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September 04 2011

Happy Birthday Google: Making Sense of the Web for 13 Years


What were you up to 13 years ago? Maybe you were perfecting the ideal AIM screen name. Or you might have been surfing the “WestHollywood” neighborhood of GeoCities. Chances are, you had been using Yahoo! or AOL as your primary search engines. But Google’s debut on this day in 1998 would change the World Wide Web forever.

On September 4, 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin filed for incorporation as Google Inc. — they had received a $100,000 check from an investor made out to Google, Inc., and needed to incorporate that name so they could legally deposit the check.

Prior to the launch, Page and Brin met at Stanford in 1995, and soon decided to launch a search service called BackRub in January 1996. They soon reevaluated the name (and the creepy logo) in favor of Google, a play on the mathematical figure, “googol,” which represents the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. The name embodied their mission to create an infinite amount of web resources. And that they did.

Since then, Google has become a household name to billions of people worldwide. You’ll overhear senior citizens command their grandchildren to “google” the price of foot cream. You’ll witness toddlers punching the screen of the latest Android phone. And chances are, you’ve navigated the circles of Google+ (if not, let’s get you an invite already).

SEE ALSO: 10 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Google

We’d like to guide you on a trip down Google lane, presenting the key products and acquisitions that were born in the first Google garage office, and innovated in the Googleplex. In the comments below, please share how Google has had an impact on your life, and join us in wishing Google a happy birthday!


1996-1997: BackRub




Google was first launched under the BackRub nomer. Soon after, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin registered the Google.com domain name in September 1997. The two arrived at the name as a play on the mathematical figure, "googol," which represents the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. The name embodied their mission to create an infinite amount of web resources.


1998: Google's First Homepage




The original Google homepage prototype debuted in November 1998. Earlier that year Google received a $100,000 check made out to as-yet-unestablished Google Inc. from first investor Andy Bechtolsheim.

In September 2008, the two founders set up shop in Susan Wojcicki‘s garage in Menlo Park, CA, deposited their check and hired their first employee, Craig Silverstein.


1999: The Uncle Sam Homepage




Apart from adding Uncle Sam to its homepage, in 1999 Google outgrew its next office and moved to its first Mountain View, California location. The team announced $25 million in equity funding from Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins in its first press release.


2000: Google Becomes Yahoo's Default Search Provider




Apart from its partnership with Yahoo, in 2000 Google announced that its index reached the 1 billion-URL mark, making it the largest search engine in the world. Google also launched AdWord, a self-service ad program that allowed people to purchase keyword advertising that would appear alongside search results.


2001: Google Image Search




Image search launched in July 2001 with an index of 250 million images. That same year Google acquired Deja Usenet and archived its index into categories that ultimately made up Google Groups.


2002: Google Search Appliance




Early in 2002 Google marketed its first hardware, the Google Search Appliance, a device that plugged into a computer and provided advanced search capabilities for internal documents. In May Google announced Labs, a resource for people interested in trying out beta programs emerging from Google's R&D team. Later Google launched its News tool that provided links from 4,000 sources.


2003: AdSense




Google announced the world's largest content-targeted ad program, later dubbed AdSense after Google acquired Applied Semantics. Earlier in the year Google acquired Pyra Labs, the creator of Blogger.


2004: Gmail




Google launched Gmail on April Fool's Day 2004, but the beta version required an invitation to join. In January Orkut launched as Google's foray into social networking. In August, Google's initial public offering contained 19,605,052 shares of Class A common stock at $85 per share.


2005: Google Maps




Google Maps launched in February 2005, to go live on the first iPhone in 2007. Additionally, code.google.com went live to provide resources for developers, and included all of Google's APIs. The company also acquired Urchin, whose content optimization service helped create Google Analytics, launched later that year. In June Google released Google Earth, a satellite-powered mapping service. In October Reader was unveiled to help organize and consolidate content into a single feed.


2006: YouTube




In a $1.65 billion stock transaction, Google acquired YouTube in October 2006. Google also unveiled Trends, a tool that allows a user to evaluate popular searches over a specific timeframe. Earlier that year Google released Gchat, a Gmail-based instant message service derived from Google Talk. Google Checkout emerged later as a way to pay for online purchases.


2007: Android




In November 2007 Google announced its first mobile venture, Android, which the company called "the first open platform for mobile devices."


2008: Google Chrome




In September 2008 Google introduced Chrome, its open source browser. The surprise was spoiled when the comic book that was meant to help debut Chrome leaked a day ahead of schedule. Later that month T-mobile announced the G1, Google's first Android-powered mobile device. That year Google also added Google Suggest capabilities and site search.


2009: Google Wave




To much anticipation, Google announced its venture into real-time communication via the Wave platform. Little more than a year later, however, Wave was no more. That same year Google launched Mac-based photo application Picasa.


2010: Google Apps Marketplace




In 2010 Google launched its Apps Marketplace, an app store that allows third-party developers to sell their creations. That same year Google unveiled Google Buzz, its latest attempt at social sharing that originated in Gmail. The company also released Google TV after teaming up with Intel, Sony and Logitech.


2011: Google+




Google's most talked-about and participatory social platform thus far, Google+ launched in June 2011 with invite-only access. The tech giant also announced its most expensive acquisition to-date when it bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

More About: Google, media, Tech

For more Business & Marketing coverage:


September 03 2011

39 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed


Summer may be lazing into fall, but we’re just ramping it up! Brought to Mashable readers exclusively, we bring you the weekly roundup.

This week seems to have a peculiar culinary theme, so we’re going with the flow. Two of our editorial picks involve browser cookies and Facebook tips for restaurants. Now that you’ve got the munchies, fix yourself a plate and kick back this weekend with our favorite features.


Editors’ Picks



Social Media


5 Android Apps to Turn Your Phone Into a Mobile Document Scanner


This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Even if you’ve done everything you can to banish paper from your office, those little white sheets can still creep up on you.

You’ll want to digitize those crinkly analog fugitives post haste, but you may not be keen on splurging for a scanner — especially when you’re only taming the occasional receipt or intake form.

The solution — wait for it — could be in the palm of your hand. Your Android smartphone has all the photographic and processing power you’ll need to snap up those docs and get them into the cloud where they belong.

Here are a few mobile document scanning solutions we put through their paces.


1. CamScanner




CamScanner is a breeze to use, and you can test out the free version via the Market link above. Snap a photo of your document and pull up the cropping tool. The app will auto-detect the edges of the paper, but the slick drag-and-snap guides will help you fine tune the dimensions.

The processing enhancements are smart, and will compensate for low light and bad focus reasonably well. Though the app generates a cropped and toned image, it will also hang onto the original photo -- handy, in case you accidentally cropped your boss' name off the letterhead.

The app has built-in integration with Google Docs, Box.net and Dropbox, but for the less fancy among you, it's easy to pipe scanned docs straight into email.

The main issue we encountered was with PDF creation. The original image is stored as a JPEG, but the option to convert it to a PDF simply opened the phone's default PDF viewer. The file is viewable, but we found no apparent way to save or share.

The paid version promises to make things easier in this department, but you should see how the free version performs on your device before purchasing.

Price: Free / $4.99 for full license and features


2. Document Scanner




This app scans directly to PDF with ease. The interface couldn't be cleaner, and while the cropping tools aren't as snazzy as CamScanner's, they get the job done.

There are image enhancement features, but in our testing, they weren't as precise as CamScanner's.

Document Scanner also lets you upload directly to Google Docs, DropBox, and Box.net. It even has Evernote integration -- a nice touch. Scan multiple pages in succession and email them to your heart's content.

The trial version will only last you seven days, but that should give you the time to decide if you're ready to throw down four bucks on the real deal.

Price: Free / $3.98 for full version


3. Droid Scan Pro PDF




Droid Scan works similarly to the aforementioned apps with one exception -- it'll send you out to the system camera to grab the image. No big deal -- in reality, the other apps are simply wrapping the native camera with their interface.

Once you're done shooting, Droid Scan picks right back up where you left off and gets down to image processing quickly.

The app has smart edge detection, intuitive (if small) color and contrast controls, and a final menu that lets you select the docs you want to save down as either JPEGs or PDFs (though PDF functionality is only available in the paid version).

Price: Free / $4.99 for PDF functionality


4. Scan to PDF




Scan to PDF scores big on interface simplicity. It's easy to start scanning or adjust the settings right from the first screen.

The app jumps over to the system camera by default (though you can adjust this setting), and offers great image processing and enhancement, even in low light.

The cropping function is intuitive but can be awkward -- rather than dragging and snapping at the corners, you'll have to pull the edges. Occasionally, your fingers will run out of screen or they'll accidentally drag the entire frame away from the edge. However, This quirk is far from a deal breaker, and the excellent gallery viewer more than makes up for it.

The free version of Scan to PDF does it all, but if you like it and use it regularly, you can show the devs a little love with a $.99 upgrade.

Price: Free / $.99 optional purchase for a job well done


5. PDF Scanner




For those looking for the dead-simple option, PDF Scanner is the way to go. This no-frills app cuts right to the quick.

Add pages by hitting scan. The camera viewfinder that appears has no buttons, so you'll have to just tap the screen to focus and snap.

The camera makes use of your phone's flash, which is helpful when scanning in low light. But be sure to frame and focus your image carefully because there's no crop or image enhancement here. Snap away until your document is complete, then email the PDF to its destination.

Regrettably, there's not trial version of this app, but if you're looking for a way to generate PDF scans quickly and easily, have no qualms dropping your coin here.

Price: $1.99


More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:


- 15 Keyboard Shortcuts To Enhance Your PC Productivity
- 5 Services For Building Websites On A Budget
- 10 Accessories To Boost Office Morale
- Top 5 Foursquare Mistakes Committed By Small Businesses
- How To Use Social Media For Recruiting

More About: android, business, Mobile 2.0

For more Mobile coverage:


July 19 2011

4 Ways In-App Purchasing Will Change Mobile


The Mobile App Trends Series is supported by Sourcebits, a leading product developer for mobile platforms. Sourcebits offers design and development services for iOS, Android, Mobile and Web platforms. Follow Sourcebits on Twitter for recent news and updates.

Over the last few years, in-app purchases have become an increasingly common way for mobile app developers to enhance their mobile products and services.

Most prominently available for iPhone and Android, in-app purchases often seen as an alternative to the rising trend of in-app advertisements.

For many mobile developers and users, in-app purchases — and micro-transactions in general — are going to change mobile. We’ve highlighted some of those changes and offered up some examples already in the marketplace.


1. New Business Models


One of the most exciting aspect of in-app purchase features are the additional income streams or even alternative business models that app developers can derive from the feature.

As an example, iOS developer Smule first released Magic Piano for iPad as a paid app.

A year later, when the company released a version for the iPhone, the app itself was free, along with a few songs. Each Wednesday, additional songs are released, from popular artists like Lady Gaga, Jason Mraz and Britney Spears, that users can purchase using a type of custom currency known as Smoola.

Smoolas are sold in packs starting at $1.99 for 160 Smoolas and tracks range between 25 and 75 Smoolas each.

This type of secondary currency has already proved successful for game makers like Zynga on social web platforms. On the mobile side, one of the highest grossing games for iOS is Capcom’s Smurfs Village, despite the fact that the game itself is free.


2. Easy Access to Additional Content


Perhaps the most frequent use of in-app purchase is in adding additional content to existing applications. We frequently see this in games, where additional level packs can be added to a game and purchased by the consumer after the fact.

The net effect is that the game or app maker doesn’t need to release a brand new app just to add new levels. Plus, users get access to fresh content, prolonging the value of a game or app.

PlayFirst, Inc.’s Dash series of games for iOS takes advantage of the in-app purchase feature to add additional levels and scenarios to its games. Titles like Cooking Dash [iTunes link] sell for $2.99 and additional venues (consisting of 10 levels) sell for $0.99. These venues are added over time and keep users coming back to the game.


3. Offering Add-on Services and Features


Another frequent use of in-app purchase is the add-on services or features model. Similar to the additional content model, users can “unlock” or gain access to additional features in an app by way of in-app purchase.

This can be anything from some additional features or tools — say the ability to backup to Dropbox or better push notifications — and updates can also remove in-app annoyances, like advertising.

An “ad-free” option is frequently used by app developers that want to offer users a full-featured app experience, but still want to give users the ability to choose to opt out of advertisements, for a price.

The Iconfactory’s popular Twitterrific Twitter client for iOS uses both methods. The app itself is free and works with one Twitter account and has limited advertisements. For $4.99, users can purchase the premium version within the app which removes ads and and gives users the ability to use more than one Twitter account.

This is a great way for users to sample an app and then, if they find they need more advanced features, make the decision to enhance it using in-app purchase. Unlike the “lite” model sometimes employed by app makers, adding features and add-on services via in-app purchase doesn’t require the user to download yet another app and re-enter their settings.


4. Selling Physical Goods


Of course, mobile in-app purchase doesn’t have to be limited to digital goods. Physical purchases can be made using a mobile app, too.

Sure, traditional e-commerce sites like Amazon, NewEgg and Target all have in-app purchasing for physical items, but what about smaller developers who might only have a few items available?

The iPhone app Lifelapse is designed to take an image from your phone every 30 seconds, creating a time lapse-like effect of your entire day. The company also sells a companion physical case, called the Lifepouch to better aid Lifelapsers in capturing their images and events.

To facilitate sales of the Lifepouch within the app itself, the developers found a way to integrate their existing Shopify store into the app.

Lifelapse says that 20% of Lifepouch sales come from within the in-app store, which shows how powerful it can be. The company also blogged abut how it went about integrating the shop into their app and even provided the code on Github.


Your Thoughts


App developer and users, let us know how you are using in-app purchases. Do you find value in the model and what are the best practices you have discovered for gaining sales? Let us know in the comments.


Series Supported by Sourcebits

The Mobile App Trends Series is sponsored by Sourcebits, a leading developer of applications and games for all major mobile platforms. Sourcebits has engineered over 200 apps to date, with plenty more to come. Sourcebits offers design and development services for iPhone, Android and more. Please feel free to get in touch with us to find out how we can help your app stand apart in a crowded marketplace. Follow Sourcebits on Twitter and Facebook for recent news and updates.


More Mobile Resources from Mashable:


- 5 Innovative Mobile Marketing Campaigns to Learn From
- Native App vs. Web App: Which Is Better for Mobile Commerce?
- The 3 Most Effective Approaches to In-App Advertising
- 5 Mobile App Trends You Can’t Ignore
- How HTML5 Is Aiding in Cross-Platform Development

More About: in-app purchases, Mobile 2.0, Mobile App Trends Series

For more Mobile coverage:


July 16 2011

46 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed


Get ready for Mashable‘s weekly roundup! This week, we’ve performed original Google+ analysis, prepared you for the Mac OS X Lion release, and pointed you toward the best fictional Twitter accounts. We’ve celebrated startups and mourned space shuttle finales.

So review the list of important resources you may have missed over the past week. Tune in for more great stories and tools coming at you sooner than you can say “Spotify.”


Editors’ Picks



Social Media


For more social media news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s social media channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.


Tech & Mobile


For more tech news and resources, follow Mashable’s tech channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.


Business & Marketing


For more business news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s business channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.


 

Image courtesy of Flickr, webtreats.

More About: business, List, Lists, MARKETING, Mobile 2.0, social media, tech, technology

For more Social Media coverage:


July 15 2011

5 Online Tools For Activists, By Activists


Susannah Vila directs content and outreach at Movements.org, an organization dedicated to identifying, connecting and supporting activists using technology to organize for social change. Connect with her on Twitter @susannahvila.

Why are social networks powerful tools for causes and campaigns? Many times, people begin to engage in activism only after they’ve been attracted by the fun stuff in a campaign — connecting with old friends and sharing photos, for example. When they witness others participating, they’ll be more likely to join the cause. With socializing as the primary draw, it’s become easier for organizers to attract more and more unlikely activists through social media.

But once a campaign reaches its critical mass, activists might think about moving to other platforms made with their needs — especially digital security — in mind. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter will remain standard fare for online activism. But the time is right for niche-oriented startups to create tools that can supplement these platforms. Here are a few worth investigating.


1. CrowdVoice




Similar to the social media aggregating service Storify, but with an activist bent, CrowdVoice spotlights all content on the web related to campaigns and protests. What’s different about it? Founder Esra’a al Shafei says “CrowdVoice is open and anyone is a contributor. For that reason, it ends up having much more diverse information from many more sources.”

If one online activist comes across a spare or one-sided post, he can easily supplement information. Furthermore, campaign participants can add anecdotes and first-hand experiences so that others can check in from afar.

CrowdVoice makes it easier for far-flung audiences to stay abreast of protests and demonstrations, but it also helps organizers coordinate and stay abreast of other activist movements.


2. Sukey




During London’s UK Uncut protests this year, police used a tactic called “kettling,” or detaining demonstrators inside heavy police barricades for hours on end.

In response, UK Uncut activists created a mobile app to help one another avoid getting caught behind the barricades. The tool, Sukey -- whose motto is “keeping demonstrators safe, mobile and informed” — helps people steer clear of injuries, trouble spots and violence.

Sukey’s combination of Google Maps and Swiftriver (the real-time data verifying service from the makers of Ushahidi) also provides a way for armchair protesters to follow the action from afar. Users can use Sukey on a browser-based tool called “Roar,” or through SMS service “Growl.”


3. Off-the-Record Messaging




Off-the-Record” (OTR) software can be added to free open-source instant messaging platforms like Pidgin or Adium. On these platforms, you’re able to organize and manage different instant messaging accounts on one interface. When you then install OTR, your chats are encrypted and authenticated, so you can rest assured you’re talking to a friend.


4. Crabgrass




Crabgrass is a free software made by the Riseup tech collective that provides secure tools for social organizing and group collaboration. It includes wikis, task files, file repositories and decision-making tools.

On its website, Crabgrass describes the software’s ability to create networks or coalitions with other independent groups, to generate customized pages similar to the Facebook events tool, and to manage and schedule meetings, assets, task lists and working documents. The United Nations Development Programme and members from the Camp for Climate Action are Crabgrass users.


5. Pidder




Pidder is a private social network that allows you to remain anonymous, share only encrypted information and keep close track of your online identity -- whether that identity is a pseudonym or not.

While it’s not realistic to expect anyone to use it as his primary social network, Pidder is a helpful tool to manage your information online. The Firefox add-on organizes and encrypts your sensitive data, which you can then choose to share with other online services. It also logs information you’ve shared with external parties back into to your encrypted Pidder account.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, onurdongel.

More About: activism, apps, demonstration, platform, protest, social good, social network, web

For more Social Good coverage:


July 13 2011

5 Trends Shaping the Mobile Gaming Industry


The Consumer Trends Series is supported by GameSpot, giving brands the next level of engagement with gamers through exclusive news, clips, trailers and more. To connect your brands with true enthusiasm, visit CBSInteractive.com/ideal.

Mobile gaming has really taken off in the past few years, and the continued growth of the underlying forces — smartphone sales, tablet sales, mobile Internet subscribers and app downloads — all point to a bright future for the industry.

Market research firm Mintel recently published a report on the U.S. mobile gaming industry — we took a look to glean insight into the consumption of and current attitudes toward mobile gaming.

First off, the numbers are impressive. Mobile phone and tablet gaming sales in the U.S. reached $898 million in 2010, more than doubling since 2005, and Mintel forecasts that revenues will reach $1.6 billion by 2015. This prediction is in line with eMarketer’s report that mobile gaming revenues are expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2014. With increasing smartphone sales, a growing tablet market and increasing advances in mobile device and game development, this industry is sure to get more interesting in the coming years.

Here are five key takeaways from Mintel’s report. Let us know your thoughts on the future of the mobile gaming industry in the comments below.


1. The Freemium Model Has Potential


One of the biggest tasks in marketing a mobile game is to figure out which revenue model to use: free (ad-supported), freemium (free download with in-app purchase options) or paid (one-time fee for a full-featured app).

The report points out that, on average, potential revenue for freemium apps outweighs paid apps. Mintel Senior Analyst Billy Hulkower writes:

“Apple enabled in-app purchases from its app store in the fall of 2009, allowing many developers to utilize the “freemium” model, in which the app is free to the user and the game can be enjoyed as is, or enhanced with additional virtual goods. In-app purchases include additional characters, enhancements, powers, and game play levels. Where a paid game may generate revenue from the sale price of the game from $0.99 to about $2.99 or more, a freemium game can actually earn greater revenues in the long run due to its potential ongoing stream of revenue from in-app purchases. Games tracked across 21 iPhone game makers in June 2010 by market research firm Flurry earned on average $14.66 per user per year. GigaOm estimated in November 2010 that 34% of the top 100 grossing apps (all types) on the iPhone used the freemium model.”

While the freemium model seems great in theory, paid games currently rule the industry, having brought in a whopping 92.5% of U.S. mobile gaming revenue in 2010, according to eMarketer. On the other hand, eMarketer predicts that revenue from free, ad-supported games will only amount to a measly 12.3% by 2014, not a significant growth. With ad-supported games lacking umph in coming years and freemium apps providing a higher potential revenue for publishers, it seems natural that publishers will continue to innovate into the freemium space in hopes of increasing profits. As a result, we may see a balancing out of revenue between paid and freemium apps in coming years.


2. Tablet Gamers Download & Play More


Mintel found that 38% of tablet gamers play five or more hours per week, while only 20% of mobile phone gamers play that much. Tablet gamers even download more paid and free games.

Only 7% of those surveyed reported owning a tablet, but the findings make sense. Tablet devices have larger screen sizes and more computing power, while still being portable, potentially making them a better fit for gaming than mobile devices.

Forrester expects tablet sales will grow from 10.3 million units in 2010 to 44 million units in 2015 — growth that should further drive the mobile gaming market.

For now, console gaming still rules, having captured 75% of gaming revenue in 2011, followed by online, PC and mobile gaming.


3. Users Crave Multiplayer & Social Features


“It is almost a cliché to discuss the importance of integrating social networking components into gaming, but consumers have not lost interest,” writes Hulkower. “They also enjoy multiplayer games for their competitive and social aspects. Despite their digital medium, ‘social’ and ‘multiplayer’ signify human interaction. Young adults, in particular, have grown up with computers, Internet, instant messaging/texting, and Facebook, and want to connect while gaming.”

There have been a few developments in the industry that foretell advances in social features. Apple’s social network gaming platform Game Center, launched in September 2010, enables gamers compete with each other and follow leader boards. Likewise, another platform, OpenFeint, enables iOS and Android gamers to play across platforms.

The success of multiplayer-only games, such as Words With Friends, also points towards consumer interest in mobile gaming with others.


4. Word of Mouth Is the Key Driver for Game Downloads


Mintel’s report highlights a number of stats that tell the story of how users hear about new mobile games. Whether in the physical or digital worlds, word of mouth is the glue that holds it all together. Here are the top ways that gamers hear about new mobile games:

  • From Friends: More than 50% of mobile game-playing adults learn about new mobile games from friends and family.
  • In App Stores: About 40% of adults learn about new games within app stores, where hot lists, rankings and user reviews are highlighted.
  • On Social Sites: 25% of adults hear about new mobile games via social media sites.

Besides these methods, there are also a number of well-trafficked mobile gaming sites that highlight and review games, chronicle new releases and publish cheat codes and tips.

Mobile game firms and publishers should take note and focus on obtaining visible app store distribution, having a social media presence and gaining coverage on mobile gaming sites.


5. Hit Games Can Come From Anywhere


While EA Mobile, GameLoft and Glu Mobile rank highest in mobile game publisher revenue, hundreds of independent game developers have released smash hits. For example, Rovio’s Angry Birds was the most downloaded game in Apple’s App Store in 2010 — in June, the game hit 1 million downloads per day.

While larger publishers, like EA Mobile and GameLoft, leverage high-profile licensing deals and partnerships, upstart developers — such as Popcap Games and Zynga — have built a name for themselves from the ground up, proving that innovative ideas can take smaller development firms far.


Series Supported by GameSpot

The Consumer Trends Series is supported by GameSpot, where brands can go to the next level of engagement with gamers at the #1 gaming info site. To see how GameSpot’s exclusive news, clips, trailers, mobile and more can connect your brands with true enthusiasm — and an audience of up to 230 million — visit CBSInteractive.com/ideal.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, sjlocke; Flickr, leondel

More About: Consumer Trends Series, gaming, Mobile 2.0, mobile gaming

For more Mobile coverage:


July 09 2011

40 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed


Whew! This week was awash with news. So, we transformed that news into advice, tips and how-to’s that you can reference for years to come.

Take Facebook’s video chat launch — we’ll guide you in setting it up. Or the space shuttle launch — we provide the Twitter accounts for dozens of astronauts and space experts. And Google+ has been on the minds of millions — we present its pros and cons. Mashable not only releases breaking news, we help you learn how to apply it to your business, your interests and your personal life.

If spare time for reading didn’t exactly factor into your busy week, here’s a roundup of resources that appeared on Mashable.


Editors’ Picks



Social Media


June 17 2011

10 Ways Angry Birds Is Taking Over the World


When video game-inspired merchandise starts selling on Etsy, you know it has developed more than a cult following. Fans around the world have been steadily clamoring for Angry Birds products since its 2009 launch. We’ve gathered proof that the game has transcended almost every corner of the gaming world — not to mention, cooking.

Apart from cookbooks and plush toys, fans download Angry Birds by Rovio 1 million times per day. Founder Peter Vestebacka revealed that the game recently totaled over 250 million downloads across all platforms. That’s almost half of the total number of Facebook users.

Take a look at some of the products and industries into which Angry Birds has swooped.


1. Smartphone Apps




Where the revolution began: Angry Birds first released the game onto Apple's iOS in December 2009.


2. Toys




The official Rovio online store sells plush birds and phone cases.


3. Television




Rovio has partnered with connected TV platform Roku to launch an animated series some time this summer.


4. Google Chrome




Last month Rovio released the Angry Birds web version to Google Chrome's browser.


5. Facebook




"Liked" by 3.7 million people on Facebook, Angry Birds also hosts its game there.


6. PSP




Angry Birds has fallen into the hands of countless gamers with the early 2011 release of its PSP version.


7. Board Game




When your eyes start to cross from playing in front of a screen too long, get back to basics. Mattel partnered with Rovio to develop the Angry Birds board game.


8. Cookbook




Some might find it a little cryptic that the upcoming Angry Birds cookbook will reportedly contain only egg dishes...

Image courtesy of Minimalist Photography 101


9. Holiday Themes




With all its popularity, Angry Birds certainly has cause to celebrate. Its users do too with holiday-themed game levels like Valentine's Day, Halloween and Easter.


10. Movie Partnerships / Superbowl Ads




During this year's Superbowl game, the animated film Rio aired an ad that revealed a clue to a hidden level in the Angry Birds game.

More About: android, angry birds, casual games, games, gaming, iphone, List, Lists, mobile games, rovio, video games

For more Mobile coverage:


June 14 2011

HOW TO: Optimize Marketing Copy For Mobile


The Mobile Content Series is supported by Mygazines, the better way to enhance and distribute brochures, catalogues, newsletters and other documents on every device. To complement this post, view an exclusive videocast, “Mobile Content Delivery: Native App Vs. Web App”.

When writing copy for any medium, it’s easy to drown in a sea of lead-ins, clever anecdotes and introductory sentences. There’s hardly time for that on the web. Marketers don’t have the luxury of leading up to anything. The only option is to be direct.

Website visitors typically won’t read big blocks of copy — they want to get in and out and move on to the next site. Think of copywriting for mobile as distilling down web copy even further. If web copy is skimming the cream off the top of the milk, mobile copy is skimming cream off of the cream.


What Makes Mobile Unique?


Users on the web are notoriously distracted and hop around from page to page. Mobile users are distracted even further. Their devices are buzzing with push notifications from their apps, text messages and emails are constantly popping up on the screen. They might be standing in line at a grocery store, waiting for a movie to start, in a taxi, in an elevator or walking down the street. These scenarios — and mobile use in general — are defined by three key factors:

  • 1. Pockets of Use. Picking up their mobile device is a secondary task. They’re just trying to fill up a pocket of time while doing something else. Users have just a few moments to check their phone or look up a piece of information while they’re completing a primary task (waiting in line, elevator, etc.).
  • 2. Perpetual and Inherent Distraction. Traditional web users may face distraction from email, chat and the infinite number of other webpages they could be on, but when those users land on a page, they typically stick around until they become bored or want to check out some other piece of information on the web. Mobile users, on the other hand, face perpetual off-device distractions — use of their mobile device is secondary. Byrne Hobart, founder of investment research firm Digital Due Diligence, observes that mobile marketers are “writing for an audience that’s in the middle of something else.” They might be waiting for their subway stop, their floor on an elevator, their line to be called at Whole Foods, a friend to show up at a restaurant. Point is, the number of off-device distractions for mobile users is limitless.
  • 3. The (Very) Small Screen. Mobile devices have tiny screens — they simply do not fit a lot of content. It’s critical that marketers keep this in mind as they write copy. What will fit onto a user’s screen without scrolling?

Mobile Is How We Live and Communicate


When creating mobile content, keep in mind what it represents. For many users, their phone is the headquarters of their lifestyle. It’s a connection to friends, family and coworkers. It’s a locker for nostalgic photos and texts from last night that probably should be deleted. Users personalize the background, download apps that fit their needs and look up information on the go. For many users, their phone is the first thing they see when they wake up and the last thing they see when they go to bed. It’s by their side 24/7, and it’s their connection to the world.

Marketers — and everyone else — should keep this in mind as they create content for mobile. Here are some things to consider when writing for mobile.


Be Goal-Oriented


The Hyperfactory‘s Joanne Eberhardt notes that the best mobile content “cuts copy to a minimum and only spews the necessities — necessities being what your target should see during those fateful two seconds that determine a click/tap.”

Hobart suggests that content be laser-focused on a specific task. “People are less inclined to meander on mobile apps and web — they’d rather meander in the physical world, given the choice.” Create content focused around your goals and avoid going on tangents — mobile users simply don’t have time or interest.


Use Strong Headlines: Think Like You’re Tweeting


When I reached out to the Grand Hotel group’s head of digital, Steven Rojas, he insisted that this interview be conducted over SMS to ensure the conversation was mobile-content-friendly. Rojas manages a number of Twitter accounts, so I asked him to share his secret for perfect mobile content. It’s easy he says, “Make it quick. Make it smart. Make it witty. And above all make it retweetable!”

Even if you’re not writing a tweet, think about the word “retweetable.” Really, what Rojas is eluding to is that the best mobile content is tweet-worthy, even if it’s not being written for Twitter. Mobile copy should be very much to the point while sacrificing as little power as possible. Get an idea across quickly. To do this, content will have to be quick and clear so that users get the point right away, but with just enough mystery and intrigue to encourage them to continue reading and to also share the content with others.


Screen Sizes Vary Among Mobile Devices


When writing copy for the web, space on the page allows for visual cues that can draw the readers’ eye towards the marketer’s objectives. Anna Lindow, director of marketing strategy at personal finance startup Bundle, points out that “when it comes to mobile, copywriters have to place extra consideration on being extremely direct, clear and succinct, because presentation options will likely be limited or even inconsistent across devices and platforms.”

Sam Altman, CEO of Loopt, has spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to create a mobile experience. Altman stresses that “it’s important to get your brain to think within the confines of a small, mobile screen and avoid the tendency to think big and then just shrink it.” The “shrink it” mentality just creates more cycles and more iterations. “If you switch your thought process, you’re more likely to get it right the first time,” Altman explains.


Frontload Your Content


Most of the time, people are only going to read headlines or the the first couple lines of marketing content. Therefore, it’s important to put the most important content up front. Don’t hold back and don’t rely on leading up to something big. Put the big reveal up front!

Think about how readers will browse the content. Try to avoid requiring too much clicking, but you also don’t want long pages that require a lot of scrolling. The way to do this is to be concise and efficient with your words — minimize the number of pages that readers have to click through. Try to keep content on a single page, if possible. But don’t cram so much onto a page that the site takes a long time to load — users will give up if they have to wait too long.


Test Your Content to See What Performs Better


Eberhardt encourages clients to experiment and find a balance between information and space. “It’s a continuously evolving industry with technology and trends, and you cannot be afraid to make waves,” she says. Marketers and clients too afraid of turning away possible clicks or downloads sometimes end up creating extremely safe and dull material.

One way to find out what works is to test two versions of your copy. Use tools like Google Website Optimizer to try out two (or more) versions of your content. A/B testing tools allow marketers to pit two versions of the same content against each other. The software splits users into multiple groups, showing different versions of the content to each one, and then automatically selects and implements the content that results in the most conversions, whether that be click-through rate, time on site, etc.

You should also use humans to test the content, as humans will be reading it. Nearly all mobile content is created on desktop computers with big screens, desktop browsers and a mouse. You should have a few people play around with the site on a real mobile device — not simulators — to provide feedback on usability and readability.


Copywriting for Apps


Generally, content for apps should follow the same rules as any other copy for mobile, but there’s a bit more to take into account. When it comes to apps, usage will be a bit more deliberate than the general web. While users on the web could be looking for anything, app users tend to be a bit more focused. They are actively opening an app, so bigger imagery and more text might be appropriate, especially because it’s built into an app and thus won’t have to load over often-shaky mobile connections.


Conclusion


Creating content for mobile isn’t the same as creating content for the desktop web. Acknowledging and embracing that fact is key to successful copywriting for mobile. Think about the limitations of small screens, constant distractions and low-quality mobile web connections. And don’t forget to try your content out on real humans using real mobile devices. Readers on the go want bite-sized information that will serve them in that very moment. Give them what they want.


Series Supported by Mygazines

The Mobile Content Series is supported by Mygazines, an interactive marketing solution that lets you enhance, distribute and track your content on any web enabled device, including desktop, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones. To complement this post, view an exclusive videocast, “Mobile Content Delivery: Native App Vs. Web App.” Keep informed by following Mygazines on Twitter.


More Mobile Resources from Mashable:


- 4 Free Apps For Discovering Great Content On the Go
- HOW TO: Optimize Marketing Materials for Mobile Devices
- Mobile Development: 5 Tips for Small Businesses
- The 3 Most Effective Approaches to In-App Advertising
- 5 Reasons You’re Consuming More Mobile Content

More About: business, content, copywriting, MARKETING, Mobile 2.0, Mobile Content Series, mobile development, mobile web, small business, Web Development

For more Mobile coverage:


June 05 2011

June 03 2011

May 26 2011

May 17 2011

HOW TO: Optimize Marketing Materials for Mobile Devices


The Mobile Content Series is supported by Mygazines, the better way to enhance and distribute brochures, catalogues, newsletters and other documents on every device. To complement this post, view an exclusive videocast, “Mobile Content Delivery: Native App Vs. Web App”.

It’s no secret that mobile is the future. While ownership of TV sets in the U.S. fell for the first time ever, smartphone ownership continued to explode — it’s up 60% versus a year ago. Marketers who had traditionally focused on getting their message across through broadcasts on television and radio or in print magazines and newspapers are quickly working to adapt their messages for mobile.

Mobile is a new paradigm. It has its own rules, standards, technologies, and challenges. Here’s how marketers are working with designers and developers to optimize branded materials for these new platforms.


Pare Down


The golden rules of mobile: simplicity, brevity, accessibility. The screens are small, the Internet connections slow and people don’t have a lot of time. The best mobile experiences are those that condense the bigger picture into a bite-sized chunk, friendly for on-the-go consumption.

“Successful mobile websites and applications will do fewer things, but do them better,” says Daniel R. Odio, CEO of PointAbout. On mobile especially, it’s important that things ‘just work.’ ”


Purpose-Driven


Think about the use cases for different consumer devices. Nicole Amodeo, director of creative products at the mobile ad platform company Medialets, stresses three key points for anyone creating content for mobile: “Why, when and where does your consumer use a device?” When exploring answers to these questions, it’s important to allow “your target audience and their particular use cases to dictate the experience, the content, the features and utilities,” Amodeo adds.

Before deciding on a platform for mobile marketing material, think more about what makes the most sense for the user and use cases. For example, does it make sense to create create an app, or phone- and tablet-optimized website?


Mobile Sites


There are two key points for designing for mobile: speed and usability. Content on a mobile is commonly created for an “on need” basis. A user browsing for online content on a mobile device is generally searching for something specific, not just casually surfing the web.

A user will need to gather the data they are after, quickly and easily without having to wait a long time for a page to load on a 3G connection. Therefore, when converting a traditional website into a mobile version, it’s important to make sure a number of things happen:

  • Auto-Detect Mobile Phones. Mobile-friendly websites automatically detect that users are on a mobile device and then display the appropriate version of the site.
  • Clear Calls to Action. The most important features of the site should be the at the top of the page and should include clear calls to actions.
  • Avoid Mobile-Unfriendly Elements. The design should avoid mobile-unfriendly elements such as Flash, large images, video, and complex layouts.
  • Fluidity. Design with a fluid layout that will gracefully adapt to a range of typical mobile screen resolutions.
  • Touch Interface. Touch screens don’t have hover states — it’s all about fingers tapping, so don’t build a site that requires users to move their mouse over menus or other elements. Also, make sure links and other clickable elements are big enough to tap with a fingertip.
  • Scrolling. Limit scrolling to one direction — the site should only scroll vertically. Having to manage a page that scrolls horizontally and vertically is difficult to navigate.
  • One Window. Avoid pop-ups and new windows. A user’s entire experience should take place in a single window.
  • Simple Navigation. Simplify your navigation. Typically, a site’s traditional navigation is too complex for a mobile site.
  • Clean Code. Most desktop web browsers allow a lot of leeway when rendering HTML and will usually display a site correctly, even if the code has flaws. Mobile browsers usually have less room for error, so there is an added value to having clean, simple code.
  • Use Alt Tags. Sometimes images won’t load, either because of issues with the mobile browser or because a user’s connection is too slow. Always include descriptive alt tags for images, in case they don’t appear.
  • Label Forms. Some modern websites embed form labels inside the form field. On mobile, it’s much more difficult to keep track of the fields, and users often make use of “next/previous” buttons built into they keyboard. Without clear labels alongside the form fields, it might be impossible to know what information is supposed to be in which field.
  • Escape Hatch. Sometimes users just need to use your normal site. If possible, always have a link back to the original, unoptimized site.

Responsive Web Design


One of the largest challenges in designing for mobile is the vast amount of devices to cater to. Rather than designing a mobile-specific website, responsive design allows websites to automatically adjust to a devices resolution, orientation and feature set.

The technology behind responsive websites is a relatively simple mix of CSS and a flexible grid-based layout. The best responsive websites even take into account device rotation, displaying different content depending on if the phone is in landscape or portrait mode. Taken to the extreme, a responsively designed site might even use GPS to display content relative to a user’s location.


Mobile-Friendly Calls To Action


The world hasn’t completely transitioned to mobile (yet). Until that day, one important way to leverage traditional media is to tie it into mobile. What are an ad’s viewers being asked to do, and can they do it on mobile? If an ad is going to be seen by consumers on the go, making mobile-friendly calls to action is important. If an ad asks users to check out a website, make sure the website loads well on a smartphone.

Embrace mobile technology. Instead of asking users to call a phone number or visit a website, use a QR code to let consumers quickly learn more about a product or even receive some sort of exclusive content, such as a free MP3 or other product tie-in.


Apps


Sometimes the best way to optimize marketing materials for mobile is to create an app. Users expect apps to complete simple, narrowly defined tasks quickly and easily. Think about how simple many popular mobile apps really are — they do one thing and they do it well.

The most successful way to market through an app is to create some sort of branded experience, tool, utility or game that both transmits a marketing message but still provides a level of utility and enjoyment for users.

A fantastic example would be the toilet paper brand Charmin’s app, which helps users locate the nearest public restroom.


Conclusion


There are many design and development tips to keep in mind when optimizing marketing — or, for that matter, any — content for mobile. But it all comes down to leveraging design and technology to keep things simple, clean, fast to load and easy to digest on the go.

Keep it simple.


Series Supported by Mygazines

The Mobile Content Series is supported by Mygazines, an interactive marketing solution that lets you enhance, distribute and track your content on any web enabled device, including desktop, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones. To complement this post, view an exclusive videocast, “Mobile Content Delivery: Native App Vs. Web App.” Keep informed by following Mygazines on Twitter.

More About: MARKETING, Mobile 2.0, Mobile Content Series, mobile marketing

For more Mobile coverage:


May 12 2011

Top 8 Android Apps for Education


Alright, time to put down the Angry Birds and put your Android to better use.

Whether you’re currently in school or just seeking a little self-improvement, a plethora of Android apps are just waiting to enhance your knowledge base, expand your skill sets, improve your memory and more.

We’ve picked a few of the top applications in a number of categories, including math, music, geography, astronomy. Take a look at these apps, and in the comments, let us know which ones you already use to keep your most powerful organ in top shape.

(And to all you teens trying to convince your parents that buying you an Android smartphone is a good idea, you’re welcome.)


Celeste




Celeste SE combines 3D graphics of the heavenly bodies with fun facts about astronomy. Aim your device's camera at the sky and see exactly where each object is located, day or night.


Algebra Tutor




Algebra Tutor is one of the highest-recommended math apps in the Market. It gives step-by-step instructions and shows where you've made mistakes. Even for older Android users, the app is good for brushing up on rusty skills.


CueBrain




Need to work on your language skills? Try CueBrain, which offers vocab training in a variety of languages.


Wikipedia




For a modern fount of knowledge, we can't beat Wikipedia. Its Android app brings the website's bottomless depths of knowledge to your fingertips in a convenient interface. This is currently the highest-rated encyclopedia app in the Android Market.


MapMaster




For geography nuts, MapMaster is where it's at (rimshot!). This educational game tests your knowledge of famous places and capitals around the world. You can also compete against up to 10 friends on the same device.


Sight Read Music Quiz 4 Piano




Reading music is a dying art -- even many professional pop stars wouldn't know a middle C if it bit 'em. Stay ahead of the curve with this simple and enjoyable music reading app.


Flash Card Maker Pro




This one is great for students and for parents of younger children. Flash Card Maker Pro, as the name implies, lets you make your own study aids. It uses speech recognition for optimal memory building and fact retention.


Kindle for Android




Finally, we give you the Kindle app for Android, which you can use to download classics by authors from Leo Tolstoy to Jane Austen. Best of all, both the app and a huge library of literary classics are completely free.


Interested in more Android resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

More About: android, apps, education, educational, mobile apps

For more Mobile coverage:


May 09 2011

10 Android Apps for Health & Fitness


Forget summer and swimsuit season; any time is a good time to get in shape. And for Android users, these apps will make that process a little faster, easier and more fun.

Last year, we told you about a few good Android apps to get your lazy butt in gear. But given the rapid evolution of the Android Market, the Android OS and the capabilities and variety of Android hardware, we thought that list needed a little update.

Here are some of the best Android apps for improving your health and fitness, both in terms of diet and exercise. Better still, some of them incorporate games and music to make your workout that much more fun.

In the comments, let us know what Android apps you’re currently using to keep tabs on your health and physical fitness.


Backpacker GPS Trails




Time to get outside, O nerdy one! Backpacker GPS Trails can help you find and explore awesome trails that will improve your health, broaden your horizons, and give you something cool to do with that 8MP camera of yours.


Nike BOOM




If music is your ideal motivator, try Nike BOOM. This app syncs your music to your workouts and throws in some audio-visual motivation from pro coaches and athletes along the way. You got this!


Instant Heart Rate Pro




For tracking just how much fat your body is burning, we suggest an app like Instant Heart Rate. It shows your heart rate measurements, a real-time PPG graph and your heart-rate history.


BMI Calculator




This free BMI Calculator will give you key information for setting or optimizing your fitness goals. And it should work for all but the most muscular of bodies.


Pocket Yoga




If your day could use some deep breathing and flexibility, try Pocket Yoga, which packs 145 poses in the palm of your hand. You can choose from three different practices, difficulty levels and durations for a total of 27 sessions. Namaste!


CrossFit Travel




If you're anything like us, you spend some time on the road for work and/or pleasure. Time on the road, however, means time for you to forget about your workout. CrossFit Travel comes to the rescue with an impressive list of exercises that can be done in a hotel room or other small space.


Squats




This one's for the ladies, and the name says it all. If toning your backside is tantamount to holiness, you'll want to check out Squats. The app will help you reach your goals of a hundred or more squats in a row, and the enviable posterior that comes with such an accomplishment.


Calorie Counter




MyFitnessPal offers this Calorie Counter for keeping track of your nutrition -- an important part of any health regime. This groovy app also comes with a barcode scanner, so you can easily find out exactly what nutrients and no-nos are hiding in pre-packaged foods.


JEFIT Pro




Here's a bodybuilding app for the muscle-bound. JEFIT Pro is a highly-rated app to help you track your progress, time your workouts, and beat your own records, all without the hassle of pen or paper.


SpecTrek




Fitness should be fun, and SpecTrek is the app that proves it. This AR game gets you out and moving around in the real world, hunting "ghosts" using your camera, GPS, and your own quickly-moving feet.


Interested in more Android resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

More About: android, apps, fitness, health, mobile apps, weight loss

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May 04 2011

4 Ways Mobile Tech Is Improving Education


The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles — it delivers smart mobility services. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @bmwi on Twitter.

Communication centers, computers, laptops, mobile phones and tablets have all been spoken about at one point or another as technologies with promising applications for education.

But mobile phones stand apart in an important way. In United States high schools, 98% of students have access to some kind of smartphone, according to a report by Blackboard and Project Tomorrow.

The United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union estimated that there were 5.3 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide at the end of 2010 — and that a full 90% of the world population now has access to a mobile network. In contrast, only about 2 billion people have Internet access.

Students around the world are increasingly bringing their own mini-computers (or some connected device) to class. Whether this creates a distraction or a boon to learning is debatable, but these four uses of mobile phones in education — and countless others — could one day help prove the latter.


1. Inquiry-Based Learning


Abilene Christian University (ACU) began equipping its students with iPods and iPhones in 2008 (now students can also choose an iPad).

Faculty have used the presence of phones in their classrooms in numerous creative ways. The theater department put on an interactive production of Othello, the student newspaper launched an iPad version and teachers have used phones to facilitate discussions on controversial topics.

The phones have also helped create a teaching style that the faculty refer to as “mobile-enhanced inquiry-based learning” — combining mobile phones and a learning theory that teaches through experimentation and questioning.

“Most students don’t really have a foundation that allows them to know what questions to ask,” says Dwayne Harapnuik, director of faculty enrichment at ACU. “[The phones] transfer to a model where students access the information when they need it and then make more meaningful connections based upon what they already know.”

Professors use the phones to deliver information, flashcards, key words and other basic information that students need in order to come to class ready to discuss and experiment. The project recently won a nearly $250,000 grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges to test the method at Del Mar College and California University of Pennsylvania as a way of reducing dropout rates.


2. Flipping the Classroom


Sal Kahn, the founder of video learning website Kahn Academy, speaks about flipping the classroom at TED.

In many ACU classes, one component of mobile implementation is lecture podcasts, which allow students to consume much of the information typically delivered in the classroom on their own time and in their own dorm rooms.

The idea is to free up teachers during class time for interacting with students and working through problems, a concept known as “flipping the classroom.”

It also allows students to pause and repeat information that they find confusing, and they can work at their own pace.

Flipping the classroom is certainly possible without putting a mobile device in the hands of every student, and many universities — including UC Berkeley and MIT — have long made lectures available online, but Harapnuik says that doing so with a mobile component is an advantage.

“Do you ever leave the house without your phone?” he asks. “The beauty of a mobile phone is that it’s always there.”

In studies of the program, students who participated in an ACU class that used the mobile-teaching method performed modestly, but not significantly, better than their peers in a control class. On the other hand, the mobile-using group reported that they had learned more than the control group reported they had learned.


3. Reinventing the Textbook


“Textbooks are always the wrong information, in the wrong order, at the wrong price, at the wrong weight in my backpack,” says Jed Macosko, an associate professor of physics at Wake Forest University.

Macosko is the co-founder of a project that aims to transform the textbook so that it complies with How People Learn (literally, it’s inspired by a book of that title).

The result thus far is BioBook, a device-agnostic, peer-written, node-driven text. In other words, it’s like Wikipedia on steroids.

In his classes, Macosko asks his students to write short one-concept nodes, which they then link with other nodes on the same subject. When a student opens the book, currently hosted on a wiki, he can click around the nodes to learn a subject in whatever order makes sense to him.

“It’s important to have the student engaged in connecting facts in a framework in their mind,” Macosko says. “When you learn a fact, you basically hang it on a hook of some pre-existing structure in your brain.”

In a pilot project of the book, students preferred the book over their traditional textbooks (no assessments were taken to see if BioBook resulted in deeper understanding). A final version of the book, which will be piloted at four universities starting in September, will include analytics, multimedia, short quizzes and other options for teachers to interact with students.

That version will be device-agnostic.

“If you have this big heavy textbook, you don’t take it out of your dorm room very often,” Macosko says. “But you might take your index cards out of your dorm room and use them to study for your next exam … the same kind of portability of the index cards is what mobile will give you.”


4. Teaching Hard-To-Reach Communities


In the report from the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union, mobile penetration rates in developing countries were expected to reach 68% by the end of 2010.

The prevalence of mobile phones has led many education efforts to come to the same conclusion as Michael Trucano, senior ICT and education policy specialist at the World Bank.

“Broadband will come, but it will not come quickly enough. Computers, as we think of them sitting on someone’s lap or on a desktop, will come, but not quickly enough. Phones are already there … We think there’s a real opportunity there to explore.”

Trucano cautions that there aren’t a lot of mobile education initiatives in developing countries that have reached scale. But there are several promising projects.

In Pakistan, for instance, one group of educators recently began experimenting with sending SMS quizzes to students. After the student answers a question, he receives an automated response, which varies depending on whether the answer was correct.

“For some of these students who have been educated in a system where very large, lecture-based classes are the norm, this may be the first time they have received ‘personalized’ feedback of any sort from their instructors,” Trucano writes in a blog post about the project.

Others — like the text2teach program in the Philippines and the BridgeIT program in Tanzania — use phones to deliver educational video content to classrooms. The Human Development Lab at Carnegie Mellon University runs a program called MILLEE, which has used custom mobile games to teach language in India for the past seven years (the program has also expanded to rural China and sub-Saharan Africa).

“Especially at a time when many countries are considering buying tons and tons of computers to put into their schools — there’s nothing wrong with that but the fact that there is a huge installed userbase of people who have increasingly powerful computers — ministries of education should at least consider pocket computers part of their broader decisions about investment.”


Series Supported by BMW i

The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles; it delivers smart mobility services within and beyond the car. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @bmwi on Twitter.

Are you an innovative entrepreneur? Submit your pitch to BMW i Ventures, a mobility and tech venture capital company.

More About: ACU, BioBook, education, Global Innovation Series, Mobile 2.0, Wake Forest University, world bank

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May 03 2011

Top 10 Free Android Photo Apps [PICS]


Eat your heart out, Instagram.

If you’re a devoted Android user but feel a bit left out when it comes to snapping those grainy, vintage-looking pics that all the kids are sharing on The Twitter, never fear. The Android Market has certainly matured over the last few months, and the sheer volume of new users and phones has spurred a glut of new apps — especially in the photo department.

We took these 10 freebies for a spin on an Android 2.2 device. Here are our impressions, along with where to grab each one.

What’s your go-to photo app for Android? Let us know in the comments.


1. Pudding Camera




Pudding Camera has a wonderful visual interface. Scroll through little thumbnails and camera icons (rather than text lists) to find the filters and effects you're looking for.

This visual UI is helpful, since the app itself is not entirely in English. The output resolution is full, so you'll be downloading and sharing nice big images after you're done snapping and filtering.


2. FxCamera




FxCamera has been my go-to Android photo app for a while now. The filter options get very granular, which is great if you're a control freak - not so much if you're hoping to whip out your phone and capture a fleeting moment. Still, the array of choices is impressive for a freebie.


3. Vignette Demo




Vignette's framing options and clean UI make it a standout app. You can combine the filter and frame choices for a variety of permutations. The downside is that the output resolution is small, at least with the settings we tried. That's convenient for sharing online, but you may not want to document your entire life with these tiny pics.


4. Little Photo




Little Photo packs a surprising UI punch. Take a pic and you start with the raw image. A translucent menu then floats over the snap, and you can scroll through your effect choices and preview them on the fly. Mix your effects, hit apply, and share at will. The image processing and output are impressive.


5. Retro Camera




Retro Camera is fun, slick, and has a very "Hipstamatic" feel. You're not scrolling through lists of effects, but selecting the vintage film camera you'd like to shoot with. The UI then becomes the camera (with various additional options appearing as buttons and switches), and you look down into the view finder as you snap away. Photos are then "developed" in the preview gallery where you can scroll through your attempts in a handheld dark room and share them out via Twitter, Facebook, and "Electronic Mail" - whatever that is.

In our testing, we had a few crashes, but not enough to detract from the fun value.

There's also a paid version with more cameras and features to choose from.


6. Action Snap




Action Snap is a bit different from the others on our list. It has a handful of filters, but the selling point here is the ability to grab a sequence of images and stitch them together automagically. This is great for objects or people in motion.

Set the automatic shutter interval anywhere between .01 and 5 seconds (or a custom speed that you can control manually) and start snapping your moving target. The app arranges the photos sequentially into panels or a grid. The dead-simple interface and lack of bells and whistles means you can focus on your subject in motion.


7. A World of Photo (Free)




A World of Photo is not your traditional box of digital filters. It's a social photo game with the potential to be a lot of fun and/or super creepy. Think of it as a mobile, photo-centric version of Chatroulette.

You can jump right in as a guest user or sign up for an account if you plan to play often. Wait to be "located" by another user (who will appear on the map in relation to you). Then it's up to you to snap a photo of anything (within the terms of use and common decency) and send it off to that user. The nice thing is that when you're ready to take a photo, it allows you to use Android's camera, or other photo apps you've already installed. I used Vignette to snap a photo of my coffee cup and send it out to "Guest 8244." I assume he or she enjoyed it immensely.

The recipient can comment or send feedback. When the exchange is done, the app locates someone else, and tasks them to send a pic to you. I received a horrifying photo of a giant insect crawling on someone's foot. Fun!

The interface is still a little rough. I attempted to email the bug-foot photo to myself, but the message came through without an attachment, and the horror was lost to the aether. Still, it's easy to see how a little time spent playing with this app could lead to a lot of time spent playing with this app.


8. Photo Illusion




This app doesn't actually take photos on its own - you'll need to access snaps from your gallery. Once you load them in, there are multitudes of effects you can apply. Some of them are a little goofy, but there's entertainment to be had with fisheyes and fun house-type mirrors. The above example uses a lomo filter and a mosaic pattern.


9. Roidizer




Want Polaroid-style pics without fuss? Grab this free app. The user experience could not be simpler, and the results are impressive.

Take your photo through the Polaroid viewfinder, watch it develop, and write the caption at the bottom in a variety of fonts. You can change the "film type" before or after you shoot, but the variations are simple and clean. Your pics are easy to save and share. The final resolution is decent, but not huge.


10. Camera360 Free




Last but certainly not least, Camera360 Free has a full buffet of effects, filters and styles to choose from, including a great tilt-shift option that is often lacking in other Android offerings. The UI has nice big buttons, and once you get into picture-taking mode, there are even more granular options to play with.

Sharing is a little buggy, but if you're looking for a wealth of photo options to experiment with, Camera360 (or its paid version) is a great choice.


Interested in more Android resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, g2710

More About: android, List, Lists, Photos, pics

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April 28 2011

5 Reasons You’re Consuming More Mobile Content


The Mobile Content Series is supported by Mygazines, the better way to enhance and distribute brochures, catalogues, magazines, reports and other documents on every device, including iPad, iPhone, Blackberry Playbook, Android and desktop. Learn more.

Whether it’s listening to the latest album using a subscription streaming service on your phone or reading the newest issue of a magazine on an iPad, users are spending more time consuming content on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

Browser usage statistics indicate that more users access the Internet using an iPad (not the iPhone or iPod touch, just the iPad) than using a Linux-based desktop computer system. This is a notable fact if only because the iPad has been on the market for a little more than a year and Linux has had nearly twenty years to develop a userbase on desktops, laptops and netbooks.

We know that consumers are accessing and consuming more mobile content than ever before, but why? We take a look at some of the biggest reasons why mobile content consumption is starting to explode.


1. Better Access to 3G and Beyond


In February, comScore released its 2010 “Mobile Year in Review” report. The report highlights some of the biggest trends in mobile and smartphone usage over the last year, including the surge in mobile media consumption.

ComScore attributed this surge not just to growing smartphone adoption, but also to 3G penetration and “unlimited” data plans. 3G is now nearly ubiquitous in many parts of the world, which means that the overall mobile content experience offers users fewer compromises.

Moreover, the big push towards 4G technologies ensures that consumers — even those in more rural areas — will have access to high-speed wireless Internet from their mobile devices in years to come.

Having faster, more reliable connections is crucial for content consumption. After all, that Internet video or interactive application isn’t going to be much good if the data connection harkens back to the days of dial-up. The better the bandwidth, the better the overall experience will be for users, which in turn fosters increased consumption.

Although comScore cites unlimited data plans as one of the drivers of mobile content consumption, we are seeing wireless carriers — at least in the United States — push back with more strict data limits. The downside of increased consumption is that it requires the network at large to be wide enough to support the consumption habits of many millions of users.


2. More Commercial Content Choices


Even if you disagree with Steve Jobs and his position on Flash and mobile devices, it’s hard to argue that Apple‘s decision to spurn Flash in iOS hasn’t been good for the mobile content ecosystem as a whole.

The success of the iPhone — and now the iPad — has given commercial content creators an incentive to make their commercial multimedia content accessible in mobile-friendly formats. Companies like Netflix, Hulu, Crackle and Vevo all have mobile apps or mobile-optimized video streams.

The rise of HTTP adaptive streaming has also allowed commercial video content companies to serve live or pre-recorded video to mobile consumers at bitrates that adapt to a user’s connection. This means that users can get the best quality video, whether they are connected through 3G or Wi-Fi.

The iPad is often referred to by executives in the TV industry as a “second screen” device. But after seeing how users engage with content formatted for the iPad (versus the same content on a computer or television), content companies are embracing tablets with full steam.

Plus, let’s face it, if I can watch an episode of Gossip Girl on my iPad with little fuss, it makes sense for me to do so. If I can pick up that same episode and watch it on the iPhone, even better.


3. Ubiquitous Connectivity


In addition to the growing adoption and penetration of 3G Internet, access to Wi-Fi hotspots continues to grow. Starbucks made Wi-Fi in all of its stores free last year, making the world’s best unofficial workplace that much more inviting.

And it’s not just coffee shops and airports that are embracing and providing Wi-Fi access — parks, municipalities and even doctor’s offices now often provide it. I have become so dependent on Delta’s in-flight Internet service that I feel lost if I take a flight with an airline that doesn’t have its fleet fitted with Wi-Fi in nearly every plane.


4. Better Content Formatting


Having more commercial content options on mobile devices is great, but a key reason that more content is being consumed on mobile devices is that publishers and producers are formatting that content with mobile devices and smartphones in mind.

The success of apps like Flipboard show that content is easier to consume when properly formatted for the device. As we’ve discussed at length, having a mobile-friendly website is quickly becoming a necessity for businesses and publishers large and small.

Consumption in the context of audio and video is on the rise, but the success of services like Instapaper and Readability proves that textual media is also ripe for consumption on mobile devices.


5. Social Networking Integration


An exciting mobile app trend that has emerged over the last six months is the rise of entertainment checkin services. Apps like Philo, Miso and GetGlue let users check in to content they are consuming on their mobile devices. That content might not necessarily be consumed on a mobile device, but these apps offer a great avenue for content discovery.

A growing number of applications also allow users to share content via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram. The advantage of these sharing tools is that users checking their Twitter feeds on a phone or tablet can find and save links to read later or videos to watch as they scan through their social networks.


How Much Mobile Content Do You Consume?


How much mobile content do you consume on your smartphone or tablet? What types of content do you most frequently access? Let us know in the comments.


Series Supported by Mygazines

This series is supported by Mygazines, an interactive marketing solution that lets you enhance, distribute and track your content on any web enabled device, including desktop, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones. Looks like an app, works on any browser. Learn more.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, webphotographeer.

More About: android, content, ipad, iphone, List, Lists, Mobile 2.0, Mobile Content Series, mobile phones, mobile video, smartphones

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