martes, 30 de abril de 2013

Meritful Launches A Student CRM Platform To Help Recruiters Keep Tabs On Campus Talent

College recruiting is becoming increasingly competitive. Companies have begun to realize that top graduates not only bring a lot of talent and energy to the table, but they also tend to cost less than more experienced prospects. But in order to successfully woo those fortunate enough to have their pick, businesses need to begin the recruiting process earlier. If they're going to stand a chance, they have to build long-term, non-spammy relationships with students and educate them on the opportunities and culture unique to their business.

This is especially true for startups and SMBs, which usually lack the campus mindshare (and budget) of the Googles and Facebooks of the world. University of Michigan and UPenn alums Azarias Reda and Lander Garcia are launching Meritful at TechCrunch Disrupt NY today to provide startups and SMBs with a solution to this recruiting problem.

Essentially, Meritful aims to help the little guys start winning the Talent Wars by enabling them to build long-term relationships with top grads. To follow through on this mission, the Michigan-based startup wants to address two unique features of college recruiting.

First, when companies visit campuses for career fairs and information sessions, they meet a lot of students. Second, those prospects remain in the pipeline for a number of years before they are actually ready to apply for a job. To solve these two problems, Meritful is building a student-centric CRM platform that helps recruiting teams build and mange their relationships with students over time, starting early in their careers.

In an effort to create a simple, one-to-many method to engage students, the platform allows recruiters to invite their best student prospects to connect with current employees or alumni of the company. For example, a company can create challenges for students to work on, providing a way to directly test students for certain aptitudes or skills.


On the flip side, the platform lets students showcase projects they are working on using multimedia displays, or ask pertinent questions to alumni from their school or those who've worked in their prospective, future role. This allows companies to use their best ambassadors, their employees, to show off who they are, how they're different and help them find students who are the right fit.

As to how it works: When a company signs up on Meritful, recruiting teams are asked to choose some of the employees at the company to become ambassadors and invite them to the platform. These ambassadors can be other recruiters, engineers or alumni. When companies meet promising students at career fairs or through their student career pages, they invite prospective students to connect with them on Meritful.

Once connected, companies can then interact with students and keep tabs on the projects they're working on, their challenges, successes and so on. They can also create challenges for students to work on, which could be programming, design, business or research-related, to which students can submit solutions, while interacting with ambassadors in the process. The idea is for this to become another way for recruiters to find the best talent, and the right match.


Similar to portfolio platforms like Pathbrite, students can showcase projects they're working on — in or outside of class — and ask for feedback from ambassadors. They can use source code, pictures or video to describe the projects, giving companies a fuller picture of their academic and professional abilities. Recruiters can also engage students through Q&As and share content and, over time, can keep track of their progress, projects and completed challenges, for example.

Prior to launching at Disrupt, Meritful spent six months in private beta, working with companies like Twilio and Cengage learning. Going forward, co-founders Reda (who previously worked at LinkedIn) and Lander Coronado-Garcia (ex-Accenture) say that they'll be looking to build out its roster of companies and build out its student engagement tools.

Meritful recently won a startup competition at SXSW, taking home $100K in prizes, and will be looking to begin raising its seed round this summer.


Megan Quinn: Will you use this for internships?

A: One of the pools of students we want to engage with, want to help them build relationships with students from the beginning so they don't necessarily have to be interns.

Hilary Mason: What kind of tracking and data collection will you include?

A: Tracking how long a student stays at a company, how well that company retains their talent, ongoing recruiting is definitely part of the plan.

John Frankel: What's the breakdown of internships to full-time hires?

A: Either way you slice it, the key to Meritful is matching the best talent to the right company. We want companies to use this for internships, but also want it to breed full-time hires as well to build value for the company over the long-run.

AppArchitect Lets Anyone Build iOS Apps, No Coding Or Templates Necessary

Easy app creation, outside of the land of Ruby and Python, has become a huge phenomenon in the last year. And the latest company to join the fold,AppArchitect, is launching straight from our Disrupt NY stage.

AppArchitect lets you build custom iPhone and iPad apps using a simple drag-and-drop interface. That's right — you need zero coding experience to build your own iPhone app. It's a brand new world.

Once you log in to the AppArchitect system, you'll be asked whether you want to make an iPad or iPhone app. From there, you head straight into a dashboard complete with a Screens tab, Library tab with default background and picture options, and a Properties tab where you can handle styling. You can drag and drop backgrounds, images, add text, maps, or links.

From there, you can test and review your app before submitting it to the App Store for approval.

According to co-founder Ilya Zatulovskiy, AppArchitect is unique within the competitive landscape because there are no templates in the entire system. Of course, the downside here is that n00bs looking to explore app creation will need their own unique idea in mind before trying to build.

Still, the template-free model gives aspiring entrepreneurs and creative explorers as much freedom as a true, coding app developer. In fact, one of the few apps you probably couldn't build within the platform would be a game. "The platform is fully extendable," said Zatulovskiy. "Since each plugin is written in Objective C, any feature requirements can be implemented via our SDK."

The idea for AppArchitect started at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon in 2011, where the first lines of code were written. Since then, the company went through the DreamIt Ventures accelerator and so far raised a total of $325,000 from Actinic Ventures, BHV, DreamIt Ventures and angel investors, with plans to raise another round soon.

The app creation industry has been blowing up lately. Services like Appy Couple and Yapp have been focused on niche use cases, such as weddings or events. On the other side of the spectrum, Kleverbeast is using similar drag and drop tools to build all kinds of personal apps in a snap.

However, AppArchitect is one of the first services to offer web-based tools without any of the limitations of a template-based system. The company has been in a private beta for the past 4 months with over 400 testers using the service, but today it's open to everyone.

At launch, the AppArchitect service will remain free for the first few months. The business model includes a publishing fee to send the app to the App Store, and potential for subscription services for apps that use push notifications, backend services or analytics.

Professional monthly plans that offer access to everything for a flat monthly fee are also in the works.

For now, AppArchitect is only available for iOS but will expand to Android and other platforms soon.


Q: Who are you selling this product to?

A: We want to focus on design agencies and marketing firms who already have existing clients. We see ourselves as fitting in with the same group of people who use PowerPoint and PhotoShop.

Q: In the past few years I've seen similar presentations. How do you differentiate?

A: We want to partner with the leading companies that already have relationships with existing customers. Museums and galleries are a big focus for us, as we already have partnerships with 100 museums in eight countries. We want to leverage industries that have little technical experience but relationships with big companies.

Q: What's the pricing structure?

A: It will be free for the next few months. You can use the Express package, which lets us publish for you under our account. There are also Professional packages that lets you publish under your own account.

Q: What is the consumption experience?
A: It's a browser software as a service. (he seemed to misunderstand the question)

Q: The falls into the service as a software company. We tend to have trouble investing lots of Venture in companies like this because it's difficult to scale. That said, how do you feel about taking outside money?
A: It's all about making big bets on what you think will be the next big thing. Years ago, the people who built web publishing platforms had huge exits. If I believe in mobile, I think AppArchitect will be a big opportunity for our company and the industry as a whole.

Q: How is the platform evolving?
A: We want to extend it to other developers to build on top of it. We want to make sure there is a community of developers offering up a huge number of templates and themes.

The Remixed Love Story of Downton Abbey's Mary and Matthew

Who says high society has no passionate love affairs?

Matthew and Mary Crawley, of the British period drama Downton Abbey, are the Romeo and Juliet (or Ross and Rachel, for our modern readers) of the BBC. Their love story is one of the greatest joys for viewers, transcending the usual uptightness of the aristocratic Crawley family.

Relive the highs and lows of the duo's romance from the past three seasons in this love duet, remixed by YouTuber Edgar Camago. Prepare to cry — we're willing to bet even the Dowager Countess of Grantham would shed a (very small) tear while watching this montage.

*Warning: This video contains Season 2 spoilers.

Image courtesy of YouTube, Edgar Camago.

Anatomy of a smartphone photo (take 2)

The first part in this series tackled this moody steam scene:

Example photo

For the second part, I wanted to try something a little brighter, helped by Spring arriving in the UK, here's my shot, click it to download the original or enlarge it in your browser:

Example photo, click to download or enlarge

Not wishing to seem too boastful, but this shot was done in 20 seconds, in one go. In other words, unlike with the steam scene, I didn't think I needed multiple 'takes'. I was in the park with family, saw the great light and super daffodils, crouched down, took the shot and moved on. After a while, you'll develop the same feel for framing and light, hopefully, and you'll instinctively know what will come out well and what won't.

As with the first part in this series, let's take the various aspects of the shot in turn.


In this case we had a patch of flowers in partial shade, with sunny background and a single flower lit by a shaft of sunlight, behind me and to the left. Ancient photographic wisdom says to have the sun in the hemisphere behind you for best results and this definitely applies to phone-shot snaps, since the thin devices we currently sport have very limited protection from the sun's rays creeping into the camera glass and causing unwanted reflections and 'flares' in the final photo.

I was shooting on the Nokia 808 in this case, which is somewhat notorious for not handling very bright spots on an image well (at least not without manual fiddling, e.g. to exposure or scene mode) and there are certainly some very bright spots on the daffodil, but I think I just about got away with it in full 'auto' mode. Having a phone camera with integral HDR would be handy here, I think (though see the section on 'Motion' below).

Position and framing

Obviously, the main subject is the gorgeous flower, but having just this in the centre and not much room for anything else - or having it small in the frame amidst a lot of other floral detail - would be too blatant - or too distracting. You'll often hear about the 'rule of thirds', which I interpret to mean that if the framing of a shot isn't obvious then aim to have the main subject one third the way from left to right (or vice versa) - it's usually evident which way to go (which way is the subject 'facing').

I then crouched down to the same level as the daffodil, so that it would appear with no tilting (as you'd get if snapping from slightly above). To avoid focussing on the centre of the frame, in the background, I focussed on the flower by tapping it explicitly, though I could have done the same on many phones by focussing with the flower at the centre and then reframing the shot before taking the final picture.

Depth of field

Taking macro shots is something that most modern smartphone cameras do well and if you go to extremes (in terms of the difference in distance between the subject and background - or vice versa) then you can even get some 'depth of field' (this is a typical 'bokeh' shot), with the flower here in perfect focus and the background gently blurred. Very artistic.

In fact, because I was using the Nokia 808, I had both good news and bad news to contend with. Its large lens makes depth of field smaller and 'bokeh' easier to obtain, but on the other hand it has issues focussing closer than about 20cm. For the 808-only, the trick is to stay at 20cm, but then use some of the PureView lossless zoom (which runs up to 3x) to appear to get closer. For the shot above, I estimate I was zoomed in by 2x. And no, don't try digital zoom on any other current device!


The heading might seem strange, given that I was photographing a flower, but in fact motion was a real problem here. Most obviously, flowers are very light and they're always bobbing around to some degree in the breeze - they're rarely still enough to take a 'dead cert' photo. Yes, the shutter speed in good light, for any phone camera, is going to be quite fast, perhaps a hundredth of a second or faster, but if the subject's moving in the wind then there will still be a little motion blur if you look closely.

What with me being a perfectionist, I used the simple trick of getting someone else (in this case my nephew) to hold the stem of the flower, just out of shot, to try and keep it still in the breeze. It still moved slightly, so I also timed the shot for when I sensed there was a small lull in the wind.

Finally, there's the motion of the phone camera too. This was on the Nokia 808, which doesn't have the Lumia 920's Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), so I had to be careful not to 'jerk' at the shutter key. Happily, I've got quite practised at this by now. And, of course, my body had to be still, so it's always worth standing or sitting as 'stably' as you can, giving yourself the best chance of the camera unit in the phone also ending up shooting from a stationary position.


If all the above thoughts and notes seem over the top or burdensome to you, note that they become second nature once you're more experienced. In practice, I noticed the flower(s), took out my Nokia smartphone, crouched down and (with the help of the extra hand mentioned above) took the shot, taking a total of twenty seconds at most.

Hopefully some of this has given you a few ideas for your next outing with your own trusty camera-equipped smartphone, anyway. Watch this space in a few months time for a third part in this series.

6 Coffee Apps to Help You Savor Every Sip

Coffee is just a means to an end for some; it's a way to wake up and stay that way. But to others, coffee is a way of life, an art form, a drink to be savored with each sip. Here are six of our favorite apps for coffee making and drinking.

Although coffee and technology haven't always been a great match (think pourover coffee fanatics who do everything by hand), at April's Specialty Coffee Association of America Expo in Boston, a new piece of tech was what generated the most buzz. The Modbar could transform the modern coffee bar. The laboratory-like system hides all but the coffee, milk and water taps under the counter. The system is both modular and customizable and uses a touchscreen to control all of the elements.

Technology has advanced the art of coffee making on a smaller scale as well –- from apps that help you find a local fair-trade-grown cup o' joe, to those with timers and video tutorials for making coffee drinks at home. Read about a few of them in the slideshow above.

Do you have a coffee app that you love? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, creacart

Virtusize Brings Its Virtual Fitting Solution To The UK, Signs Deal With Fashion Retailer ASOS

There are an abundance of startups trying to solve the problem of how to "try on" clothes online, with a range of different approaches and technology — a competition we've previously likened to a space race where nobody has yet landed on the moon. Today, Virtusize launches its virtual fitting solution in the UK via a partnership with ASOS. After a successful six month trial, the "Fit Vitualiser" button is initially being rolled out on the product pages of over 2,000 of the online fashion retailer's own brand clothes.

Shunning's 3D modeled approach which uses robots or something like Metail that enables a shopper to upload and see a 3D visualisation of themselves in order to virtually dress up in potential purchases, Virtusize lets customers to compare specific measurements of an item they are looking to buy with a similar item they already own. By displaying and overlaying 2D silhouettes of both garments, the startup says that customers can more accurately compare sizes and, ultimately, choose the item that would fit them best. It's a compelling pitch and has obvious cost savings over the up front work involved in 3D visualisation of a retailer's entire catalog.

That said, it also means that Virtusize's solution focuses more on how a garment will fit a customer, not so much what it will look like on them. The latter is quite subjective but could also contribute to high return rates, which is what all virtual fitting solutions are trying to reduce.

In addition, Virtusize's solution requires that a customer already owns a supported garment in order to compare sizes or that they measure a favourite (and similar) item of clothing at home and entering the data manually. Presumably that's why ATOS has chosen to start with its own brand clothing as returning customers will be more likely to own a comparable garment, and the company has the size and fit data more readily at hand to apply to Virtusize's technology.

In terms of how it approaches the virtual fitting problem, Virtusize's closest competitors are the likes of Clothes Horse and Truefit which recommend size based on what the consumer wears in other brands. However, these solutions lack a visual presentation and only produce a number/letter to denote size. Therefore, says Virtusize, they don't capture how a specific style will fit as garments vary in terms of style etc. regardless of if they are technically the same size and have historically worked out well for the customer.

Founded in Spring 2011, Virtusize launched with (the largest online retailer in Scandinavia) as a pilot customer during the autumn the same year. It makes money by charging web shops a monthly subscription fee for using its solution. The fee is determined by monthly page views on the product pages where Virtusize is available. With the addition of ASOS as a partner, the startup now claims to be the leading online fitting solution in terms of availability with over 30,000 garments at 23 web shops and approximately 50,000 users per month.

Virtusize has raised £1 million in seed funding. Among the startup's backers are Swedish listed investment company Öresund and a number of angel investors including Fredrik Åhlberg, former Head of Growth at eBay Europe. As a reference point, earlier this month closed a $7.2m series A round. Meanwhile, Metail has raised £2.7m in total.

Virtusize is a virtual fitting solution helping online retailers to illustrate size and fit online. With Virtusize consumers can compare a garment they want to buy with a garment they already own, and thereby remove the guesswork from online shopping. The fit solution is currently available at 25,000 garments at 22 web shops across Europe and helps online retailers to reduce fit-related returns and increase conversion. Virtusize is a Swedish company founded in 2011. Funded by listed Swedish Investment...

? Learn more

Metail is a virtual fitting room service for fashion retailers that allows customers to create a 3D photo-realistic model of themselves from just two uploaded photos, in only a few minutes. Customers can then try on clothes, see how they fit and create and share their looks. Once a customer has made their model, they can login to their Metail profile with any partner retailer using the service. Metail was started in 2008 by CEO and Founder Tom Adeyoola...

? Learn more develops virtual fitting room solutions for online clothing retailers. The subjective nature of "fit" as it applies to clothing and fashion has inhibited online apparel sales for years – in 2012 the overall proportion of garment sales from online channels was still only 14-15%. The essential problem is the inability of shoppers to try on clothes to check the fit before they choose their size. According to Mintel, widespread inconsistencies in sizing between different brands and retailers...

? Learn more

ClothesHorse solves the problem of "what clothes will fit me?" when shopping online. At the point of sale on third party e-commerce websites, shoppers are told what size will fit them based on their own unique body. At our destination website,, shoppers can discover new brands that will fit them based on their body and current favorite brands, akin to Pandora for clothing. Our data-driven platform is licensed by online apparel retailers and enables them to increase conversion...

? Learn more

Handle Is A Priority Engine And Task Management App For Your Inbox

Menlo Ventures partner Shawn Carolan searched for over five years to find an investment tackling the problem of email overload. Carolan, who led investments in Apple-acquired Siri among others, personally faced his own productivity challenges, and after not being able to find a startup that addressed all the problems he felt needed to be solved, he decided to build it on his own. Handle, which is launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013, is Carolan's brainchild.

Carolan, along with his co-founder Jonathan McCoy, describes Handle as an operating system for your life. There are 600 million knowledge workers who spend 20 hours a week processing emails. Many get to inbox zero several times a week but Carolan says that this achieving inbox zero by deleting, archiving and starring emails doesn't solve the fundamental problem of prioritizing your inbox with simple interactions, and creating tasks from these emails.

Handle offers a rich web app as well as a companion native iOS app that integrates with Gmail (and soon Microsoft Exchange and Yahoo) to pull in your emails. In its current state, Handle is a much better and faster way to sort through emails and create tasks at the same time.

The app allows you to capture ideas, triage your inbox, plan a schedule for the day and focus on your priorities. The centralized UX feature is the 'Handle bar,' which Carolan says was inspired by Siri's ability to simplify interactions with deep capabilities of a system. The Handle bar, which is patented, allows you to annotate emails with deadlines, snooze emails, create projects, cluster emails together and more.

Here's how Handle works: Your inbox flows into a JavaScript web app, and you can respond to emails inline. The basic idea is to triage your emails quickly and efficiently also being able to create a task management list. In each email you can decide whether to flag, delete, create into a project, or archive. If you decide to flag to respond later, you choose whether to flag as must do, should do or want to do and Handle will create a prioritized list of emails you need to respond to. What makes this interesting is the speed at which you can triage your email. Each action can be done by simply pressing one key (i.e. click 1 for must do, 2 for should do and so on).

handle 2

All of this triage takes place within the Handle bar. As Carolan explains, the Handle bar is one of the central UX elements to the application. The startup figured they could solve overload if every email you saw could be handled by expressing what you wanted done with it and it happened. Instead of dictating by voice or typing full words, Carolan and his team decided to derive intent within a few keystrokes.

And Handle creates a general list of tasks that needs to be done using this data. This 'capture' phase is similar to existing to-do lists, allowing rapid entry of current tasks. Handle also places your priorities on a daily working calendar, assigning tasks to time, in the proper order.

Carolan says that current email programs create a 'blunt' instrument for organizing our lives. Folders, mark as unread, and flag/stars/labels are as much as most people use. Handle makes it easy to add context to your tasks so you can execute on them more efficiently. For example, if there's a task you want to do at home on the weekend, you can snooze it until Saturday to get it out of sight until then. Whenever a task is created in Handle, you just have to hit to expose all the possible metadata options and then continue typing.


Handle's iOS app is designed as a simple way you can access your tasks and priorities, and is a pared down version of its web cousin when it comes to functionality. You can see tasks, and send notes to yourself to add to your task list. The app itself is not an inbox but eventually will become one in the future.

Currently Handle cannot replace your Gmail inbox (for example, Handle doesn't have a search functionality yet). But in the future, it's safe to assume that Handle will be building an arsenal of tools to allow you do much more than just triage emails and turn emails into tasks. Eventually Handle will serve as your calendar, and you'll be able to combine your schedule of meetings with your Handle tasks. You could also envision Handle adding other types of messages into the inbox such as Twitter DMs, says Carolan.

In terms of revenue, Handle plans to implement a freemium model and will eventually roll out a pro version with enterprise features.

The startup has raised $4 million in funding from Menlo Ventures (Carolan is still advising the startups he supports at Menlo, and remains a partner but won't be sourcing any new deals for the time being). The startup has quietly been testing the app with tech executives and have received positive responses. For example, David Fischer, VP of Advertising and Global Operations at Facebook says that Handle has made him much more efficient.

As Carolan explains, Handle is disruptive because no one has designed a solution for the full life cycle of a user's day. While high-powered email clients want to help you get to inbox zero, many of these clients don't allow you to also handle productivity and task management.

Handle aims to differentiate itself by focusing on the whole life cycle of email from capture, to triage, to planning, to focusing. Second, Handle spans the desktop and mobile. While mobile is valuable for triage, most of the important work still gets done at the desktop, says Carolan. Handle also natively integrates email and task functionality, without the need to forward emails to task managers.

He admits that it takes a little bit of time to get used to the shortcuts, the UI and general behavior around Handle. But he firmly believes that Handle is presenting a new way of thinking about modern work that maps to how the world's most effective people get things done. As we mentioned above, Handle's aim isn't just to help you handle your professional email and tasks in a more efficient way, it's designed to add productivity to your entire life. It's not just for the executive, it's also for the busy mom, or the college student.


Sam Yagan: Are there any one of these features that are a gamechanger?

SC: It's the package of features, called the Handle Habit. You need to use the features together.

John Frankel: Is this a product for enterprises or consumer?

SC: Initial product will be free. Over time, we imagine going after enterprise features over time.

Frankel: My suggestion is get to revenue early and find out what people will pay more for.

One year on and the 808, the 'ultimate' Symbian smartphone is... even better

Nokia 808 PureView

When the Nokia 808 PureView was first unleashed upon the world, it's fair to say that some parts of its software loadout were missing in action. No, not a better web browser or Social utility, though the faster processor and greater RAM in the 808 did ameliorate these previous annoyances to some degree. I'm talking about the appallingly stripped down Gallery, the absence of Skype, missing music player album art, etc.

In typical Nokia fashion though, and despite the drastic manpower cuts on the Symbian side of the company, we've had a stream of major and minor firmware updates to the device, plus last minute additions to the third party scene that continue to persuade me, even in the face of new smartphones in my world that really impress, like the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, that the Nokia 808 still does everything I need better than anything else in the world. And, judging from some of the comments in recent AAS articles, it does seem as though I'm not alone.

Here then is a rough summary of 12 months of updates and additions to the Nokia 808, as chronicled in these very (web) pages:

The list isn't definitive, but I've tried to pick out some highlights. Taken as a whole, on top of the excellent Nokia 808 hardware, the updates present a fairly compelling case for the Nokia 808 PureView as a 2013 smartphone. 

Screenshot, GravityScreenshot, revamped 808 gallery

Gravity, the all purpose Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google Reader, Foursquare (and more) client; the revamped Gallery

It's true that the screen resolution of Symbian's UI, 360 x 640, is looking low compared to the other top end 2013 flagships and this is perhaps a showstopper for some. It's also true that Web isn't as slick or fast as Chrome, Safari (etc) on iOS and Android. Finally, it's true that there isn't the same choice of games or applications on Symbian - there are apps to do almost anything, but in some cases you haven't got much choice of title.

Three caveats that don't bother me at all. I heard Nokia 808 fan Mark Peters say on a podcast recently that, despite him loving the 808's hardware, Symbian was a "dog's dinner", which I contend is too harsh. It's a mobile operating system from a different age that has been patched up an awful lot, which is fair enough, but it's certainly still very usable in the right hands, as is evidenced by my testimony above and the long list of updates and feature enhancements above.

Of course, at least half the updates above have come from third parties, but this is, if anything, a healthy sign, that there are still developers keen on the platform. The Nokia 808's monster hardware, at least from the perspective of humbler Symbian smartphones, really has been taken on to new heights in the last year, and credit must also go to the few remaining Symbian-facing folk at Nokia and Accenture, keeping the core updates going.

Will the same pace of updates continue throughout 2013? Unlikely, though I don't think we've seen the last of them as yet. Will the Nokia 808 PureView fall out of favour if Nokia puts the same camera technology into a Windows Phone 8 device? I think we might see a few more Symbian die-hards jumping ship at that point.

In the meantime, my 808 takes the best photos and videos, plays the loudest podcasts over the widest range of audio options, runs the best all round social client in the world, in Gravity, and, yes, even lets me browse the web almost as fast as on Android, thanks to Opera Mobile.

(The 808 and) PureView in very early proto stage!!

A sneak peek at an early PureView testbed - spot the 808 in the making?(!)

Nokia may have designed the 808 as a showcase for the PureView technology. Or it may have designed the phone specifically for me (flattering!) More likely, it was developed as the ultimate Symbian smartphone for everyone reading this. The best of all worlds, as future proof as was possible (given the OS), no compromises. That it made it out the door, given the political climate inside Nokia, was surprising and extremely welcome.

Here's to the ultimate Symbian smartphone then, one year on and better than ever.

Track Flight Delays 3 Days in Advance With New Early-Alert System

Most of us have experienced the agony of a flight delay, or worse: a cancellation. While you might not have to worry about flight changes caused by FAA furloughs for now, Mother Nature can always throw a wrench into your plans.

A new service brings travelers a "weather early-alert system" that predicts whether your flight will be delayed or cancelled because of weather — up to three days in advance. It all works by two companies working in collaboration: If you use Traxo for your travel plans (it's a digital organizer that keeps all your travel plans from multiple sites in one place), your itinerary will be sent to KnowDelay. It then figures out a prediction by analyzing how weather might affect airport operations.

Starting three days before your flight and up until six hours before, Traxo will then score your itinerary for the likelihood of a weather delay:

  • Red flag: High likelihood of delay (60% chance of a 30+ min. delay)

  • Yellow flag: Medium likelihood of delay (40% chance of a 30+ minute delay)

  • Green flag: Low likelihood of delay (less than 6% chance of a delay)

If your flight has a red flag, you'll get rebooking options and re-accomodation recommendations. Those alternative flights will also be scored for delay likelihood.

SEE ALSO: Hipmunk's App Now Finds Flights to Fit Your Schedule

"We already know there is a real need here, we estimate two-thirds of the flying public can proactively avoid weather related travel disruptions if they are provided with this kind of advance weather information," Traxo Founder and CEO Andres Fabris, said in a news release.

Do you want to know weather delays days in advance, or do you prefer to brave the elements and just show up at the airport? Let us know in the comments.

Thumbnail and lead image via iStockphoto, ollo. Screenshot courtesy of Traxo.

Seinfeld's 57 TV Girlfriends Morphed Into One Image

What's the deal with TV girlfriends?

Artist and photographer Richard Prince gathered photographs of Jerry Seinfeld's 57 girlfriends from his popular sitcom and morphed them into one hot Mulva. (The resemblance to actress Laura Linney is real and it's fabulous.)

On his website, Prince explains that after a bit of Google-fu, he printed 8"x10" photos of all 57 ladies and delivered the pics to Two Palms Press for the morphing process. Prince describes the resulting image as both "generic" and "unintentionally dreamy."

Images courtesy of Twitter, Richard Prince

[H/T Animal NY]

lunes, 29 de abril de 2013

Nutella gets us out of bed through Facebook

Posted 15 February 2013 16:57pm by Heather Taylor with 2 comments

Valentine's gets a brief mention in the midst of chocolate, watches and shoes in our weekly showcase of The Dachis Group's Social Business Index.

Our focus is on three companies – The Swatch Group, Foot Locker and Ferrero International known for the popular chocolate spread, Nutella - as analyzed by the team at the Dachis Group.

We'll also take a glimpse at the top twenty brands on the Social Business Index, a real-time ranking of more than 30,000 global brands based on their performance in the social space, to see how the biggest brands in social are faring.


The Swatch Group
Analyzed by Lauren Picarello 

The Swatch Group isn't hiding anything this week as it continues to ramp up efforts across the globe to promote its "True love has nothing to hide" Valentine's Day campaign (and exclusive heart watch to match). And Swatch is truly global in its efforts -- in countries where the love holiday isn't celebrated (like Taiwan), the brand is focusing on the Chinese New Year. 

The strong social signals being sent from Swatch's Facebook pages around the world, especially France and the Netherlands, led to the brand's jump this week in the Social Business Index. 

Foot Locker
Analyzed by Lizzie Steen

'Michael Jordan Mondays' is Foot Locker's big weekly Facebook post. Celebrity partnerships are a known quantity in big brand social programs: they just work. In this case, Foot Locker's social performance was boosted up because of MJ related posts. These have consistently produced upwards of 30,000 likes throughout the series of promotions. 

This week's MJ post was particularly impressive and received 37,240 likes, 1,638 shares and 384 comments. The comments are amusing, ranging from reflections about MJ's career to blissful exclamation of praise (followers will post his initials in isolation — MJ). 

By associating Foot Locker's image with Michael Jordan's, the company creates a connection to MJ's enduring legacy. 

Ferrero International
Analyzed by Lizzie Steen

Mondays are hard for all of us. Yet Ferrero International, the Italian chocolate manufacturer, managed to make the day a little less dismal with a Facebook post improving the start of the workweek. By combining positive reinforcement (being able to eat Nutella) with waking up, Nutella made 6,790 people get out of bed or at least post on Facebook. 

The image featured a jar of everyone's beloved hazelnut spread on a pillow with the headline: Wake-up Tip n09. With 168 comments and 619 shares, Nutella managed to inspire followers and initiate discussion.

General Mills makes holiday food social

Posted 17 December 2012 15:30pm by Heather Taylor with 0 comments

This week is a mixed bag of cars and music in our weekly showcase of The Dachis Group's Social Business Index. Our focus is on two well-known brands – General Mills and Kia Motors - as analyzed by the team at the Dachis Group.

We'll also take a glimpse at the top twenty brands on the Social Business Index, a real-time ranking of more than 30,000 global brands based on their performance in the social space, to see how the biggest brands in social are faring.

General Mills
Analyzed by Lizzie Steen

As the month of December progresses, consumers become more immersed in the spirit of the season. At Betty Crocker, its no different, where seasonal posts consistently dominate the social content of the General Mills' subsidiary. Holiday food posts featuring the home baked goods of Mrs. Betty Crocker fill loyal fans with winter glee. One delectable photo showed off the iconic woman's skill at transforming cupcakes into faux hot chocolate. These chocolate cakes featured a pretzel mug handle and icing marshmallows. 

While the post's subject appeared outwardly simple, the photo's response revealed the more complex. With 16,000 likes, 4,000 shares, and 200 comments, Betty Crocker definitely knows how to keep its customer's engaged.  The company brought merriment and cheer with matching red and white striped treats. 

Almost 400 people responded directly to Betty Crocker when it asked consumers if they could guess what was inside the Santa-themed desserts. While no response was ultimately revealed, the treats still garnered 14,000+ likes and 2,000+ shares. Perhaps other food mavens could learn from Betty Crocker's ability to drive engagement by capitalizing on the excitement of the holidays (and the allure of dessert).

Kia Motors
Allison Squires

Kia Motors' Worldwide Facebook page's most popular post last week was a pinned post that drove high engagement partly due to paid support, and partly due to the sunset image of the shiny Kia Quoris. 

Another popular post encouraged fans to make a Kia New year's greeting card for their friend. While the link drew fans away from Facebook, it led them to spread the word about Kia to their personal networks. 

One thing that Kia's Facebook page does well is to draw viewers into a post with a picture then links the viewer to more visual content on, driving engagement and positively influencing purchase behavior for the future.

Editors note: The Social Business Index, a free ranking compiled by The Dachis Group, is based on the analysis of conversations on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social platforms. The index is based on the execution and effectiveness of businesses at driving outcomes such as brand awareness, content sharing, and advocacy.

Gift Guide: Favorite Board Games For All Ages

Back in the olden days, before the kids had their smartphones and their Nintendo tapes and their Tivo, families used to get together in a room, open a paper box, and remove a set of boards and pieces. By following a set of rules, families could play these "board games" together and have loads of fun until the candles burned out and someone died of dysentery.

You can relive those halcyon nights with these exciting boardgames that are great for the whole family (we play them all) and one that's more fun at parties where adult beverages are being served. These are almost all play-tested by my family and peers and we all had a hoot.

Labyrinth – The best game for younger kids who can't read good. To play, you put down a set of corridor tiles and draw "prize" cards. You move your piece – a wizard – along open corridors towards your prize. You can change the corridors by sliding a card into place to move things left, right, up, or down or even knock other wizards off the board. The winner collects the most prizes. It's quite a bit of fun and quite inexpensive at $22.

Small World – This game is a bit more complex and requires more strategy, but there is little reading involved. You play a race of monsters or men trying to take control of a small world. You can destroy other pieces on the board by overrunning them and sometimes your race is destroyed and you have to pick a new one. Be warned: there are lots of small pieces and setup takes a while but it's definitely worth it. Great for kids six and older and some adults. It's available for $35 and is one of our family favorites.

Forbidden Island – This is a four-player cooperative game that pits you and your team against a collapsing island. In the game you hop from one of 24 island sections to the next and as the game progresses parts of the island "sink" and are uninhabitable. You play characters – a diver who can swim, a pilot who will eventually get you all off the island, a navigator who can move other players, and an explorer who can move diagonally. The goal is to grab four treasures and drag them to the landing where the pilot will get them off the island.

It seems a bit difficult at first, but with a bit of practice you can have a nice spot of cooperative fun. It's also quite cheap at $13 and good for quiet gatherings or wakes.

Cards Against Humanity – What do you get when you put 550 horrible jokes in a box and make a bunch of people tell them to each other? About two hours of amazing fun. This board game is a lot like Apples and Oranges or Bubble Talk but the responses are just terrible. One player picks a card and offers up a phrase ("But before I kill you, Mr. Bond, I must show you ____"). The other players pick from a hand of responses that are too inappropriate to recount here. The game now costs a mere $25 (I paid over $60 a few months ago) and it's a blast.

In-Store Shopping Will Only Get Better With Apps

Finding a deal is a cinch this holiday season -- if you own a smartphone. Now, more than ever before, the majority of people who own a mobile device have a smartphone, from which they can shop and find deals.

At the same time that shoppers are nabbing deals online, they're also shopping in-store and comparing prices. Brick-and-mortar stores aren't going anywhere. Shoppers are using their smartphones to make in-store experiences even better.

Vicki Cantrell, executive director of, tells Mashable that for consumers, shopping in-store or in-app is not an either/or choice.

What consumers really want is a particular product, price and experience -- they don't care which channel that occurs through, Cantrell said.

"Some of these retailers have done a great job of integrating their in-store experience with their mobile experience," she said.

This season, retailers have responded to the growing number of mobile shoppers by attracting consumers in two important ways. The first, Cantrell explained, is by accommodating the cost-conscious consumer.

"Many stores brought back layaway, extended deals, offered price matching and coupons," she said. The second way is convenience -- letting consumers shop however and whenever they wanted. Many brick-and-mortar stores have offered extended hours this shopping season.

"Brick-and-mortar stores will become more relevant than ever as mobile apps grow," she said. Conversely, online-only stores are the ones that sometimes become real life stores or pop-up shops "because the consumer wants the total experience."

A recent study from Nielsen shows just how shoppers are taking advantage of their smartphones and tablets to locate the best prices for items on their holiday wish lists.

Sixty three percent of mobile shoppers have compared prices with their smartphone while shopping in-store or on their home computer. Smartphone owners are also three times more likely than tablet owners to use their handset for in-store activities such as claiming mobile coupons (39%) or using shopping lists (40%).

SEE ALSO: Men More Likely to Go Mobile Shopping

Tablet owners are more likely than smartphone owners to shop from their device at home, rather than venturing out to a store. Owning a tablet also makes it more likely you'll use it for product research before making a purchase (68%), and for reading online reviews (53%).

With all the deals online and endless products to scour, it can seem overwhelming. But you can use deal finding apps and websites to sort the best prices by category, price, brand and rating.

Lawrence Fong, cofounder of BuyVia, a price comparison website and app that shows tech deals, tells Mashable that deal-finding tools like BuyVia are the new way to shop, since consumers can compare online and in-store deals to get a complete picture of what's available. Your account on the app and website sync together so you can do research at home and view your list on the app while in-store.

"In the past, all these platforms were fragmented," he said. "Apps such as BuyVia seek to unify that experience, including the brick-and-mortar space, so you're not tied to shopping one way or another."

This app, like numerous other shopping apps, has geolocation so users can see sales based on where they are at the moment. If you're in a shopping mall for instance, you can see which stores are offering deals. Fong says retailers should welcome apps that use geolocation because it enhances the in-store shopping experience.

"One of the challenges when thinking about brick-and-mortar stores is the show rooming concept, where people handle the products and go home and buy it online," he said. "Retailers are feeling that impact and the way for them to survive is to be savvy about it. Like ensuring they have things in stock and encouraging shoppers to use geolocation apps."

"It's really an exciting time in terms of empowering shoppers," he said.

When you use your smartphone to shop, do you also use another device, or use your smartphone while in-store? Tell us your deal-finding strategy in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Lisa-Blue