All posts by robotchampion

Twitter wants to bring back intimacy – could replace follower count with new metric

Twitter has lost its intimacy and it’s not their fault. The site has grown beyond everyone’s expectations becoming a place for Middle East Revolution and celebrity obsession. For chatting with your favorite company and following the best news sources. But all this growth lost the warmth of having a quality groups of friends to Tweet.

The company has plans to change this, as Buzzfeed reports, “follower counts may soon become the second most important number to users.” Twitter Board Member, Ev Williams, hinted that the new metric may be something more personal. Like measuring your reach through favorites, retweets, and views. “The dream metric,” he said, “is how many people saw your tweet.”

This could be an interesting change for the company. They cannot diminish the value of followers for big brands since they are making a truckload of money off it. But for regular people followers don’t mean much, they want quality interactions and interesting people.

This could be a big move for Twitter and a necessary one because Facebook is already doing it.

 

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J.K. Rowling’s new book comes out Thursday – an adult novel about a social concern

J.K. Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy, comes out this Thursday – September 27, 2012 – and there’s not a spell in it. The adult novel focuses on small-town politics and poverty in southwestern England. A topic so far from her regular work that her publisher has skipped the publicity campaign. They’re just going to release it, pray to god, and see what happens.

Still, Barnes & Noble expects it to be a top seller. Her name may sell millions by itself, but one wonders how the fans will react. And that has been on Rowling’s mind too, from USA Today:

Rowling says she understands and accepts that many readers would rather she just keep writing about the boy wizard.

“Yes, I understand that point of view. If you love something — and there are things that I love — you do want more and more and more of it, but that’s not the way to produce good work. So as an author I need to write what I need to write. And I needed to write this book.”

I guess that dream of seven more high-quality Harry Potter books is done, and Rowling has loudly proclaimed it so “never, never, never.” Her encore will be adult novels – with a social cause – and, possibly, a children’s book. Maybe that will have some wizards in it?

Even through all this, there is some excitement for the book. Fans know she created amazing characters in Harry Potter and may do the same in The Casual Vacancy. Perhaps, it will be a Dickens-like classic that inspires even as it tells a sad story.

Learn more about the plot and the characters in the USA Today exclusive interview with J.K. Rowling.

 

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Turn the flash on your Android, iPhone camera into a flashlight

My mom shared this app with me, and it’s so obvious – turning the camera’s flash into a light – I’m amazed I didn’t think of it before. It also looks funny because it’s so incredibly bright, almost blinding in the dark. But the best phrase is that it gives new meaning to the word – flashlight.

Or, if that annoys you we can go with torch as it is called on the Android app – and in Britain. No such international wordsmithing for the iPhone version. Either way it is incredibly useful to have a light with you at all times.

Enjoy and if you know of better apps – please share.

 

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End of summer (free) surf film from Billabong – Daze at Sea

Every year, as the summer ends, the surf companies show off their clothes and surfers in free surf films. They are a visual delight and the soundtrack always supplies a new favorite song. Here is the first one, from Billabong – Daze at Sea – available for download in various sizes:

Small | Standard | TabletHD

 

 

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The best sports website – SB Nation – gets a new design

SB Nation is the hidden gem you’ve never heard of. The 3-year old site has 316 blogs – one for every sports team – and is run by rabid fans, not paid writers. The one I follow – with about 200 other crazy UCLA fans – is Bruins Nation and it’s incredible. Calling it a blog isn’t right, it’s more of a website with many features. There are editor articles, fan articles, and fan shots – where you can share pictures, links, video, and quotes.

My two favorite elements of Bruins Nation are the analysis pieces from the editors – weekly grades after the game and a unit-by-unit breakdown of upcoming opponents – and the fan shots where I can find all those random, and awesome, links only true fans would find. A combination of dedicated, but volunteer, writers and fan contributions that make SB Nation a special place.

Today, the site is undergoing a major renovation – called SB Nation United or SB Nation 3.0 - with the goal of creating a common look across the site. New logos were created with the same size and format – though, each has its own team-defining illustration and colors. And a new article and front-page layout that finally brings the site into the modern internet era. The old one was very functional, but cluttered and hard-to-use.

Find your team in the SB Nation Directory, and here is the new look for SB Nation and Bruins Nation, and a few of the new logos.

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The Atlantic goes full speed ahead on digital, internet – gives up on print, magazines

Only a few print magazines understand the internet – and The Atlantic is one of them. Now in their third year of profit, after spending a decade losing millions, the magazine is ready to expand. And the next step is to let the print magazine die and expand with more websites. From the N.Y. Times:

“It’s become very, very clear to me that digital trumps print, and that pure digital, without any legacy costs, massively trumps print,” David G. Bradley said.

And digital is where The Atlantic is going, with three successful sites - TheAtlantic.comAtlantic WireAtlantic Cities - and one more launching this week, Quartz.com. A business news site focused on a global audience – from the Editor’s Note:

We’ve assembled a team of digital journalists and developers to create a new kind of business news offering that is global, digitally native, and designed for the mobile and tablet devices.

Full speed ahead on digital, mobile, and social. And while this sounds like just another website, the team has some interesting insights that may give them an advantage. “Data is ubiquitous while real insight on the news is a rare commodity.” I would agree. When everybody reports the same news, if you can consistently provide better insight – that’s an advantage.

“Any good blog or magazine has defining obsessions, and we’ll structure around the ones that we think smart, globally minded people will be interested in.” Don’t you love how he interchanges the words blog and magazine – as if they are the same thing.

Finally, the site will be free – no paywalls or subscriptions – instead showing ads from sponsors in the news stream. It’s the newest digital model that avoids big banner ads – and the company already has four paid sponsors until the end of the year.

And we shouldn’t be surprised they’re adopting the latest digital innovation. The company is diving into digital and giving up on it’s print roots. Something that few print publications will ever do.

 

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Federal government builds a net-zero energy McMansion

I know what you’re thinking, how can a McMansion be green – especially with tiny homes becoming popular – and when you see the photo below you’ll be even more skeptical. Add in the $2.5 million price tag and it sounds like a bridge-to-nowhere disaster. But before you pass judgement let’s learn more about the home.

It’s a 2,700 square-foot house with two stories, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and an oversized two-car garage. Not your average American home, more like something designed for a wealthy neighbor. And that fits because this home has the best green fixtures money can buy. The multi-million dollar price purchases:

  • Configurable solar panels
  • High thermal efficiency building materials
  • Solar water heater
  • Smart thermostat (rooms can have different temperatures)
  • High velocity, insulated heating/cooling air system
  • Humidifier/dehumidifier
  • Ultra-efficient windows
  • Full details – pdf, page 2

The design allows the National Institute of Standards and Technology to turn the home into a laboratory, where they will test all the features – with no one home. Lights will turn on in the morning and after work. There will be fake microwaving and fake cheering for a football team on the TV. Garage doors will open and close several times. All to simulate the energy use of a typical family of four.

All kidding aside, this is a serious scientific experiment, “buildings account for 40 % of the primary energy consumption and 72 % of the electricity consumption in the United States, while accounting for 40 % of the CO2 emissions…will develop and deploy the measurement science to move the nation towards net-zero energy, high-performance buildings in a cost-effective manner while maintaining a healthy indoor environment.”

It’s a great goal – to have net-zero energy homes – but why did they have to do their research on a McMansion?

 

Learn more about the home – Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF)

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MySpace releases video showing off the new design…to break-up music

I think it’s funny and the perfect way to bring back MySpace. The whining tones of missing your girl and wanting to get back together, they help you get over the moment of – I’m so over MySpace. And then you can see the new design for what it is – focused on music and fans, pictures and sharing links.

 

 

But can MySpace – with all the brand recognition – get something going?

The market is full of similar social networks with the same features. The only advantage is to serve a niche – like resumes with Linkedin or photos with Pinterest – and music is MySpace’s niche. If they can maintain focus on that, build some momentum, and bring some respect back to the name, then I think they have a chance.

I’m interested.

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Don’t forget to sign-up for an invite to the New MySpace.

Californians create record-low trash in 2011 – still more than national average

From a high of 6.3 pounds of trash per day in 2005, Californians have lowered their output in 2011 to a record-low of 4.4 pounds/day. Good news for the state with the highest population, and yet compared to the national average – 4.4 pounds – that’s not much of a drop, more like stopping the excess.

But don’t count out Californians yet – the numbers show strong a downward trend that may leave the rest of the country behind. The state diversion rate (recycling, compost) is 65% – among the highest in the country – with plans for 75% by 2020. In comparison, the country is only at 34% – meaning some states must have horribly low rates.

There is also a strong downward trend among Californians and their trash. The drop was 30% – 1.9 pounds – in the last 5 years, while the rest of the country dropped 0.24 pounds in that same time. And the government is hoping to continue this decline – as the economy bounces back – by signing into law AB 341.

Which among many new rules, forces businesses to start recycling – the only sore spot in this story. At work Californians produce 11.3 pounds of trash – much more than at home. This is largely due to workplace practices that don’t promote recycling and state laws that let office buildings avoid recycling. This new law should remedy that.

 

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