Thursday, June 30, 2011

Obama to Hold First Twitter Town Hall on July 6

Twitter Town HallOn Wednesday, July 6, 2011 Barack Obama will hold a live town hall...using Twitter. That's right, our nation's leader will be answering questions about our current economy and jobs during a live webcast. Questions may be submitted via the website or by using the Twitter hashtag #AskObama.

In addition to that, there is also an official Twitter account for the town hall, @townhall, that users will be able to follow in order to receive all the updates. The July 6 live webcast will begin at 2 p.m. ET, 11 a.m. PT. Twitter has designed and hosted the website for the event. The news came via tweet that read, "BREAKING: 1st Twitter @townhall w/ Pres Obama at the WH on 7/6 @ 2ET. #AskObama your Qs on the economy & jobs:"

Politicians have recently increased their Twitter usage by using the website to connect with constituents, announce their future plans to run for higher offices and even share important news. One example includes Republican presidential candidates planning on debating via Twitter on July 20 using as a platform. What is so interesting about this is that Twitter has yet to actively involve itself in the political process to this extent before.

A lot of people like this idea and see Twitter as the perfect digital version of a traditional town hall. The site allows users to voice their opinions and questions to not only the politician but also to the community as a whole. It stands to reason that in the buildup to the 2012 presidential election Twitter will continue to play a more prominent role in the discourse.

I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, I can see the benefits from doing something like this as a way for Obama to receive questions from citizens all across the country. On the other hand, it feels a little gimmicky to me. What do you think? Do you like politicians' use of Twitter to connect with the public? What questions are you going to Tweet to Obama on July 6?

Source: Mashable - President Obama To Hold First Twitter Town Hall on July 6

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Google PageRank Updated Today

There was a PageRank update today from Google. I noticed many of our blogs, magazines and websites all had higher PageRank. Looking to verify if others had the same experience, Barry Schwartz posted this report with his post earlier today.

Barry posted:
So after almost 6 months, Google has finally updated the toolbar PageRank values. At least that is what everyone is reporting in the forums. Personally, I did not look - but based on all the threads and posts, it seems like a global PageRank update was indeed pushed out.
The last one was about 6 months ago, and this comes about a month since Google's Matt Cutts said a PageRank update is coming soon.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Who Really Owns Facebook?

The fight over who has stakes in Facebook continues. According to court documents that were filed on Friday, June 17, Paul Cegila, the man that claims that he owns half of founder Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking giant, has passed the lie detector test that he was given. The test focused in on the authenticity of a contract that Cegila and Zuckerberg allegedly signed back in 2003. Facebook claims that the documents are forged, but according to Cegila’s lawyers, the test showed “no deception.”

In 2003 Zuckerberg was hired by Cegila to do some programming for a company called StreetFax. It was after this encounter that Cegila was then convinced by Zuckerberg to invest in Facebook. At the time Facebook was in its beginning stages and was only available to Harvard students. According to a transcript that was revealed in April of an alleged email correspondence between Cegila and Zuckerberg, Cegila was given a 50 percent share of Facebook for a $1,000 investment. He was also allegedly promised an additional 1 percent share for every day that Facebook was not online past January 1, 2004.

Despite the results of the lie detector test, Facebook lawyers were not convinced.

"This latest court filing confirms that the bogus emails are, literally, a cut-and-paste job, just like the so-called contract is a fraud," attorney Orin Snyder of Gibson Dunn said in a statement emailed to media. There is a deafening silence in these papers: Ceglia does not dispute that he has a track record of forging documents to rip people off.

"And the fact that this plaintiff now has to rely on a polygraph test says it all. Everyone knows polygraph tests are easily manipulated, which is why courts routinely disregard them."

The supposed email contract is not the only document that Cegila is releasing. He also put out emails in which Zuckerberg allegedly requested to use a source code from StreetFax to power Facebook’s search engine and a proposal to charge a fee for alumni to be able to use the site.

Yet another email detailed an additional $1,000 that Cegila supposedly invested in the company, and others featured back and forth about Cegila’s alleged stakes in Facebook. In one, Zuckerberg even supposedly offered to refund Cegila’s investment.

Some of the emails that Cegila claims are genuine feature Zuckerberg referencing the “upperclassmen.” It seems most probable that this reference would be aimed toward the twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. These two young men were champion crew athletes that claimed to be the actual originators of Facebook. In 2008 the twins were able to secure a $65 million settlement from the company, and they continue to pursue legal filings against both Facebook and Zuckerberg.

In one of the alleged emails that Cegila has filed, Zuckerberg writes, “I have recently met with a couple of upperclassmen here at Harvard that are planning to launch a site very similar to ours. If we don't make a move soon, I think we will lose the advantage we would have if we release before them. I've stalled them for the time being and with a break if you could send another $1000 for the facebook project, it would allow me to pay my roommate or Jeff to help integrate the search code and get the site live before them."

In response to all of these claims that Cegila is making, Facebook has requested that they be allowed to immediately review the original copies of the contract and a few other emails that Cegila claims to have but has not yet released. Cegila’s lawyers are requesting that both sides turn over any relevant evidence that they have simultaneously. A court date has currently been set for June 30. There these motions will be decided.

"Not only does Mr. Ceglia possess an original agreement, it has been examined by two forensic document experts," attorneys for Ceglia said in an email to the media.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Facebook Topped Out In the U.S.?

The social networking giant, Facebook, is continuing to grow. It now has close to 700 million users, but the continued user growth on the website is not necessarily occurring within the United States. Has Facebook reached its growth limit within the states?

According to data provided by Inside Facebook, a popular blog that tracks the sites and its development platform, just in the past month the social networking site lost more than 7 million active users in the United States and Canada alone. However, growth is not declining everywhere. Inside Facebook reported that more than 1 million users from Mexico have been added to the sites network in the past month. Mexico did offer its citizens Facebook access at a later date than either the U.S. or Canada did, but it still begs the question whether or not Facebook has topped out here in the United States.

Inside Facebook reported that there have been ups and downs in terms of gains and losses of users in Canada, but this is the very first time that the United States has had a loss of active users.

Facebook is questioning the accuracy of these reports by Inside Facebook.

"From time to time, we see stories about Facebook losing users in some regions," said a statement Monday from a Facebook spokesperson. "Some of these reports use data extracted from our advertising tool, which provides broad estimates on the reach of Facebook ads and isn't designed to be a source for tracking the overall growth of Facebook. We are very pleased with our growth and with the way people are engaged with Facebook. More than 50% of our active users log on to Facebook on any given day."

According to the stats, Facebook reached 687 million users at the very beginning of June; however, the overall growth rate of the site does seem to be slowing down. In April there were 13.9 million active monthly users on Facebook, but in May the number of active users slipped to 11.8 million.

The U.S. and Canada are not the only places where the active user numbers have dropped. In the United Kingdom, Norway and Russia, all countries where Facebook has been available pretty much since the explosion of the site, active users in May dropped by 100,000 active users in each of the countries.

Despite these drops, Facebook is focusing on the globalization of the site, and there are plenty of countries where expansion is occurring. In Brazil, India and Argentina, there was more than a 5 percent growth increase.

Inside Facebook did offer up some possible reasons for the decrease in the U.S. and Canada. They noted that seasonal changes like graduations, issues with the Facebook software or any other one-time anomalies can skew data.

Inside Facebook went on to raise a few questions:
"By the time Facebook reaches around 50% of the total population in a given country (plus or minus depending on internet access rates in that country), growth generally slows to a halt, as we've noted before," read the post, by Eric Eldon.

"So far, Facebook has been able to make up stalls and losses with big gains in heavily-populated developing countries like Mexico, Brazil, India and Indonesia."

Eldon went on to recommend that if Facebook wanted to reach the 1 billion user mark, moving into China would be a definite way of securing that goal; however, he noted that if the social networking site were to agree to the terms of the Communist country, it might hurt its popularity in the states.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Maximize Your Blogging Efforts with Linkedin

LinkedinIf you are a blogger like me, then you know the value of getting your posts out to the public. I mean, what good is a blogger if nobody reads your blog? Over the past few years since blogging has really started to catch on, there have been a number of sites designed to help you get your blogs read and to connect with other bloggers and other people with similar interests to what you are blogging about. One such site is Linkedin.

In the past couple of years, Linkedin has taken its site and added a lot of really cool and free features that are designed to help you maximize your efforts online as a blogger. Linkedin has a ton of different features that are sure to make your blogging efforts easier and more fruitful. Here are just a few activities that Linkedin has available to help you.

Ability to Make Friends - Linkedin allows you to immediately start connecting with friends, coworkers and fellow groupies. Think of the site as a mini-directory. The more people you connect with on the site, the bigger your blogging network will become.

Join Groups - Linkedin is free to join and limits you to being a part of 50 different groups and if you want the most out of the site, it may serve you well to take advantage of all 50. Try to join groups that are key to your core market and that cover topics similar to what you blog about. The best thing is that you can also join and leave groups whenever you want to.

Share Your Content - If you are going to post on Linkedin, make sure you are posting relevant and current content that links back to your blog. Make the discussions you post in groups relevant and make sure your comments on other posts are the same. You can also get into RSS and have things posted automatically if you wish.

Enjoy Your Self - Linkedin is free and easy and is a great way to promote your blog posts while building a network at the same time. You can share as much as you want but do try not to overpost. Posting too much looks spammy and is off-putting to most readers.

Follow these tips and your initial jump into Linkedin will be a smooth one. Once you're in and you start to feel comfortable, you can start to investigate all the other features and services the site provides. I happen to use Linkedin every day for my blog posts and it is one of the best ways to get your content out to the public.

Source: Social Media Today - Keep It Real: How to Use Linkedin to Maximize your Blogging ROI

Friday, June 10, 2011

Facebook's Facial Recognition Technology Under Fire

Facebook always seems to be under fire about something. Well, this time it’s the social media giant’s facial recognition software. A single day after a security blog discussed how the facial recognition software was turned on by default for any photo tagging on the site, European data protection officials are allegedly beginning an investigation of the issue.

According to Bloomberg, the EU’s Article 29 Data Protection Working Party will be looking into the situation for any “possible rules violations;” however, not only is the EU investigating the issue, but so are Ireland’s data protection authority and some government officials here in the states. Rep. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, is making his concerns about the technology known.

"Requiring users to disable this feature after they've already been included by Facebook is no substitute for an opt-in process," Markey said in a statement. "If this new feature is as useful as Facebook claims, it should be able to stand on its own, without an automatic sign-up that changes users' privacy settings without their permission."

Facebook announced their plans for the facial recognition technology way back in December. They explained it as similar to many photo editing tools and marketed it as a very helpful, time-saving upgrade. For those unfamiliar with this technology, Facebook explained it like this: “If you upload pictures from your cousin's wedding, we'll group together pictures of the bride and suggest her name. Instead of typing her name 64 times, all you'll need to do is click 'Save' to tag all of your cousin's pictures at once. By making tagging easier than before, you're more likely to know right away when friends post photos. We notify you when you're tagged, and you can untag yourself at any time. As always, only friends can tag each other in photos."

Sounds pretty harmless, right? Facebook says that the technology examines any newly uploaded pictures and compares them to any photos in which you and your friends have been previously tagged. Then it can make a tagging suggestion.

On Tuesday Sophos, a security firm, expressed some concern over the fact that Facebook has the facial recognition technology turned on by default. "Now might be a good time to check your Facebook privacy settings as many Facebook users are reporting that the site has enabled the option in the last few days without giving users any notice," Sophos' Graham Cluley wrote in a blog post.

Facebook is "rather creepily ... pushing your friends to go ahead and tag you," Cluley wrote. "Remember, Facebook does not give you any right to pre-approve tags. Instead the onus is on you to untag yourself in any photo a friend has tagged you in. After the fact."

"Unfortunately, once again, Facebook seems to be sharing personal information by default," Cluley wrote. "The onus should not be on Facebook users having to "opt-out" of the facial recognition feature but instead on users having to 'opt-in.'"

Facebook responded saying that they definitely should have been more communicative to their users about the software.

"We should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process when this became available to them," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday.

So far, there do not seem to be any plans to make the feature an opt-in thing. Facebook claims that the tool is only meant for speeding up the photo uploading process and is used by users “more than 100 million times a day.”

I can say from personal experience that I believe that facial recognition software is incredibly helpful! It saves me so much time, which is a great thing to me. Now, I will say that when I first uploaded pictures and Facebook was telling me who the people in the picture were, I was a little bit creeped out. I just wasn’t expecting it because I had never seen anything like that in action before, but now that I am used to it, it so convenient! To me it seems like some people are simply blowing things out of proportion. If Facebook users have an issue with the facial recognition technology, all they have to do is turn it off. It’s simple. Go to your Facebook account’s privacy setting, click on the “Customize settings” button, go to “Things others share” and find the option for “Suggest photos of me to friends.” If you want to see if it is enabled on your account, simply go to “Edit setting,” and the box should either say it is enabled or disabled. It is that simple folks!

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Man Tweets Apology to Settle Defamation Accusations

We keep saying that social media is everywhere. Well, that may be very close to being true because it is even beginning to creep into our forms of punishment now. A recent defamation case in Malaysia was settled in a very unusual fashion just recently. A Malaysian blogger was accused of defaming a magazine publishing company, so what punishment has he agreed to…why tweeting an apology one hundred times of course!

According to the Daily Mail, Fahmi Fadzil will indeed tweet an apology to the publishing company one hundred times as his punishment for the defamation accusations. In January activist Fadzil made an accusation via his Twitter account that caused quite an uproar. He claimed Blu Inc Media, the publisher of Female Magazine, had mistreated his friend who was pregnant, causing her to leave her position with the company. He later retracted the brash statement that he had made, but the lawyers for Blu Inc Media still made sure to send Fadzil a letter demanding financial damages and a formal apology published in a newspaper.

The issue was settled out of court, and both parties agreed that Fadzil would tweet an apology via his Twitter account one hundred times. They decided that the tweet would read as follows: “I've defamed Blu Inc Media & Female Magazine. My tweets on their HR Policies are untrue. I retract those words & hereby apologize."

Fadzil began his long line of tweets on Thursday and sent them out about every 30 minutes or so. The editor of Female Magazine, Seema Viswanathan, said that she believed that the punishment was very appropriate. She went on to say that Fadzil’s tweet could have had a harmful effect on Blu Inc Media as a company, so the retraction and apology seemed fitting.

"Problems began when he first tweeted that his pregnant friend had resigned due to our treatment and there were a dozen or so follow up tweets," Viswanathan told "It wasn't just one tweet and he had an audience of about 4,200 followers. These followers on Twitter added to the negative posting agreeing that Blu Inc was a bad employer who discriminated against women. The main thing you have to realize is that it was all untrue."

The odd punishment that was decided upon for Fadzil sparked plenty of discussions. The conversations (under the hashtag #defahmi) revolved around some of the issues in the country surrounding the use of social media. In past years there have been some issues including the punishment of some who dare to raise their negative opinions concerning the Malaysian royalty.

"First time witnessing a 'community service sentence' on Twitter," tweeted blogger Christopher Tock. "Will this be something common in future years?"

John Syahredzan, a lawyer at Blu Inc Media, confirmed that this is indeed the first time that the company has utilized Twitter as a means of settling a defamation case. I guess we will just have to monitor if this continues to occur in the future.

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

$750 Million IPO Filed by Groupon

GrouponGroupon, the immensely popular online group coupon service, has recently filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in order to go public in a $750 million IPO which was underwritten by Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.

This filing reveals all of the details on Groupon's financials which, if you have been following the news, have been the subject of some speculation. For the entirety of 2010, Groupon's revenue totaled $713 million. This number was up an astonishing 2300% from the company's revenues in 2009. However, Groupon's revenue in the first quarter of 2011 was $644 million, which perfectly demonstrated how fast the company continues to grow.

The subscriber base for Groupon has also shown a similar trajectory of growth with Groupon pumping out deals to more than 83 million subscribers as of the end of the first quarter 2011. This number is up 50 million from the end of 2010.

Groupon, which has raised over $1 billion in venture capital, has paid a price for this spike in growth, however. As of right now, Groupon is not profitable. In its filing Groupon stated, "We have incurred net losses since inception and we expect our operating expenses to increase significantly in the foreseeable future. We incurred net losses of $389.6 million and $102.7 million in 2010 and the first quarter of 2011."

CEO and Founder of Groupon Andrew Mason recently wrote a letter to the company's shareholders talking about the unprecedented growth, strategy and interesting approach that was also included inthe filing. In a section from the letter, Mason writes, "We want the time people spend with Groupon to be memorable. Life is too short to be a boring company. Whether it's with a deal for something unusual, such as fire dancing classes, or a marketing campaign such as Grouspawn, we seek to create experiences for our customers that make today different enough from yesterday to justify getting out of bed."

The letter went on to say, "If you're thinking about investing, hopefully it's because, like me, you believe that Groupon is better positioned than any company in history to reshape local commerce. The speed of our growth reflects the enormous opportunity before us to create a more efficient local marketplace. As with any business in a 30-month-old industry, the path to success will have twists and turns, moments of brilliance and other moments of sheer stupidity."

This filing by Groupon has been highly anticipated for some time now, even though the hot performance of other recent offerings from other companies like Linkedin and Yandex, the major search engine from Russia, have accelerated the timetable for Groupon. When it makes its debut, Groupon will trade under the symbol GRPN.

Source: Mashable - BREAKING: Groupon Files for $750 Million IPO is news of, for and by SMBs! The Small & Medium Business Magazine!