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Monday May 27th 2013



Top Trending Stories Of 2011 With Paul Scheer And Doug Benson

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Let us see what are the to trending stories last year (2011) – Dean Kosage

Panelist Paul Scheer and Doug Benson helped us run down the top trending stories of 2011, courtesy of our friends over at buzzfeed.

Starting at the #5 most socially shared story of 2011, we had the death of Osama Bin Laden. As it turned out, our panel acutally had some pretty funny stories about how they found out about the news. Scheer said he learned of the death while on stage with Sarah Silverman, who apparently schedules her tweets. “In the middle of like hundreds of tweets of Bin Laden death, she has, ‘My dog poops weird,’ he said.

As for our next top story, the Royal Wedding of Kate and William, both Scheer and Benson found the hype around the event to be baffling. Benson sarcastically joked, “I just watched the highlights on the news. They showed all the great fights that happened during the wedding.”

The #3 spot on our countdown was the disastrous tornadoes that swept through the Midwest this past spring. Aside from the lifesaving and relief efforts that were enabled by social media during the storms, our panel found it fascinating that people used Facebook and Twitter to recover lost items that were picked up by the tornado and dropped miles away.

One of the most globally impactful stories of the year was the Arab Spring revolutions and protests that brought major social and governmental changes in the Middle-East. Benson and Scheer agreed that these events really showed the spectrum of what you can use the internet for. “You can either start a revolution or make a fart joke,” Benson riffed off of Scheer.

The #1 most shared and discussed story of the year was the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Japan. For this Paul brought up a good point saying, “You don’t have to get your news filtered through a mainstream media outlet.” He continued to then quip, “It felt good for us as humanity that a Kardashian wasn’t listed in the top 5.”

Watch the whole segment right here.

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6 Crazy Tech Predictions for 2012

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We live in a world of absolutes: Here’s what happened. Even when we look to the future, our predictions are couched in the world’s sometimes difficult realities. See if you can guess which prediction I’m talking about. ~ Dean Kosage

It can, to be honest, take all the fun out of guess work. So, once a year I allow myself to go beyond the likely, beyond the possible and deep into the world of the implausible. What follows are my most ridiculous and unlikely predictions. Most are just nuts, but one is, to be honest, all too scarily possible.

1. Facebook Buys Digg

Facebook’s 2012 will look a lot like its 2011: More growth, more change. Still, it hasn’t quite broken through on the content curation and voting side of things. With all the frictionless sharing people will be doing, they may no longer think about accumulating “likes.”

Digg started using Facebook’s OpenGraph in 2011, which makes it easy to share what you’re reading on Digg to Facebook. As I see it, this is simply the first step on the road to a much deeper relationship. When Facebook buys Digg next year, users will get the ability to “Digg” not only profile pages, but people. That’s right, you could really “Digg” someone on Facebook. It’s so 1976, but also so cool.

I foresee another side to the Facebook universe where people, places and things are Dugg on a more generalized basis, but those Diggs bubble up to individual profile pages and appear alongside Likes, Readings, Watching, etc. There is an 85% chance that all of Digg’s existing audience will walk away from the service if this acquisition happens, but I’m not sure most of them will stay with the content curation destination anyway.

2. Scientists and Hollywood Develop New Way to End Movies

3D has pretty much flopped, and it’s getting tougher and tougher to get movie-goers into theaters. Scientists will partner with Hollywood studios to unveil a new technology known as “Fresh Ends.” Using CGI, Hollywood script writers, voice and context recognition and logic algorithms, Fresh Ends technology will generate new endings for some of the world’s most popular films. These slightly rewritten movies will be re-released to theaters — just like the 3D rereleases — and are expected to add 15- to 20% additional box office returns to each film. For now, Fresh Ends only works with movies shot digitally.

3. SOPA Becomes the Law of the land

Myopic congressman and a distracted president take the Stop Online Privacy Act and pass it into law. Designed, at least according to the bill, “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes,” SOPA has an almost unprecedented chilling effect on the web. Thousands of U.S. sites shut down, other larger ones continue, but are now full of boring pap that could never be misconstrued as content piracy.

Content creators of all stripes are so unsure of what will be labeled piracy they struggle to create anything. By the end of 2012, however, an underground Internet (The UnderWebs) arises. It’s full of unfettered communication and content, and slowly but surely, millions of web surfers around the world begin using it instead of the government-policed Internet — a platform that dies a sad, quiet death in 2018.

4. Apple Intros a 5-inch Tablet Phone Hybrid

Sorry, no iPhone 5 or iPad 3. Unable to decide whether it should deliver a 7-inch iPad 3 or a 4.5-inch iPhone 5,Apple comes down squarely in the middle with a giant handheld that, naturally, makes calls and is almost large enough to be a usable tablet. The hidden bonus? It’s also a fully functional HDTV. Apple, however, will remain mum for most of the year on whether or not it plans on actually delivering a larger Apple iTV.

5. Google+ Takes Center Stage

Virtually unchanged for more than a decade, Google’s search page undergoes a subtle, yet important transformation. The search giant places a “+” sign right next to the “Google” Logo. But the change is more than logo-deep. If you hit your own “+” sign on your keyboard before typing in your search query, all results will feature Google+ search results on top. If you hit “+” twice, your search query can be used to launch a new Google+ post. You’ll still have to select which circles you want to share your search query with. Rumors will swirl throughout 2012 that Google wants to rename the entire company “Google+.”

6. Honda Releases Asimo to Consumers

Japanese auto manufacturer Honda shocks the world by unveiling a fully operational, $1,999 Honda Asimo Home Helper Robot. Like the Asimo we’ve seen in product demonstrations and on YouTube, “Home Asimo” can walk, run, jump, make coffee and sandwiches and, as we soon learn, clean toilets. Honda sells a stunning half million units before August, 2012. The most startling news, though, comes when one Home Honda robot in Dearborn, Michigan turns on its family’s computer and signs itself up for Twitter and Facebook. By December, more than 300,000 of the robots have been destroyed or returned.

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How to Win Approval on Your Design Presentation

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This article is an overview of how to deliver completed designs to other teams or stakeholders in the highest levels of design. ~ Dean Kosage

One of the most common misconceptions about director/architect-level designers is they do less work (produce fewer wireframes, specifications, etc.) than junior-level designers. In fact, their work is more complex than people initially imagine when starting out in the field. You have to balance many ideas, requirements, and people, and have to make independent decisions that will cost thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars. The buck stops with you. This is a level of responsibility you have to endure, if not enjoy, to thrive in higher-level design.

When I was an entry-level designer, I would be handed various interaction design problems and asked for a solution. I would then present three or four solutions to my immediate managers and be done until the next such request. I was always curious what happened after I handed it off. I came to realize that there were several more handoffs, each getting more precise and more fierce as it moved up the chain of command. Different teams would have to get involved, then team leaders, then finally stakeholders, each giving opinions on changes, personal ideas, and ways to try and cut costs. The balancing act that you must do for that is beyond the scope of this article, but I will try to help you deliver the best possible solution you can.

I am not going to explain details of design process, because you likely have one of your own, your team’s, or your company’s. I’ll specifically tackle how to walk into a large meeting to present deliverables and get the best reception possible.

I should also add that my experience is with large corporations, such as Microsoft and Apple. How I present ideas to colleagues may be very different than how a vendor or a design agency would present an idea. My strategies for delivering designs are meant to influence a set of peers to maintain the best possible experience for the user. Your focus should be entirely on what’s best for the customer.

Share Documents in Advance

Include all relevant documents including the specifications, executive summary, UX testing materials and, if possible, other requirements that stakeholders have given you. If they want to read before the meeting, you should facilitate that in every manner possible. Air out your dirty laundry, include links to past specs and meeting notes if applicable.

The importance of this step is to help them prepare for the meeting. It’s bad form or just bad judgment to introduce a new idea or direction in a large meeting without proper warning. The initial kneejerk reaction will most likely be negative. Resistance to change is inherent. It’s better to give them as much preparation material as possible to facilitate a speedier meeting. You’ll be able to presume understanding of the concepts or reference the materials you have sent out during the meeting with more confidence. I like to include past UX testing findings with notations. This lets me speak directly about the customers’ needs when discussing solutions: “As you can see, six out of seven customers were searching for a way to do X. This pushed us to design a solution for X.” Also remember at the beginning of the meeting to make sure everyone got the materials and to ask if anyone had any questions.

Some examples of documents that I have given out prior to meetings:

  • UX findings, executive-level summaries (two to three sentences discussing the results of an entire testing round)
  • Excerpts from books describing certain design ideas or thoughts (one in particular I have given out several times is Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice)
  • Links to or wireframes of past designs and findings, or conclusions gotten from those designs
  • Links to TED talks (Barry Schwartz gives a great one)
  • HTML/Flash/WPF prototypes in a ZIP so they can play with them before they see them in your presentation
  • Sketches or drawings of past designs
  • Links to specific points in videos of UX Testing for particular quotes

Know Your Colleagues

Be familiar with each of the personalities in the room, and why are each of them has been invited to the presentation. Determine the roles of each member and make a mental note of the history your design team has had with them. Try to anticipate what each person might challenge you with. Think through questions that each may ask and try to determine if there will be any “gotcha” moments beforehand.

At Microsoft, from my recollection, approximately 50% of the employees have a title that’s some variation of “program manager,” or PM. This is a very general job title and can represent so many different types of roles. The PMs I usually came into contact with were software PMs, whose job is to watch the money. They keep track of the timelines, the budget, and generally keep an eye on all the different teams working on a particular feature set. They ensure everyone is working as hard as they can and that we finish on time and on budget.

When presenting to a group of PMs and developers a significant change to current thinking or process, the reactions will be varied. Many things are on the minds of the participants, including timeline, amount of code, impact on the customer, impact of the footprint (memory or cycles), etc. The developers may invite the challenge of trying to come up with something ingenious to solve the problem of developing your solution, but the PMs may want to keep resource utilization to a minimum. Conversely, the developers might not want to get that deep into the code for something they see as arbitrary and unnecessary because it will have a low customer impact, while the PMs push for more “wow” moments. This is why it’s important to understand where each of the meeting participants is coming from. If one of the PMs is constantly fretting about deadlines, be prepared to speak directly to how your designs will actually affect the deadline.

Do Your Homework

Are there any academic papers relevant to your designs? Have you checked ACM? Developers and PMs react positively to peer-reviewed academic papers given as support for design decisions. Being able to cite testing results or give specific examples from an academic paper is worth its weight in gold.

It’s also worth investigating whether there is any company history that might bear on your work if this is an ongoing version of a product with significant development history. Has this particular solution been tried before and failed? If it did fail, be prepared to speak to that history and how your solution is different and an improvement. Be specific. Have all raw notes, summaries, and findings from user testing ready to go. Be prepared to deep dive into the results as much as you need to be. Be able to cite specific testing answers if need be; more times than not, it’s very useful. I have found that when PMs or developers don’t want to do a particular piece of a design—perhaps because of the number of hours it will take or its perceived risk to the stability of the build—they will hammer it incessantly, challenging the thought process, the reasoning, or the design process. These concerns are easier to respond to when you have user testing results ready at hand, and have organized them in a way that anticipates how you might need to use them to respond to concerns.

When you start designing a particular feature or add-on to a product, remember that you are not the first. There should be a massive amount of documentation on why the designers got to the point you are at now. If you were designing for Microsoft Office Help, for example, you would not expect to go in fresh. There is a massive amount of documentation, designs, test results, and other political/corporate decisions that went into where it lies.

Before presenting some new and interesting feature or add-on, always make sure that you have researched the history behind it first. Talk to some of the senior people; do they have any recollection of that particular feature ever being introduced? Can they recall any unwritten corporate decisions, legal problems, or technical issues that led to its currently not being implemented? Research the idea or feature to the best of your ability to help prepare yourself for speaking to why it should be implemented now if it wasn’t in the past.

Understand the Technical and Engineering Requirements

If you don’t quite understand why engineers cannot implement a particular requirement, ask questions. Generally, you will find a dev or two who loves helping with and learning about design. It is very helpful to have an ally in the development team, someone you can confer with, bounce ideas off of, or get good development advice from. In my experience, there is always at least one developer who is more design savvy than a normal developer. Relationships with this type of person are invaluable in the design process. Feed your designs to your design-savvy developer for feedback on the complexity of implementing the designs how it would affect the product technically.

Be friendly with developers. They are not your enemy (most of the time). Developers are fearful of designers’ ability to create thousands of lines of code with a simple sketch. So instead of approaching your design work simply from a designer’s standpoint, approach it as someone who would also have to build it. Whatever you get approved, someone is going to have to labor over to actually implement.

Be precise and be exact if your aim is to get full sign-off on a design. If you don’t get this detailed in your review, expect to have to do another review when you do. Do not go into a meeting and describe a “slow animation that sweeps from the left;” do go into a meeting and say, “The animation begins and lasts for 0.3 seconds, and here are four slides, from 0 to 0.1 to 0.2 to 0.3 and the resting state at 0.4.” But even this isn’t enough. Make sure you have talked to a developer first to see if this can even be implemented in the manner that you want it to be.

Understand the overall system ramifications of your design are beyond the scope of this article, but I would suggest you gain a familiarity with all the workings of your particular application or solution have on whatever system it may be running on. This includes, but it not limited to, the variables that are changing hands, the memory load, the machine cycles, the net connections, etc. Try to understand as much as you possibly can before asking the next level of stakeholders. What is the effect on the rest of the application or experience? You don’t want the entire experience to pay a tax (in whatever machination that may come in the form of) for a small feature that it shouldn’t have to pay.

Conducting the Meeting

At the start of the meeting, explain the goals for the meeting and what you want everyone to get from it. What you’d ideally like is universal buy-in and strong approval for your design so it can get sent to production, but if you don’t get that, don’t freak out. If you do get rejected, try to understand everything you can about why you got rejected. What were the specific points that supported their criticism? Can you fix them? Take critique well. Remember that arriving at a solution is not easy, especially when you’re working with larger and more complex systems. You may get approval for 90% of the design, but stakeholders might request tweaks or different variations on particular details. This is the easy part. Tweak or do these variations in quantity—three or four of each—and present them to a smaller audience, sometimes only the dissenters. This should help you get to the next level. Iteration is part of the process. I have personally gone through 8-10 design iterations on a particular feature before I finally got approval. Don’t think of it as 20% rejection, think of it as 80% approval!

Some additional tips for running the presentation:

  1. Try to keep questions until the end of the presentation, remembering to leave ample time for questions and challenges. Depending on how radical, new, or complex your solution is, be prepared to spend a larger portion of the meeting receiving and responding to feedback.
  2. If you get challenged, ask questions. Try to understand exactly what they are saying and understand their reasoning. Also try to make sure everyone else in the room understands it. This is very important if you need to explain the challenge to your team after the meeting.
  3. Answer direct questions directly. If you do not know the answer, say, “I’ll find out and get back to you.” Then get back to them with an answer soon after the meeting.
  4. Answer direct challenges directly with all relevant documentation. If you don’t have it, do not try to persuade them with vague answers. Tell them what you have, why you made the decision, and let it stand on its own two feet. Do not get defensive beyond reason. If something is challenged, explain how you got there and let it rest. Do not repeat yourself (this is rule #1, as repeating yourself will make others feel talked-down to). Do not defend the solution like it is you personally. Do not fumble for answers. If you can’t answer the challenge directly, respond with “I’ll find out for you.” Letting feedback get to you personally is unprofessional. You are not an artist delivering a masterpiece.
  5. You may encounter unreasonable challenges and you can get “edge-cased to death,” which is what I call it when people try to kill things with the most unreasonable of problems. I also call this the “one-armed man in Uganda” challenge. I actually had someone bring up a one-armed man in Uganda as a possible customer and therefore we needed to think of him when designing a solution. This can be extremely frustrating, but if you have critically thought-out your design beforehand, you will be prepared.
  6. Though you may feel you have answered someone’s question or challenge completely, ask the person if he feels you’ve completely answered his question. Just because you think it answered it does not mean you have.
  7. Be transparent about the entire process you took getting to the design. Have slides ready showing testing subjects, iterations, sketches, and any other materials that you may have collected along the way.
  8. Address problems with the design honestly. Be transparent about all the things that have given you headaches over the course of the project. Helping people understand the journey you’ve been on helps them respect the destination all the more.
  9. Talk about the user or the customer directly. Your job is to ensure the user has a great experience, not to make the developers happy. As you move up the ladder of stakeholders, you will find a common trait: they all care what customers think. Speaking directly to how designs affect customers will keep the conversation rooted in your sole purpose, to make the customer happy on all levels.

Always remember to do what is best for the user. You aren’t there to make your colleagues happy or sad. In the end, you all have the same goal. You all want to make the customers happy and create a piece of software that you are proud of. This can be one of the hardest parts of working in the UX field. Trying to be a voice for the user’s point of view in decision-making. Senior colleagues will all have their own ideas what is best, so use the user’s perspective as an objective frame of reference for responding to them. Don’t explain things in terms of your own opinion; rather, speak in terms of the user. Don’t say, “I picked this because it was a cool design;” instead say, “We chose this design because it tested amazingly well with current/future/target customers.”

Closing the Meeting

Go over what you have agreed upon and ensure it’s clear. Give action items with dates to everyone who needs them. If someone assigns you an action item but says they need to find something first, call that out; if they don’t find that something, you shouldn’t be responsible for the action item. Schedule meetings immediately following other dates and action items. Your job is to get this through to production. Your job is not complete until it is.


Discuss the meeting with teammates who were not available to attend. When discussing challenges that were brought up, give them the best representation possible rather than being dismissive of them or making straw men of opposing arguments.

An Unspoken Truth

This piece of advice I have saved for the end is generally not talked about in senior level/corporate design circles, but it I think one of the most crucial aspects of getting approval for a design. I think it was best said by a very respected designer and dear friend of mine (who shall remain nameless): “The best way to get a design approved is to let them think it’s their idea.”

I cannot emphasize this enough. By leaving strategic holes in your design and allowing others to come up with conclusions or obvious fillers, it reinforces their own personal stake in the design. This will get them personally involved in the approval process as one of your biggest advocates, since they’ll equate defense of your ideas with defense of their own. This whole idea is rather sketchy, so use it with caution. You will be giving up some ownership of your design, but in the end remember your goal is to make the best experience for the user. It’s about them, not us.

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Toyota Fun Vii: Car of the Future

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Is this a car? Is it a smartphone? Is it a gaming machine? Yes to all three. The Toyota Fun Vii is a spectacular design concept unveiled at the 2011 Tokyo Motor  Show this week. ~ Dean Kosage

The 13-foot-long three-seater’s interior and exterior are blank slates for whatever visuals you would like to wirelessly paint onto them in real time. And if you get too confused, there’s a holographic “navigation concierge” lady with a cute little hat to accompany you, guiding you around the vehicle’s futuristic features. She also helps you find your way from one place to another, which is probably effortless considering that the vehicle is networked with all the other cars on the road and drives itself.

Check out this astonishing video, and then wonder along with us how long we’ll have to wait until we can sit in a car that drives itself, instantly converts into a video game, and acts like a super-smartphone on wheels. Come on Toyota, put some wings on it and we’ll finally have that long-anticipated flying car.

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How Two Brothers Made $20 Million From Infinity Blade

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There are a lot of successful apps in the App Store. But with 800,000 of them available, there are also thousands of flops. What does it take to make a game app that can drive $20 million in sales? ~  Dean Kosage

Infinity Blade 2

Donald Mustard and his brother Geremy founded Chair Entertainment in 2005. They were busy building console games such as Shadow Complex when Epic, maker of blockbuster games Gears of War and Unreal Tournament snapped them up in 2008.

By 2010, Chair had launched Infinity Blade, its first iOS game. Built atop Epic’s Unreal Engine 3, it set a new benchmark for mobile gaming visuals, and has subsequently made more than $20 million in sales.

Clearly, the Mustard boys are onto something, as more than a few people share my addiction to the sword-wielding, armor-wearing, spell-casting heroes. (Epic’s Infinity Blade forum has thousands of posts. I chatted with the Mustard brothers about the game, their relationship with Apple, and what’s next.

Developing for the iPhone 4S and iOS 5

Apple invited the Mustard brothers to its Cupertino campus just two weeks before the iPhone 4S launch in October, though this didn’t seem to bother them. “We try and make good guesses as to where hardware is going. We had our fingers crossed that there would be something like the iPhone 4S where we can push things further. Luckily Apple delivered,” said Donald.

Jeremy said the company understands Apple product timelines pretty well, so they were already developing an app that would work with what they expected to be an iPhone 4 upgrade. Chair’s bet paid off.

Geremy and Donald Mustard of Chair Entertainment

The pair are excited about the potential of iOS 5, especially incremental updates. “[It’s] huge,” said Donald, “because we love being able to update our games.”

Chair is constantly refining their games — but with previous iOS versions, Infinity Blade players had to download a huge update for each tweak. With incremental updates, they can download a 50 MB (or smaller) file, as opposed to one hundreds of megabytes in size.

iPhone 5?

So the Mustards were prepared for iPhone 4S, but what about iPhone 5? Did they see it? Did they ask? Said Geremy: “We certainly asked. We get coy smiles and tight lips…they don’t tell us anything. I’m sure there will be an iPhone 5 at some point, but we don’t know anything about it.” He paused and laughed: “I bet it’s at least as fast as the iPhone 4s.”

What’s Inside

Infinity Blade 2 is a powerful game, but it’s also a scalable one. The Chair teams designed it to scale down so it could run on the iPhone 3GS and iPad 1. On those devices, players simply see less detail. But on the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, Infinity Blade 2 will “use up all the power that is available on these higher-end systems.”

To build Infinity Blade 2, the Mustards eschewed more complex game geometry and focused on character shadows and light rays — effects typically found on console games. Epic added these capabilities to the engine and debuted them in Gears of War 3 on the Xbox 360. That was only a few months ago. “Now it’s on the iPhone 4S,” said Geremy. “We made the game, and I still can’t believe it’s running on a phone that I carry in my pocket.”

Where are the Android Apps?

As I was testing Infinity Blade 2, I kept wondering how it would run on an Android “super phone” such as the Motorola Photon 4G, which packs a graphics-friendly NVidia Tegra 2 chip. Unfortunately, Infinity Blade isn’t in the Android Market — and it doesn’t sound like it’s coming any time soon.

There is nothing technically preventing the brothers from bringing Infinity Blade to Android right now. Instead, they’re hesitating because of piracy concerns. According to a number of online reports, there’s enough of a piracy issue in Android marketplace that many developers find it necessary to build in antipiracy measures, which in turn dampens sales.

“We’re confident that will be worked out and it will become a viable place for game developers, but that hasn’t happened yet,” said Donald. “So it’s not the tech, it’s the business platform.”

What Steve Said

Donald Mustard met the late Steve Jobs when the Apple founder unveiled Chair and Epic’s game, then called “Project Blade,” at a September 2010 Apple event. Jobs was impressed with the game: “I can’t believe that’s running on an iPhone,” he reportedly said. Jobs also once joked about Donald’s last name, saying “Your name is really ‘Mustard’? I won’t forget that name.”

What’s Next

What comes after Infinity Blade 2? The brothers aren’t quite ready to go there yet. “We’ve been working 24 hours a day,” said Donald. “Working like crazy to get this game finished.” They are, however, excited about some of the features that should arrive after the December 1 launch, including “Clash Mob” — which Donald says should change the way we look at “asynchronous social collaboration.”

Building A Successful App

Donald offered this advice to would be app developers: “Create a game that is unique to iOS — something that utilizes the touch screen in a cool and innovative new way. Our iOS mantra at Chair is that ‘if the game would be fun with a controller, you are not making the right game.’ Gamers want a fun, original experience on their iOS devices — not a port of their favorite console game.”

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Tools for Non-Profits

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Trite but true: the best things in life are free (or at least, heavily discounted). For cause-driven companies and non-profits, purchasing corporate technology products — and hiring an IT team to manage them — is often out of reach, if not just unwieldy for an organization that’s big on mission but not bureaucracy. In recent years however, startups and tech innovators have stepped up to the development plate, quietly creating the next generation of web- and cloud-based management tools specifically suited for small and mid-sized organizations.

From newsletter-creation to targeted blog tools, running analytics and making donations, almost every useful service a non-profit or cause-based organization could want has received a technologically innovative makeover, complete with options for every set of needs, challenges, and price-points.

These six tools might not save the world on their own, but they can empower and facilitate users to achieve their own goals faster, better and more cheaply than ever before. Dean Kosage

1. Wufoo: Need a form — fast, easily, and affordably? Wufoo launched in 2006 to help individuals and businesses handle everything from creating online surveys to event registration, as well as collecting payments and data. Much like iWeb, Microsoft Office, Pages, WordPress and other office suites and content management systems, Wufoo’s cloud-based system offers both templates and personalized forms (that don’t require a tech staff to create). Even better: Wufoo’s many forms are embeddable, brandable and priced between zero dollars and $199.95 per month.

2. iContact: This one-stop shop manages social media campaigns, email contacts, website analytics, and more. iContact’s real gem, however, is its no-brainer newsletter tool. The HTML-free system features drag-and-drop blocks, hundreds of pre-fab templates, and flexible pricing based on the size of the subscriber base. Prefer to try before you buy? iContact offers a free, 30-day trial.

3. Posterous: Wish you could master the social web, but tailor it to the needs of your organization? With the tagline “share smarter,” Posterous has reclaimed the world wide web with circumscribed, user-generated “spaces” that allow businesses and individuals to create and manage permission-based blogs and photo galleries with controlled access (and pleasing to look at formats). For member-based organizations looking to foster community in a walled web-garden, Posterous has your back. The site also makes good on its tagline by offering autopost services for any social-web destination you can think of — and then some.

4. mGive: Specializing in non-profit fundraising, mGive offers a text-to-donate system that simplifies the process for both contributors and organizations. Once non-profits register with mGive, donors can text a unique keyword to a code provided and “send” in a donation. The texted dollar amount appears on their mobile phone bill, and is distributed to the organization.

5. PageLever: Move over, Facebook Insights. There’s a new tool in town, and it’s all about more thoroughly understanding and utilizing the power of everyone’s favorite social network. PageLever allows organizations to move beyond counting “likes” and on to finding out how engaged its audience or constituents is by creating reports on each post, with a detailed and easy-to-understand analysis of each. The tool reveals which posts are the most engaging to fans, why posts are — and aren’t — reaching fans, and how to leverage and enhance fan bases or constituencies. With interactive and easy-to-read charts, graphs, and number comparisons, PageLever is user-friendly and offers tiered pricing packages (not to mention the occasional non-profit discount).

6. SendGrid: This customizable, cloud-based infrastructure is the tool of choice for non-profits with complex newsletter and outreach needs, as well as a little more web-development savvy on their side. No matter your skill-level in writing code, SendGrid handles a lot of the boring nitty-gritty (like monitoring ISPs and creating real-time analytics) of creating and managing custom email systems. The company’s secret weapon, in fact, is its superior customer service: according to one satisfied non-profit client, someone at SendGrid “always picks up the phone.”

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Twilight Fans,The Target of Malicious Hackers

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As the next movie in the Twilight Saga film series nears its premiere, malicious hackers are taking advantage of Twilight fans by poisoning links in Twilight-related searches with malware, Norton’s experts warn. ~ Dean Kosage

Some of the search terms that will return results infected with malware are “Nude pictures of Taylor Lautner,” “Robert and Kristin kissing” and “Twilight true love.”

Clicking on some of the links resulting from these searches might get your PC, tablet or smartphone infected with viruses or keyloggers, so be extra careful when searching for Twilight-related material.

Twilight Saga fans are a common target for malicious hackers. In April 2011, we saw a Twilight game scam spread virally on Facebook, and similar scams have accompanied every movie in the series.

The next movie in the series, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part 1) should hit cinemas on Nov.18.Norton‘s experts expect to see even more Twilight-related malware, scams and spam as the excitement around the movie grows.

More Wonderful Posts of Dean Kosage…

10 iPad Self-Portraits

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I’ve selected 10 top examples of iPad owners having fun with both versions of the Apple tablet to create playful portraits — a very modern twist on the classic artistic genre. ~ Dean Kosage

Take a look through the gallery to see my favorites (in no particular order) and let us know about any great ones you’ve come across — or created — in the comments below.

Beautiful lighting adds a quiet grace to Tim Knezevich’s fantastically done infinity illusion.

Alexander Small adds another layer to his self-portrait with the addition of an iPhone that effectively highlights his intense eyes.

3. PBody
PBody gags himself in his perfectly aligned and very well done self-portrait.

The thinking behind Ryan Pendleton’s fun shot is to show how sometimes gadgets can enslave their owners. Although as a self-confessed iProduct fan, Pendleton says he “happily succumbs” to such enslavement.

Photoshop ninja Chris Deakin has combined two separate images to create his pixellated take on the iPad self-portrait.

There’s no Photoshop in Jonathan Vazquez’s portrait that uses multiple Apple devices to great effect.

7. Ted
Ted is the first to admit his neck isn’t aligned perfectly, but we’re certainly not going to hold that against him as we enjoy his cool camera-themed creation.

We’re impressed with this pic, in which Andrei Popa puts himself inside his iPad.

There’s a real sense of fun in Corey Weekley’s photo. We especially enjoy the little bit of hair sticking up from behind the iPad.

Finally, not actually a self-portrait but a portrait of one of Tim Sismey’s iPhone developer buddies, this makes great use of multiple iOS devices to create some serious quirk.

More Wonderful Posts of Dean Kosage…

“11/11/11 Moments Across the World”

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Volunteer videographers around the world are shooting footage Friday for the second “One Day On Earth” documentary, which aims to capture the world in moving pictures. The filming was intentionally chosen for 11/11/11 because it’s such a memorable date, much like last year’s date 10/10/10. ~ Dean Kosage

One Day On Earth is an entirely crowdsourced project. Anyone, anywhere in the world can join. Its website, at the center of the operation, has many social layers — members can share updates and photos, blog and connect with others. The project functions in a close partnership with Vimeo.

One Day On Earth partner organization, the UN Development Programme, has deployed cameras for filming with its teams in more than 120 countries, in locations including Mogadishu, Jerusalem, Colombia and Liberia. Boaz Paldi, head of UNDP’s video unit, revealed they’ve thus far captured footage of Haitian President Michel Martelly clearing rubble in an IDP camp in Port au Prince and a women’s empowerment project in Herat, Afghanistan. Paldi shared this, filming on the ground in Afghanistan:

“Had a great day in the field, filming a women empowerment story. As we hit the road from Herat to Adreskan district in Western Afghanistan, we felt a tad deflated upon receiving a DSS call to be extra careful since “there is information of a credible threat of suicide bombing in Herat”. Once at the field location, we were quickly able to put it all behind as we witnessed and captured on camera an amazing ‘ordinary’ woman accomplishing a lot in a diehard male bastion.”

A worldwide premiere of the 2010 documentary will take place in late February 2012 in partnership with UNDP. If you were going to capture one thing happening on earth 11/11/11 to include in the documentary, what would it be?

The “One Day on Earth” Trailer

One Day on Earth – Participate Today! from One Day On Earth on Vimeo.

More Wonderful Posts of Dean Kosage…

Katango is now on Google+

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Google has acquired Katango, a startup that has developed advance people-sorting algorithms, in order to improve the quality of Google+ Circles. It’s a perfect time to join and make Circles smarter for millions of people.” ~ Dean Kosage

“Katango was founded a little over a year ago to develop social algorithms that improve people’s online social interaction,” the company said in an announcement. “We’re excited to join the Google+ team and carry on fulfilling that mission. Google+ is seeing tremendous momentum.

Katango, previously known as CafeBots, was the first company funded by the Kleiner Perkins sFund. Earlier this year, the company launched an iPhone app to make it easier to message groups of people across Facebook, email and SMS.

The company’s strength is in its algorithms for social organization. Katango uses social cues to group a user’s friends and colleagues. Its technology is significantly more advanced than the code behind Facebook’s Smart Lists.

Google could well use that technology to improve its social network. Circles, the Google+ feature that lets users share content with different groups such as friends, family or colleagues, is central to Google+’s design. But sorting friends into circles is a tedious affair. Katango should make that process far less painful.

“We were impressed by the Katango team’s innovative approach to making your social circles smarter, and we think they’ll be a great addition to the Google+ team,”.

We have a few screenshots of what Katango was working on before the acquisition. Check them out and let us know what you think of Google’s newest purchase in the comments.

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