Confirmed: HOPA Dry Erase Girl Is A Hoax, Identity Revealed

“Girl quits her job on dry erase board, emails entire office (33 Photos)” is indeed a hoax, say its creators John and Leo Resig.

I’d love to pull out some well-worn meta-media analysis about how memes are increasingly where we get our culture and we need to be more circumspect when filtering information yada yada, but I’ll leave that to my betters. Elyse Porterfield or “Jenny DryErase,” who went straight from our inboxes to the “1,000,000 Strong for Jenny DryErase to Pose in Playboy” Facebook fan page, should speak for herself.

New to Los Angeles from Greeley, Colorado, 22-year-old aspiring actress Elyse Porterfield responded to the following ad in Actors Access last Thursday.

The photo shoot, which happened that Friday, was for an image board site called The Chive. The Chive (which gets around 5.6 million unique visits a month, according to Google) is part of a network of viral sites run by brothers Leo and John Resig, who have a storied history of manufacturing Internet hoaxes, most notably the $10,000 Donald Trump tip and the infamous “virgin text messages her dad that she lost her virginity.” Both hoaxes ended up punking various mainstream media outlets including Fox News, Gawker and Jay Leno.

Porterfield told TechCrunch, “When I went into the audition, I didn’t know what it was for — but thought that this couldn’t be too bawdy or promiscuous or else they wouldn’t have me holding a dry erase board. “ The actress’ prior claims to fame include being compared to Angelina Jolie in People Magazine and performing in her college theater troupe. She had not heard of the acronym HOPA beforehand.

The brothers Resig came up with the idea for “Dry Erase Girl” about a month ago at the King’s Head Bar in Santa Monica, CA, and wrote down the details on paper napkins, including the etymology of HOPA (see below). Says John Resig, “We came up with a hoax that was completely relatable. It wasn’t spread by TechCrunch and Reddit. It was spread by Facebook and inter-office email. Everyone wants to quit their jobs like this.

All they had to do was post the images of Porterfield holding the dry erase board on The Chive at around 4:30 am this morning, and College Humor re-posted, followed shortly by TechCrunch. Resig says they targeted us because his publicist said that they should try for a TechCrunch write-up (Nice work guys). When asked if this was done purely to garner traffic and get media attention, Resig responded,

“We didn’t do this for the media. I’d did it almost to prove to myself that I had it in me, to make something go viral at 4:30 in the morning before the world wakes up. You get a pure thrill of watching your site go from 15,000 uniques to 440,000 uniques in a single hour, watching yourself sucker every site from a-z who didn’t do their backstory.”

And later, “It struck a personal chord. And people wanted to share it.” To the tune of 238k facebook shares and 31k tweets. Based on what was essentially a lie. The brothers told a skeptical Peter Kafka that Jenny was “real,” they told us that people “want to believe.”

From Resig:

“People, particularly journalists, underestimate America’s appetite for a good story. This story wasn’t primarily done to see how many people in the mainstream media we could hoodwink (though that was fun), it wasn’t done for the publicity, money, nor was it a slapdash reaction to some JetBlue clown; it was done purely for the entertainment of the people first and foremost. The purpose of the hoax was to entertain and inspire, not to inform, so what difference does it make if the story has a single ounce of truth? After our second hoax I remember a reporter telling me, ‘Well it looks like you’ve fooled us twice. Won’t get away with this nonsense again.”

Resig still has another media announcement planned for 10 a.m. PDT tomorrow. And he is not sad that the meme is essentially dying with this post, “A hoax has two lives, the initial hoax and the story of how it happened. Even though this is a hoax, people want to see a walking/talking Jenny, the people want Jenny.

In either case, Porterfield, who spent all day reading the comments and having a blast, is still in awe, “A million Facebook friends, I’m going to wake up to a million Facebook friends.”

“I Want to Make a Meme” Photo: Buzzfeed

Actors Access Ad: Boing Boing


Talentag, A Social CV Where Co-Workers Earn Foursquare-Style Badges

Talentag.com, which gets an ‘official’ launch today, is the new consumer-facing product from the team behind Emp.ly, the social recruiting startup.

It’s pitching itself as a “social CV”, and features the recommendation element of LinkedIn but adds Foursquare-style badges and traditional tags as a fun and quick way of soliciting a ‘thumbs up’ from co-workers and friends. Recommendations don’t just operate as a popularity contest, however, but can be tied to actual work roles that the user has had.


Philly-Based Incubator DreamIt Ventures Graduates 14 Startups

Editor’s note: This guest post is written by Michael Levinson, the co-founder and managing partner of DreamIt Ventures, a startup incubator. Levinson is also the co-founder of business collaboration Saas platform WizeHive.

Philadelphia-based DreamIt Ventures?, a pre-seed stage venture firm and incubator founded in 2007 by David Bookspan?, Steve Welch?, and myself is graduating 14 startups today. It’s been a busy third year for DreamIt as prior companies incubated, including Google Ventures-backed SCVNGR, TechCrunch 50 Finalist SeatGeek, PostLing, and NoteHall, have all raised funding. You can read my coverage of last year’s batch of DreamIt startups here.

Below is a description of each company in DreamIt’s class of 2010:

Adapt.ly: Adaptly, which was reviewed here, provides a platform where advertisers can create, deploy, monitor, and adapt ads seamlessly across multiple social ad networks. Once these ads are deployed, users can access realtime and actionable insights about each ad which can be immediately used to optimize the advertising dollars being spent. In the first two weeks of launch Adaptly has already served millions of impressions and tracked thousands of clicks from its paying customers.

AppNowGo: Building a data-driven web application is hard. To publish anything complicated you need to work with programmers, and this means time and money. AppNowGo replaces the need for programmers by making it easy for anyone to build online database applications. The startup’s interface uses natural language and guided wizards to build data-rich and attractive looking apps without the need for programming or design experience. These apps can be seamlessly integrated into any website and are search-engine friendly.

Campus Sponsorship: Campus Sponsorship provides a way for brands to engage with college students and for students to raise money for their on-campus clubs. The process starts when a fraternity, sorority, sports team, or other college club signs up to the system. The startup offers their members and those members’ friends the ability to raise money for the group by completing fun, short, online activities—each sponsored by an advertiser. As each activity is completed, money is raised for the student organization and the advertiser gets a few minutes of engagement. Activities can be posted onto Facebook and other social platforms, encouraging friends of friends to help raise money and making the online activities viral. Campus Sponsorship currently has over 325 student organizations on board as well as brands including Clear Wireless, the Gap, and Ben & Jerry’s.

Easel: Easel’s iPad apps provides hands-on interactive workbooks for students. If they get stuck on a problem, they can simply tap the “ShowMe” button to instantly see a step-by-step walkthrough of the solution, recorded by an actual teacher. Easel has seen a huge number of downloads for its first two apps (SAT and Algebra), pushing the app to the “New and Noteworthy” section of the App Store. Easel has also gotten significant interest from publishers and test prep companies, who will publish their content and deploy their tutors through future versions of the platform.

GiveLoop: GiveLoop is a social, online fundraising tool that tries to increase donation rates and donor loyalty by reintroducing transparency and personalized communication between the donor and recipient back into the donation process. Giveloop’s tool helps increase donation size and volume by allowing the donor to pinpoint what they want to donate to and enabling them to “vote with their money.” It also aims to increase donation size and donor retention by creating a two-way, personalized conversation between the donor and the recipient. Launched 4 weeks ago, GiveLoop is currently processing donations for a number of clients, including non-profit organizations, politicians, and bloggers.

Launchups: Launchups is a platform where business owners can get help with their day-to-day questions from experts, and experts can screen prospects to find new clients. Business owners use the product by first asking a simple question that may relate to accounting, HR, marketing or another area of their business. Launchup supplies content for particular topics from other Q&A sites. Business owners can then record a short video explaining their problem and distribute it to the startup’s panel of experts. These experts (accountants, lawyers, sales consultants) have signed up as a means to find new business clients and allows them to browse through quality video requests and answer questions.

MatchLend: MatchLend provides equipment financing to new companies. Traditional equipment lending hasn’t changed in decades and the metrics lenders use to establish credit worthiness exclude most new businesses. Therefore, many new businesses are forced to buy equipment with cash. This ties up their most precious resource, depletes their cash reserves for rainy days, and increases the possibility of the business failing. MatchLend is building a new type of lending practice around a predictive credit model as well as customizing operations and policies to suit this market. The startup also provides education and mentorship programs for the business owners to help ensure their success.

MindSnacks: MindSnacks is a tool for learning on mobile devices through fun, interactive, social games that feature bite-sized lessons. MindSnack’s first product is aimed at the foreign language learning market. By utilizing social elements and game mechanics, the startup aims to provide its users with additional motivation to learn and continue making progress in their education goals.

Numote: Numote (the “new remote”) is a new way to experience TV. The startup wants to transform the isolated experience of watching TV into a shared experience with friends through a mobile app. The app allows users to interact with their friends via polls, quizzes, gossip and real interactive ads that relate back to what is on the screen. Numote can also sort through the hundreds of channels to offer smart recommendations as well as recommendations offered by friends. Numote launched in June and has added 600+ new users every week, with users creating 2,000 quizzes for shows they like.

Pocket Tales:Pocket Tales is an online social reading game that offers a way for kids to engage with books, send and receive book recommendations, and discover their next read. To play Pocket Tales, readers test their knowledge of a recently finished book by taking a short quiz on the Pocket Tales site. Passing a quiz earns the reader points, which helps them level-up and challenge their friends for leaderboard domination. Passing a quiz also unlocks additional activities and opportunities to score points like rating and reviewing books and recommending books to friends. For doing these and other activities, readers are rewarded with digital badges called “amulets” which appear on their Pocket Tales bookshelf.

Sqoot: Sqoot is a way to share and discover the activities you want to do. Sqoot turns your online conversations into offline interactions by answering one question: “Who’s in?” In one step, you post your plan and you’re done. Sqoot crawls your social graph, find interested friends, and encourages them to join in—helping create the momentum to actually go offline and participate! Plans stay in your queue so you don’t forget about them and as plans are completed you are rewarded. As users cluster around similar activities, Sqoot allows businesses to offer them hyper-targeted, realtime offers.

Tembo Studio: Tembo is hoping to make addictive social games for kids age 12 that also have a positive impact. The startup’s first game can be described as Zynga’s Farmville meets Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth series. The game is set in the rainforest and you, the player, are tasked with using the natural resources in the environment around you to survive. The challenge is that each time you touch the environment, you risk upsetting the balance between the plant and animal species in it, causing populations to crash and multiply and putting yourself and your neighbors at risk.

Vozeeme: Vozeeme is eBay for the freight industry. On Vozeeme.com manufacturers and truckers can post and book truck loads through a web-based interface. The startup provides cost savings and price transparency for small manufacturers who today have trouble shipping their products in a cost-effective and reliable fashion and pay significant fees to brokers. Vozeeme also ensures the reliability of each shipment by pre-screening trucking companies, tracking shipments from pick-up to delivery and implementing a reputation score for truckers.

Yunno: Yunno is a social engagement platform that helps companies improve their relationships with their customers by creating fun and interactive online experiences. Yunno’s self-service platform gives customers access to a variety of engagement tools, such as contests, surveys, trivia, and polls. New engagements can be created in minutes and can be integrated into both existing websites and Facebook fan pages, all with no programming or design experience needed.


Bike Nerds To Create a Low Cost Bike Sharing System For New York

A group of charming fellows have created something they’re calling “Social Bicycles,” a bike-sharing system that allows you to drop bikes off almost anywhere there is a bike rack, locate them, and access them with an iPhone app. And it’s all outside of the confines of traditional urban bike-sharing systems.

While we all know that humans are intrinsically violent and destructive, the lads at Sobi are betting that at least some of them won’t destroy the bikes they borrow. The system uses a lock fastened to the bike’s wheel with a GPS system and transmitter built-in. When the bike is locked, it appears on the SoBi app and when you check it out you’re responsible for it.


Urban Airship Brings Easy Push Notifications To Android

Push notifications, which allow you to receive alerts without having to manually open an application, are a big deal on mobile devices. They’re important enough, in fact, that some startups have sprung up with the sole mission of making it easy for mobile developers to integrate them into their apps. One such startup is Urban Airship, and tonight the service is adding Android to its roster of supported devices (it already supports apps on both iPhone and Android).

Developers have plenty of reasons to send out push notifications to users — they can include things like important messages about updates, breaking news, or gaming challenges (they’re also good for keeping users engaged long after they’ve initially installed an app). Getting a notification from an application that uses Urban Airship should be pretty familiar to most Android users: you’ll see a notice pop up in the message slider at the top of the screen, and tapping on it will execute an action (generally taking you to whatever app sent the message).


You may remember that Google began offering its own cloud-based notification service that’s integrated into Android with the launch of Froyo, but Urban Airship isn’t using it. CEO Scott Kveton says this is for a few reasons. First, Google’s push service only works on Android 2.2, which still has fairly limited distribution — Urban Airship’s will work on Android phones running 1.5 and up.

Urban Airship also gives developers more flexibility with their messaging. Using Urban Airship’s control panel, developers can see how frequently users are engaging with, or “clicking through” messages. Developers can also A/B test their messages to see which ones users respond best to, and they can tailor their messaging campaigns to be sent out in multiple batches, sending them out based on each user’s usage patterns. Finally, the service operates across iPhone and BlackBerry in addition to Android — if your app is available on multiple platforms, you can use the Urban Airship backend to manage your campaigns across all of them.

However, the new service comes with one quirk — when a user downloads an Android application that has integrated Urban Airship’s push service, they’ll be prompted to download a separate helper Urban Airship application. They’ll only have to do this once (any subsequent Urban Airship-enabled apps they download will use the same helper app). But it may still rub some Android users the wrong way, as it’s rare for an application to immediately prompt users to download another, separate app. Kveton says was done to help conserve battery life and because this model is more secure. However, he said if users object, the service could potentially allow developers to “bake in” Urban Airship notifications without he need for the helper app.

Urban Airship charges developers based on the number of messages they distribute. The company has sent nearly 1 billion notifications to over 35 million devices in just over a year, and it has over 3,000 customers. Customers include Tapulous, Justin.tv, Newsweek, Gowalla, Dictionary.com, the DNC, and LivingSocial.


Phones? Set-Top Boxes? Tablets? As Apple And Google Fight, Amazon Quietly Lurks

When Amazon first released the Kindle in 2007, it confused me. The popular notion was that it was a way to move more Amazon content. But at $399, who on Earth was going to buy it? Instead, it looked as if Amazon was interested in making money off of hardware sales. Time passed and the price dropped, but the biggest factor there was increased competition. Now, at $189 (for the 3G version), Amazon’s margins on the Kindle are undoubtedly much, much lower than they once were. So what’s the endgame here?

The Kindle does make sense as a device to move Amazon content. And it’s finally priced to the point where that can happen in a major way (at least for a while). But if Amazon’s hardware strategy really is a means to move content, why are they stopping with Kindle books? Well, they’re not according to some information dug up by the New York Times.

Amazon is working on a number of hardware products, sources tell Nick Bilton of NYT. According to these people with knowledge of Amazon’s plans, the Kindle was merely the first piece of hardware to come out of the online retail giant. More specifically, the company has a division named Lab 126 that is in charge of these hardware projects — and we can probably expect devices meant to facilitate Amazon music and movie purchases (and rentals) next.

The obvious initial thought there is that this could mean some sort of Amazon MP3 player. But MP3 players are already on their way out — just ask Apple. iPod sales continue to fall despite sales of nearly every other Apple product going through the roof. In fact, the only iPod that seems to be going strong is the the iPod touch — a device which is much more than an MP3 player.

It would make much more sense for Amazon to be working on some sort of media consumption device for the living room. Yes, an Amazon TV.

While Amazon’s movie download and rental services work on other devices, building their own set-top box would simply mimic their Kindle strategy. Remember that there are Kindle apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android phones. The goal would once again be to make Amazon’s content as accesible as possible.

Such a box could obviously work for music purchases in the living room too. And Amazon may feel the need to move into that space as their Amazon MP3 service, long the second-fiddle to iTunes, is about to come under assault from Google too, with Google Music.

Further, Google TV is launching this Fall and could also mean more Google-provided content rather than content of the Amazon variety. And, of course, Apple is already in the living room with the Apple TV — but it’s the rumors of a major revamp that could turn it into a big player.

But the most interesting part of the story may be this blurb:

This person also said Lab 126 briefly discussed entering the mobile phone market to compete with Apple and Google, but the project “seemed out of Amazon’s reach.” But the person said Amazon had not definitively rejected the idea of building a phone in the future.

If such a project hasn’t even been started yet, obviously Amazon would be far behind by the time it got to market. But again, what if their plan for a phone wasn’t to have a super-fancy smartphone like the iPhone or Android phones — what if they wanted to build a cheap device that make it simple to consume Amazon content? It’s still a far-fetched plan (one they may be unlikely to do), but if they positioned themselves correctly, it could be interesting.

In the months leading up to Android, everyone believed Google was going to launch the “Google Phone.” We forget now, but one of the key ideas behind those rumors was that Google could potentially give the phone away for free thanks to the ad impressions it would generate. Obviously, that’s not what ended up happening. Google didn’t end up making the phones themselves (though they helped with the Nexus One) and the OEMs are still creating devices that tend to come in around $199 after a 2-year contract (in the U.S., at least).

What if Amazon could make a viable $99 smartphone? What about a $49 one? While they may lack the hardware prowess of Apple, clearly they’re working on strengthening that part of the business. As long as they don’t care about the build quality as much as Apple does, who is to say they couldn’t put something like that together?

Such maneuvering would essentially make Amazon the anti-Apple. Apple makes money off of hardware sales — the content exists so Apple can move hardware. And Apple makes very little money off of content sales. Amazon would presumably be looking to make money off of content sales, but wouldn’t care so much about making money off of the hardware (at least in the scenario I’m laying out). I have my doubts how well that would work, but it would be an interesting play.

Here’s another key quote from the NYT piece:

Internally, Amazon executives have been frustrated with other companies aggressively entering the digital content business, and one person with direct knowledge of the company’s plans said executives there were prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure Amazon remained a major player in the sale of digital content.

Because of devices like the iPhone, Android phones, the iPad, and soon Google TV, Android tablets, and Apple TV, Amazon’s consumer core is under assault. It may seem as if only Apple and Google are duking it out, but in their quest to one-up one another, they’re also gaining more control over their own content for their devices. That could spell major trouble for Amazon in the long run, and they know it.

The upcoming Windows Phone 7 is likely to take on Android, while anything HP does with webOS will likely take on Apple. Perhaps Amazon is content to let all of them duke it out while they quietly lurk and come up with their own solutions to ensure that Amazon content keeps moving.

Bring on the Amazon Phone.

[photo: flickr/torley]


Mark Hurd Had The Lowest Employee Approval Rating (34%) Of Any Major Tech CEO

Softcore-porn-actress-turned-marketing-consultant Jodie Fisher wasn’t the only person who failed to be enamored by HP CEO Mark Hurd, who was forced to resign as a result of an investigation into his relationship with Ms. Fisher. According to Glassdoor, a site where employees can anonymously rate companies and CEOs, Hurd had the lowest employee approval rating of any major tech CEO. Only 34 percent of self-described HP employees on the site approved of his performance, and 66 percent disapproved.

In comparison, Steve Jobs has a 98 percent approval rating among Apple employees, Cisco CEO John Chambers has an 81 percent approval rating, and Hurd’s tennis partner and defender, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, has a 78 percent approval rating.  Even Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz (56%) and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (52%) are more loved by their employees than Hurd.

It is not exactly a mystery as to why Hurd was not universally loved by HP employees. He was a relentless cost-cutter, an expert at eliminating thousands of jobs at the company while paying himself handsomely.  He also got HP back on its feet, adding $30 billion in revenues and tripling profits over five years.  Employee sentiment can only tell you so much, and like any review site, people with complaints are more motivated to share their feelings than people who are happy.

And while his approval rating dropped from a high of 57 percent in the third quarter of 2008 down to 19 percent last year or so, it did start to rebound during the current quarter.


With New Auto-Import Itinerary Feature For Gmail, TripIt Just Got Easier To Use


Just when you thoughtTripIt couldn’t get any easier to use, the startup has defied the impossible. The nifty site that creates customized travel itineraries from travel confirmation emails, is launching an auto-import feature for Gmail and Google Apps that will automatically read and import your travel emails to create and update itineraries on TripIt.

The feature essentially replaces needing to forward confirmation emails to [email protected] If you have a TripIt account you can register your Gmail or Google Apps account for the auto-import feature, allowing TripIt to automatically import your travel confirmation emails to create itineraries. The feature works across TripIt’s web platform and the startup’s apps for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry phones.

TripIt assures that the company only looks for travel-related emails in users accounts and nothing else. The parsing technology being used to scan emails is the same technology TripIt uses to extract information from travel confirmation emails and populate tis information into itineraries.

TripIt’s president and co-founder Gregg Brockway says that the new feature represents one more step in making the startup an effortless resource for travelers. And Brockway says that TripIt will be incorporating the tool with other email platforms in the near future. While it may be minute compared to other functionality enhancements, the auto-import feature only reinforces how awesome TripIt is for organizing travel plans.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Facebook Bullies PlaceBook Into Changing Their Name — Or The Way It’s Pronounced

The main reason you haven’t heard of PlaceBook up until now is because they’re still in stealth mode. But if you never hear about them in the future, it’s because Facebook is threatening them unless they change their name. For a location-based service, PlaceBook seems to be a killer name. It also happens to rhyme with that other social networking service — and they don’t like that too much. So PlaceBook is having some fun.

In the video below, PlaceBook founder Michael Rubin makes the case for why he shouldn’t have to change the name — just the pronounciation. It’s not PlaceBook, it’s PlacèBoök. Big difference.

Blogger Robert Scoble gave the world a peek of what PlaceBook was up to back in June. But again, they’re still in stealth mode, so it’s largely under wraps. They’re definitely worth watching though as it’s a group of former Netflix executives working in the location field. It’s just not clear yet what name we’ll have to watch them under — oh right, PlacèBook.

In all seriousness, Rubin admits that they’re undoubtedly going to have to change the name thanks to Facebook. They’ll be announcing what it will actually be shortly.

Information provided by CrunchBase


I Move You Is An Evite For Healthy Activities

Y-Combinator-backed I Move You is launching today as a place where anyone can publicly pledge to partake in an action and challenge a friend to also commit to an activity. The site’s ambition is simple: “I will do ‘x’ if you will do ‘y.’ I Move You is a way to inspire not only yourself, but also to invite others in your social graph to live a healthier, more balanced life. As co-founder Jen McCabe says, I Move You is an “Evite For Healthy Activities.”

The site, which allows you to create a profile or sign in with your Twitter or Facebook credentials, allows you to make a public statement about an activity you will do and invite others to do the same. Health-focused challenges range from swimming 10 laps to doing 50 pushups. The idea behind I Move You is that if you state your challenge publicly, you’ll be more willing to follow through with the action.

On the site, each action can be commented on, and you can follow people on the site and receive alerts when actions are completed. The interface is similar to a Facebook news feed, where you can access a list of the most recent challenges made within your social graph.

McCabe says the site’s original ambitions are to inspire people to make health-related challenges, but it’s evolved into a platform for a variety of challenges (such as challenging a friend to make a donation or making your bed everyday, etc.). And McCabe says that 75 percent of the challenges on the site are being completed.

The fledgling startup has even started to bring in revenue. I Move You is partnering with brands to create sponsored “I Move You” platforms to motivate customers or employees. For example, the startup has a deal now with dairy products company Cabot to challenge consumers to random acts of fitness. And I Move You has already raised seed funding from a number of notable investors, including Founders Fund and Esther Dyson.


RIM Reportedly Bows To Pressure From Saudi Arabia, Hands Over Blackberry Access


Even when you’re one of the largest mobile companies in the world (and certainly the largest for the business elite), things change when you find yourself at odds with a sovereign nation. Or a few. That’s the situation RIM is in right now as they attempt to reconcile their longtime promise to users (uncompromising encryption and security) with the unforgiving world of global politics. As you’re likely aware if you’re reading this post, RIM has been the center of government ire in a few countries (most prominently the UAE, India, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia), which have threatened to ban Blackberry devices if RIM doesn’t provide them reasonable access to users’ data.

RIM’s response was a stolid “relax,” but the public response appears to be different from the internal one, if reports from inside the company are true. What the Saudi Government has praised as “positive developments” are reportedly concessions by RIM giving that government unprecedented access to certain RIM resources, giving it the power to eavesdrop on any Saudi Blackberry user.

Continue reading on MobileCrunch…


Why I’d Use Shopkick But Not Foursquare

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Sometimes it feels like I am the only one in the world who is not into Foursquare. Or at least the only one in Silicon Valley. Or at least the only one who works for TechCrunch. I’m definitely the only one on staff who has never written a post about them, and that includes our guest poster Vivek Wadhwa who usually obsesses about issues like patents and immigration.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a smart idea, and I have plenty of friends who get sucked in by the cleverly-exploited game theory dynamics. I think eventually location-based services and bringing a real world, micro-location aspect to a Web that has erased the importance of where-you-are is the next huge market. And I give the founders props for not taking the easy sale and driving a hard bargain with some of the industry’s toughest investors.

But, as a user, telling my friends where I am doesn’t gives me enough in return to warrant the privacy invasion. The problem isn’t more seamless check-ins or putting more barriers to protect my privacy — the problem is giving me a good enough reason to share. The assumption is that return will be loyalty coupons, but with rampant fake-check-ins and the sales and marketing challenge of selling every mom-and-pop hipster bar, coffee shop, restaurant that’s going to be one hard network effect to pull off. (Ask Craigslist, Yelp, OpenTable and the zillions of competitors that failed to get that local network effect in even one city.)

The social media rules, for me, are simple: I don’t get hung up on privacy. I assume if I voluntarily put something on the Web, it’ll get out. If I don’t want it out, I don’t put it on the Web. And if I’m sharing things that help you as a marketer, I need something in return. That whole endorphin rush of connecting with far-flung friends, knowing where they are, what they are doing, who they are dating? Facebook and Twitter already have nailed the low-hanging fruit there so you have to up the ante considerably if that’s supposed to be the users’ motivator, just like Groupon upped the ante on Amazon.

Enter shopkick—which launched last week and is the first location-based product I’ve seen that could give me a reason to share. Cyriac Roeding Shopkick’s founder and CEO was on Press:Here with me last week and I figured it was worth posting for anyone else out there who’s felt alone and adrift in this Foursquare-obsessed world. (Full show is here.)

There are three things I like about shopkick and two reasons I’m waiting to try it. Likes: Doesn’t rely on bogus, fake-able check-ins; the sharing is between a retailer and me and they already know I’m in the store so it’s not much of an invasion; I actually get points I can use broadly across several online and offline brands, including making charity donations. Two caveats: It’s only on the iPhone and there aren’t close to enough retailers to make it a must-have….yet.

Information provided by CrunchBase


New iPod To Sport Retina Display And Dual Cameras?

And why not? The iPod touch has always been positioned as a non-phone version of the current iPhone, though the hardware hasn’t always been completely in parallel. The original iPod touch got a hardware boost that put it past the original iPhone, but was leapfrogged by the 3GS and now, almost a year after the iPod touch 3rd generation announcement, it seems pretty natural that they should align its key features with the iPhone 4.

Apple wonk John Gruber has casually suggested on Daring Fireball that a few weeks will bring us a Retina display-toting and dual camera-equipped iPod touch. He’s been right with this sort of prediction before, and this particular one doesn’t even take any inside information. The timing and positioning are perfect for Apple to debut the iPod touch 4.

Continue reading…


Rugged Rambler Makes Lugging Loads Fair and Balanced

Product: Rambler Backpack

Manufacturer: Mission Workshop

Wired Rating: 9

We technophilic, city-livin’ free radicals love our bags. Owning a stylish over-the-shoulder number that can comfortably cradle a MacBook Pro, a DVD box set of The Wire and a 12-pack of Pabst is of absolute importance.

The Rambler, little brother to Mission Workshop’s SUV-sized Vandal, is the perfect backpack for tooling around the city, whether by sidewalk, bike lane, subway or Vespa. Bike messengers and cargo-crazy commuters will probably prefer the freakishly huge Vandal, but the Rambler, with its more populist dimensions (it fits under the seat in front of you on an airplane) is big enough for the rest of us.

The bag has three large compartments — the main cargo area, a roll-top pocket that runs down the length of the bag on the inside, and a slim zipper pocket on the outside. The cargo compartment is where all the magic happens. It’s big enough to hold a laptop, your lunch, a hoodie and a set of headphones with room to spare. But the cargo area can also expand to twice its own size. Unzip the bag all the way and the front swings out to reveal an interior “basket.” Inside, there’s a second waterproof urethane-coated zipper to close in snug around your payload, and two buckle straps to keep bigger loads secure. The roll-top can also be unfurled into a flap and buckled down over the top for extra protection against the elements. There are enough configurations hidden in the Rambler’s design to keep everything secure and dry.

Even fully expanded and stuffed to the gills, the Rambler still earns crazy high marks for comfort. The straps and back are well-padded, and an internal frame keeps the back rigid. There are also load-balancing straps on the shoulders and a chest strap to keep those Franzia boxes from tipping you over. A padded waist belt is an optional extra.

Besides taking the Rambler on my daily 7-mile bike commute every day for two months, I also used it to haul a fat stack of records to a half-dozen DJ gigs. Normally, riding my bike with 35 or 40 LPs on my back is a genuine suffer-fest, but stuffed and strapped into the Rambler, the load was comfy and well-balanced. The bag endured a rainstorm in New Orleans, keeping my change of clothes inside bone dry. The versatility of that expanding cargo basket was put to the test on countless grocery shopping trips and wine-sipping picnics in the park.

The only bummer is the lack of accessory pockets. There’s a small zipper pouch on the outside of the Rambler that’s just big enough for your wallet, or an iPhone and a set of earbuds. But any other loose objects — sunglasses, pens, USB sticks, your patch kit, a change of socks — will have to ride with the rest of your cargo in the three big pockets.

The Rambler does have a cool Easter egg, though: If you carry a U-lock, you can secure it on the outside of the bag where it won’t smoosh your sandwich. Pull the elastic buckle strap down through its cloth housing to make a small loop at the bottom. Thread the lock through the loop and lock it, then snap the buckle closed on top of it.

WIRED The most comfortable light cargo backpack on the market. Super versatile (5- gallon capacity, expands to 10 gallons). Fully waterproof — urethane-coated zippers and tight stitching are impenetrable to the elements. Comfortable, even under heavy loads. Handsome good looks. Handmade by real fixie-riding San Francisco hipsters.

TIRED No accessory pockets. Roll-top compartment isn’t secured inside the bag, so it hangs down inside the cargo area where it can get in the way.

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Rugged Rambler Makes Lugging Loads Fair and Balanced

Product: Rambler Backpack

Manufacturer: Mission Workshop

Wired Rating: 9

We technophilic, city-livin’ free radicals love our bags. Owning a stylish over-the-shoulder number that can comfortably cradle a MacBook Pro, a DVD box set of The Wire and a 12-pack of Pabst is of absolute importance.

The Rambler, little brother to Mission Workshop’s SUV-sized Vandal, is the perfect backpack for tooling around the city, whether by sidewalk, bike lane, subway or Vespa. Bike messengers and cargo-crazy commuters will probably prefer the freakishly huge Vandal, but the Rambler, with its more populist dimensions (it fits under the seat in front of you on an airplane) is big enough for the rest of us.

The bag has three large compartments — the main cargo area, a roll-top pocket that runs down the length of the bag on the inside, and a slim zipper pocket on the outside. The cargo compartment is where all the magic happens. It’s big enough to hold a laptop, your lunch, a hoodie and a set of headphones with room to spare. But the cargo area can also expand to twice its own size. Unzip the bag all the way and the front swings out to reveal an interior “basket.” Inside, there’s a second waterproof urethane-coated zipper to close in snug around your payload, and two buckle straps to keep bigger loads secure. The roll-top can also be unfurled into a flap and buckled down over the top for extra protection against the elements. There are enough configurations hidden in the Rambler’s design to keep everything secure and dry.

Even fully expanded and stuffed to the gills, the Rambler still earns crazy high marks for comfort. The straps and back are well-padded, and an internal frame keeps the back rigid. There are also load-balancing straps on the shoulders and a chest strap to keep those Franzia boxes from tipping you over. A padded waist belt is an optional extra.

Besides taking the Rambler on my daily 7-mile bike commute every day for two months, I also used it to haul a fat stack of records to a half-dozen DJ gigs. Normally, riding my bike with 35 or 40 LPs on my back is a genuine suffer-fest, but stuffed and strapped into the Rambler, the load was comfy and well-balanced. The bag endured a rainstorm in New Orleans, keeping my change of clothes inside bone dry. The versatility of that expanding cargo basket was put to the test on countless grocery shopping trips and wine-sipping picnics in the park.

The only bummer is the lack of accessory pockets. There’s a small zipper pouch on the outside of the Rambler that’s just big enough for your wallet, or an iPhone and a set of earbuds. But any other loose objects — sunglasses, pens, USB sticks, your patch kit, a change of socks — will have to ride with the rest of your cargo in the three big pockets.

The Rambler does have a cool Easter egg, though: If you carry a U-lock, you can secure it on the outside of the bag where it won’t smoosh your sandwich. Pull the elastic buckle strap down through its cloth housing to make a small loop at the bottom. Thread the lock through the loop and lock it, then snap the buckle closed on top of it.

WIRED The most comfortable light cargo backpack on the market. Super versatile (5- gallon capacity, expands to 10 gallons). Fully waterproof — urethane-coated zippers and tight stitching are impenetrable to the elements. Comfortable, even under heavy loads. Handsome good looks. Handmade by real fixie-riding San Francisco hipsters.

TIRED No accessory pockets. Roll-top compartment isn’t secured inside the bag, so it hangs down inside the cargo area where it can get in the way.

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