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How to access the secret Facebook iPad app [Update]

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Mon, 25/07/2011 - 2:21pm

As TechCrunch reported earlier, there’s a secret iPad version of Facebook’s iOS app hidden inside the currently available iPhone version. Updates below.

So, how do you get to it? Well, seeing as it clearly wasn’t designed for public use quite yet, it’s slightly tricky to access, but follow our guide below and you’ll be using it in no time.

Having tried the app ourselves, we can say that while a little buggy and occasionally crashing, it’s an incredibly well thought-out way of browsing Facebook. It offers support for just about every part of the Facebook experience (although there’s no video chat) and sits as a good ‘half-way house’ between the compact iPhone app and the full website. The Places view is particularly nice, showing all your friends on a map.

Bugs still to be fixed include Facebook Pages crashing the app and text in certain places not being rendered properly. Still, we can’t wait to try out the finished version once Facebook makes it official.

Scroll down for our installation guide…

How to access the iPad app

So, how do you get your hands on it? Here’s a step-by-step guide. Please bear in mind that we offer this guide for information purposes only, and you carry out the process at your own risk.

  1. Ensure you’ve got the latest update of Facebook’s iPhone app on your iPad.
  2. Jailbreak your iPad. Yes, this is something that not everyone will be happy doing seeing as it’s against Apple’s terms and conditions and you do this at your own risk. However, as we recently reported, JailbreakMe is a really easy way to do it (at the moment) and you can always reverse the process by reverting to your iTunes backup of your device.
  3. JailBreaking via JailBreakMe will install the Cydia app store on your iPad. For the purposes of this exercise, it doesn’t matter which version of the App Store you install (you’re given three options aimed at different types of users).
  4. In Cydia, search for the iFile app and install it.
  5. Open iFile and navigate to var > mobile > applications > directory.
  6. Open the iFile settings using the cog wheel icon at the bottom of the screen and switch ‘Application Names’ to ‘on’.
  7. This will allow you to see which folders relate to which apps. Find the Facebook folder and open it. Inside that, open Facebook.app.
  8. Find the ‘Info.plist’ file and tap on it. Choose ‘Property List Viewer’.
  9. Find the ‘UIDeviceFamily’ option and select it.
  10. Change the value here from ’1′ to ’2′ and tap ‘Done’.
  11. Reboot your iPad and then open the Facebook app.

Update: We’ve been getting a lot of reports from users that they are no longer able to log in to the app. It looks like Facebook has closed the door on the secret Facebook app for iPad. At least until the official version gets released, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Categories: Facebook

The HTC Status/Salsa Facebook Phone Lands In China As The HTC Weike Sina Weibo Phone

TechCrunch - Facebook-tagged - Mon, 25/07/2011 - 2:15pm

Facebook is the largest social networking site in, well, the world. But not in China. Facebook and Twitter are blocked by China’s Great Firewall. The micro-blogging service Sina Weibo is the whip in China. HTC knows its market and therefore slightly retooled the Status/Salsa for the China market. Gone is the Facebook logo and a Weibo burning eye logo is on the dedicated button instead.

The rest of the phone seems unchanged. It runs HTC Sense 2.1 on top of Gingerbread and a 800MHz CPU. There’s a 3.4-inch 480 x 320 screen, aluminum body and a 5MP camera. HTC just changed that one little button for the different market.

Of course there are some difference within the OS as the tight Facebook integration was replaced with an equally tight Weibo integration. The micro-blogging service is baked into many of the phone’s apps. Sure, the hardware is rebranded, but the phone is built for Sina Weibo. [SinaTech via MicGadget]

Categories: Facebook

Google is learning lessons from Google+ ‘fake names’ debacle

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Mon, 25/07/2011 - 9:51am

Over the weekend, Google caused a stir by purging Google+ of a large number of accounts it deemed did not use real names. As ZDnet reported, users were being stripped not only of their Google+ accounts, but their entire Google accounts – Gmail, Docs, Blogger and everything else.

While some users like to use fake names, as they do on the likes of Twitter, Google is seemingly enforcing its ‘real names only’ policy with gusto.

Now blogger Robert Scoble has details of a conversation he says he’s had with Google’s Vic Gundotra – the man directly in charge of the the Google+ project. Scoble says that Gundotra is aware of the public debate over real names and that “He is trying to make sure a positive tone gets set here (on Google+). Like when a restaurant doesn’t allow people who aren’t wearing shirts to enter.”

Scoble continues: “He says it isn’t about real names. He says he isn’t using his legal name here. He says, instead, it is about having common names and removing people who spell their names in weird ways, like using upside-down characters, or who are using obviously fake names, like “god” or worse.”

However, it appears that Google is learning and willing to admit that it made some mistakes with its initial reaction to non real-sounding names, and that support for pseudonyms are on the way.

“He (Gundotra) says they have made some mistakes while doing the first pass at this and they are learning. He also says the team will change how they communicate with people. IE, let them know what they are doing wrong, etc.

I pushed him to make more of the changes, like give us a good appeals process, etc.

He also says they are working on ways to handle pseudonyms, but that will be a while before the team can turn on those features (everyone is working hard on a raft of different things and can’t just react overnight to community needs).”

Those angry at their accounts having been suspended without notice won’t find much solace in Gundotra’s words, especially as there’s no clear appeals process for those affected. Still, it’s good to see Google willing to admit that it’s revising its approach to such matters ‘on the fly’, and hopefully we’ll see something a little more clear-cut from them on the issue soon.

Categories: Facebook

Facebook’s Secret iPad App Exposed [Pictures]

TechCrunch - Facebook-tagged - Mon, 25/07/2011 - 9:48am

So, we just exposed the awesome secret that Facebook’s iPad app is actually already out there, hidden inside of the iPhone app. Now it’s time to show it to you.

I’ve been playing with the app for much of the night, and it seems solid. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this is what Facebook will launch when the iPad app does officially hit, but this looks and feels about right.

After months of downplaying the importance of having an iPad app, and instead playing up HTML5, Facebook has clearly spent some time working on this. At the same time, it is an HTML5-rich experience, with things like the News Feed being populated this way. But other things, like image uploads simply cannot be done without native code at this time.

At the end of the day, would I use this app over the full website, which functions pretty well on the iPad already? Absolutely. I cannot wait for this app to actually launch.

Below, find many images.

Update: We’ve just talked to a source who had previous seen the app and says that this is in fact the app Facebook was intending to launch shortly. We’ll see if that gets sped up now.

CrunchBase InformationFacebookiPadInformation provided by CrunchBase
Categories: Facebook

Facebook’s iPad App Is Hidden Inside Of Their iPhone App

TechCrunch - Facebook-tagged - Mon, 25/07/2011 - 9:35am

There are things out there all around us that we often miss because we’re just not looking. This is perhaps most true in the tech world, where thousands of secrets are out there in the wild, hidden in code. If you know where to look, or if you can read the code, you can find those secrets. It’s how so many features of iOS get revealed early by sites like 9to5 Mac, who are great at parsing the code (and confirming our non-code-digging scoops). It’s how we knew basically everything about Chrome OS before it actually launched. It’s how we knew Facebook Places was coming before it was announced. And now we’ve just uncovered a new massive find this way.

Hidden in the code of Facebook’s iPhone app is the code for something else. Something everyone has been waiting over a year for. The iPad app.

Yes, it’s real, and it’s spectacular (well, very good, at the very least). And yes, it really is right there within the code. Even better, it’s executable. (Update: a lot of pictures here.)

For the past couple hours, I’ve been using Facebook’s iPad app. Well, I should qualify this. I can’t be sure if this is the version they’ll actually ship, but based on everything I’ve seen, I’m going to assume it’s at least very close to the version they’re going to ship. While much of it is written with HTML5 (as you might expect from Facebook), the native iPad work is very good too.

In particular, the navigation system is great. Unlike the iPhone app — which even now as being stale — the Facebook iPad app uses a left-side menu system that can be accessed by the touch of a button or the flick of the iPad screen. The app also makes great use of the pop-overs (overlay menus) found in other iPad apps. When you flip the iPad horizontally, the list of your online friends appears and you can chat with them as you do other things on Facebook. The photo-viewer aspect looks great — similar to the iPad’s own native Photos app. Places exists with a nice big map to show you all your friends around you. Etc.

It’s all good. I’m going to put up a post after this one with a ton of screenshots of the entire app.

All of this is possible apparently thanks to a seemingly tiny update Facebook pushed yesterday to their iPhone app. Version 3.4.4 seemed like a small version that restored the “Send” button for comments and chat among a few other little things. Facebook may have even pushed it out in response to some backlash they had been getting about the app, as Financial Times covered a few days ago. Perhaps it was the rush to fix some of those issues that caused Facebook to push this version — which will clearly eventually be Universal Binary (meaning it will house both the iPhone and iPad versions of the app) — with the iPad elements inside. Whatever the case, the app is carrying a payload of much greater importance than some bug fixes.

So, I’m using it. Can you? Well, yes — if you don’t mind doing some things you’re technically not supposed to do to your iPad. We obviously don’t recommend it, but if you catch my drift, I’m sure you can figure out a way to access Facebook for iPad. Related, it must be noted that a Canadian engineering student, Marvin Bernal, who calls himself an “iOS Enthusiast” actually noticed this Facebook mistake almost immediately .

So, after over a year of complaints, Facebook now appears to truly be on the verge of releasing the iPad app. It has now been well over a month since the New York Times’ Nick Bilton reported about the app’s existence and said it should launch in the “coming weeks”. At the time, we further verified its existence , but did not hear a timetable for the launch. Once source now says that based on the HTML changes rolling out on an hourly basis, it looks like work is still underway. But much of that work appears to be smaller tweaks at this point. We’re close — just in case the code being attached to the iPhone app didn’t give that away.

During the launch of the Skype video chatting integration a few weeks ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that the company was gearing up for a full slate of launches in the coming weeks. The iPad app will be one of them. And based on what I’ve seen tonight, I’d be even less surprised if Project Spartan ties in with it as well eventually. The one thing the iPad app (like all the other Facebook mobile apps) is missing is gaming (and all other third-party apps). Spartan could bring that down the line.

We’ll be doing a post with a ton of images shortly. Below, a quick taste.

Update: And all the images. Enjoy.

Update 2: I’ve confirmed with a source who had previously seen the Facebook iPad app that this is in fact the very app that they were planning to launch with. We’ll see if that timetable gets sped up now.

CrunchBase InformationFacebookiPadInformation provided by CrunchBase
Categories: Facebook

Facebook Moves Into Its New Campus [Photos]

TechCrunch - Facebook-tagged - Mon, 25/07/2011 - 4:18am

Just like it told us it would back in February, Facebook has started to move its  into Building 10 of its new Menlo Park campus in the old Sun Building on the Bayfront Expressway.

How do we know this? Well Facebook Product Architect Aaron Sittig has and the elaborate decorative elements involved in a Facebook album called “Building 10 at Night,” which we’ve included above.

Highlights: A phone booth (!), purple glazed windows, chalkboard paint, a tons of Unistrut benches and the re-incorporation of the Sun’s logo-etched glass doors for its conference rooms.

CrunchBase InformationFacebookInformation provided by CrunchBase
Categories: Facebook

Facebook Glitch Revealed Thumbnails & Descriptions Of Friends’ Private Videos

TechCrunch - Facebook-tagged - Mon, 25/07/2011 - 3:09am

Facebook’s labyrinthine privacy controls have sprung another leak.

This time it’s their Videos feature, which lets users share brief clips with their friends and family (Videos launched back in 2007 and Facebook now serves billions of views each month). Of course, videos are often sensitive — even more so than photos — but Facebook’s privacy controls let you restrict who has access to each clip that you’ve uploaded.

Unfortunately, those controls haven’t been working as they should: for the last week it’s been possible to see a full listing of your friends’ Facebook videos, including the name, thumbnail, description, and people tagged in each clip — regardless of whether or not you were supposed to have access to the videos.

Clicking on the thumbnail to a video that was supposed to be private would yield a “This video either has been removed from Facebook or is not visible due to privacy settings” message, so you couldn’t watch it. But in some cases an incriminating thumbnail or lewd title could be enough to get someone into a trouble. And even if a video description didn’t show anything incriminating, it could lead to some awkward questions: “So, why can’t I see your Holiday Bash 2010 video…?”

A Facebook spokesperson has confirmed that the site has now fixed the glitch, and that it was live for just over a week. And to be clear, this only affected videos shared by your Facebook friends — you couldn’t view descriptions of videos shared by people you don’t know.

Here’s an example of what a video thumbnail looks like:

This is only the latest in a long string of Facebook privacy holes, which have run the gamut from sending messages to the wrong people to vulnerability to XSS attacks on partner sites.

Facebook is obviously very complex and engineers are constantly pushing changes to its code, but given how much personal information users upload to the site (and that’s only going to increase), it’s imperative that they lock down these holes. Google+ may be making a lot of headlines, but Facebook’s biggest threat right now is negative perception around privacy and trust, and these bugs don’t help.

Thanks to TC reader for the tip.

CrunchBase InformationFacebookInformation provided by CrunchBase
Categories: Facebook

Apple and power users: A lopsided love affair

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 9:50pm

Apple hates power users. I’ve heard the refrain many times over the last few weeks, but it’s reached a crescendo with the release of OS X Lion. Apple’s newest OS has a host of user-facing features that are aimed at making it the easiest and most feature-rich OS that Apple has ever made.

Those features, along with the fact that several key new additions to Lion borrow heavily from the iOS mobile platform, have convinced many that Apple is actively discouraging power users from using its platform. Launchpad, Mission Control and the changes to the finder are seen as more nails in the coffin of the Mac as a platform for more advanced users. Some say that soon we’ll be using a version of OS X that makes the Mac just a bigger version of the iPad.

There is some truth in the reactions to the changes that Apple has made, and is continuing to make, to its flagship OS. But there’s also a decided lack of perspective. To figure out what the future holds in store for OS X power users, we have to examine a couple of factors. The first is to determine what exactly a power user is.

What is a power user?

There are a lot of definitions that would work here and power users will likely find different ways to define themselves based on what they do with computers and why they do it. But the basic needs of the power user can be boiled down to two things: Access and control.

Now, a power user’s wants and needs are not diametrically opposed to the needs of a regular user. There is significant overlap here and any given user might want or need a certain amount of control over their machine to do what they need to do. The difference comes with the way that Apple decides how much control and how much access a user needs. In the end, a power user believes that they deserve full access and full control over their computer system, giving them the ability to mold the hardware and software however they see fit to accomplish whatever goal they have in mind. In contrast, a non-power user might want a specific bit of control to accomplish a purpose, but otherwise doesn’t care.

To give you an example, let’s say that a particular Apple computer is not compatible with a brand of electronic drawing tablet and pen that an artist uses to make digital paintings. In the eyes of the artist, this is a barrier to them producing artwork on this machine. So they have two options, either purchase a new tablet or gain access to driver support on the machine to reinstate the compatibility that they had on their previous computer.

The outcome of this situation depends largely on that artist’s desire to delve into the deeper workings of the computer’s functionality. If they decide that it’s worth it, financially or time-wise, to fix that issue then they very well may learn why the problem is occurring and gain the expertise necessary to fix it. On the other hand, they may decide that it’s not worth it and just pay someone else to fix it or buy a new tablet.

A power user would never ask themselves the ‘is it worth it’ question. Instead, they would automatically assume that it was their right to use the machine how they wished and delve into making the tablet’s software work on the machine if possible.

There is a variation on this theme that’s worth mentioning too. Often a power user can be defined as a heavy user of the system for a specific purpose. If, for instance, you’re a professional using a Mac to do video editing, you’re going to want to tweak many software settings to make it the ideal environment for you to do your work in. This is really an extension of control though, and many of the same principles apply here that apply to any power user.

In the end, we all have a bit of a power user in us when the situation presents itself, but the desire for control and the ability to access the system to get that control is the defining characteristic of a power user.

Apple and the power user

Just over three decades ago, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were excited to show off what they had created in a bedroom of Woz’s house in Palo Alto. It was a homemade computer kit called the Apple I and they wanted who would appreciate it to see it. So they brought it to the local homebrew computer club and presented it to the members in the weekly meeting. Those people were what we now call power users.

This is a bit of a conceit, because at the time there was really no such thing as a ‘regular’ user of Apple’s computers. Very few members of the general public had much of an idea what computers actually did. And even if they did, these were things that were used by corporations, not in the home.

The members of the club wanted to build their own computers to use at home. They wanted access to the capabilities of a computer and control over their construction and programming. That was a difficult proposition at the time because there were very few computers that were affordable and available enough to make this kind of thing a commodity. The Apple I, and later II, changed all of that by offering these users a complete kit (minus a monitor, a case and a few other things that we take for granted today) that they could build and use without having to source many of the components themselves.

This offering was made to these power users but it didn’t stop there. The Apple computer was effectively the beginnings of the personal computer revolution. It took something that was available only to the power user and brought it to ‘regular people’. By the end of the 1980s, Apple was selling tens of thousands of computers to users who would be classified well outside of the power user spectrum.

In effect, Apple’s genesis was with the power user, but its ongoing success has not been due to appealing to that market, but instead by making the computer more available to the public at large. The vast majority of people who use Apple computers are doing so because they give them an easy and well-designed way to use the functions of a computer, not because the hardware or software gives them more options.

Access and control

Apple knows which side of its bread is buttered. From the very first, Steve Jobs knew that the market for the personal computer reached far outside of hobbyist clubs and enthusiasts. Both he and Wozniak, and many of the early employees of Apple, envisioned a future where every home had a computer. And they have been fortunate enough to see that dream come true in their lifetimes.

If a computer was to be in every home, however, it couldn’t be designed with just the power user in mind. It had to be relatable to the average person and usable by just about everyone, even those with a very meager or very shallow understanding of computers. To this end, the Macintosh was designed with a software interface that felt familiar to the user. There were folders, files and a desktop. Using features was as easy as pointing at them and ‘touching’ them with the mouse.

This, of course, led to the concept of limiting access to the underlying system. When you have this beautiful graphic interface laying on top of the system, offering a relatable way to control the system, it becomes less necessary for people to get access to the underpinnings of the computer.

In this manner, Apple really began moving away from serving the power user with some of the very first computers in its lineup, even before the Mac. Beginning with the Apple II, the company began a general shift towards wanting people to see these computers as a complete product, not a collection of parts. The streamlined case and integrated keyboard made it seem like an appliance. This only became more evident when Apple began offering the Apple IIe with a monitor early in its 11-year lifespan.

This was truly a complete machine. You wouldn’t have to solder or build anything here. Just plug it in, buy some software and away you go.

This ease of use has continued to drive Apple’s innovation when it comes to the Mac and its other products up to this day. At first, it may have seemed like a betrayal to the power user, but in the end, it’s really a sign of Apple growing up.

Wants vs. needs

By the time the iMac was rolled out, the days of generic Apple hardware were over. This had removed the physical tinkering aspect from the Apple lexicon almost completely. Apple power users had experienced a shift from hardware geeks to software geeks. This paradigm largely holds true today as power users of the Mac seem largely focused on making the use of the system more efficient through software tweaking, while the hardcore hardware customizers tend to gravitate to PC’s, where generic, interchangeable parts offer more flexibility.

Apple’s design ethos of their computers and portable devices, which de-emphasizes specs in favor of emotional quotients and broad statements about magic and beauty, extends to its software as well. If you’re using a Mac and you’re not interested in tweaking things manually, there is an almost 100% chance that you will never, ever have to do so.

For most of Apple’s customers, this is a godsend. A computer that offers them productivity and a sense of purpose, wrapped up in a beautiful package, is exactly what they need. It’s one of the primary reasons that a lot of creative pros use Apple machines. It allows them to focus on creation, not manipulation of the system.

The continued inclusion of Apple Script and Terminal access in the default accounts of Macs today shows that there is still at least a vestigial awareness of the power user at Apple. Even though those users are a smaller percentage than they once were, they’re still there. And in many cases, the features that those users take advantage of and how they use them informs the design of the OS.

However, many of the changes within OS X Lion have made some question whether Apple cares to cater to power users on an even basic level.

Lion and the power user

Although the reception to OS X Lion has been generally positive across the board, there have still been those among the heaviest users of the Mac that feel slighted with the changes and lack of attention to ‘power’ features.

Foremost among these is scripting support. The lack of improvements in the support for AppleScript language has been a rallying cry for those that feel that Apple hates power users. You can still create scripts that automate tasks and operations within OS X, but additional support in applications or the OS hasn’t been added in Lion.

Instead, the Automator application, which uses an interface that gives scripting a visual component, has gotten a lot of love. The new stuff in Automator is really great and allows people to create automatic actions throughout OS X very easily. If you’re a power user that hasn’t checked out some of the new stuff, I’d suggest you take a look at this excellent site. If you’re a user that hasn’t dabbled in Automator much, you should definitely give it a look.

Automator is the future of AppleScript. There may always be support for people to write custom actions, but in the end, Automator is the way that Apple wants this system to work on OS X. This speaks to what power users feel is some of their access to the system being taken away. Instead of being given the ability to access every application with AppleScript, users of OS X are now having the extent and types of automation that are available to them dictated by Apple.

Another major feature of Lion that has been causing some waves is Mission Control, which combines some of the features of Expose and Spaces into one gesture-launchable app. When you break down the features of Mission Control, you’ll find that Expose has survived this blending with most of its features relatively intact. Spaces, however, has been modified heavily. This has removed much of the ability by users to determine the virtual ‘location’ of their spaces as well as the ability to move applications between spaces with the same speed.

Mission Control is a relatively ugly, but incredibly functional feature that should take the idea of virtual desktops out of the shadows, where it’s been used by power users for years, and put it into the hands of new users of Lion, especially those who are new to Mac.

This is the reason that Apple is making these changes, not to spite the power user, but to open up the Mac to new users at any cost. By acting as an editor and displaying a willingness to be merciless in that editing, Apple is showing maturity that has come along with its growing success in capturing a large part of the personal computer market…again.

Maturity and foresight

By choosing not to do things that it could do and instead looking at what it should do, Apple is trying to be wise, not just intelligent. Could Apple enhance scripting greatly, giving users incredible access to the system by providing extensive support? Yes. Could it offer the option to return to the old way that Spaces used to work? Yes. Will it do those things? No.

Recent years have shown, for better or for worse, that Apple is willing to make hard decisions about the direction of its products. The recent brouhaha over Final Cut Pro X and the changes it made from the previous version, are a prime example of this.

Apple divested itself of the design of its older software and came up with a creative vision of what it thinks the future of video editing is. I won’t go into my thoughts on its success or failure here, there are plenty of great articles about the topic already. Instead, I’ll answer the question why.

Apple doesn’t make these changes because it hates the power user, it does it because it loves the regular user. Or, to be more accurate, it loves the income that the new user brings to the company when Apple computers are purchased.

The history of the company, especially in the modern era, has proven time and again that Apple is interested in creating, at least as far as it perceives them, the best products in the world. Whether those be category defining like the iPad, or category refining, like the MacBook Air. But the interests of the company don’t stop there. It is also interested in making money, and to do this it needs to anticipate the needs of new users in ways that may sometimes seem arbitrary or hostile to current users.

In short, it’s displaying maturity and foresight.

What, to the power user, may seem like hostility, is in fact closer to apathy. Apple is telling these users that if they’re interested in bending the system to their will, then they will have to find their own way of doing that. Apple is too busy building a system that will appeal to billions to cater to the comparatively small thousands that make up the power user base.

If you want it done right

There is honestly a lot more that could be said about the one-sided battle that power users have been fighting with Apple over the years. There are minor features of OS 9 that didn’t make the jump to OS X that are still a major point of contention (WindowShade anyone?). But in the end, what it boils down to is that Apple doesn’t make products for power users, it hasn’t in years. Instead, users of their products find them so useful and pleasant to work with that they gain a desire to make them even more efficient.

What Apple has been saying for years is that it will continue to edit and refine its products according to its own goals and if you’re a power user, you need to find a way to get the access and control that you need within those editorial bounds.

There are still tools available to the power user, even inside Apple’s editorial walls. Automator is better than ever in Lion. AppleScript, while not expanded upon, remains a great way to create custom actions not supported by the OS, and there are a host of preference files still available for tweaking via the Terminal.

Apple doesn’t hate power users, but it also doesn’t love them. As the company matures its making harder decisions about what its customers need versus what they want. As Steve Jobs has famously said, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

If you’re a power user, well, you’re probably already looking for a way around that.

Categories: Facebook

Does Inbox Zero help you manage your emails?

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 7:22pm

Inbox Zero is a productivity system that was developed by Merlin Mann of 43 Folders. In a nutshell, Inbox Zero is exactly what it says on the label. It’s a system which is used to keep your email inbox as empty as possible, as a means of staying productive. Implementing Inbox Zero should help you stay on top of your emails, and deal with them efficiently.

It consists of five labels you should keep in mind when processing your messages: delete, delegate, respond, defer and do. Assign yourself certain times of the day to process your emails, and approach each incoming message with that list in mind.

It’s important to remember Inbox Zero is a process not a one-time event. It’s not about getting your Inbox down to zero because obviously it’s not going to stay there.

Inbox Zero Tools

Aside from the games we’ve looked at before at The Next Web like 0Boxer and The Email Game, which attempt to make getting to Inbox Zero a little bit more fun, there are other tools that you can use to keep your inbox under control.

Gmail’s filters are a huge help for managing your incoming messages before you go anywhere near them. It takes some of the effort needed in processing out of the way. You can create filters to label specific message, based on who they’re from or based on certain keywords in the subject or the email body.

A productivity system that ties straight into your inbox is a great way to manage your email overload. For Gmail users, Taskforce is a great little extension which plugs into your inbox. If you need a more elaborate system, Mac users can benefit from a direct link between the desktop app Things and Mac Mail. Mailplane users can download a plugin to connect their email to Omnifocus. Whatever your system is, the chances are there’s an easy way to plug a task list into your email account, so you can get messages out of your inbox and onto your to-do list.

You can also put together a system that works well with your pace and work load, like Tim Mile’s 7 step list to reaching Inbox Zero.

The Argument for Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero is a great way to stay stress-free. It’s exactly the same as keeping up with your task list. If you’re keeping up with the flood of messages that are making their way into your inbox, you won’t be haunted by messages waiting to be processed, answered and archived. Just like having a task list that just keeps growing, an inbox that keeps getting bigger isn’t going to do your stress levels any favors.

Inbox Zero can make you more productive because you are painfully aware of just how much you might have on your plate. An inbox full of unread messages is daunting. If you go through that inbox, find that many of your unread messages are useless newsletters, that’s bound to make you feel better. And as you reach the important emails and delegate, defer or reply, you’ll have a much better grasp of how much work you need to do.

After using the method for a while, it can also make you more aware of how much time you need to complete a certain task. And there’s no denying the importance of time management when attempting to stay organized. So in other words, Inbox Zero can help you with your time management.

By setting certain times for checking your email, it can potentially be a more distraction-free way of getting through your work day. If you’re working on something, and a notification comes in for a new email, that can be the biggest distraction that stops you from completing the task in hand. Constantly letting yourself be distracted by new incoming messages can be incredibly detrimental to your productivity. With Inbox Zero’s scheduled email checks, you can easily stay focused on each task and finish it, before moving on to the next item on your list.

Inbox Zero is not set in stone. It’s a system which you can tweak to suit your personal needs. Merlin Mann gives you the foundation and you can build on it as you see fit. Since you don’t have to use a specific application to set the system in motion, you can easily drop and add bits and pieces of the system as you see fit, making it more suitable to your working style.

If you do it right, you’ll feel relieved. Or as Merlin Mann so eloquently puts it, it’ll feel great to suck less.

The Argument Against Inbox Zero

You could end up wasting far more time putting a system in place than actually using it. This is, of course, entirely subjective. Some people can spend time working on a system, and will eventually put it to good use. With many others, the entire productivity world is far more interesting and enamoring when coming up with a system rather than actually using it.

Inbox Zero can potentially make you spend more time focusing on your email at the expense of other parts of your working day. Email isn’t the only tool we use for communication at work and you simply can’t be preoccupied with keeping your inbox under control all the time. Depending on your email load, you could end up spending more time processing than you should.

Inbox Zero can lull you into a false sense of security. Processing your inbox is only half the task. Even after you’ve emptied your inbox, you’ve still got quite a few messages that have been delegated and deferred. The delegated messages can often require followup on your part to ensure the task is completed.

The deferred messages are the real problem because they require noone but you to deal with them. Inbox Zero may give you the sense that things are under control, but unless you actually deal with those deferred messages, they really aren’t.

How different is your inbox to your task list? Are your emails better off on a to-do list that still needs doing? I often find that keeping the email message in my inbox is an important reminder of what I need to do. While others might find that it’s stressful and unnecessary if you’ve already got it on your task list, I find it a handy reminder, provided that there aren’t too many of these reminders in my inbox.

What happens if you continue to receive emails as you are processing your inbox? Do you leave those messages out of the processing system until your next scheduled email session? What if you receive an urgent email as you’re processing? What if your job requires you to keep an eye on your inbox all day so you don’t miss any urgent messages? All of these questions are problematic for the Inbox Zero system, which requires you to process only at certain times of the day.

While you can keep your inbox under control, you don’t have the ultimate control. You can’t stop emails from pouring in, short of switching off your Internet connection. Trying to have complete control over something which you simply cannot have complete control over may seem futile to some, and in fact, could be the complete opposite of stress-free.


There is no single cure for email overload and Inbox Zero doesn’t claim to perform miracles. At the end of the day it’s a system, and it’s nothing without your own personal input. It might work for you and it might not. It’s important to remember that productivity systems are subjective beasts and that can be their ultimate downfall or the reason for their success.

What works for you won’t necessarily work for me. And for that reason you can’t say wholeheartedly that Inbox Zero works or it doesn’t. That’s just like saying that having cornflakes for breakfast doesn’t work. It’s simply a matter of personal preference or taste. Now if you’ll excuse me, as I have a few unread messages in my inbox that need dealing with…

Categories: Facebook

8 Latin American Entrepreneurs To Circle on Google+

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 6:44pm

Do you know ? Introduced by Googler Brian Rose, they’re meant to be the equivalent of Twitter’s Follow Fridays. The idea is the same: once a week, users can recommend and find people to follow. To get you started, we found interesting Latin American entrepreneurs for you.

The Argentine serial entrepreneur behind wi-fi network Fon is by far the most active poster on this list, with a highly engaged audience. Expect posts in English about tech, daily news and international politics (Varsavsky lives in Spain). Also be prepared to feel the sting of envy as you’ll get a glimpse of his desirable lifestyle – but hey, what better motivation to get working on your own projects?

Sebastian Delmont is Venezuelan, although he’s been living in New York since 2001. We owe him Android apps such as the one he developed for Twitter client HootSuite. A Ruby on Rails expert, he’s now working on real estate website StreetEasy and currently attending Campus Party Mexico. If you add him to your Circles, you can expect posts in English or in Spanish, as well as interaction: he already did a couple of public Hangouts.

Marco Gomes is one of Brazil’s most successful young entrepreneurs. Born in a deprived family, Marco founded , a popular ad network for social media. Marco’s inspiring life story is featured Sarah Lacy’s book ‘Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos’. If you want to follow him on Google+, be warned that he mostly writes in Brazilian Portuguese.

Freddy Vega, from Colombia, is the founder and CEO of the Spanish-speaking design and development community Cristalab. He also co-hosts a weekly video show with the Guatemalan entrepreneur . Called Mejorando la Web (MLW), the show focuses on tech news. Freddy’s Google+ posts are in Spanish.

Fabio Sasso is a Googler: originally from Brazil, he now lives in  San Francisco, working as a Senior Graphic Designer for the Mountain View firm. He’s also an entrepreneur: in 2006, he created Abduzeedo, a design blog which soon became a reference point for the  industry. As many of his colleagues, Fabio has rapidly gathered many followers on Google+. He’s now the 154th most popular user on G+, according to SocialStatistics. His messages are in English.

Miguel de Icaza is a Boston-based Mexican free software programmer, best known for starting the open source projects GNOME and Mono. After working at Ximian and Novell, he recently founded Xamarin, which focuses on Mono-based products. Although, he hasn’t been very active publicly on Google+ yet, he already shared a couple messages around Mono.

The Brazilian multi-hyphenate Edney Souza is very popular on Google+ : he’s the 174th most followed user, according to SocialStatistics. His followers enjoy his often funny posts (in Portuguese), but also his knowledge of social media and tech: Edney is a speaker at many events. He’s also an entrepreneur: in 2010, he created the startup BlogContent, aimed at creating networks of professional blogs.

Eduardo Arcos was born in Equador, has lived in Mexico for years and is now based in Belgium. He’s the CEO of Spanish-speaking commercial blog network Hipertextual, a company he founded in 2005. His posts on Google+ (in Spanish) are either tech-related or lighthearted, and his followers are highly engaged.

Do you know other interesting Latin American techies on G+ ? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: Facebook

The revolution will not be televised

TechCrunch - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 6:00pm

Seems like the Good Old Days are here again as Google+ invites continue to pile up in email. Email is that Y2K technology that jumped the shark in the middle of the decade, back when Twitter introduced realtime direct messages. How little has changed since then is why the blogs are still choked with Google+ analysis or as it can be called: the Scoble Delta. That’s the time between when Robert declares his complete absorption in a social media platform and or when he changes his mind.

Robert has a real problem with Google+. It’s early days so he can ignore the vast wasteland of discussion other than about the platform itself. Sure, there are lotsa pictures and maybe some videos and citations of interesting articles (actually not really on the citation front). But mostly the nonPlus conversation is tire kicking, pretending that there’s a real social graph on which to layer a matrix of valuable information.

Robert’s problem is that he’s bought into the idea of Circles without being totally sure that they’re something more than Twitter Lists. Already there are calls for ways of pulling Lists over from Twitter. I’ve never thought Lists were useful, certainly not given the time required to assemble them. Circles are easier to manage, at least so far, but I’ve made them as painless as possible by only using two of them, Family which I’ve filled up, and Friends which are everybody else. That’s on the outgoing side.

On the incoming side, Circles have been an annoyance more than anything. I can appreciate them as an organizing principle for others, putting people into bins where the signal to noise is tuned somewhat. But my experience of them ranges from PR broadcasting to so-called limited conversations that I can only guess at the participants. One of those came from a colleague at Salesforce where I could ascertain the first twenty or so names followed by a mysterious 109 others. Perhaps this is a result of using the iPad Safari and not the standard browser UI, but I still approach such an interchange with confusion.

In effect, the Circle, whose name I cannot see, is a group invitation to discuss a topic without understanding the purpose or rationale of its members. There is work just to get to that level of confusion. I have to rely on the judgement of my colleague (I do) but have no insight into some of whom else I’m presumably talking with. I am comfortable with a clear understanding of who I’m communicating with, which is why I write here, in private to my colleagues on Chatter, and more constrained in groups both open and private.

Open Chatter groups still let me know who’s joined, so there’s a sense of why people are there based on interest, job responsibility, and serendipity. But you can’t join a Circle, only create it or add people in the outgoing direction. At least I think so, which is about the same as being so. The net result is the lack of an understanding of the group’s dynamic, except at the level of those who overtly participate. Much is made of engagement in these media, but the role of the lurker is not clear in Plus.

None of this precludes the new platform from being successful; there are lots of people who look for these kinds of streams to do the work of synthesizing what’s going on at any one moment or day. In fact, there have and will be successes in the world of publishing for just that reason, as we’ve seen with Howard Stern on Sirius and cross-selling recommendations on Amazon. Transmitting social signals, brands develop. Receiving them, different story. Without a clear feedback loop, what are the consequences of communicating?

The Public setting has no such imbalance: I know that anybody can read it once they’re on the network. What I say lives in the context of that knowledge of the environment. Some think of this as limiting, diluting what is said to avoid mistakes in protocol or behavior. I think it’s freeing, navigating me toward communicating to a broad range of listeners with a multifaceted approach that splits the differences as effectively as possible. It’s an art not a science, and I certainly fail all too much of the time. But I’d rather fail at this goal than succeed at others.

I’m not alone in this equation. My Friends Circle is the latest, freshest update of the Art of Lurking. Not the stream, which continues to be a shadow of Twitter’s citation engine with few tools to push prioritized messages forward. I’m sure things will improve, but for now the main value is an up to date organic combination of my usual suspects and those who’ve signaled me. Since I’ve published almost nothing to this point, I attribute most of the Circlings to a cascading outward of mining the circles of those who expect something of value from me and my citations. This social graph has unique characteristics, even though right now I can only contribute to building it, not using it.

What I’m really closing in on here is not signal to noise but a third vector, the special context that comes from the missing feedback loop in Plus. To illustrate it, I’ll bring up a seeming wild card, Spotify, which I fell in love with over the weekend after receiving a complementary invite. I might have played with it in the freemium edition, but getting a chance to experience it full bore was a gift I much appreciate. In a few minutes I was diving into the past, like the swooping cable car of the last Harry Potter as I tumbled through my favorite haunts, in realtime, streaming, on demand, live.

I sampled records I only knew about, like the remixed stripped down version of John and Yoko’s Double Fantasy. It’s not that I could listen for free, or for a subscription price, but that I could choose to jump and return, compare and contrast, all without the notion of owning the material. Rather, experiencing it, exploring it. Like a time machine, jumping from early to late, from Steely Dan’s golden age to Donald Fagen’s solo trilogy. Sampling the third one, released 5 years ago and now in retrospect fitting in with the group’s comeback records and even the live one they produced while still “retired.”

This might not resonate for you, but to have this world that once meant so much suddenly returned for the price of a Netflix subscription is stunning in its implications. Not just because it offers the student and the scholar the opportunity to live inside these grooves, but because it implies the possibility to escape the confines of the atrophied and squandered music “business” of the last decades. The opportunity to inspire the material that lives in this new home, replete with Hangouts and conversation and turntable.fm and Track 9 and 3/4.

That’s what’s so important about Plus and Circles: the idea that this thing will live and expand, or whatever it does, not in a winner take all game but in a back and forth that will produce the best of us, the thing we call innovation, the thing we know when we see it or even when it just comes close. I can tell you what the landmarks will be, too. When Spotify gets AirPlay support or at least an explanation of how it could work reliably, or when iCloud does it itself. When G+ gets Track so we can assemble our own filtered Circles, which means Twitter will.

Robert’s problem is the one he loves to solve, where a group forms that can uniquely navigate in this powerful world of the cloud. That group, by the way, is us. When we delight ourselves, things have changed for the better. Plus in its early form seems on the cusp of greatness, as all networks appear when they find their voice. What will be more interesting is what it triggers around it as it grows, as we learn what it’s like once again to touch the sky.

Don’t let the fear mongers get you, that it’s not worth giving up your identity for a bunch of shiny objects. As the services absorb all our data, they make it all the more important to create the subtle signals that define who we are together. How thousands of birds fly in formation, swerving and diving and reversing direction. It can be hard to ignore such a suggestion of the existence of forces larger than we are, of the power of intuition, the structure of the expression encapsulated in a moment of an eyebrow, the economy of the laugh that makes you cry in relief. Stop thrilling us, we say but don’t mean.

Waking up, the news of Amy Winehouse chimed from Twitter and tormented the G+ newbies. Last night on the iPhone, I couldn’t figure out how to keep Spotify playing when I switched apps. But unlike G+ which is blocked on the iPad, I could run the iPhone version of Spotify and lo and behold it worked. I surfed the sad news and the glib commentary as she sang in the background. I’d never listened much before, but now that she was gone the tracks shimmered in the luck we have left of her talent.

It’s times like these I feel lucky to be born in this age of discovery. In the rush to codify the battles of the day, we miss the triumph of ingenuity of the lurker, the loser, the strip mining of the user if those notions are to be believed. Even in the most secure of streams, there is no post, comment, like, @mention, or citation that doesn’t represent a gift rather than a proffer to the customer. We learn by watching the river flow, missing the boat, daydreaming, shutting down for the night, slapping cold water on the needy. The revolution will not be televised. No, no, no.

Photo credit:

Categories: Facebook

Share Playlists on Twitter with TuneBirds

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 5:40pm

TuneBirds is the latest website that makes sharing music on Twitter easy. The site is preceded by other similar services which have become immensely popular, like TinySong, one of the easiest and slickest ways to share music with your followers on Twitter. But TuneBirds is just as easy to use, and has one interesting feature that may have Twitter users signing up. And that is the ability to create playlists.

TuneBirds is certainly not the first site to offer this kind of feature. 8Tracks is a great site, and a social network unto itself, where in a throwback to cassette tapes, you can create 8 track playlists. You can then easily share the links from 8Tracks on Twitter. But you have to upload the songs from your computer yourself. Instant.fm is another slick option for creating and sharing playlists anywhere you want to, but again, you have to create that playlist elsewhere before bringing it into Instant.fm.

TuneBirds, on the other hand, has complete ease of use going for it. You don’t have to upload songs, or playlists, or do anything else beyond search for the songs you want and add them to your list. You can share individual songs or an entire playlist that you’ve created.

When sharing an individual song, click Share this song, and a tweet will be automatically populated for you. You can, however, change the text to include whatever you want before publishing on Twitter. The link to the song does not show up on TuneBirds, but it will show up in your tweet.

When creating a playlist, once you’ve added all the songs, you can share it in a tweet to your followers, just as you would an individual track. The playlist page on TuneBirds features a mini-player along with the complete list of songs.

All of the songs and playlists that you share through TuneBirds will be available on your profile page, where you can easily go back to listen to them, or delete them from your page.

It is worth noting that you do have to get a bit creative with your searches at times. Sometimes searching for an artist is not enough, and you will have to include both the artist and the song title, otherwise you might come up empty handed.

That said, we’re guessing that TuneBirds is generating its music from YouTube, minus the actual video, so you should be be able to find just about any song you’re looking for. The most obscure artists and songs we could think of were available on TuneBirds.

How do you share music with your followers on Twitter? Let us know in the comments.

Categories: Facebook

Inside Facebook - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 5:04pm

Here are all the latest headlines from around Inside Network this past week.

Inside Mobile Apps

Tracking the convergence of mobile apps, social platforms, and virtual goods.

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Inside Social Games

Covering all the latest developments at the intersection of games and social platforms.

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Inside Facebook

Tracking Facebook and the Facebook platform for developers and marketers.

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Categories: Facebook

Nigerian tech incubators set to mentor and train entrepreneurs

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 4:46pm

Two tech incubators in Nigeria, Co-creation Hub and the Institute for Venture Design are set to train Nigerian tech entrepreneurs in venture formation and entrepreneurship.

Co-creation Hub Nigeria, a non profit social enterprise founded by Bosun Tijani and Femi Longe aims to provide a shared work space for technologists, social entrepreneurs, government, tech companies and investors to collaborate on innovative tech ideas and solutions for the country. Located in Yaba, Nigeria, the hub is strategically located in the vicinity of prominent Nigerian universities such as the University of Lagos. This would hopefully help strengthen the hub’s collaborations with academia and give it the benefit of having student and faculty research in technology influence the hub’s ideas.

The hub recently received about $200,000 in funding from the Omidyar Network. According to Stephen King, an Investment Partner at Omidyar, “The Co-Creation Hub promises to foster the development of technology-driven social enterprises that will address many of Nigeria’s most pressing problems. The Hub will provide the environment, stimulation and connections to capital and expertise necessary to help Nigerian entrepreneurs launch their social missions to improve the lives of millions of Nigerians.”

The hub is set to launch officially in August 2011. Here is an image of the its layout:

Another incubator set to train and mentor Nigerian tech entrepreneurs is The Institute for Venture Design. In partnership with the Center for Design Research at Stanford University, the Institute is poised to incubate a community of people with shared culture to create wealth in Nigeria.

IVD has a two year fellowship program that is geared towards cultivating a culture of risk-taking as well as a mindset of unconventional behaviour and creativity.

It recently selected its first batch of fellows and they have since assembled at the Institute’s facilities in Abeokuta, Nigeria for a series of mentorship and training sessions. Here are some photos of the Institute.

Fellows pass through three phases during the program. In phase one, which is ‘the product, venture and investment design phase’, the fellows start with a six months, team-based residential training program in Abeokuta, Nigeria. This phase enables them to identify market opportunities as well as innovative solutions. At the end of this phase, the most viable ideas are awarded angel funding.

In phase two, fellows with viable ideas are given the opportunity to work on their ideas with the IVD’s support. Successful ventures will be provided with the opportunity to apply for more funding and are given local and international exposure to investors.

In phase three, entrepreneurs trained by the Institute are expected to work on their ventures independently with continued coaching and mentorship from the Institute. They are also expected to train and mentor the next batch of fellows thus helping continue the IVD tradition.

Both incubators are poised to kickstart a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in Nigeria. Their launch comes at a welcome time as the country’s tech ecosystem begins to evolve more concretely. In addition, recently the Government of Nigeria appointed a well respected executive from corporate Nigeria, Mrs. Omobola Johnson to chair the country’s newly formed ICT Ministry, an indication that Government is also looking to take the tech space more seriously. Hopefully, collaboration between the ministry, the incubators and members of the ecosystem would help develop the next cadre of Nigerian entrepreneurs.

Categories: Facebook

The Dotcom Boom: A UK Perspective

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 4:39pm

There’s certainly something in the air at Silicon Roundabout, and I’m not talking about car exhaust fumes.

David Cameron’s vision for East London’s transformation into a hot-spot for tech startups seems to be well on course, but let’s not give too much credit to the Government. The cluster of companies that call Shoreditch home was growing long before the UK Prime Minister announced his plans for Tech City, with organizations like TechHub boosting London’s burgeoning startup scene for over a year now.

It seems you can’t go a day without reading something about Silicon Roundabout. Whether it’s a million-pound funding boost, a new ambassador for New York, or the news that a major San Francisco-based social network has set-up shop at TechHub. (Sorry to disappoint you, it’s not Facebook.)

The scene’s buzzing. A little too buzzing, some might say, and surely this level of excitement hasn’t been seen since, oh, I don’t know, 1999?

Can it even be called a dotcom boom? The surge in wacky international domain names should mean that it’s called a dot-ly, dot-is or dot-it boom. But that’s just word games. The dotcom boom is real, and whether you’re in Silicon Roundabout or Silicon Valley, everyone’s asking the same question: Is it a bubble, and is it going to burst?

There’s no easy answer to that much-mooted question, but to get a sense of where we’re at just now, it may help if we look back a decade or so to see what things were like then. Are there any patterns we can spot? Is there anything startups and entrepreneurs can do to dodge the shrapnel should the dotcom market crash for a second time? What is the difference between then and now?

To help me find an answer, I spoke with Rupert Cook, Head of Technology (Mergers & Acquisitions) at Goetzpartners, and an investor, adviser and entrepreneur. Cook’s also the author of .

Here’s what Rupert had to say…

In the beginning…

“In mid-98 I gave up my job at a consultancy, because it was obvious something very exciting was happening elsewhere”, says Cook. “Me and a number of others at the company had pitched various Internet-related ideas to the guys at the top, but they weren’t sold on the whole Internet thing.”

It seems that the big old-fashioned companies just didn’t get it. So Rupert, and many others like him, jumped head-first into that ‘fad’ called the Internet. Cook continues, “Lots of people were quitting their jobs. They had sensible jobs in consultancies, banks, insurance…but that’s how the UK dotcom boom started.”

A new country

With the benefit of hindsight, they seemed like very innocent times. New Labour, led by the dynamic and charismatic Tony Blair, was creating a buzz; Britpop was still a recent phenomenon; everybody was talking about this thing called Cool Britannia; and a new millennium was on the horizon. The late 20th century was an exciting time to live in the UK.

Then there was this thing called the Internet. A whole new media that people were embracing and dismissing in equal numbers, but those who saw its potential were eager not to be left behind.

“There was this fever, I think it was tied-in with the upcoming new millennium”, says Cook. “The feeling was that the Internet was much more than a whole new media, it meant a whole new economy. The feeling was everything was going to be different and there was a great deal of optimism. Unlike now, where we’ve just come out of one of the worst recessions ever.”

So, in the UK at least, the dotcom bubble was only part of the story. It felt like a whole new country was being born, and those with the minds and the money to get involved did their very best to do just that, otherwise they’d miss. Cook continues: “There was a feeling that everything had changed and people were being empowered. That helped a lot. People thought ‘I’ve got to be part of this, if I’m not I’ll just watch this go by’.”

Playing catch-up

Silicon Valley is where it all started though, about two years before this ‘fever’ hit UK shores. It seems that people felt a need to catch up, and the first forays into Internet businesses felt like a giant land-grab, a modern-day gold rush. People didn’t really know what the Internet was, but they felt they needed to be part of it.

“Because it was all new, there was a feeling that experience didn’t count for anything, because nobody had any”, says Cook. “There was a feeling that anyone could do it. The rulebook was being written from scratch, therefore there was no barrier to entry.”

It was this initial “I know as much as anyone else about this” attitude which led to the first real surge of Web companies in the UK. And it wasn’t about revenue, not directly, at least.

“The idea of making revenue wasn’t at all important”, says Cook “It was all about getting users. The feeling was that companies would be valued on their number of users, and they would be able to raise a lot of money if they’ve got lots of users. Then maybe they’ll be able to float the company.”

One of the best examples of this was Freeserve, a UK Internet Service Provider (ISP), founded in 1998. Freeserve started as a project between Dixons Group plc and Leeds-based Planet Online. The idea was that free Internet access would be provided to customers buying PCs from Dixons’ retail outlets.

“Freeserve did have revenues too”, says Cook, “but its valuation when it floated was pretty much a correlation of the number of users it had. Multiply your users by a number of dollars, and that’s how much you’re worth.”

Cook also noted that Freeserve tried to buy one of his ventures at the time, an online company called Web Weddings, a successful dotcom service (in terms of users) that organized weddings. But why would an ISP try to buy an online business specializing in marital affairs? Cook explains:

“They wanted content. In those days, the idea was, if you could get people using your ISP, the longer you could keep them in your own properties, the better it was. It was the same when AOL and Time-Warner merged – everybody was trying to create these great walled-gardens, where there was loads of content so that you would never have to go anywhere else.”

As crazy as it may sound now, Freeserve offered Cook’s team £5m for Web Weddings, but they turned it down because they thought it should be worth £50m. Why? Because of their number of users – of which there were tens of thousands. This was a mere six months after they’d started the company with £60k in capital. What about hindsight? “I should’ve taken the money and run”, says Cook.

But Cook had set-up an incubator and was launching many dotcom companies, from which Web Weddings was only one.

“We had people pitching to us all the time for investment”, says Cook. “And their own valuations were just totally crazy, all based on their projected number of users. So they didn’t even have the users in place yet.”

This was a familiar story elsewhere too. Silicon Valley spawned countless crazy valuations based on little more than ideas scrawled on napkins. But there was one key difference between the dotcom boom in the UK and its Californian counterpart.

“There was this feeling that we had to catch up with the Americans”, says Cook. “America seemed to be taking over the world with the dotcom stuff, and the feeling in the UK was not so much about copying what was going on in the US, but making up for lost time.”

The 2-year lag between Silicon Valley ‘getting it’ and the UK latching on meant that there was a real sense of urgency. But underneath all that, Cook suspects most people recognized that the excitement was going to be short-lived. “I think deep down people realized it was a bubble. There was a bit of a frenzy then, something that isn’t there with the dotcom boom today”, says Cook.

The First Tuesday phenomenon

The First Tuesday phenomenon kicked-off in London in 1998, started by Julie Meyer, an American-born entrepreneur. She was a relatively junior person at NewMedia Investors (now Spark Ventures) which was an incubator that advised companies such as Lastminute.com, one of the big success stories to emerge from the first UK dotcom boom.

In October 1998, alongside Nick Denton, John Browning (both journalists) and investment banker Adam Gold, Meyer began organizing networking events for tech entrepreneurs on the first Tuesday of each month. This became known as ‘First Tuesday’ and eventually spread into many major cities across Europe.

From the first meeting in a pub, with just a few people, the First Tuesday phenomenon exploded. “I remember going to one of the biggest ones in Lord’s cricket ground”, says Cook. “There were 1,500 people there. Another one I went to was held in Fabric nightclub. It just got bigger, and bigger, and bigger.”

The point of these meetings was to connect startups, who wore green dots, with investors, who wore red dots. So essentially, these drink-fueled parties were a stream of green dots chasing a crowd of red dots, who were all trying to avoid the people wearing yellow dots – the advisers, accountants, lawyers, bankers etc.

First Tuesday is still going today, though in a slightly different guise. “It’s a shadow of its former self”, says Cook. Check the promo video out for yourself:

Music Unsigned

It was at the First Tuesday part at Lords where Rupert Cook was introduced to one of his other ventures from the first dotcom era, a company called Music Unsigned. Not only did Cook meet the company founders at this event, he also hooked up with a guy who would later put a lot of money into Music Unsigned.

“After working closely with the guys from Music Unsigned, I rang up the investor I’d met at the event and told him we had a business plan”, said Cook. “And he put £250,000 into the company, without any paperwork.”

It was this kind of outcome that First Tuesday had the potential to produce. But it was also indicative of the sense of excitement people were feeling at the time – people were putting up a lot of money with very few formalities in place. This was true in Silicon Valley too.

“The first band on Music Unsigned got their recording contract over the Internet”, says Cook. “They were on the front cover of NME and other music magazines and secured amazing PR on the back of how they were signed.”

The band in question was Smokers Blend 3,000. They were signed on the basis of the music they uploaded to the Music Unsigned website. Whilst the band didn’t go on to fame and fortune, another band did five years later, using a similar approach to Smokers Blend 3,000.

Arctic Monkeys are generally considered as one of the first acts to gain worldwide success through the Internet, and the band gained a big fan-base and subsequent record deal based on its presence on MySpace. This was a landmark moment which many argue heralded the start of a new era in music. And trailblazers such as Music Unsigned helped pave the way for future successes elsewhere.

Music Unsigned ended up floating in October 2000, 6 months after the dotcom bubble had burst. So there was a lot of money in the company, but given the precarious predicament the whole Internet scene was facing, the shareholders decided it was best to have the money tied up in a safe, profitable company. Thus, an insurance company swallowed Music Unsigned and that was that.

“It was a great shame”, says Cook. “It was a great success for quite a while but it was perhaps a little bit ahead of its time.”

And this was the story for many startups, both in the UK and in Silicon Valley. Working out a proper business model for an unproven idea, combined with a lack of widespread fast Internet, meant that many great ideas simply died.

The money factor

One of the key differences in the first dotcom era, was the ease with which companies could raise capital, as we saw with Music Unsigned.

“The fundraising was so easy back then”, says Cook. “Today, there are many more experienced investors in the space who don’t throw money about.”

The investors back then were essentially taking a lot of risks on unproven ideas, ploughing money into ventures that were, in hindsight, always doomed to fail. There were many inexperienced entrepreneurs who had nothing to lose should their business fail, because the investors were taking all the risks.

Today, investors tend to look for those with a proven track record in startups – repeat entrepreneurs, or businesses that have shown they can work based on similar companies in a particular space. That can only be a healthy thing.

Laying the foundation

It’s easy to view the first dotcom bubble as a failure, but it wasn’t. It laid the foundation for what we see today. It was a testbed – entrepreneurs, investors, advisers, bankers…everyone, all learned a lot from the whole episode and we’re a lot stronger for it today.

“The whole landscape has now been mapped out in terms of what can make money online”, says Cook. “There are still lots of new things being developed, of course, but at least there is now a basic model for what works online and what people are prepared to pay for.”

Back in 1998/1999, nobody really knew what people were willing to engage with online. Did people want to gamble, watch videos, listen to music, play games and chat to friends? We now know that they do, but it’s been a very iterative process to arrive at that conclusion, and the fall-guys from a decade ago were instrumental in the birth of the dotcom boom we see today.

Is it really different today?

Is it really all that different today? There are many examples of crazy valuations and large sums of cash being turned down by startups. Just look at Groupon, who reportedly turned down a $6bn takeover from Google last December. And when it announced that it planned to float back in June, a somewhat ambitious figure of $20bn was attached to the company, despite it not making a profit. In fact, it actually had a $450m loss last year.

The same applies to many other dotcom companies today, ones that have a lot of users, valued at crazy levels despite lacking profitability. There are echoes of ten years ago for sure, but a key difference is many of the companies are generating significant revenue, so the idea is that profits will follow. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen in many cases.

In the intermittent years between the two dotcom booms, technologies, attitudes, skill levels…everything, has caught up. And the latent potential the Internet always promised is now being realized. So even if all the Groupon-type companies fell tomorrow, the bubble would probably still remain in tact.

Ten years ago, dawdling dial-up prevailed and the cohesive gel we now know as social media wasn’t in place. This is a massive plus for the current dotcom boom and is why it’s not likely to go the same way as before – the infrastructure is now in place.

App-etite for success

Many startups these days are essentially an app, or a number of apps. And this should also be healthy for the tech scene in the UK and elsewhere.

“Nowadays to make an app, it’s so cheap”, says Cook. “It’s so easy to start an Internet company if you have just one game, one idea or whatever, and get that distributed. In fact, it can almost be free – if you can get a programmer mate to bring your idea to life over a single weekend, then you’ve got a business.”

And this is a key point. Startups can hedge their bets, develop 20 or 30 apps on the basis that at least one will be successful. Just look at Rovio, the Finnish developers that make Angry Birds. Rovio created something like 40 games before Angry Birds took the world by storm.

With apps, good ideas can be born without a massive commitment from those at the helm. They can be created in an entrepreneur’s spare time, developed and honed in the evenings and weekends.

In many ways, the current startup scene can be analogized with the music industry. In the same way as the Internet has made singles the main focal point of a band’s success rather than albums, individual apps can make or break a tech startup, and the need for an overarching supreme business model isn’t quite as important, certainly not in the very early days. And this could be good – it makes companies more lightweight and agile in their formative years.

Right…so is this a bubble?

“I don’t think this is a bubble like the first one”, says Cook. “I think this is an open evaluation in certain areas. This isn’t a complete hype bubble, as was the case before. There’s foundation in this one, and there’s serious money being made because it’s so much more easier to sell things over the Internet.”

And this is such an important differentiator between the the two dotcom booms. Most people would now agree that the Internet isn’t a fad. It’s real, everyone’s on it and smartphones make it ubiquitous. For that reason alone, there is a lot of money to be made online.

This is applicable across the board – in the UK, the US, Europe and in all the developing economies. Where there’s fast, reliable Internet, dollars, pounds, rupees and yen will flow.

As we’re seeing in the UK, there are proper clusters developing which is healthy for any startup scene. There’s Silicon Roundabout as we’ve already mentioned, and Cambridge too is emerging as a thriving hub for innovation.

“The clustering is really helpful”, says Cook. “There wasn’t really a similar thing going on before in the UK. There were a few companies around Brick Lane, but there wasn’t the same support network that there is today. There’s a lot of mentoring going on today too, entrepreneurs that have been there and done it. There are a lot of dedicated mentor programmes. I’m one of the mentors on the Springboard programme. There’s a lot of people offering their time for free to help new startups.”

There’s also a number of funds around now that have been developed by entrepreneurs who were around during the first dotcom boom, such as Profounders and Atomico, as well as government-led initiatives. The UK tech scene has the money and the minds to support it, and it’s definitely a lot healthier this time.

Spotify already calls London home. Twitter is looking to launch its first office in the UK capital too. Smaller startups such as Flubit and Use it or Lose it are just starting out on their journey into the unknown, and only time will tell if they succeed.

As for Rupert Cook, he’s still heavily involved in startups, with the likes of 360Amigo and Minimonos currently under his auspices.

There’s a lot going on across the UK, and whilst there may not be the same buzz as before, that’s perhaps because there’s less hype, and with less hype that might mean that this time around it’s for real.

Of course, many tech startups will crumble, that’s a given. But that has always been the case in every industry since the beginning of time. As long as Capitalism remains the dominant economic system, and the Internet isn’t a fad, then this ‘bubble’ won’t burst. It might shrink, it may expand and it will definitely evolve. But it’s here to stay.

Categories: Facebook

The Future according to Josh Harris. But wait, who’s Josh Harris?

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 3:44pm

This isn’t just a story about the future according to Josh Harris. This is a story about Josh Harris according to Josh Harris. When I was first introduced to the Internet entrepreneur, I scheduled our interview for 2pm on a Friday afternoon at the offices of Morris & King on 5th Avenue. After I watched We Live in Public, a documentary about his life, I emailed him and changed it to the following Tuesday at 5pm, when I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about getting back to my desk. Everything you are about to read was told to me in 5 hours, over 2 beers and a soggy cigar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Only one alarm was set off in the process.

In the late 90s, Harris was a bona fide New York City business star when his company, Jupiter Communications, went public. There was a day when he had a liquid net worth of $40 million. During that time, he also ran a second Internet company called Pseudo Programs, Inc., which was an Internet television network. While running Pseudo, he dressed like a clown named Luvvy and began throwing decadent parties at his SoHo loft and running Manhattan’s underground art scene.

In March 2000, he rented a helicopter and flew around the World Trade Center filming an art group called “Gelatin” removing a window from the 91st floor, sliding a balcony through the slot, and one by one each man nakedly stepping out onto air. Harris believes the U.S. Government has been watching him ever since. A decade later, he was the subject of the Grand Jury Prize winning documentary film “We Live In Public” at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. A year later, he made it into the Museum of Modern Art. In his spare time, the self-proclaimed ‘Ethiopian national’ is an artist, a sports fisherman, a poker player, an apple farmer and he once shot three turkeys dead with one round.

“He is one of the 10 most important people in the history of the Internet,” said entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, who chronicled New York’s tech scene in his publication, The Silicon Alley Reporter.

Joshua M. Harris was born in Ventura, California, the youngest of seven children. His father, a CIA agent, was hardly ever home. His mother, a social worker in California, had little energy left for her own children after a long day working. He grew up watching television for hours on end.  with Errol Morris, he said, “His only friend was the tube.”

Gilligan’s Island

In his days running Pseudo, Harris often dressed as “Luvvy,” his alter ego, a scary clown in smeared makeup based on the wife of Thurston J. Howell III, a character from Gilligan’s Island, a show he describes as “his real family”. The word luvvy literally means a person who is involved in the acting profession or the theater.

The influence of Gilligan’s Island and a TV-upbringing hardwired Harris into a man obsessed by interactive entertainment.

QUIET: We Live in Public

QUIET was Harris’ heady social experiment, which became a major part of the eponymous Sundance Film. For the experiment, Harris enlisted 150 participants to live communally in a 3-floor bunker at 353 Broadway at the end of 1999. The entire bunker, complete with a mess hall, a see-through shower and a firing range was wired with webcams. Anyone in the central control booth of the bunker could watch anyone else as they ate, slept, made art, fought, fucked, etc. The bunker was raided by city authorities on the morning of Jan. 1, 2000. It had descended into chaos, and everyone was evicted. The final night of QUIET was compared by the MoMA to Truman Capote’s “Black and White Party” as one of the two best parties conducted in the twentieth century. The film “We Live In Public” was purchased by the MoMA for its permanent collection a year after its release in 2010.

During this time, Harris met a woman named Tanya Corrin, whom he refers to as his “fake girlfriend”. By then he had wired his SoHo loft with over 30 cameras including the toilet, the closet and the refrigerator. According to Harris, he cast her as his girlfriend to live in his home under constant public surveillance. According to Corrin, they were very much in love. After a few months of living together under the public’s eye, Harris “lost his mind” and the two split and have barely spoken since.

Some say he “invented reality TV”, but shows like MTV’s ‘The Real World’ were also broadcasting at this time. What Harris conceptualized was the emergence of all-encompassing public interactions online, almost a decade before the time of Chatroulette, YouTube and Facebook.

Harris left New York City and moved to upstate New York where he operated a commercial apple farm named Livingston Orchards, LLC. ”It only took me 5 months alone on the farm to get my sanity back,” he says. “The first two were like coming off a heroin addiction just watching my apple trees grow. A key epiphany? I know how to wire a farm.” Later that year, in 2001, Harris received word that Jupiter’s stock had tanked, and he went from being worth $20 million to $2 million in one phone call.

Three weeks before that fateful day in September, 2011, The New York Times ran a story titled, “Balcony Scene (Or Unseen) Atop the World; Episode at Trade Center Assumes Mythic Qualities.” The author wrote about an event that took place on a Sunday morning in March 2000, when a balcony was allegedly installed and, 19 minutes later, dismantled on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center by a group of Vienna-based artists known collectively as Gelatin. I’ve copied excerpts from the article below detailing the affair, which has “taken on the outlines of an urban myth, mutated by rumors and denials among the downtown cognoscenti.”

Ali Janka, a member of Gelatin was quoted in the article as follows: ”If you write about the balcony, maybe you can just not write about it too much.” The author writes that he made several calls protesting the appearance of an article, despite the fact that the artists had published the book. In the article, Harris explained that Leo Koenig, the 24-year-old art dealer who represents Gelatin, got him involved.

The night before…, Mr. Harris said, he rented a top-floor suite at the Millennium Hilton, across the street from the Gelatin studio, and invited people to what guests described as a night of decadence. Near dawn, he and several others took cameras and boarded a helicopter, communicating with Gelatin via cell phone…

Mr. Koenig now says the balcony never happened and, at any rate, he didn’t see it. The book, which costs $35 and was printed in a run of 1,200 copies, is meant to provoke questions about its veracity, he said.

At the suggestion that the project might have been faked, Mr. Harris seemed almost offended. He produced March 2000 credit card bills bearing charges of $2,167.44 from the Millennium Hilton and $1,625 from Helicopter Flight Service.

At about the same time that Mr. Harris was digging up proof, Gelatin was removing almost every trace of it from their Web site.

This artistic act of subversion may have cost Josh Harris his freedom, leading him to believe that ever since the Twin Towers were brought down, the U.S. Government has been watching him.

By the time the 2nd tower fell, Harris claims a guy named Jerry, the former Head of the Forest Rangers, who had also worked for the FBI, showed up to buy apples. They went turkey hunting and Harris impressed Jerry with his 3 turkey takedown. At this point, you must be wondering is the son of a Cold War CIA agent simply programmed to be paranoid?

In 2005, Harris put his farm up for sale and a man named Robert Rosen, a former New York State Navy Admiral, offered to buy it. Negotiations were painfully slow so Harris flew off to Panama for a month to shoot a film. He says just before the gate closed on his flight out, a catatonic guy who looked like he’d taken too many Xanax sat down next to him. One month later, just before the gate closed on his flight back to the States, that same man sat down next to him, steadfast and sober. The day of the closing comes. It’s a public closing in New York State. Harris is there, his brokers are there, the title insurance reps, secretaries and Harris’ lawyer. Just as Rosen signs the paper, he looks up at Harris and says:

“Wherever you go, whatever you do, we’ll be watching you.”

“There’s been only two times in my life when my knees buckled,” explains Harris. “At that moment, and the first time I joined the mile high club.”

The first thing out of his attorney’s mouth was, “They’re going to get your money.” Harris took it to heart, and said, “If they’re going to get my money, then I’m going to get my freedom.”

Harris has pissed off quite a few people in his life. In fact he made a list and published it on Facebook:

Also on Facebook, he’s publicly declared war against The New York Times, and continues his case in a series of 46 installments on his Facebook wall. Harris is certain the federal government has read them. For each installment, Harris writes, “a state of war has existed between the new york times company and josh harris. until the day they cry Uncle…”. Why did they wait over a year to publish the story about Gelatin and Harris’ helicopter escapade? Were they setting him up? If so, who was behind it? The conspiracy theories are provoking to say the least.

In 2007, Harris spent the last of his fortune in Hollywood on another interactive television venture, Operator 11, which he said “worked great but ran out of money (mine).” Afterwards, he moved to Ethiopia, chilled out, smoked pot and he says, got his mojo back. “It’s the one place in the world I feel at home,” he says of the country he also lived in as a child.

From 2009-2010, he earned a living playing poker, crashing in Jason Calacanis’ pool house and riding around in his yellow Corvette. For the past year and a half, Harris, now living in in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has been hanging out with artists, the kind of people who would “give you $10 if it’s all they had.” He’s been living a fairly healthy life, without stressing too much. He eats the same thing every day because he’s training for his next project. He blends grapefruit juice, apple, carrots, banana, and wheat germ for breakfast, then has a Bento box later in the day. He lives with two Australian artists in a loft on Berry St. in Brooklyn. He’ll have to find a new home in just two weeks.

Harris’ art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn:

The Future according to Josh Harris

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players…

-Shakespeare, As You Like It

Harris believes his ability to predict the future is simply preternatural. He says “the Singularities” visited him in 1992 and gave him the idea for a short animated video titled “Launder My Head” with lyrics like “come form with us to conform with us,” in other words, the Singularities are coming and this is how it’s going down.

It’s been less than a year since a man named Josh Harris emerged back on the scene in New York and this time he’s raising funding for The Wired City, a crowdsourced Internet TV station where all the viewers are also the broadcasters, multicasting to each other and the World Wide Web. Harris has put his project on Kickstarter, hoping to raise $25,000. With 12 days left, he still needs $20,683 to raise the $25k to fund the project.

“The Wired City cyber-ship sound stage includes a capsule hotel (submarine style sleeping quarters), mess hall, bathrooms and a Star Trek/NASA bridge: everything is wired. On set you will sleep in a capsule hotel, eat in the mess hall, and use the facilities but most of the time you will be communicating (via net bandstands) with citizens who are at home.

On set we group people into twenty person “net bandstands” (workstations) each of which has a conductor who then reports to The Wired City bridge (think Star Trek). Citizens at home follow suit by netcasting from their “home netcasting studios” using common physical backdrops, uniforms, electronics and video formatting. Citizens earn their way onto the Wired City cyber-stage by doing something special (saved the world, won a contest, built an audience or are on a mission).”

According to Harris, The Wired City is an experiment of what the future will be like. If you understand the future of toothpaste you can understand how The Singularities will occur in our lives. In The Wired City, it will be simple for Harris to get 10,000 people to hold up a tube of Crest and get Crest to sponsor him. How do you organize 10,000 people into such a cacophony? The motivation will be gaming points.

“Before you were born,” he says, “There was no such thing as a home theater. 20 years ago, it was bulky, awkward and geeky. Now there’s a home theater on your phone. Today the new concept is a home studio and the idea that the home is a soundstage. Just as we have desktop or mobile top [he points to his phone], the entire home is going to become a soundstage. There will be sensors and monitors on your bath top, your kitchen top, everything, just like We Live in Public.”

For brands like Crest, the wiring in our homes will herald the next golden age of advertising. The very moment you brush your teeth at 8:32 on a Monday morning, you’ll be with 20 other people who are also brushing their teeth, they are your virtual friends. Celebrity endorsements will work beautifully here. Imagine how many more men would tune in every day if they knew they could brush their teeth with Cindy Crawford? Your day will be broken up into micro parts and brands like Crest will be amplifying the formerly mundane moments in your life. From a business perspective, Crest’s job is to own the bath top and not Colgate. Your bath top will be wired with oral hygiene monitoring in the form of a device or sensor that can detect Gingivitis or a cavity. When the device is set off, voilá! A dental hygienist is on the scene. And if it works for Crest, it will work for shampoo, cosmetic brands, meals around microwaveable dinners, etc.

Harrowing? Yes. But far-fetched? No. A new startup in New York City just launched: Consmr, an app that lets you “check-in” to consumer packaged goods.

What drove Harris crazy when he lived in a Truman Show like reality with his “fake girlfriend”, other than losing his fortune, was when people online, his followers, started to get into his head and he was barely able to make a decision at any moment. Harris says that scenario was like a caveman version of what’s to come. With your day split into microparts, you will suffer from a psychic fracture. The issue won’t be about maintaining privacy. Your privacy will be long gone. The issue will be when your brain overloads, what in computer terms happens when the CPU goes into complete multi-tasking mode. And this is how we will enter the hive, also known  as the Matrix. And that’s Harris’ Singularity. It’s just a matter of time, he says.

“This is how you have to look at it. I try not to make judgements, it’s just a natural evolutionary process. I don’t know how they knew it but The Mayans were right: 2012 is the end of the world. The world isn’t going to blow up. But 2012 is the year when the Singularity’s effects will start to take place. When our lives become a collection of micro day parts. Unlike Isaac Asimov, who said his biggest regret is that he wouldn’t be alive for The Singularity, we actually are going to be present at the shift. It’ll start next year. It’ll seem like magic, just like television was magic, radio was magic, the telegraph was magic, and maybe even smoke signals were in their day. This is going to be real magic and we’re going to be alive to witness it.”

As time goes by, notice how expensive physicality becomes as opposed to virtual space. We will start to operate more and more in the virtual space. True, we lose a little in the translation but it doesn’t stop it from happening. 10 years ago, my job as a reporter for The Next Web wouldn’t have existed. Now every day, I hang out with my coworkers in a virtual world all day long.

Harris says the golden age of Silicon Valley is now at the beginning of its decline. The age of utilitarianism has reached its peak and the age of programming is now back. They’ve worked themselves out of a job. Technologically speaking, the underbelly of everything is mature enough. We have the code. How do you capture the bathtop? The desktop? How do you market and how do you change people’s minds? That’s not what Silicon Valley does well. The best people suited to run the future will be Madison Avenue and Hollywood.

Harris imagines a future, where instead of presenting a will where our surviving family members are given money, they will be handed the data of our lives. DNA will no longer be biological, it will be virtual and it will be something you can package on Wall Street.

This is the darkness before the dawn. The magic of the movies is gone, it’s been completely commodified. A movie is now just an expensive 90 minute file. Even music albums don’t make sense anymore. Why would you pay a dollar for a 3 minute audio file when you can can get it on YouTube for free?

‘”If I was 14-years old today, I wouldn’t be in a music band, I’d be in a net band. I don’t know what they’d make but that’s why I’m creating this platform. I’m curious what the 14-year olds will do. The garage full of instruments, the turntables – they’ve been replaced by a mini network operations center. 10 years from now, when you go to see a net band perform at a venue, you’ll already know everyone there through virtual relationships in a home studio environment. You know what their PJs look like and how they pick their nose. But it’s still important to physically meet in the future to really mesh together. Everyone shares a moment and the band somehow ensconces themselves in your life. When the net band is on stage, everyone is jacked in, whether it’s through a phone, laptop, or whatever the device du jour.”

People in the 60s at Woodstock had to take drugs before they could commune with each other, because drugs and alcohol reduce the social inhibitions allowing them to experience love and each other. In the future, you won’t need to take drugs. You’ll already know everyone so intimately that you don’t need the ‘knock me out’ types of drugs as a catalyst.

When asked why people would want to brush their teeth together, eat together and poop together virtually, he replied, “You just have to get over those sociological barriers and advertisers can convince you it’s just not a big deal. The one thing I’m very sure of is that people can be convinced of anything if you find the right gratification schedule.”

“When you can get 200,000 people in one day generating content, you can compress the love, the kids, the deaths, the tears into an hour. In my experiments, I had attempted suicides, domestic violence and even one goth guy who wanted to join so bad he stapled his ball sack. We’re recording people’s lives. Shakespeare was right, all the world is now a sound stage.”

Harris’ end game is to be very commercial now. But he also wants to take over the Pompidou Center in Paris and build this future in the present. He describes it like a chicken factory, filled with birds who’ve had their beaks cut off. Harris thinks it will work very well at the Pompidou because “Parisians appreciate perspective.”

“I realize power and influence are motivators, but what is it about Internet popularity that gives humans happiness?” I ask.

“If the chicken without a beak is born in the factory does he know what unhappiness is? You’re thinking like you now, but in the post-hive world you’ll have lost your sense of individuality when you’re just porting around the brain. I feel like your tech shrink. You’re judging. Try not to judge. Just reflect what’s there. You try to keep all the baggage you carry with things out of the equation,” he answers, chewing on his soggy cigar.

“So what is the point? How will The Wired City or your chicken factory in Paris benefit humanity?” I ask.

“The upside will be once I’ve completed the accelerated experiment and brought it to the table, we’ll have at least a 3-10 year buffer to figure out how to handle society when everyone’s brains go into multi-task mode,” says Harris.

If Harris’ harrowing vision of the future is one of many possible futures, it’s undeniable that experiments like The Wired City or his chicken factory in Paris will only accelerate that time until we reach that future, thus making it all the more likely to happen. If you buy this, then his financiers will become his enablers.

But Harris doesn’t necessarily want this future. He says he doesn’t judge, he just observes. The man who says he’s never been in love believes building The Wired City is his destiny, as if he was programmed from birth to do so. He’s either a brilliant man who doesn’t understand humanity, or perhaps he understands it all too well. Is Harris the Warhol of the Web, giving people their 15 minutes of fame every day? And is he right to assume that given our natural human tendencies, everything will unravel so perniciously?

“Do you think I’m an eccentric?” Harris asked me around 10pm at the end of the interview.

“Well,” I told him, “You’re definitely not boring.”

Categories: Facebook

Closing The Redemption Loop In Local Commerce

TechCrunch - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 3:26pm

When it comes to local commerce, the ultimate prize everyone is going after right now is how to close the redemption loop. The redemption loop starts when a consumer sees an ad or an offer for a local merchant, and is completed when the consumer makes a purchase and that purchase can be tracked back to the offer. If you know who is actually redeeming offers and how much they are spending, you can be much smarter about tweaking and targeting those offers.

Groupon, LivingSocial, and other daily deal sites have created enormous value by pushing the redemption loop the furthest. When someone buys a daily deal, for instance, that translates into cash for the merchant. But for the vast majority of their deals Groupon and LivingSocial do not track whether or not they are ever redeemed, much less the amount each consumer actually spends at the store or restaurant once they show up.

In order to complete the circle and track offers all the way through redemptions, it is necessary to either tap into the payment system or create an alternative way to track redemptions. Different companies are tackling this problem in different ways, but they almost all rely on a shift from emailed coupons to offers delivered through mobile apps.

Next Jump CEO Charlie Kim, who recently partnered with LivingSocial to power daily deals across his commerce network, sees a shift in targeting from broadcasting deals to narrowcasting them. “Blasting out a deal to everyone in New York is not targeting,” he says. “When you broadcast too much in any category, it is just a lot of noise. Email response rates have plummeted for everyone across the industry. What used to be 10% response rates even a year ago, now you are talking the 1% to 2% level.” The constant barrage of emails from Groupon, LivingSocial, and every daily deal copycat is creating user fatigue that is visible in declining response rates.

And that is why mobile is so appealing. If you can send deal notifications to people’s phones based on their exact location and nearby deals, you have the beginnings of narrowcasting. Later on, companies will figure out how to layer on ways to target by income, gender, and other factors as well.

Mobile and local commerce go hand in hand. In a few cities, Groupon is testing out Groupon Now and LivingSocial is offering Instant Deals. In both cases, the deals appear on mobile apps and can be redeemed instantly, rather than having to wait a day for the deal to go live, as is the case with their regular daily deals. The downside of these deals is that Groupon and LivingSocial cannot take advantage of their existing deal inventory and they have to actually provision participating merchants with iPhones and iPads so that they can accept the deals and Groupon/LivingSocial can track them. Yelp is doing something similar where you have to show a redemption code to the merchant from your phone.

Foursquare and Facebook are taking a different approach through their separate partnerships with American Express. Since AmEx is the payment system, it records deal redemptions along with the actual payments. Merchants and consumers don’t have to do anything different from what they normally do. Pay with a credit card and your deal is redeemed. Except it only works if you have an AmEx card and the discount is credited to your account later.

Google is trying to link Google Offers to its Google Wallet, which requires an NFC chip in your phone and an NFC reader at the merchant’s checkout. It has the advantage of working with MasterCard, Citi, and other large payment processors. But it also depends on a brand new technology that will take a long time to become widely available.

The key to closing the redemption loop is definitely payments. Investor Chris Sacca recently told Kevin Rose in a the best reason why Twitter should buy Square is because Twitter has the broadest reach to distribute offers and deals, and Square has a built-in way to track redemption. This was just an off the cuff remark in a friendly chat (Twitter isn’t even in this business yet), but it makes sense.

We are moving from a world of online ads that produce impressions and clicks to online and mobile offers that produce real sales. If the deal companies can figure out a way to actually measure those sales, it could open up local commerce in a massive way that makes what they’ve done so far look like child’s play.

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Categories: Facebook

The Complete List of Top Instagram Apps

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 3:21pm

You know an app is on its way to going mainstream when a major brand like Starbucks has its own account. There’s simply no denying ‘s popularity. In fact, it looks like the app just got a little bit more popular when Justin Bieber shared an image of LA traffic using Instagram.

Bieber-traffic aside, Instagram already has a user base of over 7 million and the amount of third party apps that have cropped up around the service is impressive. Instagram continues to prove that it is the smartphone photography app to beat.

In no particular order, we’ve put together a list of the many apps and sites available for use with your Instagram account.

Manage your Instagram account

The fact that Instagram has no web interface to speak of is probably one of the main user complaints. Luckily, there are a lot of great alternatives popping up, giving you the opportunity to take advantage of some or all of Instagram’s features in the comfort of your own browser.


Inkstagram gives you the missing web interface that Instagram so desperately needs. You can keep up with photos your friends post, comment on them, and find new people to follow. The interface is divided into four tabs – your feed, your photos, your likes, and popular images on Instagram. In addition to browsing by category, you can also search for specific tags. The display can also be altered to suit your preferences – with the choice of small, medium and large for image sizes.


Pictarine gives you a unique way to browse your own Instagram photos, along with photos from other online services including , , and . By installing the plugin, you can also download all of your Instagram images to your computer in one go. Another great feature on Pictarine is the ability to create slideshows of your images and share them with other people privately or publicly, even if they don’t use Instagram.


ExtraGram is another site which gives you the means to keep up with your feed, with popular photos and to interact with other users in a browser. Like Inkstagram, it gives you all the features found in the app, along with a cool Discover tab, which displays the hottest tags, a featured user and more.


Webstagram lets you keep up with your feed as well as see the latest popular photos on Instagram. You can search for specific tags, view your own photos, and share the link with others. Webstagram takes it one step further by offering users the opportunity to get featured in their Photo of the Day section. To submit your photos, simply tag them with #Photooftheday. You can also view images on Webstagram as a list or as a grid.


Gramfeed gives you a web interface making it easy to get to all of Instagram’s features in your browser. A cool addition to each user profile in Gramfeed is a map with markers of where all your photos have been taken. With Gramfeed you can view your stream, popular photos, your likes and your own photos. You can also search for photos based on location, username or tag.


Mac users can bring the Instagram experience to their desktop with Carousel, an app that has already received high praise here at The Next Web. The app allows you to interact with other users, comment and like photos, as well as follow and unfollow other users. You can view your own feed, as well as the latest popular photos on Instagram, and you can even drag-and-drop photos to save them to your desktop.


Flipboard makes it easy to keep up with your Instagram stream, and like Instagallery, takes advantage of the iPad’s larger screen. You can view your stream as you would any other source on Flipboard, and you can also add images to your favourites, comment on them, or share them via email or through the social networks you’ve plugged in to Flipboard.

Connect Instagram with other services

Instagram lets you automatically share your photos with other sites including Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. There are a few additional services which aim to enhance or improve that connection.


InstaFB is an easy way to connect Instagram and Facebook in a much more efficient way than what Instagram provides. While connecting your Instagram account to Facebook automatically notifies your friends when you’ve added a new photo to Instagram, it just adds them as a link on your Wall. InstaFB creates a Facebook album and each time you add a new photo to Instagram, the album is automatically updated.


Gramjunction gives you a visually appealing way to display the images that you’ve shared on both Instagram and Flickr. Just enter your Flickr username, and Gramjunction will display them on your personal page, which you can easily share with others.


Instadrop allows you to backup all of your Instagram photos using Dropbox. After connecting the two services, any photos you share on Instagram will be automatically saved to your Dropbox folder in real time.

Connect Instagram to Google+

Since there’s no easy or direct way to do this just yet, Edward Boches came up with a workaround to share your Instagram images with your Google+ followers in real time. It takes a combination of the desktop app Picasa, Dropbox and InstaDrop, and requires that your computer is turned on at all times.

Discover photos and users on Instagram

If you want to discover new users or popular photos without having to use the Instagram app, there are a few gorgeous sites and iPad apps that make it easy to find photographers you’ll want to follow on Instagram.


Insta-Great displays a slideshow of popular photos on Instagram. By signing in, you can also view your timeline and your own photos, and add photos to your favourites.


Heroku allows you to to search Instagram photos, and you can also narrow down your results to photos taken using a specific filter.


Instagallery is a $1.99 iPhone, iPad and iPodTouch app which lets you keep up with your friends’ photos, view your own photos and your favourites. Instagallery really does come to life on the iPad’s larger screen and is a great way to keep up with Instagram on the go, using a larger screen than the iPhone. Not only can you view your own and popular photos, you can also search for specific tags. Photos can be viewed as a grid, or even better yet, as large images making the most out of the iPad’s screen real estate.


Cartagr.am lets you browse Instagram photos based on location. The site can either detect your current location to show you nearby photos, or you can search for a specific location of your choice. You can zoom in and out on the map but there is no way to connect with the photos displayed. You can’t view them on their original Instagram page or find out who took them. That said – it is a pretty cool visual representation of Instagram use around the world.


InstaCat has to be one of the most niche Instagram websites available and it displays photos of only one thing – you guessed it. Cats. So if you’re in need of a cat photo fix, InstaCat is the place to go for a constant slideshow of Instagram cats.


If you’re more of a dog person, InstaPuppy will bring you all the puppy-goodness found on Instagram to your browser. InstaPuppy does also have it’s own kitty sister site, InstaKitty, if the constant scrolling in InstaCat proves to be too much for you.


Instarium is a flash-based screensaver which you can download for your Mac or Windows computer. The screensaver displays a constant reel of Instagram photos. You can set it to view your own photos, your feed, your favourite photos, or even just popular photos. Clicking on images in the website will take you to their Instagram page.


Screenstragram is another screensaver which displays the latest popular Instagram photos, but it is currently a Mac only download, compatible with Snow Leopard and up.

Create an online display of your Instagram photos

If you want to share your images with other users who aren’t on Instagram, there are quite a few free services that let you share your online portfolio with just about anyone.


Instagrid allows you to create a pretty slick online gallery of your Instagram photos. Your photos can be displayed as a grid of small photos, or as a list of large images. Users can subscribe by email to be notified when you add a new photo to Instagram, making it a great way for non-Instagram users to keep up with your latest images.

Make a game out of it

If you want a fun way to browse Instagram photos randomly, there are a couple of sites that turn the experience into a game.


Instawar pits Instagram photos against each other in a little game where two random images are displayed side by side. You can either choose the image that you prefer, or if you think they’re well suited, hit the Make a pair button to create a diptych. You can then submit the paired images to Instawar’s to share with others.


Pic-a-Fight is similar to Instawar, minus the ability to create a diptych. You can add your own photos into the mix by connecting your Instagram photos. Why would you want to do that? Photos that get the most votes are placed in the Top Pics section, meaning your Instagram photos could get a little bit more attention.

Create products and prints using your Instagram photos

Creating products and prints of your Instagram photos seems to be all the rage and there are a lot of sites offering their services for just that.


Instaprint is one of the coolest ideas we’ve seen emerge as a result of Instagram’s popularity. If you have a special event or party, rent Instaprint’s special Instaprint Box. Each box is associated with a specific location or hashtag, so any photo tagged with either will be automatically printed. Instaprint is kind of like a photobooth and Polaroid camera all rolled into one.


Instagoodies will provide you with a book of 1 inch stickers created using your Instagram photos. Each book can have a maximum of 90 stickers and will cost you $14. Logging in with your Instagram account will let you select the order in which the stickers appear in the book. If you don’t have 90 photos on Instagram, the existing photos will be repeated.


Instamaker will turn your Instagram photos into t-shirts, mugs and postcards. With Instamaker, you can’t use just one image. Any design has to consist of at least a row of 3 images, or more. The site makes it easy to create a mosaic out of your Instagram images and select the product you want it printed on.


Stickygram turns your Instagram photos into fridge magnets. Sign in with Instagram, and you can create a set of 9 little magnets. Unfortunately if you want to use Stickygram, you will have to wait for an invite code since they’ve been inundated with requests.


If you’re looking for a way to print Instagram photos, Printstagram gives you a ton of cool options. You can print a large poster of 50 to 400 of your Instagram photos, you can print mini wallet-sized prints, small stickers, a mini book, or a tiny book.


The name says it all. TeenyTile gives you a way to turn your Instagram photos into a cute little 2 inch ceramic tiles. Import your photos from Instagram and checkout. That’s all there is to it.


Postagram is an iPhone, Android and web-based app which allows you to send your Instagram photos as postcards. Select any of your Instagram photos, add a personalized message, and ship it to the address of your choice.


If the smaller sticker size available from Prinstagram and Instagoodies doesn’t suit your taste, you can use ArtFlakes to order large 4 inch stickers using your Instagram photos.


With Keepsy, you can create a gorgeous book of your Instagram photos. In addition to Instagram, the site also supports Picasa, Flickr, PicPlz and Facebook, as well as the ability to upload photos from your computer. You can drag and drop photos and pages to rearrange them, to get the images in the exact order you want. Keepsy also lets you share the digital version of the book with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

HatchCraft Boo Box

For $19, HatchCraft will let you create a Boo Box simply by entering the url of your Instagram photo. A 4 inch print of your photo will be placed in a gorgeous bamboo shadow box to frame your photo.

Backup your Instagram photos

Aside from using Instadrop to back up your Instagram photos in the cloud, there are a few services that make it easy to download all of your Instagram photos onto your computer in one go.


Instaport makes it easy to download your Instagram images to a zip file, and a direct export service to Facbook, Flickr and RSS is in the works.


CopyGram works in the same way as Instaport, allowing you to download all of your Instagram images as a zip file, in addition to providing you with an easy-to-remember vanity url with your username.

Get an Instagram Vanity URL

As with any service, it’s pretty cool to have a vanity url which makes it easy to direct friends and followers to your profile page. If you want a vanity URL check out the following examples.

We’ve already mentioned CopyGram as a backup tool for your Instagram photos. Vanity urls with Copygram look like this:


In addition to giving users a Follow Me button to place on their sites, Followgram.me provides vanity urls for Instagram profiles that look like this:


Do you have a favourite Instagram service or site? Let us know about it in the comments.

Categories: Facebook

The resurrection of Nokia: What it can do to succeed with Windows Phone

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 12:49pm

Nokia, Finland’s largest company and the world’s number one mobile manufacturer by volume, is in trouble. Failure to adapt its smartphones has left the company languishing where it once dominated, as stylish computing corporations and search specialists now hold the top revenue spots.

Nokia’s second quarter financial results were horrifying to many, let alone those associated with the company. The Espoo-based mobile maker record a €487 million operating loss (a drop of €782 million in just one year), overall net sales plummeted 11% quarter-on-quarter and 7% year-on-year, as smartphone sales dropped 32% to 16.7 million units.

This drop ensured that as Nokia entered its third-quarter, the company lost its position as the global leader in smartphone sales to Apple (with iPhone sales reaching more than 20 million units), a position that it had held for 15 years.

Stephen Elop, Nokia’s CEO and the man tasked with leading the recovery of Finland’s biggest exponent, believes that despite huge losses and the concession of its smartphone sales lead, adopting Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform and “mitigating the impact” of challenges faced as a result of dropping the Symbian platform and cutting thousands of staff, will bring “long-term opportunities for Nokia”.

Basically, Elop says things may get worse before they get better.

Elop said that Nokia has already taken action to reduce the inventory build-up in its first quarter (possibly as a result of less-than-expected sales in those regions), amended its pricing structure worldwide (slashing prices on its online shop, for example) and has begun focusing its sales and marketing resources towards consumer retail interactions.

All of Nokia’s long-term plans hinge on the success of its new Windows Phone smartphones, devices that it hopes consumers – especially those in the US – will marvel at. Nokia has traditionally offered superior build quality, exceptional hardware and competitive pricing – but even this might not be enough to dig the company out of the hole it has created for itself.

Nokia needs to completely rebrand its range of handsets and reconfigure its marketing approaches to truly stand a chance of becoming relevant again. And here’s why.

Smartphone Rebranding

Nokia will always be known for its numerical device naming process, the company has spent decades labeling new devices with a single letter prefix and a random set of numbers (although more recently it has settled on adding just a single digit). The naming system worked when the company was updating its handsets at a furious pace but in the last six months alone, Nokia has launched five Symbian-powered handsets and one Meego device, with each handset appealing to a specific demographic.

Of Nokia’s latest N-series and X-Series smartphone, two are technically unsurpassed in the hardware department, one is business focused and the others are generally aimed at whoever will buy them.

When Nokia makes its Windows Phone smartphones available, rumours suggest the company will employ the “W” prefix and then name its devices similarly to its N-Series and X-Series phones released recently.

The problem with the a “W1″ or “W10″ device naming policy is that it harks back to the good old days of Nokia, names that do not send a “come and get me” beacon out to the general smartphone consumer when they are in the market for a new phone.

Nokia’s rivals utilise a select set of nouns with the sole intention making their devices memorable – Apple uses iPhone, HTC comes in with its Sensation, Thunderbolt, Evo (short for Evolution) and Hero devices, with Samsung pushing its Galaxy smartphones.

With a W1, or similar naming convention, Nokia isn’t inspiring the consumer, it is simply pushing new devices with familiar codenames. When HTC, Samsung, LG, Dell and a number of new OEMs are releasing “Pro”, “Trophy”, “Focus” and “Optimus”, smartphones running the same Windows Phone operating system, would a Nokia codename appeal over names chosen by its rivals?

Nokia Services

When Nokia announced it had dropped the Ovi brand, the mobile industry breathed a collective sigh of relief.

In 2007, Nokia launched a range of Internet services and apps under the Ovi brand, incorporating sharing tools, music downloads, maps and games under its umbrella. With application downloads in their infancy, Nokia launched the Ovi service two months after Apple’s iPhone, hoping to bring its devices on par with a new kind of mobile device that came with its own set of integrated services and launchable applications.

With Google bundling its own services on its Android platform, and Apple securing partnerships to keep Google Search and Maps available on the iPhone, Nokia’s Ovi service not only confused consumers as to whether it was actually a pure Nokia service but was also the only suite of vendor tools that was actually referred to by name.

In May, Nokia said it would slowly begin to wind down the Ovi brand and rebrand its services under the “Nokia” banner, a transition the Finnish giant expected to start in July and continue into 2012.

Nokia knew it had a problem and moved to rectify it. Jerri DeVard, the company’s EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, put it simply:

“We have made the decision to change our service branding from Ovi to Nokia. By centralizing our services identity under one brand, not two, we will reinforce the powerful master brand of Nokia and unify our brand architecture – while continuing to deliver compelling opportunities and experiences for partners and consumers alike.”

Moving forward, Nokia needs to understand that its potential customers are more than likely already enjoying devices powered by Apple’s iOS platform and Google’s Android operating system. This means that the company cannot simply enter the market with a like-for-like range of devices and similar platform, it needs to enter the market and drive home its own unique selling point.

When Nokia’s new devices launch, they will hit the market with Microsoft’s latest Windows Phone update, codenamed Mango. Mango builds on Microsoft’s solid foundations, removing many of the bugs and annoyances whilst adding some truly innovative features, particularly with new messaging, Xbox, Office and social integrations.

Nokia will be be able to bundle its own services to work alongside the new update, building upon Microsoft’s own mapping tools to give consumers unique reasons to buy a Nokia-specific Windows Phone smartphone. Nokia will also be able to leverage Microsoft’s connection to Windows desktops to tempt in users who need document and office synchronisation.

Marketing Push

Speak to someone who has an intimate knowledge of the mobile space and they will tell you that technically, a Nokia and Microsoft partnership should be successful. Windows Phone has received praise for its usability, aesthetics and integrated applications and services, whereas Nokia has been long regarded as one of the top handset makers in terms of hardware quality.

Releasing Windows Phone devices will not be enough for Nokia, it has to completely change the mindset of the consumer to believe the Finnish mobile giant is a force to be reckoned with again. That means a targeted marketing push and almost certainly an investment of millions of advertising dollars.

Android and Apple smartphones sales are largely driven by a younger demographic, with more than 40% of smartphone buyers between the ages of 18 and 34. However, around half of mobile phone owners are now over the age of 50, and account for only a small percentage of smartphone users.

If Nokia was to change its naming dynamic, it would be able to target devices at different demographics, marketing handsets to an older user-base. Windows Phone devices are easy to operate and are known for their ability to “just work”, removing the complexity that is commonly associated with Android.

Just because older mobile-phone users aren’t massive smartphone buyers, this doesn’t mean that adults won’t be impressed with what these new devices can do. The ability to chat on a social network will tempt a teenager or young adult but it will be largely ignored by an over-30 demographic. However, explain that there is an array of health applications, satellite navigation services and document collaboration features powering a Nokia handset (phones that older users will recognise and trust), and an often forgotten demographic could assist Nokia in its attempt to reverse sales numbers across Europe and North America.

Nokia may be able to sink millions into marketing, but without the support of the carriers, it may fall at the first hurdle. In the years where Nokia pushed Symbian, despite there being no real demand for the platform in popular markets, mobile operators lost interest and sometimes new smartphones would launch on just a single carrier in the US, giving Nokia no chance of actually establishing a moderate user-base in the country.

Stephen Elop said last week:

“Step by step, beginning this year, we plan to have a sequence of concentrated product launches in specific countries, systematically increasing the number of countries and launch partners.”

The company may have the tools, options, marketing expertise and revenue programs to appeal to the operators but its devices will ultimately dictate the companies’ fate. It already has relationships with 132 operators in the 190 countries it operates in but if its new smartphones are just more of the same, the company could find itself in the same position it is today a year down the line.

If Nokia can connect the pieces of the intricate puzzle it is trying to build, it will stand a chance at not only increasing its smartphone sales, but also encourage consumer confidence in the brand. With consumers confident that Nokia devices are reliable, powerful and come as part of a steady release cycle, developers will want to develop for the platform to capitalise on the demand for Windows Phone applications, fueled by Nokia’s emergence as a major Microsoft OEM.

To assist developers, Microsoft has already waived its registration fee, offered free developer tools and a complete developer portal with dedicated tools for helping developers maintain and analyse their apps.


Many of the points discussed in the article have been touched on by Elop, who has already said Nokia will use its established position within the industry to deliver top-end smartphones on a large scale. Nokia’s CEO admits we are just at the start of the “mobile revolution” and will utilise Microsoft’s position in the document publishing, gaming and Internet service markets to drive the company forward.

Nokia knows it must adapt its offering to stand out from its rivals, but keep its products and services familiar so that consumers aren’t embarking on a new learning curve if they buy a Nokia Windows Phone.

Elop hasn’t made the mistake of copying Apple and Google. He has detailed a unique path that will see his company’s efforts focused on what could be its last chance of staying relevant as a smartphone vendor. We are but months away from seeing what Nokia has planned for its new devices, only then can we truly see whether the Finnish mobile giant stands a chance at reversing its fortunes.

Categories: Facebook

Visualizing SMS messages using paper airplanes

The Next Web - Facebook-tagged - Sun, 24/07/2011 - 10:55am

Christian Groß was given an assignment in class – to take existing data and use it to create a visual or audio representation, using the coding framework, Processing. That is how the SMS to Paper Airplanes project came to exist.

Groß tapped into his long distance relationship with his girlfriend, using the SMS messages that they sent back and forth from September 2010 to April 2011. The visual representation of the SMS message that Groß chose was the paper airplane.

Groß explains his choice on his blog, saying “The challenge was to find a medium, which is variable and able to visualize the information of the text messages, but at the same time allows to keep the content private. For me the paper airplane was the perfect image for this scenario, because the text messages as well as travelling by plane are the most common ways for us to cover the distance.”

Each paper airplane was created depending on certain criteria.

The size of the paper airplane was relative to the length of the message, while the number of folds was relative to the amount of positive emotional words in the message. The final placement of the paper airplanes depended on the time the message was sent and its emotional value.

The result was a whimsical display of 369 messages in the delicate form of paper airplanes.

Categories: Facebook

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