SciTechBlog
March 15, 2010

SXSW: Gasp! Twitter gives out paper business cards

Posted: 09:56 AM ET

Ever since Twitter made a big splash at South By Southwest in 2007, the micro-blogging site has seen a lot of milestones. The site has won support from celebrates like Oprah and Ashton Kutcher, signed search deals with Google and Yahoo!, recently hired their 140th employee, and even had the 10 billionth tweet sent out early in March.

But the hip, San Francisco company was missing something that, in the general business world, seems rather basic: It never had business cards. Employees just gave out their Twitter names instead.

But that, too, has changed. At SXSW this year, Twitter employees are handing out paper business cards just like the rest of us. Instead of eggshell white, the company went with an earthy brown color for its cards.

That may seem like a silly bit of news, but first consider the context. At SXSW, everything is going digital. Instead of handing out cards, many tech professionals just download a smartphone app called i-Nigma and then scan a barcode on other attendee's name tags. That person's contact info automatically downloads onto the phone. Others use an iPhone app called Bump, which, when two phones are tapped together, exchanges a business-card's worth of data through the air.

A Twitter spokesman poked fun at the idea of business cards even as he listed the benefits of paper-based networking.

"This antiquated thing called 'business cards' is a helpful way for some of us to bridge our online and offline worlds with potential employees, partners and the thousands of developers who make Twitter applications," said company spokesman Sean Garrett.

So, is paper really the new mode of social networking? Next thing you know, maybe Twitter employees will be spotted in ties.

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Filed under: Twitter


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March 14, 2010

SXSW: Vote on ideas for a better digital future

Posted: 02:03 PM ET

Three people with cult followings online have been asked to choose ideas they think will change the way the Web works. And each is competing for a $50,000 prize to get that idea up and running.

It is part of Pepsi’s Refresh Project, where the company is giving away $20 million to people with great ideas during 2010.

Here are the ideas. Let us know what you think. You can chime in with comments below, and vote for your favorite idea on Twitter, as part of the Pepsi campaign.

Foursquare meets Craigslist

Adam Ostrow, editor of the technology blog Mashable.com, is supporting Brian Milner who wants to build something to help people in need connect with people who can help (Foursquare meets Craiglist).

Stories of the homeless

Digital guru Gary Vaynerchuk is the founder of Wine Library TV. He is supporting Mark Horvath who runs InvisiblePeople.TV, an organization that shares the stories of the homeless throughout the U.S.

Virtual food bank

Melissa Garcia, also known as Consumer Queen, is a prominent mommy blogger. She is supporting Sandy Jenney who plans to use the $50,000 to build a virtual food bank where people can donate food online.

The voting ends midnight on Monday. Each of these influential online personalities is encouraging their community to vote via a hash tag: #RefreshMashable, #RefreshGary, #RefreshCQ. The hashtags will be tallied and a winner will be announced on Tuesday.

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Filed under: SXSW • SXSW Interactive • SXSWi • Twitter


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SXSW: Microsoft Surface, Flavors.me, FunMail and HuddleHub

Posted: 01:23 PM ET

The South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival, which is known for being one of the preeminent events for introducing tech innovations, began this weekend in Austin, Texas. More than 100 cutting-edge interactive businesses set up shop along an exhibit hall floor here, in an attempt to attract attention from tech insiders. I braved the large crowds and product pitches to check out what some of the coolest emerging technologies.

Here are four products that most caught my eye:

Microsoft Surface:

What is it? Multi-touch technology that enables users to interact with their digital content on a tabletop surface without a keyboard or mouse.

Microsoft Surface responds to natural hand gestures and real-world objects, helping people interact with digital content in a simple and intuitive way. Think 'Minority Report' meets the CNN Magic Wall on a beautiful table setting.

During a demonstration of prototype software, a tablet reader was rested on the tabletop while magazine content was dragged over from the Surface tabletop to the users' account with a flick of the finger. Microsoft Surface is currently geared for commercial and developer use, but could be marketed for consumers in the near future. It features an open API which allows developers to build apps to work with the product.

Flavors.me:

What is it? A personal identity management Web site that allows users to combine social network profiles onto the same page for a "unified online presence."

Flavors.me provides a clean interface for curating and showcasing your Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and other feeds into a 'one-stop digital storefront.'  If you've longed for a home worth showcasing your many online wares (personal homepages, lifestreaming, splash and microsites, celebrity fan pages, commercial promotion, brand marketing and everything in between), this could be the tool for you. Flavors.me offers free basic service and a premium package ($20 annual) which includes your own web domain name.

FunMail:

What is it? For users interested in adding a little visual spice to their messages, FunMail from FunMobility is a next-generation visual messaging platform that attaches multimedia to your text, tweet or status update.

FunMail uses a learning technology that gets smarter about making insightful connections between imagery and language every time a FunMail is sent. When I typed in "Hated losing an hour of sleep this morning," for Daylight Savings, for example, the search engine found images of people lying in bed, dogs asleep on couches and one very close up shot of a toothbrush.  I chose the toothbrush.

FunMail is currently available for iPhone and Android devices as well as online.  The company hopes to offer a Blackberry version soon.  Just in time for South by Southwest Interactive the company has released FunTweet, a Web service that turns any Twitter stream into visual messages. There's also a Facebook app.

HuddleHub:

What is it? An online management tool for people who 'own' multiple fantasy sports teams.

If you're a fantasy sports geek like me, then you'll want to check out HuddleHub. The service, which just launched, promises to aggregate your player updates, provide live sports and fantasy updates via web and mobile, and - here's where it gets fun - a recommendation engine for advice on player personnel moves via algorithms.  Just imagine taking some of the guess work out of that pending blockbuster fantasy trade.

I asked the company founder if there were any assurances this tool would provide me the competitive edge to earn championship trophies in my future fantasy sports league endeavors. He said it should help, but made no guarantees.

The Web version of HuddleHub is free and available now.  HuddleHub expects to release an iPhone version in June.

What do you think of these products? Let us know in the comments.

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Filed under: Microsoft Corp. • social-networking sites • SXSW • SXSW Interactive • SXSWi • technology • Twitter


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March 5, 2010

Twitter's mysterious 10 billionth tweet

Posted: 12:49 PM ET

Twitter hit a major milestone late Thursday – when someone hit the “update” button on the networking site’s 10 billionth tweet.

The question Friday morning? Who was it and what did they say?

Unfortunately for the curious masses, it appears that the landmark tweet was posted by someone who has set their feed to be private by default.

A search for tweet No. 10 billion – individual posts on the site are identified by a number – yields a message saying that page is unavailable.

It was unclear whether Twitter was pursuing the user to see if they’d like to go public. The site’s spokespeople were notably quiet – with no mention of the milestone on their official Twitter feed and no new posts on their blog.

The two nearest misses, however, were public and show the range of ways the micro-blogging site is used.

Tweet number 9,999,999,999 was by a user with the handle @lelamarques, who posted a link to a gallery of “urban decay” photographs – a genre that celebrates the hidden beauty of abandoned buildings.

The user lists her address as Sao Luis, Brazil, and most of her posts are in Portugese – a nod to Twitter’s increasing international popularity.

Twitter has been lauded as a game-changing tool during such internationally notable events as the Iranian election protests and post-earthquake fundraising in Haiti.

But tweet Number 10,000,000,001 likely won’t impress those who consider it a hotbed of meaningless chatter.

In a feed from a woman who says she lives in Bronx, New York, the tweet read simply, “$Pretty N Paid$.”

Her feed is filled with profanity and misspelled words, often written in all caps – considered poor form by many Internet users. [NOTE: Since Friday morning, that user has switched her feed to private].

Interest in the milestone was high on the micro-blogging site, which has seen astronomical growth since it started in 2007. Thursday evening, the site for GigaTweet, an app that tracks the number of Twitter posts in real time, was down – presumably from overuse.

While the total number of Twitter users appeared to flatline several months ago, the sites activity levels has continued to spiral upward.

Twitter saw its 1 billionth tweet about a year ago and hit 5 billion tweets about four months ago.

According to a Wednesday night e-mail from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, the number of Twitter accounts has grown 1,500 percent in the past year.

The company’s low-key response to the much-anticipated tweet, at least in the first several hours that followed, is in stark contrast to how Apple greeted a similar milestone recently.

When the company’s online store sold its 10 billionth download, the lucky customer got a $10,000 Apple gift card and a personal phone call from Steve Jobs.

Roseanne Cash, the daughter of the music legend whose song was purchased, also was on the call to thank Woodstock, Georgia's, Louis Sulcer for buying one of her dad’s songs.

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Filed under: Twitter


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January 4, 2010

@CNNTech is now on Twitter

Posted: 06:34 PM ET

Hey there Internet! Just like Shaq, Ellen, Britney and the gang, CNN's technology team is now on Twitter.

What could this glorious new Twitter feed be named, you ask?

Well, we decided to be really zany. We named it @CNNTech!

Luckily, this new feed comes just in time for our coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, Nevada. Look for updates from CNN writers and producers like John D. Sutter, Brandon Griggs and Valerie Streit, who will find all of the latest and greatest gadgets from the oversize tech show.

It won't stop at CES. We'll keep posting our latest tech stories, cool tech links and observations. Will Google announce a new phone on Tuesday? Check back at our site - http://www.cnn.com/tech - and on our Twitter feed to find out.

Follow us if you like, and let us know what you think! Twitter's all about the conversation, so feel free to join ours.

–The CNN Tech Team

Filed under: technology • Twitter


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November 26, 2009

Happy TweetsGiving

Posted: 12:19 PM ET

For some do-gooders, today isn’t just Thanksgiving. It’s also the second annual TweetsGiving, the culmination of a 48-hour global effort to raise money online for a school in Arusha, Tanzania.

Participants are encouraged to share what they are grateful for – and donate money, of course - through Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and of course, 2009’s new media darling, Twitter.

The project is the brainchild of a U.S. nonprofit called Epic Change. Last November, Epic Change’s efforts raised $11,000 in 48 hours through hundreds of small donations, which the organization used to help build a classroom at the Tanzania school. Epic Change dubbed the students the “Twitter kids of Tanzania” and encouraged users to send tweets to them via their #Twitterkids blog.

This year, Epic Change had hoped to raise $100,000 by midday Thanksgiving to build the school a dormitory, library, cafeteria and more classrooms. As of Thursday at 11 a.m. ET, however, the effort had raised only about $26,000 – a possible victim of the worldwide recession.

If you still want to donate, however, it's not too late.

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Filed under: Twitter


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November 16, 2009

New $100 handheld device only tweets

Posted: 05:21 PM ET

If Twitter has taught the world anything, it is that less is more. Echoing that trend of keeping it simple, here comes TwitterPeek, the first handheld device solely focused on Twitter.

E-mail, music, phone service and text messaging are notably absent on the TwitterPeek. The device does allow for sending an unlimited amount of tweets and direct messages, and comes with a color screen to view Twitpics and access to friends, companies and celebrities' Twitter feeds.

“We have the same philosophy as Twitter,” says Lauren Hahn, an executive at Peek, the company behind the new device. Peek first produced a product that only provided e-mail and text functionality. They like to keep it simple, fun and most importantly, available to the masses.

TwitterPeek has raised questions on how people use Twitter and other devices that fit into pockets. For one, Adam Ostrow, editor in chief of the social-media blog Mashable, is skeptical.

“I think it has limited appeal considering all of the choices for mobile Twitter apps,” Ostrow said. “But for those that have no intention of buying a smartphone and still want to use Twitter on-the-go, it may be an option.”

Further, 60 percent of users only access Twitter via a computer, according to a survey conducted by Crowd Science and eMarketer.com in August 2009. Three percent only use Twitter via mobile devices, while another 38 percent of tweeters use a combination of computer and mobile.

There currently seems to be an escalating competition to cram more social networks, songs, moves, cameras and applications onto a phone. But Peek points to the Flip Camera, PSP, and iPod as evidence people like devices that do one thing only.

The TwitterPeek costs $99.95, including six months of unlimited Twitter service. After that, using the device costs $7.95 per month. Hardcore tweeters may prefer the second option: Paying $199.95 for the device and a lifetime of unlimited Twitter service.

Hahn believes there is a misconception about how many Americans use, and can afford, smartphones. “Everyone seems to have a smartphone, but that not true,” she told CNN. “The vast majority of Americans still hold feature phones (voice and text).”

Hahn believes her target audience is not someone in New York, Washington, D.C. or San Francisco, where smartphones seem as common as traffic jams and people are willing to spend more money on devices that do everything.

“It is the rest of America that cannot afford the massive convergence devices, but still want to follow Lance Armstrong or Oprah on Twitter,” she said.

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Filed under: Twitter


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November 11, 2009

Wi-Fi scale tweets your weight loss (or gain)

Posted: 12:29 PM ET

A new WiFi-enabled scale from Withings encourages users to lose weight by sharing their body weight, lean & fat mass, and calculated body mass index (BMI) on Twitter.

WiFi scale shares results with Twitter.

WiFi scale shares results with Twitter.

Personal metrics have been shown to help people reach their fitness goals. And Wired.com recognizes new devices like the Nike+ can get people moving.

Noone is now running four times a week and just did her first 10-mile race ... And she attributes much of her newfound fitness to the power of data. "I can log in to Nike+ and see what I've done over the past year," she says. "That's really powerful for me."

But will sharing embarrassing weight-fluctuation info help dieters in the same way fitness data has encouraged runners?

A press release from Withings confirms that the scale will not share your information without your consent. "By default, the Twitter feature will not be activated when you purchase your scale ... Only the users that enable this feature will benefit from the online peer motivation."

Engadget is not impressed with the scale's social abilities:

Not only does this bad boy register your weight, body fat, and BMI, but you can now configure it to send your stats to "the Twitter" either daily, weekly, monthly, or each and every time you weigh - and your followers will start dropping faster than even you could imagine.

What do you think? Would you be willing to share your weight-loss struggle with the Twitterverse if it could inspire you to become the next Biggest Loser? Or is this one Fail Whale you would prefer to keep private?

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Filed under: consumer tech • Internet • iPhone • social-networking sites • Twitter


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October 15, 2009

Tweet it through the grapevine: Twitter is making wine

Posted: 05:45 PM ET

Twitter may lack a business strategy, but it does have a wine strategy - and it does not come in 140 grapes.

The microblogging service, valued at $1 billion and known for its 140-character "tweets," announced Thursday it's launching a wine label: Fledgling Wine. Twitter is partnering with Crushpad, a custom winemaking service in San Francisco, to produce the wine; a portion of the proceeds will go to Room to Read, a non-profit supporting reading programs and libraries in Asia and Africa.

Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams wrote on the Fledgling blog, “The Fledgling Initiative embodies two things that are at the core of Twitter's mission: providing access to information and highlighting the power of open communication to bring about positive change.”

The first two wines, a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay, will be released in August 2010 and can already be pre-ordered online. Each bottle will cost $20; Room to Read will receive $5 per bottle. The grapes, picked by the Twitter staff, are being fermented.

Crushpad executive Noah Dorrance is bullish about the new label and has ordered extra grapes. When asked if each bottle will have only 140 grapes, he laughed and said, “I wish! There are approximately 800 grapes per bottle.”

Twitter on Thursday also launched a Japanese edition, its first foray into tweeting in a foreign language. No word yet on whether sake is next on the Twitter drink menu.

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Filed under: Twitter


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October 5, 2009

Reports: Drew Carey may bid $1M on @drew name

Posted: 03:19 PM ET

UPDATE 9 a.m.: Drew Carey tells CBS he's willing to bid $1 million on the @drew name if he gets 1 million followers by the end of the year. (More on this from Mashable).

In his continued effort to raise money for cancer research, cancer patient Drew Olanoff, or @drew on Twitter, has announced he will auction off his Twitter name to the highest bidder.

He plans to give the proceeds to the LIVESTRONG organization.

So far, the highest bidder is Drew Carey, the host of the "Price is Right," who has bid $25,000 on the name but has indicated that he will go as high as $100,000, according to The Telegraph, out of the UK.

The auction ends on November 9, Olanoff's birthday.

From Olanoff's blog:

All proceeds going to LIVESTRONG - the organization who has been there for me from Day 1 of diagnosis.  Bidding ends on November 9th (My Birthday), and the highest bid gets it.  Just tweet your bid with the hashtag #drewbid.I made sure to ask Ev at Twitter about it first, because I didn’t want to go against any Terms of Service.  Since no personal financial gain was being made, it’s a donation to a non profit, all was well.

Who would buy it?  Maybe Drew Barrymore, Drew Carey, Drew Brees, Drew Curtis, Drew Gooden?  Or a non celebrity Drew who wants the great Twitter name.  All IN the name of charity and Cancer Crushing.

Drew Carey currently goes by @DrewFromTV on Twitter.

Drew Olanoff created an Internet meme called "Blame Drew's Cancer" when he set up a Twitter hash tag where people blame Drew's cancer for everything that's going wrong in their lives. More on that from the Blame Drew's Cancer Web site:

On May 20th, 2009, Drew Olanoff was diagnosed with cancer.

Ever since that day, Drew has blamed everything on his cancer. Losing his keys, misplacing his wallet, Twitter being slow, the Phillies losing, etc.

Why? Because you have to beat up on Cancer to win… and you can help out.

Blame Drew's Cancer for anything you want by tweeting with the hashtag #BlameDrewsCancer and it'll come here. When Drew beats Cancer we hope to have sponsors that will donate a dollar for every participant to our partner, LIVESTRONG.

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Filed under: Twitter


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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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