Customer" guide, and Brian Solis, principal, Altimeter Group and author of Engage!. These experts, along with others, will provide advice that's certain to help you in your communication efforts.

Marketwire's free eBook series provides six smart steps to follow that will help guide you through the new media environment and help you reinvent your role as an audience engagement professional. Each chapter discusses a different step in the Audience Engagement Cycle, a constantly evolving process for turning your brand’s audience into brand ambassadors:

  • Chapter 1: "Listen. You Can't Answer the Questions You Don't Hear."
  • Chapter 2: "Plan. How Can You Measure Success If You Don't Know What Success Looks Like?"
  • Chapter 3: "Create. Presto! You're a Publisher."
  • Chapter 4: "Share. Hello. My Name Is…"
  • Chapter 5: "Engage. No More Sitting on the Edge of the Pool — It's Time To Dive In."
  • Chapter 6: "Analyze. Are We There Yet?"

You can download Chapter 1 today, and learn why listening is the best first step to any communications strategy and an integral part of understanding customer behavior. You'll also learn how to read between the digital lines to gain insight into what's really being said in social media and how those with influence can impact your company and your brand.

(This post is brought to you by Marketwire, which helps communication professionals bridge the gap between the old and new media environments. For more information on sponsored posts read here.)

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Google+ To Challenge Facebook for Game Developers With Lower Fees [REPORT]

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 07:09 AM PDT


Already using Google+? Follow Mashable’s Pete Cashmore for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as social media and technology updates.

If the 10 million users that still-invite-only Google+ accumulated in just two weeks weren’t enough to make Facebook nervous, the latest report about the new social network’s gaming platform might. Google will take a smaller percentage of revenue away from game developers than Facebook does, reports All Things D.

Google reportedly will also, unlike Facebook, host games on its own servers — which could make them faster and less buggy.

The Google+ code includes mentions of a gaming platform, and Google has reportedly invested as much as $200 million in the dominant social gaming company Zynga. But there’s been no official word about if and when the game platform for Google will launch or what it will look like.

Google did, however, make in-app payments available to web developers this week. This is a technology that would be required for in-game payments, All Things D points out, and Google is only charging a 5% fee for the service.

If Google sticks in this ballpark with its fees for game developers, it will be severely undercutting the industry standard of 30% set by Facebook and Apple.

More About: facebook, games, Google, Google Plus

For more Dev & Design coverage:


Thanks to Mashable’s Socially Savvy Supporters

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 06:55 AM PDT


Thanks to this week's advertisers and partners for enabling us to bring you the latest social media news and resources. Mashable’s sponsors are as social media savvy as our readers!

Advertise with us and get noticed.

Mashable is seeking site sponsors for our large, diverse audience — social media users, venture capitalists, early adopters, developers, bloggers and many more. You’ll receive hundreds of thousands of views per day in addition to weekly recognition as part of our “thank you” to our premium sponsors. Are you interested? Contact us for more information and to receive our media kit and rate card.

This week, our valued sponsors are: Cisco, CBS Interactive, Lenovo, Campaigner®, CITGO and the Fueling Good Campaign, The Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Truck, The Awareness Social Marketing Hub, AceProject, 7MainStreet, LoopFuse, BMW i, Discover Digital Group, Global Strategic Management Institute, Ford,, Sprout Social, Site24x7, IDG, CUNY School of Professional Studies, Oneupweb, SoftLayer, SRDS, Buddy Media, Clickatell, Microsoft BizSpark, MaxCDN and Eventbrite.


The Network, Cisco’s technology news site. The Network features technology news, trends and information on video, collaboration, core networks, mobility, security, data, Cisco culture and social media. To subscribe to The Network, click here. You can also submit your story ideas here.

Cisco supports Mashable’s Buzzword Breakdown Series. Follow Cisco on Twitter and Facebook.


CBS Interactive, which helps brands find the perfect audience with a network of #1 sites like CBS.com, CBS Sports and GameSpot. To see how our exclusive content, video and mobile can help you engage with your ideal target, visit CBSInteractive.com/ideal.

CBSInteractive supports Mashable’s Consumer Trends Series. Follow CBSInteractive on Twitter and Facebook.


Lenovo. Lenovo does not just manufacture technology. They make Do machines — super-powered creation engines designed to help the people who do, do more, do better, do in brand new ways.

Lenovo supports Mashable’s Tech Innovators Series. Follow Lenovo on Twitter and Facebook.


Campaigner® email marketing enables small, medium and large businesses to strengthen customer relationships and drive sales by connecting to their customers quickly, simply and affordably. Visit www.campaigner.com to learn more.

Campaigner® supports Mashable’s Social Marketing Series. Follow Campaigner® on Twitter and Facebook.


CITGO and the Fueling Good Campaign, helping to change the world one mile at a time through contributions to local charities.

CITGO and the Fueling Good Campaign support Mashable’s Stars of Social Good Series. Follow the Fueling Good Campaign on Twitter and Facebook.


In New York City or San Francisco and want a free scoop? Try the Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Truck.

The Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Truck supports Mashable’s Social-Savvy Food Truck Series. Follow the Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Truck on Twitter at @BenJerrysTruck and @BenJerrysWest.


The Awareness Social Marketing Hub is the leading social media marketing software for marketers to publish, manage, measure and engage across the social web. The Awareness Social Marketing Hub is leveraged by companies of all sizes including Sony, MLB, American Cancer Society, and Starwood Hotels. Request a demo here.

Awareness supports Mashable’s Social Media For Business Leaders Series. Follow Awareness on Twitter and Facebook.


AceProject is a collaboration-oriented project management web application that empowers you to manage projects, tasks and time sheets. Create your free AceProject account here.

AceProject supports Mashable’s Digital Collaboration Series. Follow AceProject on Twitter.


7MainStreet is the first company to combine social networking, e-commerce, and comprehensive business reviews and listings. 7MainStreet helps organizations of all sizes.

Follow 7MainStreet on Twitter and Facebook.


LoopFuse provides forever-free marketing automation software that closes the loop between sales and marketing with smarter lead capture, scoring, and nurturing — plus Salesforce.com integration. LoopFuse helps marketers build better pipelines, run more efficient marketing operations, and enable more effective sales teams leading to increased revenue and reduced costs. Learn more about lead nurturing with LoopFuse.

LoopFuse supports Mashable’s Social Ad Series. Follow Loopfuse on Twitter and Facebook.


BMW i is a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles — it delivers smart mobility services. Visit bmw-i.com.

BMW i supports Mashable’s Global Innovation Series. Follow BMW i on Twitter and Facebook.


Discover Digital Group is a unique consultancy that focuses on identifying new e-revenue opportunities for both Fortune 1000 and startup clients alike. From developing new digital products to generating new audiences and revenue for existing online products, it creates smarter, more effective solutions for your business challenges. Follow DDG on Facebook to get a taste of the insights that are offered.

DDG supports Mashable’s Social CMO Series. Follow DDG on Twitter and Facebook.


Global Strategic Management Institute is a leading source of knowledge for today's leaders. Its Social Media Strategies Series are the leading educational events for organizations looking to advance their online capabilities. Learn more at socialmediastrategiessummit.com.

GSMI supports Mashable’s Social Media 101 Series. Follow GSMI on Twitter and Facebook.


Ford supports Mashable Explore. The Content Exploration Series is presented by Mashable Explore, a new way to discover resources and information on your favorite Mashable topics. Mashable Explore is brought to you by the all-new, 100% reinvented 2011 Ford Explorer. Drive One.

Check out Mashable Explore here and follow Ford on Twitter and Facebook.


Site24x7, an online website monitoring service which allows users to monitor their website, web application and online web transactions. Users can get instant alerts when their website goes down. Site24x7 allows monitoring from across 25+ global locations. Site24x7 pricing starts from $1/Month/URL. Sign up for a 15-day Free Trial!

Follow Site24x7 on Twitter and Facebook.


With the explosion of mobile devices, advertising dollars will begin to shift to mobile for tech marketers this year. IDG Global Solutions President Matt Yorke talks about the rise of social and how IDG helps marketers create social campaigns. The line is fading between social media and traditional media. Earned media or sharing of information within social networks is becoming mainstream whether on a PC or mobile device. Learn more.

IDG supports Mashable’s Modern Media Agency Series.


Oneupweb is an agency specializing in search marketing, social media and design for mid-to-enterprise level brands. Keep up with Oneupweb through its blog and monthly newsletter.

Oneupweb supports Mashable’s Behind the Social Media Campaign Series. Follow Oneupweb on Twitter and Facebook.


SoftLayer provides global, on-demand data center and hosting services from facilities across the U.S. it leverages best-in-class connectivity and technology to innovate industry leading, fully automated solutions that empower enterprises with complete access, control, security, and scalability.

Follow SoftLayer on Twitter and Facebook.


SRDS connects agencies, brands and media through its online database of media planning data. SRDS is committed to making it easier to buy online ad space and build integrated marketing campaigns. Sign up for a free 14-day trial of the SRDS consumer and business database here.

Follow SRDS on Twitter and Facebook.


Buddy Media is Power Tools for Facebook. Have something new to tell 500 million people? Learn the best way to manage multiple brands on Facebook with this webinar.

Buddy Media supports Mashable’s Facebook Marketing Series, which is about how brands can advertise on Facebook. Follow Buddy Media on Twitter and Facebook.


Clickatell was the first provider of Online SMS Gateway connectivity, and after 10 years, is still the leading provider. Clickatell can deliver your SMS text messages to over 818 mobile networks in more than 222 countries and territories.

Follow Clickatell on Twitter and Facebook.


BizSpark is a program which offers new software businesses and entrepreneurs access to Microsoft design, development and production tools with no upfront costs for up to three years. Learn more or connect with a Microsoft BizSpark advisor here.

BizSpark supports Mashable’s weekly Spark of Genius Series, which showcases promising startups. Follow Microsoft BizSpark on Twitter and Facebook.


Mashable uses MaxCDN – Content Delivery Network to deliver its static content such as pictures, helping Mashable load much faster. Try it on your site now, and get a 25% discount with this coupon code: mashable.

Follow MaxCDN on Twitter and Facebook.


Eventbrite is an online events marketplace where tens of thousands of individuals, businesses and organizations of all sizes manage, promote and sell tickets to their events. Make your event a success on Eventbrite.

Eventbrite sponsors Mashable’s weekly social media and marketing event guide. Follow Eventbrite on Twitter and Facebook.


Additionally, thanks to the following partners for making Mashable happen:


Intridea is an application development consultancy specializing in Ruby on Rails and mobile development, and has worked with many Fortune 500 companies and funded startups. Visit intridea.com or call 1-888-968-IDEA (4332).

Intridea has created the official Mashable apps for platforms including Android, iPad, and the Mac App Store. Follow Intridea on Twitter and Facebook.


Webtrends founded the web analytics industry in 1993. Today, its leadership extends much further to social media measurement, paid-search optimization and connecting the online and offline data silos scattered throughout organizations. Webtrends helps you analyze the data generated by your web site, blogs, online campaigns and enterprise systems to understand your customers and, ultimately, business opportunities.

Follow Webtrends on Twitter and Facebook.


Since 2007 W3 EDGE has assisted with creative, web development, and search and social media marketing for Mashable.com and its other web properties and projects. Day-to-day maintenance and support is handled by Frederick Townes and his W3 EDGE team.

Follow W3 EDGE on Twitter.


Rackspace Hosting is the world’s leader in the hosting and cloud computing industry. The San Antonio-based company provides Fanatical Support® to its customers across a portfolio of IT services. For more information, visit rackspace.com.

Mashable.com is hosted on Rackspace, and Rackspace sponsors Mashable’s Web Development Series. Check it out here, and follow Rackspace on Twitter.


iStockphoto offers easy, affordable inspiration with millions of safe, royalty-free photos, illustrations, video, audio and Flash® files. Browse the best stock library of royalty free content at prices anyone can afford. Mashable readers save 10%.

Mashable sources many of its photos from iStockphoto. Follow iStockphoto on Twitter and Facebook.


Dyn Inc. is a world leader in managed DNS, powering the best brands on the web including Gowalla, Mashable, Twitter, Wikia and more. For more information about Dyn Inc., visit www.dyn.com, e-mail hello@dyn.com or call +1-603-668-4998.

Mashable provides exclusive content on Dyn.com. Check it out here, and follow Dyn on Twitter and Facebook.


ConcentricSky offers web and mobile development with a focus on emerging technologies. With partners ranging from National Geographic and Encyclopedia Britannica to NASA and The World Bank, Concentric Sky is known for delivering innovative, world-class software solutions.

Concentric Sky is the only App Developer officially endorsed by Mashable. Learn more here, and follow ConcentricSky on Twitter.


We can get your name out there.


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