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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

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July 11 2011

WordPress Now Powers More Than 50 Million Sites

WordPress reaches 50 million websites

Open source blogging platform WordPress has reached an important milestone: It powers more than 50 million websites, about half of which are hosted on WordPress.com.

Also, more than 287 million people view more than 2.5 billion pages on WordPress.com each month and, on an average day, WordPress.com users create about 500,000 new posts and 400,000 new comments, according to WordPress’ official stats.

Recently, WordPress competitor Tumblr surpassed 20 million blogs, passing WordPress.com in terms of the number of blogs hosted on the platform.

However, unlike Tumblr, WordPress lets users install and use the platform on their own web host. Due to the simplicity and versatility of the platform, WordPress isn’t only used to power blogs, it can also be used for running various types of personal, business and community websites.

More About: blog, blogging, BLOGS, CMS, hosting, platform, WordPress

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May 27 2011

Can Crowdsourcing Make Any Dream Come True?

team image

When’s the last time you got something just because you asked for it? That’s the premise behind Wish Upon a Hero, an online platform that allows anyone to post — or grant — a wish.

It’s an interesting experiment in crowdsourced social good. After registering, anybody can post a wish for anything, whether it’s for a positive goal like sending a terminally ill child to camp or simply asking for help with rent. It is then up to the community at large to decide if and who it should help.

So far, the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Since Wish Upon a Hero launched in 2007, more than 77,000 wishes have been granted. These include paying for a leukemia patient’s “dream wedding,” an appliance retailer that donated a refrigerator to a single mom with a newborn, a man who bought uniforms for a local little league team, a group of eighth graders that helped a fellow student whose home was lost in a fire, and a plastic surgeon who helped an uninsured breast cancer survivor.

wish image

While many of the wishes have a financial element, even more are about connecting people with unique skills. For example, a wish to throw a ball in Yankee stadium could be fulfilled with buckets of cash, or by a kind stadium groundskeeper.

Anyone can search through a list of wishes by category such as “need” versus “want,” “disabilities,” “cause supported” and more. Wish granters can choose to help anonymously or to be recognized on the website.

What do you make of the platform? And how much can we trust the crowd to make the best decision? Let us know in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Flickr, bibendum84

More About: charity, crowdsourced, platform, social good, social media, wish

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April 07 2011

Android Will Rule Half of the Smartphone Market By 2012 [STUDY]

Following a similar recent prediction by IDC, market research firm Gartner has predicted big growth in the smartphone market in the next couple of years, with Symbian all but disappearing and Android leading the way.

Gartner predicts worldwide smartphone sales will reach 468 million units in 2011 and Android will command 38.5% of the smartphone market. By 2012, that rate will increase to 49.9%, but it will drop slightly to 48.8% by 2015.

This is where we get skeptical about predictions such as this one. Yes, based on Android’s track record it’s fairly safe to say that it will grow significantly in the next year or two, but we’d stop shy of saying that it will actually lose some of its projected market share three years later.

Symbian, now more or less abandoned by everyone, will lose a tremendous amount of market share in the next two years, ending with a meager 0.1% in 2015, Gartner predicts. Windows Phone 7, largely due to Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia, is predicted to grow to 10.8% market share in 2012 and should further increase to 19.5% in 2015.

Apple’s iOS is predicted to have a 17.2% market share in 2015, followed by BlackBerry with 11.1% and other platforms are predicted to have 3.3% market share.

Again — just like in IDC’s prediction — this positions Windows Phone 7 as the number two platform on the smartphone market, and again, we think that this is a very bold prediction. A lot can go wrong with Microsoft and Nokia’s partnership in the next couple of years, and Apple has been doing almost everything right when it comes to the iPhone and other iOS devices.

More About: android, BlackBery, Gartner, iOS, Mobile 2.0, platform, smartphone, Symbian, windows phone 7

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March 31 2011

Microsoft Shares WP7 Stats, Takes a Few Jabs at Other Platforms

One year after the initial launch of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft decided to share some stats about the platform on its Windows Phone Developer Blog.

Looking at the cold, hard numbers only, the stats look like this: 11,500 apps for the platform (7,500 of which are paid apps) and 36,000 developers (with 1,200 newly registered developers every week).

Windows Phone customers download an average of 12 apps each month. It takes 1.8 days, on average, for an app to get certified by Microsoft, and 62% of apps submitted get certified on their first attempt.

These figures sound solid but are still far behind Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS – for example, there are more than 300,000 apps for the iOS platform as of January 2011, and over 100,000 apps on the Android market as of October 2010.

Even if you count in the fact that the WP7 is younger than these two platforms, it’s still lagging behind; for example, iOS reached 100,000 apps in 15 months.

However, Microsoft’s Brandon Watson doesn’t really like the methodology used by some other platforms when counting apps.

“We recognize the importance of getting great apps on our platform and not artificially inflating the number of actual apps available to customer by listing “wallpapers” as a category, or perhaps allowing competitor’s apps to run on the platform to increase “tonnage.” We also don’t believe in the practice of counting “lite” apps as unique quality content. (…) Finally, we don’t double and triple count apps which are submitted in multiple languages.,” he explains in the blog post.

What do you think? Are the numbers of apps on Android and iOS inflated? Please, share your opinions in the comments.

[Windows Phone Developer Blog]

More About: microsoft, Mobile 2.0, platform, smartphone, windows phone 7, wp7

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March 25 2011

In-App Purchases Coming to Android Next Week

Following in the footsteps of Apple, which enabled the feature in iOS back in June 2009, Google’s Android will be getting in-app purchases next week.

This means that Android app developers will be able to charge users for goods and services from within the app, which opens up new, lucrative sources of income. One iOS-based study showed that in-app purchases yield more revenue than mobile ads, with average monthly revenue per user being close to $8, compared to roughly $1 of revenue per user from advertising.

Developers will be able to upload apps during the test development phase, but they won’t be able to publish them until the full launch of the feature, which is slated to happen next week.

More About: android, Google, in-app purchases, Mobile 2.0, platform, smartphone

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March 08 2011

Android Overtakes BlackBerry As the Top U.S. Smartphone Platform [REPORT]

The trend was obvious for quite some time, and now it finally happened: Android is the most popular smartphone platform among U.S. subscribers.

According to comScore’s data, Google’s Android rose from 23.5% market share in October 2010 to 31.2% in January 2011, enough to securely grab first place from RIM’s BlackBerry, which fell 35.8% in October 2010 to 30.4% in January 2011. A recent report from Nielsen also claimed that Android is now the number one smartphone platform in the U.S., albeit with slightly different numbers.

Apple’s iOS experienced a minute growth in the same period: from 24.6% to 24.7%, while Microsoft and Palm continued losing market share, ending at 8.0% and 3.2%, respectively.

Recent data from Canalys showed that Android is also the world’s most popular smartphone platform, and with the onslaught of Android smartphones this year, we’re sure that Android will continue doing well throughout 2011.

[via comScore]

More About: android, blackberry, ComScore, iOS, platform, smartphone

For more Mobile coverage:

February 11 2011

February 10 2011

Gartner: Symbian Is Still the Number One Smartphone Platform [REPORT]

A recent report from Canalys touted Android as the top smartphone platform in Q4 2010, but a new report from Gartner disputes that claim.

According to Gartner, Symbian barely edged out Android in the fourth quarter with the help of Symbian-based products by Fujitsu and Sharp, and legacy products from Sony Ericsson and Samsung.

The trend, however, is clear in both reports. According to Gartner, Android grew 888.8 percent in 2010 with 67 million units sold, which made it the number-two smartphone platform. Nokia’s Symbian is still in first place with 111.6 million units sold in 2010, but it’s not growing fast enough to keep up with the exploding smartphone market, which is why it dropped from 46.9% market share in 2009 to 37.6% in 2010.

Another winner besides Android in 2010 was Apple’s iOS, which nearly caught up with RIM’s BlackBerry OS, with 15.7% market share and 46.6 million units sold compared to RIM’s 16% share and 47.5 million units sold.

In the near future, Symbian’s market share will surely drop some more. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced radical changes with his “Burning Platform” memo several days ago, and a recent tweet by Google’s Vic Gundotra (claiming that “two turkeys do not make an eagle”) fuel speculation that Nokia is about to embrace Microsoft’s mobile platform, Windows Phone 7.

With 4.2% market share in 2010, Microsoft is still tiny compared to its competitors, but with Nokia on its side, it might become a formidable player in the smartphone market. However (and if Nokia really plans to team up with Microsoft and switch to Windows Phone 7), many questions remain unanswered. For a huge company such as Nokia switching to yet another smartphone platform will likely be a painful process, and it might take months or even years before we see the results of Nokia’s change in strategy.

One thing is certain: the table above will change dramatically by the end of 2011.

Gartner’s report is available here.

More About: android, Gartner, platform, smartphone, Symbian

For more Mobile coverage:

January 31 2011

Android Is Now the Most Popular Smartphone Platform [REPORT]

Google’s mobile platform Android has overtaken Symbian to become the top smartphone platform in Q4 2010, research firm Canalys reports.

Global sales of Android phones in the fourth quarter of 2010 was 33.3 million, compared to Symbian’s 31 million. Apple is in third place with 16.2 million iOS-based smartphones shipped, followed by RIM with 14.6 million and Microsoft with 3.1 million devices shipped.

Overall, the global smartphone market grew 89% compared to Q4 2009, exceeding 100 million units for the first time in the final quarter of 2010.

Android has been embraced by manufacturers such as LG, Samsung, Acer and HTC, all of them experiencing great results with devices based on that platform.

The change at the top was expected as Nokia recently reported comparably weak smartphone sales, a result of the company’s struggles to transform its Symbian platform into a worthy competitor to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

[via Canalys]

More About: android, Google, Nokia, platform, smartphone, Symbian

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October 24 2010

Groupon Adds Self-Serve Deal Platform, Says It’s the “Future”

Groupon is testing a new feature called Groupon Stores, which allows local businesses to create Facebook-like pages where fans can follow them and access deals. The businesses can add their own deals, bypassing Groupon’s long waiting lines in each city, but do they have more than enough to keep track of already?

Each business that signs up receives its own page with a web address that begins “groupon.com/merchants/” and can offer details about itself along with deals similar to those hosted on the main section of the Groupon website. Only a few businesses are testing out the feature at present.

Despite the small scale of the roll-out, Groupon describes Stores as “the future of Groupon” on its website. This would seem to imply that someone at the startup believes that these selve-serve deals and pages may eventually eclipse Groupon’s featured daily deals.

Certainly, Groupon has been bottle-necked somewhat because it can’t serve every business that wants to offer a deal to its local community. According to the yipit blog that uncovered this, only one in seven businesses that apply to offer Groupon deals are accepted even though Groupon now offers several deals at once in some of its bigger cities.

The followable pages seem to emulate social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook which have been a huge boon for many local businesses, but Groupon is only barely a social platform at present so the benefits are not entirely clear yet. Furthermore, it’s getting ridiculous just how many services local businesses have to consider now — Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, Google Maps and Groupon. Not every business owner has the time or resources to maintain a presence on all of those.

Still, it’s something to watch because we can picture big things for this feature in the future if it’s executed well enough.

More About: deals, group buying, groupon, groupon stores, platform, startups

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May 11 2010

LittleBigPlanet 2 Encourages Social Gamers to Create [VIDEO]

Sony-owned game development studio Media Molecule has announced LittleBigPlanet 2, the sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed video games ever made. Expect it to launch exclusively on the PlayStation 3 by the end of the year.

Like its predecessor, the game will borrow ideas from social media, YouTube and the web in general to facilitate a community of players who play, create and share their own gaming experiences online. This title will take the original’s creativity to a new level, so to speak.

LittleBigPlanet was part of a genre called “platform” games. The genre includes Super Mario Bros. and other titles that involve jumping around to avoid or defeat enemies and navigate levels. However, Media Molecule says the sequel is not just a platform game, but “a platform for games.” It ships with robust tools that players can use to create their own games, levels, songs, movies and works of art and share them through the PlayStation Network.

The Platform Game Platform for Games

In LittleBigPlanet 2, you will be able to share content directly to your friends or browse a cloud of tags just like you would on content-sharing websites like Flickr and YouTube. Levels and other content will be tagged and rated by the players who try them out. You’ll have the option to sort through the most popular and most highly rated stuff that users create.

Once you find a game or level you’re interested in, you’ll play it either alone or with friends who are online.

The original LittleBigPlanet — which garnered a “universal acclaim” Metacritic rating of 95 — included many of these web and social media-inspired features, but it limited players to creating Mario-style levels.

That didn’t stop players from coming up with creative and unexpected applications, though. One player created a fully-functioning calculator using interconnected components that towered into the digital sky. Others made musical compositions by lining up sound effect triggers through which any player could run.

The sequel’s tools will be greatly expanded to encourage this kind of creativity; they’ll enable users to create experiences that aren’t platform games and compose musical pieces and video presentations. The calculator that took up an entire level in the first LittleBigPlanet will fit on a small, in-game microchip of sorts, just one piece of a larger level. All of the two million LittleBigPlanet levels will continue to be playable in the sequel, too.

Media Molecule released a trailer and several screen shots to accompany the announcements. And the song in the trailer is “Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit in case you were wondering!

Announcement Trailer


For more technology coverage, follow Mashable Tech on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Reviews: Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, mario

Tags: littlebigplanet 2, media molecule, platform, playstation 3, PS3, sony, video games

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