Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Electric Imp Connects Your Home Devices to the Internet”

Friday, 18 May 2012 by Irwan K Ch

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Electric Imp Connects Your Home Devices to the Internet”

Electric Imp Connects Your Home Devices to the Internet

Posted: 18 May 2012 04:19 AM PDT

If you’ve ever dreamed about connecting your entire home to the Internet — so that appliances could start by themselves or you could receive text message alerts to maintain housekeeping — it looks like your dream is ready to become a reality.

Electric Imp calls itself “a complete solution to connect devices to the internet, wirelessly.” The start-up, founded by former team members of the iPhone and Gmail, came out with a line of programmable, pluggable network cards that look like SD cards — except each Imp card actually contains an embedded processor and WiFi antenna. By installing these Imp cards to your devices using circuit boards (which Imp sells), you’re able to connect them to an “Imp cloud,” through which you can control them and program them.

Automated homes aren’t exactly new — for example, a student at UC Berkeley recently automated his dorm room. But Imp promises to be much easier than other current “Internet of Things” products.

For one, Imp cards don’t require you to hook up all your devices to a central controller. Rather, you can control all your gadgets and appliances individually online.

For example, as seen in the video, one theoretical application is having Christmas lights that flicker off when the water in your tree stand gets to below a certain level. Or, perhaps you could program water sprinklers to turn on when you notice that the weather is especially hot.

Users can set up commands to program their Imp cards using a drag and drop graphical interface on Imp’s web-based software. We haven’t tested it ourselves yet, but anything drag and drop is fairly intuitive and presumably easy.

In addition, as Gizmodo reported, connecting the Imp cards to your home or office WiFi network is not much trouble at all:

“Getting the Imps to work with a WiFi network is super easy, and ingeniously done. You input the WiFi network name and password into the Electric Imp your phone (iOS or Android) and the app flashes light at a photosensor on the Imp card, using pulses of light to transfer the login. It. Was. Slick.”

The varying sizes of Imp’s circuit boards makes it simple to install them in different-sized gadgets and appliances, and Imp is currently in talks with other manufacturers to make future devices Imp-ready right off the assembly line.

Developer previews for the Imp card are slated for June. The cards will initially sell for $25, and it’s expected that a basic circuit board will sell for about $10.

Would you be interesting in wiring your home with Imp cards? Let us know in the comments.

Thumbnail courtesy of LodgeNet

More About: internet of things, lifestyle, technology

Facebook IPO and Two Other Stories You Need to Know

Posted: 18 May 2012 03:43 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.

Facebook IPO Stock Price and Predictions

Facebook’s IPO has definitely been the story of the week, and it’s definitely been a busy week for both current and future shareholders of the company.

Yesterday, Facebook has confirmed that it will price its stock at $38, raising $16 to $18.4 billion in the IPO, making it the largest tech initial public offering in the history of the US.

What everyone wants to know, however, is the closing price on Friday afternoon, and Twitter-based crowdsourcing might just have an answer.

Meanwhile, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin denies he renounced his U.S. citizenship in order to escape taxes. Saverin said his decision to do so is "based solely on (his) interest in working and living in Singapore."

Steve Jobs Dreamt of an iCar

Steve Jobs dreamt of designing an iCar, claims J. Crew CEO and Apple board member Mickey Drexler. Unfortunately, Jobs never got to design it, claims Drexler, shedding some light on Apple’s immediate plans. The living room is something Apple is “dealing with at some point in the near future,” said Drexler.

Samsung Received 9 Million Pre-Orders for the Galaxy S3 [REPORT]

Samsung’s upcoming flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S3, is due to hit the European market on May 29, but it’s already doing really well, according to a report from Korea Economic Daily.

The company reportedly received 9 million pre-orders from more than 100 international carriers for the device. KED’s sources also claim Samsung's smartphone factory in South Korea is running at full capacity, producing 5 million units per month.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

More About: facebook ipo, features, first to know series, mashable

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‘America’s Next Top Model’ Adds Online Voting for Season 19

Posted: 18 May 2012 02:40 AM PDT

Veteran reality TV competition America’s Next Top Model will let viewers help determine, for the first time ever, which aspiring model must pack her belongings and go home.

The CW revealed the audience voting addition, a new judge and a new stylist Thursday during its programming upfront in New York City. Meanwhile, the show’s Twitter account spent the day sharing the news and retweeting excited fans.

For 18 seasons, creator Tyra Banks and her ever-changing judging panel have chosen the eliminated contestant. But now viewers get to vote at Adding online voting for the college-themed cycle 19 in the fall season will give fans only some power, however, as their votes and the judges’ votes will collectively decide who stays.

Reality shows — new and old — are trying new ways to keep viewers engaged, particularly with fresh social media-driven voting methods.

Most recently, The Voice introduced for season two voting via a Facebook Timeline app. In October 2011, X Factor began allowing votes to come in from direct messages on Twitter. And for season 10 of Idol, producers let viewers vote on a dedicated Facebook page.

SEE ALSO: Britney Spears, Demi Lovato Break ‘X Factor’ News on Twitter, Path

The CW also announced Rob Evans, a globally known model will join Banks and fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone on the judging panel. Stylist Johnny Wujek will become part of the cast, too. Evans and Wujek replace America’s Next Top Model staples Nigel Barker, J. Alexander and Jay Manuel.

This cycle’s college theme is fitting, considering Banks received a diploma from Harvard University in February.

On Thursday, @CW_ANTM took the photo of Banks with her diploma from February and plastered an America’s Next Top Model logo on it (see below).

BONUS: Summer TV Guide — 20 Social Shows to Watch

A crop of new and returning reality shows, comedies, talent competitions and dramas will vie for your attention on your TV screens, web browsers and mobile devices this summer.

America's Got Talent

Premieres: May 14 on NBC

Social media: America's Got Talent ushers in a new judge this season: shock jock Howard Stern, who's already igniting buzz across social networks with his recent jabs at the American Idol's too-soft judging panel. Anticipate his critical judging style to incite significant social chatter. Meanwhile, AGT's Facebook Page has been pushing multimedia, including Spotify playlists from Stern and fellow judge Sharon Osbourne.

Photo courtesy of Mark Seliger/NBC

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: celebrities, Entertainment, social tv, the cw, TV, tyra banks, voting

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Samsung Received 9 Million Pre-Orders for the Galaxy S3 [REPORT]

Posted: 18 May 2012 01:55 AM PDT


Samsung has received 9 million pre-orders from more than 100 international carriers for its upcoming flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S3, Korea Economic Daily reports.

Samsung’s smartphone factory in South Korea is running at full capacity, which is 5 million units per month, according to the same report.

This is more good news for Samsung, which became the world’s biggest phone maker in Q1 2012. The company is also the undisputed king of the Android market: Its smartphone sales represent about 40% of all Android-based smartphone sales worldwide.

Samsung Galaxy S3 hits Europe on May 29, followed by a US launch in June.

It sports a 4.8-inch touchscreen, a 8-megapixel rear-facing and 1.9-megapixel forward-facing camera, and comes with the latest version of Android — Ice Cream Sandwich.

[via Reuters]

More About: samsung, Samsung Galaxy S3

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Facebook IPO: Did Twitter Crowdsourcing Just Give Us the Closing Price?

Posted: 17 May 2012 09:11 PM PDT

When you get a lot of smart and interested people together to make a prediction in aggregate, it can be scary accurate. Anyone who has read the James Surowiecki business science classic The Wisdom of Crowds, and a host of corroborating authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, knows that.

So what if you applied that brave new world of expert prediction markets, of crowdsourcing the future, to the Facebook IPO?

That’s what famed investor Chris Sacca wondered aloud on Twitter, and programmer James Proud endeavored to find out. And thus was born, Proud even buying the exact URL Sacca had idly requested Tuesday.

By end of day Thursday, it had garnered more than 1,400 predictions, mostly from the Valley’s top luminaries — entrepreneurs, investors, analysts and others who know a thing or two from IPOs. And it was getting up to 20 visitors every second.

Pollsters and prediction market experts will tell you you need more than a thousand inputs for a good aggregate result with a low margin of error. So what did this prediction market come up with? And could you — or Sacca — get very rich in one day by banking on the result?

In theory, yes. Facebook’s launch price Friday morning will be $38. This site is predicting, in aggregate, that the stock will hit $54 by close of market Friday, for a total valuation of $135.7 billion.

Buy enough shares, and that $16 difference would make for a tidy one-day profit.

Of course, prediction markets have never been tested in this kind of circumstance. IPOs are inherently nerve-wracking wild rides. The Twitterati have been known to be wrong before. We certainly won’t be opening our wallets on the basis of this prediction.

But we will be eager to check back in at the closing bell, 4pm ET Friday, to see how close the prediction market came. Join us then!

More About: chris sacca, Facebook, facebook ipo, prediction market, trending, Twitter

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Viral Vinyl! Record Stunts Were Actually Guerilla Marketing [VIDEO]

Posted: 17 May 2012 08:25 PM PDT

Remember the jaw-dropping vinyl record tricks we showed you Wednesday? Well, they’re still amazing. The video is real. But the reason given for the making of it is not.

The five guys in the video repeatedly claimed to have done those stunts purely as a cure for “boredom”. That wasn’t exactly true — in fact, vinyl video star Jason Richardson tells Mashable, this is an unbranded guerilla marketing campaign for the app MusicBunk

When originally pitching the video, Richardson and his team shared a link from various Gmail accounts, each purporting to show “a video he made with some of his roommates and friends.” The video received no paid distribution, and its audience — more than 400,000 views, at last count — are completely organic.

SEE ALSO: 10 Excellent Examples of Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns [VIDEOS]

As the video caught on, other major media outlets reached out to Richardson and his friends. When asked why they made the video, the reply was always “boredom” or “it was just a spur-of-the-moment thing.”

In reality, the video was created and produced over the course of two days by Conscious Minds, of which Richardson is the creative producer. The stars of the film are friends, not actors.

“I don’t feel like we tricked anyone,” says Richardson, “We told you a story about what happened, and we left you to figure out what MusicBunk is.

“The brand discovery is something we left the users, and the consumers and the blogs to figure out whether or not they made that connection.”

According to Richardson, commenters picked up on the subtle trail of MusicBunk advertisements scattered throughout the video and YouTube page.

“It’s more about entertaining people and it’s not necessarily your typical PR pitch,” says Richardson.

Regardless, the video is still impressive — and according to Richardson, effective. Though he could not release definitive numbers, the subtle ad is apparantly paying off.

“All of the expectations are more than met on the launch of the app so far,” says Richardson.

The app lets you view your friends’ playlists and what songs they're listening to. It also allows you to post comments, send them to Facebook and Twitter, and check out new music straight from the app.

Do you think the video would have caught as much attention if its makers had been upfront? Sound off in the comments.

More About: Advertising, guerilla marketing, Media, Vinyl Records, viral

Twitter Wits Roast Facebook IPO

Posted: 17 May 2012 07:54 PM PDT

Albert Brooks

The film star, director and author breaks the news to the star of the Social Network.

Click here to view this gallery.

In case you’ve been living under that metaphorical rock these past several weeks, Facebook‘s much anticipated IPO happens on Friday. The Facebook IPO will mark the final step in the evolution of Mark Zuckerberg‘s social networking baby, all the way from Harvard dorm room to publicly traded company.

Facebook’s (FB on the Nasdaq market) official IPO share price was officially set on Thursday. Hundreds of Facebookers will become millionaires once the stock becomes tradable, and many observers have ideas for how they can avoid common pitfalls of the newly rich.

Others have speculated that Facebook could — just possibly — become the world’s first trillion dollar company one day. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin made news this week when it was revealed that he had renounced his U.S. citizenship, which helped him sidestep millions upon millions of dollars in capital gains taxes.

And then, of course, there are the folks who got out of Facebook at just the wrong time.

As IPO angst and anticipation crested Thursday techies, comedians, writers and everyday Americans took — ironically enough — to Twitter to weigh in and riff. Some jokingly lamented the effect a new crop of IPO millionaires would have on real estate prices.

Some poked fun at the company’s past foibles and potential for future failure. Others were just plain off the wall. Scroll through the gallery above for a few of Mashable‘s favorite tweets.

And if you’re still not clear just what exactly an IPO is or means, watch our video primer below to get up to speed for tomorrow’s action.

What Is an IPO?

What exactly is an IPO? What are the risks to a company in going public? What are the legal requirements?

If you find the business terms and market lingo confusing, check out our explainer video, which breaks down an IPO in plain language.

Thumbnail image modified, courtesy Robert Scoble, Flickr.

More About: Facebook, facebook ipo, Twitter

4 Steps to Cultivating Online Trust

Posted: 17 May 2012 07:30 PM PDT

Wendy Lea is the CEO of Get Satisfaction, a customer engagement platform powering 65,000+ customer communities to help build better relationships with their customers. Follow her @WendySLea.

You've likely heard that the secret to building relationships with your customers is to "be everywhere your customers are." As a result, you've probably signed up for a dozen social networks hoping that just showing up will turn out to be enough.

SEE ALSO: How to Maximize Your Facebook Engagement

But being everywhere is only the beginning. It turns out that online, just like in real life, the key to building relationships is trust. Cultivating trust online is tricky and takes work, but is by no means impossible. When you respond to your customers in the right way, you earn that trust and build the foundation for a real, long-term relationship. Here’s what you need to consider as you do that.

1. Acknowledge with Empathy

When it comes to earning trust, it's not if you answer, it's how you answer. Recognize the type of feeling your customer is having, and respond in an empathetic, emotionally intelligent way. The worst thing you can do is respond with the attitude that your customers are yet another problem to be solved. They will sense it. For example, if a customer tweets asking for help with a lost password, winning their trust might be as easy as adding an, "I'm sorry" or "that must be frustrating" to the response.

Also, when a customer has a good experience with your brand, amplify it. Thank them and then share their feedback socially. Not only do you validate their emotion, you also create the opportunity to connect with the members of your community that might have the same feeling or problem, but haven't made it known.

2. Enable the Right Outcomes

Before they trust you, your customers need to know not just that you'll hear them, but that when they raise concerns, they'll see a resolution. That means enabling your customers to express their feedback in the place where it's most productive for them, whether that's Twitter, Facebook, product pages on your website, or anywhere else. In other words, your community needs to have multiple front doors under one roof.

In order for a customer to find a channel that works, you have to make sure that all the conversations people are having about your brand are accessible anywhere your customers are. From there, they need to be able to access information and conversations about products, customer service, and community. That way, your customers are able to find like-minded people and can jump in on any conversation on any platform.

3. Educate Through Experience

It's not your job to tell your customers what the company values are. It's your job to let them experience those values by bringing them into the fold of your brand's community. That requires a system for archiving, organizing, and sharing conversations, the rallying point for your community of customers.

For Intuit's TurboTax that means offering a robust library of help documents created by the company, but the site also includes a "Live Community" widget that invites people to get help from a community of tax experts and users. Every customer experience is converted to valuable insight that can influence prospects, customers, and onlookers alike. What's more, the community is a testament to the brand's values: Offering a DIY tax experience that's accessible and easy for everyone.

Of course, you still need to produce and share content. It's not time to ditch the company blog or stopping sending original tweets. It is time to recognize that the conversations within your community actually turn into knowledge. Ultimately, your community is a living FAQ.

4. Keep the Momentum Going

Once you've earned your customer's trust, they're likely to be even more engaged with your brand and product. That's a good thing, but it means you'll need to go above and beyond to continue building that relationship. To do that, you have to get to the point where the trust goes both ways and you trust the customer. Take Tyrel Hartman, who wanted to use the social discovery app StumbleUpon to propose to his girlfriend. Both were active Stumblers and often enjoyed exploring the site together, so Hartman contacted the company and requested that they rig his girlfriend's account so that she'd stumble on a wedding proposal disguised as a blog post.

StumbleUpon's team could have easily said no to Hartman, but instead, they were inspired by Hartman's enthusiasm and explored a new use for their product. It required cross-departmental collaboration and an investment of resources, but it was also a priceless marketing opportunity that earned the company ample news coverage across the web.

Ultimately, real relationships are a two-way street, and your customers know that. Trust is the foundation of a relationship, but to keep that relationship going, you need to prove that you earned it, every day and everywhere.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mikkelwilliam

More About: contributions, customer engagement, features, online marketing

First Online Presidential Primary Fails to Find Candidate

Posted: 17 May 2012 06:57 PM PDT

Americans Elect, a platform that set out with the hope of becoming the first online presidential primary in U.S. history, has failed to field a candidate for the 2012 race to the White House.

None of the 52 possible candidates — not even popular mavericks such as Rep. Ron Paul and Gov. Buddy Roemer — gathered enough support to make it to the online convention process scheduled for June, per the platform’s rules. Americans Elect had previously delayed the convention, reportedly because of the unusually long Republican primary.

Ileana Watchel, the group’s national press secretary, announced in a statement Thursday afternoon that Americans Elect would not alter its procedures any further to accomodate the current top candidates.

“Americans Elect, from the outset, has been a rules-based process, with the rules publicly available and open to debate by the delegates,” wrote Watchel. “The rules, as developed in consultation with the Americans Elect delegates, are clear.

“As of this week, no candidate achieved the national support threshold required to enter the Americans Elect Online Convention in June. The primary process for the Americans Elect nomination has come to an end.”

Americans Elect is not a political party, but rather a vehicle for getting presidential and vice presidential candidates on ballots nationwide through a process that lived almost entirely online.

The idea, according to the organizers, is to capitalize on the Internet’s ability to connect like-minded people to disrupt the two-party system and revolutionize how the American political system works.

“The number-one goal is to produce a presidential ticket of great quality that wouldn't normally be able to run under the party primary [structure],” Chief Technology Officer Josh Levine told Mashable in February.

Americans Elect has thousands of participants and a line on the ballot in 29 states for the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

Users can support either “declared” candidates, who acknowledge they’re running on the Americans Elect ballot, or “draft” candidates, who haven’t made that decision.

The top declared candidate is former Louisiana Governor Buddy Romer, whose campaign went all-in on Americans Elect after failing to make headway in the Republican nominating contest. The top draft candidate is Ron Paul, who is still running for the Republican nomination.

SEE ALSO: Buddy Roemer Wants to Be the Internet's First Presidential Candidate

Some, including Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, have hailed Americans Elect as a solution to what they view as a broken political system. Others have expressed concern about its funding sources.

CEO Kahlil Byrd announced the failure of any one candidate to pass the threshold on Tuesday. However, he added that the organization’s leadership would take two days to discuss whether to alter the process. A statement he released read in part:

. . .as of today, no candidate has reached the national support threshold required to enter the ‘Americans Elect Online Convention’ this June,” read Byrd’s statement. “Because of this, under the rules that AE delegates ratified, the primary process would end today. There is, however, an almost universal desire among delegates, leadership and millions of Americans who have supported Americans Elect to see a credible candidate emerge from this process. Americans Elect will announce the results of [our] conversations on Thursday, May 17.

Do you think an entirely-online political primary could work in the future? Tell us why or why not in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, pagadesign

More About: americans elect

Facebook IPO: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Buy Yet

Posted: 17 May 2012 06:30 PM PDT

Everyone’s talking about the Facebook IPO — and for good reason.

Facebook is currently valued at around $100 billion, though it made less than $4 billion in revenue last year. Still, if the social network with more than 901 million users plays its cards right, it could be the world’s first $1 trillion company by 2014.

The Facebook IPO is slated for Friday. New investors can potentially buy around 421 million shares of Facebook stock at $38 a pop.

The big question is: should you buy Facebook stock while it’s hot? Multiple financial experts told us no — at $38 per share, the stock is overpriced.

Former NYU Stern School of Business finance professor Kenneth Froewiss believes adding Facebook to a portfolio early on is risky for experienced pros and investment amateurs alike. It’s like playing the lottery, he says.

“Even for those individuals with above-average net worth, purchasing shares at an IPO, especially a ‘hot’ one that has been widely hyped, is rarely a good idea,” Froewiss says.

“Might someone on occasion reap a tremendous windfall by doing so? Yes, but then again, on occasion someone wins the lottery. That does not make the lottery a great investment in general.”

Factors that can affect Facebook stock are legion. The current excitement about the company’s stock market debut doesn’t guarantee long-term interest or success.

“In my experience this stock and its IPO has seen more enthusiasm than any other I have seen over my 40 years of investment experience,” says Lewis Altfest, Ph.D., CEO of NYC-based Altfest Personal Wealth Management.

Facebook IPO breakdown

The social network’s success or failure may lie in its ability to conquer the mobile space — which is growing faster than the company is adapting. Post-IPO, Facebook will have to ramp up its mobile ads to push profits.

Facebook reported $205 million in the first quarter of 2012 — down from December’s high of $302 million. “Revenue in the last quarter was actually off quarter-to-quarter,” Altfest says. “They have to deliver revenue growth. Over a longer period, they will have to deliver earnings.”

Altfest advises average consumers wait at least six months. He warns in the following weeks after the IPO, demand will cause stock prices to stay high, which is normal for an IPO debut. But it may eventually fall.

“Even in stocks there are laws of gravity,” he says. “Take a deep breath and come back in six months.”

Joshua Gans, professor at University at Toronto’s School of Management, advises people do nothing instead. “All of the uncertainties surrounding Facebook will not get resolved in the six months,” Gans says. “We’ll only know a decade from now whether it has a permanent place in the economy like Microsoft.”

Microsoft traded at $22 per share at its IPO in 1986. Now it’s $61 per share.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Meets Wall Street: How the IPO Stacks Up With Tech's Titans

“There’s a scenario where Facebook clearly becomes the next Google or Apple, but there’s also a scenario where it simply does not and it ends up more like Yahoo,” Gans tells Mashable.

A safer alternative is buying into an index fund such as the S&P 500 instead of buying Facebook shares directly. Owners of an index fund can reap the benefits of the entire stock index doing well — without suffering sudden losses when a company’s stock tanks.

“Facebook will eventually be included in that, and it will be part of an index fund and you can buy it that way,” Gans says.

Some financial experts see Facebook as a good buy now. Lubos Pastor, finance professor at the University of Chicago, says it’s financially beneficial for investors to buy shares at IPO price. After the price of public shares rise, users have “historically earned subpar returns”, he says.

“However, the poor average post-IPO returns have been driven mostly by small firms, so it is quite possible that a large firm like Facebook will turn out to be a good investment,” Pastor says.

What do you hope Facebook has in store after going public? Sound off in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, blackred, Infographic by Statista

More About: Business, Facebook, facebook ipo, Social Media, trending

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Apple Dispute Halts Sales of HTC One X, EVO 4G LTE

Posted: 17 May 2012 06:03 PM PDT

If you’re interested in buying HTC’s new flagship Android phone the One X or the brand new EVO 4G LTE for Sprint, you may be waiting a while.

Shipments of both phones has been delayed in U.S. customs due to a "review of shipments that is required after an ITC exclusion order."

The ITC exclusion order in question dates back to last year when HTC was accused of violating 10 Apple patents. A judge ruled in favor of Apple on two of those claims, and handed down a limited exclusion order at the end of last year prohibiting devices that infringed on the patent from being imported into the U.S.

The patent infringement in question in this case is giving users the ability to click on a phone number on a webpage or email to call that number. In an official statement HTC acknowledged the issue and indicated it is working with customs officials on getting the handsets in stores.

"We believe we are in compliance with the ruling and HTC is working closely with customs to secure approval. HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE have both received enthusiastic support and we appreciate customers patience as we work to get these products into their hands as soon as possible."

While the court ruling came down last year, it only started being enforced on April 19 -– the idea being that the court was giving HTC time to comply with the order. Even if the phones are in compliance with the ITC ruling they would still need to be inspected before they could be sold.

The HTC One X was released on May 6 on AT&T and is currently labeled as "out of stock" of AT&T’s website.

The EVO 4G LTE was expected to be released on Sprint on May 18. While Sprint has acknowledged that the phone is delayed it has not, however, given a date that customers who order the phone -– or those just interested in buying it – can get the device.

Delivery of pre-ordered phones are on hold. U.S. customers who don’t want to wait can cancel their existing order by calling 866-789-8292.

Each phone in the One line has received enthusiastic positive reviews. The One line also includes the HTC One S, which is currently available –- and not being held by customs -– on T-Mobile.

More About: apple, att, htc

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5 Reasons QR Code Marketing Is Broken (and How to Fix It)

Posted: 17 May 2012 05:27 PM PDT

Dan Wilkerson is a social media project manager at LunaMetrics, a Google Analytics certified partner that also specializes in social media, search engine optimization, and PPC. You can follow him on Twitter @notdanwilkerson or at @LunaMetrics.

For years now, marketers, businesses and, well, everybody have touted QR codes as the next big thing. That’s largely because QR codes offered a glimmer of the future, a way to bring physical interactions into the much more malleable (and trackable) digital space. But despite the overwhelming push by marketers to stick a QR code on anything they are publishing, marketing, and eating (yes, eating), there’s been increasing skepticism about its real-world use.

The skeptics have some pretty good facts on their side. In 2011, a Forrester Research study pegged adoption of QR codes by U.S. adults at 5%, up from a meager 1% the year before. Then, in April, a Temkin Group study found that only 24% of U.S. adults are using these codes, a statistic that is a little encouraging but still tepid. These figures coupled with some serious dismal marketing anecdotes might make you think QR codes are ineffective, and you'd be right. Here's why.

1. Worthless Content

From a marketing perspective, QR codes offer obvious value and they're easy to create, cheap, trackable, and open up a world of possibilities for consumer-product interactions. From the consumer side, however, the value is not as clear. Scanning a code is cumbersome and costs the consumer time and effort. Plus, its value is unknown. Worse still, 90% of the time it's a link to a website not optimized for mobile. Now you've frustrated the consumer and wasted their time, which creates negative sentiment.

This is why you must provide the consumer with a valuable reason to scan the code. Consider a significant discount, the first chapters of a book, a free drink at the bar, even a space-specific YouTube video. What you don’t do is use it as a link to your website or Facebook page. That will only annoy your customer.

2. Consumer Awareness

The biggest problem that QR codes have is that consumers consistently have demonstrated that they don't have a clue what they are. An ArchRival study of college students found that out of 534 of our nation's best and brightest, 78.5% didn't know how to scan a QR code.

Marketers are so excited by the potential and intrigued by the concept that they've totally forgotten that consumers are not marketers. Marketers watch ads, click sponsored tweets, and yes, scan QR codes because they have a natural curiosity and passion for brand marketing. But the average consumer needs a marketer to outline to them what action it is they are supposed to take. When it comes to a QR code that means tell them what it is.

Consider including a simple list of instructions with a recommended app spelling out how to use the code itself. If you coupled that with compelling content, you'll introduce consumers to the concept of QR codes as well as how to take advantage of them.

3. Value as a Medium

The other consideration that is often ignored is the intrinsic value of the code as a piece of media itself. More often than not, QR codes are used as a simple link to a company website or specific landing page. The thought process being that it saves users the trouble of entering a complicated URL. This would be true if all a user had to do was wave their device over the code.

However, let's consider the user’s side of things. In order to scan a barcode, a user has to: 1. Get out their phone; 2. Unlock their phone; 3. Boot the app; 4. Get the code in focus and scan it. This is assuming they already have an app that scans barcodes. For most users, it's faster to just search Google for whatever the code is giving them a shortcut to.

To address this issue, use a six-to-ten-second guide as a rule of thumb for determining usefulness. If you're not saving your target at least that much time, scrap the code.

4. Location, Location, Location

Location is another important consideration. QR codes are showing up everywhere, on everything, with seemingly zero thought about context. (For some interesting use-cases, check out WTFQRCODES.) For instance, besides being impossible to scan, QR codes on highway billboards are dangerous and waste valuable visual real estate. A shortened URL, especially one created with a vanity URL shortener, would be easier and more effective.

Likewise, QR codes on company vehicles don't really make much of an impact either, and those are mostly going to be parked directly outside of your business anyways. And QR codes on subway ads are useless too since there's no data connection for users to load your page. The examples only get stranger from there.

The best solution is to walk through your implementation in a real-world scenario to make sure it will actually be useable.

5. Aesthetics

QR codes are ugly. Worse still, they're indistinguishable from codes used for industrial purposes. So a code on a product can be misinterpreted as a tracking barcode instead of a marketing outlet. The good news is they don't have to be ugly.

With a little Photoshop, you can round off the corners of the ugly blocks, giving a sleek feel to the code, and it will still scan. You can also generate codes with up to 30% redundancy, meaning you can remove 30% of the code and instead put your company logo or information about what it unlocks directly into the code. Use a URL shortener to make the code even more manageable and trackable in tools like Google Analytics.

There are some limitations to this, since certain parts of codes are integral and can't be deleted, but it really opens up the creative opportunities for some awesome design work. Better still, you can delete portions of the code to shape it into something else entirely, like a letter in your brand name, or even your logo. The gist is you can make it pretty.

So now you know why your QR codes are a failure and how to fix them. Of course, many are quick to point out that NFC devices are on the horizon and will probably displace these ugly little blocks. Given the encouraging uptick in adoption and the low cost of implementation of QR, however, there's reason to believe that they will become much more relevant before NFC is fully implemented. The guidelines above will help you make the most out of that opportunity.

1. Flying QR Codes

"Look! In the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the dumbest thing I've ever seen in my life!"

Click here to view this gallery.

Do you think QR codes have a place in a marketing plan? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

More About: contributor, features, mobile marketing, online marketing, QR Codes

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Kindergarten Teacher Earns $700,000 by Selling Lesson Plans Online

Posted: 17 May 2012 05:01 PM PDT

Teaching isn’t known to be a lucrative profession, but online marketplace Teachers Pay Teachers is changing that for some educators.

Deanna Jump, a kindergarten teacher from Georgia, has made $700,000 selling her lesson plans on Teachers Pay Teachers, an ecommerce startup where teachers offer their lesson plans to fellow educators.

Paul Edelman, the founder of Teachers Pay Teachers, created the platform following a four-year stint as a New York City public school teacher.

“I had an insight that the materials teachers created night after night had monetary value, so I set out to create a marketplace called Teachers Pay Teachers,” Edelman told Mashable. “Teachers are now making a pretty significant supplemental income and creating higher quality materials.”

During the first two years of Teachers Pay Teachers, teachers would pay for the lesson plans they wanted to use, though many would then be reimbursed by their schools. On Wednesday, Teachers Pay Teachers launched a purchased orders option, which allows schools to purchase several lesson plans directly for their teachers.

Edelman expects schools will become the primary buyers with the new purchasing option.

SEE ALSO: How Tech Will Transform the Traditional Classroom

Teachers Pay Teachers focuses on lesson plans for pre-K through 12th-grade classrooms. The most popular subjects are English and language arts, science, social studies and math.

The site has about 700,000 registered users, of whom 10,000 are sellers. Edelman estimates that of the sellers about 6,000 are earning money. The teachers earning money have so far earned $7 million selling their lesson plans, once Teachers Pay Teachers takes out its commission.

Teachers selling lesson plans have the ability to set prices, title their products and make changes based on user feedback. Users can also follow their favorite content creators. Jump, for example, has almost 12,000 followers, who are notified whenever she posts a new lesson plan.

Lesson plans are often sold for $5 to $10, though many are available for free.

The teachers who sell lesson plans use social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Edelman says Pinterest now drives more traffic to Teachers Pay Teachers than Facebook.

About 93% of sales come from the U.S., 5% come from Canada, 1% come from Australia and the remaining 1% come from the rest of the anglo-speaking world.

Is a marketplace for lesson plans a good idea? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, hamzaturkkol

More About: ecommerce, education, Social Good, Startups, trending

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Comcast Now Lets You Use 300GB of Bandwidth a Month [VIDEO]

Posted: 17 May 2012 04:29 PM PDT

Comcast announced on Thursday that it is transitioning away from its static data limit policy into a more flexible allotment model.

In the coming months, the company will start testing new options that will offer users more bandwidth as part of their cable Internet plans, as well as the ability to purchase additional bandwidth if necessary.

In 2008, Comcast started enforcing a 250GB usage cap amongst its residential subscribers. Comcast’s rationale at the time was that only a small fraction of users ever came close to using 250GB of bandwidth each month — and that even fewer users actually exceeded that cap.

The move was enacted in part to limit what Comcast deemed “illegal” uses of the Internet; in other words, they wanted to stop users from downloading movies and music over BitTorrent.

At the time, there was a lot of user outcry over the new usage cap limit, however in practice, few users actually reached that limit. (I was one of those Comcast users who bumped against the usage limit on more than one occasion, thanks in part to my $100-a-month business-speed Internet plan.)

These days, the situation has changed. Users frequently use more bandwidth. Not only are average access speeds faster (which makes it possible to consume more data), the way we consume content has changed.

Thanks to connected devices such as Roku and Apple TV, over-the-top streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime are increasingly becoming the way that many users watch content on their television sets.

Even though this content is consumed on a TV set, the bandwidth still counts against a customer’s data cap.

In Comcast’s case, the network has made an exception for its OTT-delivered Xfinity On Demand Xbox app. The data that Comcast users who use the Xfinity TV app on their Xbox 360 use is not counted against their overall limit. Netflix’s Reed Hastings criticized Comcast over this move, arguing that the company is violating rules of Net Neutrality.

How the New Bandwidth System Will Work

As Comcast explained on its blog, in the coming months, all customers will get at least 300GB of bandwidth to use each month. Additionally, users in higher package tiers — like Blast and Extreme — will have higher base allotments each month.

All users, regardless of their plan, will be able to get additional data at a nominal price. The pricing right now is expected to be $10 for 50GB.

Comcast will start trialing the the new management system in several markets and will suspend the data caps in markets not getting the trial. Comcast didn’t lay out a timeline for these bandwidth changes, and on a press call, was unable to give hard dates.

At this time, Comcast is also unsure what the specific starting data allotments will be for Blast and Extreme customers.

Why Now

On a press call, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen repeatedly denied that the change in bandwidth structure had anything to do with changing customer usage. “We are absolutely not doing it because customer needs are approaching the cap,” Cohen said on a call.

When pressed for specifics such as how many customers are approaching or exceeding current bandwidth limits, Cohen refused to say anything other than “a very small fraction of customers ever even come close to using the existing data cap.”

Instead, Cohen tried to spin the news as a consideration Comcast has been undertaking for some time.

“Times have changed. Things are very different than they were four years ago. We’re ready to transition from what might have been a state-of-the-art approach four years ago to a different approach that is more pro-consumer.”

It appears that the reason Comcast is making this announcement now — and without hard dates or specific plan information — is because it has come under increased scrutiny for how it segments its own OTT data, compared to competitors such as Netflix.

Rather than focusing on how Comcast counts bandwidth, it wants to frame the conversation in a way that suggests that customers have no bandwidth caps.

It may be true that most Comcast users don’t approach the 250GB limit, but as the usage of services such as HBO Go, Netflix and Hulu continues to increase, that won’t be true forever.

What do you think of the new bandwidth policy? How much bandwidth do you use a month? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, luismmolina

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Alyssa Milano Takes Over NHL Twitter Account for Playoff Game

Posted: 17 May 2012 03:58 PM PDT

Actress Alyssa Milano will take over the National Hockey League’s official Twitter account for Thursday night’s playoff matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes. The game starts at 9 p.m. EST.

It’s the first time the hockey league has relinquished control of its @NHL handle to a celebrity.

But Milano is a perfect fit — she’s a noted social media enthusiast, and tells Mashable she’s a “huge Kings fan” as well. NHL reps say the takeover will be a treat for fans.

“You may see a celebrity on the jumbotron, but fans don’t usually get an opportunity to interact with them around hockey,” Devi Mahadevia, the league’s director of digital business development, told Mashable in an email. “This Twitter takeover gives fans the opportunity to ask questions and talk hockey with a well known celebrity.”

Fans are encouraged to use the #AskAlyssa hashtag. Milano told Mashable in an email that she’ll “attempt to stay unbiased,” despite her love of the Kings.

Milano’s Twitter takeover is part of a growing trend for sports brands. NFL legend Deion Sanders answered questions and provided commentary from the @UnderArmour account during this year’s draft combine, and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo tweeted from the @StarterBrand handle during this year’s Super Bowl.

For an actual league to hand over its account, however, is a pretty unusual move. Major League Baseball did a similar promotion last summer, when Stephen Colbert took over its official account.

The NHL has made a concerted social media effort during this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Stanley Cup trophy got an official Facebook page for the first time, and the league launched a social video player and sponsored series of Draw Something (remember that?) words last month, among other initiatives.

Milano appreciates the league’s social efforts and writes: “The NHL really understands and embraces social media and hopefully I won’t mess this up!!!!”

Which celebrities would you like to see take over which brands’ Twitter accounts in the future? Let us know in the comments.

Image via

More About: Alyssa Milano, Draw something, NHL, sports, Twitter

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Hey Soon-to-Be Facebook Millionaires: Read This

Posted: 17 May 2012 03:47 PM PDT

Bill Harris is the CEO of Personal Capital, a wealth management firm. Previously, he was the CEO of PayPal and Intuit.

For everyone at Facebook, the company's IPO is a moment to take stock of the tremendous value that's been created –- for customers, for the company, and certainly for individual employees. In fact, the impact on many employees will be profound, vaulting them from salaried professionals to millionaire investors.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Users: 13 Ways the IPO Could Affect You

But anyone who's been in Silicon Valley for a decade or more, has witnessed the cycle of booms and busts in the tech sector, the economy, and to individual themselves. What financial lessons have come of this, and how do they apply to this new crop of tech titans? Here are three key ways.

1. Plan: Create a Personal Financial Strategy

As Yogi Berra said, "If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there." You need a plan for your financial life, and a strategy to get there. It need not be detailed or complicated, but it must be thoughtful. What do you want to do with your life, and what financial resources will you need? You can do this yourself or invest in a financial advisor, but please do it, and write it down.

2. Diversify: Build a Global Asset Allocation

You own Facebook stock. You work in the tech industry. You live the Valley. Your financial life is wildly exposed to the ups and downs of the technology industry. To a certain extent, this is purposeful. After all you've chosen tech as your life's work. But you need a buffer. Build a disciplined diversification plan into your wealth. Do this by creating a global asset allocation across multiple sectors, asset classes, and geographies.

3. Watch Out for Taxes: Beware of Tax Traps

Unfortunately, there are many ways you can walk blindly into tax traps –- and it can cost a lot. The difference between long-term capital gains taxes and ordinary income taxes can be as high as 20%. On a million-dollar gain, that's an extra tax of $200,000. Common shares, employee stock options, and RSU's have different tax rules. In addition to avoiding tax traps, there are many sound ways to reduce or defer taxes on your investment gains. So aim before you fire. Consult a financial or tax advisor to make sure you understand the impact of your decisions — before you make them.

You've invested a lot of your time and energy into building Facebook. Now, invest some of it into building your own financial future.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RapidEye

More About: contributor, facebook ipo, features, financial advice, financial markets

Death by Desk Job: How to Fight It [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 17 May 2012 03:16 PM PDT

Your desk job can kill you. At the very least, it will likely make you fatter, sicker and more stressed out than a job that doesn’t require sitting down and hunching over a keyboard for a third of the day.

Studies have shown that the amount of time American’s spend sitting increased by 8% between 1980 and 2000, while obesity rates doubled. Other factors played roles in fostering flab, but consider these numbers — nearly 300 million Americans don’t get the minimum level of exercise required for good health.

Americans burn about 50,000 fewer calories per year than they did 50 years ago, and the portion of jobs that require physical activity has declined by about 30% since 1960.

So how can you fight your desk job’s slow but steady stranglehold on your health and maybe live a few years longer?

SEE ALSO: Your Desk Job Makes You Fat, Sick and Dead [INFOGRAPHIC]

The American Heart Association recommends taking at least 10,000 steps per day, so take the stairs instead of that tempting elevator. Ten minutes of climbing stairs each day will burn 150 calories for a 150-pound person.

And there are actually several exercises you can do at the very desk that’s trying squelch your life force. Simple motions such as picking up your chair, doing pushups against your desk and leg squats can inject a bit of activity back into your day.

The infographic below, from the sports medicine company KT Tape, lays out some of the dangers of a sedentary work life and what you can do defeat desk-bound death.

Have you found ways to get a bit of exercise at work? Share them with us in the comments.

More About: infographics, work

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Facebook Co-Founder: No, I Didn’t Leave U.S. to Dodge Taxes

Posted: 17 May 2012 02:38 PM PDT

Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin denied Thursday that he renounced his U.S. citizenship and moved to Singapore to avoid paying capital gains taxes on his approximately $3 billion stake in Facebook.

Saverin said in a statement following a press conference held earlier by two senators who accused him of “tax dodging” that his relocation decision was “based solely on my interest in working and living in Singapore, where I have been since 2009,” according to Reuters.

The move has drawn ire from Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.), who accuse Saverin of taking advantage of the United State’s relative economic strength and stability, only to leave without contributing his fair share back to the country where he built his fortune.

“Mr. Saverin has decided to 'defriend' the United States of America just to avoid paying his taxes,” said Sen. Schumer in a statement. “We aren't going to let him get away with it so easily.

“It's infuriating to see someone sell out the country that welcomed him and kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire. This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong.”

The senators introduced a bill under which any expatriate with either a net worth of $2 million, or an average income tax liability of at least $148,000, will be automatically presumed to be leaving the country for tax purposes — enabling the IRS to impose a tax on any investment gains that person makes in the future.

Saverin, who was born in Brazil, denied any wrongdoing. He said he owes and is willing to pay “hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to the United States government.”

“I have paid and will continue to pay any taxes due on everything I earned while a U.S. citizen,” he said. “It is unfortunate that my personal choice has led to a public debate, based not on the facts, but entirely on speculation and misinformation.”

Saverin filed to give up his U.S. citizenship in January of 2011, but the news didn’t surface until late last month when the federal government released the information in a routine report. According to Talking Points Memo, Saverin may be barred from re-entering the U.S. if authorities decide he left the country for tax reasons.

What do you think Saverin owes to the U.S. — and to the IRS? Sound off in the comments below.

More About: Facebook, facebook ipo, trending, US, World

Twitter Will Dig Into New Users’ Browser History, Offer Suggestions

Posted: 17 May 2012 02:07 PM PDT

Twitter wants to make new users feel more at home on the microblogging network, so it’s changing how it recommends who you should follow when they sign up.

The company is beginning to tailor suggestions for new users — according to their past web browsing history, as well as whom other Twitter users follow.

The project is still in an experimental phase and only being tested in some countries, but all indications are that it points to a more permanent shift.

Before, new users would be presented with nearly identical suggestions for users to follow when they got started.

“Since you have individual interests, you should get individual suggestions,” Othman Laraki, Twitter’s director of growth and international, wrote in a blog post Thursday. “After all, even though millions of people love Justin Bieber, FC Barcelona or Kim Kardashian, not everyone using Twitter may want to follow them.”

Like many social networks, Twitter gets visitor information from websites that have integrated Twitter buttons or widgets, so it knows which users have been on those sites.

“By recognizing which accounts are frequently followed by people who visit popular sites, we can recommend those accounts to others who have visited those sites within the last ten days,” Laraki writes.

So it appears no coincidence that Twitter announced earlier Thursday that it had added a “Do Not Track” feature for users to opt out of the network keeping tabs on other sites they visit. “Do Not Track” is a cookie-blocking option in the Firefox browser that the Federal Trade Commission has been promoting.

Now, when new users sign up for Twitter, they will be given an option to “Tailor Twitter based on my recent website visits,” according to the blog post. They’ll also be able to follow a link to learn more about what that means.

Current users will also have a new “Personalization” option in their account settings, to make follow suggestions more tailored for them as well.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to specify the countries the new tailoring features is being tested in, beyond saying that European users are not yet included.

Is this Twitter update cool or creepy? Let us know in the comments.

More About: trending, Twitter

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Photo Challenge: What Does ‘Reflection’ Mean to You?

Posted: 17 May 2012 01:46 PM PDT

A simple yet effective visual device in photography is the reflection. Images can be completely transformed when seen through the mirror of another surface. An ordinary puddle in the street can be a looking glass to capture an alternative perspective of the world around it, and the mirrored image in a pair of sunglasses can make for a standout portrait.

For the Mashable Photo Challenge this week, send us your best photo of reflection.

We encourage you to interpret reflection how you see fit. In addition to a physical reflection, you might explore emotional reflection through an image. For example, Memorial Day is this upcoming Monday, May 28 in the U.S. — the nation will take a day to reflect on the sacrifices made by our armed forces.

As always, we want you to be as creative as you can. Just make sure you send us a short description along with your photo. Use this challenge as an excuse to explore the world around you and capture a meaningful image.

(Note: Mashable does not endorse the use of Myspace-style mirror photos circa 2005.)

SEE ALSO: Instagram Camera: This Designer Aims to Turn a Spoof into Reality
As an example, here is a photo of Hearst Tower in New York City, catching the reflection of the sky and clouds above it.  Also, be sure to check out the results from last week’s challenge, when we explored the theme of family.


How to Enter the Challenge

  • Take a picture that represents reflection to you.
  • Tweet your photo to @mashablehq with the hashtag #MashPics. If you need more than one tweet to write your caption, just send us another tweet. OR
  • Drop your photo into the picture widget below.
We will choose images based on composition, originality and overall appeal.

Submit your photo by Wednesday, May 23 at 12:00 p.m. EST. We’ll feature some of our favorite photos on Mashable, as well as on our Facebook page. We can’t wait to see your photos!

More About: community, Mashable Photo Challenge, photography

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The Top 10 U.S. Cities With Social-Savvy Small Businesses

Posted: 17 May 2012 01:20 PM PDT

Small businesses on the West Coast of the U.S. are far more social-media savvy than those on the East Coast — with companies in San Francisco and Los Angeles leading the pack, according to a new study.

Small business analytics accompany has released an infographic that looks at the top 85 U.S. cities and ranks them by social media presence and daily deal activity.

San Francisco topped the list of the most social small business cities in the U.S., followed by (in order) Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Seattle; San Diego; Chicago; New York; Dallas/Fort Worth; Phoenix; and Tampa, Fla.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Social Media-Savvy Universities [STUDY]

Although New York is ranked seventh — following the news that more tech companies are expanding in the Big Apple — many other major East Coast cities such as Boston didn’t make the top 20. However, Washington. D.C.. was ranked third.

Meanwhile, many smaller cities are also using social media to connect. For example, Grand Rapids, Mich. (29%) and Oklahoma, Okla. (28%) have the highest percentage of small businesses with Facebook pages. Meanwhile, Rochester, Minn. (20%) has the highest percentage of small businesses embracing Foursquare check-ins.

“The report reinforces the shift in marketing where small business are embracing social media,” Darian Shirazi, founder and CEO of Radius, told Mashable. “We were not surprised to see the typical large metro areas be at the top of the list, but were surprised to see many smaller metro areas perform well or even better than large metro areas.”

Image via iStock, CourtneyK

Social Media Small Businesses Infographic

More About: Facebook, Social Media, social networking, trending, Twitter

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Zombie Swipeout: Undead Take Flight in Zynga Sequel

Posted: 17 May 2012 01:00 PM PDT

If you’re a fan of Zynga’s game ZombieSmash, then get ready for the next installment — Zombie Swipeout.

ZombieSmash is a tower-defense game where you flick, drag, scrape and smash zombies to protect Joey, the only human survivor in the zombie apocalypse.

Joey is back in the newest installment, as are the zombies. Taking on many of the core concepts from the original game, Zombie Swipeout lets you use a host of weapons to slash and beat zombies. The only difference this time is they fly rather than walk across the screen.

SEE ALSO: 4 Frighteningly Fun Zombie iPhone Games

Your only goal while playing the game is to destroy the zombies without hitting Joey, who will occasionally fly across the screen alongside the undead. Slashable coins also fly by along with zombies you can collect to buy new weapons or replenish turns.

"The only one rule there is don’t hit the good guy," Matthias Hoechsmann, Director, Zynga Mobile Germany told Mashable. "If you hit him it’s going to be game over. Everything else is optional."

As the game progresses you can unlock new features such as grenades, liquid nitrogen and a slow-mo effect. You can also unlock new weapons ranging from knight swords to baseball bats that offer different perks to help you in your quest against the projectile dead.

Weekly tournaments let you battle your friends for the highest score. The social element is one of the key features of the game according to Hoechsmann. "When you see your friends, it’s an integral part of the game,” he says. “It’s not something hidden. It’s in the center."

A sharing feature within the app also lets you share the greatest killing moment from your latest round of battle with friends on Facebook or Twitter, or via email.

Zombie Swipeout is available for the iPhone and iPod touch Thursday from the App Store. The game is expected to be released in the U.S. next week, with iPad and Android versions expected soon.

What do you think of Zombie Swipeout? Can you see yourself playing the game? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: App, games, iOS, iphone

7 Companies That Could Have Been Facebook

Posted: 17 May 2012 12:45 PM PDT

It’s been a long road for Facebook. What began as an intimate platform has turned into a social networking giant serving more than 900 million users.

Facebook may be cashing in on its intial public offering this week, but it wasn’t the first to introduce the world to online social networking — many other sites were once recognized as the most popular. What made them fall by the wayside?

For some, it was server instability or lack of financial support to hit the ground running. Other formerly popular networks received the necessary monetary backing, but were inhibited by the corporation that had acquired them — and some went on to morph the company into something broader than just social networking.

SEE ALSO: Mark Zuckerberg: Smart or Lucky? [POLL]

But perhaps the most important reason why other sites couldn’t compete with Facebook’s current growth is timing. Today, the web is stronger, faster and more crowded than ever — people rely on an Internet connection to communicate, earn revenue and entertain, among many other things. That wasn’t the case 10 to 20 years ago.

Take a look at some of the past social networking kings that existed before Facebook. That’s not to say all weren’t successful. Most are still around, but in a different form from which they originated.

1. AOL

For many computer users in the mid ’90s, the Internet was AOL. From chat rooms to the ubiqutous AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), AOL was the center of online activity. The company acquired one of the dominant desktop browsers (Netscape), the leading streaming music and MP3 services (WinAmp) and was the king of Web 1.0.

SEE ALSO: AOL Founder Warns Zuckerberg: Don't Get Distracted by Facebook IPO

Then in 2001, AOL acquired Time Warner in its bid to become a media company. The merger was a disaster — one of the worst in business history. The fallout from the merger prevented AOL from keeping its eye on the evolving nature of technology, including broadband and real-time social channels.

AOL tried to compete again in the social space in the mid ’00s, but blunders like 2008′s $1 billion acquisition prevented success. Today, AOL is known as a media and advertising company and owner of such properties as The Huffington Post.

2. GeoCities

GeoCities was originally founded as a web hosting service that let users create communities of homepages on like-minded topics. The pages were hosted by specific “cities” — for example, “Silicon Valley” (computers/electronics) or “Hollywood” (Entertainment).

Near its peak, GeoCities was acquired by Yahoo for $3 billion. New copyright rules upset members and some left in protest. Among other issues, Yahoo was unable to make the site profitable and it was shut down in 2009.

3., named after the six degrees of separation concept, was one of the first social networking sites to exist. Users list friends and family, invite external contacts to join, then see if there were connections with other users on the site.

At its peak, had 1 million members and partnered with NADP. The site simply wasn’t profitable at the time, and shut down in 2001. It has since been revived, but is only open to former members and those who get an invite.

4. Friendster

Friendster was once considered the top online social network. It allowed users to connect, communicate and share online content with other members. Within a few months of launching, it had more than 3 million users.

During Friendster’s peak in 2003, Google offered founder Jonathan Abrams $30 million, however he chose to be funded by Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers and Benchmark Capital. The decline is considered one of the biggest blunders in the history of Silicon Valley. The site could hardly keep up with demand, and had trouble serving web pages. It was eclipsed by MySpace in 2004.

Friendster shifted in 2011 to focus on its expansion in Asia, and is now a social gaming site. Today, more than 90% of new users are based in Asia, and monthly users have increased by 50%.

5. MySpace

In 2003, Tom Anderson, Chris DeWolf and a few other Friendster users saw potential in the site, but felt it was lacking infrastructure. The MySpace team and its resources were supported by eUniverse. The new platform had the programmers it needed as it rapidly grew in popularity.

By 2006, MySpace was bought by NewsCorp for $580 million and had 100 million accounts. It peaked in 2007 when it was considered the leading social networking site, valued at $12 billion.

The site’s downfall began in 2008, when Facebook eventually caught up and overtook the Alexa ratings. Among other issues, Myspace struggled with a decline in ad revenue, failure to innovate and Facebook’s expansive membership to users under 18. The downfall accelerated in 2009, when it lost millions of followers monthly.

MySpace was bought for $35 million by advertising network Specific Media, and Justin Timberlake took ownership stake. Recently, Timberlake introduced MySpace TV. The site gained a million new followers in February 2012.

6. Second Life

Second Life’s online virtual world was developed in 2003 by Linden Lab. The service enables users to interact with others, create and trade virtual property, and participate in jobs and activities through an avatar. As of 2011, there were 1 million active users on the site.

Though Second Life was not necessarily a direct competitor to Facebook, the site became so popular that people made a living through their avatar. Some quit their jobs and others felt happier in a virtual life instead of reality.

Due to Second Life’s rapid growth rate, its servers struggled with instability. Eventual changes to the terms of service in order to comply with various international laws regulated or banned many Second Life businesses that once thrived.

7. Orkut

Orkut was quietly designed by Google in 2004. The social networking site was originally hosted in California, but today it is one of the most popular social networks in Brazil.

The site intended to help users connect with new and familiar people. It became popular in Brazil, India and Estonia — until 2010, when many users in Estonia and India switched over to Facebook.

Due to its prominence in Brazil, as well as its legal issues, the company moved its operation and management there to continue business. Today there are 66 million users on orkut.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, blackred

More About: aim, aol, Facebook, faceboook ipo, features, friendster, geocities, myspace, orkut, Second Life, Social Media, trending

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Disco Legend Donna Summer Dead at 63: A Digital Tribute

Posted: 17 May 2012 12:33 PM PDT

Donna Summer

Disco Legend Donna Summer died early Thursday due to complications from lung cancer.

The five time Grammy winner’s hits include songs such as “Last Dance,” “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls,” and “She Works Hard for the Money” and “This Time I Know It’s for Real.”

After Twitter exploded with the news, first reported by TMZ, Summer’s family released the following statement:

Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time.

Neil Portnow, the President and CEO of The Recording Academy, also expressed his condolences:

Five-time Grammy winner Donna Summer had a dynamic voice and unique musical style that helped define the dance music genre in the ’70s. She also was an artist who crossed many musical genres, as evidenced by her Grammy wins in the R&B, rock, inspirational and dance categories. Her talent was a true gift to the music industry, and our thoughts and sympathies are with her family, friends and fans throughout the world during this difficult time.

In tribute, we’ve compiled a Spotify playlist of her songs, as well as a roundup of some YouTube covers of her hits that made us smile.

Jamie Lono & The Feel Good Nation - Hot Stuff (Donna Summer Cover)

Jamie Lono and The Feel Good Nation performing "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer. Appearances by Erica Iozzo, Paulo Apuli, Joe Sena, and Michael Vuckovich. Video by Mike Danenberg Photography. Find Jamie on Facebook at

Click here to view this gallery.

Photo courtesy of Harrywad, via Wikimedia Commons

More About: Music, trending

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Listen to Mashable’s Facebook IPO Spotify Playlist

Posted: 17 May 2012 12:18 PM PDT

Facebook officially files its long-awaited IPO Friday. To help the company celebrate, we decided to put together a playlist on Spotify.

Many people are going to make a lot of money when the company goes public with a valuation of approximately $100 billion. This includes Mark Zuckerberg, who stands to make upwards of $1 billion himself.

As such, our Spotify playlist features a good number of songs about getting money and spending money. However, we also tried to include songs about dreaming big, including “If I had $1,000,000″ by Barenaked Ladies. Of course, Zuckerberg probably carries that much in cash on him these days, but it certainly wasn’t always that way.

SEE ALSO: The Facebook IPO Timeline

You’ll also find the rambling, nostalgic “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem, which ends with James Murphy repeating the line “If I could see all my friends tonight.” You can’t really see all your friends on Facebook, but you can at least stay in touch.

We thought it was fitting to end with the classic Nas anthem, “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That).” We’re not sure what Facebook’s version of this track would be, but we’d like to hear what you think. Check out our playlist above, and let us know in the comments what else you would add.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr, Andreas Blixt

More About: Entertainment, Facebook, facebook ipo, Music, Social Media, spotify

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Second Grader’s ‘Pirate Times’ Wins 2012 ‘Doodle for Google’ Contest [PICS]

Posted: 17 May 2012 12:08 PM PDT

This is a picture very worthy of the fridge — and of the Google homepage.

Second grader Dylan Hoffman from Caledonia, Wisconsin won the 2012 Doodle for Google contest open to U.S. students from kindergarden through 12th grade, it was announced Thursday. Hoffman’s doodle will be displayed on Google’s homepage on Friday, May 18 for millions of people to see.

The doodle, titled “Pirate Times,” was inspired by this year’s theme of time travel. The Doodle for Google contest began in 2008 and is held in 17 countries, each year bringing a new theme.

Hoffman’s drawing will also be the first Google Doodle to be featured on a Crayola box.

What did Hoffman get for his efforts? He’ll be awarded a $30,000 scholarship plus a $50,000 technology grant for his school.

114,000 students submitted their works of art this year. You can view the works of state winners and finalists here. All 50 state finalists get to have their Google Doodles shown in a special exhibit at the New York Public Library from May 18 through July 19.

The four top finalists are:

  • Talia Mastalski, 5th Grade, East Pike Elementary School, Indiana, Pa.
  • Herman Wang, 6th Grade, Suzanne Middle School, Walnut, Calif.
  • Susan Olvera, 8th Grade, SOAR Alternative School, Lafayette, Ind.
  • Cynthia Cheng, 11th Grade, Edison High School, Edison, N.J.

This year’s guest judges included singer Katy Perry, children’s author and theater actor Mo Willems and teen fantasy novel writer Holly Black.

Google Doodles often appear on the search engine page for holidays, seasons or to mark the birthdays of historical figures.

Check out this gallery below for a look back at all the winning children’s Google Doodles since 2008.

Google Doodle 2012

Second grader Dylan Hoffman of Wisconsin drew this winning picture titled, "Pirate Times." It was inspired by this year's theme, "If I could travel in time, I'd visit...".

Click here to view this gallery.

Have you, or your child, ever entered your artwork into the Doodle for Google contest? If so, post it in the comments.

More About: Contests, Google, google doodle

Facebook Timeline: 9 Best Practices for Brands

Posted: 17 May 2012 11:49 AM PDT

The Modern Media Agency Series is presented by IDG. IDC Infographic: Big Data Market to Grow 40% Per Year. Technology vendors of all sizes across hardware, software, and services stand to gain in the explosion of big data spending over the next three years. IDC predicts Big Data will become a $17 billion market. See what's hot…

Facebook Timeline officially rolled out to Brand Pages on March 30, but we’re guessing that many marketers still don’t know how to milk the new design for all that it’s worth. A recent study found that fan growth after Timeline has “slowed slightly”– is your company experiencing a bit of a slowdown? If so, we have some tips for you.

Some best practices apply to all social media platforms — be human, be genuine, reply to fans, foster conversation, don’t be gimmicky, and don’t syndicate the same content to every social channel, etc. But the tips below apply specifically to Facebook Timeline Brand Pages and are geared to take your company’s fan base — and revenues — to the next level.

If yours is a small business with little budget for social media or marketing, you need not worry — you can get a lot out of Facebook for free merely by doing it well. The more compelling and engaging your content is, the more it will be “liked” and commented on, thus catapulting your content — and brand — into organic buzz through more and more news feeds.

1. Embrace Images

Timeline is much more image-focused than earlier iterations of Brand Pages, so start snapping. You don’t need to invest in a fancy camera — in fact, it’s a lot easier just to use a smartphone. Show fans what goes on behind the scenes — sketches and mockups always make for good fodder, and “food porn” shots tend to make mouths water and Likes escalate. Social media naturally makes brands accessible — use Timeline to offer a peek at the more human side of your brand.

For example, the White House‘s photo of President Obama at a local Washington, D.C. sandwich shop accomplishes multiple goals: It reinforces Obama’s commitment to small business, it gives great visibility and awareness to a small business, and it shows that Obama is a “regular guy” who eats hoagies, just like you and me.

2. Make the Most of Your Cover Photo — It’s Prime Real Estate

“The new cover photo captures the culture and essence of a brand and can showcase their products — it's the first thing people will see when they visit a brand's page,” says a Facebook spokesperson.

A recent eye-tracking study noted that consumers pay far more attention to the cover photo than any content on the wall, so put thought into your photo. Are you running a promotion or opening a new store? Use a high-resolution photo, and humanize your brand with faces — the same study found that cover photos with faces attract more attention than those without, evidenced on Rent the Runway’s Facebook Page.

The cover photo is your chance to make a strong first impression — let it tell the story of your brand and pull people in. You can change the cover image as often as you’d like, and you can crop a perfectly sized cover photo here.

Nestled in the cover photo is the traditional profile picture. If you have a snazzy cover photo, then the profile picture is a great spot for your company’s logo. This is the thumbnail image that will accompany the brand’s comments and posts, so it should clearly define your brand — even when the image is smaller than 50 pixels.

3. Pay Attention to Insights

Facebook does a lot of the work for you, especially when it comes to analytics. Your job is to understand what they mean and how to use them to your advantage. Facebook tells you who your new fans are and breaks them down by gender and location to help you get a sense of who you’re talking to on Facebook.

If you’re using a mix of paid and organic tools for nabbing more fans, Insights will tell you how you reached people, so you know whether your time or money are yielding better returns. If you’re a big Excel nerd, you can even export the Insights data for further analysis. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll see in the Insights dashboard:

  • People Talking About This (PTAT) — The total number of people that have engaged with your page, whether they “liked” something, commented, shared or answered a question. This asses engagement beyond the old standards, Likes and clicks.
  • Friends of Fans –The aggregate number of friends all your fans have, meaning that each post has the potential to reach these fans (since their “Like” or comment will go on friends’ news feed, thus propagating your content).
  • Reach — The total number of people who have seen content associated with your page — this number offers a sense of how far your message has traveled.
  • Virality — The percentage of fans who saw a story from your Page and interacted with it, either by “liking,” commenting or sharing. Pay attention to your virality percentage to assess engagement and tweak your content.

4. Highlight or Pin Your Best Posts

Facebook is no longer a chronological river of posts — you can opt to draw more attention to a single post by “highlighting” it. “Highlight” your brand's most important information by selecting the star icon on the top right corner of any post on your Timeline. Doing so “displays your update across the width of your page, giving more weight to key news,” says Nicole Schwartz, social media and marketing manager at Sprinkles.

Facebook recommends taking advantage of the “Pin to Top” option on your Brand Timeline one post per week to extend the life of the content. When you pin something onto the timeline, it not only becomes larger but also becomes the first item within the Timeline itself. A Facebook spokesperson says Red Bull pinned a month-old video of its sponsored skier Bobby Brown to its Facebook Brand Page, which took the post from 10,000 “Likes” to 12,000 “Likes”. Social media users are bombarded with information 24/7, so pinning helps to cut through the noise and ensure that your fans will see your best posts.

5. Get Your Apps in a Row

What do you find just below the cover photo? Apps. And according to the eye-tracking study mentioned above, these apps get more visibility than everything below them on your Timeline.

Apps now include photos, videos, notes, events and more than 3,000 other options to customize your Facebook Page. For example, if you have a restaurant, you can use a menu app so fans can see your offerings without having to go to your website, and if you have a fashion company, you can use Polyvore.

Any custom-built apps (like ones by Offerpop or Wildfire), campaigns or promotions can find a home here at the top of your Timeline, and you can rearrange the order of the apps and choose a custom thumbnail for the service.

6. Make Use of Facebook’s New Ad Suite

In February, Facebook released a slew of new ad tools to help brands enhance their marketing; Reach Generator is one of these tools.

A study by AllFacebook in January revealed that a post on a Brand Page is seen by just 17% of fans. Reach Generator plays with the news feed algorithm to expose fans to content when they otherwise would have missed it in a way to boost visibility across the platform. Ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s used Reach Generator and became visible to 98% of fans over a 28-day period — a dramatic improvement. You’ve invested time and energy into your social media presence, so shouldn’t people see it? The cost of these tools is tiered based on the number of fans the brand has.

Other new ad tools include Logged Out ads (seen above), Premium on Facebook and Offers.

7. Run Contests to Boost Engagement

People love winning, whether it’s a t-shirt, early access to a sample sale or a free flight to New York. Prizes don’t have to be outrageous but they should be on-brand and relevant. In fact, Offerpop founder and CMO Mark Cooper says contests with “lots of low-value prizes that speak to your audience generate much more participation than one or two high value prizes.” With more odds of winning, fans are more likely to engage, even for something small. A great prize is a grab bag of merchandise and branded swag — offering something on-brand will attract your core demographic instead of freeloaders, says ModCloth Community Manager Natasha Khan.

Keep the Facebook contest as simple as possible to get consistent results and a lot of submissions. Asking fans to “like,” comment, vote or to upload a photo with a tag of the brand are all ways to generate buzz and get friends of fans involved. All of these actions will increase your “reach” on Facebook, and UGC uploads provide you with a slew of content that you could reuse down the line. If you do run a promotion, Cooper advises brands to change the cover photo to promote the contest (but leave out the call-to-action copy, which goes against Facebook’s guidelines) and post about the contest every day, pinning or highlighting for maximum effect.

8. Drop in Those Milestones

Timeline is a digital scrapbook and it’s a great way to tell the story of your brand, much like the Facebook profile can tell the story of one’s life. Populate the earlier space on your Timeline with Milestones — new product launches, memorable moments, and big company advances — and be sure to include a photo. Milestones add a human touch to your brand and encourage consumers to learn more about your company and thus, become more invested in it. Consumers are curious and love to know more about their favorite brands, and Milestones are a great way to make it easy for them while also eliciting “Likes” and subtly marketing your brand.

9. Embrace Your Fans

Because Timeline condenses fan posts into a box on the right, Facebook Timeline transformed the two-way scheme into more of a one-way broadcast mechanism for brands. A good way to mix up your content is to embrace and show off your fans — post their pictures and Instagrams (with a link to give them a shout-out) on your Timeline to put your fans front and center. Rent the Runway’s Style Awards highlight how RTR consumers have worn their dresses, a gesture that would make anyone feel like a fashionista.

BONUS: 10 Innovative Uses of Facebook Timeline for Brands

1. Fanta

The soda company's branded Facebook Timeline page took advantage of the Leap Year by pretending that the extra day "created a rip in the Fanta space-time continuum and sucked four of our characters: Gigi, Lola, Floyd and Tristan out of the Cover Photo and into the past."

Fans of Fanta's Page must engage in its "Lost in Time" game, which requires navigating through the Fanta Timeline, to bring the characters back to the future.

Click here to view this gallery.

What are your best practices for brands on Facebook Timeline? Let us know in the comments.

Series presented by IDG

The Modern Media Agency Series is presented by IDG. 100 terabytes of data is uploaded daily to Facebook, according to IBM. As digital data grows rapidly the need to store, analyze and act on it becomes critical. A broad range of technology vendors will benefit from the data deluge over the next three years. IDC predicts that Big Data spending will jump 40% per year. Check out this IDC Infographic to see what’s hot in the Big Data market…

Image courtesy of Flickr, GOIABA (Goiabarea)

More About: Facebook, facebook timeline, features, Marketing, mashable, Modern Media Agency Series, Small Business, Social Media

Giant Printer Paints Political Twitter Tweets on Streets [VIDEO]

Posted: 17 May 2012 11:33 AM PDT

A giant printer is painting 40-character life-size tweets about world hunger and poverty across roadways — it’s all part of the ONE Street Tweet campaign.

The street-tweeting campaign launched on Wednesday. The advocacy group ONE started the machine’s engines in Maryland and will continue printing tweets for two days until May 18. People in more than 34 countries have contributed tweets so far. The ONE team wants the leaders at G8′s 3rd Annual Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security to take notice.

“Remember — the whole goal of this action is to take your messages to the G8 on global agriculture to the streets — literally,” the advocacy group wrote in a blog post.

ONE is looking for about 1,000 more tweets. Shortened messages are selected from tweets sent to the @ONEStreetTweet account. Even politicians are submitting their own G8-themed tweets.

Watch the video above to see the giant ink-jet on wheels in action.

What’s the 40-character political statement you would like the world to see? Share with us in the comments.

Thumbnail image courtesy of ONE

More About: Social Media, trending, Twitter, Video

Facebook Sets Stock Price at $38

Posted: 17 May 2012 11:09 AM PDT

Mark Zuckerberg Facebook IPO

Facebook has confirmed that it will price its stock at $38, raising $16 billion to $18.4 billion in its IPO.

The IPO may be the second-largest ever in the U.S., next to Visa’s. It will also be the biggest tech IPO. Facebook will start trading Friday on Nasdaq under the symbol “FB,” Facebook confirmed Thursday afternoon.

The price is on the high end of the $34-$38 range that Facebook had disclosed in an amended S-1 earlier in the week.

Image modified, courtesy Robert Scoble, Flickr.

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Facebook’s Fools: 15 Who Missed Out on the Big Payday

Posted: 17 May 2012 11:05 AM PDT

In music, it was Pete Best, the original Beatles drummer who was replaced by Ringo Starr in 1962, just as the band was taking off. In tech, it was Ronald Wayne, the guy who helped co-found Apple with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in 1976, but sold his 10% stake in the company for a total of $2,300 that year — a position that would now be worth about $60 billion.

Those are the famous stories. In reality, there are probably dozens of people who can legitimately claim to have missed their chances to latch on to the Beatles and Apple in the early days. Usually their names are only of interest to biographers and lovers of schadenfreude.

Now, all eyes are focused on Facebook‘s impending $16 billion-plus IPO — and the social network certainly has its own Pete Bests and Ronald Waynes, too.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Users: 13 Ways the IPO Could Affect You

The following list features eight people who were at the right time and place to cash in on Facebook, but didn’t, and six companies that knew Facebook was onto something, but underestimated its value. Finally, there’s Harvard University, which will not benefit in the slightest from Facebook’s IPO, even though it was integral to the company’s formation.

1. Joe Green

The next time your parents offer you their advice, consider the case of Joe Green. Green was one of Mark Zuckerberg's roommates at Harvard in 2004. He worked with Zuck on the "Facemash" concept that got both in hot water with university officials, but turned down Zuck's advice to leave the school to start his new company. The reason? Green's dad, a professor, talked him out of it. If Green had followed Zuck, he might be worth as much as $400 million today. Green worked on John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, and now runs a firm called Causes that lets friends suggest causes and charities to friends -- via Facebook.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Business, Facebook, facebook ipo, features, Social Media, trending

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