Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Today’s Top Stories: Sony Confirms Layoffs, DOJ Sues Apple”

Thursday, 12 April 2012 by Irwan K Ch

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Today’s Top Stories: Sony Confirms Layoffs, DOJ Sues Apple”

Today’s Top Stories: Sony Confirms Layoffs, DOJ Sues Apple

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 04:52 AM PDT

Social Media News

Welcome to this morning's edition of "First To Know," a series in which we keep you in the know on what's happening in the digital world. Today, we're looking at three particularly interesting stories.

Sony Confirms 10,000 Layoffs In Major Reorganization

Sony has confirmed it plans to cut 10,000 jobs globally by the end of 2012. The company has laid out a major reorganization plan, projecting it will result in net sales of 6 trillion yen ($74 billion) and an operating income margin of 5% in its electronics business by 2014.

DOJ Sues Apple Over Ebook Price Fixing

Yesterday’s report that the Department of Justice plans to sue Apple and five major publishers over ebook price fixing has turned out to be true. “As a result of this alleged conspiracy, we believe that consumers paid millions of dollars more for some of the most popular titles,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Is Coming to the U.S. on April 22

Samsung has announced the launch dates for its two upcoming Android tablets: Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. The smaller tablet is coming on April 22, with pre-orders opening on April 12. The Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is coming on May 13, with pre-orders starting May 4.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

More About: apple, eBook, features, first to know series, Galaxy Tab 2, mashable, samsung, sony

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Sony Confirms 10,000 Layoffs In Major Reorganization

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 01:43 AM PDT

Confirming the report from earlier this week, Sony president and CEO Kazuo Hirai said the company will cut 10,000 jobs globally as part of a big “One Sony” reorganization.

The company has five immediate goals: it wants to strengthen its core businesses — digital imaging, gaming and mobile — turn around its TV business, expand into emerging markets, create new businesses and fuel innovation and, finally, realign the business portfolio and optimize its resources.

The 10,000 layoffs and the management shuffling (Kazuo Hirai replaced Howard Stringer as president and CEO in February 2012) pretty much cover that last bit.

The details on strengthening its core businesses include a lot of consolidation — for example, Sony will integrate its smartphone, tablet and VAIO businesses, and reduce the number of product models in its TV business.

As for innovation, Sony is entering medical technology and life science industry, and it plans to “aggressively promote” 4K technology, which brings four times the resolution of Full HD. We’ll see 4K-enabled products in pro equipment, but Sony also promises to bring the technology into the high-end consumer product segment, which means our brand new Full HD TVs might look obsolete in a couple of years.

All of these will cost around $926 million, and Sony projects it will result in net sales of 6 trillion yen ($74 billion) and an operating income margin of 5% in its electronics business by 2014.

More About: sony

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How Digital Populism Is Reshaping the Body Politic

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 08:40 PM PDT

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

Ethan Riegelhaupt is senior vice president for corporate and public affairs at Edelman. Previously, he served as vice president for speech writing and internal communications at The New York Times Company. He was also a senior staff member for New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo.

We love the Internet because it supports our overwhelming desire to have a larger influence over what happens in our lives. This fundamental longing to control our destiny has inspired every successful political movement in the last 250 years, whether it was the American Revolution or the fight against Communism in Eastern Europe.

Now, a few decades later, our need to exert real influence over the larger activities of life continues. We see countless examples of individuals, much like ourselves, employing digital tools to create sparks, ignite fires, and shine bright lights on alleged injustices, misdeeds, or desired changes. People all over the planet use their computers and smart phones to confront organizations, forcing them to pay closer attention to what they are saying, thinking, and doing.

The Trayvon Martin tragedy is an excellent case in point. As Brian Stelter reported in The New York Times, the story gained traction when people started talking on Facebook and Twitter about what George Zimmerman, the alleged shooter, did on the night of February 26 in Sanford, Florida. It took a few weeks before the mainstream media began to pay attention. But they did, and the case became a national fixation.

In a recent piece, Paul Krugman, a Times Op-Ed columnist, referred to Richard Hofstadter’s famous 1964 essay, The Paranoid Style in American Politics arguing that people in this country see conspiracies everywhere. While this dark mindset still exists, the Martin case demonstrates that the Internet can serve as a sane political and social counterbalance.

Far more importantly, the Internet has become a catalyst for concerted behavior, enabling individuals throughout the world to make the transition from commenting and speaking to doing and acting. This has exponentially enhanced anyone’s ability to alter and shape the course of events.

Out of all this activity, we see the emergence of what may well be the most important political development of the 21st century: digital populism. It is global in scope with a flavor of the New England town square and speaks to the intrinsic need for personal expression, mass action, and ongoing engagement.

It is worth noting that digital populism is a hotly contested concept, generating lengthy exchanges regarding what it means, what it has already achieved, and whether it will be a truly disruptive political force. Naturally, this debate became quite heated in the midst of the Arab Spring when the Egyptian and Tunisian governments were overthrown.

To avoid becoming overly utopian or romantic about this era, we must maintain a historical perspective. After all, mass action around a common objective is not a new phenomenon. Nevertheless, it is abundantly apparent that the Internet is profoundly shaping a new politics of inclusion that invites all to contribute to the ongoing narrative.

It is something that will certainly shape the U.S. political narrative this campaign season, and it won’t be the first time. In 2008, then-presidential candidate, Barack Obama, provided a textbook example of how to use online tools to rally supporters, raise money, and convey his positions.

Four years later, the President's campaign is undoubtedly becoming even more proficient at using the web to mobilize its millions of supporters and to engage in old-school grassroots campaigning, providing another example of the Internet fusing the old and new.

But candidates will not be the only ones relying on the web to create change; citizens will too. The public is no longer content to sit and watch what is happening. Instead, they will continue to use the Internet to learn more about positions, question candidates, and become far more involved in issues that affect their lives.

This is the essence of digital populism and the new politics of inclusion. It makes sense because personal empowerment is what we have wanted since the dawn of time. Call it human nature.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ranckreporter

More About: Activists, contributor, digital natives, features, Politics

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PhoneSoap Lets You Clean Your Phone While You Charge [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 08:19 PM PDT

A new project called PhoneSoap is attempting to "start a clean phone revolution" with a device that both charges and simultaneously sanitizes your phone. PhoneSoap does its cleaning using UV-C light. UV-C is a type of ultraviolet light that’s used in hospitals, and penetrates the cell walls of bacteria, disrupting its DNA and effectively killing it.

Our phones often travel with us everywhere. Whether you’re pulling out your handset on a crowded subway in the morning to catch up on news, laying it on the counter of your favorite restaurant while you order lunch, or accidentally dropping it on the floor at your office — your phone is going to pick up more than just a few germs along the way.

Some research indicates that the average cellphone has 18 times more harmful bacteria on it than a handle on a public male toilet, and that 1 in every 6 cellphones actually has fecal matter on it.

During the cleaning process a UV-C light shines on your phone from the bottom and top of the box, surrounding it in light and killing any present bacteria. The UV-C light is only on for 3-5 minutes, so you don’t run the risk of damaging your phone while you’re getting your clean on. While you’re cleaning your phone, the box also charges your handsets via either an Apple connector or Micro USB cable. So, "When your alarm goes off in the morning, your phone won't only be charged, but it will also be clean."

PhoneSoap is currently a KickStarter project. The project is currently at a little over $13k, with a total of $18k needed before the project closes in 20 days to make the cleaning charging box a reality.

Would you use PhoneSoap to clean and sanitize your smartphone? Let us know in the comments.

More About: cellphones, kickstarter

Find The Necessary Paperwork For Your Small Business With One Site

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 08:01 PM PDT

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

Name: License123.

Quick Pitch: License 123 connects business owners with applications, forms and other paperwork they need, based on their city and business type.

Genius Idea: Small business owners can find legal forms all in one place.

Starting a business is exciting, but notoriously stressful. In addition to thinking about your bottom line, you also have to complete boatloads of dreaded paperwork to ensure that, legally, all your ducks are in a row.

License 123 is a one-stop shop where small business owners can figure out what paperwork they needed to file based on where they live and what type of business they operate. A personalized report costs $9.95.

“Overall, we believe License 123 is a giant time-saver that will give entrepreneurs and those considering a new business information critical to their success,” License 123 Project Manager Eric Feigenbaum said in an email.

Based in Santa Monica, Calif., License 123 was founded by Jason Nazar and Alon Shwartz. Nazar and Shwartz are also co-founders of, a site that contains a document library available to the public with special emphasis on small business.

License 123 makes use of Docstoc and lets users access, download and print applications, forms and other paperwork. Business owners can also find links to government sites and contact information for each government agency involved in the business licensing process. At this time, License 123 doesn't help with the filing process.

“We're always looking for new ways to better serve the small business community and we received a lot of feedback from customers that business licensing was one of their biggest headaches,” Feigenbaum said.

“License 123 was a response to the fact that there is no other resource that provides licensing and permitting information instantly and cheaply,” he added. “We believe this will make it easier for entrepreneurs to get critical information, come into regulatory compliance and has the side benefit of helping cities, counties and states increase their revenues.”

License 123 launched Feb. 14 and is currently in beta while it adds cities around the country as well as additional features. Feigenbaum said they’re aiming to have the 100 most populated cities included on their site by the end of the second quarter. They’re also collecting customer feedback and making adjustments, such as adding additional business types.

The site offers a 100% money-back guarantee and features customer support representatives to help guide people having trouble deciding which report is right for them. The approximately $10 fee gives users instant access to the report detailing forms they’ll need, plus an email with a link that allows the purchasers to revisit the report anytime.

“The coolest feature of this site is that it gives the user a complete answer of all levels of government,” Feigenbaum said. “Someone who buys a License 123 report can rest assured that he or she knows the entire set of operational permits required for a business – which could take days of researching and calling various government agencies to achieve. And that's if a person does it right and succeeds, which can be challenging.”

What do you think about License 123? Do you own a small business and would you use it? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, RichPhotographics

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

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

More About: bizspark, legal, Small Business

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iPhone-Friendly Watch Gets $500,000 Kickstarter Funding in a Day

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 07:34 PM PDT

Hey iPhone users: how many times a day do you take your beloved device out of your pocket just to check the time, change the tune, check email or see who’s calling? What if we wore some kind of notification device on our wrists — let’s call them watches — that could connect to your iPhone to do all of the above and more? And what if it didn’t cost an arm and a leg?

Smart watches aren’t exactly a new notion. In the past year we’ve seen and reviewed several: the InPulse, the WiMM One and the oddly-named I’m Watch. But they were all powered by Android, or connected to Android smartphones only.

iPhone owners were out of luck — until Wednesday, when a new smart watch by the guy behind InPulse (Eric Migicovsky, above) hit funding site Kickstarter. Dubbed the Pebble, it’s the first smart watch that can form a meaningful, long-lasting relationship with your iOS device, as well as Android.

And it’s nothing if not popular. The Kickstarter campaign asked for $100,000 in funding; it got that in the first two hours. By day’s end, the device had more than $500,000 in pledges.

What’s so smart about the Pebble? Well, for starters, it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Other smart watches offer color screens as if they’re trying to be a mini-smartphone. The Pebble lets your iPhone do all the heavy lifting. Its simple e-paper display — much like the original Kindle — is viewable even in direct sunlight, which is pretty necessary for a watch.

It is also releasing its software kit to developers, so they can create their own iPhone app-linking apps. Out of the box, you’ll be able to see incoming emails and calls, track your run and your bike ride via your phone’s GPS, as well as use your watch as a remote for the music app on your phone.

That feature alone seems worth the asking price — which, by the way, will be $149.

Check out the video below for more, and let us know in the comments: would you wear this?

More About: inPulse, iphone, kickstarter

Animator Creates Incredible Musical Painting With $5 iPad App [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 07:22 PM PDT

Thanks to tablet technology, creating a music video has become as simple as swiping a finger — well, sort of.

Art Decade, a band consisting of duo Ben Talmi and Binod Singh Jr., recently debuted its music video, Western Sunrise, which was made almost entirely using Procreate, a $5 iPad app.

“I really recommend it to anyone who does storyboards, concept art and animators, filmmakers, producers, whatever — this is the future,” says the video’s lead animator and director, Alexander Whitney. (You can see the full making-of here.)

The band hired Whitney to infuse as much visual art as possible. The process, which was mostly done on an iPad 2, took four months, but the result was strikingly vibrant.

“The four-month process was arduous. I had all of the character animation assets complete, and then the rest — backgrounds, effects animation and color correction — was up to me,” says Whitney.

Although creation relied heavily on the iPad 2, Whitney also used the iMac keyboard. The artist had to invest in orthopedic gloves to protect his fingers — eight to 12 hours per day of pounding away at the keys can cause some fatigue.

Aside from ProCreate, Whitney used other programs, like Adobe After Effects and Mocha. “I used After Effects to compose all of the elements, and also to create elements like the water, mist, clouds, as well as the final paint filter called Video Gogh,” says Whitney. “Mocha was used to track the position of the character.”

Art Decade’s singer/songwriter Ben Talmi says he had a very clear vision of Impressionism in motion for this video.

“Whitney actually ended up surpassing what I thought was even possible,” says Talmi.

Do you think this is the future for art direction? Let us know in the comments.

More About: animation, apps, art, ipad, iPad 2, Music, music video, Tech

How to Pop a Balloon in 300 Easy Steps [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 07:08 PM PDT

The technology we cover at Mashable is usually pretty high tech. It takes some true ingenuity to make a low-tech machine that will catch our eye. But this ridiculously inefficient, over-the-top Rube Goldberg contraption is it.

The Purdue University Society of Professional Engineers team spent over 5,000 hours creating it, which broke their own Guinness World Record for the largest Rube Goldberg machine created.

That included time to peel an apple, juice an orange, toast bread, make a hamburger, change a light bulb, load and play a CD, sharpen a pencil and pour a beverage, all before blowing up and popping a balloon.

What are your favorite Rube Goldberg machines? Let us know in the comments.

The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers team poses with its world record-setting Rube Goldberg machine.

Image courtesy of Andy Jessop

More About: Gadgets, rube goldberg

Tablets Siphoning Away Time With Desktops and Traditional Media [STUDY]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 06:46 PM PDT

As many iPad and Kindle Fire owners know, when you get a tablet, your habits change. Some start reading their email or doing most of their shopping on their tablets instead of their desktops; others begin buying more ebooks than printed books.

Those changes were highlighted in a recent Forrester survey. The research firm found that after purchasing a tablet, owners are far less likely to engage with more traditional devices and media. About a third of respondents say they use personal computers and read books less frequently. About one in four claim to read print magazines and newspapers less often, and one in five reach for their MP3 players on fewer occasions.

The big exception is TV. Surprisingly, only 12% say they watch TV less frequently. That’s because tablets and TVs complement each other: 85% of tablet owners say they use their tablets while watching TV, according to a prior Forrester survey. In fact, Nielsen discovered that 30% of tablet usage occurs while watching TV.

That’s not to suggest that no one is watching TV content on their tablet devices — rather, those devices are causing one in five owners to watch more video. More than half say they watch some kind of video on their tablets, and 23% say they watch TV shows on apps developed by their DVR or cable provider (i.e. Comcast Xfinity, HBO Go). Many more access video content on their tablets through iTunes, Netflix and YouTube.

Tablet ownership isn’t just changing the amount of time people spend with different devices and media, it’s also significantly affecting their purchases in those categories. After purchasing a tablet, 45% of respondents say they are less likely to buy an ebook reader. About a third say they are less likely to buy a portable gaming player, small TV (24″ or smaller) or MP3 player. A quarter claim they are less likely to purchase a desktop computer. Potential purchases of other devices including laptops, smartphones and large TVs, appear to be largely unaffected by tablet ownership.

Are you a tablet owner? If so, how have your habits and purchases shifted since buying your device?

More About: ipad, kindle fire, Media, tablets, TV

7 Lessons From Content Marketing’s Greatest Hits

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 06:23 PM PDT

Gilad de Vries is vice president, brands and agencies at Outbrain. Before joining Outbrain he served as VP of Digital Media and Principal at Carmel Ventures, one of Israel’s top venture capital firms.

Lately, it’s impossible to open a newsletter, check Google alerts, or visit any news sites without reading something on the benefits of content marketing. It seems as though the entire marketing industry is out to convince the world that this is the wave of the future. While that may be true, there is a real shortage of practical, how-to advice for brands that want to dip their toes in the content marketing pool.

Yes, advances in technology and the rise of social media as a marketing channel have eliminated the need for traditional modes of distribution. But at the end of the day, creating great content and getting it in front of the right audience still demands creativity and skill.

Luckily, there are already a handful of companies who have really nailed down the art of content marketing, and their efforts serve as great examples. Here’s a closer look at some of the do's and don'ts from content marketing's greatest hits.

1. Don't Skimp on Design

This may seem obvious, but if you want to be taken seriously by consumers, it's important to make your content visually compelling. The folks at the General Electric Company have this down. There, issues of innovation and environment have been brought to life with the thoughtful design of their Ecomagination site. Sure, it's the quality of the content that will keep your visitors coming back, but don't underestimate the power of a slick, eye-catching site. Using a 16:9 ratio predispositions viewers to think of your site as premium, as does using high-quality images that take up the entire frame. In general the ratio of text to images has slowly been shifting in favor of the latter, with no more than five to six paragraphs of text per page. Magazine-quality content and photography from sale site, Mr. Porter, adheres to this rule nicely.

2. Do Make it Multimedia

This goes hand in hand with investing in design. Varying the type of content you use is essential to providing an engaging, well-rounded user experience that sucks people in and keeps them clicking for more. Fashion maven, Tory Burch, combines videos, slideshows, photos, and even playlists on her blog, which draws nearly 200,000 unique visitors per month.

3. Don't Go for the Hard Sell

Although the ultimate purpose of all marketing is to drive sales, content marketing employs a more nuanced, indirect approach. The focus is on educating, entertaining, and delivering value to the consumer, rather than giving a hard pitch for your products or services. For a great example of this, look no further than Unilever's The Adrenalist. The site's content includes news and information on adventure, extreme sports, gear, and travel. It basically provides adrenaline junkies and adventurers with a place to convene online. Visitors will see plenty of Bear Grylls, former host of Man vs. Wild, but Degree for Men only makes a handful of appearances.

4. Do Strike a Balance

That balance should be between content that is professional and content that is generated by users. Now, there's no doubt that enlisting professionals is key to any good content strategy, but incorporating the consumer voice is equally important. Both Kraft and General Mills have done a commendable job of getting readers involved by soliciting user recipes for their respective sites, and Productivity app maker, Evernote, also blends professional with community content through user-submitted tips and tricks on their blog.

5. Don't Leave Any Dead Ends

When it comes to content marketing, the old adage about "leave 'em wanting more" most definitely does not apply. The best time to engage your audience is when they're already in content consumption mode, which is why every page on your site should offer plenty of links to further content. L'Oreal, which many folks don't realize is behind beauty how-to site, is a master at this. A recent article on sunscreen featured links to videos, a "tip of the day" and trending stories along the left-hand navigation, as well as suggestions for further reading.

6. Do Make Sharing Easy

If you create great content, there's a good chance that you'll garner some fans along the way, which is why it's so important to give them mechanisms to share that content with their friends. Check out a great example from the marketing automation experts at Marketo. Their blog puts Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +1 buttons on posts to encourage sharing. Another "Like" button and a Disqus link at the bottom of the post further enable readers to spread content beyond the bounds of the site, creating a ripple effect of influence.

7. Don't Forget About Offline

A solid offline strategy can be one of the keys to bringing your online content to life, engaging your audience, and attracting new eyeballs. Red Bull has become an inimitable force in the field of content marketing and has blended online and offline marketing to become synonymous with extreme sports. In addition to a hugely popular website and magazine, Red Bull organizes sporting events from freestyle motocross, to extreme downhill sledding, to chariot racing. These offline events allow it to own the agenda, while engaging with their community in a very natural way.

This May, Mashable will be be exploring the future of digital marketing at our signature conference, Mashable Connect. See below for all of the details.”

Event Information

Register for Mashable Connect 2012 in Lake Buena Vista, FL on Eventbrite

Our annual destination conference, Mashable Connect, brings our community together for three days to connect offline in an intimate setting at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World®. Registration is now open.

Held in a unique location away from everyday distractions, Mashable Connect is a rare and valuable opportunity to be surrounded by digital leaders across industries. You'll spend time with Mashable's passionate and influential community, hear from top speakers who will provide insight into the the technologies and trends that are shaping the next era of digital innovation, and get to spend time with the Mashable team.

To keep Mashable Connect as intimate as possible, only a limited amount of tickets are available.

A Look Back at Last Year's Mashable Connect

1. Mashable Connect Race Powered by Gowalla

Team members check in to a race location at Magic Kingdom during the Mashable Connect Race powered by Gowalla.

Click here to view this gallery.

Supporting Sponsors

Sponsorship Opportunities

A limited number of sponsor opportunities are available for Mashable Connect. This is an excellent opportunity to get in front of Mashable's passionate and influential audience. Contact for opportunities.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, skynesher

More About: content marketing, contributor, features, Marketing

Why CEOs Should Allow Facebook in the Workplace [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 05:55 PM PDT

Many CEOs forbid use of social media at work, but recent research shows that web surfing leads to increased productivity.

This Keas infographic explores the benefits of social media in the workplace, showing that social connections make people happier and a brief recess involving Internet-browsing increases productivity.

An Academy of Management experiment gave three groups of people — a control group bundling sticks, a group taking an Internet-free break and a group browsing the Internet for 10 minutes — the simple task of highlighting as many letter A’s as they could among 2,000 words of text.

The three groups then had their mental exhaustion measured. Those browsing the Internet were 16% more productive than the Internet-free break group and 39% more productive than the control group.

SEE ALSO: 37 Productivity Tips for Working From Anywhere

The study concludes that taking a break, particularly one spent browsing the Internet, should be encouraged by employers hoping to increase productivity.

Do you use Facebook at work? Does it negatively or positively affect your concentration? Sound off in the comments.

More About: Facebook, workplace

For more Business coverage:

NBC Launches 2012 Election Foursquare Badges [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 05:28 PM PDT

Social media-savvy fans of politics are about to add a new set of Foursquare badges to their collection, thanks to NBC Politics.

The badges come in three flavors: “Political wonk,” “campaign advisor” and “chief of staff.” Foursquare users have to follow NBC Politics on the network, then checkin to debate halls, political landmarks and other campaign hotspots and say a key political phrase (such as “vote”) to get the badges, which are quite spiffy-looking:

Some of those campaign hot spots include the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Ventura, C.A. (where NBC News held its first debate of the 2012 election), the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. (site of this year’s Democratic National Convention) and Tommy’s Country Ham House in Greenville, S.C., where Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich nearly had a breakfast-time showdown due to a double booking.

NBC is also leaving informative tips at these political hotspots. “Historic landmark in Harlem; President Obama sang Al Green's 'Let's stay together' at this venue in January 2012,” reads a tip left at the Apollo Theatre in New York, NY.

Once a user unlocks one of the badges, they’re automatically directed to more political content on — a way for NBC to drive more traffic to its site.

“What's cool about the Foursquare campaign is that there's something for everybody,” says Ryan Osborn, senior director of digital media at NBC News. He added that he’s excited about sharing the story of the 2012 election through Foursquare’s geo-location service.

“If there's ever been a story that can be told with location, it's politics,” says Osborn. “It's going to be interesting to see the reaction. It's very much an experiment, and we're always trying to reach people in new ways.”

SEE ALSO: Jon Stewart Calls Out Obama on Social Media Overload [VIDEO]

This isn’t the first time NBC and Foursquare have teamed up. The two companies are working together to map the candidates and embedded journalists covering them as they criss-cross the U.S. durin the run-up to November’s election.

Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama all have Foursquare pages of their own, where they often checkin and upload photos from the campaign trail.

Will you add NBC’s new political badges to your Foursquare collection? Sound off in the comments below.

More About: 2012 presidential campaign, foursquare, Politics, Social Media, US

8 Great Uses For Google+’s New White Space [PICS]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 05:12 PM PDT

Betty #WhiteSpace

Posted by E! Entertainment News

Click here to view this gallery.

The Internet quickly seized on a perceived design flaw in the Google+ redesign Wednesday suggested several uses for the site’s new field of white space. Ideas ranged from portraits of Barry White to a slab of bacon hurled at the computer monitor screen.

Though Google Social Head Vic Gundotra said “We have plans for the column,” on the new G+, at the moment, it appears to be a fairly liberal amount of pointless white space. Many users appeared thrill to point out Google’s apparent faux pas. A few hours after the new look took hold #whitespace was trending on Google+ and many users had come up with suggestions on how to fill the void. Above are a few creative suggestions.

With additional reporting by Stephanie Haberman

More About: Google, whitespace

Mashable Photo Challenge Results: A Week of Firsts

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:54 PM PDT

Last week we introduced a new Mashable Photo Challenge: We asked you to send us a photo that embodied your idea of a first.

We wanted to give you a prompt that was open to your discretion, and we were thrilled to receive so many fantastic entries that interpreted this idea in a wide variety of ways. There were photos of memorable sunrises, new chapters in life and first moments spent with loved ones.

The challenge was inspired by the more than 5 million new users of Instagram for Android.

SEE ALSO: Instagram: From Zero to $1 Billion in 17 Months [INFOGRAPHIC]

There were so many great entries this week, we had a difficult time deciding which to feature. However, we appreciate each photo that was sent in. Have a look at the gallery below and let us know what you think of these photo firsts from the Mashable community.

Be sure to check back with us tomorrow to enter the coming week’s photo challenge: Work in Progress.


Teething problems.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: community, instagram, Mashable Photo Challenge, photography

For more Social Media coverage:

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2: Solid Tablet, Won’t Do Much for iPad Envy [REVIEW]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:29 PM PDT

Samsung just officially launched its Galaxy Tab 2 products, the latest additions to the company’s line of multi-sized Android tablets. The new line includes 7- and 10.1-inch models and competes aggressively on price.

The new 7-inch Galaxy Tab costs just $249.99 for 8GB of storage. Looking at similarly sized competitors, the 8GB Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet goes for $199, and the BlackBerry PlayBook is $50 more, at $299 — although a temporary price drop to $199 appears to be slowly becoming permanent. Amazon’s Kindle Fire set the low bar when it debuted, and is still priced at $199.

In the large size, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 (yep, that’s the official name) is just $399.99, or virtually the same price as the iPad 2. The new Galaxy Tabs run the latest version of Android, “Ice Cream Sandwich,” and boast a few novel features.

First and foremost is a built-in remote control. Each Tab 2 is equipped with an infrared emitter to control your TV, Blu-ray player and other electronics. In addition to operating your gear, the Smart Remote app also integrates TV listings from your cable or satellite provider (or over-the-air if that’s your bag).

It’s a great idea in theory, but emphasizing content has a price in control. After getting our Galaxy Tab 7.0 to pair with one of Mashable‘s Sony TVs, we found that it didn’t do a very good job of replicating all of the TV’s abilities, for example widgets and web browsing. That’s ironic, since our Sony set is actually a Google TV device — the same company that makes Android.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Ships 5 Million Galaxy Notes in 5 Months

The Samsung secret sauce doesn’t stop there, though. If you happen to have a newer Samsung TV, the Tab 2 can actually take whatever’s playing on the TV and mirror it on your tablet. That’s potentially an extremely useful feature. It could, for example, let someone cooking in the kitchen watch the same media (TV broadcast, cable show or Blu-ray movie) that people in the living room are watching — without any installation. Much appreciated, but again, only Samsung TV owners need apply.

On top of the remote goodness, you also get access to the Samsung Media Hub for buying music and videos with the widget front and center on your home screen (you can get rid of it fairly easily). Plus, there’s built-in integration with AllShare, the company’s media-sharing (soon to be cloud) service that lets you easily move and copy your photos and movies between Samsung devices. Who’s excited?

Right. Nobody. That could be part of the reason Samsung is partnering with Dropbox — a cloud storage and sharing service that a large audience actually uses — to offer 50GB of free storage (said to be a $99 value) for one year to anyone who buys a Galaxy Tab 2.

The 7.0 version has a 1,024 x 600-pixel screen, while the 10.1 is 1,280 x 800. Both models pack a 1GHz dual-core processor.

Samsung, as ever, makes strange choices in skinning Android. Why, for example, are the “see all apps” icon and status indicators (like the time and Wi-Fi strength) in opposite places than on other Android devices, even Samsung ones like the Galaxy Note?

That’s probably a matter of taste, though, and it doesn’t stop the Galaxy Tab 2 from being a very capable device. The 12-ounce weight feels perfect in your hands (easy to carry but not so light that it feels cheap), and games, photos and video look decent on the 7.0 screen — although it’s a far cry from the new iPad’s retina display.

The dual-core processor does a good job of keeping up with the graphics, rendering rapid-fire videos and games with fluid precision. It performed well in benchmarks, outperforming many of its ancestors, the original Galaxy Tab, the Galaxy Nexus and the Samsung Nexus S.

Overall, the Galaxy Tab 2 is a solid 7-inch tablet, although the display (arguably a tablet’s primary feature) is unimpressive. We like the idea of the remote-control abilities, and the TV-mirroring is a great addition if you have the right gear. If you don’t have any use for those, however, Samsung’s new Tabs probably won’t do much for your iPad envy.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

What you see at startup.

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More About: android, galaxy tab, Galaxy Tab 2, samsung, tablets

George Zimmerman Charged: How Journalists Used Twitter to Cover the Story

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:19 PM PDT

trayvon martin

George Zimmerman has been charged with second degree murder in February's shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey announced the charges at 6 p.m. ET.

The alleged murder of Martin by Zimmerman has been trending online since the 17-year-old's parents set up a petition to prosecute Zimmerman in their son's death. The petition had 2,257,985 signees at time of this writing.

This is how the news broke, as seen on Twitter:

Image courtesy of Flickr, s_falkow

More About: Twitter

First Look: Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:00 PM PDT

Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6 - 600

The new Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6 looks strikingly similar to an Android smartphone, but the device is actually the latest media player to grace the growing category. The good news, however, is that it can even make calls and send text messages via Bluetooth.

The device — which runs on Gingerbread 2.3.6 — is like many media players on the market today, with solid audio quality and a collection of apps. But what’s especially interesting about the Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6 is that it can be tethered to a phone with Bluetooth 3.0 to send and receive calls.

This feature might be appealing for those that want to avoid paying for another phone and adding to monthly bills. To make use of this feature, you’ll have to turn to an alternative service such as Google Voice and be connected via Wi-Fi at the same time.

From a design perspective, the device boasts a plastic body, 3.6-inch screen, 480 x 320 resolution display and a single-core Cortex A8 1GHz processor. Weighing in at 3.9 ounces, it is 0.3 ounces heavier than a classic iPod Touch yet feels less sturdy. The $149 device is also less expensive than the iPod Touch ($199), but the plastic body — compared to the iPod Touch’s stainless steel casing — makes it not surprising that it’s listed at a lower price point.

However, the interface is easy to navigate and it’s also laid out intuitively. Sound quality is also crisp and clean. Sound is also crisp and clean. Other features include a rear-facing camera lens and a whole collection of apps, including FM radio, maps, Gmail, Google search and Social Hub.

The Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6 is available now at Best Buy.

Do you think there is still a need for media players or should all phones incorporate these types of capabilities? Let us know in the comments.

More About: apple, iPod Touch, media players, samsung, smartphones

Watch This Alzheimer’s Patient Come Alive With Music [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 03:55 PM PDT

Thanks to the power of music, Henry, an elderly Alzheimer’s patient described by his doctors as “inert, maybe depressed, unresponsive and almost unalive,” is finally able to speak to his loved ones.

Henry, who has been a resident at the Cobble Hill Health Center for 10 years, rapidly “awakens” when he hears songs that he has a strong emotional connection to from his life before the nursing home.

Henry suddenly becomes responsive to questions, hums, sings and dances. In a very real sense, he has been brought back to life by the music.

Henry’s story is the focus of a viral YouTube video. The clip has received over 1,305,900 views in less than five days.

The clip is from a documentary called Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory, directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett and Jeff Pinilla.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr, Elisabeth D’Orcy

More About: Video, viral video, YouTube

Build Us A Robot: DARPA Robotics Challenge

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 03:33 PM PDT


Calling all robot-makers! The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is calling on anyone who can advance current robot technology past existing limits to create an autonomous bot for the DOD’s “disaster recovery mission.”

“Robots played a supporting role in mitigating fallout from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan, and are used by U.S. military forces as assistants for servicemembers in diffusing improvised explosive devices,” notes DARPA’s press statement.

The robots created by the teams will compete in a variety of challenges that simulate real-life disasters.

“For robots to be useful to DoD they need to offer gains in either physical protection or productivity. The most successful and useful robots would do both via natural interaction with humans in shared environments,” said DARPA Acting Director, Dr. Kaigham Gabriel.

At-home robotics enthusiasts, university research teams or robotics companies — anyone can apply to be part of the challenge. And you don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to participate. In addition to the main challenge, individuals and teams will have the opportunity to contribute to open-source development of a disaster Simulator Platform (details of which will be made available in a future announcement).

DARPA posted this example on YouTube on Wednesday of what a robot in the challenge might look like:

The robots are not required to have a humanoid form, though. But considering past robotics purchased by the military, the government recognizes that bigger is not always more useful.

“Any designs are welcome provided they are compatible with shared human-robot environments, compatible with human tools, and compatible with human operators so that a human without expertise in robotics can give commands and confidently anticipate the response,” said a DARPA spokesperson.

An image from DARPA’s Robotics Challenge overview PDF:

“This challenge is going to test supervised autonomy in perception and decision-making, mounted and dismounted mobility, dexterity, strength and endurance in an environment designed for human use but degraded due to a disaster,” said DARPA program manager Gill Pratt. “Adaptability is also essential because we don’t know where the next disaster will strike. The key to successfully completing this challenge requires adaptable robots with the ability to use available human tools, from hand tools to vehicles.”

The DARPA Robotics Challenge will award the winner (or winners) with a $2 million contract or grant. There are four different “tracks” within the challenge, each with different prizes and requirements. Some prizes offer contracts plus government-funded equipment, which allows teams without much funding to participate. But to be considered for a track with a prize including government-funded equipment, teams must submit a proposal. The program is currently taking sign-ups and will officially kick off in October 2012.

What do you think about DARPA’s Robotics Challenge? If you built a robot, what would you make it look like? Tell us in the comments.

More About: DARPA, robotics, robots

‘Glee’ Gets a Big Welcome Back From Twitter [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 03:12 PM PDT

Glee returned Tuesday night after a six-week hiatus. But the FOX show’s struggling ratings didn’t keep devoted fans from making the “Big Brother” episode of Glee a smash on Twitter — the hashtag #gleeisback was trending.

Glee tantalized its audience with a cliffhanger right before its break in February. The show’s return answered the major question concerning one particular character’s fate. The episode also featured guest star Matt Bomer as Blaine Anderson’s (Darren Criss) brother.

Glee is a fan favorite on Tumblr, too, where it spawns a growing number of Glee-inspired blogs, memes and GIFs.

This infographic by Trendrr.TV analyzes Twitter’s response to key moments of Tuesday’s episode, “Big Brother.” Do you tweet while watching your favorite television show? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: Ridiculous Glee Memes

Musically Oblivious 8th Grader

quick meme

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Infographic courtesy of
Thumbnail courtesy of Flickr, jj_duncan80

More About: GLEE, memes, social tv, social tv charts, Trendrr, TV, Twitter

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Caine’s Arcade: Cardboard Creation Inspires $90,000 Scholarship [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 02:54 PM PDT

Caine Monroy has proven there’s no limit to what you can create from a big pile of cardboard and an even bigger imagination.

The 9-year-old from Los Angeles built a fantasy arcade in his father’s East L.A. used car parts shop during his summer vacation. He created the entire arcade by recycling cardboard boxes and set up a pricing model: $1 for four plays or a $2 for a “fun pass,” offering 500 plays in a month.

The problem was that no one walked by his arcade, because his father’s business has gone mostly online.

Caine’s first costumer, filmmaker Nirvin Mullick, was worth the 9-year-old’s wait. Mullick came looking for a car part, but fell in love with Caine’s story, which he has turned into a now viral documentary sensation.

The 11-minute documentary has been viewed 1 million times on Vimeo and almost 500,000 times on YouTube.

In the film, Mullick used Facebook and Reddit to plan a flashmob to surprise Caine at his arcade, in what would become “the best day of Caine’s life.”

The silver lining to this story is the scholarship fund Mullick set up for Caine’s college education, which has already raised more than $90,000. Mullick astutely notes, there’s no saying what this boy could accomplish with an engineering degree.

More About: Facebook, Los Angeles, reddit, scholarship, viral videos

Google+ Redesign: Here’s What’s New

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 02:40 PM PDT

Google’s social network got a redesign on Wednesday that makes it prettier and easier to navigate.

“It accelerates our efforts to create a simpler, more beautiful Google,” Google Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra argued in a blog post announcing the redesign.

Some of the design elements included in the update echo Facebook Timeline, such as a cover photo that sprawls across the top of the profile and bigger photo and video displays. Others, like a customizable navigation ribbon that now runs along the left side of all pages, are new to mainstream social media.

In addition to prettying up its look and improving navigation features, Google made efforts to better highlight some of Plus’s pre-existing features. A new Hangouts page, for instance, shows Hangout invitations from people in your circles and makes it easier to browse upcoming hangouts. With a new Explore page, users can see the content that is trending across the network.

Reactions to the redesign itself have been largely positive. Forbes called it “simply more gorgeous than Facebook.” Wired noted that “Overall, the new Google+ look is cleaner and seems to make better use of the real estate.” Fast Company agreed with this general sentiment, but added that it doesn’t really matter.

“It's better in almost every way, focused on real-time trends, customization, and playing to Google's few advantages they have in the space,” wrote Mark Wilson on the news site. “But, you know, it's just a little too late for design alone to save the day.”

Scroll through the gallery below to check out exactly what changed about Google Plus on Wednesday, and let us know in the comments if you think it’s an improvement over the old design — and whether that matters in the social network’s long-run success.

Updated Profile Pages

With the addition of a cover photo, the new Google+ profile page looks a lot more like Facebook Timeline than it used to.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RonBailey

More About: Google

Secret Sauce: What Does It Take to Create a Viral Video?

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 02:25 PM PDT

“Going viral” is a distinct phenomenon particular to today’s Internet culture. But if you think about it, viral movements have been around forever. How else do you explain those horrifying motivational posters from a decade ago, or Britney Spears, or Furbies? Ick.

An incredibly powerful sub-category of viral content on the web is video. And everyone from Aziz Ansari to Apple to Allen’s Apricot Farm is trying to produce the next viral hit. Why? It’s all about eyeballs. And yours have probably seen a viral video in the past month, past day or even the past few hours.

The guys at creative agency Seedwell specialize in imagining, producing and distributing viral video. Partners Peter Furia, Beau Lewis and David Fine represent the heads of strategy, business and production, respectively.

But don’t you dare call Seedwell an advertising agency; this team values creativity over commercials. Its goal is to communicate brand messages via viral means, which means turning traditional advertising on its pretty little head.

The lads at Seedwell also produce for a separate YouTube channel, called Pantless Knights, which features mini-docu-series and music videos about pop culture and digital humor. Their newest channel, American Hipster, profiles the trendiest people in the country and gets behind the mustaches and vintage scarves.

Mashable spoke to Seedwell to discover just what constitutes a viral video. What is today’s viral audience looking for? Is there a formula for going viral? Read on to learn how this team builds views, targets tastemakers and caters to the modern web audience.

Q&A With the Partners at Seedwell

Is there something all viral videos have in common?

Lewis: This conversation begins with a speed bump, the lack of a universal definition for what constitutes a “viral video” (kind of like "hipster" — more on that later). Perhaps we can use this opportunity to propose one?

We’ve heard “viral video” used to represent: a threshold of views, a rate of growth, a threshold of sharing, and occasionally an aesthetic. What if we thought about "viral criteria" the same way our teachers did: relative to the class?

In most classes, 95% is an "A." By that metric, getting 10,000 views on YouTube earns a video as viral "A." This is a bit of a surprise to many who think about "viral" as being in the millions, but it should make you feel better about the video of your cat that hasn't gotten 1 million views yet (the 99.8th percentile).

There is also precedent for defining a "viral video" relative to the class in Unruly Media's viral video chart, which ranks the top videos in terms of sharing. To make the top 100 list, you have to rack up about 8,500 shares in 24 hours. This is closer to the 99.9th repeated percentile than the 95th (and there is a big snowball at the top), so let's do napkin math and relax that to about 1,000 shares.

For the sake of pushing the conversation forward, let's assume the definition of a "viral video" is an impressive performance of views, sharing and growth curve relative to the top 5% of the class (10,000+ views, 1,000+ shares in 24 hours). Let's also ignore the videos that simply paid for their views. Most "viral videos" that achieve along these lines do have some things in common: theme, structure and tastemakers.

  • Theme: Most "viral videos" fit into one of three thematic categories: 1) parody of something popular and timely, 2) cute as hell, and 3) did that just happen? (It usually didn't.)
  • Structure: There's a compelling case for a progression that starts by surprising the viewer, avoids interjecting much advertising, and takes the viewer on an emotional roller coaster. Viewers' screen time may be going up, but attention span appears to be going down, which means that the video needs to repeatedly earn the viewer throughout its duration.
  • Tastemakers: Almost all viral videos get their legs after being discovered by tastemakers and digital influencers. These are celebrities with built-in audiences the size of cable channels. Kevin Alloca gives a good TED talk on the subject, and the Kony 2012 video was perhaps the best example of engineering it to date.

How would you define today's "viral audience?" Or is it a general audience because viral is so universally appealing?

"The key is making a video that elicits a strong enough emotion or reaction from a group of people that they feel compelled to share it with others.”

Furia: We don't believe there is a "viral" audience. Certainly, younger tech-savvy people have a greater propensity for sharing content online, but videos can go viral within the general population, as well as within any number of niche audiences.

The key is making a video that elicits a strong enough emotion or reaction from a group of people that they feel compelled to share it with others. In some cases, that might be something universally appealing, like a laughing baby. In others, that might be a music video about an Apple product that touches on things only Apple users understand. In the latter case, the potential sharing population is smaller than that of the laughing baby, but it's also a community that is so passionate about the subject matter, that they'll share the video far and wide.

What are people clicking on most these days?

Furia: There are a handful of triggers that motivate people to click on videos these days. The biggest ones are probably video thumbnail, video title, relevancy and curation.

A provocative thumbnail and/or title will drive lots of clicks, especially if they seem relevant to viewers. It's not always the case, but you'll often notice way more views for "lower quality" videos that pertain to a major news event, pop culture trend or hot topic than for "higher quality" videos that are more timeless. Videos that capitalize on these "tentpole events" (like national holidays or major news events) can capture the public eye. The home run, though, is when you can create a video that is both high quality and relevant — this video stands out from the rest, and is something we always strive for.

Curation is also hugely important. People are much more likely to click a video that gets shared with them by a friend or a blogger whose opinion they trust. In many cases, the biggest YouTube celebrities, Twitter celebrities and bloggers have the power to make a video viral simply by posting it to their massive audiences. These people are the tastemakers of the digital world. 

There is also a mob mentality around already popular videos — the thinking goes, "Wow, if 100,000 people have watched this in the last two days, it must be relevant and worth watching."

Oh yeah, and it will always be the case that sex sells. A thumbnail with a close-up on a sexy body party — whether it's a pair of boobs or a guy's sculpted abs — will always get clicks.  

Lewis: It's also worth noting that there's an interesting trend in the world of YouTube where clicks are becoming less important. The model is moving more towards channels, subscriptions, playlists and a "lean back" experience. Assuming the trend continues, this means platforms will favor fewer different video clicks in favor of a longer watching time-per-click.

What are people sharing most these days? Is there a difference between a video that's clickable and shareable?

Furia: There are two very separate decision points for a viewer: the moment of choosing whether to click on a video, and then the moment where they decide whether to share it.

Most people will just watch a video and then click away or close it. If they decide to share a video, it usually is because they either a) altruistically want to share the enjoyment of that video with others, or b) selfishly want to be seen sharing or critiquing that video. The former is usually accompanied by an enthusiastic statement, like "OMG, this is awesome!" While the latter is usually accompanied by an understated or critical post, like "Is this what the internet has come to?"

It's amazing how many people will post videos that they dislike. This often reinforces the phrase "any press is good press."

You emphatically state that Seedwell is "not an ad agency." Why is that?

"The reason we get up in the morning is to create videos that make people smile, not to sell chips or body wash … We're extremely paranoid that the moment we forget that will be the moment we make videos nobody wants to watch or share.”

Lewis: The reason we get up in the morning is to create videos that make people smile, not to sell chips or body wash (both of which we do use). We're extremely paranoid that the moment we forget that will be the moment we make videos nobody wants to watch or share. That is when we lose relevance — both to viewers and (ironically) to advertisers.

So, we think of ourselves as a "creative studio" rather than an "ad agency." Ad agencies have historically paid for distribution with creative as an add-on. We believe in paying for creative and earning the distribution.

As much as we enjoy watching Mad Men, the world has changed. It's frowned on to drink old fashioned’s before 10 a.m., and there is no such thing as a guaranteed audience. People only watch what they want to watch, advertisements included.

It used to be enough to think about the message that your target consumer wanted. Now you have to earn their attention before you can even deliver a message. So, even if we're building a business that relies on advertising, we better be thinking about creating content that engages the viewer first.

You launched the YouTube channel American Hipster recently, and we love it! Where did the idea come from?

Fine: I came up with the idea for a documentary series called American Hipster about 4.5 years ago with a close friend from college, Abby Weintraub. The idea was to explore the word "hipster," and all the contention surrounding it, by profiling the people whose passions became the trends that have been co-opted by the “hipster,” whatever that word means.

The original idea was based on two assumptions: 1) that there are interesting people doing interesting things that, while widely considered to be “hipster,” lack the pretention and “F-you” attitude we all associate with hipsters, and 2) that people will watch a show called American Hipster because at their core, both words are highly charged and contentious.

Furia: Once we decided to develop a full YouTube channel around this American hipster theme, we renamed the documentary series American Hipster Presents (to emphasize the show's focus on our interview subjects). And [we] developed the other two more tongue-in-cheek, pop culture-focused shows, Hipster Grandmas and Max Movie Reviews. At a high level, the channel is just a fun way to explore today's youth culture.

Many people think the whole hipster thing is over, but the fact that the term is still so contentious makes us think there’s substance to explore. We also suspect there’s new humor to enjoy as hipsterism's influence expands further into the mainstream and crosses generations.

Where do all your ideas come from?

"We’ve all known each other since we were 12, so we’re not precious about our ideas when we’re collaborating on creative. We admit readily when an idea is bad. Or great. Or just OK.”

Fine: Creative is what we do best. We’ve all known each other since we were 12, so we’re not precious about our ideas when we’re collaborating on creative. We admit readily when an idea is bad. Or great. Or just OK. There’s no love lost, or time for that matter.

That said, we spend a lot of time working through a creative process that involves whiteboards, blindfolds, walking meetings and sometimes tumblers and trust falls.

Furia: I think the best ideas are born from moments when our subconscious thoughts can breathe (i.e. when we're not trying too hard to think), like in the shower or during a commute, but we've found that the best concepts are developed through collaboration. I think we have a special collaborative chemistry there; every single good concept has come about because one of us had a kernel of an idea and then others iterated on it.

What kind of people participate in your videos (both actors and behind the scenes)? How do you determine whether those characters/creative minds will appeal to a viral audience?

Lewis: Our videos began with just us and our friends, both in front of and behind the camera. We like that tradition and continue it. Making viral videos requires taking a lot of creative risks, which is something that you are better at doing in the company of people you trust.

As we've grown and realized the limitations of our on-screen talent (there are only so many dance moves we know), it has required us making more friends. That is a good thing, too. Many of our new friends are technically very skilled or highly magnetic in front of a camera.

Do you simply create the video and hope it goes viral? Or do you take steps to ensure its "virality?" Share some tips!

Furia: There is absolutely an element of uncertainty in the world of viral video. You can never know for sure whether something will catch fire and spread.

That said, there are a number of steps you can take to improve your chances of going viral. Here are our tips.

  1. Start with a catchy concept. The content is the single most important element to a video being shared virally. Your content should be fresh or relevant, or both. The online video world rewards the new, the unexpected and the relevant. It's a world where content goes stale in a matter of days and trends become old news quickly. If you're tackling a topic that's no longer new, you'd better be offering a fresh or creative perspective on it.

    Alternatively, you can go for the quirky or sensational. People will share a video showing a physical or mental feat that's objectively impressive (like a toddler soccer phenom or StarCraft II keystroke freak), or something that's just hilarious, weird or unexpected (like the Nyan Cat or Randall's animal voiceover).

    Additionally, it can be helpful to identify your core audience and make sure you're speaking their language. Something that's too general can get lost in the noise, while something that's very specific can ignite the passions of a niche community who sees your video as uniquely personal, and who will be thrilled to share it with other like-minded people.

  2. Optimize the content for online audiences. While there are a handful of exceptions, most videos that go viral are shorter in length and convey what the video is about in the first 15-30 seconds. As people become increasingly busy, and as more and more content competes for their attention, they're developing shorter attention spans and less patience. They want to know right away that a) they'll be glad they watched the video when it's done, and b) it's not going to burn up too many minutes of their busy day.

    Making the content easily searchable and identifiable, via its video thumbnail and its title, description and keywords is also very helpful.

    Additionally, people are less likely to share a video with overbearing packaging, branding or calls-to-action. Minutes-long opening credits or overt advertising can often be a turn-off for viewers.

  3. Get your content in the hands of relevant press outlets and tastemakers. The world of online video has become increasingly saturated, and it's harder than ever to break through the noise, even if you have a catchy concept and a video that's optimized for online audiences.

    Getting your video shared by digital influencers with large and engaged audiences is essential. While some bloggers and web celebrities get annoyed by "cold emails" and self-promoting, many more of them are interested in being among the first people to post a hot video, especially if it speaks to their specific interests.

    Identify the tastemakers with large audiences for whom your content is relevant, and share the link with them, along with some context for why they should check it out. They'll always read your emails or tweets, but they'll often only reply if they're interested in posting it.

    The type of outlet is also important. We've found that posts by traditional media outlets (like newspapers or magazines and their corresponding websites) with massive audiences can actually have a smaller impact on video views than posts by dedicated blogs and YouTube or Twitter celebrities with smaller audiences. This is because the latter often use more sharing-friendly publishing platforms, and their audiences are more tech-savvy and familiar with online video sharing.

    In other words, a write-up in Mashable with a video embedded, or a tweet from Ashton Kutcher with a video link can be an order of magnitude better for virality than a write-up in The New York Times.

    Lastly, you can pay for promotion. There are now a number of platforms on which you can advertise a video, such as YouTube Promoted Videos or Facebook Ads, and those tools can help drive the same initial momentum that a press feature would.

    More About: Advertising, features, Marketing, Video, viral, viral videos, YouTube

Could Military Mind Control Get Out of Hand? [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 02:09 PM PDT

The United States military is using technology to its advantage, and now, the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience might also provide the government with weaponry and gear that taps into the human brain. However, fiddling with such developments has the potential to do great harm.

A recent article in U.S. News & World Report detailed advances in neuroscience that could possibly be used by the military: “tanks controlled from half a world away, memory erasures that could prevent PTSD, and ‘brain fingerprinting’ that could be used to extract secrets from enemies.”

Jonathan Moreno, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Mind Wars: Brain Science and the Military in the 21st Century, wrote an essay published in PLoS Biology about ethical questions of utilizing mind-altering developments in warfare. When Albert Einstein discovered his special theory of relativity he didn’t know that one day that technology would be used to build nuclear weapons, he says.

“Neuroscientists may not consider how their work contributes to warfare,” added Moreno.

Moreno and others are asking the government to consider the ethical boundaries of developing and utilizing such a technology to be used in warfare.

The military has already invested in neuroscience technologies. In 2008, the military put $4 million towards the development of “thought helmets.” Other emerging areas of neuroscience might also prove useful to the military include the ability to make soldiers that can eat grass, feel no fear and possess superhuman abilities to climb walls.

It is no secret that the military likes utilizing technology to gain warfare advantages. This year alone, various branches of the Department of Defense have signed multi-million dollar contracts for the purchase of robots for use in tactical operations. Most of the robots are small in size, but most recently DARPA imagined humanoid-sized robots.

Do you think developments in neuroscience should be used by the military? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, ktsimage

More About: military, mind control, neuroscience, technology

Disconnect: 5 Business Benefits of Working Out

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:56 PM PDT

Eric Siu is the Vice President of SEO at Evergreen Search Marketing. He also writes about SEO topics such as the 10 Immutable Laws of SEO. Follow him @ericosiu

Disconnecting in the digital age seems like a virtue and a sin. The reality is, it’s hard to unplug. So much of daily life, particularly work, is tied to the web.

But temporarily disconnecting can actually help us be better on the job. And one of the best ways to do it is by hitting the gym. As it turns out, there are actual business perks to working up a sweat. Below are five that will get you pumped up.

SEE ALSO: 13 Ways to Get in Shape With Digital Fitness Tools

1. Focus

We live in a world where every two days we generate as much information as we did up to 2003. With that constant influx of data, it’s easy to become distracted. One second you’re checking your e-mail. The next second, you’re texting someone back. Then you have instant messages to read. Oh, and what about getting in some Pinterest and Facebook before you go to lunch?

The bottom line is, in this age, we need to learn to focus better. Working out teaches us to focus on one main goal: completing a work out. Focusing at the gym will allow you to carry that behavior over to your work. You’ll realize how much more productive you can be when you truly lock in and do one thing at a time.

2. New Ideas

Working out not only allows you to focus and think of different ways to solve current problems, but it also creates room to come up with new ideas. Take advantage of the clarity you can only get while you’re in the zone. Who knows? You might come up with your next big idea.

3. Confidence

You already know that working out helps people look great. The added benefit of looking great is confidence. And confidence will lead you to:

  • Close more deals: When you’re confident, you get the feeling you can accomplish anything you want. It’s going to become tougher for you to accept no for an answer. In fact, each “no” might inspire you to push harder.
  • Meet new people : Confidence will also help you realize that there isn’t a reason to be shy, and that it’s more beneficial to you to build as many quality relationships as you can.
  • Speak more confidently: Talking confidently goes a long way in the business world. People want to talk to someone who’s sure of themselves.

4. Discipline

The first step to being successful is starting. The second step is discipline. If you’ve had trouble committing to any project for an extended period of time, try working out. Developing a habit of consistently working out will make it easier for you to apply the same dogged discipline to other aspects of your life, including business.

5. Stress Relief

Stress saps your energy and decreases your productivity. If you’re stressing, then your anxiety levels are probably high. There’s a good chance you’re brooding about things so you aren’t fun to be around either. A great way to blow off this steam is to channel those feelings into your work out. You’ll clear your mind, and you’ll feel better. That will make your work life a lot easier to address.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, svariophoto

More About: Business, contributor, features, fitness

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TNT Pumps Up the Promo Drama With Crashes, Guns, Fights, Bikini [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:45 PM PDT

TNT, according to the cable network’s catchphrase, knows drama.

So, when it needed to promote its channel launch in Belgium, it brought the drama in a big way — with ambulances, bike crashes, fistfights, gunslinging and a woman on a motorcycle in her underwear.

In the video, a button labled “push to add drama” was placed in a “square that nothing really happens” in Belgium.

Then they waited for someone to push it…

More About: social tv, viral

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Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse With ‘Map of the Dead’

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:35 PM PDT


When the dead come back to life to feast on the living, will you be prepared? Will you have guns? Food? A map?

Didn’t think so. Thankfully, a new digital service aims to help you navigate the zombie-infested streets should such a nightmare scenario occur.

“Map of the Dead,” created by the digital agency Doejo, quickly shows survivors services that would be most helpful should the dead start to rise, such as gun stores, supermarkets and radio towers (to call for help).

The site mines Google‘s map data to come up with an array of color-coded icons to aid the living.

“All the data’s through Google,” says Jeff Merrick, the Doejo designer behind the project. “First, I used the places API. They have pre-set place types for things like hospitals and campgrounds. The second method is through keyword searches for things they don’t have categories for, like gun stores.”

Besides the obvious services, the map also points out places to avoid, like hospitals and police stations, which are likely to be overrun with zombies. The map even color-codes regions as safe or dangerous, though the definition is pretty broad: If a region has any man-made structures, it’s a danger zone.

“If it’s marked as a man-made structure it’s red,” says Merrick. “I’m not sure how they actually define that. It just looks cool. That also results in some weirdness in Alaska. If you look at the lower part of Alaska, it’s a big red area.”

SEE ALSO: The Zombie Apocalypse Is Happening in a U.K. Shopping Mall [VIDEO]

Originally, Merrick says he wanted to overlay real population density data, to emphasize the increased danger of zombies in places with more people, but he found it unworkable.

“I had trouble finding good data on that to use,” he says. “But I got basically the same effect by using the man-made structures.”

This isn’t the first time a clever developer has used Google Maps data to enhance the narrative of a Zombie Apocalypse. A couple of years ago, someone put the events of The Walking Dead comic book series into a special Google Map.

What do you think of the Map of the Dead? And how could it be improved? Share your thoughts in the comments.

More About: Apocalypse, Google Maps, Location-based services, zombies

13 Creative Google+ Cover Photo Hacks

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:24 PM PDT

1. Mike Tungate

This cover banner features a high desert lightning storm. Spooky!

Click here to view this gallery.

Google+ overhauled its interface Wednesday, which meant an entirely different profile design. One of the most striking differences is the addition of a cover photo, which sits right alongside your previous profile photo.

When adding a cover photo to your Google+ profile, you have one of two options: Either upload one long, wide panorama photo (similar to Facebook‘s cover photo), or add a series of five smaller, square photos.

Many users and brands have already taken advantage of the new cover photo options. Specifically, we’ve found 13 kooky cover photo hacks on Google+.

SEE ALSO: Trick Out Your Pinterest Boards With This Simple Hack

Perhaps these users spliced their photos using tools like PicSlice. Curious to give it a shot on your own profile? Share your Google+ cover photo hacks in the comments below.

More About: design, Google, hacks, Social Media, trending

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Theophilus London Remixes His Album, Animated-GIF Style [PREMIERE]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:13 PM PDT

Brooklyn rapper Theophilus London is about to drop a remix version of his debut album, Timez Are Weird These Days, but Mashable readers can listen to one of the tracks today!

Bing is sponsoring the album, titled Timez Are Weird These Nights, which will be released on April 24.

The track Mashable is premiering today is “Last Name London,” remixed by Brodinski. In addition to the remixes, Theophilus teamed up with to create an animated image for each track.

Check it out and give the song a listen!

While most of the DJ’s who appear on Timez Are Weird These Nights are well known, London still looks out for the little guy. A few months ago, London, Bing and Talenthouse held a contest for upstart producers to submit their own remixes of “Around the World.” The winner, Silascopathic, not only got featured on the new album, he also won $3500.

Keep an eye on for the remixes and animated gifs from each track.

More About: mr-gif, music premieres, remix, Theophilus London

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Are You Worried CISPA Could Be Another SOPA? [POLL]

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:02 PM PDT

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has plenty of people in the tech community worried that it’s going to be the next Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

The bill’s authors flatly deny the charge, saying it’s focused on cybersecurity rather than intellectual property. But some people aren’t buying that.

CISPA would allow the government and private businesses to share cybersecurity information in an effort to better protect networks from cyberattacks. The bill’s authors have stressed that their intention is to stop countries such as Russia and China from stealing American businesses’ intellectual property — a phenomenon they say gives those countries an unfair competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

However, organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other digital civil liberties groups have warned that the bill’s language is too broad. CISPA’s language could, they argue, be used as a blunt-force legal instrument in copyright protection or allow the government to snoop on your emails and text messages.

SEE ALSO: Could CISPA Be the Next SOPA?

Mashable readers: Is CISPA the next SOPA-style fight over Internet freedom? Or is it a welcome protection against state-sponsored cyberattacks? Sound off in our poll:

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, PashaIgnatov

More About: CISPA, cybersecurity, internet, Politics, SOPA, US

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