Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Book Country Brings Writers Of A Feather Closer Together

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 09:24 AM PDT

It’s hard out there for a writer of genre fiction. You rarely get much respect in the “literary” circles and even though some of the greats – Jonathan Lethem, for example – started out writing what would be termed sci-fi and fantasy, we forget this as they bring out massive magna opera about Park Slope and love. Besides, vampire books are huge moneymakers right now and why not ride that train until it derails on a Transylvanian mountain pass?

And so we have Book Country, a site run by Penguin that offers a free way for writers of genre fiction to talk about and share their work. The site is limited to romance, thrillers, fantasy, and sci-fi so this is not the spot to upload your Mythbusters slashfic. However, it is a fairly robust service that attempts to keep things fair for all involved.

It’s all fairly simple: you create an account and you can, if you so wish, upload your work. To have it “read” or “critiqued” by others you must complete a series of steps including reading three other works by other writers. You can, obviously, game the system and just type in gibberish but that’s not very sporting.

Once your book is up (here is a bit of piffle I’m writing for my son) and you complete your required reading, other users can read and comment on your writing. There are forums for discussing various genres and you can build a fan base. You can also follow writers and books as they change on the site.

Interestingly, because this is a nominally Penguin product (it’s not run by Penguin officially, but is a spin-off), I think it will garner a bit of attention in the massively insular world of publishing and, barring that, it lets writers get out of the basement and in front of an audience.

Writers are protected by anti-copy/paste measures although one can only assume this is a plagiarism lawsuit waiting to happen. It’s also a bit mercenary on Penguin’s part as it heads off the burgeoning self-publishing movement on the Kindle and Nook and ensures that they’ll get a first look at any massively popular authors who percolate up through the system. Like a farm team or a the drama group from Waiting For Guffman, you’re basically dealing with a bunch of people in clamoring out to be discovered. How many of them make it out is hard to say.

Molly Barton, director of business development at Penguin “runs” the site but the real power is in the readers’ hands. It’s an interesting concept that should – one hopes – help the literary cream rise to the top and, if it doesn’t, give us a place to enjoy some fresh cyberpunk. Win-win, either way.

Product Page

Keepsy Taps Instagram For Fast, Easy, Awesome Photo Books

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 09:00 AM PDT

People love photo albums, but they hate making them.

That’s what Blake Williams has come to realize in the months following Keepsy’s launch. You may recall back in December of last year, the startup launched as a way to create tangible photo albums with all of your friends using Facebook. It’s a good idea. But again, there’s a barrier to entry. So now Keepsy has a new product to alleviate that problem.

“Instant Albums” hooks into your Instagram pictures via their API and in seconds build you a complete photo album. Once you give them your Instagram credentials, Keepsy pulls in what it considers to be your 35 (or so) best pictures and organizes them for you into this book.

Boom. Done.

Even untouched, the end result is pretty great.

How do they determine your best Instagram photos? It’s a relatively simple algorithm that combines the use of popular photo filters with the number of likes each picture received. Time-stamps are then used to place similar pictures close to one another so that page clusters make sense.

Of course, you can alter your books to add more photos, take some away, tweak/add the captions (Keepsy will auto pull-in your Instagram picture captions), rotate others, add in different backgrounds, etc. This is all done via a web-based editor that’s simple to use. It’s all just dragging and dropping.

Once you have the album you like, you can share it digitally on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Or you can order a hard cover physical book starting at $29.99 for 30 pages. Williams notes that this is 10 more pages than Apple gives you for that price point for photo books made through iPhoto. (Each page is an extra $0.99.)

Once created, books should take anywhere from 5 to 10 days to get to the person you’re sending them to via FedEx. Unfortunately, the service is going to be U.S.-only for the time being. But Williams hopes to expand quickly.

I’m looking at one of the books right now that Williams threw together for me to show me what they look like. It’s great. It’s a perfect keepsake and/or gift for a variety of occasions. And again, the key: simple to make.

So why focus on Instagram for this new product? Because the photo sharing app is the hottest among the new trend of photo services that are all about quick captures taken on the fly. Williams wanted to make a photo book service that reflected that ease.

“The process of creating an album on conventional sites is cumbersome, slow and usually pretty canned. You may end up with a decent looking album, but you dread the hours of input it takes to create one,” Williams notes. And the space is still a $1 billion market that’s growing.

Others, like the recently launch Postagram, are clearly seeing the opportunity to turn these quick mobile pictures into tangible goods as well.

Williams notes that this Instant Album roll out is just the first of many that will hit in the coming weeks all aimed at making photo album creation simple, fast, and fun. As someone who has spent hours making a photo album online before, I very much welcome this change of pace.

BrightScope Wants To Help You Find A Qualified Financial Advisor

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 09:00 AM PDT

San Diego based BrightScope, which launched to help people navigate their 401k retirement plans and maximize benefits, wants to help consumers find the best financial advisor and planner.

The startup is launching Advisor Pages, a way for people to discover, research, and select the most appropriate and qualified financial advisor. BrightScope has aggregated hard-to-discover but publicly available information on advisors, creating a database of over 450,000 financial advisors around the U.S.

BrightScope will allow consumers to search for financial advisors by location, qualifications, amount and types of assets under management, area of specialty, legal disputes, formal complaints and more. BrightScope obtains its data directly from publicly available sources, including required regulatory filings from the Securities Exchange Commission. Financial advisors can also add to these primary sources by claiming their BrightScope Advisor Page.

Find the right financial advisor can actually be a challenging and overwhelming process. Some advisors require a minimum amount to be managed, and consumers may want to find an advisor that is based within their region or city with the right amount of experience. BrightScope’s database makes it relatively easy to find the financial advisor that is right for your needs or specifications.

Evolv Raises $15 Million For Talent Matching And Intelligence Software

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 08:00 AM PDT

Evolv On-Demand, a startup that develops science-based, on-demand talent matching and intelligence software, has raised $15 million in Series C funding, led by GGV Capital with Khosla Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners participating in the round. This investment brings the total capital raised by the company to $26.7 million.

Evolv’s Talent Matching and Talent Intelligence software is used by recruiters and employers to match the best job applicants to various job types based upon factors such as behaviors, skills, motivation and workstyle. Evolv claims that its SaaS platform reduces employee attrition by 20-30%, improves hourly employee productivity metrics by 5-10%, and helps improve annual operating margins by over 20%.

Evolv says the new capital will be used to accelerate the company's expansion into new global markets, develop new products and for sales and marketing efforts.

Google Chairman Takes An Interest In Backing Russian Startups

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 07:55 AM PDT

TomorrowVentures, the investment firm founded by Google chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt has partnered with Digital October, a Moscow, Russia-based tech startup incubator.

According to local reports (via Quintura blog), Schmidt’s investment vehicle will team up with Digital October, a center in the heart of Moscow established by billionaire Mikhail Abyzov (chairman of Russian business group RU-COM), its investment arm Bright Capital and Telemarker, to find interesting opportunities for technology startup financings in the country.

TomorrowVentures' Managing Partner Court Coursey reportedly said that Digital October will provide the venture firm with a mechanism to select the best ideas from Russia and coordinate early-stage funding rounds. From what I can gather, its new Russian partners will also collaborate with TomorrowVentures to forge cross-border partnerships between their respective portfolio companies and exchange knowledge.

I’ve personally been taking quite an interest in the Russian Internet and technology scene lately, and I’m excited to see early-stage investors pay more attention to local startups.

Coincidentally, a couple of months ago TechCrunch Europe’s Mike Butcher traveled to Moscow for the first ever TC event in Russia, which was hosted in the Digital October Center.

Clearly, things are moving quickly down in Russia.

Ted Zagat (Of Zagat Survey Fame) Joins Facebook To Work On Payments Business

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 07:16 AM PDT

Facebook has scored a new talent win today—Univision’s Ted Zagat. Yes, of Zagat Survey fame. Ted is the son of Tim and Nina Zagat, the founders of the local entertainment and restaurant guide mini-empire.

Zagat was the President of his family business from 1999 to 2007. From 2007 until recently, he managed Univision's Franchise Development & Strategic Partnerships group, which included licensing, e-commerce, live events, and financial services businesses as well as strategic partnerships. He also held jobs at Boston Consulting Group and and DLJ.

It appears that Zagat has hopped over to Facebook to work on its payments business. From the email he sent to his colleagues and friends: I wanted to share some exciting news: after a great run at Univision, I recently joined Facebook, where I'm helping to build the Payments business. Payments are one of the ways that Facebook monetizes its offering. Payments currently center on Facebook Credits, a virtual currency launched in 2010 to facilitate transactions. My team focuses on strategy, partnerships, and operations, while supporting the growth of our Advertising and Local businesses. Zagat also confirmed the move on his LinkedIn profile.

We know Facebook has big plans for Payments, most recently establishing a subsidiary called Facebook Payments to help manage payments to developers related to Facebook Credits. And for Facebook, Zagat seems like an ideal candidate to help expands Facebook Credits, perhaps into local deals. He can draw upon his experience with local merchants at Zagat Guides and clearly he has many years working in business development.

We’ve contacted Facebook for confirmation and will update when we hear back.

Runens Social Running App Will Let You Train With Friends, Strangers

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 07:10 AM PDT

As we all know, long distance runners are lonely. You’re out there on your own, feet hitting the pavement, strange birds pecking at your hair as you scramble up and down alien streets at dawn or dusk. It’s good to have friends out there.

That’s the goal of this new iPhone app, called Runens, a goal that, I feel, so far falls short. You set a goal level – 5K, 10K, Ultramarathon – and then “share” your runs with with the app. It ranks you according to miles run and speed and you can have “hood fights” which are battles between neighborhoods. The goal of this app is similar to JoggingBuddy.com’ – essentially the socialization of a usually stoic, solitary endeavor – but, obviously, this thing is app-based and is, thus far, a bit barren in the social aspect.

Read more…

MakeMeReach Snags $4.3 Million To Conquer Europe With Facebook Ads

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 06:36 AM PDT

In January, MediaStay became the first French ad network to be approved by Facebook. Then, in the beginning of April, the company announced that it had raised €15 million ($21.5 million) to take its Tap-joy like game monetization solutions international - mainly in the US. Today, MakeMeReach, a similar French ad network, is announcing that it too has raised money for international development. The company - which was approved by Facebook in January shortly after MediaStay - has just closed a €3 million ($4.3 Million) round with 3 French funds, Alven Capital, Siparex and UFG-Siparex. The cofounders are still apparently the primary shareholders.

Social Gaming Startup Kobojo Raises $7.7 Million

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 06:13 AM PDT

Kobojo, a social games developer based in Paris, France, has landed 5.3 million euros (roughly $7.7 million) in its first round of funding. The financing round was led by Endeavour Vision with IDinvest Partners participating. Kobojo is one of Europe's leaders in publishing and distributing games for mobile phones and the Facebook platform. The company was founded in 2008 and counts games like GooBox and PyramidVille among its most popular applications.

Qik’s Android App Gets Updated With Live Video Chat, Social Feeds And More

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 06:01 AM PDT

Mobile video startup Qik, which was acquired by Skype earlier this year, has previously only offered a fully functional live streaming and chat app on Android via pre-loaded devices. Qik offered a simpler version of its mobile video service in the Android Market which allowed users to record video but this app lacked any live streaming, sharing or chatting capabilities.

Now, Qik is bringing the full featured Qik app to the Android Marketplace, the company tells us exclusively. The app, which you can download here, allows you to live stream video and now conduct live video chats with contacts over 3G, 4G or WiFi. And you can chat between Android 2.1-2.33 phones and any iOS4 devices, including the iPad 2 and iPhone 4.

The Android app automatically integrates with your phone's contact list to show you who is available to chat live, and allows you to video chat using back camera (show what is happening around you) and/or front camera (show your face).

If you cannot connect with your friends live, you can also send video mail via threaded video mail conversations and you can send video mails to anyone, including friends who don't have Qik, via email or SMS. The Android app has also added a few social features, and allows you to connect via Facebook and will notify you when your friends share video on the app. You can play these videos within the app and comment on content. Videos can also be shared through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and other sites.

The addition of a live video sharing and recording app in the Android Market is a big development for the company’s technology, says co-founder Bhaskar Roy. Previously, Qik optimized over all experience for specific devices and carriers, but now these capabilities are being brought to all Android handsets. While Roy declined to comment on how Qik would be integrating its technology with Skype, he did say that the companies are currently working with OEMs to figure out how to integrate the streaming video technologies with the hardware to consume less CPU and battery power.

Other apps that allow for live streaming on Android phones include Justin.TV, Ustream and others. But Qik says that its apps have been updated with more social features, including the ability to conduct live video chats, and share live video with friends on social networks.


Consumer Reports Integrates BillShrink’s Savings Recommendations Into Reviews

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 05:59 AM PDT

Cost-cutting search engine BillShrink has landed a new deal today—integration with Consumer Reports reviews. ConsumerReports.org subscribers and site visitors will have access to BillShrink's savings recommendations through links on ConsumerReports.org article pages, buying advice pages, and ratings chart pages. Consumers will be linked to a co-branded and customized version of BillShrink's unbiased recommendations on wireless plans, credit cards and TV services.

The financial terms appear to be via affiliate fees. Every time a user switches service through the BillShrink tool, Consumer Reports will collect a fee from BillShrink. Of course, Consumer Reports, being unbiased, does not endorse any of the services displayed by BillShrink, and it has no direct financial relationship with these services.

This isn’t the first mainstream partnership for BillShrink. The company landed a similar deal with Walmart to have its cost-saving tool endorsed via the Walmart.com website. And T-Mobile also integrated BillShrink into its services.

The company says that more than 80% of people overpay on everyday bills like wireless service and on average, those who use BillShrink's bill analysis can save $640 on credit cards, $420 on wireless plans and $400 on TV service per year.

Nielsen: Consumer Desire For Android Grows, Unlike iOS And Blackberry

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 05:49 AM PDT

Nielsen ran monthly surveys of mobile consumers in the United States from July to September 2010, and said back then that 33 percent expressed interest for an Apple iPhone, while slightly more than a quarter (26 percent) said they desired a device with Android and 13 percent said they wanted a Blackberry device. How quickly things change.

This morning, Nielsen posited that those same surveys for January 2011 to March 2011 now show that 31 percent of consumers who plan to get a new smartphone indicated that Android was now their preferred OS. Apple's iOS has slipped slightly in popularity, to 30 percent.

RIM / Blackberry, meanwhile, is down to 11 percent. Nearly 20 percent of consumers are unsure of what to choose next.

Perhaps surprisingly, desire for Windows Phone devices actually dropped a percent (from 7% to 6%), while interest in Symbian devices remains non-existent when it comes to the US.

At the end of last year, Nielsen posited that Apple's iOS and Android were tied for "most desired operating system" when mobile users who planned to upgrade to a smartphone in the next year were asked about their next phone. Android comes out on top for the first time in the first quarter of 2011, according to Nielsen’s data (see chart above).

Nielsen says the trend is visible at the counter, too. Zooming in on sales, half of those surveyed in March 2011 who indicated they had purchased a smartphone in the past six months said they had chosen an Android device. A quarter of recent acquirers said they bought an Apple iPhone, and 15 percent said they had picked a Blackberry phone.

Medialets Launches Muse, A Creative Project Management Dashboard For Rich Media Mobile Ads

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 05:00 AM PDT

Mobile advertising company Medialets is launching a new product today—Medialets Muse. Muse is a comprehensive creative dashboard for rich 
media advertising, allowing both advertisers and publishers to create and manage ads.

Medialets helps publishers sell rich media ads directly to brands. On the publisher side, Medialets provides all the tools to go and sell ad inventory for mobile rich media ads independently and trains publishers’ salesforce as well. For brands, Medialets evangelizes their ad formats and the mobile ad opportunities provided by big-name publishers, serving as a middle man between publishers like CNN and advertisers like Coca-Cola.

Muse is essentially a collaborative workspace for project managing the details of a campaign launch. Muse has a number of features that makes it an attractive ad creation and management tool for advertisers. The product’s Creative Builder allows advertisers to create and cross platform ads, called Blueprints, in a matter of a few clicks.

It’s important to note that the cornerstone to Medialets' ads, as we've written in the past, is the promise that its rich media and display advertising on mobile phones will provides deeper engagement with users. Engagement is the primary measurement that the ad platform focuses on when determining the success of its advertising campaigns.

Muse can tell you where on which publishers a given Blueprint can run and and allows media agencies to transform existing assets to mobile ad units in minutes, making it far easier to include mobile in digital buys. Blueprints refer to templates for mobile ads on Medialet’s platform. Publishers can build custom Blueprints that incorporate their own content strategy and layouts.
The SaaS also provides a centralized platform for agencies and brands to create mobile ad units, with commenting, timelines and email alerts, review and approval features, and more. CEO Eric Litman tells us that this creative process between agencies and brands has primarily been conducted over email, and Muse allows this to be done within its platform.

And the company has a number of well known brands, including The New York Times, who have been beta testers of Muse. A collaborative workspace that allows advertisers and publishers to not only start and finish an advertising project, but also manage the campaign seems like a useful offering for advertisers.

Medialets, which has raised $10 million in funding, just formed a partnership with Adobe to integrate Medialets‘ mobile ad platform into the Adobe creative suite.

Mobile App Developer Outfit7 Hits 100 Million Downloads In Under 10 Months

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 04:59 AM PDT

Mobile application developer Outfit7, maker of the hugely popular Talking Friends series of apps, has announced that its iOS and Android apps have hit the 100 million downloads milestone, roughly 3 months after hitting the 60 million downloads milestone.

Notably, Outfit7 launched its first Talking Friend app less than ten months ago (July 2010).

The series of apps, which include breakout hits Talking Tom Cat and Talking Santa, currently averages about 15 million downloads per month.

The startup, which was started in Slovenia, says it will launch about 15 more Talking Friends applications for iOS and Android throughout the year, but also “extend the brand into new categories” (PC consoles, movie theatres?).

In case you’re not familiar with Talking Friends: each of Outfit7′s apps features an animated 3D character that can be poked, tickled, and played with in various ways via a smartphone touch screen. Using the device’s microphone, you can speak to the character, and they will repeat back everything they hear in “their” voice. The apps also let you record customized videos that can be shared via Facebook, YouTube or email.

Outfit7 CEO Andrej Nabergoj says up to 100,000 videos are shared on YouTube every month, with between 100,000 and 200,000 more on Facebook. Email is even more popular, with an average of 400,000 videos sent per month. Infographic with loads of non-related data points:

Enterprise Software Maker Lawson Bought By Golden Gate, Infor In $2 Billion Deal

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 04:29 AM PDT

Lawson Software, a global provider of enterprise software this morning announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by GGC Software Holdings, an affiliate of private equity investment firm Golden Gate Capital and Infor. The transaction has a total value of approximately $2 billion. Under the terms of the merger agreement, stockholders of Lawson will receive $11.25 per share in cash, a premium of about 14 percent to Lawson's closing share price on March 7, 2011, the last trading day prior to news reports speculating about a potential deal brewing.

Social Network Pioneer Friendster To Erase All User Photos, Blogs And More On May 31

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 02:34 AM PDT

Before MySpace and Facebook, there was Friendster, a pioneering social networking website for consumers. First launched in 2002, Friendster attracted tens of millions of users over the years, but it never quite grew into the online juggernaut it could have been.

Having raised close to $50 million in venture capital, Friendster was acquired by Malaysian payments company MOL Global at the end of 2009 for a reported $40 million.

Fast forward to today, and it looks like Friendster won’t be so much about sharing with friends anymore. In a message to registered members (hat tip to @Mazi), the company is asking all users to install a custom application to export all their profile data, as most of it will be unequivocally deleted on May 31, 2011.

On the help forum, Friendster encourages all users to use the ‘Friendster Exporter’ app to download or export their profile information, friends list, photos, messages, comments, testimonials, shoutouts, blogs and groups. Options include porting content to Flickr or Multiply.

On May 31, Friendster will move to wipe out all photos, blogs, comments and groups uploaded or created by its users. The company will, however, keep all accounts alive, along with user friends lists, games details and basic profile information.

Friendster is making the changes under the guise of reinventing themselves as a service focused on “entertainment and fun” (which sounds exactly like Myspace when they started feeling the Facebook heat for real):

Our improved site is designed to create new profiles that allow you to connect differently with people and do things differently than other networking sites. Basically, the new site will complement your existing online presence in other social networking sites.

The new Friendster should be going live in the coming weeks and focus mainly on Asian users.

Just last week, MOL Global / Friendster CEO Ganesh Kumar Bangah told ZDNet that he’s under the impression social media sites are increasingly being made irrelevant because the global social graph is increasingly dominated by Facebook.

He added that, as a result, Friendster will be repositioned as a social entertainment site for people to play games and music, and that it will leverage Facebook Connect.

Coincidentally, it’s been exactly a year since TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington wrote The Age Of Facebook, noting that the social network’s dominance had only just begun.

I wouldn’t exactly call Friendster a casualty of Facebook’s steamroll, but clearly, Friendster the social network as we knew it will be no more by the end of next month.

Tweetdeck Releases New, Heavily Revamped iPhone App

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 02:31 AM PDT

Tweetdeck has release a new version 2.0 of its app for the iPhone. They are calling it a Hollywood-esque “re-imagining” where the essence of the original remains but is brought up to date. It’s taken “several months of feverish work”.

Improved features include swiping between columns, navigation through user profiles and the ability to add columns as well as ‘Pull to Update’ and Follow/Unfollow sliders tweaks.

A pinch gesture on a column accesses options to add any combination of feeds into a column so that Twitter timelines, Mentions, DMs Favourites, Lists, Searches, Facebook feeds can be blended into a personalised column.

NexTag Acquires German Comparison Shopping Site Guenstiger.de

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 01:56 AM PDT

Nextag, a comparison shopping site for products and services, has acquired Germany’s Guenstiger.de GmbH, one of the largest comparison shopping services in Europe. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but the company says acquisition marks the most significant strategic transaction for Nextag to date. The deal was a mixture of cash and stock.

Guenstiger provides shoppers in six countries with a comprehensive comparison shopping site that includes reviews, recommendations, and local product availability, to help users make easy and informed purchases. Guenstiger will maintain its brands and will continue to be led by its current management team.

Jeffrey Katz, CEO of NexTag, says the acquisition will quickly accelerate the company’s growth internationally, and diversify its traffic sources. Nextag specializes in search technology to let users find products, prices and information whenever and wherever they need them. The company operates comparison shopping sites in the US (Nextag.com), the UK (Nextag.co.uk), France (Nextag.fr), Spain (Nextag.es), Italy (Nextag.it), Australia (Nextag.com.au), Japan (Nextag.co.jp), as well as Germany (Nextag.de) but the acquisition will give NexTag more of a foothold across Europe.

NexTag has been on a bit of a shopping spree of late. The company bought online coupon provider NextCoupons last Fall and picked up product recommendation research engine Wize last Summer.

I have a feeling we’ll see more acquisitions in NexTag’s future. The company was looking to raise $250 million as of last December to fund acquisitions.

PhotoSync Is A Simple Way To Import Your Flickr Photos Into Facebook

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 01:36 AM PDT

Yes I know that Flickr offers a dinky Facebook Newsfeed sync and there are plenty of other services that offer pretty complex Flickr photo-syncing tools, but this post is for the three of you that want to prevent this from happening to you and don’t have 20 minutes to spend figuring it out.

My attempts to sync my Flickr photos to Facebook manually through Facebook Activity Updates are still loading so I’m just going use that time to write about a faster and more effective way to do this.

Created by Paul Carduner, PhotoSync allows you to sync all or a few of your Flickr albums to Facebook and doesn’t take an eternity. The service partions large versions of your Flickr photos and albums into matching Facebook albums and keeps syncing both accounts every hour, with no effort on your part.

Unfortunately PhotoSync doesn’t import the Flickr Pro photo hostages, but for that TechCrunch reader Gaurav Sharma has a work around:

Simply search “http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=site%3Aflickr.com+inurl%3Aphotos%2Fmichaelarrington%2F(*)%2F” with your Flickr user name instead of “michaelarrington” and Google will show you photos beyond your 200 Flickr Pro limit. Building a Google scraper or having access to the Google Custom Search API will allow to download your photos.

So there you go.

DogWars: My Thoughts On The Android Dog Fighting App

Posted: 25 Apr 2011 11:51 PM PDT

Sports Illustrated and others are reporting on an Android app that lets people “feed, water, train and fight their virtual dogs against others.” The app is created by Kage Games. The outrage is reminiscent of the early days of Grand Theft Auto and other violent video games.

Retired dog fighting enthusiast and occasional quarterback Michael Vick is taking a firm stand against the app:

“I’ve come to learn the hard way that dogfighting is a dead-end street,” Vick said in a statement posted on the Humane Society’s website. “Now, I am on the right side of this issue, and I think it’s important to send the smart message to kids, and not glorify this form of animal cruelty, even in an Android app.”

I’ve thought a lot about this app and the articles I’ve read today about it. Here are my thoughts:

Michael Vick is, was and will always be, an asshole.

Sony Announces S1 And Dual-Screen S2 Android Tablets

Posted: 25 Apr 2011 10:22 PM PDT

Sony has just announced a pair of Honeycomb tablets, but — wait, wait, these ones are actually different. Yes, Sony has set itself apart from the crowd of Android slates by focusing on unique form factor and its Qriocity media suite. They have their own names but are both underneath a new “Sony Tablet” brand, which is just about the least exciting “brand” I’ve ever encountered. The tablets themselves, however, look interesting.

The S1 is a slate-style tablet with a 9.4-inch screen. Its special power is a strange rolled shape and an “off-center of gravity design” intended to make holding it easier. The S2 is a dual screen device with two 5.5-inch screens. Didn’t see that coming.

Continue reading…

First Lawsuit Filed Against Apple For Undocumented Location Database

Posted: 25 Apr 2011 09:52 PM PDT

With no real statement from Apple regarding the present consolidated.db tracking file furor, the obvious next step is to take it to the courts. Actually, the next step should be a rigorous federal investigation into whether or not Apple has broken any laws. Then, if it has, sue away. And if it hasn’t, sue anyway just in case. Vikram Ajjampur and William Devito are a little impatient, however, and have filed a lawsuit against Apple already.

Now, I’m all in favor of suing Apple — as soon as the facts are known. Apple gets a chance to defend itself against the allegations (time is running out, by the way), and if it doesn’t do so to our satisfaction, then that’s that. This nearly instantaneous lawsuit (filed April 22), however, seems slightly opportunistic.

Continue reading…

CampusLive Raises $3.1 Million To Help Brands Connect With College Students

Posted: 25 Apr 2011 09:03 PM PDT

CampusLive, a college-focused startup that’s part Groupon, part free ‘Offers’ provider (more on that later), has closed a $3.1 million funding round led by Highland Capital Partners and Charles River Ventures.

CampusLive is all about showcasing special offers to students to help brands increase awareness and engagement. But the site differs from Groupon and other deal sites because no money actually changes hands — instead, students are given special deals (or are entered into a contest) in return for clicking a brand’s ‘Like’ button, completing a branded game, or signing up for a news letter.

After signing up for the service and picking your school, CampusLive will present you with a main Challenge for the day, along with several additional challenges if you’d like to complete more. Challenges sometimes will offer a guaranteed, small incentive alongside a sweepstakes. For example, you might see a big banner for Jason’s Hamburger Stand offering students a $5 dollar coupon — and a chance to win a trip to Hawaii — in return for simply clicking the business’s Like button.

Users sign up with their email address, and the site regularly sends them new offers. CampusLive charges brands and businesses for each completed challenge (as opposed to per impression), at a rate that varies depending on what the challenge entails and what kind of prizes the business is offering.

CEO Boris Revsin says that since launching the service November 15, over 100,000 students have completed a challenge and that nearly 500,000 challenges have been completed overall (obviously some students have done many challenges, and some only did one, but Revsin says the majority have come back for a second Challenge). The bar graph below shows the breakdown of how many users came back to complete ‘n’ many offers.

My biggest gripe with the service right now is the fact that brands can offer challenges that only give you a chance at being rewarded (e.g. “Become a Facebook Fan and get a chance to win $500!”). Which sounds a whole lot like the countless spammy emails and flyers all of us have learned to ignore over the years. Revsin says that this is just an option though, and the site also uses virtual currency to keep users engaged even if they aren’t guaranteed a deal.

YouTube Amping Up Its Movie Rental Library With Major Studio Participation

Posted: 25 Apr 2011 08:42 PM PDT

Sharon Waxman over at The Wrap has a story about a Video On Demand service about to be launched by YouTube that would be a “full-bore challenge to Apple's iTunes service.” What the article fails to mention is that YouTube already has a Video On Demand service, YouTube Movies. Those interested can rent movies like Zombie Diaries, Ronald Reagan: An American Journey and The Dogfather right now on YouTube for around $2.99 each.

So while the streaming functionality already exists, it’s the deals with Hollywood studios like Warner Bros, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal, Lionsgate and Kino Lorber that are important to note. Mike reported that Google was planning a major expansion of its movie offerings back in December of 2010.

If Google is indeed serious about increasing the quality of YouTube content and offering a movie rental service than it has to compete with Apple’s iTunes, which currently has deals with Disney, Fox, Warner Bros., Universal, Paramount, Sony, MGM, Lionsgate and New Line Cinema, charging $2.99 per rental.

The partnerships would mean a new era of content cooperation for YouTube/Google and would possibly have repercussions for Google TV, which lost multiple major studio partnerships after its launch last year. Paramount and Fox (which also blocked Google TV) have declined to be a part of the streaming movie service according to Waxman’s report.

A YouTube spokesperson gave us the following statement, “We’ve steadily been adding more and more titles since launching movies for rent on YouTube over a year ago and now have thousands of titles available. Outside of that, we don’t comment on rumor, or speculation.”

While The Wrap holds that the initiative might launch this or next week, a better estimate might be during Google’s i/o conference on May 10th where Google is scheduled to debut a Google TV-themed Ice Cream OS.

Update: MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka has independently confirmed the report.

Looks Like Facebook Deals Is Being Unveiled Tonight With Credits And Partners In Tow

Posted: 25 Apr 2011 05:47 PM PDT


Looks like The New York Times has a little embargo breaking situation on their hands. (Which we love — chaos!) They’ve just put up a story with the URL: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/25/latest-rival-to-groupon-livingsocial-facebook-embargo-till-midnight/ (bolding mine). That page is obviously no longer found, but it was live for a bit. And it is a big one: Facebook’s Groupon/LivingSocial “killer”.

Okay, it’s hardly a secret that the service called Facebook Deals was close to launching. In fact, the landing page has been up since March. But the NYT early story has some details.

It looks like Facebook will launch the service initially as a test in five cities: Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego, and San Francisco (which were all listed on the landing page). Not surprisingly, the service will also focus on activities that are best done with friends — things like concerts and events. The deals can spread both via email and via the all-important News Feed.

That last bit will be the key if Facebook does hope to contend with Groupon and LivingSocial. They’ll have a huge amount of leverage right off the bat to the tune of 600 million+ potential eyeballs.

The other key? Facebook Credits. NYT quotes Facebook’s director of local Emily White as saying that Deals will be the first product that uses Credits for real goods (rather than virtual ones in games).

Also mentioned are initial partnerships with OpenTable, PopSugar City, Zozi and others.

More to come, I’m sure once the chaos is sorted out.

Update: From Facebook’s PR team:

You mention that Emily White says Deals will be the first product that uses Credits for real goods (rather than virtual ones in games). You can’t use Credits to directly buy real goods. You can use Credits to buy Deals, and you get a voucher that you can print out and take to the merchant to redeem your deal. But you can’t use Credits to actually buy a real good. Might be confusing to some people.

Update 2: And NYT has put the post back up here. Another embargo bites the dust…

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