Formspring Launches Mobile App & Photo Sharing Ability

Mashable Social Network Sites - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 12:00

Popular Q&A platform Formspring is releasing its first mobile app and entering the photo sharing space simultaneously Tuesday.

Going mobile seems like a no-brainer for the startup. Up until now, the easiest ways to know that someone had asked you a question or had responded to one you asked was through an email alert or the SMS feature. Now, the app can send you a push notification.

A recent Nielsen report found social media mobile app use to be up 30% and unique mobile visitors on social networks to be up 47% since the same time last year. Formspring is in many ways a social network, so it should prioritize its mobile accessibility.

Formspring’s decision, like Twitter’s, to add photo-sharing capabilities is similarly predictable. Users can now ask and respond to questions with a photo. Social networkers are already accustomed to explaining everything from what they’re eating to where they are using a photo, so answering a question with an image shouldn’t be much of an adjustment.

What’s surprising is that the two-year-old startup hasn’t made either of these moves earlier. Following its launch in 2009, Formspring experienced a tumultuous growth spurt that made it hard for its developers to catch their breaths. In its first 45 days, it had 1 million users. Within a year, 20 million had signed up.

“In the very beginning, the company was focused on not crashing because nobody expected it to grow so fast,” says Sarahjane Sacchetti, Formspring’s director of marketing and communications.

Now, with 27 million users, it seems that the startup’s product is finally poised to grow as quickly as its user base.

Its biggest question in the coming months will be how to monetize its userbase. There have been some hints. The company recently used its “question of the day” feature, which is asked of every user, in order to promote Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Its question today is from Taylor Lautner: “Have you ever felt like you were living someone else’s life?”

It includes a link to the YouTube trailer for Abduction, his latest movie.

Top image based on a photo from iStockphoto user urbancow

More About: formspring, mobile app, photo sharing, q&a

For more Mobile coverage:

Google to Offer More Privacy for Owners of Wi-Fi Routers

NYT Technology - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 11:59
Under pressure from European regulators, the company will give Wi-Fi router owners the option of excluding their devices from Google's registry, which uses the information for its location-based services.

NTSB: Trucker on phone at time of fatal Ky. crash (AP)

Yahoo IT - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 11:55

AP - An Alabama truck driver was using his cell phone during a 2010 truck crash that killed 11 people in Kentucky, federal officials said Tuesday.

BMW shows off Concept e electric scooter and Husqvarna E-go motorcycle (Yahoo! News)

Yahoo IT - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 11:51
Yahoo! News - Today at the Frankfurt Motor Show, automaker BMW demonstrated their dedication to electric vehicles by introducing a pair of zero-emission cycle concepts. Both vehicles are bold in terms of design, and BMW promises that along with their new-age appearance, they are made …

Exclusive: CVC eyes Orange Switzerland bid (Reuters)

Yahoo IT - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 11:41
Reuters - Private equity group CVC is considering a bid for Orange Switzerland despite resistance from seller France Telecom to let it into the auction for Switzerland's third-largest mobile phone company, four people familiar with the situation said.

Exclusive: CVC eyes Orange Switzerland bid

Reuters Internet News - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 11:41
LONDON (Reuters) - Private equity group CVC is considering a bid for Orange Switzerland despite resistance from seller France Telecom to let it into the auction for Switzerland's third-largest mobile phone company, four people familiar with the situation said.

Bits Blog: Target's New Missoni Collection Brings Down Site

NYT Technology - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 11:37
Demand for Target's new collection from Missoni overwhelmed the retailer's servers and led to a two-hour site shutdown earlier this morning.

Android Market nearing 6 billion downloads, according to study (Appolicious)

Yahoo IT - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 11:14
Appolicious - The Android Market, Google’s store for selling apps for its Android mobile platform, is closing-in on 6 billion downloads, a big milestone on its march to overtake Apple’s top-selling iTunes App Store.

DealBook: H.P. Extends Autonomy Offer

NYT Technology - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 11:10
Shareholders of the Autonomy Corporation, who have been slow to get behind Hewlett-Packard's $11.7 billion deal, will now have until Oct. 3 to accept the offer.

Google App Engine Adjusts Price Changes After Developer Outcry

Programmable Web - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 11:00

It has been two weeks since Google’s unpopular pricing changes on its Google App Engine platform. The pricing left many developers upset since it pushed up their charges by 3x-5x in many cases. Google was pushed to the back foot in the face of the uproar and realized it needed to do a better job explaining the pricing and give developers a little more time to make changes in their apps.

At the AppEngine blog, the team has published a post that tackles the issue on 3 fronts: more time for developers to make changes to their apps, providing more quota and giving tips on how to reduce your application costs.

The main points to note are:

  • Developers now have eight weeks before the new pricing is introduced. This should come as a relief to those who felt that the original window of 2-3 weeks was too short. The new pricing is now effective from November 1.
  • One of the main areas of complaint was Free Instance Hours. This has been increased from 24 to 28. This should allow developers trying out App Engine to run a single instance all day with with relatively low spikes still manage to remain in the free quota. Google still has one of the most generous quotas compared to other platforms.
  • Additional tools will be provided to help model the costs. The time window of seeing what your new prices are after making app changes has been reduced from three days to one.
  • 50% discount on instances will be available until December 1. The App Engine team hopes that Python 2.7 will be available by then, which in turn allows for concurrent requests that should help bring costs further down.

The blog post also contains information on various other ways to experiment until November 1 to see how to bring prices down. These include setting max idle instances and reserving instance hours which come at a lower cost. Developers are reminded again to go through the managing resources article published by the App Engine team.

The App Engine team is trying its best to be transparent in terms of how developers can work to reduce their costs further. It is clear that App Engine wants to provide a solid and reliable PaaS while continually providing new features. It is fair enough that there are costs involved to do that and the days of almost zero pricing are over. Developers will need to take a good look at their apps, make the changes that Google is recommending and see for themselves where the costs end up.

Peter Magnusson, Engineering Director responsible for Google App Engine has also penned his thoughts on App Engine Pricing.

Sponsored by

Related ProgrammableWeb Resources

Google App Engine API Profile, 101 mashups

Harvard's Berkman Center hosts star-studded forum on media and the "vast wasteland"

O'Reilly Radar - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:49

May 9, 1961 marked the first public appearance of Newt Minow as FCC chairman, where he achieved immortality by raising the claim that television was a "vast wasteland." The phrase entered American life so thoroughly that citing it has become almost reflexive in media commentary over the intervening fifty years. Last night, the Berkman Center held a gala event re-examining media, and the main guest of honor was...Newt Minow!

At eighty-five, Minow preserves the acumen, incisiveness, and zeal that he brought to the FCC. The large lecture room Austin Hall overflowed with attendees in awe at being in the presence of history, but Minow's attendance (perhaps facilitated by the role of his daughter Martha as dean of the Harvard Law School) was matched by a boggling list of other stars--just view the roster again.

Conversation ranged from the role of the Internet in politics to the difference between news and entertainment, always with a tension over the question of how much power traditional media companies maintain. I distinguished three different models for presenting news and entertainment:


This is of course is the traditional twentieth-century model, promoted last night mostly by journalist Jonathan Alter, who lamented that newspapers and magazines can't afford the costs of generating well-researched, carefully vetted news. Asked who could fund something in new media comparable to the recent report in the New York Times about a shortage of life-saving chemotherapy drugs, he suggested (probably half-jokingly) that a site might get advertising from drug companies. The other commentators at last night's event expressed little if any confidence that we could return to this model.

Public funding

Minow himself expressed enthusiasm for the BBC model (imitated in other countries such as Japan), where a tax supports a independent, public media outlet. This may or may not be better than the mixed model followed by public broadcasting in the US, always begging for funds. But in any case, an unbreachable media giant could well become a bureaucratic establishment all its own. In fact, journalist Ellen Goodman accused PBS and NPR of being too hide-bound to support innovation. I bristled a bit at this--don't Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street count? After fifty years, maybe not much. But the public stations are also looking at innovative Web products and are sharing a lot online.

Mass contributions

Yochai Benkler and Ethan Zuckerman led the charge for Internet media and mass cultural participation. Zuckerman tempered his enthusiasm for the "universal language" of video, such as one finds on his Global Voices site, by saying "Video needs help." He identified three types of intervention needed to help us understand posted videos: translation, curation, and contextualization.

Along the lines of mass participation, Virginia Heffernan of the New York Times issued the punchiest and most concrete advice of the evening: to sign up as an editor on Wikipedia. "If you haven't done it yet," she urged the audience, "go home this evening and create an account for yourself." The audience greeted this exhortation with much acclaim. Hefferman directed her request particularly at renowned historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who was sitting right in front of her. And Goodwin expressed some surprise at the idea that she too could edit Wikipedia. But she admitted to being intrigued at the idea and willing to consider doing it. (Hefferman should perhaps also have pointed Goodwin in particular to Wikipedia's rule that sources must be cited appropriately to avoid the appearance of plagiarism.)

The triumph of citizen journalism and crowdsourcing was not universally accepted last night, of course. The "vast wasteland" of the 1960s was contrasted with the "Tower of Babel" (a phrase introduced by Alter into the discussion) of modern media and Internet postings. Uncertainty over the future course of media led to the next topics in last night's rich panoply.

The power of the politicians and the media

Minow's historic speech (available in audio) stands out as a reflection of the power relationships that existed in 1960s media, rather different from today. He stood up to broadcasters by saying "The people own the air" and promising to fight the "squandering of our public airwaves" as a "precious national resource." He warned broadcasters not just to "cater to the nation's whims" but to "serve the nation's needs," reminded local stations to "meet their responsibilities to serve their communities," promised to support UHF in order to increase the number of television channels, and capped his speech with the ringing words, "Television is filled with creative, imaginative people. You must strive to set them free."

The Kennedy administration and Minow's FCC did take the lead in promoting the "public interest" (a phrase that Ann Marie Lipinski and Ellen Goodman said is hard even to define nowadays in a way everyone could accept). For instance, national public broadcasting was started on their watch. But last night's commentators said that any speech like Minow's would fall flat now, because modern media companies are fixed on the bottom line. Susan Crawford pointed out that the vast majority of Americans get their TV and their internet from a single incumbent cable operator in their area.

At the end, Terry Fisher suggested that the FCC was no longer the force to contend with in modern media, and that its power had been taken over by Internet filters of which Google is one early example.

Minow's discussion of politics and media (aside from a bromide about the difference between American openness and Soviet media control) was a complaint, ending his opening presentations yesterday evening, that American politicians have to pay for air time, whereas many countries require the media to give it to them free. Billions of dollars go to American media companies for campaign advertising, while politicians spend most of their time groveling for dollars to pay for it.

While not following Minow's lead directly, other commentators weighed the interesting questions of whether professional media can meet the viewers' needs and whether politicians' bully pulpit has the impact it used to have.

Heffernan criticized her own newspaper, saying that the New York Times got key facts wrong about Saddam Hussein's execution. They depended on reports of eyewitnesses after the fact, whereas a fringe video site managed to obtain and release a film taken at the event itself. This may suggest some of the power of amateur journalists on the ground, but Heffernan didn't raise the more important question of whether the video can inform our understanding of anything we really need to discuss. The precise words uttered by Hussein before the execution are of trivial importance compared to difficult issues such as whether the court that condemned him to death had legal legitimacy.

Goodwin focused on the issue of the bully pulpit. She says that Franklin Roosevelt was shut off from the public by the conservative media of his time, rather as Obama has trouble getting a message out now (although for different reasons). Roosevelt reacted with his fireside chats over the relatively new medium of radio, and was heard by tens of millions. Goodwin claimed that the bully pulpit has lost its force, and could not pinpoint how or when it happened. But I can think of a couple recent instances that show its continuing power.

The first was Obama's illustrious speech on race

Another example took place a decade earlier and involved another leading African-American politician, Colin Powell. Powell had achieved enormous popularity for his aplomb and integrity during the First Gulf War. As secretary of state, he delivered a speech before the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003, claiming to present evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. This speech almost single-handedly persuaded the UN to give crucial international backing to the Bush administration's anti-Iraq campaign, and led many Americans to support the following war. Nobody would have thought much of that speech had it been delivered by Bush, Cheney, or Rumsfeld. They reacted positively because they trusted Powell. And it was his reputation that took a fatal hit when the invasion failed to turn up the promised weapons.

What makes a Golden Age?

While bewailing the "wasteland," none of the speakers last night reminisced about the Golden Age that has often been cited for the earlier decade in television. Heffernan said that quality of today's entertainment (if not news) is better than ever. I'm sure that our current writers and actors have a sophistication and professionalism that goes far beyond those of 1950s icons such as May and Nichols. But I maintain that none are better than May and Nichols. Their work hasn't been aired for decades, but YouTube makes it easy for you to verify my claim.

Not everything in the 50s was high-quality, of course. One of May and Nichols's best skits is their 1959 Emmy presentation, where they hand out an award for "producing garbage" and "sticking to my one ideal: money."

But the decade did see a dramatic influx of talented radio presenters who were inspired and excited by the possibilities of the new visual dimension television gave them. There remains something special about this period, like any new medium. Nobody last night considered the possibility that television experienced a sizeable gap in time before the bean-counters figured out how to gain a chokehold over it, and that perhaps the Internet will go through a similar degeneration.


It was a bit disappointing that the illustrious guests failed to stay for the reception. So I didn't get to tweak Alter over my annoyance that, in the 480 pages of The Promise, his book about Obama's first year in the presidency, he said nothing about the open government initiative. Right now the efforts of Aneesh Chopra, Beth Godwin, Vivek Kundra, and Beth Noveck are suffering from budget cuts, but in thirty years they could well be the most heralded aspects of Obama's time in office. Media may be democratizing, but a wall still stands between the most successful content providers and their audience.

But an event like this at Harvard will draw lots of accomplished audience members too. I met an employee of the Nieman Foundation, a professor of media, and others. When the annals of modern media are opened sometime in the future, last night's guest speakers will probably have place in it, but we won't be able to predict who else will as well.

Bing Shows Up on the CW’s Fall TV Programming

Mashable Social Network Sites - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:45

This fall, the CW will give a lot of airtime to a new up-and-comer: Microsoft’s Bing.

The search engine will appear on the lower third of TV programming during certain shows, highlighting “TV to Bing About,” a twist on the network’s “TV to Talk About” slogan. The effort will also include more than 50 vignettes featuring the cast of various CW shows specially made for Bing and will appear on a dedicated microsite.

SEE ALSO: Fall TV Goes Social: What’s On Monday Nights?

Popular CW shows like Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, America’s Next Top Model and 90210, among others, will get the lower-third treatment three to four times per show plus a 30-second interstitial featuring actors from the show discussing top decisions this season and talking about Bing (which Microsoft promotes as “the decision engine.”) Kevin Williamson (pictured), the developer of Vampire Diaries, will appear in one as will Sarah Michelle Gellar, who’s starring in the new CW series Ringer.

“Bing isn’t just buying ad space, but boldly integrating with CW talent and shows to reach the Gen Y audience in an innovative and contextually relevant way,” a Microsoft rep says.

Bing’s share of the search engine market hit 14.7% in August, up 0.3% from the previous month, according to comScore.

More About: Advertising, bing, cw, Media

When media rebooted, it brought marketing with it

O'Reilly Radar - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:45

This post is part of the TOC podcast series, which we'll be featuring here on Radar in the coming months.

As president of Twist Image and author of "Six Pixels of Separation," Mitch Joel spends a lot more time thinking about digital marketing than most people. Joel sat down recently with O'Reilly's Joe Wikert to explore the publishing and marketing topics that are currently on his radar. These include:

  • "The how versus the why" — Why are you on YouTube? Why are you tweeting? Are those outlets actually suitable for the things you're trying to say, or are you using them because that's what everyone else is doing? Joel says it's important to question the time and energy you're investing in various platforms. [Discussed at the 6:08 mark.]
  • Advertising in books — Placing ads in books (digital or otherwise) is anathema to some publishers, but Joel doesn't share that view. As magazines and Google have shown, advertising can be made palatable by targeting the advertising to the content. What publishers need to do is resist the urge to "poison the well" with broad-based generic ads. [Discussed at 9:44.]
  • Why publishers should "burn the ships" — You can't look at the media as if it's the same media it was 5-10 years ago, Joel notes, and that means you can't look at advertising and marketing the same way either. Cramming traditional marketing models into digital platforms simply won't work. It's time for something completely different. [Discussed at 13:46.]

The full discussion is available in the following video. Joel will expand on some of these ideas during his keynote address at next month's TOC Frankfurt.

TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR


How Tablets Are Changing the Way We Search

Mashable Social Network Sites - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:33

The Future of Search Series is supported by SES Chicago Conference and Expo, the leading search, social and display conference. From November 14-18, get five days of education, inspiration and conversations with marketing experts from the digital space. Register with MASH20 to save 20%.

A text-based, context-less search experience, the type of search experience consumers have come to expect on the web, is becoming passé as touchscreens replace keyboards and tablets re-imagine what’s possible.

“I give you a query and you give me an answer,” says Norman Winarsky, vice president of SRI Ventures and longtime search expert, on what search is today. “But the search bar doesn’t understand my query.”

“The tablet offers the opportunity for discovery, as well as for search,” he adds, “and not only for discovery, but for inspiration.”

As the co-founder of personal assistant startup Siri — which was acquired by Apple and may find its way into iOS 5 — and an investor in a number of future tech search-driven startups, Winarsky has an ever-present eye on trends in search.

In an interview with Mashable, Winarsky details how tablets are changing the way we search.

The Unified Experience

“Tablets enable a full, interactive experience that involves not only text, but potentially speech and interactions,” he says.

Search on tablets will incorporate how you engage with your tablet’s touchscreen, front and back cameras and microphone. “Where are you looking? What are you seeing? How much time are you spending reading?,” he says as ways to imagine new avenues for search on tablets.

The tablet, more so than other devices, can know enough about you to understand the context around your queries and give you better answers, he says. “Search becomes a unified experience on a tablet … a unified experience between our eyes, our ears and our cognitive processes.”

The future of search, as pioneered by the tablet’s form factor, is the dynamic interaction among all of your senses, foretells Winarsky.

Winarsky’s predictions aren’t all that far fetched, especially if you align yourself with the camp that believes that tablets will replace laptops and PCs as the primary devices for personal computing purposes.

Forrester, for one, estimates that tablet sales will total 195 million between 2010 and 2015, with tablet sales eclipsing laptop sales by 2015. Apple is currently dominating the market; it alone sold 9.25 million iPads in its fiscal third quarter — the company’s best quarter ever.

SEE ALSO: Sorry, This Is Not the End of the PC Era [OPINION]

In a post-PC world, keyboards will play second fiddle to fingers and gestures. Cameras will conjoin the physical with the virtual. Our voices will tell our tablets what we want, and our tablets will process speech in a near-cognitive fashion. All those dynamics will aid significantly in the discovery on information with right-here, right-now context.

The New Battle

Who then is best positioned to command this new frontier in next generation, tablet-optimized search?

“It’s kind of hard to bet against Google, isn’t it?” Winarsky says. Still, he admits that the company is behind in the tablet market with Android and behind in the social networking space, even with Google+. But, Google owns the text search market, and it has the resources to create a unified search experience, he says.

“In order to win the new battle of search, you’re going to have to win all of the elements of the unified experience,” Winarsky says. “You better be a dominant player in social networks … you better be a great player in artificial intelligence and speech recognition … you need to be able to understand the content of videos and images, and you need a far better interaction experience that enables you to better understand the human interaction with the tablet.”

But, will the unified search experience take the form of an application, an operating system or continue to be a literal search experience? “Eventually, search will not be a separate activity. It will be incorporated into the operating system of the tablet,” Winarsky says, though he qualifies his statement to add that this will take years to happen.

Search on tablets, as outlined here by Winarsky will be a far different experience than search as we know it. Will these tablet-inspired experiences trickle back to how we as consumers expect to search for information on the web via laptop or PC? “Absolutely,” says Winarsky.

“People will feel that search by text alone, in a text bar, without interaction and without multimedia is prehistoric in five to 10 years.” This, perchance, leaves the door open to a new king in the search market.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, arakonyunus, and Flickr, waferbaby, Arne Kuilman

Series supported by SES Chicago Conference and Expo

The Future of Search Series is supported by SES Chicago Conference and Expo, connecting the digital dots between search, social and commerce. The SES Chicago Conference & Expo takes a critical look at the latest developments to help marketers traverse the quickly developing landscape, with a special focus on the latest ecommerce trends and the latest technology launches from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. Register with MASH20 and save 20%. Join the discussion #SESConf.

More About: Future of Search Series, Search, siri, SRI, tablets

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Windows 8 Just Might Be the Next It Thing (The Atlantic Wire)

Yahoo IT - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:16
The Atlantic Wire - Related: Microsoft's Zune Is Dead; Let's Relive Its Finest Moment

Android Makes Big Gains on iOS in Europe [STATS]

Mashable Social Network Sites - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:13

Android has been the top smartphone platform in the U.S. and the world for more than half a year. Now, it’s experiencing similarly fast growth in Europe.

According to comScore’s latest report, which measures smartphone adoption rates in EU5 — France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom — Android has grown an amazing 16.2% between July 2010 and July 2011, which propelled it to second place on the top smartphone platform list.

Nokia‘s dying Symbian is still number one, but its market share has shrunk considerably in this same period, and there’s no reason to believe this trend will change. Apple‘s iOS is number three on the list, with moderate growth – only 1.2% year-over-year.

RIM‘s growth was similar to Apple’s, and it was only enough to put its BlackBerry platform firmly in fourth place. Microsoft lost 4.8% and settled in fifth place. The Redmond giant can only find some comfort in hoping that Nokia’s Windows Phone 7 devices, due to start appearing on the market at the end of this year, will reverse this trend.

All of this paints quite a clear picture: In these European markets, Symbian users are mostly switching to Android devices. As Symbian’s market share plunges toward zero, if the current trends continue, we’ll see Android grabbing an even bigger size of the market in the near future.

comScore also has a nice breakdown of Android smartphone manufacturers’ individual market shares. HTC is leading the pack with a 34.6% share, followed by Samsung with 31.7%, with Sony Ericsson, LG and Motorola grabbing places three to five.

Read the full report here.

More About: android, apple, blackberry, eu, europe, Google, iOS, microsoft, RIM, smartphone, windows phone 7

LivingSocial Offers 50% Off at Whole Foods

Mashable Social Network Sites - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:05

LivingSocial launched a 50% off deal at Whole Foods Markets Tuesday, in its highest profile deal since it offered the same discount at Amazon in January.

Visitors to LivingSocial’s site or recipients of the company’s emails are eligible for the offer, which gives $20 worth of the chain’s groceries for $10. In addition, 5% of the proceeds from the promotion will go toward the Whole Kids Foundation, which supports schools and aims to inspire families to improve children’s nutrition and wellness.

A rep for LivingSocial says this is the first time a national grocer has offered a daily deal with any company.

At presstime, close to 466,000 people had signed up and LivingSocial has capped the offer at 1 million. The company sold the 1 million-plus vouchersfor the Amazon deal.

More About: amazon, groupon, LivingSocial, whole foods

Keeping images and text in sync

O'Reilly Radar - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:00

This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers' project "Breaking the Page: Transforming Books and the Reading Experience." We'll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It's republished with permission.)

I've got some seriously mixed opinions about Biblion — the iPad app for browsing the New York Public Library's 1939 World's Fair archive. On the one hand, it's got few peers in rethinking how a document and photo collection can be packaged up in a fun-to-browse way. On the other hand, the whole design feels like one of my sketchbooks: overflowing with every kind of zany document design experiment that my caffeine-fueled mind can squirt out. Five minutes or so with this app and I find myself suffering from what might be called document disorientation — an unsettling sense that I don't quite know where I am, what I've read, and how much remains to explore. I don't, in short, find it a soothing or immersive reading experience.

But despite all that, I'm here to sing Team Biblion's praises (the shop behind this effort is named Potion). Included in their feature fest is one innovation that's particularly promising. It's a system for posting a handful of images above an article and then pushing to the forefront whichever picture matches the current reading point.

As the reader scrolls the prose column upward, the app enlarges whichever image matches the top few lines of text.

The article in its "launch" state. Eight lines down, the text mentions Joe DiMaggio, who's pictured in the enlarged photo. (Click to enlarge.)

As the reader scrolls further down, new images are enlarged, one at a time. Here, the Babe Ruth photo matches what's discussed in the second paragraph. (Click to enlarge.)

Overall, the feature doesn't work as consistently as one might like — some articles offer this souped-up up treatment, some don't; some images get summoned exactly when you'd expect, others never get enlarged. But the thinking behind the feature succeeds, I think, because it targets a specific reader need (spotlighting the image that is currently important) while at the same time addressing a shortcoming of iPad page layout (limited real estate).

Beta620, the experimental playpen over at the New York Times, has been tackling a similar problem: how do you keep a single image visible even as a reader scrolls further down into a long article? They've come up with a feature I hope they promote to the big leagues. It's a dead simple layout tweak that keeps an image "above the fold" even as the reader scrolls down the page. Here's an article that puts this feature to use:

As the reader scrolls further "down screen" the art on the right stays in place. (Click to enlarge.)

Maintaining a persistent visual in this manner is a hugely valuable reader service, especially for pieces like this essay on a Velázquez painting.

Lots of different kinds of digital books and web publications can benefit from this kind of customized, dynamic image spotlighting. I'm reading a book right now called "A History of the Illuminated Manuscript." A digital version of it would be perfect for keeping images onscreen, shuttling them off, and then re-summoning them as the reader progresses through the text. Save readers the hassle of having to flip back and forth between body text and referenced images and they'll learn better ... and want to buy more books with simple but useful enhancements like these.

Webcast: Digital Bookmaking Tools Roundup #2 — Back by popular demand, in a second look at Digital Bookmaking Tools, author and book futurist Pete Meyers explores the existing options for creating digital books.

Join us on Thursday, November 10, 2011, at 10 am PT
Register for this free webcast


Today’s Top Headlines: Microsoft, Facebook & Top 20 Colleges’ Social Media Presences

Mashable Social Network Sites - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 09:48

Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world. We’re keeping our eyes on three particular stories of interest today.

Microsoft Prepares Windows 8 for Battle Against iPad

At Tuesday’s Microsoft Build conference, Microsoft will unveil its new operating system, Windows 8. The next generation OS is designed for PCs and tablets. Sources tell us that the device will be manufactured by Samsung but has been designed meticulously by Microsoft in an attempt to create the iPad alternative.

New Facebook Feature Reduces Email Notifications

Facebook is testing a new feature that lets users group their email notifications into summary emails, which is ideal for users who receive dozens of daily friend requests or are frequent participants in Facebook conversations.

How Digitally Connected Are the U.S. News Top 20 Colleges?

The U.S. News list of top ranking national universities and national liberal arts colleges came out Tuesday. The rankings take several factors into account, including tuition, acceptance rate, retention rate, class size, SAT scores and graduation rate. We decided to add another factor for review: social media connectedness. We looked at Twitter feeds encompassing university life, official Facebook Pages and YouTube channels, not to mention the follower count for each official university/college account.

Further News

  • “iPhones are not that cool anymore. We here are using iPhones, but our kids don’t find them that cool anymore,” said Martin Fichter, acting president of HTC America, during the Mobile Future Forward conference in Seattle
  • After numerous patent lawsuits from Apple, Samsung has responded with another lawsuit of its own — this time in France. The Korean manufacturer claims that Apple has infringed on three of its technology patents regarding UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) and “not on the design of the tablets.”
  • European astronomers have discovered 50 new planets, including 16 so-called Super-Earths, one of which is potentially habitable.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

More About: morning brief

The First Signs of Mutiny in the Android Brigade (The Atlantic Wire)

Yahoo IT - Tue, 09/13/2011 - 09:41
The Atlantic Wire - Despite the billowing success of the iPhone, recent studies show that Android is the number one mobile platform in the world. For companies that depend on it, the Google-powered Android operating system for mobile phones and tablets is free, and given Google's increasingly large war chest of intellectual property, it also serves a shield against stray bullets in the software patent wars. For some reason, the top officers in the Android army are showing signs of defecting. HTC chair Cher Wang told a Chinese newspaper that the Taiwanese company is thinking about buying an operating system, one that would presumably replace the Android software that currently powers its devices. Meanwhile, Samsung is releasing a new line of non-Android phones, and Microsoft is moving in with their long-awaited "Mango" phones. Is this the beginning of the end of the Android empire?

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