Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “One Million E-Readers Headed to Africa With FC Barcelona’s Help”

Thursday, 24 May 2012 by Irwan K Ch

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “One Million E-Readers Headed to Africa With FC Barcelona’s Help”

One Million E-Readers Headed to Africa With FC Barcelona’s Help

Posted: 24 May 2012 04:36 AM PDT

Non-profit Worldreader kicked off a campaign Thursday aiming to put 1 million e-books in the hands of children across the planet, with a little help from players on one of the world’s most popular sports teams.

This may sound like a crazy goal, considering the widespread absence of books from African classrooms, but the organization is aleady well on its way. So far, Worldreader has donated 100,000 books to 1,000 students in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.

The non-profit now wants to expand its reach throughout sub-Saharan Africa and has enlisted some capable help — the world-renowned players on FC Barcelona (Barça).

“We’re trying to get them to do something radically different,” David Risher, CEO and co-founder of Worldreader, and a former Microsoft and Amazon executive, told Mashable. “When a student sees the image of a player he idolizes, it brings a whole new culture and habit, associating reading with a hero. Using these tricks we can get kids to read more, making it more fun and a bigger part of their lives.”

The organization believes the popularity of Barça will inspire students to keep reading, when they see personalized messages on their e-readers from some of the team’s biggest stars, including Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Eric Abidal and Seydou Keita, encouraging them to “score big” and continue their education.

The donated e-books include classic literature, local African textbooks and story books, and newspapers from around the world. To help reach this distribution goal, Worldreader is seeking donations of $5, which pay for one e-book.

In addition to putting books in the hands of students, Worldreader gives local authors and publishers access to a larger market.

E-Readers Impact on Students in the Developing World

When Worldreader began delivering books to Ghana in November 2010, the non-profit launched a study, funded by USAID, measuring the first implementation of e-readers into classrooms in under-previledged areas. The study found performance on standardized test scores jumping between 12.9% and 15.7%.

While Worldreader’s mission is to put a library of books in the hands of every kid on the planet, distribution isn’t the only challenge. Half the effort is getting kids excited about doing something new.

“To classroom teachers, e-readers just feel like having more books — they’re not significantly new technology to adopt,” Risher says. “I’ve had young boys come and say to me, ‘I’ve always found books kind of intimidating, but this feels like a gadget because it’s something I can play with.’”

Another advantage to e-readers, which can be often overlooked, is that the font sizes easily increase, making a big difference for students without proper eyewear.

Worldreader mostly distributes books on Amazon Kindles, because they work well outside of the U.S. and because of Risher’s history with the company. The organization recently began venturing beyond e-readers and onto feature phones, through an e-book app created by developer biNu.

Are e-readers a game-changing technology for students in the developing world? Let us know what impact you think technology could have on the developing world.

Interested in technology’s role in sustainable development? Join Mashable and partners in Brazil for Rio+Social. If you can’t make it to South America, you can join in the discussions on Facebook and Twitter. Click on the image below to learn more.

More About: ebooks, education, ereaders, Social Good, World

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Yahoo’s Axis and Two Other Stories You Need to Know

Posted: 24 May 2012 04:28 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.

Yahoo Launches Web Browser Axis to Mixed Reviews

Yahoo has launched a search-oriented web browser called Axis. In our review, we’ve found it to be much more useful as an iPad app than on the desktop.

The launch, however, did not go without some controversy. According to a report from Nik Cubrilovic, Axis (more precisely, its Chrome extension) has some serious security issues.

FBI Launches Online Surveillance Unit [REPORT]

FBI has formed a new online surveillance unit called the National Domestic Communications Assistance Center (NDCAC), CNET reports. This secretive new unit is tasked with various online surveillance missions, such as intercepting VoIP conversations or analyzing data which a wireless provider or a social network might turn over in response to a court order.

The FBI, however, claims the center will not be directly involved in investigations. “It is important to point out that the NDCAC will not be responsible for the actual execution of any electronic surveillance court orders and will not have any direct operational or investigative role in investigations. It will provide the technical knowledge and referrals in response to law enforcement’s requests for technical assistance,” said the FBI in a statement.

LG LS860: New LG Smartphone With a QWERTY Keyboard Leaks

LG intends to stir up the slightly forgotten world of QWERTY smartphones with a new model called LG LS860, BriefMobile reports. The device sports a 4-inch IPS screen, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, and a five-row QWERTY keyboard.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

More About: FBI, features, first to know series, LG LS860, mashable, Yahoo Axis

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Obama Wants Government Agencies to Focus on Mobile Apps

Posted: 24 May 2012 03:08 AM PDT

President Barack Obama has ordered all government agencies to offer more of their services in the form of mobile apps.

A new memo called “Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People” requires each agency to make at least two services, used by the public, available on mobile devices within 12 months.

“For far too long, the American people have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of information across different Government programs in order to find the services they need,” says the memo.

“Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device,” Obama said in a statement.

Agencies are also required to provide online resources for third party developers, and make their data open and machine-readable by default.

Finally, agencies are required to create a page on their websites (URL format being www.[agency].gov/digitalstrategy) within 90 days and publicly report on progress in meeting these new requirements.

“The initiatives we’re launching today will make government data resources even more accessible to the public and to entrepreneurs who can turn these data into services,” said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.

The new White House directive is available (in PDF format) here.

More About: agencies, apps, Mobile, obama

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Bubble Robots Move Using Lasers [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 May 2012 01:58 AM PDT

This isn’t your typical artificial intelligence robot, but scientists at the University of Hawaii have created bubble “robots” that can be directed using lasers. They hope to use the bubble robots to build micro-structures. And once the bubble bots are no longer of use, they can be popped.

The idea of using small robots to cure cancer or work with soldiers in combat zones is not a new concept. But the size and materials used to make the bots varies from project to project — just like the tasks they’re built to perform. But one thing’s for sure — robots are cool. Check out the gallery below for pics of amazing bots, and be sure to watch the video above for more on the University of Hawaii’s bubble bots.

BONUS GALLERY: 10 Amazing Real-Life Robots

1. The Cubinator

We met The Cubinator for the first time at the 2010 World Maker Faire. The robot currently holds the Guinness world record for fastest machine solve of a Rubik's cube. Pete Redmond, who developed the robot for the final project of his master's degree, says that its solve time averages about 25 seconds. Webcams in the robot's eyes detect the colors on the cube and the machine solves the puzzle by using an algorithm to find the fewest moves. It also has has a sense of humor, shouting "oh dear!" when it occasionally drops the cube.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: microrobots, robots

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Art Galleries Embrace Animated GIFs

Posted: 24 May 2012 12:06 AM PDT

Animated GIFs may be the latest way to crack a joke, but at one London exhibit, they’re also an art form.

Born in 1987: The Animated GIF, a recently launched project at The Photographers’ Gallery, features more than 40 animated GIFs created by artists of various disciplines — many of whom were working with the medium for the first time.

The gallery has dedicated a garage-door-size screen to the digital creations, which include a woman in a sarong twirling a hoola-hoop, a shifting block of squares and a landscape with three trees that subtly sway with the wind.

“In a world where most Digital SLR cameras can shoot high definition video, digital technology raises questions concerning what a photograph is and how we make sense of it,” said Katrina Sluis, the curator of a digital series that begins with the animated GIF exhibit, in a statement. “Our opening show embraces the animated GIF as a uniquely screen-based image.”

In this GIF by Seán Hillen, a woman raises a cigarette to her mouth. See more here.

As the title of the exhibit suggests, animated GIFs were introduced in 1987. Recognizing the portable color image files as a medium for artwork, however, is a practice that has only recently surfaced.

The curator of another aniamted GIF gallery at Denison University, Paddy Johnson, put the appeal of animated GIFs as art like this:

“They attract attention. They flicker and undulate. They stutter. Graphics Interchange Format (GIF unabbreviated) surveys a small subsection of fine art workers within this growing culture of image-makers.”

Some brick-and-mortar galleries have pulled animated GIF exhibits directly from the Internet.

The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, for instance, recently created an animated GIF exhibit called “Who Tripped El Hadji Diouf” from an online forum in which participants manipulated the image of the Scottish soccer star being “clattered.”

Sluis’s exhibit focuses on animated GIFs created specifically for the gallery, but it has integrated this open-submission spirit of the Internet.

Throughout the final weeks of the show, animated GIF submissions from the public will be included in the display. You can submit yours here.

More About: art, GIFs

Yahoo Axis Shines on iPad, an Afterthought on Desktop [REVIEW]

Posted: 23 May 2012 09:40 PM PDT


It’s been a while, but Yahoo just made some noise again in the search business. With the release of Axis, a new search app and add-on for both iOS and desktop browsers, Yahoo aims to make browsing the Web a more visual and convenient experience. And it succeeds — at least on the iPad.

This is surprising, since on iOS Axis is essentially running a skin over top of Safari — similar to what the Atomic browser does. In Yahoo’s case, though, it’s a powerful skin, filled with features you won’t find on Apple’s browser, such as easy toggling between regular and image searches, and instant syncing of bookmarks and tabs between desktop, iPhone and iPad.

At the same time, the app isn’t cluttered. It’s nice and minimalist, combining the search and address bar into a single field similar to how Chrome works (seriously, why don’t all browsers do this?). And your bookmarks conveniently appear in every new tab you open, letting you instantly tap to go somewhere familiar. However, it doesn’t put your most recent bookmarks first, which is a bit annoying.

Searching With Gas

One of the major thrusts of Axis is that it makes search more visual. It delivers pretty well on this promise, displaying a strip of site preview thumbnail images whenever you input a search term.

This is quite handy even if the sites themselves aren’t particularly visual. For example, for most subjects, a Wikipedia entry is one of the first to appear. While Wikipedia pages tend to be mostly text, they’re instantly recognizable, even as a thumbnail. The thumbnails tap out after you swipe through the first 20 or so, though, getting replaced with basic text summaries.

The most powerful feature of Axis, though, could be its near-flawless device syncing. Open a page on your iPad, and you can pick up right from there on your iPad or any major desktop browser (via an add-on or extension). All your bookmarks are synced, too — Yahoo even conveniently names one of your folders “Read Later.”

SEE ALSO: Google Search Just Got 1,000 Times Smarter

As I said, though, it’s only near-flawless. You can only see the last tab you had open on whatever device you’re picking up from. It also doesn’t sync your search history (though it will pass along the last search you performed on the other device).

Social networkers will appreciate that Axis integrates Pinterest. Whatever page you’re on, you can tap a virtual button to instantly switch over to the Pinterest iOS app and pin the page, although you’ll need to switch back to Axis manually. It’s a convenient addition that Safari doesn’t have — although Axis has no “Print” or “Add to Home Screen” options.

Desktop Blues

In all, though, the Axis experience on iOS is compelling, which is in contrast to the underwhelming desktop integration. To be fair, it would be expecting too much of Yahoo — who doesn’t make any kind of desktop browser — to come up with something groundbreaking here, and Axis ends up being not much more than an impressive syncing tool.

There seemed to be technical difficulties with the pre-release Chrome extension, and I never got it to work. It did better on Firefox, though, but I was disappointed that I had to wait for pages to finish loading completely before I could use Axis.

Regaled to a small search box on the bottom of your browser, Axis is more of an unwanted intruder on the desktop, and its abilities didn’t provide much in functionality that I couldn’t get from any of the many add-ons in my browser. It’s also more limited than the iOS version — your Axis search history, for example, is nowhere to be found.

Axis is a worthy experiment, though, and I hope Yahoo quickly iterates its iOS app. It’s quite simply one of the best browsers you can get for your iPad, and if it keeps improving and adding new abilities, it could help define how we consume the web on tablets. Just as long as Apple doesn’t kill it.

What do you think of Axis? Check it out for yourself at the Axis site, and let us know in the comments.

Yahoo Axis, Splash Screen

The screen that greets you when you launch Axis on iPad.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Axis, Browsers, search engine, Yahoo

App Puts Your Bad Parking in the News [VIDEO]

Posted: 23 May 2012 09:00 PM PDT

Surrounded by bad parking? Maybe you should move to Russia.

A new Android app called Douche Parking is aimed at stopping what its creators call “parking douches in Moscow” by subjecting them to public shame — in the news and on billboards.

When users see poor parking, all they have to do is snap a photograph with their phones and upload them to the Parking Douche database.

“Douche parking is a huge problem in Russia,” the creators explain in the video advertising the app.

“The data is streamed live to banner ads that are targeted through an IP address, so people that live or work close to locations where these cars were parked see it.”

The ads will appear on the Moscow-based online newspaper The Village. The news site is also the driving force behind the creation of the app.

On The Village site, people have the option of clicking to share the ad on social media — so their Facebook friends can join them in making fun of bad parking.

Public humiliation for parking offenses is nothing new. The website launched in 2007. But the idea of harnessing mobile technology to make the process much more streamlined, and giving the photos prominent media placement — this is Parking Douche’s major asset.

At the time of writing, only one user has given any feedback about the app on its Google Play site. The assessment doesn’t concern how well the app works, but the user does note it’s a “nice way to humiliate people.”

There is no word yet whether the app will make its way to other countries.

Do you think bad parkers should be publicly humiliated like this? Sound off in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, PeterMcKinnon

More About: android, apps, cars, international

6 Spotify Apps for Finding New Music

Posted: 23 May 2012 08:12 PM PDT

Nick Cicero is a social media strategist at On Ideas, an integrated creative agency. Follow him @nickcicero.

In the never-ending quest to keep our ear buds satisfied, Spotify has emerged as a leader in bringing the social graph to the music listening experience. And with the introduction of Spotify Apps in November, developers were given the option to create new and exciting ways to make that experience even better.

The result? A host of great apps that will enhance how you discover music. Here are six we like.

1. We are Hunted

The science of social music, We are Hunted pulls in sentiment data from social media, blogs, P2P networks, and message boards to create a playlist of the 99 most talked about songs from emerging and mainstream artists.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: contributor, features, online music, spotify, Spotify apps

Sports Illustrated Vault: Amazing Pics Unite Social Media With History

Posted: 23 May 2012 08:02 PM PDT

With a slick weekly iPad edition and robust cross-channel packages including its meg-hit annual swimsuit issue, Sports Illustrated has adapted to the digital age better than many legacy print publications. But social media also plays a key role in kindling nostalgia and engaging younger readers, through the Sports Illustrated vault of photos dating back to the magazine’s inception in the 1950s.

The @si_vault Twitter account has become a modest sensation among the sports media Twitterati for its multiple daily posts of timely and off the wall images celebrating athletic icons, historic moments and items of sporting whimsy. Since launching last autumn, its counterpart on Tumblr has amassed more than 30,000 followers.

Andy Gray, who manages the vault of photos, says the Twitter and Tumblr presence have helped Sports Illustrated compete with more web-oriented publications in the crowded world of sports journalism.

“For sports fans who want to go to ESPN, Yahoo or other sites, this is one thing those sites can’t and don’t offer — huge collections of photos that have appeared in our magazine over several decades, as well as ones that never made it to print,” he told Mashable. “The first day I looked through our photo database, I was blown away and just thought it could be something.”

Gray joined Sports Illustrated in 2005 and launched @si_vault in 2009 to share old magazine article as well as photos. He soon shifted to just photos after noticing that those were what resonated with social media users, then started the SI Photo Blog Tumblr more recently to help get social sports fans to share the images more.

Gray’s photo posts — culled from the magazine’s massive digital image repository — range from old World Wrestling Federation action shots, to poignant moments between longtime rivals, to curious images of athletes off the field or court. He says they’ve become equally popular with longtime Sports Illustrated subscribers as well as readers who may have never picked up a print issue.

“I might post a photo of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris smoking cigarettes in the Yankees locker room or Joe Namath wearing a fur coat, and all these college kids will be like, ‘Oh, that’s swagtastic,’ or something where I don’t even really know what they mean,” he says.

That’s an encouraging sign for a legendary sports magazine seeking to stay influential as media continues its migration away from print.

“People want to say this generation isn’t interested in history but I haven’t found that,” Gray says.

Is the Sports Illustrated photo vault something you would check out — or have you already? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Media, Sports illustrated, tumblr, Twitter

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For Some Magazine Publishers, Web Still Isn’t That Important

Posted: 23 May 2012 07:32 PM PDT

Although magazine publishers have embraced mobile platforms, particularly the iPad, the web is still not all that important, executives at Conde Nast and Meredith Corp. indicated on stage at a paidContent conference in New York Wednesday.

“We see websites as gateway into the brand,” said Bob Sauberg, president of Conde Nast. Liz Schimel, evp and chief digital officer at Meredith, echoed his statement, calling websites “entry points” through which visitors can discover publishers’ other — namely, paid — products.

The statements suggest that neither company is interested in erecting paywalls around their magazine websites. Apparently, neither thinks the web will ever become a significant revenue stream, despite the proliferation of profitable, web-based media companies over the past decade (The Huffington Post, Gawker Media, etc.)

Instead, both publishers showed a desire to adhere to legacy business models, i.e. packaging content in print (and print-like) monthly editions supported largely by advertising, and supplemented by low-cost monthly subscriptions and single-copy newsstand sales.

“Consumers still prefer print, so we aim for print-like digital products,” he said, adding that other forms of digital content may eventually be bundled into subscriptions in the future.

Though Conde Nast’s approach to the magazine business may remain traditional, Sauerberg did indicate that the company is diversifying its revenue stream in other areas. The company has a chance “to build a big business through high-quality video content” under the direction of CW network founder Dawn Ostroff, who was appointed head of Conde Nast Entertainment in October, he said. Sauerberg added that a more formal plan would be announced later this year.

He also disclosed some stats about Conde Nast’s tablet business, which he says has generated $20 million in revenue over the last two years — chump change for a company estimated to bring in north of $1 billion in advertising revenue per year. (Conde Nast is a private company that does not report quarterly revenue.)

Indeed, user numbers are still small: Conde’s 12 digital editions have attracted roughly 500,000 subscribers collectively; 1.5 million subscriptions have been initiated in total. These numbers are similar to what other magazine publishers, such as Hearst, have reported. Numbers for newspaper-based tablets aren’t much better: The Daily claims about 100,000 subscribers. The New York Times has 472,000 subscribers to its various digital editions, but doesn’t break out numbers for tablet subscriptions.

Image courtesy of Flickr, khawkins04

More About: conde nast, magazines, Media, meredith corp, publishing

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Facebook and TBS Announce Branded Comedy Partnership

Posted: 23 May 2012 06:56 PM PDT

Cable channel TBS is teaming up with Facebook to add more branded comedy entertainment options for advertisers.

The high-rated comedy network is utilizing Facebook to extend distribution with another recent partnership — Jason Bateman and Will Arnett’s digital ad and production company, DumbDumb. TBS will work with DumbDumb to give six brands up to six short-form customized comedy videos.

According to Facebook, the TBS and DumbDumb partnership will help brands distribute and promote content across multiple platforms, while engaging with Facebook’s 901 million active users.

"Facebook and television work perfectly together, as Facebook has become the location where viewers discuss, experience, and share what they watch and what they love, creating true word of mouth at scale,” says Carolyn Everson, VP, Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook.

Sources close to Facebook said that the content is going to live on a variety of channels, but the brand sponsors will ultimately decide where that content lives — whether that be on their own sites, on, or the brand or TBS’s Facebook page.

Commercials will also air on TBS to drive viewers to the brand’s web and social platforms.

Turner Broadcasting announced a partnership with Funny Or Die earlier this month, forming a strategic alliance between the comedy website, TBS and Adult Swim.

Funny Or Die is well-known for helping advertisers provide branded entertainment, and other companies like Buzzfeed are using emotional intelligence to help marketers engage in social media. Increasingly, branded content partnerships are proving to be a smart way to build virility and shareable content with a targeted audience.

It’s a smart — and forward-thinking — approach for TBS to offer these branded spots to their advertisers. At the television upfronts last week, lots of networks talked about giving advertisers more value across multiple screens, but few offered concrete examples of how they planned to do it. If TBS succeeds, this could become more common across the television landscape.

“We are not just talking the talk about innovation; we are actively developing ways for our advertisers to creatively immerse their brands through a multi-screen approach that delivers great video to an engaged and interested audience on Facebook,” says Donna Speciale, president of Turner Entertainment and Young Adults Ad Sales.

What do you think about comedy ad production companies like DumbDumb or Funny Or Die? Would you like to see more marketers approach this method of advertising? Let us know in the comments.

More About: branded entertainment, Dumbdumb, Facebook, funny or die, TBS

Yahoo Launches Web Browser Axis, Makes Searches More Visual

Posted: 23 May 2012 06:46 PM PDT

Google isn’t the only search engine in town with its own web browser. Yahoo announced its own new browser Wednesday evening: Axis.

Working seamlessly between your iPhone, iPad and computer Yahoo is aiming to streamline your searches and connect your experience across devices by giving you access to the same information no matter what device you’re accessing it on.

Visual previews of sites in Axis eliminate the traditional step in web searches where you’re looking through links and replaces that experience with an image of the website you’ll be going to. Some searches can even be done without leaving the page you’re on.


Tapping the Axis Bar -– which combines the search box and address bar into one -– will bring up a list of trending searches. You can tap a particular trending search to learn more, or enter your own search term or website address into the bar.

Answers will begin to appear automatically for common searches like movie times and weather, often allowing you to see what you’re looking for without having to leave the page you’re on.

For other searches the browser will create a row of visual previews to websites matching your specific query. You can swipe through the results, and then tap on a picture to visit a specific page. If you don’t like the result you’ve selected you can swipe across the screen to check out the next search result.

An Axis homepage gives you access to the sites you’ve recently visited not only on your iOS device, but also on your home computer or any other device you might use running Axis. So, the homepage on your iPad will show a website you visit frequently on your iPhone, or one you check out often while browsing at home.

Searches can also be continued from one device to another. For instance, a "Continue from iPhone" button will appear on your iPad and allow you to continue viewing search results you were looking at one your phone on a bigger screen.

On your computer

On your computer Axis is a plug-in for your favorite web browser rather than a stand-alone product of its own. Available for Chrome, Firefox, IE, and Safari, the Axis toolbar shows up at the bottom of your web browser and can be used much like the iOS version to see visual previews of sites, and to look up information without leaving the page you’re on.

The homepage option is also available within your browser, letting you to look at favorite websites and continue viewing search results from your iPhone or iPad.

Axis is available now. What do you think of the web browser. Can you see yourself using it? let us know in the comments.

More About: Axis, web browser, Yahoo

Confused By Your Health Insurance? Simplee Can Solve It

Posted: 23 May 2012 06:09 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: Simplee

Quick Pitch: Simplee organizes your health insurance information into one dashboard.

Genius Idea: Read-up on your health plan, pay bills and make the entire process of health insurance claims easier.

Sifting through medical bills is probably one of the least pleasurable tasks in your to-do list. And filing health insurance claims can be complicated.

A new website called Simplee aims to make this whole process a lot smoother by organizing all your health insurance information onto one easy-to-read dashboard.

Users can manager their claims, pay bills from the site and read details of their individual health insurance plans. Simplee will show you what your insurance company is covering — and what out-of-pocket expenses you’ll need to fork over.

“Simplee aims to empower you with tools and insights to optimize your health care benefits and lower your health care costs. Becoming a smart consumer of health care is increasingly important, as costs are rising rapidly,” the website notes.

“Consumer premiums and out of pocket medical expenses have increased by over 50% in the last 5 years.”

Once you sign-up, simply enter all your healthcare information (including your login info for your healthcare provider’s website) and you’re set up for life. When you visit the doctor, your bill is sent to your insurance provider.

That bill will be accessible on Simplee’s site, just as it would be on your health insurance company’s website. However, with Simplee, you can view bills from various providers and medical services in one place.

When your insurance claim is ready, Simplee will alert you via email. Currently, Simplee works with these health providers:

  • Aetna
  • Anthem
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS)
  • Blue Shield
  • Cigna
  • Delta Dental
  • Medica
  • Metlife
  • United Healthcare
  • Vision Service Plan (VSP)
  • WellPoint Inc. (Empire BCBS)

If your insurance company is not on the list, you can request it through a form on their site.

Headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., Simplee was co-founded by Tomer Shoval. He had the idea for the site after a vacation to Mexico during which his family became sick. When they returned home, he says, there was so much medical paperwork to sort through.

“It was time consuming, extremely confusing, and frustrating,” he writes. “I couldn't believe such an important aspect of people's lives, one that is also costly, is so inefficient and unclear. I wanted to solve this problem that affects us all. That was the birth of Simplee.”

Simplee never gives information to your insurance company, or changes anything on your insurance information. Simplee is HIPAA compliant, plus your information is encrypted. The company also boasts that it’s hosted on “one of the most secure hosting facilities in the United States.”

If you delete an account linked with Simplee, it wipes the data from their servers and renders the information unusable.

What do you think about Simplee? Would you use it? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, blackwaterimages

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, health, medical

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Microsoft: 500 Million Devices Could Upgrade to Windows 8

Posted: 23 May 2012 05:35 PM PDT


Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said during a speech at the Seoul Digital Forum in South Korea that 500 million PCs could be upgraded to the not-yet-released Windows 8 software in the near future.

This refers to the amount of Windows 7 licenses already sold that could be upgraded to Microsoft’s latest software. It’s the same stat that the company cited several months ago at the Windows Store event for developers in San Francisco.

“The stat Ballmer gave was a restatement of the same data already announced in December at the Store event regarding the number of Windows 7 devices that could potentially upgrade to Windows 8,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Mashable.

In December, Microsoft’s Partner Program Manager for the Store, Ted Dworkin, discussed in a blog post written during the Windows Store event about how many licenses were sold so far and what that could mean for Windows 8.

“We’ve just passed the 500 million licenses sold mark for Windows 7, which represents half a billion PCs that could be upgraded to Windows 8 on the day it ships. That represents the single biggest platform opportunity available to developers,” Dworkin wrote.

Microsoft and its Windows 8 software aim to be one of the big players in the mobile software space, which is now primarily dominated by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android software.

According to an Agence France-Presse report, Ballmer also noted during the speech that its highly-anticipated Windows 8 series will usher in the “rebirth” of Microsoft’s operating systems. He dubbed the upcoming Windows 8 product as the company’s “deepest, broadest and most impactful” software the company has ever created, the report said.

Windows 8, which will be released in preview next month, will come with powerful cloud capabilities with access available to various devices, from smartphones and tablets to laptops.

Ballmer also noted that the Microsoft is gearing up to introduce a new version of Skype powered by Windows 8. Microsoft bought Skype for a reported $8.5 billion last year.

Are you looking forward to the launch of Windows 8? Do you think it could be the next big software platform? Let us know in the comments.

Update: This story was updated from its original version with a quote from Microsoft that clarifies that the stat was in reference to device upgrades and was first used by the company in December.

More About: microsoft, Skype, Steve Ballmer, Windows 8

Watch Egypt’s Historic Election Unfold on Social Media

Posted: 23 May 2012 05:04 PM PDT

It’s a historic day in Egyptian history: voters are headed to the polls to vote for the country’s first president since the ousting of Hosnai Mubarak, who ruled the country from 1981 until last year during the height of the Arab Spring protests against despots across the Middle East.

Voters had 13 different choices from which to pick, representing a wide swath of the political spectrum. Some candidates come from a background of conservative Islam, others want to pursue a path of liberal reform, while the rest lie somewhere in between.

The results of Wednesday’s voting won’t be known until Thursday.

SEE ALSO: Visualizing Egypt's Internet Blackout [GRAPHIC]

Egyptians used social media throughout the day to share pictures of voting, talk about the candidates and share news of election day’s progress throughout the country. Mashable collected a sample of the best tweets, twitpics and other posts which you can view below:

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, mtrommer

More About: Arab Spring, Egypt, Social Media, World

ModCloth Launches Clothing Collection of User-Generated Designs

Posted: 23 May 2012 04:21 PM PDT

ModCloth, an online retailer of affordable women’s clothing and accessories, has launched a private label collection made up mostly of designs submitted and voted upon by its Facebook community.

The retailer posted a call for design sketches on its blog and social channels in late November. ModCloth cofounder and chief creative officer Susan Gregg Koger then narrowed the pool of 1,900 entries to 90, and put them to a vote on ModCloth’s Facebook page in December. The winners — a diverse lot that includes high school students, aspiring fashion designers and costumers — were announced later that month, and now those pieces are available for purchase on ModCloth’s website.

The collection is a step up from ModCloth’s Be the Buyer Program, which invites shoppers to vote and leave feedback on a rotating selection of samples from emerging designers. Both are part of the company’s mission to involve customers in the production process, and have done much to foster an engaged, evangelistic community.

Another collection of user-generated designs has already been voted upon, and will launch in September. A third, holiday-themed contest will be announced this summer.

More About: community, fashion, modcloth, retail

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Why Startups Need to Control Their Own Destinies

Posted: 23 May 2012 03:25 PM PDT

Jesse Draper is creator and host of The Valley Girl Show, through which she’s become a spokesperson for startups and helped pioneer the way of new media content distribution. Formerly a Nickelodeon star, Draper is now CEO of Valley Girl‚ where she oversees the show and runs technology blog

Silicon Valley is finally starting to have a real impact on the health care industry, and Practice Fusion, an Electronic Medical Records (EMR) company, is leading the way. In addition to replacing paper charts, its free, web-based product helps doctors with everything from appointment scheduling to prescription management. With major VC backing and vocal support from investors like Peter Thiel, the managing partner at Founders Fund and former CEO of PayPal, the company is positioned to scale quickly and dominate the digital health care revolution.

According to Ryan Howard, founder and CEO of Practice Fusion, the startup already has 150,000 users and 34 million patients under management. That represents about 10% of the U.S. population and averages out to about 70,000 patients a day. It's also connected directly to over 70,000 pharmacies across the U.S.

SEE ALSO: Why Digital Medical Records Could Save Your Life

How has Howard managed this rapid growth? "Everything comes down to people," he says. "The right person can figure out the right process and system to implement." He also acknowledges that when you're fundraising, growing and hiring at a fast pace, there's a certain amount of blind trust involved. "If you meet a venture capitalist, and you meet them for three meetings, and they put cash into your company and come on board, it's like going to Vegas and getting hitched. The flaw with that is that in Vegas you can get divorced, but with board members you can't."

In our interview, Howard advises aspiring entrepreneurs to "control your destiny by maintaining control." According to Howard, that means "your composure, the way you address your team and work with them, the way you structure your board, all these things are super critical for the long term success of your company.”

Sounds like a healthy health care company to me!

More Video from The Valley Girl Show

More About: health, healthcare, practice fusion, Startups, valleygirltv, videos

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How to Play ‘Take On Me’ on the Moog Google Doodle

Posted: 23 May 2012 03:16 PM PDT


Creative musicians throughout the world, both professional and amateur, have been jamming on the interactive Google Doodle that simulates a Moog synthesizer, named after the man who created the first modern synth, Robert Moog.

Mashable‘s vice president of design is Chris Phillips, also frontman of The Chris Phillips Band. As soon as he heard about the Google Doodle after it went live in Australia, he immersed himself in it, exploring the virtual Moog’s many features — especially the ability to record up to four separate tracks.

“The tweakability of this is astounding for a Google Doodle,” he says. “It has oscillation and filters, and you can make sound effects based on that. You can change the scope and the tone of the sound with filters. It has portamento, which is the sliding effect. It even has the mod wheel!”

After playing with several different tunes (including Van Halen’s “Jump” and “Axel F” from Beverly Hills Cop), Phillips turned his attention to Ah-Ha’s “Take On Me.” He laid down for separate tracks — the melody, a bass track and two pads. He experimented and pieced the song together in his spare time, a little over an hour in total.

You can listen to the song via this link. The key is the melody track. Playing on a virtual keyboard, the notes are as follows:

  • 88TE
  • EYYY99OP
  • 888 YY 8Y

For his rendering of the song, Phillips took the Envelope’s decay down to a low setting, and the Filter Glide down to zero. Others may want to experiment with other settings for different versions. (See this graphic for a guide the settings on the Moog.)

Although he wishes he had more time to perfect the track, Phillips says the level of sophistication in Moog Google Doodle is incredible. After crafting a Beatles song on last year’s Les Paul Google Doodle, Phillips hoped Google would do something like this.

“I wanted it to be a piano, but this is even more fun,” says Phillips. “There’s nothing more fun than playing with a synth. The Moog is one of the most classic synths of all time.”

Phillips does have one suggestion for improvement, however. He says quantization would be a great addition, so the timing of notes could be corrected.

What would you like to hear played on the Moog Google Doodle? Shout out your suggestions in the comments.

BONUS: 10 Awesome Google Moog Doodle Recordings

1. The Godfather

Mashable reader Nick Cicero shared his version of The Godfather theme song.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: google doodle, moog synthesizer, Music, robert moog

Should the Person Texting a Driver be Punished, Too? [POLL]

Posted: 23 May 2012 03:03 PM PDT

A young man crashes into a couple on their motorcycle while texting and driving. Looking at the outcomes from numerous other distracted driving cases, we know it’s likely the driver of the truck who was texting will be at fault. But what about the person he’s texting?

That’s the issue in a New Jersey case involving a couple who each lost a leg from an accident caused by Kyle Best, who was driving a truck, allegedly with his elbows, while texting. But the couple, David and Linda Kubert, are also suing his girlfriend Shannon Colonna who they say knew her boyfriend was driving while they were texting. The Kuberts’ lawyer argues that she was “electronically present” for the accident. The couple exchanged 62 text messages that day.

Todd Clement, an attorney specializing in distracted driving who is not involved with this case, told Mashable the issue in this case is the “ping-pong” type texting exchange between the teens, plus the fact his girlfriend allegedly knew he was driving. Texting while driving is an illegal activity in New Jersey.

An analogous situation throughout the country is “social host liability” laws, which makes hosts of parties serving alcohol liable if one of the guests gets behind the wheel and hurts someone badly. Employers are also held liable for employers talking on cellphones while driving, especially when employers are participants in the call.

“It is not that the sender’s liable because they sent the text,” Clement explained. “If they are liable at all it’s because they are engaging in an act that’s illegal.”

Take the poll below and tell us in the comments: Do you think the person texting a driver should also be held responsible for any accidents caused if they know the person is driving?

Mashable Poll

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, lisafx

More About: lawsuit, texting while driving

HP to Cut 27,000 Jobs

Posted: 23 May 2012 02:52 PM PDT


Hewlett-Packard said on Wednesday it was going to lay off 27,000 of its workers over the next year and half in a broad restructuring effort aimed at making the company leaner and more profitable. The news comes alongside HP’s quarterly results which showed profits down more than 30%.

HP executives said in an earnings call that it expects to cut the jobs — about 8% of its workforce — by the end of the 2014 fiscal year. Some of the workers will be offered early retirement, HP says, and the proportion of jobs cut will vary by region.

Once complete, the restructuring is expected to save HP $3 billion to $3.5 billion, the “vast majority” of which will be used to reinvest in the company. Research and development will factor highly as an area of reinvestement, along with expanding its cloud, security and information services. Enterprise storage is also expected to be an area of growth.

“We’ve got to streamline our operating model,” CEO Meg Whitman said during the call. “We went business unit by business unit and said, ‘What do we want to focus on, and how many individuals do we need to deliver that service?”

SEE ALSO: HP Merges PC and Printer Units in Major Restructuring

Gross revenues for the company were $30.7 billion, down 3% from the previous quarter. Profits came in at $1.59 billion, down from $2.3 billion, a 31% reduction.

HP’s job cuts and declining balance sheet follow a chaotic period that saw the company release and then discontinue its webOS mobile devices (including the HP TouchPad), flirt with selling off its consumer PC division, the fire its new CEO, Leo Apotheker, amid widespread criticism over his plan to reinvent HP as a software-and-services company.

Since then HP appointed Whitman as CEO and has taken many steps to get the company back on track — today’s job cuts being the biggest yet.

What do you think of HP’s plan to become more efficient through downsizing? Have your say in the comments.

More About: Business, Hewlett-Packard, HP, layoffs

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Social TV Finale Trends: Dancing With the Stars, American Idol, Glee

Posted: 23 May 2012 02:28 PM PDT

Dancing With the Stars American Idol Glee

Four hours of finale episodes from three primetime TV shows Tuesday night — Dancing With the Stars, American Idol and Glee — left viewers with much to discuss and debate on social networks.

DWTS crowned its 14th champion, Idol finalists went head-to-head in the performance finale, and Glee said goodbye to graduating seniors. And although Glee roped in the least amount of viewers (7.64 million), it incited more people to check in on social entertainment platform GetGlue.

SEE ALSO: Summer TV Guide — 20 Social Shows to See | SNL’s 100th Digital Short [VIDEO]

Below, we’ve compiled GetGlue check-in stats, viewership numbers and the trends emerging from Twitter and GetGlue conversations. We’re also featuring some of the best tweets from Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Dancing With the Stars

  • GetGlue check-ins: 20,029
  • Overall viewers: 17.48 million, according to Nielsen Media Research data
  • Comment trends: DWTS Green Bay Packers football player Donald Driver and dance partner Peta Murgatroyd took home the show’s coveted Mirror Ball Trophy, beating out celebrity finalists William Levy and Katherine Jenkins. Much of the post-show buzz online focused on him being the seventh athlete to win the show, which is in its 14th season. The Packers and fellow teammates even chimed in with tweets.
  • “Completely floored, I guess all the football fans got it together to vote,” GetGlue user Kimberly Bagley posted Tuesday night. “Love football and all but I really thought it should have gone the other way.”

American Idol

  • GetGlue check-ins: 20,335
  • Overall viewers: 14.39 million
  • Comment trends: Powerhouse vocalist Jessica Sanchez and crooner Phillip Phillips gave their final three judged performances. But even though Phillips’s third performance garnered a standing ovation from the judges, critics are having a difficult time picking a clear winner. Both contestants ignited a flurry of tweets as viewers weighed in on their song choices, vocal abilities and potential to succeed in the music industry.
  • “There are a ton of comments that feel very mixed,” GetGlue spokeswoman Claire Gendel told Mashable. “There are a lot of Jessica fans and a lot of Phillip fans.”


  • GetGlue check-ins: 41,447
  • Overall viewers: 7.64 million
  • Comment Trends: Crying — and lots of it from viewers during Glee‘s graduation finale. The episode flashed back to several memorable scenes in the show’s three-year run, including one from the pilot episode and another from the episode in which Kurt performed Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” in a leotard. Viewers reacted significantly to learning the fate of the graduating seniors and their plans for the future.
  • “A lot of people commented about how they might not have watched most of the season but tuned in for the finale and loved it,” Gendel says. “Many people commented about how touching the scene between Sue and Quinn was as well as watching Kurt’s dad do ‘Single Ladies.’ There were also a lot of fans who said they were crying, or would write ‘sniff sniff’ in the comments and definitely some who were shocked that Kurt didn’t get in to NYADA (New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts).”

And on that note, we leave you with Burt’s performance of “Single Ladies.” Please don’t die.

More About: american idol, celebrities, Dancing With The Stars, Entertainment, getglue, GLEE, Music, social tv, sports, Twitter

Facebook May Unfriend Nasdaq, Hook Up With NYSE [REPORT]

Posted: 23 May 2012 02:05 PM PDT

Facebook and Nasdaq logos on a stock field. Facebook IPO related.

If Facebook and Nasdaq were in a relationship, the status would likely read: “it’s complicated.”

The relationship was on a rocky road from the start. The Nasdaq exchange, home to many tech stocks, had an unplanned 30-minute delay in offering Facebook stock on its IPO day, which may have contributed to the stock’s meager performance.

Nasdaq declared itself “embarrassed” by the glitch, and earmarked $13 million to cover “bad trades” made by investors whose schedules were thrown off.

But that face-saving gesture may not have been enough for Facebook. According to a Reuters source, the social network is mulling a breakup with Nasdaq — and a hook-up with the New York Stock Exchange.

SEE ALSO: What Went Wrong With Facebook’s IPO?

The report says Facebook sat through a pitch from the NYSE, and is mulling the option to switch its official listing exchange.

In a statement to Bloomberg, however, a NYSE representative indicated reports it was in talks with the social network are false. They’re just good friends.

"There have been no discussions with Facebook regarding switching their listing in light of the events of the last week nor do we think a discussion along those lines would be appropriate at this time," the rep said.

No further comment was offered by Facebook or Nasdaq.

Although unusual, such a move would not be entirely unprecedented. Viacom went in the other direction recently, switching from the NYSE to Nasdaq to save fees in November 2011.

Should Facebook consider switching exchanges so early, or dance with the one who brung it for a while longer? Let us know your take in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, AUDINDesign

More About: Facebook, nasdaq

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Deaths of Cell Tower Workers Grows With iPhone, Data Demands [VIDEO]

Posted: 23 May 2012 01:54 PM PDT

From 2003 to 2011, 50 workers died “working on cell sites” and 100 were “killed on communications towers.” The death toll among climbers is roughly 10 times higher than the rate for average construction workers in the U.S, according to a report released byProPublica.

The peak of on-the-job deaths correlates with the release and popularity of the iPhone between 2006 and 2008. From 2008, deaths have “dropped considerably.” People in the industry are worried there will be another spike in deaths with companies prepping for the next generation of phones built on 4G LTE networks.

Industry insiders say there’s an indisputable need for reform. About 10,000 workers scale sky-high towers to maintain America’s growing network of 280,000+ communication towers feeding our data-hungry population.

The report, released this week, is the result of a joint ProPublica and PBS Frontline investigation into the high number of cell tower worker deaths.

The high pressure on the job is frequently cited as a problem. Workers report saving time by “free climbing” — skipping steps in connecting safety gear to the towers.

The report stated: “We found that in accident after accident, deadly missteps often resulted because climbers were shoddily equipped or received little training before being sent up hundreds of feet. To satisfy demands from carriers or large contractors, tower hands sometimes worked overnight or in dangerous conditions.”

Climbers also report going without equipment replacements or safety checks. It’s not unusual that cell tower workers, who can make $10 to $11 an hour, pay the cost for gear out-of-pocket.

Keep posted with the Cell Tower Deaths Series here.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr, radialmonster

More About: android, cell phone, data, iphone, Mobile, Video

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Fake Facebook Suicide Gets Teen Suspended From School

Posted: 23 May 2012 01:23 PM PDT

A Facebook page and a six minute video tell the story of a 12-year-old girl whose mother died when she was 3 years old, grew up being abused by her father and bullied on her Facebook page. Eventually, the girl commits suicide.

There’s just one problem: this is all fake.

The story was fabricated by a high school student who said she created the Facebook page and video for a class project asking students to highlight an important issue. The project resulted in 15-year-old Jessica Barba being suspended from school for five days.

A concerned parent saw the Facebook page after Barba posted a message pretending to be the made-up 12-year-old saying, “I wanna be dead.” The police contacted the school and the teen was brought to the assistant principal’s office. Barba said she included a disclaimer on the Facebook page and video, but when school officials confronted her with printouts of the pages, they did not include the disclaimers, she told Matt Lauer on TODAY.

The teen’s mother tried to show school officials that the pages included disclaimers, but that didn’t get Barba out of trouble.

Here’s the video Barba released:

There have been numerous stories of people creating fake Facebook pages to impersonate, bully or humiliate others, and in these cases all involved ended up in legal trouble. Barba says she was coming from a good place when she created this project to bring attention to the issue of bullying.

Do you think school officials overreacted or should Barba be punished? Sound off in the comments.

More About: cyberbullying, Facebook, Teenagers, teens

10 Ways Successful Entrepreneurs Delegate Tech-Related Tasks

Posted: 23 May 2012 12:51 PM PDT

Scott Gerber is the founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes youth entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment. Follow him @askgerber.

Naturally, entrepreneurs have an innate urge to want to tackle every part of every project themselves, but by trying to do so they can get tied up in tasks that limit their productivity and creativity. Especially when it comes to technical matters, outsourcing some of the work may not only be the best thing for the business owner, but it can also be the best thing for the business.

SEE ALSO: 12 Ways Businesses Can Prepare for Mobile Commerce

Of course, small-business owners shouldn’t outsource every tech-related item. To prevent miscommunication, lost time, and wasted investments, certain technical projects should remain in-house and become a new hire’s full-time gig.

I asked a panel of successful young entrepreneurs for their advice about delegating various tech jobs, including software development, apps, and website design. Here’s what they suggested about what to outsource and what to keep in-house.

1. Keep Most Competencies In-House

Keeping as many competencies as possible in-house gives us better quality and cost control, and allows us to be very nimble. For example, updates to our website, product photos, and layouts for our catalogs and advertisements are all done in-house. We call on outside specialists only for certain big projects, like a redesign of the website or complete software creation.

- Vanessa Nornberg, Metal Mafia

2. Delegate Small Projects

For more established businesses, beware of outsourcing all your web-development projects, especially because the code can be messy to work with later. Instead, only outsource small projects. This means that you limit your reliance on an outside firm, and you make sure that you can optimize resources so your own tech team isn’t overwhelmed with having to do every little thing.

- Danny Wong, Blank Label Group, Inc.

3. Let Others Handle Mobile Apps

If a mobile app is not a core part of your business but only a feature you’d like to provide to your customers, it’s an ideal tech job to outsource. Because of the breadth of platforms (iOS, Android, etc.) and the concrete, repeatable milestones of app development, reputable third-party providers have sprung up. These mobile-app development shops have the expertise to be successful in this type of arrangement.

- Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

4. Contract Everything

You can outsource any tech work, if you’ve got excellent project specs and you set clear expectations for documentation and other details. But be aware that outsourcing may be more work than you expect. You need to create the documents to make sure that all your development work meets set expectations and follows similar style guidelines so that you don’t go crazy down the road trying to work with old code.

- Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

5. Outsource Website Design

Outsourcing website design is very safe if you provide detailed instructions. We internally will develop a comprehensive treatment, which includes the emotional look and feel we want to convey, as well as the homepage content. We then have the designer go in phases, page by page. This provides great quality control and ensures timely deliverables.

- Raoul Davis, Ascendant Group

6. Delegate Motion Media

By hiring one or two employees, website design and digital could stay in-house. Motion media is something you usually need more frequently, so it's better to outsource. We outsourced to Chimaeric and quickly learned that outsourcing motion media not only provides higher quality, but expands the capabilities of what you can do.

- John Hall, Digital Talent Agents

7. Keep Core Business In-House

If the job does not involve a core competency of your business, outsource it. If it is a core competency, hire excellent people and pay them what they’re worth.

Your priorities should always be treated as the contractor’s priorities. Make it worth everyone’s while.

- Brent Beshore, AdVentures

8. Delegate Straightforward Jobs

As a rule, we outsource jobs that are straightforward, because they don't need intense supervision. Also, if the jobs are repetitive, they only need to be explained once.

Plus, if it is just a one-off project, we don't want to bring someone onboard specifically to complete it.

- Nicolas Gremion, Paradise Publishers

9. Outsource to the Right People

Almost anything can be outsourced. However, don’t fall into the trap of hiring someone who says he/she can do some or all of the tasks you throw at them. If you need a PHP programmer, hire one. If you need a person to create a .PSD design for your website, hire a professional who’s done excellent site templates in that format. Always try to find a specialist, not a jack of all trades.

- Juha Liikala, webVehicle Oy

10. Invest in the Best Partners

Outsource to get the best, not to save money. Find the digital partner who brings the most value to the table and invest in a longstanding relationship. In addition to amazing design and technology, the best digital firms will add value to your business by providing big ideas. Don’t underestimate the worth of fresh, expert eyes that are invested in your success.

- David Gardner, ColorJar

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Thomas_EyeDesign

More About: business plans, contributor, entrepreneurship, features, startup

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Microsoft Office Coming to iOS and Android in November [REPORT]

Posted: 23 May 2012 12:44 PM PDT


Microsoft is planning to release both iOS and Android variants of its Office suite of products this fall, a new report says. The date matches closely to when the company is expected to release Windows 8 and the new version of Office.

According to Boy Genius Report, which cites a “reliable source,” both the iOS and Android versions will be the “full Office suite.” Presumably that includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as tie-ins to Microsoft’s cloud services for Office. There are already OneNote and SkyDrive apps for iOS, and the former is on Android as well.

The report said it’s unclear whether Microsoft plans to release Office on iOS for just the iPad or for the iPhone and iPod Touch as well. A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to comment to Mashable about the story.

There have been previous reports that Microsoft is working on Office for iPad, and The Daily said it had even seen the app first-hand. However, Microsoft said an alleged screenshot of the app is a fake. That report, from February, said the app was “weeks” away from release.

SEE ALSO: Microsoft Reveals Its Plan to Sell Windows 8

That timeframe was obviously incorrect, but creating an iPad version of Office is a logical move for Microsoft. The company is already a presence on Apple’s platform with its other iOS apps and Office for OS X. Office for iPad is also in the spirit of Microsoft’s general new direction toward making its software more platform-agnostic.

Microsoft has previously announced it was working on the next version of Office, and it describes “Office 15″ as the “most ambitious undertaking” yet from the company’s Office Division. The release is certainly timed to coincide with the launch of Windows 8, which will see new versions of Office tailored to Windows 8 tablets.

What do you want to see from Office on iOS or Android? Sound off in the comments.

More About: android, iOS, microsoft, office

Even Siri is Disgusted by Chris Brown [VIDEO]

Posted: 23 May 2012 12:16 PM PDT

Chris Brown is a divisive figure, to say the least. The hip-hop artist and abusive former boyfriend of Rihanna can be so repellent that even Siri has a hard time dealing with him.

That, at least, is the premise of this parody from Jest, which features a potty-mouthed Siri grappling with Brown’s confounding popularity.

We’d quote some of the best lines, but they’re pretty much all NSFW.

Bonus: Here’s Funny or Die‘s parody of Zooey Deschanel’s Siri ad, featuring her brother, Jooey.

More About: parodies, siri, trending, viral video

How Pinterest Boosted Jetsetter’s Traffic by 150%

Posted: 23 May 2012 12:00 PM PDT

The Behind the Social Media Campaign Series is supported by Oneupweb, a relentless digital marketing agency focused on search, social, mobile and design services for mid-to-enterprise level brands. What's your company's social media policy? Download the free paper — Social Media: The Guide to Creating a Kick-A$$ Company Policy.

There’s nothing quite like Pinterest when it comes to eye candy. And few sites, if any, have more stunning photography than Jetsetter. So it’s not surprising that Jetsetter’s most recent initiative was a “pin it to win it” Pinterest contest. It’s also not surprising that the contest performed very well. Pinterest is the darling of the interwebs, with staggering referral traffic and a rapidly growing user base, and it’s natural that stunning travel photos spread like wildfire on the social media platform.

"Pinterest is the perfect platform for Jetsetter's photo-driven [content],” says Jonathan Goldmann, social media manager at Jetsetter. “While Jetsetter focuses on inspiring vacation ideas and providing insider deals for the immediate future, Pinterest helps users store and organize inspiration for an aspirational trip … Pinterest is travel research at its best and most enjoyable.”

How It Worked

Few jobs are more enviable than a travel curator — you stay in the best hotels, test every amenity, eat the finest food and see the world. Since its launch in 2009, Jetsetter has fielded many an inquiry from customers who were curious about becoming a Jetsetter curator. So Jetsetter made it happen. For its Jetsetter Curator Pinterest contest, Jetsetter asked pinners to create “the ultimate destination pinboard” from April 22 through May 6.

Using content on Jetsetter and around the web, Jetsetter members pinned photos in four categories: escape, adventure, style and cosmopolitan. To be eligible, boards needed to have “Jetsetter Curator” in the name, and each pin required the hashtag #JetsetterCurator. Winning boards were selected by Jetsetter editorial staff and a panel of judges, including Arianna Huffington and the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar. The winner in each category won a three-night stay at a Jetsetter destination pertaining to that category — the escape winner won a trip to Turks and Caicos, cosmopolitan to Miami, style to Los Angeles and adventure to Belize. The most followed Jetsetter Curator board won its owner $1,000 in Jetsetter credit, a reward that incentivized pinners to share their boards and pins with friends.

Engagement Metrics

Marketers have bandied about several ways to quantify social media success, but engagement seems to be the prevailing metric. If that’s the case, we can call this a win. More than 1,100 users vied for a free trip, with an average of 40 images per board, totaling nearly 50,000 pins. Throughout the contest, referral traffic from Pinterest to increased 100% and pageviews increased 150%. Not only were more people coming to, but they were also sticking around longer — the bounce rate decreased by 10 to 15% during the promotion. Thanks to Pinterest’s integrations with Twitter and Facebook, Jetsetter also experienced a boost in referral traffic from those social networks, too. On Pinterest, the promotion helped Jetsetter jump from 2,000 to 5,300 followers — a pretty dramatic leap.

Given the way the Pinterest eco-system works, those 50,000 pins gave the Jetsetter brand immense reach throughout the promotion — especially because jaw-dropping travels photos are exactly the kind of things that dominate Pinterest (well, that and quinoa recipes). Understanding what catches users eyes also serves as a valuable market research tool for Jetsetter: The “Jetsetter Curators” helped to provide the actual Jetsetter curators with a wish list of destinations for the site, so Jetsetter can better serve its members. Another reason why the contest was a win is that, aside from the prizes, Jetsetter Curator was a free activation — all of the content was user-generated. This bootstrapped approach is promising for small businesses, who seek to innovate and engage without breaking the bank.

“The overall goal of our Jetsetter Curator contest was branding, quality content generation and engagement with members,” says Goldmann. “We wanted to build an engaged community of travel curators on Pinterest. When people think ‘travel’ on Pinterest, we want them to think ‘Jetsetter.”

If you can afford to get lost in travel photos for a while, check out the winning boards:

Has your business run a contest on Pinterest? Let us know in the comments.

Series presented by Oneupweb

The Behind the Social Media Campaign Series is supported by Oneupweb, a relentless digital marketing agency focused on search, social, mobile and design services for mid-to-enterprise level brands. Every company should consider the goals of its social media strategy and the extent to which they are comfortable with employees engaging in social media activity on the job. Download Oneupweb's free paper — Social Media: The Guide to Creating a Kick-A$$ Company Policy.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, LUNAMARINA

More About: Behind the Social Media Campaign Series, contest, engagement, features, jetsetter, Marketing, mashable, pinterest

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Wearable Tech: Welcome to the Future of Fashion

Posted: 23 May 2012 11:49 AM PDT

Gadgets continue to shrink in size and adapt to free up our hands, making it more convenient than ever for users to multitask.

Taking it a step further, techie fashionistas are beginning to embrace a new wave of wearable gadgets — from the Pebble watch to Google’s sci-fi glasses. It seems like the spyware we used to see in the movies is actually coming to life.

SEE ALSO: High-Tech Threads: Can Your Clothes Do This?

This infographic, provided by, takes a look at the most up-and-coming wearable technology. Some of these products have already hit the market, and others are projected to in the near future.

Take a look at some of the trending wearable tech accessories below. Will you be spending your money on any of these gadgets? Let us know which one in the comments.

More About: Gadgets, Google glasses, Sci-Fi, Tech, trending, Wearable Tech

Lawmakers Call for an End to Internet Anonymity

Posted: 23 May 2012 11:42 AM PDT

Lawmakers in New York State think the root of all Internet evil lies in the anonymous nature by which comments get posted on news websites and social media. Their solution? They’ve introduced Internet anonymity legislation that would make New York-based website owners delete any anonymous posts that other Internet users label as cyberbullying.

Should the bills pass, any Internet user could call up a toll-free number that websites would be required to set up to handle such grievances. Anonymous web users would then have but a single recourse to save their posts if such a compliant is lodged against them: unmask completely by revealing their name and going through an identification process.

Should they refuse, the post must be deleted within 48 hours.

“A web site administrator, upon request, shall remove any comments posted on his or her web site by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post and confirms that his or her IP address, legal name and home address are accurate,” reads the draft legislation, identical versions of which have been introduces in both chambers of New York’s legislature.

State Senator Thomas O’Mara, who introduced the bill in the New York State Senate, told Mashable that his motivation is entirely to “deal with the issue of cyberbulling.”

“Cyberbullying and bullying in general is something that I think is exacerbated by the use of the Internet and the ability to get a claim or an accusation out to a mass of people quickly and anonymously that may be of a bullying sort, or contain untrue accusations,” said O’Mara. “This legislation is an attempt to do something about that.”

O’Mara has not spoken to any website hosts about the legislation, nor does he consider the idea a violation of the First Amendment.

“I’ll be taking comments from web hosts and on the First Amendment into consideration,” said O’Mara. “By no means is this an attempt to infringe upon the First Amendment. I don’t think hosts of websites want to be in a position of fostering false or unsubstantiated information, and I want to work with all interests on the bill.”

Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, disagrees.

“The law is clearly unconstitutional,” said Opsahl. “The right to speak anonymously is part of the First Amendment and has been since the founding of this country. In fact, some of the founding documents of the country were originally written as part of the Federalist Papers, which some of our founding fathers wrote anonymously under pseudonyms. Since then, the Supreme Court has routinely held up the legality of speaking anonymously.”

Read the full text of the legislation here.

Mashable reached out to the office of State Assemblyman Dean Murray, who introduced the bill in his chamber, but did not immediately receive a response.

Should anonymous Internet users be forced to unmask themselves if a complaint is lodged against them? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, selimaksan

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