12 May, 2012



How to design web sites for tablets

Posted: 12 May 2012 08:30 AM PDT

This story is brought to you by Sourcebits, a Global leader in Strategy, User Experience & Engineering for Mobile & Cloud. Follow Sourcebits on Twitter for recent news and updates.

Imagine a website that looks horrible on a tablet. Or worse, doesn’t even actually function.

Oh wait, you don’t have to … because today, two whole years after the iPad picked up the dead tablet industry and whipped it into roaring, raging life, many websites are not optimized for tablets. Even new ones. Shocking? Sure. Unthinkable? Maybe. Unfortunately, however, it’s reality. And it’s not just the obscure little sites, either — try using Google Docs on your iPad for anything other than viewing.

Google Docs doesn’t like mobile Safari …

What’s the problem? 

Sometimes it’s the simple stuff: a site with links and clickable images that are just a little bit too small. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen has skewered this fat-fingered problem, particularly on midsize tables like the Kindle Fire. Not so surprisingly , a design built for a 15″ laptop screen or a 22″ monitor doesn’t always translate well to a 10″ iPad screen, and users have to make liberal use of the standard double-tap protocol to “big-ify” text and navigation. Make this a frequent necessity on your site, and they’ll want to double tap you, too.

Five key differences …

In general, there are at least five key differences between designing websites for tablets, and designing for desktops and laptops:

  • Size
    Tablets are generally smaller (who knew?).
  • Screen resolution
    Tablets have widely varying screen resolutions (from the Kindle Fire’s 600×1,024 to the new iPad’s 2,048-by-1,536 pixels). Orientation is flexible as well, so user could be viewing your site in landscape or portrait, widescreen or tall.
  • Compatibility
    Yes, there’s the problem with Adobe Flash. But also other plugins (Silverlight, anyone?) and even JavaScript-heavy computationally-intensive web apps can cause problems on tablets.
  • Touch interfaces
    This is the big one. The touch interface is fundamentally different from a traditional desktop/laptop experience. It requires bigger clickable elements and fewer hidden navigation elements.
  • Memory and CPU limitations
    The limitation is often overlooked, but tablets have less RAM (working memory) and punier CPUs, so media-intensive experiences can be challenging for tablet users.

So how do you design websites for tablet users?

Shawn Neumann, founder of the web agency Domain7, says the most important thing is to understand the user experience and strategize from there. “The desktop is the research or get-something-done place, and the phone is the on-the-run and killing-time device. The tablet is the living room, fireside device, but it’s also a catchall, a bridge between diving deep and getting quick info,” Neumann says.

“Sometimes a responsive approach works best,” Neumann suggests. A responsive website is fluid, adjusting to different screen sizes and display resolutions, so that theoretically the same site can be viewed on both large and small screens. Realistically, the results are not always optimal: “There are challenges around resolution thresholds,” he acknowledges. A design intended for large monitors won’t always look great on a 7″ screen. In that case, Neumann says, you cannot assume that you can deliver one design for all mediums. “The one-site experience doesn’t work anymore – you can’t assume that people will be able to zoom and pinch and see everything.”

That opens up a number of different possibilities, from building a mobile-friendly site, to sending users customized versions of your site based on the device they’re using. The mobile-friendly site can be challenging, particularly if it’s running off a different content management system (or none at all). Maintaining both sites can be challenging and expensive, and you risk annoying users who cannot access the full version of your site on their tablet. And in either case, you’re incurring extra development effort, extra cost.

In some cases you can use shortcuts: software like Pressly or OnSwipe. They’ll take your standard website and, with a little magic pixie dust, seamlessly output a version that is optimized for tablet viewing.

That’s the route that Jason Baptiste, chief executive and co-founder of OnSwipe, prefers. “The world is shifting from on-click to on-swipe, from a three-foot user experience to a one-foot,” he says. It’s a more focused, concentrated user interface, according to Baptiste, and it requires a different design approach. “Some camps say you should design once and publish everywhere. I think that’s a real cop-out. On a tablet you should be designing for touch.”

The implications are obvious

What works better on tablets? Simple, clean user interfaces with large, obvious, and well-spaced navigation and controls. Go easy on the interactivity and the heavy-duty plugins. Create a flexible framework that works well on multiple screen sizes. You may not be able to master every use case, but you’ll be close. And, decide if you’re willing to use a service to automatically reformat your site for tablets and other mobile viewers.

There’s a reason personalized content aggregators Flipboard and Pulse are so popular: they make the web beautiful on small devices. Watch what they’re doing and take notes on how your website might need to change.

The tablet market is exploding

More tablets are being sold every week. Research firm Gartner estimates that there will be 665 million tablets in use worldwide by 2016. And it’s not just volume: it’s quality. Adobe’s Digital Marketing Insights report shows that tablet visitors spend 20 percent more per purchase than regular website visitors, making them the exact kind of visitors you want.

The implication is clear: make your site tablet-friendly, or risk losing traffic … and revenue.

Photo credits: FlickrFlickr

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The biggest games of 2012, according to Walmart.com’s horrible copy writers

Posted: 11 May 2012 09:43 PM PDT

UPDATE: Walmart has replaced the original product description with text copied directly from Blizzard. Luckily, we have Google cache.

Walmart.com’s hilariously uninformed and grammatically unsound product description for Diablo III has been spreading across the Internet today. The unfortunate blurb on the store’s website includes such head-scratching comments as “The Diablo III PC/Mac Game revolves around an interesting plot which will keep you spell bound. while you are playing,” and “Bring home the PC video game to solve the mysteries of the mighty Barbarians.”

To be fair, anyone who knows how ridiculous that description is has already decided whether or not they’re buying the game on Tuesday, and people who don’t know what Diablo is probably shouldn’t be looking to that site for their purchasing decisions. The Internet likes to have its fun, though, so I think it would be in Walmart’s best interests to start writing up every product this way. I’ll get them started with some of the biggest releases coming out this year.

Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3 is an action-shooter game for the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/PC. It is a game where you shoot guys and take Max Payne’s trademark pain killers. Fight your way through an engrossing action pulp action story and take Max Payne to such exotic locales as New York, Rio de Janeiro, and stadium. Keep fighting for revenge no matter what! gets in your way.

Max Payne 3 Xbox360/Playstation 3/PC Game:

  • Fight through legions of enemies as the legendary Max Payne
  • Max Payne’s hair changes dynamically to fit the story
  • Use guns and take cover to engage in action.

Lollipop Chainsaw

Fight many zombies as iconic character Juliet in this Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game Lollipop Chain Saw. Juliet knows about zombies because she studied really hard. She is in high school. Take your trusty chainsaw and best friend head to work on the evil foes to destroy their plot and solve their mind-bending puzzles. There will be only one cheerleader left at the end of this awful night, and you’d better believe it’s going to be this one.

Lollipop Chainsaw  Xbox360/Playstation 3 Game:

  • Fight zombies with kicks and pom-poms and, as always, the sharpest chainsaw in the world
  • Dress up in cute outfits to gain magical powers and abilities
  • Engage in hardcore coop mode with your best friend, Head.

Resident Evil 6

Zombies are back in the latest chapter of the epic surviving horror classic series. Series heroes Leon F. Kennedy and Chris Redfield join forces for the first time to fight the dreaded “C Virus” once again in a crazy post-apocalyptic wasteland. This horror game continues to prove how dangerous zombies are, and it’s up to you to beat them down for good on the Xbox 360 and/or Playstation 3.

Resident Evil 6 Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 Game:

  • Fight zombies! More zombies you ask? Yes, way more
  • Unleash powerful weapons like Pistol and Shotgun, that only the most elite players can master.

Assassin’s Creed III

It has been a few years, but The Assassin is back on the Xbox 360 and PlaySation 3. In this action-stealth-city game, The Assassin travels back in time to stop anti-American forces before they can stop the future from happening. You don’t have to have played the other games to understand this one. Many people will be killed if they get in The Assassin’s way on his quest of vengeance and justice.

Assassin’s Creed III Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 Game:

  • Return to the Amnious, the mysterious source of The Assassin’s power
  • Ride on horses for the first time since the last game
  • Play the single player game in engaging multiplayer battles that add many features like Stealth Kills and Hiding.

GamesBeat 2012 is VentureBeat's fourth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. This year we’re calling on speakers from the hottest mobile, social, PC, and console companies to debate new ways to stay on pace with changing consumer tastes and platforms. Join 500+ execs, investors, analysts, entrepreneurs, and press as we explore the gaming industry's latest trends and newest monetization opportunities. The event takes place July 10-11 in San Francisco, and you can get your early-bird tickets here.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered

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HP officially getting back into tablets, this time with Windows 8

Posted: 11 May 2012 04:29 PM PDT


As expected, Hewlett-Packard has announced that it will start manufacturing tablets again, but instead of webOS these tablets will run Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 OS.

HP famously launched the webOS TouchPad tablet in July 2011 and then axed its whole Palm-based tablet and smartphone operation six weeks later. Consumers gobbled up the marked-down $99 TouchPads, but the company seemed like it was done with consumer tablets, at least for a spell. Now it will invest in tablets with the Windows 8 OS, which will likely appeal to consumers and businesses more than webOS did.

A few weeks back, an HP tablet running Windows 8 called the "Slate 8″ leaked on the web. That tablet reportedly is thinner than the newest iPad at 9.2mm thin and it will weigh .68 kilograms, feature a 10.1-inch display, and have battery life between 8 and 10 hours.

Windows 8 is due out later this year and is part of Microsoft's strategy to find a middle ground between tablets and PCs — much in the same way Apple has done with its OS X and iOS. A near-complete Windows 8 build will be released in early June, but as of now the company has not announced an official launch date for the OS. We've heard later in this year’s third quarter is the most likely launch time because the OS would be able to take advantage of holiday sales.

Take a look at the document that was leaked a few weeks ago to get an idea of what HP’s first tablet will probably look like:


Filed under: mobile

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Tumblr’s head of brand strategy takes off

Posted: 11 May 2012 03:51 PM PDT

Just a week into Tumblr’s grand money-making scheme, the company’s head of brand strategy has packed his bags and hit the road.

Matt Hackett, who was the trendy blogging platform’s head of brand strategy and marketing since September 2011, announced Friday via email that he was leaving Tumblr, Reuters journalist Matthew Keys first reported.

Hackett confirmed his exit on his personal tumblelog with a goofy, animated “memorial GIF” and a note indicating that today was his last day at the company. “I will definitely miss you guys,” Hackett wrote.

Tumblr is currently in the midst of its first serious advertising push. Last week, the New York-based company unveiled two advertising products — Tumblr Radar and Tumblr Spotlight — that it has started selling to approved sponsors for a minimum $25,000 package commitment. The move was largely seen as a turnabout for a company with a headstrong leader once vocally opposed to running advertisements.

Hackett is the second high-profile departure for five-year-old Tumblr, which has 55 million users and $125 million in funding but no real revenue to speak of — yet. Hackett follows Tumblr president John Maloney out the door. Maloney, in his position for four years, announced his departure at the end of April, just days prior to the company’s ad suite unveiling. Maloney said that he would continue to stay close to and advise CEO David Karp.

Tumblr did not immediately return a request for comment.

Photo credit: Matt Hackett/Tumblr

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As its popularity wanes, Turntable.fm finally launches an Android app

Posted: 11 May 2012 03:11 PM PDT

Turntable.fm on Android

The once ultra buzz-worthy streaming music startup Turntable.fm launched a native Android application today, just as the service fades from collective memory.

But while plenty of people have waited on an Android app for the service, I wouldn’t be too quick to say it’s been long-awaited. The service wasn’t able to keep the momentum it gained when it first came on the scene, as VentureBeat previously noted last week.

Turntable.fm first emerged nearly a year ago, gaining an impressive 140,000 users in a little over a month (and nearly doubling after two months). Most of the buzz surrounding the service came from the unique way it allowed users to share/listen to music as well as the exclusivity of only being able to sign up if you had a Facebook friend that was already a Turntable.fm user. Users act like virtual DJs that curate songs, which then get judged by the listeners as good or bad. The service had social media integration, a gamification element, was complimentary to other digital music services and stores, and even ended up spawning plenty of copy cat sites, such as Chill and Rolling.fm.

If you are still an active Turntable.fm user, you can head over to the Google Play app store to download the app for free across all your Android-powered devices.

We’ve pasted screenshots of the new Android App below.

Turntable.fm Android screen

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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Just like Eduardo, nearly 1,800 people renounced U.S. citizenship this year over taxes

Posted: 11 May 2012 02:26 PM PDT

Around 1,800 U.S. citizens living abroad formally renounced their citizenship in 2011 — just like Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin — and many did so for tax purposes.

Saverin told Bloomberg today that his decision was one of convenience; it’s widely assumed that the young would-be billionaire refers to financial convenience. Filing taxes as a U.S. citizen living abroad can be an expensive and complicated nightmare, and at least 1,788 (and likely many more) made the choice to sever their U.S. ties rather than dealing with it.

Right now, Saverin controls around four percent of Facebook stock (although Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg controls the votes for those shares due to some contractual jiu jitsu). That stock will be worth billions as of Facebook’s IPO day, and as a result, Saverin could lose billions in a quick stock sale through capital gains taxes.

Singapore, the country in which Saverin currently resides, is a tax haven that levies no tax on income generated outside Singapore. Also, as a non-U.S. citizen, Saverin would get to skip disclosing his personal and other bank account balances to the IRS.

Though his decision is highly controversial, Saverin is hardly alone is his decision. The State Department said it records around 1,100 citizens voluntarily renouncing their citizenship each year, but the tax-related expatriations list from the IRS tells a different story.

And the number of U.S. citizens voluntarily expatriating in 2011 was more than double the number in previous years. In fact, more U.S. citizens turned in their passports in 2012 than in 2007, 2008, and 2009 put together.

Because the U.S. is one of just a handful of countries that taxes expats for income earned outside the United States, our expats have more hurdles than most come tax-time, including lots of disclosures and paperwork on foreign and domestic income and accounts. And a new tax law requires foreign banks and other financial institutions to turn over data about U.S. clients to the IRS each year. Failure to comply can lead to fines (fines that start at $10,000) and criminal charges, even when the taxpayer in question doesn’t actually owe any money.

Saverin and other expats do face a departure or exit tax, but in the future, they will be exempt from having to disclose their financials in ways that many clearly consider too invasive.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Adobe Creative Cloud with CS6 software and extras now live

Posted: 11 May 2012 02:04 PM PDT


Adobe’s anticipated Creative Cloud digital hub, with access to CS6 software and cloud storage, is now available for anyone who wants to give it a spin.

As we’ve noted before, Creative Cloud promises access to the latest version of Adobe’s staple program, Photoshop, as well as upgrades to Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Flash Pro, Fireworks, Premiere Pro, AfterEffects, Lightroom, Muse, Edge, and more. You also get 20GB of cloud storage with syncing options.

The service runs between $50 and $75 per month depending on whether you sign up for a full year or if you pay month-to-month. While that might sound a little high, buying a full license to the latest version of the Adobe Creative Suite runs between $1,300 and $2,600, depending on which programs you want.

The Creative Cloud subscription is a direct response to piracy of Adobe's very expensive products. Design professionals who can't get their employers to pay for it or strapped students who need the software for projects sometimes steal Adobe's software via Torrent sites and file-sharing sites. But with Creative Cloud, Adobe hopes to get some of these would-be pirates to pay a more-affordable monthly subscription rather than steal the software.

Check out the pricing options below and let us know in the comments if you plan to sign up.


Filed under: cloud

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Yacht Combinator? Step aboard this ship full of startups bound for international waters

Posted: 11 May 2012 02:00 PM PDT

Unreasonable at Sea BoatAhoy there, startups of Silicon Valley and beyond! Unreasonable at Sea wants you to sail around the world on a fancy boat while expanding your business to international shores.

Unreasonable at Sea mixes startups, Semester at Sea students, venture capitalists, and seasoned entrepreneur mentors to create a floating incubator. But instead of floating in one location off the coast of California like Blueseed, this voyage will sail startup entrepreneurs to 14 international ports to help them expand businesses that have previously operated in only one market.

I recently spoke with the mastermind behind this endeavor, Daniel Epstein. During his junior year in college, he enrolled in Semester at Sea (SAS), a study abroad program that sails around the world on a ship. It was during his journey that he began working on the the incubator and investment firm he operates today. The ah-ha moment for Unreasonable at Sea came when he thought of combining his experience as a Semester at Sea alumni with his Unreasonable Institute, an incubator for entrepreneurs focused on social and environmental topics.

“Six months ago, the president at Semester at Sea called me. He thought that Semester at Sea was missing an entrepreneurial energy and presence and told me he would send me on the ship. I was excited, but [I thought] it had to be more interesting than just me on the boat,” said Epstein, in an interview with VentureBeat.

Epstein decided to operate his incubator on board the ship instead of just tagging along for the ride. The goal of the program is for startups to expand into new markets and pitch to new investors. At each of the 14 ports, startups will attend pitch events where they’ll meet investors, politicians, and business people and show off their awesome ideas. All feedback will be used to improve the startup for the next pitch event in another country.

“From the entrepreneur’s perspective, it’s an opportunity to experiment with products and technology internationally. Startups can take their technology to another market to see what works and walk out with a globally relevant product,” Epstein said.

Unreasonable at Sea is accepting applications through June of this year and has already received responses from startups in more than 100 countries. Once all the applications come in, Epstein and his team will select 10 entrepreneurs and one to two of their team members to set sail on the maiden voyage.

From January 6, 2013 to April 25, 2013, Unreasonable at Sea will sail to across the Pacific and India Oceans, starting in San Diego and ending in Barcelona, Spain. In between, the ship will stop in Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and India, to name a few.

While on the ship, each startup will get the chance to interact with venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and advisors who will coach them throughout the process. Half of the mentors have been selected and include vice president of business development for Google Megan Smith and retired vice president of HP Phil McKinney. Once the startups are selected for the program, more mentors will be added to fit each company’s unique needs.

In addition to working on their businesses, the startups will be interacting with SAS students to learn about entrepreneurship and business. Epstein and his team also plan to spend time teaching SAS students about business.

If you think your startup has what it takes, check out the requirements of the program and submit your application quickly. You have until June 5 to prove that your company is worthy of sailing around the world.

Filed under: Entrepreneur, VentureBeat

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GamesBeat Weekly Roundup

Posted: 11 May 2012 01:48 PM PDT

Minecraft Xbox 360 review PC

If you follow VentureBeat but don't regularly check our GamesBeat site, here's a list of the best games stories we ran over the last seven days that you may have missed.

This week Minecraft on 360 broke all digital-sales records on its first day, controversial marketing specialist Paul Christoforo filed a lawsuit against N-Control, Activision Blizzard touted Skylanders as bigger than Angry Birds, and Take-Two delayed BioShock Infinite.

You'll also find reviews for Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition,  Toy Soliders, Lone Survivor, and Awesomenauts.

Other GamesBeat stories included:

The DeanBeat: A tale of two industry giants

7 reasons why you should play The Secret World

Vita sales struggle in a new, tablet-ruled world

Carmageddon devs run over Double Fine's Tim Schafer in the name of Kickstarter

Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is a successful port of an imperfect gem (review)

Minecraft on Xbox 360 breaks digital-sales records in first day

Civilization V: Gods and Kings will give you a reason to rebuild your empire (hands-on preview)

Toy Soldiers: A Great War in a small box (review)

The Sims Social on life support? EA says no way

Official DICE servers disappear from Battlefield 3

Skylanders is bigger than Angry Birds, says Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard says Black Ops II may be the biggest Call of Duty ever

World of Warcraft still on top with 10.2M subscribers in first quarter

5 Kickstarter games we may never see

Electronic Arts and Insomniac Games announce Outernauts for Facebook

Who wants a Wii U? Not three out of four gamers

Bethesda and id release 20th anniversary edition of Wolfenstein 3D as web/mobile game

Controversial marketing specialist Paul Christoforo files a lawsuit against N-Control

Are Chinese gamers addicted to crack?

Adventure game veteran Jane Jensen reaches Kickstarter goal

Mojang talks Minecraft subscriptions, boycotting E3

Lone Survivor delivers story better than big-name games (review)

MMORPG writer discusses the thin line between labor and love (exclusive)

Awesomenauts: Think of it as multiplayer online battle arena training wheels (review)

Company of Heroes 2 explores WWII's Eastern front

Journey designer: PlayStation Network players "more likely to be interested in artistic games" than 360 or Wii


Why China's game business will hit $20B by 2016 (exclusive interview)

Cmune spreads UberStrike to new platforms and raises funds from Skype founder

Game sales crash 42 percent in April with a light release schedule and early Easter

Facebook games don't have to be stupid, according to AviNation (exclusive)

Call of Duty, Skylanders lead Activision Blizzard to beat analysts' expectations

Milestone for a mobile blockbuster: Angry Birds hits 1 billion downloads

Take-Two delays highly anticipated BioShock Infinite until Feb. 2013

EA's focus: Brands, platforms, and talent

Zynga launches Bubble Safari as it moves into arcade-style social games

Starhawk developers learned from social games that "analytics is king" (interview)

Hackers disrupt the gameplay of Zynga's YoVille social game

EA chief suggests that Zynga overpaid for OMGPOP/Draw Something

Angry Birds creator Rovio says merchandising is 30 percent of revenue

Awesome! Raptr will give you targeted rewards just for playing games

Filed under: games

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Mini-projector for smartphone may change the way we play with our phones

Posted: 11 May 2012 12:50 PM PDT

Smartphone mini-projector

My grandma hates showing me photos on her smartphone. It’s small and “pinch and zoom” doesn’t show the full photo — “I just miss prints,” she says. This very neat concept smartphone projector, however, may solve her problem.

A group of scientists have come up with a concept for a miniature projector that would connect to any kind of smartphone and allow the user to control the phone from the projection itself. The scientists from the Frauhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering studied the composite eyes of insects, which were the inspiration for the projector technology. Using a similar composite projector system, the images are intended to be good enough to show off vacation pictures without the blur that occurs when light hits a flat surface at an angle.

Smartphone mini projectorThis crispness is achieved through an array projection. Array projection is where many tiny LED projectors are brought together to display one big image. Those tiny projections each have their own version of the image and can be brought together to project an image as clear as your smartphone, devoid of fraying at the edges.

Because of these composite projectors, which take a different angle on the image, smartphones with curved screens can have their images projected on a flat or straight surface.

New takes on touch technology have been getting a lot of attention recently. Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University recently announced a new technology called Touché. The technology will one day allow any kind of object to know it is being touched. Based on the type of touch, these items may one day be able to trigger actions. For instance, if you poked a door knob in a certain way, it could set off processes which would lock the door.

The projector would be a huge improvement in sharing content from your phone with the people physically around you. There are so many uses. You could play games with friends, given that the projector allows you to control content from projection. You could much more easily share photos with friends. It would also be helpful for those who watch movies and videos on the go, but want a bigger display.

Now let’s hope it moves from concept to reality.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Your mom is so social, she’s on Facebook and Pinterest right now

Posted: 11 May 2012 11:37 AM PDT

Digital life of moms Facebook PinterestTo get us excited for Mother’s Day this Sunday, research firm Nielsen has released a few stats on the online habits of American moms.

Facebook ranks number one for moms in the U.S., something that comes as no shock to the thousands of kids embarrassed by their parent’s status updates. In March 2012, three out of four moms visited the social network, which adds up to 27.9 million mothers.

Fifty percent of moms are using social networks through their mobile phones, compared to only 37 percent of women in general. Perhaps they are trying to keep up with their kids’ antics at all times.

Moms also make up a substantial percentage of bloggers. One in three bloggers are mothers, and 52 percent have children under the age of 18.

Pinterest is another hot website for this market, with 4.9 million moms flocking to the site in March. Mothers are also 61 percent more likely to visit Pinterest than the average American. Considering the site is overflowing with pictures of home decor, recipes, and fashion, it makes perfect sense that millions of mothers are behind all those pins.

Check out the infographic below for more details, and don’t forget to wish your mom, or the awesome person who raised you, a happy Mother’s Day.

Mom and kid with laptops image via Shutterstock

Filed under: social

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Why should I attend TiEcon this year?

Posted: 11 May 2012 11:21 AM PDT

This sponsored post is produced by TiE.

Successes such as Instagram, has got the whole tech community up in restless excitement. At least 2 developers approached me the day the Instagram acquisition was announced. They needed to do something. If not here, surrounded by the startup frenzy in the Silicon Valley, then where else, they said.

This is the right time, the right economy, the right place and everyone wants a ride on the startup train. And TiEcon is the biggest Entrepreneurship Conference, which has something for everyone – from Entrepreneurs, Investors, to Engineers, Recruiters.

Entrepreneurship – What it takes

The rosy successes and all – there is a lot that goes into entrepreneurship. What people to hire, who to pick for your founding team, who to partner with, when & how much to take to market, when to raise funds and if you are lucky like Instagram & many others before, when & whether to sell. Do you have what it takes? The Entrepreneurship panel at this year's TiEcon , gives you food for thought.

Entrepreneurship for Women

Entrepreneurship, is perfect for women! And here is why. For one, it destroys the myth of the Glass ceiling (A woman Entrepreneur – To be or not to be) exposes Gender socialization (Deborah Gruelfeld at TiEcon on Mastering the Body Language for Power and Influence) and only your technical, social and business skills are the ones on the line. There is no limit to your creativity.

What goes into making your startup a success

If you are on the entrepreneurial track, there are many things that go into making your startup, a success. Whether to bootstrap, or take money from Angels or VCs or How to take your product to market? A startup is about a team with the perfect complementary skill-sets. So how do you build your winning team or judge whether you are part of that winning startup team. Once your startup is off the ground, does it have the belts and buckles in place for the journey up the hockey stick curve? And well – if you are young, right out of or in school/college and wondering how you could start a company– there is the Young entrepreneur's guide to getting started doling out advice on it, at the TiE Youth Forum.

For the Geeks in us

'What if Im not an entrepreneur', 'What if I love coding and and, building things?' Well, this year's TiEcon fuels the developer's passion and knowledge as well.

The Social Panels talk about the next frontiers in Social Gaming, how internet commerce has been impacted by Social media, and what the emerging trends and opportunities are in the Social space.

The Mobile panels talk about the latest mobile trends and opportunities. You could learn best practices from mobile companies for deployments in the enterprise space.

The Energy panels talk about the upcoming applications and emerging trends in energy fields, the hottest opportunities in the cleantech area, and the evolution of energy efficiency in the automobile sector.

The Life Sciences Panels talk about Medical device innovation in emerging markets, and opportunities in Mobile health.

The Cloud Panels talk about how Cloud & SAAS are being used in the real-world, emerging trends and opportunities in Cloud and how Consumerization in the Enterprise is driving opportunities in the Cloud.

What the Stars foretell

And that's not all. This year's TiEcon 2012 (May 18 – 19, 2012) also has some amazing Keynotes from Dr. Vishal Sikka, Head of Technology at SAP and Carlos Dominguez, Cisco SVP. In the Breakthrough Thinkers keynote, Dr. Deepak Chopra, talks about Prosperity and Leadership. And finally, Sam Pitroda tells the story of how innovation was ignited in India, which has led to the Internet revolution there and the new booming economy that we see there today.

And this isn't all. At the TiEcon Expo you will find 100 or so startups displaying their latest products and innovations. And in the corridors of the convention, you will find endless opportunities to Network and talk to the smartest of entrepreneurs, investors, passionate developers who are on the cutting edge of technology. A boundless, priceless opportunity to connect, network, learn, grow and prosper…

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Filed under: cloud, Entrepreneur, green, mobile, social, VentureBeat

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Eduardo Saverin renounces U.S. citizenship ahead of Facebook IPO

Posted: 11 May 2012 11:11 AM PDT

In a blow to Uncle Sam, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin has renounced his U.S. citizenship ahead of the company’s hotly anticipated initial public offering.

Facebook is expected to make its public stock market debut on May 18. The company priced its shares in the $28 to $35 range last week, and will raise as much as $11.8 billion with a $96 billion valuation through its offering.

Saverin, the famed co-founder of Facebook, is listed on a April 30, 2012 IRS document that includes the names of individuals losing their U.S. citizenship, a fact first reported by Bloomberg.

“Eduardo recently found it more practical to become a resident of Singapore since he plans to live there for an indefinite period of time,” Saverin spokesperson Tom Goodman told Bloomberg.

Practical indeed. The expatriate’s stake of the social network, pegged at around 4 percent, could be worth as much $3.84 billion on IPO day. With Saverin giving up his U.S. citizenship and taking up residency in Singapore, the Brazilian billionaire and startup investor will save big on his tax bill. There is no capital gains tax in Singapore, and Saverin will be beholden to the U.S. government for far less since he renounced citizenship prior to Facebook’s IPO.

Saverin isn’t the first person to change locations just prior to a transaction in order to avoid a tax hit. Gilbert Hyatt moved from La Palma, Calif. to Las Vegas before receiving a patent for inventing the microprocessor. The relocation caused a lengthy legal battle with the California Tax Bureau. And big businesses such, as Tyco, Seagate, and Halliburton have been known to relocate their corporate headquarters to save some dough.

Still, the news appears to have tech circles split in their reaction. Some are applauding Saverin’s timely relocation as savvy, while others are chastising the decision.

As for Facebook, the IPO appears to be on track, despite a rumored investigation by the FTC into the company’s purchase of mobile photo-sharing service Instagram. The offering, which will be the biggest Internet IPO to date, is either seeing weaker than expected demand or is already oversubscribed, depending on who you choose to believe (we’re leaning toward the latter here).

Photo credit: Eduardo Saverin/Facebook

Filed under: social

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Spotify update lets you create radio stations from playlists, share to Tumblr, & more

Posted: 11 May 2012 10:55 AM PDT


Streaming music service Spotify is rolling out a new version of its desktop software for Windows and Mac today, adding a handful of new features and improved functionality.

Version 0.8.3 of Spotify includes the ability to create custom radio stations based on a particular playlist or album, much in the same way Pandora does with artists or genres. That station will then play music that’s similar to the playlist/album of your choosing. The feature is sure to delight the subset of people who like to mix corny hip-hop with twangy country oldies.

The new version also includes a new “Instant Search” feature, which allows you to hover over search suggestions as you type to get instantly rendered results in the main view. While this is a small change, it’s definitely the little things that count, such as past additions like crossfading and gapless playback.

The company is also boosting Spotify’s social sharing capabilities in the latest software version. The HTML code that will embed a “play button” on other websites/blogs, which launched last month, can now be obtained by right clicking on any album, playlist, or track. The company has also added custom short URL spoti.fi for Twitter as well as deeper Tumblr integration that lets users share music content from Spotify directly to their Tumblr page. Sharing is a key component of Spotify’s success, with Facebook’s Timeline integration being attributed to its massive user growth in the last year.

Spotify is also trying to raise awareness of its new app platform, which brings tons of social features to the streaming service. Yesterday, the startup added two apps — Tastebuds.fm and Fellody — that allow its users to find a new romantic interest base on their musical tastes and discover new music from their social circles.

The new version of the app is rolling out to users now, and it should be completed over the next few days. Those who don’t want to wait can download the update from Spotify’s website.

Screenshots via Spotify


Filed under: media, social

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Facebook testing whether you’ll pay to ensure friends see your status updates

Posted: 11 May 2012 10:30 AM PDT

Facebook is testing a feature in which users can choose to pay money to highlight their status updates for their friends.

The feature is fairly simple: add a status update just like you would ordinarily, then pay to have it highlighted. Highlighting will ensure that your friends actually see the status update, something you can’t otherwise count on. You can pay with their preferred credit card or PayPal.

Typically, only 10 percent of your Facebook friends may see a status update, although that number grows when you post something that attracts attention in the form of likes and responses.

Facebook is always testing small changes and enhancements; most of these features never see the light of day. A Facebook representative confirmed to VentureBeat the social network is testing this new feature “with a small percentage of people… We’re constantly testing new features across the site. This particular test is simply to gauge people's interest in this method of sharing with their friends.”

The rationale for Facebook is understandable; it lets the company make more money. And there’s utility for users too; they get a bigger megaphone. But creating a gateway for users to pay to increase the reach of their status messages is hugely problematic for at least three reasons.

1. Noise

First, this might increase the amount of noise on Facebook and decrease the utility of the algorithms used to sort through each user’s news feed. Users presented with too many picayune, annoying, or irrelevant messages could stop using Facebook as regularly. This would be exacerbated if their friends were broadcasting mini-ads or commercial messages.

There’s a reason Facebook’s friend- and content-ranking algorithms only show us around 10 percent of what our friends post on Facebook: It’s not all terribly interesting. Fiddle with that balance, and our interest in Facebook might diminish.

2. Conflict of interest

Facebook already carefully regulates how many of our friends’ status updates we see. Their algorithm, EdgeRank, carefully determines what we see or don’t see. EdgeRank uses a combination of affinity, “edge weight,” and timeliness to make a decision on whether or not to show you an update. Affinity grows when you interact with people, photos have more edge weight than text updates, and recent updates are ranked higher.

Theoretically, that determination is made in Facebook’s estimation of your best interest. But if Facebook were making money by force-feeding potentially irrelevant messages to users, it would be to Facebook’s economic advantage to reduce the efficiency of your ability to communicate with friends.

That conflict, however carefully managed, could cause problems. Even the appearance of inappropriate ranking would be a big black eye for Facebook. However, Facebook has successfully managed to integrated branded and paid content on other parts of the site without users’ revolting, so time will tell if this feature would actually cause a widespread negative reaction.

3. Counter to the company’s social philosophy

Perhaps most important of all, Facebook is predicated on a social philosophy of connecting people. Mark Zuckerberg said it himself in the Facebook IPO documentation, wherein he wrte, “Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected.”

He continued, “At Facebook, we build tools to help people connect with the people they want and share what they want, and by doing this we are extending people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships.”

I don’t see how those statements are compatible with charging users to send their status updates to friends.

Facebook was built to connect friends, help them share updates, and enable them to build and extend meaningful relationships. Making people pay for the privilege now seems to fly in the face of that mission.

Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee

via Stuff

Filed under: social

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Why you need to work with the machine, not against it

Posted: 11 May 2012 10:00 AM PDT

Whether or not you were aware of it at the time, the world changed in 2011 when Ken Jennings lost to IBM's Watson on Jeopardy. As a part humorous, part chilling conclusion to the historic show, Jennings wrote the following beneath his final answer:

I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.

Jennings recognized something investigated in the book, Race Against the Machine, published by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew P. McAfee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to the book, Race Against the Machine explores the ways “we’re living in an era where computers dominate every aspect of our life, and unless we catch up and start working with the machine rather than against it, the new economic machine is going to spit us out.”

We can draw correlations to the patterns we’re seeing in income disparity and job displacement from technology and automation. The theory in Race Against the Machine also helps to explain humans’ role in the new economy. At only 80 pages, it is a must read for anyone still on the fence about whether to pursue a liberal arts degree or one in engineering.

Most people with a liberal arts degree are struggling to find jobs, but tech companies are scrambling to find talent. It’s still one of the most difficult problems in a startup: hiring smart people. The money and power has already shifted and will continue to disproportionately shift to people who either (a) know how to program or (b) figure out how to work well with those who already do. There’s an enormous ecosystem of value creation potential out there if you could only contribute to it.

Is there anyone who is immune to technological unemployment?

In 2004, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane wrote that truck drivers are nearly immune from technological unemployment in The New Division of Labor:

The truck driver is processing a constant stream of [visual, aural, and tactile] information from his environment… To program this behavior we could begin with a video camera and other sensors to capture the sensory input. But executing a left turn against oncoming traffic involves so many factors that it is hard to imagine discovering the set of rules that can replicate a driver's behavior… Articulating [human] knowledge and embedding it in software for all but highly structured situations are at present enormously difficult tasks… Computers cannot easily substitute for humans in [jobs like truck driving].

At one point, it was easy to write off computers as being our drivers. The 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge supported this hypothesis. The “winning” vehicle took hours to get just 8 miles into the 150 mile course, and then stopped working.

Surprisingly, something happened less than six years later, not centuries or decades later: Google modified the Toyota Prius to be fully autonomous. Today, Priuses have driven hundreds of thousands miles with no human guidance on American roads. There was only one accident ever reported, when a human driver read-ended the Google-modified vehicle.

Why did this happen so quickly? Six years is all it took for this seemingly quantum leap into fully autonomous driving that Levy and Murnane pointed out as so computationally difficult to solve. It’s not just that computers are getting cheaper and faster. Martin Grötschel showed that processors were increasing efficiency in computing a la Moore’s Law by a factor of 1,000, butalgorithms were 43,000 times faster in the same time span.

This sweeping change isn’t coming in futuristic gas-sippers from Mountain View. On the legal side, Blackstone Discovery analyzed 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000. The one human assisting the machine did the work of 500 lawyers. And the machine-human pair did a much better job: lawyers have been shown to achieve only 60% accuracy in this mundane, headache-inducing work.

In China, Foxconn already has 10,000 robots and expects to buy 300,000 next year. Over the next 3 years the company is planning to purchase 1,000,000 robots to replace a portion of their existing Chinese workforce.

Even in sales, companies are turning to software instead of people to close. Since June 2009, when the recession ended, corporate spending on software is up 26%, but payrolls remain flat. When I ordered tickets to Florida, I bought them on Hipmunk without any interaction with a human. I got on a train and ordered my ticket through a computer and when I got to the airport I printed my tickets from a kiosk. I was even lucky enough to proceed through security with minimal interaction with the TSA.

There are very few professions resistant to automation and those tend to involve physical coordination and sensory perception, a phenomenon called Moravec’s Paradox.

How much theory is relevant?

Is Race Against a Machine arguing that computer science is what everyone should be studying now? Not necessarily. The book is optimistic but points out that the educational system is doing a terrible job of teaching people how to be creative and how to work with machines. It’s important to be able to work creatively with technology, as Steve Jobs once said:

When I went to Pixar, I became aware of a great divide. Tech companies don’t understand creativity. They don’t appreciate intuitive thinking, like the ability for an A&R guy at a music label to listen to a hundred artists and have a feeling for which five might be successful.

Granted, you’re not a computer scientist just because you can build web applications. Maybe you’re just a web app developer, but I think that’s good enough. A web developer today can go and get an entry level job in California with $70,000 or more in salary plus benefits, equity, significant learning experience, and plenty of room for career mobility. I was 20 years old in 2007 when I was offered $70,000/year to join a company as the first employee.

Can you get away with being a web application developer and skip accreditation altogether? Computer science curricula is still heavy on theory, but much of the theory and lower level material taught in CS is not necessary for a startup — when was the last time you needed to know how multiplexers work at the gate level? Everything you learn sits somewhere on a totem pole of tech abstraction, so the current debate seems to be over how low on that pole you should go to learn what’s applicable to what you’ll use in a tech role.

Creativity and intuition

What can’t computers do? Intuition and creativity. That’s where humans can help. We will never win the race by running faster than the machine, but we can still help it with the skills it can’t yet replicate. When you think about it, it’s a match made in heaven: the power of the machine harnessed with the creativity of the individual. Undoubtedly there is no limit to the markets that remain to be captured.

I realize there’s some irony that our willingness to work with the machines is also what causes an increase in automation, and a potential increase in unemployment for those who don’t adapt. There was a Redditor who asked if he was a scumbag because he automated his work and ended up with 95% of the entire bonus pool because other people performed poorly in comparison. There’s nothing to stop other employees from learning Ruby or Python and balancing out the bonus pool again — no CS degree required there; just creativity and cooperation from a machine.

Fortunately, Race Against the Machine isn’t a grim outlook on our jobs or standard of living if we can race alongside the machine. In 1800, 90% of all Americans worked in agriculture or farming in 1800; by 1900 41% did, and only 2% by 2000. We found more jobs and higher standards of living in the manufacturing and services industry that emerged. When we left the Industrial Revolution, we saw many more jobs as a result–not fewer.

I don’t think we’re heading towards the “end of work” as some economists would suggest. We’re experiencing the natural and healthy fluctuations of a market that is deeply starved for technical skills, or at least people who can use their creativity and intuition in unison with technology.

Jared Tame is a co-founder and mentor at Bloc, where he’s teaching people how to become web developers in 8 weeks.

Filed under: Entrepreneur, mobile, offBeat, VentureBeat

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Foxconn prepping its plants to make an Apple iTV

Posted: 11 May 2012 09:53 AM PDT


Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn will soon ready its plants to manufacture a television made by Apple, according to China Daily.

We’ve routinely heard reports that Apple’s “iTV” will be coming to the market before the end of 2012, but now it seems momentum is moving toward reality. In an update on company operations, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou reportedly said the company’s plants are being prepared for Apple’s television even though development or manufacturing hasn’t yet begun. Foxconn recently entered into a joint venture with manufacturer Sharp’s Japanese factory as one of the company’s preparations.

Apple’s “iTV” will most likely be a larger version of its Thunderbolt display, and will reportedly offer an aluminum build, voice control with Siri, and video calling to other Apple devices with FaceTime. Apple may also be in talks with movie channel EPIX about a streaming content deal that will be targeted at the new device.

Let us know in the comments if you’re excited about an Apple-made television and if you would consider buying one.

iMac photo: Apple

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Apple’s Siri calls the Nokia Lumia 900 “the best smartphone ever”

Posted: 11 May 2012 09:40 AM PDT


Conventional wisdom nowadays might suggest that Apple’s iPhone 4S is “the best smartphone ever.”

But that’s not the case if you ask Siri, the voice assistant software installed on the 4S. Strangely enough, Siri answers the question by pointing to Nokia’s Lumia 900, as The Next Web first spotted.

We also tested Siri, and it gave us this humorous result for the question “What is the best smartphone ever?” The screenshot to the right is from one of our staffers with an iPhone 4S. The answers for “What is the best smartphone ever” vs “What is the best smart phone ever” vs “What is the best smartphone” are all different.

siri-lumia-900The reason Siri gives this answer should be obvious. Siri pulls quite a bit of its information from the Wolfram Alpha answer engine, which, in this case, used its “customer review average” for its results. Run the same question by Wolfram Alpha’s online page and you’ll get the exact same response.

What’s really interesting here is that Apple’s iPhone doesn’t even appear in the top ten of Wolfram Alpha’s results. The 4S is no. 13, even though it has received the same average rating as 12 phones above it. In contrast, devices like the Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G and, more inexplicably, the HP TouchPad — which is a tablet — take the top spots. That’s a pretty egregious error for a service that says it provides expert-level knowledge.

So what gives? Where does Wolfram Alpha itself get this information from? Source information for the query points to the Wolfram Alpha knowledgebase as the primary source, and Best Buy’s website as a background source. And that’s where the the trail ends. We’ve reached out to Wolfram Alpha for some more information on this and will update this article when the team responds.

Odd results aside, the news is heartening in its own way, as it shows that Apple didn’t attempt to tweak the answer to what is likely an oft-asked question.

Other variations of it are, on the other hand, a bit more in line from what we’ve come to expect from Siri’s more witty side.

“What’s the best smartphone on the market?”, for example, gets a coy  ”You’re kidding right?” in response, while asking “What’s the best smartphone elicits, “Wait. There are other smartphones?”. Those results, of course, don’t answer the question, which might frustrate owners looking for an actual, sincere answer.

In any case, the lesson here is that, if you are looking for device recommendations, Siri and Wolfram Alpha probably aren’t your best sources. If you are looking for smartphone rankings averaged by outlet, we’d recommend checking out Gdgt.

Siri screenshot: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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