Archive for February, 2012

Russian Mogul Plans to Plant Our Brains in Robots and Keep Them Alive Forever [Video]

The Pentagon's new Avatar project, unveiled by Danger Room a few weeks back, sounds freaky enough: Soldiers practically inhabiting the bodies of robots, who'd act as "surrogates" for their human overlords in battle. More »


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Katie Drummond--Wired

February 29th

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Business Data Reporting In 5-10 Minutes, Not Days. Facebook Rolls Out Real-Time Insights

Real Time Insights Confirmed Done

Facebook has just confirmed my scoop from last week, announcing its business performance metrics tool Page Insights will start reporting data with a latency of 5-10 minutes, not two or more days. It will open new tactics for marketers such as amplifying a well-performing post’s reach with ads, or deleting one receiving negative feedback before it can trigger Unlikes or a PR crisis.

Insights Product Manager David Baser tells me real-time Insights will roll out globally over the next two weeks, and I think the way it ties to Sponsored Stories ads could boost Facebook’s revenues. Impressions, clicks, negative feedback instantly. Data wizards rejoice!

Baser explained to me that the old Insights product was:

“pretty slow for optimizing based on real-time feedback from your audience. You’d make post, then a few days later the data’s available,  you download it, performs analysis in Excel, look at charts, come up with a theory about how the post did, share that data with the people running social strategy, then maybe for their next post 4-5 days [after the original post], heres something we can do next week.”

Frankly, Insights kind of sucked. Users were viewing posts, clicking on links, watching videos, and marking posts as spam seconds after a post was published. However, you couldn’t measure, amplify, or mute a post until it was largely too late.

But soon, hundreds of data points about Page posts will appear in Insights just minutes after a post hits the news feed. These include how many views, clicks, media consumptions, and spam marks. De-duplicated stats will appear in real-time too, such total reach and “people talking about this” which were previously delayed by several hours. Unfortunately, Page-level data aggregations will still be delayed a few days.

A Facebook spokesperson outlined the core advantages of real-time Insights for Page admins and marketers:

  • They can promote the most engaging Page posts by pinning them, putting media behind them, and creating more of them, thereby increasing reach and impact
  • They can quickly recognize posts that aren’t performing as well and update them or post new content

Baser beamed “Having those real-time breakouts will be a big win from people trying to get the most of out of their Page.” Plus, Page admins will be just a few clicks away from paying Facebook for ad distribution that could turn a strong post into a bonafide phenomenon.

Check out the rest of our Facebook Marketing Conference coverage:
Facebook Opens Timeline To All Biz Pages, Mandatory After 30 Days Of Curation

How To Use Facebook Timeline For Brand Pages: New Feature Details

Facebook Timeline For Pages Kills Crucial Marketing Feature: Default Landing Tabs

Liveblogging Facebook’s Marketing Keynote With Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook Reveals Mobile News Feed Ads and Massive Logout Page Ads

Your Average Facebook Post Only Reaches 16% Of Your Friends



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Josh Constine

February 29th

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Redirect the Sun’s Rays With This Solar-Powered Self-Controlled Mirror [Solar]

Instead of an electricity generating solar panel, a motorized sun-bouncing mirror known as a heliostat is another approach to solar-powered lighting. And for just $400 the SunFlower will redirect up to 50,000 lumens of sunlight directly into your home. More »


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Andrew Liszewski

February 29th

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Redirect the Sun’s Rays With This Solar-Powered Self-Controlled Mirror [Solar]

Instead of an electricity generating solar panel, a motorized sun-bouncing mirror known as a heliostat is another approach to solar-powered lighting. And for just $400 the SunFlower will redirect up to 50,000 lumens of sunlight directly into your home. More »


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Andrew Liszewski

February 29th

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It’s A Mighty Hard Road To App Store Success

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A bit of news that squeaked out during the Win8 festivities was the launch of the Microsoft app store. In the version of the software I was using, the app has always been there but it wasn’t available until today. To be clear, the app store here is still in its absolute infancy and is, at best, a hall of demos for various app providers.

The real test of Windows 8 will be the adoption of the OS’s new design paradigms. While everyone will eventually have to fix their apps to reflect Win8′s major architecture changes, there is going to be a lot of hand-holding until the Win9 (potentially) destroys all vestigial Windows cruft. For example, Windows 8 still uses a legacy version of the registry inside Windows 8, a necessary evil required by many applications. Many apps won’t be able to update to Win8 UI standards and many more apps won’t trickle over to the Microsoft app store. It’s this disconnect that will challenge Windows 8 in the first few years of life.

Microsoft knows this yet the Windows business model won’t allow for anything different. The biggest complaint non-die-hards will have with Win8 is the dependence on the old Windows XP desktop. When I asked the Microsoft spokesfolks about this, they explained that the desktop experience was still the best way to interact with files on a general purpose computer, a concept that Microsoft is surely hoping will go away over the next few years.

The real problem, then, will be app store adoption and, more important, the desire by devs to program for Metro as opposed to “Windows” as we once knew it. Metro will require a new set of tools as well as a new aesthetic and the vector-based graphics do not lend themselves to the usual Windows monstrosities in-house programming teams have been rolling out over the past decade. User experience, once a second or third tier concern, is now at the forefront and the crutch of XP mode will reduce the impetus of the average programmer to really ramp up these dormant skills.

All is not lost. Microsoft has a lot of money and they’ve been evangelizing their new platform to programmers, both desktop and mobile, by offering test hardware and cash incentives. The Metro UI also lends itself to “mini-apps” (Twitter clients, email apps, etc.) that, for the time being, are being built in Adobe Air, and games like Cut the Rope. The hardest thing will be to recreating the experience of dragging and dropping lots of files from place to place and editing major documents in Windows 8, another reason the XP mode is important.

In the end, Microsoft is facing a hard, long road. They have an entrenched user base and an entrenched system for the distribution of apps. Unlike their mobile offerings, people have been installing the same apps the same way since time immemorial. To change the way Windows works so drastically – from the way programmers program to the way users interact with applications to the way those applications are sold – is a bold endeavor and one fraught with peril. It will take quite a while, but rest assured Microsoft will force everyone to move over to their new way of thinking. The question is how long will it take for these changes to become generally accepted and how often will people throw their hands up in exasperation when things aren’t working like they “used to?”

Click to view slideshow.


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John Biggs

February 29th

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Prehistoric Fleas Would Probably Eat Your Dog If They Still Existed [Insects]

Their descendants are happy to just suck blood and pass along parasites to small mammals, but the hugeprehistoric fleas from 165 million years ago were equipped with saw-like projections around their mouth—for penetrating thick dino hides—that would probably make short work of a Chihuahua. More »


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Andrew Liszewski

February 29th

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Prehistoric Fleas Would Probably Eat Your Dog If They Still Existed [Insects]

Their descendants are happy to just suck blood and pass along parasites to small mammals, but the hugeprehistoric fleas from 165 million years ago were equipped with saw-like projections around their mouth—for penetrating thick dino hides—that would probably make short work of a Chihuahua. More »


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Andrew Liszewski

February 29th

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$35 Raspberry Pi Linux PC pre-orders sell out in less than a day

As promised, the $35 Raspberry Pi Linux computer was made available for pre-order on Wednesday. The single-board computer is equipped with a 700MHz processor, 256MB of RAM, SD card support, two USB ports, an Ethernet hookup and both HDMI and RCA outputs. Despite the low cost and small size — which is roughly equal to a credit card — the Raspberry Pi computer is powerful enough to run games such as Quake III Arena and power 1080p video. Additionally, the cheaper Model A unit, which removes the Ethernet hookup and a USB port, received an increase from 128MB to 256MB of RAM and will be on sale later this year. “Raspberry Pi provides a revolutionary low cost platform, which opens up programming to a whole new audience,” the company said in a press release. “We are very honoured to have been chosen to work with the Foundation as a distribution partner at the launch of this exciting new tool.” Users interested in the device will have to be patient, however. The Raspberry Pi Twitter account confirmed that Farnell’s stock was depleted after less than a day of pre-order availability, and further inventory is expected in about a month. Read on for the company’s press release.

RS Components Announces Launch of Raspberry Pi $35 Computer

New low cost credit card sized computer now available to pre-order from RS websites

OXFORD, England–(BUSINESS WIRE)–RS Components (RS), the trading brand of Electrocomponents plc (LSE:ECM), the world’s leading high service distributor of electronics and maintenance products, today announced that the revolutionary credit card sized single-board computer from the Raspberry Pi Foundation is now available to pre-order from RS websites around the world. Created for educators, programmers, developers and IT enthusiasts, the kits can be pre-ordered at rswww.com.

“Raspberry Pi provides a revolutionary low cost platform, which opens up programming to a whole new audience. We are very honoured to have been chosen to work with the Foundation as a distribution partner at the launch of this exciting new tool.”

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity established to promote the development of computer development skills in education across the globe. Its vision is for Raspberry Pi to provide budding IT developers and programmers with a base platform to exploit the full power and potential of computing within the Linux environment, at a remarkably low cost. As such, Raspberry Pi computers act as an enabler for the next generation of programmers to enter the IT industry.

RS was selected as a distribution partner for Raspberry Pi because, in the eyes of the Foundation, it connects with engineers across the globe throughout their careers. As such, the company is well positioned to provide Raspberry Pi adopters with support, advice and access to additional resources as they embark on new development activities. It was particularly impressed with the DesignSpark community and resources provided for new developers working on Open Source designs.

“RS has always been a trusted and reliable partner for engineers across the globe. The RS DesignSpark community and their free PCB design software connects with engineers throughout their career, and is being adopted by many universities around the world,” said Eben Upton, founder and trustee of Raspberry Pi. “This ethos of providing resources for engineers, along with the company’s support for open source design, makes RS the ideal distribution partner for Raspberry Pi.”

Glenn Jarrett, Head of Marketing, Electronics, at RS Components, added, “Raspberry Pi provides a revolutionary low cost platform, which opens up programming to a whole new audience. We are very honoured to have been chosen to work with the Foundation as a distribution partner at the launch of this exciting new tool.”

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Dan Graziano

February 29th

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Foursquare Is Doing Big Things, So Existing Investor Spark Capital Buys $50M Of Employee Stock

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Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley spent this afternoon in Barcelona, explaining his location company’s potential to Mobile World Conference attendees. Someone else didn’t need to hear the presentation, though. Existing investor Spark Capital is buying $50 million worth of its stock, according to sources, in a deal to provide at least some employees with liquidity.

The result is a valuation north of of the already-impressive $600 million from its last round, I’ve heard. This is even though the company continues to focus on product development instead of trying to maximize revenue.

So what’s making investors excited? Well, the location app appears to be doing a lot of things right, despite the questions some have asked about its still-nascent business model. While Foursquare might not be the biggest social network in the world, the data it does have, and the ecosystem that is growing around it, makes for a promising story.

“Everyone thinks of Foursquare as check-ins and badges,” Crowley said at the conference today. “No, no. We’re recycling data and making recommendations for the real world.”

One example of what Crowley’s talking about here involves Foursquare’s new “Explore” feature, which recently arrived in the company’s mobile applications. Essentially a local recommendations guide, Foursquare Explore allows users to discover nearby restaurants, bars, coffee shops, nightlife spots, and other venues, either by category, name, or even something more specific, like “sushi” or “hamburgers.” The feature taps into Foursquare’s own social graph in order to recommend places your friends have visited and liked, while also providing tips and comments from Foursquare’s wider network. Initially, Explore was limited to making recommendations around your exact location, but with the most recent update, it now allows you to find recommended places anywhere in the world either by moving the map around on the screen or by typing in an exact location.

To date, Foursquare’s 15 million registered users have checked in 1.5 billion times, which in turn has generated rich information about some 750,000 restaurants and other venues. The company is working on creating visualizations of this data on any map, so users can see places nearby that they might want to go.

For businesses, it can break down visitor demographics for individual stores, letting them better tailor their wares to their customers. And, it’s of course also been busy running its coupons via its American Express deal from last year. And for developers, it can provide data via its API, which is already used by popular mobile applications like Instagram and Path.

However, the company only says that “we can’t comment on funding matters.”

And a closing note: TechCrunch writer Ingrid Lunden did an interview with Crowley at MWC today (which is not how we got this story), and she’ll be following this up with another post once she gets off the plane back to London.



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Eric Eldon

February 29th

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Your Average Facebook Post Only Reaches 16% Of Your Friends

Lonely On Facebook

You’re not unpopular, it’s just the nature of the news feed. Amongst all the business-related news at FMC, Facebook revealed that the average news feed story from a user profile reaches just 16 percent of their friends. Your actively shared links, photos, and status updates probably reach much higher than 16 percent of your friends, while more inane auto-generated posts about new friendships, wall posts, and articles you read may only be seen by your closest buddies.

Overall, this is actually a good thing, because the reduced visibility of irrelevant content makes room for what you want to see. But don’t be alarmed if all your friends don’t like that awesome concert photo, they may just be offline.

After his Q&A session about ads during the Facebook Marketing Conference, I followed up with Boland, asking if the 16 percent average distribution rate hampered communication. He defended Facebook’s news feed, saying “No, there are pieces of content you create that are interesting, and there’s some that are not.” And the 16 percent doesn’t just apply to users. Business Pages have the same average reach, which is why Facebook is launching its new “Reach Generator” to help marketers buy extra distribution of their Page posts on the ads sidebar, in the web and mobile news feed, and even on the logout page.

The stat from Director of Product Marketing Brian Boland was backed up by VP Chris Cox who said this holds true “in aggregate across all profiles, all types of content, all interactions, all ages, and all demographics.” By reducing the reach of low relevance posts, Facebook leaves news feed space for compelling wedding photos, new job announcements, funny videos, and urgent questions. Still, it means the ambient intimacy of the news feed can’t completely replace the reliability for direct communication.

Check out the rest of our Facebook Marketing Conference coverage:
Facebook Opens Timeline To All Biz Pages, Mandatory After 30 Days Of Curation

How To Use Facebook Timeline For Brand Pages: New Feature Details

Facebook Timeline For Pages Kills Crucial Marketing Feature: Default Landing Tabs

Liveblogging Facebook’s Marketing Keynote With Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook Reveals Mobile News Feed Ads and Massive Logout Page Ads

Business Data Reporting In 5-10 Minutes, Not Days. Facebook Rolls Out Real-Time Insights



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Josh Constine

February 29th

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