LevelUp, a pilot in the local deals space created by check-in app Scvngr, today announced a partnership with American Express to give users the ability to redeem deals with their credit cards, eliminating the need for printed coupons or showing your phone at the point of sale. Essentially, consumers will be able to connect their American Express cards to LevelUp and be able to redeem in-store deals. Once connected, users can simply swipe their cards at the point of sale and the deal will be immediately redeemed and show on the sales receipt. The first brand to launch with this functionality is Levi, which will offering users $10 on different purchases in several cities, including San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia. Though only one store in each city will have the functionality working immediately, probably for testing purposes. The functionality works using American Express’s Smart Offers API, which was actually debuted with Foursquare at South by Southwest Interactive to redeem merchant offers without coupons, special codes or showing a phone. The two companies plan on rolling out the functionality in the months ahead. LevelUp is a funded pilot from the founders of Scvngr, a service that asks users to check-in to physical locations and complete activity challenges for incentives. Tags: check-in, LBS, location-based, paperless redemption Companies: American Express, Foursquare, LevelUp, Scvngr
LevelUp Makes Redeeming Check-In Re...
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Okay, so my mother wasn't in any position to leave me a social graph in her will. When she died in early 2004, Friendster was the domain of the young'uns, MySpace was barely out the door and Facebook was still a month from launching.
But for someone who never saw used the word "friend" as a verb in her life, Mom taught me an awful lot about social networking.
Things like being of service, and giving instead of taking. Mom volunteered on everything from the local community association to the church. (It got to the point where someone witnessed a break-in at our home - the burglar walked in through the unlocked front door - and thought nothing of it except "Poor JoAnne; people aren't even bothering to knock any more when they walk in with more work for her to do.")
Or like offering something of value when you invite people over. Mom would cook and bake for days before a party, stuffing the fridge and freezer with a parade of treats that would then reappear, tray by delicious tray, over the course of the evening.
Or like finding a niche and filling it. When they moved to a small rural community, one where news coverage was next to non-existent, Mom and Dad started a local newspaper. It was a labour of love, not profit; a month where their revenue exceeded their printing and distribution costs was a pretty good month. But they kept it going for years.
And when I'm having my greatest impact online, it's almost always when I'm doing one of those things I saw Mom do so often in the offline world.
And while she didn't have analytics to track their progress, or an ROI measurement strategy so she could tell if what she was doing was worthwhile, she did have a clear reward for her efforts: a large, broad circle of friends. As Mom and Dad's kids, we were often beneficiaries of the goodwill they earned, with warmth and friendliness automatically extended to us by virtue of our parents' contributions. And toward the end of their lives, when they had to draw on that community more than they were able to give to it, those people were there for them.
What did your mother teach you about social networking?
More Noise to Signal.
For all the effectiveness and efficiency mobile technology and geolocation offer to marketers, you'd think that traditional, paper-based methods of marketing would be practically extinct by now.
While things may be headed in that direction, we're not quite there yet, according to a recent survey conducted by Quova, a provider of location-based marketing services.
Quova surveyed 250 marketing professionals and found that 37% of them still rely on old school, offline methods like direct mail and the yellow pages. By contrast, only 5% utilize group buying sites like Groupon and LivingSocial and 4% take advantage of mobile geolocation.
Most marketers are on board with search-based and other contextual online advertising, but have yet to take the plunge into emerging areas like mobile and geolocation, despite how much more effective location-based marketing can be.
As the company points out, consumers spend nearly 80% of their disposable income within ten miles of where they live, making location-based marketing ripe to be the next big thing.
For Marketers, Paper-Based Methods ...
Startups in the long-simmering QR code market are hoping that the change in season, along with what they say is a "critical mass" of smart phones, will finally bring QR codes, barcodes that lead to URLs or information when scanned, into the mainstream.
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I can’t remember the last time the tech world was so interesting. First, innovation is at an all time high. Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and even Microsoft (in the non-monopoly divisions) are making truly exciting products. Second, since the battles are between platforms, the strategic issues are complex, involving complementary network effects. Twitter’s moves this week [...]
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When having the “open vs closed” debate regarding a technology platform, a number of distinctions need to be made. First, what exactly is meant by “open.” Here’s a great chart from a paper by Harvard professor Tom Eisenmann (et al).: (Eisenmann acknlowledges the iPhone isn’t fully open to the end user – in the US you need [...]
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If the U.S. economy were a company, the VC industry would be the R&D department. The financing for the VC industry comes from so-called LPs (Limited Partners) – mostly university endowments, pension funds, family funds, and funds-of-funds. These LPs wield tremendous power, yet very few of them understand how startups or venture capital actually works. [...]
Old VC Firms: Get Ready To Be Disru...
The brewing fight between Facebook and Zynga is what is known in economic strategy circles as “buyer-supplier hold up.” The classic framework for analyzing a firm’s strategic position is Michael Porter’s Five Forces. In Porter’s framework, Zynga’s strategic weakness is extreme supplier concentration – they get almost all their traffic from Facebook. It is in Facebook’s [...]
Facebook, Zynga, And Buyer-supplier...
It is customary to divide online advertising into two categories: direct response and brand advertising. I prefer instead to divide it according to the mindset of users: whether or not they are actively looking to purchase something (i.e. they have purchasing intent).* When users are actively looking to purchase something, they typically go to search [...]
Facebook Is About To Try To Dominat...
Google is fighting battles on almost every front: social networking, mobile operating systems, web browsers, office apps, and so on. Much of this makes sense, inasmuch as it is strategic for them to dominate or commoditize each layer that stands between human beings and online ads. But while they are doing this, they are leaving [...]
While Google Fights On The Edges, A...
Steven Schwarzman is the CEO of the Blackstone Group, a multi-billion dollar money management firm. He is worth billions of dollars, and isn’t afraid to spend his money lavishly: He often spends $3,000 for a weekend of food for Mr. Schwarzman and his wife, including stone crabs that cost $400, or $40 per claw. Mr Schwarzman [...]
Money Managers Should Pay The Same ...
There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and [...]
There Are Three New York Cities
With the introduction of the iPhone, Steve Jobs achieved something that might be unique in the history of business: he single-handedly upended the power structure of a major industry. In the US, before the iPhone, the carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile) had an ironclad grip on the rest of the value chain – particularly, handset [...]
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At some point in the life of a venture-backed startup there typically arises a choice between doing an inside round, where the existing investors lead the new financing, or an outside round, where new investors lead the new financing. At this point interesting game-theoretic dynamics arise among management, existing investors, and prospective new investors. If [...]
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The first million people who bought VCRs bought them before there were any movies available to watch on them. They just wanted to “time shift” TV shows – what we use DVRs for today. Once there were millions of VCR owners it became worthwhile for Hollywood to start selling and renting movies to watch on [...]
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My Hunch cofounders and I frequently ask ourselves: “If we were to start over today, would we build our product the same way we had so far?” This exercise is meant to counter a number of common cognitive biases, such as: 1. The sunk costs trap. People tend to overvalue past investments when making forward-looking investment [...]
Tim O’Reilly poses a question every entrepreneur and investor should consider: are you creating more value for others than you capture for yourself? Google makes billions of dollars in annual profits, but generates many times that in productivity gains for other people. Having a positive social contribution isn’t limited to non-profit organizations – non-profits just happen [...]
Builders And Extractors
It was reported today that Dropbox will generate $100M in revenue this year. Whether or not those reports are right, it is certainly a great product, beloved by its customers and will almost certainly be wildly successful. I knew the founder, Drew Houston, back before he started Dropbox. He was an MIT CS guy, hanging [...]
Dropbox And Why You Should Invest I...
My friend and business partner Tom Pinckney started two companies with me and one company before. He invented many non-trivial patented inventions and raised many millions of dollars in venture capital, and returned capital to those investors many times over. He got his Bachelors and Master degrees from MIT. He’s the nicest, smartest, and most [...]
MIT Is A National Treasure
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The iPad isn't just a hot new consumer device, it's also an increasingly popular tool for business. Each week we take a look at the new or updated business apps for the iPad, and highlight trends in how tablets are being used in the enterprise.
This week week we look at the updated Adobe Connect app, TripIt for iPad, Oracle Business Intelligence Suite and more.
Adobe released version 1.5 of its mobile Web conferencing app Adobe Connect Mobile this week. The new version adds two-way video (so you can take advantage of the dual-cameras on the iPad2 and iPhone 4), a meeting overview feature and the ability to focus in on any one particular item from the overview. This app competes with the mobile versions of WebEx and GoToMeeting.
We told you about the developer preview of Mobile Couchbase for iOS back in March. Now Couchbase has released a beta version of the product. This will enable you to install Apache CouchDB-based applications on your iPad.
Oracle Business Intelligence Suite
This week Oracle added iPad support to its Business Intelligence Suite, joining a growing list of BI vendors offering BI tools for the iPad. Instead of a native app, Oracle has gone the tablet-optimized website route.
TripIt, a popular travel organizer Web and mobile app finally released an iPad version this week. TripIt takes your various itineraries and organizes them all in one handy location. Personally, I'm happy just having the app on my phone, but the company is touting the iPad's ability to display larger maps as the main benefit of running it on a tablet.
Document Collaboration Apps for the iPad
This week we explored 5 different document collaboration apps that let you create, edit and share documents with your iPad.
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Google introduced a new way this week for developers to use geospatial data through its Chrome Experiments initiative.
As a start, the Google Arts team created a globe that shows the world population and Google search volume by language.
Search volume by language:
For each data point, we generate a cube with five faces - the bottom face, which touches the globe, is removed to improve performance. We then stretch the cube relative to the data value and position it based on latitude and longitude. Finally, we merge all of the cubes into a single geometry to make it more efficient to draw.
He further describes how they animated the globes:
Thanks to WebGL, we're able to display thousands of moving points at high frame rates by using the user's graphics processing unit (GPU) for 3D computations. Each state of the globe has its own geometry and we morph between them with a vertex shader, saving precious CPU resources. Additionally, to make the globe look nice, we took advantage of the possibilities of GLSL and created two fragment shaders, one to simulate the atmosphere and another to simulate frontal illumination of the planet.
Developers are encouraged to make their own globes. The data format is represented in JSON. The the code is available here.
This feels like a taste of what we expect to see at Google I/O this coming week. Google shows its real strength when it starts showing how data can be shaped to make discoveries. That approach fits well into application development and the further use of data in next generation information architectures.
Google Chrome Experiments: Animated...
We're always on the lookout for upcoming Web tech events from around world. Know of something taking place that should appear here? Want to get your event included in the calendar? Let us know in the comments below or email us.
ReadWriteWeb Events Guide, May 7 20...
Here’s our roundup of the week’s tech business news. First, the most popular stories that VentureBeat published in the last seven days: Sony in ‘final stages of internal testing’ to bring PlayStation Network back online — Sony said on Thursday that it has entered the final stages of internal testing to bring its beleaguered online gaming network, the PlayStation Network (PSN), back online after a massive hacker intrusion forced the company to take it down. However, the company later said that restoring the network is taking longer than expected. Osama bin Laden’s death reveals the value of state-of-the-art technology — The attack on Osama bin Laden has revealed a lot of impressive technology used by the U.S. military to circle in on and kill the world’s most wanted terrorist. Chronology of the attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network — Sony sent a letter to Congress this week that shows how Sony’s information technology team discovered and then responded to the attacks. So long free Android tethering: carriers crack the whip at Google — Google is disabling access to tethering applications in the Android Market at the request of wireless carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. This computer (yes, computer!) costs $25 — Game developer David Braben has created a computer that’s about the size of a flash drive — and it’ll most likely cost less than your last date. And here are five more posts that we think are important, thought-provoking, or fun: No, Apple won’t be dumping Intel chips for ARM, you crazies — Here’s your latest crazy Apple rumor. Marissa Mayer explains Google’s social strategy, skeptical on Facebook — Mayer, Google’s vice president of location and local services, answered questions on-stage Thursday, where interviewer John Battelle asked her directly: So what is Google’s social strategy? Tesla Motors might seek additional funding for third electric car — Tesla might look for additional funding from equity sales to help pay for development of its third electric car — the sport utility vehicle styled Model X — according to the company’s CEO Elon Musk. What’s cooler than a million dollars? Changing a million lives — Henry Ford once said that a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business. Impact investing takes that thought to a new level. What Sony does next is critical to its future in games — VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi argues that gamers are slow to forgive. Tags: Android, Android Market, impact investing, Model X, Sony PlayStation Network Companies: Apple, Arm, AT&T, Google, Intel, Sony, T Mobile, Tesla Motors, Verizon People: David Braben, Elon Musk, Henry Ford, John Battelle, Marissa Mayer, Osama Bin Laden
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I've had the BlackBerry PlayBook for nearly two weeks now. Although we don't typically review gadgets and hardware here at ReadWriteWeb, RIM was able to send us a review unit. Below are some initial impressions and thoughts, but for a more detailed review, you should head to the gadget blog of your choice, if you haven't done so already.
The PlayBook is, in a word, serviceable. It is not a nightmare, but it's not incredible, either. However, it shows potential. It's surprisingly heavy for its small, 7-inch size. It needs apps, badly. It needs core apps, including email, calendaring and contacts at the very least, because webmail doesn't seem work properly. It needs to be less buggy, in general. But the PlayBook is rapidly improving. Although in the short term, it's an unfinished product, perhaps undeserving of a full review, and possibly even undeserving of your money as of yet - that situation is changing quickly. How quickly? RIM is currently promising PlayBook updates as often as every two weeks.
Hoping for Better of the Gate
One the day of the PlayBook's arrival, I have a confession to make: I wanted to like the thing. I still have a soft spot in my heart for RIM, the BlackBerry maker, whose BlackBerry Pearl was my first real smartphone. I loved the Pearl. It taught me the value (and the addictiveness), of the always-on world. I was truly mobile at last. I was connected! I discovered a world beyond the clamshell feature phones I had toted for years prior. I hacked the phone to make the pearl change colors. I installed apps. I twittered!
And I used the Pearl to death, until the iPhone launched and the world changed. The iPhone, or specifically, the iPhone 3G (I had to save up, times were tough) was my next phone. I never used a BlackBerry since, but I have moved on to Android and even Windows Phone in recent months.
I realize that confessing a desire to like the PlayBook is not the objective journalist's take, but what can I tell you? I grew up a blogger.
Unfortunately, the PlayBook didn't immediately inspire feelings of awe or devotion, the way the Pearl once did. Its operating system (QNX) is quite nice, but nice only takes you so far these days. RIM, sadly, seems to have lost its mojo lately. It's not even in IDC's ranking of the top 5 worldwide phone manufacturers these days - it has been lumped into the "Others" category.
Can the PlayBook change that?
So Much Riding on PlayBook
But RIM has seen the writing on the wall, and it's doing...well, what it's doing is the PlayBook.
It's an odd experience to hold the PlayBook in your hands. It's a turning point for RIM, and either the beginning of the end for RIM or the beginning of its future. The company has dominated the smartphone industry for years It has sold 150 million smartphones, 14.9 million of which were sold last quarter and it still plans to ship around 13 or so million smartphones in its upcoming May quarter. Sales at RIM are higher year-over-year, but its OS market share percentage continues to fall.
The PlayBook, as a tablet, is not just an iPad competitor, it's a back door to selling BlackBerry phones and servers. Its most notable differentiating feature is called BlackBerry Bridge, and it allows users to tether the PlayBook to their BlackBerry phone in order to access email, contacts and calendaring. Untether it, and the content is gone. This is a feature designed with the enterprise in mind, and it's a good one in that sense. Security conscious businesses will be more likely to allow tablet computers onto their network knowing that confidential content isn't stored on the device.
Consumers, however, will have to wait for access to core applications like email and contacts - those will ship via a software update later this summer, says RIM. Clearly, consumers are a second priority for RIM when it comes to the PlayBook.
But while some have said that comparing the PlayBook to the iPad makes no sense, I think the comparisons are necessary. I don't think a company can expect to launch a tablet anything, and not be compared with the market leader, for starters. More philosophically, I think the world is changing, even, very slowly, in the enterprise, under the influence of Apple, Google and others who are bringing the "consumerization" of technology to corporate end users. The CEO demands that I.T. support his iPhone, and it's all downhill from there. Small groups are sharing data on Google Sites, disgruntled employees are tweeting company secrets, sales professionals are friending clients on Facebook. The consumer world and the enterprise have merged, and RIM would do best to keep that in mind when it comes to the PlayBook. Consumers should never be second, they should be equal, if not first.
Apple showed the world that technology can be accessible, and now the world expects accessible technology. In that regard, I don't think RIM has entirely succeeded.
Next page: First Impressions, Software and Hardware
First Impressions, Software and Hardware
The user interface for the PlayBook involves menus at the top (pull down, via swipe) and access to navigation at the bottom (swipe up for an interface that lets you switch between apps). This is not quite as intuitive as with the iPad and the its simple, one-button interface. The slightly upped complexity is evidenced by the tutorial on "how to use the PlayBook" which loads during the PlayBook's setup.
That's not to say the interface can't be learned, it just takes a minute. Someone may have to explain it to you. Meanwhile, my daughter, not yet two, can use an iPad. She pushes the button, and says "bye-bye." The app is gone. That's simplicity.
Once the learning curve is out of the way, and again, it's only momentary, the OS itself is actually enjoyable to use. From the home screen, you can flip through open apps, and view their large, oversized live thumbnails which keeps them easily viewable. The tablet supports multi-tasking, so you can listen to music while surfing the Web, for example. There are notifications at the top of the screen, which is handy. Overall, the operating system runs well, and seems fast and responsive, for the most part. I did run into an issue twice where the PlayBook stopped responding altogether, and wouldn't even reboot. For several minutes, it was completely locked up. I have not had a reappearance of this problem since the latest software update, however, so I assume this bug has been fixed.
Unlike on Android and Windows Phone devices, there is no dedicated, universal "back" button. This is frustrating at times, but it may be a worse problem for those who are used to its existence on their devices (i.e. Android users) than for those who don't expect one (i.e. iPhone users).
Then there is the hardware. I like the grippy, rubbery back, but for a tiny tablet, it's rather heavy. The 7-inch PlayBook is supposedly .9 lbs to the iPad's 1.5, but it still felt like a brick in my purse. In return for giving up all that screen real estate, you would think the thing would feel more like a heavy phone than a tablet, but that's not the case.
The power button's size and protuberance is a joke. The button is tiny, and must be pressed with a fingernail, practically. On newer hardware, RIM seems to have slightly raised the button after a number of complaints, but it's still very small. We wouldn't be surprised to see a next-generation PlayBook one day that changes this design altogether. It's that bad.
Apps and Services
The PlayBook also has front and back cameras, but no built-in photo-sharing features. It has video capabilities, but no Skype. RIM did, however, launch its own video chat app just this week which works over Wi-Fi.
The PlayBook has a media player, but no iTunes-like store where you can purchase or rent TV shows or movies. However, through a partnership with 7Digital, there is a music store on the device. And it has some apps that deliver video content, like VEVO's music video app, for example, due to arrive soon.
Also missing on the PlayBook: official Twitter and Foursquare apps (Facebook was added this week), and pretty much every other app you think of as in your "default set" you expect when you change platforms, from Amazon to Yelp.
Microsoft, for what it's worth, understood the importance of this and made great efforts to attract developers to build for its Windows Phone platform, now approaching 12,000 applications. It even paid developers to port apps to Windows Phone. The PlayBook has some 3,000 apps today, according to RIM. It will soon support Android apps, too, but it still won't be full Android Market access - developers will have to repackage their Android apps and submit them again to BlackBerry App World.
Android app support is probably RIM's riskiest move for its tablet, and will either end up being a brilliant one, or a monumental mistake.
RIM is also actively courting developers to build for the PlayBook, we've heard, but not with cash like Microsoft did. That said, there are some high-profile apps on the tablet's "upcoming" list, including Rovio's Angry Birds and Amazon's Kindle, to name a couple.
Next page: The Real Web
Who Needs Apps? We Have the Real Web
But what about the Web? After all, with the promise of the "real" Web, Flash and all on the PlayBook, isn't the Web surfing experience worth it? Well, no, not yet. Not only has the browser become unresponsive at times, forcing me to shut off Wi-Fi and turn it back on in order to resolve the situation, websites themselves didn't function as I thought they would. For example, in the mobile view of Gmail's webmail interface (which I prefer on smaller screens), I couldn't check the checkboxes to Archive or Delete mail en masse very easily. When I finally got them checked, the Archive and Delete buttons didn't work at all. It's hard to be sure where to point the finger on this one - has Google done something to ensure that, outside of Android and iPhone, this mobile view doesn't work properly? After all, an HTML5-ready Web browser shouldn't have issues here, right? Or is this a failure on RIM's part somehow? As a consumer, the answer is "I don't care," however. I just want it to work.
Also, despite having support for Flash, YouTube videos wouldn't play on YouTube.com for me - there was just a giant exclamation mark where the video should be. I had to use the dedicated YouTube app. This is not how it was supposed to work, but it's indicative of the bugginess present in this first-gen device. A subsequent software update resolved this issue, but it was troubling for some time.
Finally, the PlayBook defaults to the desktop view for webpages, which is supposed to be a great feature. Unfortunately, the mobile view sometimes would work better - the screen just isn't that big. But how can you switch to a mobile view when the site in question doesn't know to provide you the option? You have to actually know the URL. Is it m. or /mobile or what? Better make a list and add those sites to your favorites. We would love to see RIM implement a toggle switch in its browser settings that let you switch between the mobile and desktop views for a Web page, if at all possible, in order to make the choice ourselves, as the need arose.
Will Parents and Kids Like the PlayBook?
Because I was curious about the consumer angle of the PlayBook, I handed it over to some kids I know. They didn't love it, it seemed. This is almost entirely due to the fact that there are very few apps available for the PlayBook at present and fewer still that are within a mom's budget, (aka "free" to $0.99-$1.99). Within less than half an hour, the tablet was set aside for a yo-yo, a puppet and a Nintendo DS, respectively, among my three young, unknowing beta testers.
Ironically, it was only a year ago, April 2010 in fact, after the iPad's launch, that I took the new tablet to a family gathering over Easter where it was in use all day long. I never got my hands on my iPad again that day. The point is, it's not longer impressive just to be a tablet, you need to have content. It's not simply a box to check, as RIM's CEO would have you believe. It's everything.
Have $500? Need a Tablet Now? Buy an iPad. Saving Up? Check Back on PlayBook Later
The PlayBook, while offering a great OS with a lot of potential, just does not have enough content yet. It's an unfinished device with an unknown future. It's a risky purchase for a consumer. How well will the core apps work when they do ship later this summer? Will RIM ever have a movie and media store with enough selection to keep you entertained? Will it get Netflix or Hulu? Will the PlayBook ever gain enough traction to attract great developers? Will the big names in apps ever arrive? How well will those Android apps really run? How many will arrive?
There's too much unknown about the PlayBook as it is today. The one thing we do know: for $500, you'll get a lot more for your money with an iPad 2. In a few months time, that will likely still be the case, but the PlayBook reviewed above will be an entirely different device by then, and one that may be ready for your consideration.
BlackBerry PlayBook: A Work In Prog...
I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "Lollapalooza," I think about beer, grunge rock and application programming interfaces. Wait, what?
Okay, so maybe an API isn't exactly what comes to mind, but this year, the rock festival that once helped propel bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam is looking to launch something else entirely: an open API chock-full of real-time scheduling data, stage geolocation and more.
The 20-year-old festival announced today on its blog that it would be opening up its festival data for the first time this year for anyone to use. In addition to releasing the data, Lollapalooza is launching HackLolla, a contest for the best mobile, web and desktop apps created using their API.
Lollapalooza is offering over $5,000 worth of prizes and tons of promotional exposure for the best mobile, web and desktop apps created using their API. Developers can access data on artists, events, stages/venues and updates for Lollapalooza 2011. Prizes will be awarded for apps that help fans get the most from their Lollapalooza experience before, during and after the Festival. Winners will be promoted on the official Lollapalooza website and to fans via email, Facebook, Twitter, and the jumbotron screens at the Festival.
The HackLolla website has the full list of rules and deadlines.
If music and hacking are your thing (and let's face it - you're here, so they are) then you might also want to check out this weekend's San Francisco Music Hackday, which is being sponsored by Lollapalooza. The company will be making a more in-depth announcement on HackLolla. Immediately following, San Francisco will be home of the SF Music Tech Summit.
In all, it's a good time to be a music-loving hacker.
Hackapalooza: Lollapalooza Launches...
This week SAP expanded the ability of StreamWork, its enterprise 2.0 software-as-a-service, to integrate with other enterprise SAP software. StreamWork released its enterprise edition in December. Up to now its integrations have included SaaS offerings such as Box, Doodle, Evernote, Google Apps, MindMeister and Scribd. Integrating with other enterprise-class SAP software is a major step forward for StreamWork.
SAP bill StreamWork as a "collaborative decision making" (CDM) solution. Instead of generalized discussions, the software is specifically structured for decisions through the use of pro/con tables, SWOT analyses, and polls and other tools. That may help it stand-out in an increasingly crowded space, if SAP is able to communicate what StreamWork actually does and how, which it so far hasn't been very successful in doing.
For those of us that follow enterprise technology, SAP's choice to integrate with software like Evernote before more enterprise type software was somewhat surprising. Sameer Patel of the Sovos Group wrote in March: "Trying to be relevant / hip / cool, SAP is looking to get its mojo back in its old age." He contrasted this with younger companies like Jive, SocialText, NewsGator and Moxie which are all trying to be taking seriously by large enterprises. He likened SAP to a man having a mid-life crisis and the younger companies to kids wearing suits.
Patel is probably at least part right. My take is that StreamWork is aimed at both SMBs and large enterprises. The enterprise version of SAP, which introduced LDAP and ActiveDirectory integration, just shipped in December. The first set of partnerships were clearly SMB-oriented because that's the market StreamWork was ready for. However, it certainly has taken SAP a while to get those enterprise-class integrations ready. But now that it's ready to integrate with the SAP stack, watch for SAP to finally be competitive in the large enterprise social software space.
StreamWork Growing Up: It Can Now I...
Before I write the recap of today's roundtable, I want to share with you a couple of thoughts that have been playing in my head, and I have given at least four talks on this topic over the last 30 days. One of them is: Ownership Matters. A second is: You WILL get rejected by VCs. That's okay. I have, in fact, recorded a video to address both issues with relevant case studies, and I would appreciate it if you would take 30 minutes to listen to it. It's important.
On to today's roundtable, we had five businesses, all of which, I believe, can be built to become sustainable companies.
First up, Sumit Jha from New Delhi, India, presented EduMark, a real estate education program for the nascent Indian market that Sumit is already selling successfully, and wondering how to take to the next level of scale. We discussed the possibility of recruiting a couple of co-founders who can help him build out the core skill-set needed on his team right now. As for investment, one of the key elements missing for me is a concrete market sizing. Without that, I cannot gauge whether this business is fundable.
Next, Rahul Sethi, also from New Delhi, India, pitched Business Intelligenze, a SaaS BI solution catering to the call center industry in India. Rahul pitched his value proposition as social CRM analytics, but through some brisk dialog, I was able to figure out that social CRM is less than 20% of his core value proposition. The positioning of the company needs work, although I do believe Rahul has half a dozen beta customers whose feedback and engagement would give him the ammunition with which to find and validate the real pain point around in-house legacy systems at call center companies.
Then Abinasha Karana from Bangalore, India, presented 10screens, a product for translating software use cases into robust specs. The pitch was very difficult to understand and needs a tremendous amount of work still, but, conceivably, the product could be a useful one for business analysts to define software specifications.
An incubatee with Indian Angel Network, Anirudh Motwani from New Delhi, India, discussed IndiaCollegeSearch, a vertical search engine to address the problem of finding detailed information about various colleges and institutions in India. Many of these are currently not able to sell all their seats, while many students are not able to find a college program to get into. Anirudh wants to bridge this gap. There are other options within this basic space, including improving the quality of students for certain colleges. However, my advice to Anirudh was to focus on the first problem as a market penetration strategy. The pricing model and related market sizing exercise needs a lot of work still.
Last up was Sanjeev Arora from Oakville, Ontario, Canada discussing Tabillo, a collaboration and content management solution for SME customers across verticals like legal, engineering, etc. We discussed Sanjeev's go-to-market strategy, and based on the fact that there is a fair bit of meta-data management that is specific to each vertical, I felt that a vertical-by-vertical market penetration strategy would be the best way to go. The product is horizontal below the meta-data layer and has, conceivably, a larger opportunity. We also discussed pricing and delivery models and priorities around on-premise and dedicated installations versus SaaS.
You can select the business you like best of those discussed through a poll on the 1M/1M Facebook page.
Just before this week's roundtable, Dan Stewart, CEO of HappyGrasshopper, made my day by calling me to say how much he has been learning from the 1M/1M Premium program. "I was looking for what you teach back in January of 2007 and couldn't find it anywhere. We had just launched our first tech venture and would have saved countless thousands in trial and error education if 1M/1M was available," he said. Dan spent $12,000 a year on a subscription to Vistage, a CEO mentoring program, and says, "The value of your program is amazing. For perspective, I also joined a $1,000/month CEO-roundtable group, with professional speakers and full day, once-per-month meetings. At 1/12th the cost, 1M/1M provides far more value."
And Bill Gordon, who is working on pulling together the Stamford Innovation Center in Connecticut with Patty Meagher and Ed Petner, emailed me, saying: "We have spent a week going through your curriculum. What a great product - truly an excellent value for entrepreneurs. In fact, I think it is a great curriculum for certain angel investors too, especially those who are starting out, including angel groups that are just formed. We are anxious to start a collaboration with you that will allow us to have your curriculum as part of our menu of items we can offer to entrepreneurs here in the region." Needless to say, we're working on a deal as we speak.
Both Bill and Dan were present at the roundtable today, and I was delighted to see them explaining the value of 1M/1M to the audience in the public chat. Made my job infinitely easier, I must say. And audience members were suggesting local incubators that they want to bring in to the 1M/1M program, which was also great!
The recording of today's roundtable can be found here. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here. You can register for upcoming roundtables here. And you can sign up for the 1M/1M premium program here.
Sramana Mitra is the founder of the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) initiative, an educational, business development and incubation program that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy, and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Mitra was a columnist for Forbes. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. She has a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
1M/1M Strategy Roundtable For Entre...
Opani is a cloud platform for analyzing large data sets. The idea is that you upload your data and then Opani helps you determine how many servers you need to process the data in the timeframe you specify. It then spins up the servers and automatically winds them down when the job is done. You can then download the results, or share them on the Opani Gallery. Opani runs on Rackspace's infrastructure and supports tools such as R, Octave, Matlab and Python.
There are free plans for public projects. Rates for private projects vary.
Here are some examples of data analyzed with Opani:
Facebook status updates
Apache log files
Microscope images of cancer cells
Electrical recordings from neurons
Photos from the Flickr API
Heritage Health Prize data
Opani joins other cloud services for scientific computing such as Cloudnumbers.com and CPUsage (see our coverage here and here).
Opani: Social Supercomputing In The...
Facebook has quietly enabled a new privacy feature that allows users to hide certain types of updates from their walls and from the newsfeeds of friends. Make a new friend? Planning on going to an event? Now you can do those things on Facebook but be discrete about it, thanks to the new Hide All These button. That type of posting will never show up on your wall - or in your friends' newsfeeds - again.
Update: After publishing this story it has become clear that readers are seeing a variety of results from clicking this button and that it does not always result in updates of that type being hidden from the newsfeeds of friends. Facebook analyst Josh Constine theorizes that it may decrease the likelihood of the updates appearing and in some but not all cases remove them. I apologize for incorrectly reporting that the results of the button were simple and consistent; as a large and complicated service, things on Facebook rarely are. Facebook ought to hide update types when users click a button that says hide update types, but apparently it can only be relied upon to do so from a user's wall, not the newsfeed of friends.
This is exactly the kind of option that would have likely satisfied critics of the newsfeed when it launched to huge protests 5 years ago. Just because you did something with your Facebook profile, those critics argued, didn't mean it should be broadcast to all your friends'.
Over the past five years, hundreds of millions of people have grown used to how the Facebook newsfeed works - but this new level of granular privacy is a very smart move by the company nonetheless. Changes to relationship status, however, can't be hidden using the feature - those announcements can only be deleted one at a time.
First written about this week by Facebook watchdog Josh Constine, the new feature didn't get formally announced and hasn't been confirmed by Facebook. It's been written about by a number of Facebook specialist blogs, though and I've tested it myself. Update: Facebook emailed me at the end of the day in response to my inquiry and said that the new button does not in fact remove updates from the newsfeed, only from a person's wall. Oddly, that hasn't been my experience in testing the feature. It's not the way it ought to work, either. Clicking Hide These Updates ought to hide the updates, including from the newsfeed of friends - not just from your wall.
It would be hard to overstate the frustration people felt about this five years ago when the newsfeed launched, but the creator of the largest Facebook Group protesting the privacy implications of the newsfeed's creation, now Mashable co-editor Ben Parr, has said that he "used Facebook's own platform to rock its foundations and create a revolt that would make international headlines."
Here's how the new feature works:
Go to your Profile page, find an update that just got published but that you want to hide.Hover to the right of the update and click on the X that appears.Select from the drop down menu that you want to hide all updates of that type.You'll then be presented with a link you can click to manage all the different types of updates you're hiding, so you can bring them back.Once you've hidden a type of update, those updates will no longer be visible on your Wall or in and may be removed from your friends' newsfeeds.You cannot do this with relationship status changes, which is a shame.
The option doesn't appear to be available in the mobile interface, where many people use Facebook more than in a desktop browser, but it seems like a great start to me.
Below: Poof! There goes an Events update from my friend's newsfeed, after I clicked the new button. Apparently, though, you can't rely on this happening all the time.
Facebook Quietly Fixes Its Original...
If you're familiar with Twitter (or even Facebook these days), then you might recognize the new feature just released by real-time comment system Disqus: @mentions.
Originally started on Twitter, the @ symbol has quickly become the character of choice for directing comments toward a certain recipient. Now, the symbol has made its way to the popular commenting service, allowing users to mention others in the conversation and even pull other people into the conversation.
Disqus just raised $10 million earlier this week and announced a set of impressive numbers regarding its growth, despite a recent release by Facebook in the comments arena. Disqus co-founder and CEO, Daniel Ha, insists that Facebook's "biggest impact is that Facebook is asked about by tech press and industry peers," but it could be said that Disqus might lack something in at least one area in respect to Facebook - user engagement and traffic. Facebook last month announced that its comments plugin can increase publisher traffic by up to 45%.
The @ feature released today by Disqus allows users to not only mention other users who are participating in the conversation, but also Twitter users.
"Before @mentions, commenting threads were an island. There wasn't a way to reach out to people who weren't already participating. Now with @mentions, you can call out your friends or friendly social media gurus, and get them involved in the conversation," the company explains on its blog. An @mention of a Disqus user sends an email notification, while an @mention of a Twitter user sends a Twitter @mention from @DISQUS_Mentions, Disqus' "Spiffy Twitter bot."
With Facebook Comments, the engagement driver is simple and obvious. Facebook. When you post a comment, you can chose to share it on your timeline and even include a full link to the story on your newsfeed.
Disqus has been insistent that Facebook hasn't been an issue. "Facebook's latest update to their widget hasn't chipped away at our growth, from the metrics we pay attention to," Ha told us earlier this week. Still, we think it needs to continue making moves like this to keep publishers from making the switch.
That, and the feature is just neat. @mention me in the comments below.
Disqus Adds @mentions To Bring The ...
"We are advocating that you all help build a better JS on JS, which then becomes standardized as JS.next," Eich wrote.
The better way is a dialog between JS developers, especially natural leaders among them such as @jashkenas, and TC39 members.
This won't involve "scientific polling". There's no substitute for nice judgment and (ultimately) sound language design theory and practice. But the experts must also learn from the users, who've moved mountains on their own over the last ten years. And users, meaning JS developers, should step up to this dialog and away from fear and passivity.
In a blog post that formed the basis for her JSConf presentation, Rebecca Murphey wrote: "As a community, we need to agree on a core set of functionality that ought to be provided by the language but isn't, and implement that itself as an interchangeable module."
CoffeeScript and Google's "transcompiler" (transpiler) Traceur lead Josh Peek to tweet: "Takeaway of #jsconf: JS compilers/transpilers are the future. Coding in regular JS is going to be like not using a framework."
Developers: The Future Of JavaScrip...
Multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) is a converged data network technique that facilitates the most efficient platform for transporting a diverse array of different types of traffic. MPLS provides a simplified network infrastructure for the simultaneous transport of multiple applications such as voice, video, and data.
This paper addresses common misconceptions about MPLS, explains why it's relevant to business and more.
MPLS: Future Proofing Enterprise Networks for Long-Term Success View more documents from ReadWriteWeb
Check out our Resource Center for information from Qwest Business.
Disclosure: Qwest Business is a ReadWriteWeb sponsor
MPLS: Future Proofing Enterprise Ne...
Global enterprise software revenue increased 8.5% to $245 billion in 2010 according to Gartner. Enterprise software sales declined 2.5% in 2009, so this is encouraging growth for enterprise software vendors.
The growth beat Gartner's forecast from last September, which put enterprise software revenue at $232 billion for an increase of 4.5%.
Microsoft held on to its position as the largest enterprise software company, largely by virtue of its Windows 7 sales, but according to the announcement IBM "would be the No. 1 enterprise software vendor if Gartner did not count consumer sales of Microsoft's office and operating systems."
Oracle showed the strongest growth among the top five vendors "with faster growth emerging from its business intelligence, security, IT operations, and data integration and quality tools offerings."
Among the top 25 vendors, VMware had the strongest growth with 41%. Adobe and Salesforce.com had 29% and 28% growth respectively.
Enterprise Software Sales Rebounded...
Earlier this year, Facebook introduced a new type of advertising that highlights the activity of a user's friends who have interacted with a given brand on the site.
For example, if your cousin checked into an Applebee's on Facebook, the restaurant could buy an ad that highlights that fact on the right hand side of the page as you navigate the site.
Not unlike Twitter's Promoted Tweets, this new ad format takes social content and turns it into a marketing message, blurring the lines between content and advertising, but doing so in a way that's still transparent to users. So how effective is it?
One Facebook advertising platform provider has found that Sponsored Story ad units have click-through rate that's 46% higher than standard Facebook ads, according to a post on Inside Facebook.
TBG Digital conducted a test over the course of ten days and 2 billion ad impressions, which showed that the Sponsored Story ads performed better in terms of click-through rate and cost per click.
These results aren't all together shocking, considering that Facebook has explicitly designed these ad units to more closely resemble user-generated content on the site. Whereas advertisers have for decades tried to sell the message that "everybody's doing it" to persuade consumers, today they can get very specific and tell you exactly who among your friends likes or interacts with a given brand. Since people tend to trust their friends more than they do marketers, it's no surprise that tying the two together would be more effective than other forms of advertising.
Granted, this is only one study and with three advertisers participating, it wasn't a huge sample. Facebook still makes more money from their traditional social ads, but these early data suggest that there may be a future for the Sponsored Stories ads.
What do you think? Are you more likely to click on ads showing your friends' activity on Facebook? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Facebook Sponsored Stories Are 46% ...
JSConf 2011 was packed with cool projects. You can find a collection of slides that have been posted here, and you can find slides from NodeConf here.
I've covered a few of the projects I saw at the conference, but it would take way to many posts to cover everything. I'll leave with this final post looking at just three more projects.
You can view the presentation on it here.
Batman.js is a forthcoming microframework previewed at JSConf. It's designed to look like Rails, is less than 10KB and less than 1,000 lines. According to the project site:
You can find the presentation here, but it only works in Chrome/Chromium.
What Was Your Favorite Presentation?
What was your favorite JSConf 2011 presentation? What did you take away from the event?
Erlang was created in 1986 for telephony applications. But oddly enough, it's emerged in recent years as an increasingly useful tool for building Web servers, database servers and real-time Web applications because of its concurrency and support for distributed computing.
Facebook uses it to power its real-time chat application. The popular NoSQL databases Apache CouchDB and Riak are both built in Erlang. Companies ranging from Rdio and Voalte are also using it. In fact, Voalte's Benjamin King wrote a blog post about why Erlang is right for healthcare communication.
So should you learn Erlang? I asked Couchbase co-founders J. Chris Anderson and Jan Lehnardt this week at JSConf. "It's hard to write bugs in Erlang, and I'm not a very good programmer," Anderson responded.
"I'm always hesitant to recommend it," said Lehnardt. "Because it's so addictive.
Point and counter-point, I suppose. Anyway, it sounds like a pretty good language to learn if you want to build real-time, distributed applications that can take advantage of concurrency.
Getting Started with Erlang User's Guide
First, a tutorial: Getting Started with Erlang User's Guide from the official Erlang site. It's a basic tutorial for those with some programming experience. It doesn't go deep into Erlang's syntax and features, but is enough to get you started.
Learn You Some Erlang
Learn You Some Erlang by Frederic Trottier-Hebert is a variation of Learn You a Haskell by Miran Lipovača. Unlike LYAH, LYSE is only available online. It's written for someone with programming experience, but not necessarily any experience with functional programming.
Erlang Programming WikiBook
Erlang Programming is a nearly finished WikiBook on Erlang. It's not to be confused with Erlang Programming by Francesco Cesarini and Simon Thompson Programming Erlang by Erlang creator Joe Armstrong.
Concurrent Programming in Erlang
The Erlang site includes the entire first section of the book Concurrent
Programming in Erlang by Armstrong, Robert Virding and Mike Williams. The PDF of this section is here.
Here's the now classic Erlang: The Movie:
And just for fun, here's BoingBoing contributor Dean Putney's remix of the video.
3 Free E-Books And A Tutorial On Er...
Joe Hewitt helped build Firefox, he built the wildly popular developers' tool Firebug and then he single-handedly created one of the world's most widely used iPhone apps: the Facebook app. Today he announced on his blog that he's leaving Facebook and going independent.
What's he going to do? Build tools. "[T]ools for writers, designers, programmers, whatever," he writes. "Wherever people are using computers to turn their ideas into reality, I want to help." That sounds awesome.
"I've spent the last four years of my career working on a very different kind of software. At Facebook, I've gotten to build communications tools that reach hundreds of millions of people. I've had the honor of seeing people, even my own parents, using my apps while walking down the street, in restaurants, on trains, in planes and everywhere I go. Still, I haven't been able to stop thinking about Firebug.
"Technologies have a way of growing faster than the ecosystem of tools needed to support them. Over the last four years, we've seen the rise of mobile apps, the cloud, and now HTML5. Most developers building on these new platforms are using the previous generations of tools along with a mix of ad-hoc scripts and web apps to get things done. It works, but it is far from ideal. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the Ajax climate back in 2006 when I decided to make Firebug.
"And so, I'm independent now, and I'm going to pour myself into understanding the needs of modern developers and designers, and creating software to fill those needs. There are so many opportunities that I can't even predict what I will end up building, but I am pretty sure I know where I am going to start. I can't wait."
"I have never been as excited about someone leaving a company as hearing that Joe Hewitt has moved on for Facebook to become an independent developer." -Dion AlmaerOther blogs will focus on Hewitt's incredible success building Facebook's mobile offerings, but imagine the wisdom from that experience turned to face outward. Leading developer and former Director of Developer Tools at Mozilla Dion Almaer writes tonight, "I have never been as excited about someone leaving a company as hearing that Joe Hewitt has moved on for Facebook to become an independent developer."
Hewitt's plan to build tools for other developers (much less writers and designers!) points towards a future where the web is a platform for democratized creation again. A generative force, not a new walled garden silo for passive consumption of media on a mass scale.
Facebook is many things; on the positive side it's been an incredible introduction to a writeable, personalized, feed-driven, mobile, social, place-aware web for hundreds of millions of people. Just like AOL was too often mistaken for the entirety of the web in the old days, though, there's a risk that many people will treat Facebook like the entirety (or at least the center) of the web today and in the future.
There's nothing hotter right now than mobile design and applications and there are few things online more conflicted with potential and confusion at the same time as HTML5. Some tools-driven leadership could come in very handy in both departments.
Joe Hewitt creating for creators, on the open web, sounds like very good news for the web and its future.
Creator Of Facebook IPhone App Leav...
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