Internet.Org to Connect the Whole World

On Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook, along with Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm, and Samsung are launching a huge initiative called  The objective is pretty giant—they want to bring the internet to the 5 billion people not currently connected. The press release notes that

[t]oday, only 2.7 billion people – just over one-third of the world’s population — have access to the internet. Internet adoption is growing by less than 9% each year, which is slow considering how early we are in its development. lays out three ways they intend to do this. First, they want to make access affordable, especially by focusing on cheaper smartphones, which are cheaper than standard computers and can use the wireless infrastructure already available in much of the world. There is also a data engineering component: in the developed world (with the possible exception of the United States), bandwidth is fairly plentiful, so there’s not a lot of focus on making things as efficient as possible. Read More

Tame: Find Out What’s Really Popular on Twitter

The online world moves fast—sometimes too fast for us to keep up with. This is especially true on Twitter, where if you follow too many people, you wind up losing the signal of what’s going in all the noise of what people ate for breakfast and funny retweets.

Berlin- based Tame wants to help make sense out of your twitter feed. The service bills itself as a way to tame your timeline by aggregating relevant information, displaying it in a friendly way, and letting you find out what the real conversation is. The basic overview has three columns that show the top ten links, topics, and people, bringing to your attention the shared URLs, hash tags, and users that are mentioned in a tweet.

You’re able to adjust the scope from 1 to 24 hours, which lets you see what happened if you missed a day or what’s going on right now if there’s breaking news. What you don’t actually see are the individual tweets (tho’ if you click on each item, you’ll see what people said), and it turns out this is the real value. You’re able to get a sense of who or what has been talked about, and you can drill down to find out what’s been said only if it’s important to you.

Tame thinks this is an especially useful product for journalists, who are increasingly using twitter to cover and monitor breaking news. Most of the founding team were, at one time or another, journalists themselves. Which makes sense—you don’t want to have to deal with the latest internet meme while you’re trying to understand events on the ground in Egypt. But this has a lot to offer the small business owner, too: it lets you understand what conversations are happening among the people that you follow, and tracking the @-mentions gives you a sense of who is most important when it comes to targeting an audience, which is a useful tool if you’re searching for influencers.

Tame is offering its product “freemium” style—the free version will let you monitor your own timeline for a single twitter account, while the premium one will let you apply the Tame aggregation across global twitter searches, as well as offering a few other perks like additional twitter accounts, a “tweet wizard” which is designed to optimize your audience reach, and a few others.

If you’ve been feeling buried under a pile of tweets, you might want to check it out. It’ll make the weight seem light as a feather.

What’s Up With Microsoft Surface?

Back in 2012, Microsoft was working hard to compete with the Apple juggernaut. Unsurprisingly, they threw their hopes into the mobile space, the biggest part of Apple’s business and pretty much universally regarded as the future of computing. They released Windows 8, their first mobile-optimized operating system, and, inspired by Apple’s business model and their own success with the X-Box, they decided to make their jump into computer hardware with the Microsoft Surface—Microsoft’s mobile tablet/computer hybrid.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the release of the Surface, and it was hoped that it would catch on as powerfully as the iPad and reinvigorate the flagging company. It’s been about a year, however, and it looks like the Surface, which we thought was pretty good, didn’t quite live up to the hopes of either consumers or Microsoft. Read More

Sharknado and the Real Power of Social Media

The biggest thing to hit Twitter last month (beating even certain scandalous selfies) was the SyFy made-for-TV movie ‘Sharknado’. If you’re not up on the latest in intentionally ridiculous movies, I’ll let Wikipedia explain it: “‘Sharknado’ is a 2013 made-for-television disaster film about a waterspout that lifts sharks out of the ocean and deposits them in Los Angeles.” Silly–and silly on purpose–something about it captured the imagination of the Twitterverse, and by the time the movie was playing, twitter mentions hit a peak of 5,000 tweets per minute.

‘Sharknado’ was such a phenomenon that the official Twitter blog wrote a really interesting piece on how it happened. It’s a must-read if you’re interested in how twitter trends hit critical mass and how major influencers (and smart companies) can really drive a conversation.

But when the ratings came out the day after the premier, it turned out that just over a million people watched, ratings even lower than the average SyFy movie, none of which had ever come close to generating the same buzz as that twitter hit. News outlets–which covered the twitter phenomenon before the movie aired–sounded like they were gloating, with headlines like “Sorry Twitter: ‘Sharknado’ Was An Enormous Ratings Bust”, and “Sharknado ratings: Lot of wind, little bite.”

It looked like the ‘Sharknado’ team did everything right when it came to building a brand online. They connected to the right people, they maintained a strong presence, and they kept engaged with a core group of followers. So it makes sense that people started wondering whether social media buzz was worth anything if it couldn’t turn trending hashtags into ratings. Read More

Is It Time for Smart Watches?

Image from Pebble

Just a few days ago, TechCrunch reported that Samsung has filed trademarks indicating that it may be entering the burgeoning smart watch market. With this news, it joins the ranks of other companies rumored to be developing smart watches: Apple, Google, and Microsoft all allegedly have watches in the making.

Interestingly, this emerging wearable computing market has been driven by small players—perhaps most famously by Pebble, a smart watch that was crowd funded through Kickstarter. But with these bigger companies moving in, it’s worth reviewing the smart watches on offer and asking whether this newest tech trend has something to offer you.

The tagline about smart watches is “hands-free computing.” The general idea is that the watches will wirelessly connect to your smart phone and move some of its functionality out of your pocket and on to your wrist. If you ever get furious about having to take the phone out of your pocket to make a call, check your messages, or read a text (or, for that matter check the time), then these might be products for you.

If that seems silly, keep in mind how everyone thought that the iPod (and mp3 players in general) were useless and that they’d never take off. Almost every reviewer has recognized the advantages in terms of convenience and connectivity of having a device that’s more accessible on your wrist. Read More

Outsourcing Expertise: eBay and Google Expert Networks Coming Down the Pipeline

Image from TechCruch

We spend a lot of time talking about ways we can best manage our time. And when there’s a lot on our plates, the dream is just to get someone to take care of business for us. Fortunately, we looked at ways to do just that: there are a lot of small-scale outsourcing options available, connecting people that have surplus time with people that have a deficit.

This has always been one of the promises of the web: connecting people that wouldn’t otherwise be connected. And while the time crunch issue has been addressed, some major players have identified an opportunity to make a different kind of valuable link: connecting experts with those that need expertise. Both Google and eBay are rolling out services that promise to link up people that know something with people that want to know something.

These services share something in common with Elance, which we talked about before, but each aims to carve out a specific, special niche when it comes to connecting specialists with those who need their help.

eBay opened the salvo with SecretGuru. Currently in beta and available only in the UK, SecretGuru is an attempt to bring a curatorial eye to selling expertise. Unlike Elance, which allows almost anyone to ply their services, SecretGuru is highly selective about which experts it offers. It wants to create “memorable experiences,” from specialized cooking classes to learning to make shoes to personal style advice.
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Mobile Perks: Google to Offer Free WiFi at Select Starbucks

Google offering free WiFi at StarbucksThanks to Google, every entrepreneur’s favorite second office—the coffee shop—is about to get a major pick-me-up. Google announced yesterday that it’s partnering with Starbucks to bring free WiFi connections to all 7,000 company-operated Starbucks stores.

There are over 13,000 Starbucks stores in the US, some of which are franchised, so it’s possible your favorite Starbucks will be passed over. But if you see “Google Starbucks” as an available network, you’re good to go.

This is more than just free internet. Google promises that wireless connection speeds will be up to 10 times faster than the wireless connections previously offered by the coffee shop. And for those cities that have Google Fiber (so far just Kansas City, but coming soon to Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah, and a few other cities), they plan of having speeds up to 100 times faster. So whether you’re uploading video or just listening to music while you work, your wireless experience will be zippier and more seamless.

This isn’t Google’s first experience with free WiFi: they’ve been offering the service in their home city of Mountain View, California, for a while now. They also offered free wireless at certain Starbucks after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast.

The incentive for Google is clear: with free, fast internet, more eyeballs can linger on Google’s advertisements, whether through search, YouTube, or elsewhere. The move makes sense for Starbucks, too, increasing the draw for customers to pop in and grab a coffee (or a few, if they plan on staying awhile).

Is Your Mobile Site Too Slow?

doug sillars at&t networking exchangeDoug Sillars is a Sr. Product Development Engineer at AT&T. You can find more blog content from Doug and other experts on emerging technologies on the AT&T Networking Exchange Blog. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.

AT&T Networking Exchange

Performance, Perception, And What Speed Really Means To Your Brand

We’ve all done it.  Clicked a link on our mobile device, but loading the link takes forever, we click back to the app we were using, and never go back.  Or, we’ve visited a webpage, but all of the links take too long to load, and you go on to your next task.  What happens when your site is slow?

A recent survey by SOASTA shows that it is more important for the site to always work (72%), be fast (62%), and perform as expected (53%) than it is for the site to be fun (38%).  Even more telling is that when your site is under-performing, 88% associate a negative feeling with your brand!  Obviously, performance is growing in importance for your mobile brand.

So we know how slow sites feel to us as an end user, and we know perceptions of the end user to slow sites.  How do we make sure that OUR customers do not behave this way with OUR content?

I think the first step is to understand what “forever” or “too long” means to users.  A review of website load times from 2004 shows that once you hit one second of load time, there is a perception of delay, but no effect on user habits.  If your site does not load before 10 seconds, you have lost the attention of your customers and they are not likely to continue (or return to your site).  So it appears that our goal is to hit 1 second (or really darn close) to load our site.

In addition improving the speed of your site, there is a perception of speed.  Steve Souders points out that making your page/app appear to load faster will keep users around for a longer time.  By adding progress bars, or spinners, you can keep your users engaged, and more forgiving of the long load time.

In conclusion, slow websites can cause your customers to curse (23%) or throw (4%) their phone.  Make sure that your mobile presence keeps your users engaged, and their screen in one piece.

Have you considered how long it takes your website to load? Have you taken steps to improve performance or the perception of speed?


Google Introduces the New Nexus 7: New design, display, and price

At their press event today, Google introduced an updated version of their Nexus 7 tablet. Building on the success of their original tablet, the new version offers several key upgrades that should continue to expand the Android tablet market.

While this updated version is still made by Asus and features the same 7″ display size, the design has been changed to more closely mimic the thin bezels first seen on the iPad mini. This new Nexus 7 is a narrower tablet that weighs less than the original.

The price is new too, slightly more expensive than the $199 the original Nexus 7 is selling for. The 16GB version goes for $229, the 32GB version costs $269, and a 32GB model with4G LTE will sell for $349.

On sale next tuesday, July 39th on, as well as at Best Buy, Walmart, Staples, Radio Shack, Amazon and more retailers.

But what’s inside is the biggest update here. The display, still 7″, has been updated from a 720p screen to a hull HD 1080p screen, so the Nexus 7 can now boast that it has the world’s highest resolution for a 7″ tablet at 323 points per inch.

Needless to say, text and images will look much sharper on the device now. Read More

Three Tips for Using Frequent Flyer Miles

Being in business often means traveling for business. And if you’re traveling a lot, you’ll want to make sure you’re signed up to get rewards for it! There are tons of tips and tricks out there for accumulating and spending points, but here are a few basics to remember, and one great website to check out.

1. Pick the Right Program
While it can’t hurt to enroll for the frequent flyer program from any airline you use, it makes more sense to pick an airline and “concentrate” on it. That means knowing what airline you’re most likely to use, either because they have a strong presence at your home airport, or fly often to your most common destination city. If you’re traveling often, you’ll know which airline offers the best deals and routes for you.

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