Foursquare Tidies Up Venue Pages To Emphasize Tips

Foursquare, freshly flush with cash, is in the process of altering its service. They realize that the check-in model can only go so far, and they have to build utility on top of it. Part of that is changing the game aspect. Another part is the user-generated “Tips.” Today, those have been made a clear area of emphasis on Foursquare’s website.

On the newly redesigned venue pages (here’s TechCrunch, for example), there is now a big text input box for Tips. You type in what you want, and hit the share button and the tip immediately appears. This is much more seamless (and obvious) than the previous process.

And tips are hugely important to Foursquare. They’re the things that pop up every time a contact checks-in to a place. You can also mark tips so you remember to do them later (and note what you have done). This is all about adding value on top of Foursquare’s fast growing social and place graph.

These new pages also make it more obvious how the owner of a venue can claim the place as theirs (something Foursquare hinted was coming soon). And it more prominently shows “Total check-ins,” “Total people,” and “Your check-ins.” And, of course, the Mayor of the venue is displayed prominently.

Foursquare, which is a mobile application, is in the process of gearing up for the launch of the 2.0 release of its service. You can bet that tips will be a big part of that as well.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Eve Online, The interview: The Space-Themed MMO’s Philosophy On Game Design, User Communities, & Online Anonymity

Online gamers received quite the scare last week when Blizzard announced it would require message board posters to use their real names. This was to be done in order to fight the scourge of online anonymity. The Internet freaked out, of course, so much so that Blizzard eventually changed its mind. I mention this up to not open old wounds, but to take the time to remind you of this: there are other MMOs in the world besides World of Warcraft. In fact, I’ve been playing one such MMO, the outer space-themed Eve Online (developed by Iceland’s CCP Games), for several days now. Come, let us enter a world (universe, really) of spaceships, cross-galaxy pirate raids, and Astronomical Units!


GM: Chevy Volt Battery Warranty Is Eight Years/100k Miles

The Chevy Volt is finally coming together. GM just went public with the details surrounding its battery warranty and it’s on the same level as the Prius’s. The auto maker will cover the Volt’s LG Chem lithium-manganese pack for eight years or 100,000 miles. This comes after extensive testing over a three-year period in which testers logged over 1 million miles of driving and 4 million hours on the battery packs. Needless to say that GM tested the entire system thoroughly.


Prediction: This Statement Is Going To Come Back To Bite Microsoft In The Ass

It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I’m okay with that.

That was Microsoft COO Kevin Turner during his keynote speech at the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington today. I’m going to go out on a (not very big) limb and predict that this comment is going to come back to bite Microsoft in the ass.

Microsoft has a long, illustrious history of putting its foot in its own mouth with comments like this. But usually it’s CEO Steve Ballmer making the comments. Ballmer’s most famous remarks are also about the iPhone. After it was announced in 2007 (but before it launched) Ballmer seemed willing to tell anyone who would listen that the device would fail. Who can forget this video?

And then there’s his comment to USA Today: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” He went on, “But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.

The iPhone is now Apple’s most successful product in its history. Microsoft, meanwhile, is in the process of completely pivoting its mobile product offering after bleeding market share in the years after the iPhone’s release.

Of course, this comment by Turner is a bit different. He’s commenting on the antenna issues with the iPhone 4 — a problem which is very real. But comparing the problem to Windows Vista, Microsoft’s operating system in between Windows XP and Windows 7 that is generally considered to be a failure (even by many inside Microsoft), and a massive misstep by Microsoft, is foolish.

The iPhone 4 antenna issue is a scar on a beautiful woman. You don’t break up with the woman because of it, you work around it because of her other attributes. She might even put on some coverup (the bumper) so you don’t even notice it. And some may not even notice it at all.

Windows Vista is Kathy Bates in Misery.

Turner’s assumption is that the antenna issue is going to damage Apple’s brand to the point where people start jumping ship. And he hopes to have Windows Phone 7 waiting with open arms. “One of the things I want to make sure you know today is that you’re going to be able to use a Windows Phone 7 and not have to worry about how you’re holding it to make a phone call,” Turner said.

But all indications right now is that this exodus is not and will not happen. Engadget did a nice roundup of writers and experts all around the country to get their reaction to the iPhone 4 antenna issue. The consensus? No big deal.

Either all of them are brainwashed fanboys on Apple’s payroll — see, I saved you a comment right there, commenters — or they’re just giving their honest assessment. An assessment that happens to exactly match mine.

More importantly, there are still no reports of widespread returns of the product — despite flashy headlines suggesting that a recall is a certainty. I think Turner, like many people, has gotten too caught up in those headlines.

So I’m making the prediction that Turner’s comment will be one of those that gets repeated over and over again when he’s proven wrong. It’s not as bad as Palm investor Roger McNamee’s comments about the iPhone, but it could go down with some of Ballmer’s greatest hits:

Re: iPhone in 2007: There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.

Re: Google in 2004 (alleged comment):Google’s not a real company. It’s a house of cards.”

Re: social networking in 2004: “There’s a faddishness, a faddish nature about anything that basically appeals to younger people.”


Evernote Launches Trunk, A Showcase Of Evernote-Enabled Products

Today at a special event in San Francisco, Evernote CEO Phil Libin unveiled Trunk, a new showcase of products, services, and hardware devices that have integrated Evernote. The idea is to help users enchance their Evernote experience with features they may want but that Evernote doesn’t offer by default, like Voice Transcription (via services like Dial2Do, pliq.me, and QuickTate), PDF annotation, and business card scanning. Libin says that at launch there are over 100 items available to users; some are brand new, and others have featured Evernote for a while.

The Trunk breaks up these integrations by category, including mobile (iPhone, Android, etc), hardware, and web service-based apps. One focus for the Trunk is to help your memories “bridge to the social web”. Libin says that historically, Evernote has been inherently anti-social, but that in some cases you may want to remember elements from social applications. To address that, Seesmic took the stage to detail a feature that allows users to send items from their streams to their Evernote accounts, creating so-called “social memories”.

In the future Libin says there will be “a lot more functionality” to the Trunk (it’s clear that Evernote is looking to become a platform for memory services and programs). One area Evernote is excited is games — memory and braintraining games are in the works. And he says there are plenty of new upcoming hardware and software implementations as well.

In terms of monetization, Libin says many of the apps and services in the Trunk are free. In the future there will be “in-trunk commerce” where you can click a button to add certain functionality for Evernote (and pay the third party developer). There will be an affiliate program and an integrated rev-share program as well. Monetization features will be coming this winter.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Video: David Letterman’s Top 10 Signs You’ve Purchased A Bad iPhone 4

Okay, the iPhone 4 death grip fiasco has official hit a new level now that it’s a late night punch line. There’s no turning back after both Letterman here in the states and Top Gear across the pond have both done bits on it. Apple’s PR machine better be warming up because it’s going to be running overtime to recover from this. Click through for the video.

[Thanks for the tip, Nate!]


Product Management Software Company Atlassian Takes A Huge, $60 Million First Round Of Funding From Accel

It is not often that a company’s first round of venture funding comes in at $60 million and eight years after it was founded with $10,000 worth of credit card debt. But Atlassian, which was founded in Sydney, Australia in 2002, is taking its first venture money today from Accel Partners. The company pulled in $59 million in revenues in its fiscal year ended June 30, 2010, and has been “profitable from Year One,” says co-founder and CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes.

The money will be used to give some liquidity to the founders and employees, expand its product portfolio, and possibly acquire other startups. In order to get a return on its minority stake, Accel is expecting Atlassian to one day have a very successful IPO. But Accel partner Richard Wong is in no rush. He thinks an IPO is likely once the company passes $100 million in revenue. And if revenues continue to grow 30 percent a year, that will be only a few years away.

Atlassian makes product development software (for making software) that is used by 20,000 customers around the world, including Facebook, Zynga, Cisco, and Adobe. “In our belief,” says Wong, “these guys are the standard in product development software—20,000 customers can’t be wrong.” Its products include the Jira bug tracker, Confluence wiki and collaboration suite, and a host of software project development tools.

Wong compares Atlassian to Salesforce, except without the sales people. Atlassian has 225 employees, but hardly any in sales. The company spreads virally within organizations. “In the same way that Salesforec.com is about streamlining collaboration, this is about streamlining the product development process.” Atlassian offers its products both behind the firewall on a company’s own servers and as a software service, and its pricing is an order of magnitude below what something like IBM’s Rational Software would cost.

Atlassian’s products bring a familiar interface to enterprise software. “It is a little more modern in thought,” says Cannon-Brookes, “a bridge between enterprise software and the consumer world.” The interface bring in elements like activity streams and avatars familiar to engineers and product managers from applications like Facebook.


NOOKstudy: Barnes & Nobles’ Free Digital Foray Into The Education Market Lets Students Read E-textbooks, Take Fully Searchable Notes & Highlights

Barnes & Noble has developed NOOKstudy, a free (as in beer) software suite that could make the average college student’s life a little easier. The software, which will be available for the PC and Mac, gives students the ability to download and organize electronic textbooks, as well as keep all of their notes, syllabuses, and so on in one safe place. Handy. And no, you don’t need a nook to use NOOKstudy.

Read more…


Microsoft Rolls Out Azure Appliance, Partners With HP, Dell, eBay And Fujitsu

During its annual Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft introduced (a limited production release of) the Windows Azure platform appliance, the company’s cloud services platform for deployment in customer and service provider datacenters.

The company is touting partnerships with some big-name early adopters of the appliance, namely Dell, eBay, HP and Fujitsu.


Skype Blocks, Threatens To Sue Fring

Late last week, mobile communication services provider fring released an updated iPhone app that enabled iPhone 4 owners to engage in unrestricted 2-way video calling over Wi-Fi or 3G internet with other iPhone, Android or Symbian devices. This garnered a lot of attention, mainly because Apple’s native FaceTime application works only over Wi-Fi and between iPhone users.

Hours after its release, the company said it saw a huge spike in video calling that it was forced to “temporarily reduce support” to Skype, a third-party provider it has long supported.

Now, they no longer have to worry about that extra network strain, as Skype has apparently outright blocked fring and threatened legal action against the startup.

In a press release issued moments ago, fring says that it is thus being forced to stop its 4 years of Skype interconnectivity, referring to the move as an anti-competitive ambush. They go further than that in the complementary blog post, calling them out for being ‘cowards’:

They are afraid of open mobile communication. Cowards.

Needless to say, we are very disappointed that Skype, who once championed the cause of openness is now trying to muzzle competition, even at the expense of its own users.

We’re sorry for the inconvenience Skype has caused you.

We’ve contacted Skype and are awaiting an official response from the company.

Update: a Skype spokesperson tells us that they’ve been debating with fring about whether they operate in accordance with its terms of use and license agreements for some time now, and that these discussions were ongoing.

Surprisingly, Skype also claims the decision to no longer offer Skype interconnectivity was entirely made by fring and that they had nothing to do with it. Fring disputes this and say Skype demanded them not to restore access.

The company’s spokesperson emphasized that they encourage developers to build products that work with Skype so long as they’re in accordance with its various licenses, and that they are keen on enforcing its terms when developers do not comply with them.

Something tells me this won’t be the end of this particular story.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Study: Mixing School-age Kids And Computers Makes For Bad Stuff

I’ve always believed that computers, in a general sense, are not a panacea for developing nations. By slapping a laptop down on the desk of every student in Africa or Brazil you’re doing little more than forcing that kid to learn to type and then offering him or her the opportunity to look at porn. Without proper supervision and education, the Internet and, to some extent, computing itself is a timesink and an educational black hole.

Well now we have a modicum of proof.

Some folks at Columbia University did a study in 2009 on a Romanian project designed to offer vouchers to families for computers. This kids who didn’t get a computer complained that they wanted a computer but little else changed. But the kids who got a computer:

In a draft of an article that the Quarterly Journal of Economics will publish early next year, the professors report finding “strong evidence that children in households who won a voucher received significantly lower school grades in math, English and Romanian.” The principal positive effect on the students was improved computer skills.

Read more…


Ubisoft Expects Everyone To Have A 3D TV By 2013 (Yeah, Right)

Gaming is 3D’s only hope in reaching mainstream adaption. Hollywood has yet to put out any 3D movie that sells besides Avatar and that title alone is not going to cut it. However, even without a wide range of content, Ubisoft feels that most households will have a 3D TV by 2013 anyway. I’m doubtful.


Gowalla Gets A Spot On CNNMoney’s “Best Places To Live”

Location-based social network Gowalla is teaming up with CNNMoney for Money magazine’s annual “Best Places To Live” list. The top towns on the list have their own Gowalla hot spots, which are linked to from each city profile. For instance, the top Gowalla hot spots in McKinney, Texas (No. 5) include the Landon Winery, Pub McKinney, and Coffee N Cream. If you are within 25 miles of the top 25 cities, a notification will pop up on your Gowalla mobile app directing you to the “Best Places” page.

Partnerships such as this one with big media and brands are a good way to get more exposure for geo apps like Gowalla and Foursquare (which also pursues such high-profile partnerships vigorously). The partnership also adds a mobile component to an otherwise staid—albeit popular—list of best cities.

CNNMoney is also incorporating housing data from Trulia on the Best Cities part of the site, as well as job listings from SimplyHired. People use these lists for research when they are thinking of moving, so bringing all of this data into one place is very helpful

We are still in the landgrab phase of geo-social networks. These deals raise awareness of the apps and bring in new potential users. And for media properties looking to tap into the mobile geo phenomenon, it is much faster and smarter to put up co-branded sites powered by companies like Gowalla and Trulia than to try to build their own.

http://gowalla.com/bestplaces


Can A Startup Think Global Without Boarding A Plane?

This is a guest post by Richard Leyland, an entrepreneur and writer with a particular focus on the future of work. Richard is also the founder of WorkSnug, the location-based service for mobile workers.

Last year I founded a tech company in the augmented reality space. We’re doing pretty well. What began as me, an idea and a laptop is now a company with five people, plus a small army of freelancers and contractors. From roots in London we’ve now launched in sixteen cities across nine countries and two continents. We can reasonably claim to be global.

But we don’t fly. More than that, our founding principles make a public commitment that we won’t fly in the course of our business.


Monday Morning Update: Google And China, iPhone Class Action Certified

Good morning – depending on what timezone you’re in, of course. It’s Monday morning (already), but in case you hadn’t noticed, the past weekend wasn’t really much of a doozy on the technology business news front.

Did you step away from your computer for the weekend, or did the clash between The Netherlands and Spain at the World Cup divert your attention away from the technology industry (too)?

Spain won the cup, by the way.

Here’s some other things we think you would like to know:

– After Google had already told the world that its license to operate its search engine in China was renewed by the government, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology confirmed the news over the weekend.

– A federal judge has certified a class action accusing Apple and AT&T of monopolizing the aftermarket for iPhone voice and data services, but dismissed some of the plaintiffs’ allegations that a software update ruined consumer-modified iPhones. The class action suit consolidates several suits filed by iPhone buyers starting in 2007, a few months after the first generation of the device hit the market.

– We had a big scoop as well, with multiple sources confirming to us that Google has secretly invested somewhere between $100 million and $200 million in social gaming behemoth Zynga. The company plans to launch Google Games, for which the partnership with Zynga will prove to be an important cornerstone, later this year.

Facebook is set to launch a child safety ‘panic button’, reports the BBC. The button will allow young Facebook users to report suspicious online behaviour and access an Internet safety advice center from their homepage. A dedicated facility for reporting suspected grooming or inappropriate sexual behavior is being set up by Facebook in partnership with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.

– The Android Market is growing up. Watch for Google’s mobile application store to hit the 100,000 apps milestone some time this month.

– A U.S. judge slashed the penalty levied by a jury against Joel Tenenbaum, the student who was found guilty of illegally downloading and sharing songs published by Big Music in 2009. The judge ruled on Friday that it would violate the constitutional rights of Tenenbaum to require him to pay the full $675,000 in penalties, and cut the award down to $67,500.

(Image courtesy of Flickr user Louis Argerich)