Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama to have his White House Blog

President Barack Obama was sworn into office this week as our nation’s 44th president. Despite running into a few technical challenges in the first few days at the White House, the Obama Administration will embrace technology in unprecedented ways. Led by forward thinking, web savvy technologists, President Obama’s new media team looks poised and ready to fulfill President Obama’s vision of open-source democracy.

Coincident with Mr. Obama being sworn in, the Obama Administration’s new media team assumed control of at 12:01 PM EST on Tuesday. This is the official website of the sitting administration. The new media team has identified three top priorities of the new administration – communication, transparency and participation. Let’s examine how the new administration has been leveraging web technologies to meet these priorities.

Communication. This administration’s use of Google’s YouTube during both the campaign and after winning the election leverages Internet video to reach a generation of Americans and global citizens who no longer tune in to AM radio on a regular basis. President Obama has vowed to continue video recording his fireside chats and publishing them via YouTube and other video sites. With the transition of to the new administration, for the first time ever an official White House blog came online. You can sign up for email updates from the president. Through the blog, Mr. Obama is the first U.S. president to have an RSS feed!

During the campaign President Obama relied heavily on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter to build support, communicate with constituents and develop a core audience. By far, Mr. Obama has more followers on Twitter than anyone else (168,000). His fan page on Facebook has more than 4 million fans.

Transparency. Mr. Obama promises to run the most open, honest and transparent administration to date. Through the Your Seat at The Table section on the CHANGE.GOV transition site, the Obama transition team posted the minutes of hundreds of private meetings with then President-Elect Obama.

Even all of the content on the CHANGE.GOV site, unless otherwise noted, is licensed to the public at large via a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

The Obama-Biden Transition Team used my company, blist, to disclose the names of all donors to the transition project. Two key points of note are that the disclosure was entirely voluntary and the tool they chose to use made the data itself much more consumable by the mainstream public. Compared to a plain HTML table, which is bulky, cumbersome and hard to work with, by publishing the data via a blist widget the data can easily be sorted, searched, filtered, downloaded, printed, emailed and even republished – all capabilities not previously enjoyed by most consumers of public data sets.

Participation. The Obama Administration has been conducting bold experiments in interactive government. The Citizen’s Briefing Book, powered by, has allowed citizens to suggest topics Mr. Obama should consider upon taking office. Once a topic was submitted, other visitors to the Citizen’s Briefing Book could vote the topic up or down and comment on it. Voting, ranking and commenting are hallmark features of web-based, social media applications.

The new Administration has brought forth a new era of honest, open, participatory and transparent government by creatively employing web-based software from innovative companies like Google, Facebook, and blist. We’re eager to see the use of these technologies extended to initially and from there we’d love to see more government agencies quickly embrace web technologies to promote communication, transparency and participation.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lenovo S10 with six-cell battery gets pictured, priced

Lenovo's S10 netbook has been relatively well received since its introduction earlier this year, but the battery life has always been a bit of a sticking point, with the included 3-cell battery simply not meeting some folks' netbook demands. It looks like that situation has now been rectified, in Germany, where a new model equipped with a six-cell battery has just gone on sale for the fairly reasonable price of €329 (or roughly $425). Unfortunately, there's no indication of a release 'round these parts just yet, but you can check out some more pics of the somewhat bulky addition by hitting up the link below

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spice up your inbox with colors and themes @ Gmail

Gmail fans have been building unofficial extensions to spice up their inboxes for a while, but up til now themes haven't been an integral part of Gmail. We wanted to go beyond simple color customization, so out of the 30 odd themes we're launching today, there's a shiny theme with chrome styling, another one that turns your inbox into a retro notepad, nature themes that change scenery over time, weather driven themes that can rain on your mailbox, and fun characters to keep you in good company. There's even an old school ascii theme (Terminal) which was the result of a bet between two engineers -- it's not exactly practical, but it's great for testing out your geek cred. We've also done a minor facelift to Gmail's default look to make it crisper and cleaner -- you might notice a few colors and pixels shifted around here and there.

As you can see from these photos taken around our office in Zurich, Switzerland, themes have made their way into more than our inboxes -- that's a character from the ninja theme made out of pixel blocks, customized laptop decals, and a giant Zoozimps character on a beam next to my desk:

To customize your inbox, go to the Themes tab under Settings. We'll be rolling out themes to everyone over the next couple of days, so if you don't see them yet, check back soon. As for which theme to choose, don't ask us. We're neutral ;)

Official Gmail Blog: Spice up your inbox with colors and themes

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Avoiding unwanted Facebook Friends

Connecting with your past can bring up those old, uncomfortable feelings

Duane Hoffmann /
Facebook and other social networking sites can be great for getting back in touch ... unless you'd rather your past stay in the past, that is.

By Joy Jernigan contributor
updated 7:39 p.m. ET Nov. 18, 2008

Andrea Smith recently received a Facebook friend invitation from someone she went to junior high school with — 23 years ago.

“I found it kind of baffling,” said Smith, 38, of Ypsilanti, Mich. “I knew who she was, but I don’t recall that we were ever friends. I don’t recall that we ever had a conversation.”

Social networking sites such as Facebook have experienced phenomenal growth in the past year, according to market researcher comScore. Facebook is now the No. 1 social networking site, with more than 120 million active users, and its fastest growing demographic is those 25 and older.

But with so many opportunities these days to connect with people online, some are confronting a question they thought they had left behind during their awkward adolescent years: What if I don’t want to be your friend?

“It’s really odd when suddenly your past comes out and finds you,” said Troy Sandal, 38, of San Francisco, who says he’s been contacted recently by former high school classmates. His 20-year high school reunion was held over the summer, although he did not attend. “To be honest, I had two friends in high school and I kept in touch with one.”

Sandal, who’s been on Facebook for about two years, says he’s not interested in collecting a large number of online friends. “You don’t want to add them as friends, you want to add them as ‘Hey, I knew yous,’ ” he said.

OK to ignore an invitation
It’s perfectly OK to ignore an invitation, especially one the sender has made no effort to tailor specifically to you, said Jason Alba, CEO of and co-author of “I’m on Facebook — Now What???”

"You don’t have to respond to every single thing that comes at you," he writes.

Some users of social networking sites prefer to “friend” people who are colleagues or friends in real life. Some send invitations to friends of friends in an effort to expand their network, while others attempt to friend someone who has an interesting profile. Those new to Facebook are prompted to send a friend request to everyone in their address book (although they have the option to skip this step).

That’s what happened to Laura Hesse, 36, of Orange, Calif. When she signed up for Facebook in August, she had a friend talk her through the initial setup. In the process, she sent a mass invitation of friendship to everyone in her address book — including a family member she had cut all ties with.

“I had no idea what I was doing!” Hesse said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, no, she’s going to get it!’ ”

Sure enough, the woman accepted Hesse’s unintended invitation of friendship.

“She was able to catch up on the past three or four months of my life,” said Hesse, including photos of her kids and a recent kitchen remodel. “I kind of felt like she got a whole glimpse of it within a few hours. There’s a reason they’re not in my life, and there’s a reason I didn’t want them to see this stuff.”

As soon as Hesse realized she could “unfriend” her family member — by clicking on the X to the right of her name — she did. Hesse then disappeared from her relative’s Facebook page, although she later heard the woman was devastated when she found out.

Social awkwardness
Such examples of social networking faux pas are nothing new to teenagers, who were first forced to figure out the boundaries of acceptable social behavior on MySpace a couple of years ago, said Danah Boyd, a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

“You go through a period of absolute social awkwardness,” she said, as every new wave of people to get connected works out social norms within the technology.

It’s all about dealing with expectations, said Ariel Waldman, community manager for Pownce, a social networking and microblogging site. “In Web 2.0, people have developed expectations of what friending or not friending means. They get put off if their expectations are not met.”

One person might want to follow only 200 people on Twitter, for example. Another might prefer to friend only those in the same geographic location.

“Everyone has different communication protocols,” Waldman said. “The important thing is defining what your own protocols are.”

Then there’s the issue of real friends versus online friends. Take Hal Niedzviecki of Toronto, who wrote about his experience throwing a “Facebook party” for the New York Times Sunday Magazine. He invited his nearly 700 online friends to meet him at the neighborhood bar. One showed up.

However, there are benefits to maintaining a large network of friends, said Nicole Ellison, an assistant professor in the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media at Michigan State University.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Technology News : Google launches Video Chat into GTalk.

Technology News :

I'm a big user of Gmail chat. Being able to switch from email to chat as needed, all within the same app, is really great for productivity. But people can only type so fast, and even with our new emoticons, there are still some things that just can't be expressed in a chat message.

That's why today we're launching voice and video chat -- right inside Gmail. We've tried to make this an easy-to-use, seamless experience, with high-quality audio and video -- all for free. All you have to do is download and install the voice and video plugin and we take care of the rest. And in the spirit of open communications, we designed this feature using Internet standards such as XMPP, RTP, and H.264, which means that third-party applications and networks can choose to interoperate with Gmail voice and video chat.

Once you install the plugin, to start a video chat, just click on the "Video & more" menu at the bottom of your Gmail chat window, and choose "Start video chat." You'll have a few seconds to make sure you look presentable while it's ringing, and then you'll see and hear your friend live, right from within Gmail. You can click the "pop-out" iconto make the video larger, or click the fullscreen iconin the upper left-hand corner for a fully immersive experience. See this all in action in the video below:

Our team is spread between Google offices in the US and Sweden, and video has really changed the way we work. Collaborating across continents and timezones is a fact of life for us, and it sure is easier (and greener) to click "Start video chat" than to get on a plane! And when I do have to visit another Google office, I can use Gmail voice and video chat to check in with my family.

We've just started to roll out Gmail voice and video chat for both PCs and Macs, so if you don't see it right away, don't worry -- it could take a day or so for this feature to be available in all Gmail and Google Apps accounts. If you want to download the plugin right away, visit And if you need a webcam, there are a few models with special discounts through November 30th (I use the QuickCam Pro 9000 myself).

Official Gmail Blog: Say hello to Gmail voice and video chat

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

iPod creator says goodbye to Apple

Technology News : The man behind one of the world's most popular digital music players is bidding farewell...

Tony Fadell, referred to as 'father of the iPod', is leaving Apple. One of the world's fastest selling digital music players, the iPod turned around the company's fortunes.

Seven years ago, it was Tony Fadell who led a team of designers and engineers to introduce the iPod. It was his idea to club a Napster-like music store with a hard drive-based MP3 player. Sleek and stylish, the product soon became one of the most hottest selling products from Apple. For the ambitious Fadell, it has been an incredible journey.

He has now chosen to spend more time with his family.

Apple has announced that the iPod division vice president Tony Fadell and his wife, Danielle Lambert, who is vice president of the company's human resources department, are leaving to spend more with their family.

Fadell, will however remain as an adviser to CEO Steve Jobs.

Mark Papermaster will now head the iPod and iPhone engineering teams. Papermaster has 25 years of product and technology experience. He was working as vice president at IBM.

Papermaster has a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Texas, and Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Vermont in 1988. He is a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Advisory Council, at the University of Texas.

"Mark is a seasoned leader and is going to be an excellent addition to our senior management team," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO.

"Tony and Dani have each made important contributions to Apple over the past eight years. We're sorry to see Dani go, and are looking forward to working with Tony in his new capacity."

It has been a successful stint for Fadell at Apple...

Fadell toyed with the idea of inventing a new MP3 player. However, he had to struggle before his idea was finally accepted. He was turned down by RealNetworks and Phillips. It was Apple, which showed interest in the project.

Tony Fadell started working for Apple in 2001 as an independent contractor with a team of thirty engineers and designer to develop the new MP3 player.

Fadell was promoted as vice president of iPod engineering in 2004. Before joining Apple, Fadell worked at Philips Electronics.

He has also worked as a hardware and software architect at General Magic. He graduated with a BS degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1991.

A winner in the digital media revolution, Apple's iPod has clocked sales of over 160 million units. But revenues from iPod sales have fallen.

In January 2008, Apple reported the best quarter revenue of $9.6 billion and record net quarterly profit of $1.58 billion and 42% of Apple's revenue for the first fiscal quarter of 2008 came from iPod sales.

However, in October 2008, Apple reported that only 14.21% of total revenue for the quarter came from iPod sales. This certainly is not good news for Apple.

With competition hotting up, Apple is gearing up for a tough battle with the launch of newer models. Apple aims to capture a larger marketshare with these new models and competitive prices.

Apple has now introduced the iPod shuffle in four new colours starting at $49. The iPod classic in one slimline model with 50 percent more capacity(120GB storage) is now priced at $249.

Besides this, the company has unveiled the fourth generation iPod nano featuring a curved aluminum and curved glass enclosure, in nine colours starting at $149.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Micro-blogging takes the virtual world by storm

Munich, Oct 20 (DPA) Micro-blogging or posting the details of one's doings on the Internet for the world to see is all the rage right now. It allows other people to have permanent access to the details of one's daily life.

As with traditional web-based diaries or blogs, micro-bloggers create a profile with a blog service and use it to post short entries. These posts are not normally more than 140 keystrokes long - shorter than a standard text message.

One need not call up the profile page with a browser to compose and read the micro-blog messages. They are instead sent and received via Instant Messenger, SMS, e-mail or other special micro-blogging software for the computer, depending on which distribution channel the respective service uses.

The best known service of this type is called Twitter. Launched roughly two years ago, it provides a solution for family members, friends, and colleagues who are curious to find out 'What are you doing right now?' The sender decides whether only specific recipients should receive the messages - 'tweets', in the site's lingo - or whether any and all Twitter users are welcome to read along.

Subscribe to enough tweets, and a permanent flow of messages begins pouring in, letting the recipient truly dive into the lives of others. 'Micro-blogging is like an ongoing hallway discussion, where there's always something new to experience and where you can plug in or tune out whenever you want,' explains Benedikt Koehler, a sociologist at the University of the German Federal Army in Munich. He is an expert in sociological internet phenomena.

The user is also fed interesting new titbits, as opposed to actively surfing to them on traditional blogs. Once subscribed, recipients automatically receive their messages. That is precisely the joy of this new communications form, Koehler says.

'Because of the character count limit, it doesn't take long to compose a micro-blogging post - and, as with chat, you can answer immediately and communicate with several discussion partners at the same time,' says Henning Behme from the Hanover-based computer technology magazine iX.

Success breeds imitation, and a series of new micro-blogging sites have sprung up of late. Pownce, Jaiku, and Friendfeed are all among the English-based variants. Versions in other languages have also appeared, such as the German sites Frazr, Wamadu and Niimo. Each promises additional functions and some twist of their own. Even popular social networks like Facebook, Myspace and Xing have now started working with the principle, and provide their members with an infrastructure for creating status reports.

But the original remains the big name in the field.

'Twitter has assumed a vanguard role in the world of micro-blogging and really has the potential to become the new digital communication service for the coming years,' says Behme. 'It could well be that 'to twitter' will find its place alongside 'to google' in the dictionary,' he says.

In Koehler's estimation, twittering has to date gained a foothold only among the most enthusiastic adherents of the Internet generation. The popularity of the short messages may grow beyond the borders of that group, though. Koehler is not yet ready to speak of a new mass medium, however. Micro-blogging is more likely to remain a niche player and serve as a complement to other communication means.