Central Command Turns To Twitter To Solve The Gulf Oil Spill. Uh Oh.

As you’re probably well aware, there’s a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico right now. When BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and then sank last month, it began dumping thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf each day. By the time the oil stops leaking, it’s expected to be the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Yeah, it’s bad. It’s so bad, that BP and several other organizations working on the spill are apparently running out of ideas. And they’re turning to Twitter, according to gCaptain.

A group of a dozen or so organizations including BP, the EPA, the U.S. Department of Interior, the Department of Defense, and OSHA have set up Deepwater Horizon Response, a “Unified Command” established to “manage response operations.” Naturally, there’s a website for this effort, but there’s also a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Flickr account, and a YouTube account. They’re covering all the social media bases (though no Foursquare account just yet).

On one hand, this is absolutely great. This site and all of these social accounts are giving users access to a ton of information about the spill, and what’s being done to try and solve it. On the other hand, it’s a little scary to see tweets like this: “Submit alternative tech ideas to stop leaking...” Yes, they apparently must now resort to crowd-sourcing ideas over Twitter for how to stop the spill. Ugh.

Let’s hope they’re just tweeting stuff like that to let people know they’re doing all they can, and are willing to explore all ideas. Let’s hope it’s not that they’re completely out of ideas and need Twitter to solve the problem for them. (But tweets like this and this aren’t looking too promising.) Especially since that account only has around 4,000 followers, and that tweet was only retweeted 3 times. Maybe they should enlist Ashton Kutcher, and his nearly 5 million followers to help out if they really want to crowd-source this thing.

If you do have an idea for how to solve the spill, submit it using this form. If somehow this crowd-sourcing over Twitter does actually produce a solution, I’ll be all in favor of them winning some sort of Nobel prize at that point.

[photo: flickr/NASA Goddard Photo and Video]

Information provided by CrunchBase


Steve Jobs Spars With Gawker Blogger Over Revolutions, Freedom, and Porn

For many years, tech fans have known that Steve Jobs will occasionally respond to messages directed to his well-publicized email address. Most of the time his responses consist of snappy one-liners, often containing a nugget of new information. But it’s rare to hear about a full-on debate, with Jobs offering some rationale behind Apple’s highly controversial decisions.

That’s exactly what happened last night, when Gawker writer Ryan Tate got irritated by an Apple ad describing the iPad as “a revolution” and shot off an email to Steve Jobs. Three hours later, at nearly 1AM, Jobs replied, and a passionate email debate ensued. The email exchange is mainly focused on Apple’s stranglehold on the iPhone OS platform, and its decision to force developers to build applications using Apple’s tools.

Tate is clearly agitated throughout the exchange (in his blog post he notes a few things he regrets writing in his email responses). For the most part Jobs seems to be level-headed, though he does take a jab at Tate at the end. Through it all, though, one thing is clear: Jobs is on a mission to reinvent computing. He’s well aware of the controversies, and for better or for worse, it sounds like he genuinely believes that what Apple is doing will lead to a better future.

You can read the entire exchange on Gawker here, but here are a few interesting responses from Jobs:

Tate:

If Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company?

Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with “revolution?”

Revolutions are about freedom.

Jobs:

Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’, and some traditional PC folks feel like their world is slipping away. It is.

Here’s a later back-and-forth (note the jab Jobs takes at Tate at the end):

Tate:

Was it a “technical issue” when Microsoft was trying to make everyone write to the Win32 API? Were you happy when Adobe went along with that?

You have the chance to set the tone for a new platform. For the new phone and tablet platform. The platform of the future! I am disappointed to see it’s the same old revenge power bullshit.

PS And yes I may sound bitter. Because I don’t think it’s a technical issue at all — it’s you imposing your morality; about porn, about ‘trade secrets’, about technical purity in the most bizarre sense. Apple itself has used translation layers and intermediate APIs. Objective C and iTunes for Windows are testament to this. Anyone who has spent any time coding knows the power and importance of intermediate APIs.

And I don’t like Apple’s pet police force literally kicking in my co-workers’ doors. But I suppose the courts will have the last say on that, I can’t say I’m worried.”

Jobs:

You are so misinformed. No one kicked in any doors. You’re believing a lot of erroneous blogger reports.

Microsoft had (has) every right to enforce whatever rules for their platform they want. If people don’t like it, they can write for another platform, which some did. Or they can buy another platform, which some did.

As for us, we’re just doing what we can to try and make (and preserve) the user experience we envision. You can disagree with us, but our motives are pure.

By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others work and belittle their motivations?


Upgrade Alpha User Points For JOomla or get attacked

People are being attacked so often , main reason is vulnerable codes.

In Joomla components there are many components which are being a biggest cause of attack.

Among them Com_alphauserpoints is very attack prompt.

Some of the attackers are trying this code to get in

?option=com_alphauserpoints&view=../../../../../../../../../../../../../../../../etc/passwd%00

So better remove the vulnerable code or upgrade your components.

In next articles i will write down techniques to make your site hacker proof.

Keep your joomla safe

Tweets In Buzz: It’s Complicated — Well, Maybe Political

Yesterday, I moderated a panel at TiEcon featuring the heads of product for Google, Twitter, and Facebook — an interesting group, obviously. It was a good, long discussion (hopefully I’ll have the full video to post soon). But definitely one of the most interesting points of the discussion was when I asked Bradley Horowitz, a Vice President of product management at Google, why Google Buzz doesn’t import tweets in real time? His answer was, well, interesting.

Users of Google Buzz will know that the service is awful at importing tweets. Currently, the import is done in bulk at the end of each day, resulting in a barrage of tweets in streams. It’s so bad, that many users unsubscribe from others who set their Buzz account to auto-import tweets. So why does Google do this? Well, it’s complicated.

It seems logical that Google Buzz would do exactly what FriendFeed (prior to its acquisition by Facebook) would do, which is pull in tweets in realtime. After all, from what I’ve heard from multiple sources, Google does have full access to Twitter’s firehose. This makes sense considering that Google uses the Twitter firehose to populate its search results with tweets baked into them. So why the delay for tweets in Buzz?

When I asked Horowitz this question, he immediately passed the microphone to Twitter’s director of product, Jason Goldman. Goldman immediately passed the microphone back to Horowitz without saying anything. At this point, the audience was getting into it — what’s the answer? Horowitz would only say that Google is working closely with Twitter to come up with the best solution to import tweets.

That, of course, is bullshit.

I pressed, but Horowitz wouldn’t give me anything. So all I can do at this point is speculate based on what I know. Twitter is giving Google full access to its firehose per its agreement for search results. But Buzz may not want to use this data presumably because it would overwhelm Buzz — much like tweets overwhelm FriendFeed. If you’re trying to start a service, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want it to be overrun with data from a competing service. But still, tweets in realtime in Buzz would make it much more useful than it currently is. It would make it, well, FriendFeed.

In other words, I think this is all political. Google doesn’t want Buzz to become yet another Twitter client. And it’s hard to blame them.

Horowitz noted that we’d be hearing more about how Buzz can be used as a platform during Google I/O next week — so hopefully they’ll have more to share about Buzz in general. For now, unfortunately, all of us must suffer through this half-assed approach Buzz takes towards tweets. It makes it the social service that is sort of social.


Central Command Turns To Twitter To Solve The Gulf Oil Spill. Uh Oh.

As you’re probably well aware, there’s a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico right now. When BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and then sank last month, it began dumping thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf each day. By the time the oil stops leaking, it’s expected to be the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Yeah, it’s bad. It’s so bad, that BP and several other organizations working on the spill are apparently running out of ideas. And they’re turning to Twitter, according to gCaptain.

A group of a dozen or so organizations including BP, the EPA, the U.S. Department of Interior, the Department of Defense, and OSHA have set up Deepwater Horizon Response, a “Unified Command” established to “manage response operations.” Naturally, there’s a website for this effort, but there’s also a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Flickr account, and a YouTube account. They’re covering all the social media bases (though no Foursquare account just yet).

On one hand, this is absolutely great. This site and all of these social accounts are giving users access to a ton of information about the spill, and what’s being done to try and solve it. On the other hand, it’s a little scary to see tweets like this: “Submit alternative tech ideas to stop leaking...” Yes, they apparently must now resort to crowd-sourcing ideas over Twitter for how to stop the spill. Ugh.

Let’s hope they’re just tweeting stuff like that to let people know they’re doing all they can, and are willing to explore all ideas. Let’s hope it’s not that they’re completely out of ideas and need Twitter to solve the problem for them. (But tweets like this and this aren’t looking too promising.) Especially since that account only has around 4,000 followers, and that tweet was only retweeted 3 times. Maybe they should enlist Ashton Kutcher, and his nearly 5 million followers to help out if they really want to crowd-source this thing.

If you do have an idea for how to solve the spill, submit it using this form. If somehow this crowd-sourcing over Twitter does actually produce a solution, I’ll be all in favor of them winning some sort of Nobel prize at that point.

[photo: flickr/NASA Goddard Photo and Video]

Information provided by CrunchBase


Steve Jobs Spars With Gawker Blogger Over Revolutions, Freedom, and Porn

For many years, tech fans have known that Steve Jobs will occasionally respond to messages directed to his well-publicized email address. Most of the time his responses consist of snappy one-liners, often containing a nugget of new information. But it’s rare to hear about a full-on debate, with Jobs offering some rationale behind Apple’s highly controversial decisions.

That’s exactly what happened last night, when Gawker writer Ryan Tate got irritated by an Apple ad describing the iPad as “a revolution” and shot off an email to Steve Jobs. Three hours later, at nearly 1AM, Jobs replied, and a passionate email debate ensued. The email exchange is mainly focused on Apple’s stranglehold on the iPhone OS platform, and its decision to force developers to build applications using Apple’s tools.

Tate is clearly agitated throughout the exchange (in his blog post he notes a few things he regrets writing in his email responses). For the most part Jobs seems to be level-headed, though he does take a jab at Tate at the end. Through it all, though, one thing is clear: Jobs is on a mission to reinvent computing. He’s well aware of the controversies, and for better or for worse, it sounds like he genuinely believes that what Apple is doing will lead to a better future.

You can read the entire exchange on Gawker here, but here are a few interesting responses from Jobs:

Tate:

If Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company?

Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with “revolution?”

Revolutions are about freedom.

Jobs:

Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’, and some traditional PC folks feel like their world is slipping away. It is.

Here’s a later back-and-forth (note the jab Jobs takes at Tate at the end):

Tate:

Was it a “technical issue” when Microsoft was trying to make everyone write to the Win32 API? Were you happy when Adobe went along with that?

You have the chance to set the tone for a new platform. For the new phone and tablet platform. The platform of the future! I am disappointed to see it’s the same old revenge power bullshit.

PS And yes I may sound bitter. Because I don’t think it’s a technical issue at all — it’s you imposing your morality; about porn, about ‘trade secrets’, about technical purity in the most bizarre sense. Apple itself has used translation layers and intermediate APIs. Objective C and iTunes for Windows are testament to this. Anyone who has spent any time coding knows the power and importance of intermediate APIs.

And I don’t like Apple’s pet police force literally kicking in my co-workers’ doors. But I suppose the courts will have the last say on that, I can’t say I’m worried.”

Jobs:

You are so misinformed. No one kicked in any doors. You’re believing a lot of erroneous blogger reports.

Microsoft had (has) every right to enforce whatever rules for their platform they want. If people don’t like it, they can write for another platform, which some did. Or they can buy another platform, which some did.

As for us, we’re just doing what we can to try and make (and preserve) the user experience we envision. You can disagree with us, but our motives are pure.

By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others work and belittle their motivations?


Zelle 1337 Jewelry, For The Lady Who Pwn3d Ur Lyf


I’m not so sure the average non-geek girl would love necklaces and earrings made of resistors, fuses, and floppy disk parts but there’s no harm in trying. Besides, I suspect real geek girls would definitely squeeeeeee at these.

All of these handmade pieces are created out of used electronics and are actually quite striking. The best part? Each comes with an offical “Certificate of Autheticity” that looks like the EULA that came with Windows 95.

Read more…


Socialwok Adds A Collaboration Platform To Microsoft Outlook

Socialwok, a product that ads a social layer to Gmail and other Google products, is spreading its wings beyond the search giant to Microsoft land. Today, the startup, which launched its Google Apps-focused product at TechCrunch50 last year, is rolling out the Socialwok Social Connector for Microsoft Office Outlook 2010, 2007, 2003.

Similar to the layer that Socialwok creates for Google Apps and Gmail, the connector allows Outlook users to create a private social network within the application to share ideas, emails, files, Office documents from Microsoft Word, Google Docs and other rich media using status updates.

From inside Microsoft Outlook, users can see the latest activity of their co-workers in the office as well as view what files and emails have been previously shared. Microsoft Office users can also access the Socialwok user profiles of their co-workers from the Microsoft Outlook address book.

Of course, the timing of Socialwok’s connector fits with the roll out of the new version of Office 2010 this past week, which brings all of its applications, including Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint, to the PC, phone and browser. Outlook specifically has been revamped to become more social, with integration available for LinkedIn and MySpace

But Socialwok’s beauty is that it wraps a collaborative, social network around the most unsocial of email applications, allowing users to never have to leave their email clients. And as Microsoft moves its applications to the cloud and the idea of the social CRM takes off, Socialwok’s plugin could become appealing to business users.

Socialwok, which employs a freemium model, has steadily been adding features and improvements to its application, including adding support for Facebook, Twitter and Buzz within its applications and releasing a new version of its HTML 5 mobile version for Android and iPhone browsers.

Of course, it’s interesting to see Socialwok playing nice with Microsoft products considering the startup has mainly tied its application to Google products. Not only was Socialwok was chosen as one of the showcase companies for AppEngine technology at this year’s Google IO Developer Sandbox but Socialwok was just integrated as a pilot partner in Google’s recently launched Google Apps Marketplace.

The Microsoft integration certainly adds a twist to our theory that Google could buy the startup. It should be interesting to see if Socialwok will face the same fate as Google Docs killer and collaboration platform Etherpad or Microsoft Word collaboration plug-in Docverse.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Will Facebook Be Tomorrow’s Google, and Google Tomorrow’s Microsoft?

Editor’s note: Can Facebook become the next Google? In this guest post an ex-Googler, Bindu Reddy, persuasively argues the case from the perspective of Facebook’s potential as an online advertising platform. Reddy is the CEO of MyLikes, a word-of-mouth ad network funded by other former Googlers. At Google, she managed a team of product managers in charge of various Google apps including Google Docs, Google Sites, and Blogger.

Today, Google is the place to go to if you are looking for information about pretty much anything. By displaying sponsored links that are relevant to what you are looking for, Google showed us that ads are most effective when they are useful. So effective, that Google built a $25 billion search advertising business over the last decade.

However, Google’s search advertising business is inherently constrained by the fact that it works only when users are already looking for something. You have to search for makeup before Google can serve an ad for the latest Dior mascara product.

Facebook on the other hand has become the world’s identity gatekeeper—your age, sex, location, where you went to school, where you work, who your friends are—all of this personal data is used to serve you tidbits of information that you are likely to be interested in. Want to see pics of your cousin’s wedding? Want to know what movies your co-workers are watching this weekend? What music your friends “like”? You need to go to Facebook. The bottom line is that you are now trained to go to Facebook to discover things. With the growth of the Facebook app platform and support (so far) from apps like Farmville and Mafia Wars, Facebook has also grown into the number one destination on the web for entertainment and spending time.

Just like Google introduced sponsored search as an advertising model which fits in seamlessly with search results, it doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see how Facebook could build brand and discovery-based advertising into its product which will be useful to members. Like Google’s AdWords, Facebook ads will be most effective when they are integrated into the core product and are very relevant to the user.

Take for example, the sponsored ad from Sony at right. It’s a sponsored poll widget I can actually interact with. Much like a mini Facebook-app it amuses me with a poll while ensuring that I interact with the brand. Innovative ad formats are rapidly evolving on Facebook as marketers figure out smarter and smarter ways to catch our attention. It’s only a matter of time before Facebook figures out how to make brand advertising useful and effective on Facebook.

Unlike Google AdWords, this model will not be constrained by the fact that you have to actually look for something. You don’t have to search for makeup, you simply have to log into Facebook, and be a young woman fashionista to discover Dior Mascara. Dior can reach many more potential customers this way than by just advertising on Google Search.

With an effective and useful discovery advertising model, Facebook, is the first web company that has a very good chance of getting a significant share of the traditional TV and offline brand advertising market (estimated at about $132 billion). Given than search advertising is still just 6.25% ($25 billion) of all advertising dollars ($458 billion), Facebook may well surpass Google’s advertising revenue, and market cap, in the next decade.

Will we see a replay of the early half of the last decade when Google rapidly grew to take over Microsoft’s top spot as the premium technology company? This time around it might be Facebook’s turn to replace Google and it is not clear that there is anything that Google can do about it. Here is why:

Google doesn’t get brand / discovery advertising

Google’s ad business models are based on intent and relevance and not on discovery. The performance based AdWords and AdSense models are easier to measure and appeals to the logical / analytical minds at Google. The power of influence, discovery and brand advertising needs more right-brain thinking than Google’s left brainers are used to.

Also, instead of innovating and exploring new forms of brand advertising, Google’s strategy in that space over the last few years has been to simply buy DoubleClick which is the leader in old-school brand advertising (mostly banner ads). This basically means that there is no fresh thinking in this area at Google compared to Facebook, which understands the power of discovery and recommendation.

Google’s is a great technology company and a mediocre product company

As Google readily admits, the most powerful people at Google are the engineers. Product management, like other non-engineering organizations at Google is more of a service organization. This essentially translates to Google being good at technology-heavy offerings and mediocre at product-heavy offerings.

Give Google a technology challenge—Build the largest search index (Google search), the biggest storage system (Gmail), the fastest browser (Chrome) or the niftiest javascript interface (Maps) and Google excels. Turn around and give it a product challenge—Build a community video site (Google video), a social network (Google Wave, Buzz and Orkut), an e-commerce platform (Google product search) and Google’s offerings are more mediocre than excellent.

Google’s technology infrastructure, is optimized for large scale data sets and not rapid iteration. Its engineers like working on better algorithms and large systems and not on understanding the social behavior/economics behind a rapidly-evolving user-generated community site (perhaps with the exception of the folks at YouTube).

Google has an incremental product strategy when it comes to its core products.

Unlike Facebook, which constantly makes drastic changes to it’s core product, even at the risk of annoying some of it’s users, Google’s strategy on core apps such as Search and Gmail is largely very data driven and incremental.

Google cannot leverage it’s core apps to compete against Facebook with this kind of incremental approach. Only recently with the introduction of Buzz as part of GMail and the left-navigation bar as part of Google Search has Google begun to make bolder moves. However as with Buzz, these changes seem to be too little too late and it is not clear if they have the wherewithal to stay the course.

Given this, I seriously worry whether there is a good chance Google might lose it’s dominance. What do you think? Will Facebook execute brilliantly and become tomorrow’s Google or will Google wake up and triumph over Facebook much like Microsoft did with Netscape?


Fixing Societal Problems: It Starts With Mom and Dad

I am quite used to controversy—unsurprisingly, given the topics that I have been exploring with my academic research. But what has really been a surprise is the hornet’s nest that I seem to have stirred up with my two TechCrunch posts and BusinessWeek column on the dearth of women entrepreneurs. At every event I’ve been to recently, women have come up to me to say thanks for raising awareness of this issue and for providing them with encouragement; the New York Times ran a big feature story echoing my words; and several VC friends sent me emails congratulating me for “having the courage to speak up”. On the flip side, I’ve also taken fire from some VCs. One woman VC wrote a TechCrunch post chiding me for being “patronizing”; others declared on Twitter that all my posts are “garbage”; and I received some really nasty e-mails questioning “my agenda”. So I know that I’ve touched a nerve, and that this is a really important topic.There is little doubt that there is a problem, and that it is societal. Women start only around 3% of the nation’s tech firms; they are almost absent in high-level technology positions; they contribute to fewer than 5% of all IT patents and 1.2% of open-source software; and the proportion of women-led companies receiving venture capital has dropped dramatically over the past few years. This is despite the fact that girls now match boys in mathematical achievement; 140 women enroll in higher education for every 100 men; and women earn more than 50 percent of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees and nearly 50 percent of all doctorates (see this white paper by Cindy Padnos).

It’s not that women can’t cut it in the rough and tough business world. Women-led companies are more capital-efficient, and venture-backed companies run by a woman have 12% higher revenues, than others. They also have lower failure rates. A new Kauffman Foundation report, which I coauthored with Joanne Cohoon of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, shows that women and men company founders are remarkably similar in their backgrounds, motivations, and success factors.

I’ve never suggested that women should receive special treatment. Quite to the contrary, I’ve written that they need to learn from other groups, such as Indians, who achieved extraordinary success by helping each other. What I’m arguing is that if you’re going to fix a problem, you need to start by admitting that it exists and then fix its root causes. Don’t pretend that everything is okay just because you can highlight a few random successes.

I realized what the biggest societal problem is, when listening to three great women tell their stories at the Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Awards Banquet, last Wednesday: Mom and Dad.

Kristina Johnson, Lila Ibrahim, and Kathleen McKeown

My former dean and mentor at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, Kristina Johnson, attributed much of her success to her parents. Her father, an electrical engineer, taught her the joy of building things and helped her develop a curiosity for how things work; her mother taught her the importance of education in what Eleanor Roosevelt called “the beauty of our dreams”. Kristina is now working as Under-Secretary of Energy in the Obama administration to “save the planet”.

Columbia University Computer Science professor, Kathleen McKeown, has pioneered technologies in text summarization and natural-language generation. Her mother was an applied mathematician who was determined to raise a family and work during the days when women just played the role of housewives. She taught her daughters to be tough and defy society when necessary, to fulfill their dreams.

Intel General Manager, Lila Ibrahim, who has been leading Intel’s initiatives to provide education technology to the third world, came from an Arab family, in which, traditionally, few women work. Yet her parents pushed her to pursue higher education and excel.

All three of these women said that they wouldn’t have achieved their success without the support of their parents. All were swarmed by students at the end of the evening; like most aspiring women entrepreneurs, all the young students want is some encouragement from their role models. These are the  keys to fixing the societal problems: parents need to teach their daughters that they can help change the world by becoming engineers and scientists, and successful women need to provide them with encouragement and coaching.

I attended another very interesting event yesterday: TiEcon, which is probably the largest entrepreneurial networking event in Silicon Valley. I moderated a lively debate between Kauffman Foundation VP, Lesa Mitchell; NCWIT CEO, Lucinda Sanders; Polyvore CEO, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy; and Schmoop CEO, Ellen Siminoff, on the missing women entrepreneurs. We debated whether there was a problem and then discussed solutions.

Singh and Siminoff also talked about their supportive parents. But they argued that there is no societal problem for women; it is just a matter of women building the confidence to succeed and taking on the world —like they did. Women won’t benefit by “having a chip on their shoulder”. When presented with hard data from Sanders and Mitchell, who have been researching this, they acknowledged that women outside the valley don’t have access to the same networks as they do, and so they are at a disadvantage; as are women who don’t have supportive parents. The panel agreed that women who are at the “tipping point”—who have an interest and motivation in entrepreneurship, but lack the knowledge and support—do need help.

Lesa Mitchell said that a few years ago, she had been of the opinion that there were no societal problems and that the Kauffman Foundation shouldn’t provide special treatment to women’s groups—but had completely changed her views after reviewing extensive research and data. Women need encouragement, entrepreneurship education, and access to solid mentor networks—particularly in fields in which the deck is stacked against them

The bottom line is that it’s all about encouraging the other half of our population to achieve its potential and thereby boosting  innovation and economic growth. Let’s be aware of the issues and work to fix them. By the way, Astia is holding an event called the We Own It Summit, in New York City on June 8, which brings together key groups together to discuss this. I encourage you to attend. I’ll be moderating the keynote panel, and have no doubt it will be interesting. to attend.

Skype Screen Sharing Is A Huge (And Free) Productivity Tool

Over the years we’ve been pitched many thousands of times by startups. Sometimes those pitches are in person. Sometimes it’s over the phone, which works if you have a live website to play with. But all too often we get requests for meetings via WebEx or one of the dozens of competing products. Over the years those products have improved, but the percentage of failures is way too high. It’s always awkward when people are talking about what you would see if the meeting software worked.

The problems with these products are particularly frustrating when we put on a big launch event like TechCrunch Disrupt later this month. We schedule hundreds of live demos in a two week period, stacking them every 20 minutes for days on end. Companies can choose how they want to live screencast their software and demos, and we’ve informally tracked what software they choose and the failure rates.

Skype video, which now has screen sharing, now accounts for about 30% of all demos for us.

The failure rate is near zero and the lag is acceptable even for calls originating from thousands of miles away. It is hands down the easiest way to connect by screen and voice. And it’s completely free.

There are few bells and whistles. It’s only good for one computer to one computer communication, for example, and you can’t view the presenter and the demo at the same time. But the benefits are more than worth it. Just about everyone in the tech community already uses skype for calls and chat anyway. You click to initiate a call and share your entire screen or just a part of it, and you’re off and running. I wish everything on the Internet worked this well.

We are probably going to make Skype mandatory for our future events. The time and efficiency savings are substantial.

What amazes me most is that screen sharing is just a side feature for Skype. But that side feature is way better than the products released by companies that focus on virtual meetings and nothing more.

I like straightforward, reliable and easy to use products. Skype is doing all of that for us right now.

Also, I’ve been using Skype video nearly constantly since my move to Seattle for meetings with people in Silicon Valley that I used to do in person. When you go to full screen view it’s the closest thing to them sitting right in front of you that I’ve seen. Well, other than if they were actually sitting right in front of you. That would definitely be more real than Skype Video, I guess.

Information provided by CrunchBase


The Fire Eagle Flies. Tom Coates The Latest To Leave Yahoo’s Nest

Everyone is talking about location now. But back in 2007, basically no one was talking about it. But Tom Coates was. That’s the year that Fire Eagle, an early location platform spearheaded by Coates first peeked its head out of Yahoo’s now-defunct Brickhouse. Yes, Yahoo had the pieces in place to be perhaps the key location platform 3 years ago. Obviously, that never happened. And now Coates is leaving Yahoo.

In a post tonight on his personal blog, Coates details some of his favorite memories at Yahoo over the past four years. In it, he singles out Yahoo Hack Day, Brickhouse, and Fire Eagle (as well as a dozen or so former colleagues). Coates came to the U.S. to head product for Brickhouse, which Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake started for Yahoo in 2007. A number of products launched out of there, but Coates is clearly most proud of his work on Fire Eagle. As he notes:

When I first joined Yahoo! in 2005, Simon Willison and I wrote a list of some areas we thought could be really fascinating to work on, and which could be a really huge deal over the coming years. We’d become really interested in location and had come to the conclusion that every website on the planet could be enhanced in some way if you could add some element of location.

That dream is of course coming into existence only now. Coates acknowledges that his dream was perhaps a bit ahead of its time.

In 2008, Fire Eagle launched the the public. I was at the launch event and recall it being one of the first location-based ideas that fueled my excitement about the topic. Location had just started to come on my radar with the launch of iPhone 3G and its GPS chip (and the App Store), and I was particularly interested in how services such as this would deal with privacy issues (a problem which is still an issue today). Fire Eagle actually had a very smart approach, and Coates knows it, writing today:

We spent an incredible amount of time thinking about the privacy implications of users sharing their locations. Many other services see privacy as a problem and attempt to gloss over it for their users. We thought of it as an opportunity and made the privacy features the core part of the project. Users could choose where to share, how much to share, hide themselves and change or retract their permissions at any time. I think we progressed the state of the art in that area.

But the money quote in Coates’ post has to be, “Someone once referred to Fire Eagle as the Pixies of the latest batch of Location Services, and if that’s at all true, it may be the biggest compliment I’ve ever received.” In many ways, Fire Eagle was the precursor to some of what we’re seeing now. It’s too bad, that for whatever reason, it never really took flight.

Coates notes that over the past year at Yahoo he had been working on taking some of the ideas behind Fire Eagle and applying them across Yahoo’s other location services. We’ll be seeing the results of what he’s been working on in the months (and years) ahead, he says. Let’s hope that’s true, but I’m not too confident in Yahoo’s commitment to the future of location, considering that the Director of Geo Engineering just left a few days before Coates did.

Yahoo had been making a run at the hot location network Foursquare, but the latest word is that that is now off the table too.

Coates won’t say what he’s up to next beyond taking a break. He does note that he’s been talking to a few people about interesting projects though. Hopefully he’ll be able to contribute to the exploding location field now that he’s outside of Yahoo.

[photo: flickr/patrick h. lauke]


CrunchGear Review: Canon Rebel T2i DSLR camera


An outstanding consumer DSLR and liberating video recorder, Canon’s new flagship Rebel is a powerhouse media device in a small and relatively affordable package. What I think of as killer features, however, may not be viewed as such by the buying population at large.

Its main selling points are a highly improved LCD, a more complete video mode than its predecessor, and of course an increase in megapixels. Other than these features, the T2i is pretty much still the Digital Rebel we know and love. At $800, it’s not exactly an entry-level camera, but for enthusiasts and casual moviemakers, it’s a huge value.


4chan Founder ‘Moot’ Raises $625K For Stealth Startup Canvas Networks

According to an SEC filing, 4chan founder Christopher “Moot” Poole has raised $625,000 in funding for a stealth startup called Canvas Networks. We’ve emailed Poole to confirm the funding.

4chan is an online bulletin board where anyone can post comments, expound on topics and share images. Poole was featured as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world last year.

As of March, 4chan was receiving around 8.2 million unique visitors per month. Poole told the New York Times’ Nick Bilton that the site receives an average of 800,000 new posts a day. He also told Bilton that a Japanese toy store offered him $45,000 for 4chan, which he declined.

In the same interview, Poole said he was “working on a new project to reimagine what an image board should be today using the current technologies available” We’re assuming that Canvas Networks is related to this.

[crunchbase url=”http://www.crunchbase.com/company/4chan” name=”4chan”]


The New Browser Wars: Will Ubuntu Drop Firefox For Google Chrome?

Potentially big news in the world of open source software, friends. Apparently Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution, is considering dropping Firefox for Chrome. Well, maybe for Chrome, or maybe for Chromium, the open source project that Chrome is based upon. Therein lies the rub, I do believe.

What’s going on is that Ubergizmo, a fine site, hears that Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) is considering adding Chrome (or Chromium—more on that in a second) to Ubuntu Linux Netbook Remix, the next big release of which is due this autumn. What a terribly constructed sentence. Exactly why they’d replace Firefox with Chrome or Chromium isn’t known, but presumably they feel that the new browser on the block performs better on the average netbook than Firefox. No one would be inaccurate in calling Firefox a bit of a memory hog at times. I wouldn’t touch a netbook with a 10-foot pole—netbooks may also be dying, so this may all be moot sooner rather than later—so I have no idea if that’s true or not, that Chrome or Chromium out-performs Firefox on netbooks. I have no horse in that race, as it were.