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Debate is still raging about how many people are really using Google+ and whether it can ever overtake Facebook. But at least one prominent user was making active use of the site Wednesday: President Barack Obama.

Obama’s profile, which just gained a “verified account” tick mark, appears to have been launched first thing Wednesday morning. Naturally, it isn’t being run by the President himself, but by his reelection campaign — a fact that the profile’s posts makes no attempt to hide.

“Welcome to the Obama 2012 Google+ page,” reads the first Presidential post. “We’re still kicking the tires and figuring this out, so let us know what you’d like to see here and your ideas for how we can use this space to help you stay connected to the campaign.”

One one hand, Obama’s arrival is an important stamp of approval for the nascent social network. Obama has been active on Twitter and Facebook since he was a U.S. Senator running for the highest office in the land; his social media savvy is often credited with boosting his first presidential campaign, helping to recruit an army of young campaign workers and small donors. The President held a Town Hall with Twitter in June, and another at Facebook in April.

On the other hand, the relative lack of fanfare surrounding Obama’s arrival may indicate just how far Google+ has to go. His first post was arguably the most historic thing to happen on Google+ this week; more than 12 hours later, it boasts just 110 shares. (For comparison, one of our more popular Facebook stories this week has been shared more than 3,000 times in a day.)

Since that first announcement, Obama’s campaign has posted twice more Wednesday — once to tout the President’s tax credits for unemployed veterans, and once to push a campaign contest where winners get to have dinner with Obama. It has posted nine scrapbook photos, and no videos.

We’re looking forward to the President’s first Google+ hangout, which may supplant the meeting of Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Llama as the most historic hangout in Google+’s young life.

 

Provided by Chris Taylor

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Does the requirement that you must use your real name onFacebook and Google+ make you shy away from saying anything risqué on those networks?

If so, you might want to sign up for Anybeat, a social network that aims to become a hub of conversation about controversial subjects. The site is officially out of beta as of Monday.

Founded by Dmitry Shapiro, the former CTO of MySpace Music, Anybeat separates itself from other social networks by encouraging its members to use pseudonyms. The hope is that not using their real names will embolden users to participate in conversations they’d never have on Facebook.

“We, as humans, have different needs when it comes to socializing,” says Shapiro. “One is to communicate with people we know, and that’s Facebook. But we need a place to get away from family and friends, and a place to get away from work, a place to socialize with people we don’t know. We want to create an open social place that’s inclusive.”

That sounds good in theory, though anyone who’s ever skimmed the comments on a YouTube video is familiar with how anonymous discussions can get ugly quickly. Shapiro emphasizes that what Anybeat is really offering is “pseudonymity,” which is subtly different from anonymity.

While a user’s real name is hidden, his or her profile name stays consistent, and reputations are created over time.

“YouTube is less of a social network,” Shapiro says. “A lot of it is culture. If [ignorant comments] are what you see, then that’s what it becomes. For us, every profile has ‘Cred’–it’s like a Klout score, or feedback on eBay. And we have moderation tools in place, like you’d find in the old BBS days.”

What sort of content would be off limits to a social network that prides itself on controversy? Shapiro says hate speech, threats, and porn would all make the list.

As Facebook and Google+ have risen in popularity, so have their real-name policies, leading the Web to move away from the anything-goes anonymity of decades past. Shapiro believes a total loss of online anonymity would be a bad thing.

“I think pseudonimity, using the Internet for casual conversations and not just formal ones, is critical.” he says. “It was the reason I fell in love with the Web: AOL chatrooms. I found the conversations I had there to be extremely meaningful. If you ever had a conversation with a stranger and you found that the stranger might have understood you in a way that your closest friends didn’t, that’s what we’re trying to facilitate.”

 

amazon-phone

This week we saw Facebook get a nasty virus, both Apple and Google release cloud-based music services, and heard a rumor about Amazon entering the smartphone market.

 

Didn’t have time to keep up with every ripple in the technology pond this week? We’ve got you covered. Here are some of the most noteworthy stories from the last week.

Facebook gets hacked, users subjected to hardcore porn

Earlier this week we learned that some Facebook users were seeing news feeds filled with images of hardcore pornography and violence. It was originally suspected that the hacker group Anonymous may have had something to do with the attack, but that assumption has since been debunked. The spam attack is now mostly under control and the company has said that someone exploiting a browser vulnerability, not Anonymous, is responsible for the breach. A Facebook spokesperson has maintained that no user information or accounts were compromised during the several-day attack.

 

Google and Apple launch cloud-based music services

This week we saw two of the most important and notable releases in the domain of cloud-based music services from both Google and Apple. We covered the announcement of the public version of Google Music on Wednesday, which now includes the ability to purchase songs through the Android Market, and gave our own hands-on impressions of the service. Apple also launched its counter-attack with the release of iTunes Match, a similar cloud-based music service that users can purchase for $25 per year. We took a first look at the new service to see if it’s worthy of all the hype.

 

Nokia introduces MixRadio for Windows Phones, Lumia may be carried at AT&T in the US

This week Nokia revealed more of the specs of MixRadio, a music service that will be included in its new Lumia 710 and 800 Windows Phone 7.5 handsets. The service will offer users access to an MP3 store, pre-made playlists, streaming, and more. We also confirmed this week that carrier AT&T is looking into carrying both Nokia Windows Phone handsets starting sometime in 2012.

 

Amazon may jump into the smartphone market

In one of the more exciting news developments of the week, we are hearing from Citigroup analysts that Amazon may jump into the smartphone market with an Amazon phone in the next year. Rumor has it that the phone will be priced in the $150 to $170 range and will run on a heavily-modified version of Android, much like the Kindle Fire.

 

iPhone surpasses BlackBerry in business, Apple preps for record sales

In a surprising but somewhat inevitable occurrence, it seems that Apple’s iPhone has finally surpassed BlackBerry as the preferred handset of business users. BlackBerry has had a corner on this part of the market for years, so it’s a success that Apple shouldn’t take lightly. According to recent estimates, Apple is also on track to sell a record number of Macs this quarter, which will likely only increase with the possible release of a 15-inch MacBook Air in March.

 

Provided by Kelly Montgomery

There’s bad news and good news about the way consumers interact with brands on social media.

The bad news? When customers complain on social media, those complaints can tarnish your brand’s name for a wide audience faster than ever.

The good news? Just as complaints travel at light speed thanks to social media, so do compliments.

If you think you’re not “on” or “doing” social media, you’re wrong. Your company may not be active, but I guarantee your fans and your non-supporters are there. Because of this, it is the brand’s responsibility to create a social media experience that can turn a dissatisfied customer into a raving fan.

To help your brand do this, here are seven ways to create a memorable customer experience on social media.


1. Give Your Customers a Place to Talk


Some companies are afraid to set up Facebook pages because they allow customers to comment, which means someone might write something negative. It seems counterintuitive, but you should actually wantcustomers to complain on your company’s Facebook page. If your customers are complaining about you on their personal, privacy-protected Facebook profiles, you have no way to know if they’re complaining, much less reach out to them and make it right.

When customers complain on your brand’s Facebook page, you can respond and resolve issues. If you do it right (and get a little lucky), unhappy customers will turn their opinions around and recommend you to friends because of your fantastic customer service.

 


2. Integrate Social Media Into Your Customer Service


Neglecting your social media properties when they’re full of customer complaints is suicide for your brand. It’s like publishing a customer service hotline phone number that no one ever answers. (Except worse, because the whole Internet can see your negligence.)

Don’t open up the floor for complaints without a plan to handle them. Predict the complaints you may get and construct policies for replying to them. You should also plan on responding to fans who compliment you. At the very least, you should thank customers for the compliment. But if you really want to make customers happy, show happy customers your appreciation with coupons or other rewards.

 


3. Activate Your Existing Customer Base


Most brands have more customers than they do Facebook fans and Twitter followers. Start building your social media fan base by reaching out to your current customers — after all, they already “like” your brand in real life.

Think about how you currently contact your customer base and how you can use those communication channels to draw customers to your social media properties. For example, you could run a contest or promotion on Facebook and then include that promotion on your product’s packaging, in your next email, and in any touch point you have with your customers.

 


4. Be Proactive


Don’t just wait for someone to post on your wall or tweet your account. It’s especially easy on Twitter to monitor for mentions of your name and reach out when someone has a problem, even if they haven’t mentioned your account. Set your brand apart by proactively interacting with customers who are talking about your brand, whether you’re thanking them for a compliment or helping them solve a problem.

Think about why your customers use social media sites like Twitter — it’s because they want to “connect” and to have a voice out there. Make them happy that someone, most importantly your company, is listening to what they have to say.

 


5. Reward Influencers


Find the social media influencers for your audience and give them extras. This could be as simple as giving them advance notice of a special promotion, or complex as giving them a free trip and tour of your facilities. For example, check out what Musselman’s apple sauce did for its blogger network. Making people feel special will help turn them into advocates for your brand. Reward your brand ambassadors when they least expect it and you’ll see some pretty phenomenal results.

 


6. Create Compelling Content


Give your fans something of value on your page. For example, Nordstom’s “Beauty Central” on Facebook provides a ton of relevant, useful content. You can do something similar to this in every industry. If you’re a movie producer, post behind-the-scenes photos, and if you’re a bank, write money saving tips. It’s hard to get people to engage with your brand when you don’t have anything interesting to say. Every brand can (and should) create quality content.

Social media can be a channel to make customers or followers feel special, like they’re in an exclusive club with your brand because they follow you. Make them feel this exclusiveness whether you have ten social media fans or 100,000.

 


7. Stand Out From the Crowd


Some of the most memorable social media experiences are created by going beyond text. This can be as complex as Starbucks’s Pumpkin Picture app, or simple as using voice applications to let your brand’s spokesperson actually speak to your fans. The more interactive and engaging your social media presence, the better. In part, social media is a little anti-social because there can be a lot lost in plain text. By giving your fans a true voice on social media, or encouraging participation through photos and videos, you humanize the experience that much more. You’ll be doing so when most of the other companies out there aren’t really participating effectively this way.

 

Provided by Dave Toliver

primer_v2_s35pWe’ve shown you robots completing various tasks in the past, but this new model, a small hobby humanoid, can ride a bicycle like a human being. It’s not the first of its kind (Murata’s robotand Panasonic’s EVOLTA robot come to mind), but the model that’s pictured on the left costs just US$2,220 in its standard configuration.

Dr. Guero [JP] from Japan modified KHR3HV, a bipedal robot made by Japanese maker KONDO that has been available in many robot stores for years. The humanoid can even stop for a moment and continue riding the bike on his own, which is pretty cool.

PRIMER-V2 weighs 2.5kg, stands 495mm tall and can reach a top speed of 10km/h. This video shows the robot in action:

bill gates

All you aspiring 1-percenters, take heed: Bill Gates says that, after you become a millionaire, it doesn’t really make much of a difference how much more money you make.

 

It’s one thing to be told that money isn’t everything by someone who has never had any. It’s quite another when the person giving the advice is the wealthiest man in the world.

This lesson was recently learned by a lucky group of computer science and engineering students at the University of Washington, who had the opportunity to listen of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, a native of UW’s hometown of Seattle, give his two cents about life, technology and getting rich.

“I didn’t start out with the dream of being super-rich,” said Gates. “And even after we started Microsoft, and the guys who ran Intel—Gordon Moore and those guys—were billionaires, I was like, ‘Wow, that must be strange.’ And so—it is, it’s quite strange.”

He added: “But wealth above a certain level, really, it’s a responsibility that then you’re going have to either, a.) leave it to your children, which may or may not be good for them, or b.) try to be smart about giving it away.

“So I can understand wanting to have millions of dollars, because there’s meaningful freedom that comes with that. But once you get much beyond that—you know, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburgerDick’s [a local fast food chain] has not raised their prices enough. But, you know, being ambitious is good. You just have to pick what you enjoy doing.”[Emphasis ours]

Gates also said that he believes ” that the rich should be taxed a lot more,” but that the best thing America can do for those with thinner wallets is to provide a quality education that can “give them an opportunity to move up into the top few percent.”

Read a full report about Gates’ talk here.

 

Provided by Andrew Couts

satellite-shutterstock

An upcoming congressional committee report suggests the Chinese government many have played a role in the hacking of two US satellites in 2007 and 2008.

 

In 2007 and 2008, hackers waged an attack on two US government satellites, according to a report from a congressional committee that’s due to be released next month. Bloomberg Businessweekreports that the perpetrators of the attack may have ties to the Chinese military.

The two satellites, named Landsat-7 and Terra AM-1, are reportedly used for climate and terrain monitoring, and are managed by NASA.

In both October 2007 and July 2008, the Landsat-7 satellite experienced 12 minutes of interference. The Terra AM-1 experienced two minutes of interference in July 2008, and nine minutes in October 2008, according to the report.

“Such interference poses numerous potential threats, particularly if achieved against satellites with more sensitive functions,” says a draft of the report obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek. “Access to a satellite‘s controls could allow an attacker to damage or destroy the satellite. An attacker could also deny or degrade as well as forge or otherwise manipulate the satellite’s transmission.”

While the report does not explicitly implicate the Chinese government in the attacks on the satellites, it does say that the attacks are in line with Chinese government writings that support military action against enemy space systems, including “ground-based infrastructure, such as satellite control facilities.”

The report also says that the Chinese “conducted and supported a range of malicious cyber activities.”

Wang Baodong, a spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C., says the commission has been spreading “unproved stories to serve its purpose of vilifying China’s international image over the years. He added that China “never does anything that endangers other countries’ security interests.”

The report goes on to say that, in the event of a military conflict between the US and China, the Chinese would attempt to “compromise, disrupt, deny, degrade, deceive or destroy” US computer systems, including satellite systems.

This is, of course, far from the first time the Chinese government has been accused of hacking. Last March, for example, Google accused the Chinese government of hacking its Gmail service in an attempt to suppress anti-government activists in that country.

 

Provided by Andrew Couts


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