Saturday, January 7, 2012

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My Failed Attempt At Making An Appeal For The Wikimedia Foundation

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 07:02 AM PST


Editor's note: James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and entrepreneur. He is Managing Director of Formula Capital and has written 6 books on investing. His latest book is I Was Blind But Now I See. You can follow him @jaltucher.

I wanted to write an appeal for the Wikimedia foundation. I'm going to be completely honest with you: the only reason I wanted to write it was for completely self-promotional and ego purposes. On almost every Google search, Wikipedia is the #1 or #2 result. It's almost like Google is just a middleman to Wikipedia.

In my ideal world, for instance, you might search on "head transplants" and then click on the Wikipedia page and see my face on the left hand side with something like, "Click here to donate $5 to my favorite cause".

Who is that? One would wonder. Why is he now talking to the entire world?  You might forget all about “head transplants” and realize that far more valuable information was a click away if you would just listen to my appeal to humanity for the benefit of the Wikimedia foundation.

How amazing would that promotion be? All for me.  When you are promoting yourself you can't think of just, "how many SEO impressions can I get?" When the aliens invade 700 years after our apocalypse they won’t care about SEO impressions. They will care about my very personal appeal at the top of 700 million Wikipedia pages. What was this civilization like at it’s peak. Don’t worry, “James Altucher” will tell you. He has an appeal.

Why did I want to promote myself? No reason. Just ego. Ask my therapist. I lacked loved as a child, blah blah blah.

And I figured: they had Jimmy Wales up there. They had some programmer for Wikimedia. They had some random editor. They had the inventor of wikis. So why not me? My daughters use Wikipedia to cheat on their homework every day. And if I ever get sick and they figure out how to hook up the spinal cords to the head I might very well end up with one of these head transplants thanks to what I learned on Wikipedia (search on “Head Transplants”) Although, seriously, I use Wikipedia all day long. Just did a vanity search on my name there, for instance.

So I started with the idea: get massive self-promotion. And then I took the next step: go straight to the top: I wrote Jimmy Wales with the subject: I can help.

I needed to stand out. I came up with the most outlandish way in which $1 contributed to the Wikimedia foundation could help the planet. I imagined a future with Insta-Fi and no separation between our superficial consciousness ("the brain") and the Internet. And what would Wikipedia look like then? Then I pitched it straight to Jimmy Wales.

(Branson, Wales, Tony Blair, and In the future?)

To my surprise, he wrote back write away. He was either being nice or just wanted to get rid of me. Probably both. But I like that he wrote back. I probably would not have done that if I were him. At the moment I have 146,355 unread emails in my inbox. On April 22, I wrote how I had 105,633 unread emails in my inbox. I'm such a bad responder. Once Wales wrote back, I had a fantasy about hanging out with him and Larry Page on Richard Branson’s yacht. That’s what we all do when we’re not writing emails to each other. (See, “Why are Larry Page and I So Different (or…why didn’t he buy my company”).

Wales wrote back that I should contact Zack Exley who is in charge of the foundation. I kept pushing. I wrote Zack:

"Zack, I’d very much like to make an appeal for the Wikimedia foundation.

[description of who I was - its not important to include here]

I’m aiming eventually for “the wiki-chip” in our brains. We can
already use EEGs to identify letters we are thinking of, to diagnose
depressions, and to give basic commands. I envision a day when we can
“ask” the wiki-chip for information, it will use wimax to look it up
on wikipedia and return the info through the optic nerves connected to
our brain.

All of this will be possible because of every dollar put into the
foundation right now. I spend half my day on Wikipedia and would love
to participate in these appeals. Jimmy Wales suggested I write you."

Again, to my suprise: he wrote back right away and was very kind about it:


I agree with you. I think about that all the time – and not just how we’ll use the chip to use wikipedia, but just think of the vast range of apps that will change peoples lives then.

The revolution will make the internet look like nothing. And will eliminate all these devices from our lives.
I hope it happens sooner than later.

So: I agree. But what were you suggesting we do with that idea for the fundraiser?


We wrote back and forth a few times after that. I suggested that since he had all these editors, etc make an appeal, why not have an appeal from his biggest user. ME!

Finally, he called me out right on the spot (very politely) and narrowed down to the two issues that were really at stake here: who the hell am I, and, perhaps more crucially from his perspective, was I a seriously mentally ill patient or future patient.

He wrote:

"James –

I’ll definitely consider it if you send us an appeal! But I think it might just be too random — in the sense that a lot of people would ask: Why him? Are they trying to promote him?

We did do a reader/donor appeal this year — a software developer from a small city in India who left us a nice note when she donated.

Moreover, while I totally agree with you about what’s going to happen and how important it is. I think most people would read it like wacky science fiction — and the Wikimedia fundraiser just isn’t the forum for changing people’s minds about what the future’s going to look like.

Have you written about this sort of thing in your columns? Point me there and I’ll be able to see what language you’re using and think about whether it might fit in an appeal.



Clearly, he is pushing me off further. But I can't stop. Woody Allen says the key to success is “showing up”. I wanted to show up to a manned space  mission to Mars but I have glasses so they will never send me there. But here was something within my grasp. I pushed back again and actually wrote the appeal and sent to him. Here's what I wrote:

"Two years ago there was the argument that Wikipedia was not as accurate as more traditional (text-based with editors) encyclopedias. That argument is over and Wikipedia won.

One year ago there was the argument that the Internet was making us more stupid. The other day my nine year old daughter was explaining the evolution of different sea-based species that eventually evolved into humans. I asked her where she learned this information since I had no idea. She said, “I read it on Wikipedia”. So my nine year old made me smarter. Wikipedia made her smarter. And will continue to do so for the rest of her life.

Let’s engage in a small fantasy that’s not so far-fetched. What will the argument be ten years from now? Perhaps twenty years from now? Science can already do non-invasive brain scans to determine what letter you are thinking. Science can already do non-invasive brain scans to allow quadriplegics to command exo-skeleton structures that allow them to perform basic functions they could not otherwise perform. That’s today. What’s tomorrow? A non-invasive way to make a thought query into Wikipedia via some wimax network. A response that gets communicated back to the brain. A way to receive through sight or sound or memory the answer to your request.

Will $5 get there? Will $1 million? Of course not. This is the future. This is the future of our intelligence. This is the future of our evolution as ideas continue to mate rapidly, as generation after generation of humans seek to improve themselves. I may not be alive to see the results of this fantasy. But I bet my nine year old will be. And her eventual descendants. Will $5 get there? No.

But it’s a start.

Who Am I?

I’m not an editor of 1000s of wikipedia articles. I’m not the inventor of the wiki. I’m not a programmer of it. But I’ve been a reader of 10,000+ Wikipedia articles. I’ve plagiarized hundreds of articles straight from Wikipedia. And I’m better for it. And so are the readers of my articles. And so are my children. "

Damn, I thought for sure that would get me in the door. And note: I'm not fooling anyone. I believe what I wrote.  But I was 100% doing it for self-promotional and ego purposes.

But then today I arrived at Wikipedia and there was a note at the top from Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia foundation, thanking everyone on the planet because Wikimedia made their financial goals. So my dreams are dashed.

I missed out on getting my appeal in there. This year. I failed. But a failure is only a failure if you don’t learn anything from it.

Lessons learned:

  1. Failure is ok. I tried. I learned something new in the process.
  2. Go direct for the decision makers so you don't waste any time.
  3. Use your brain. I had to come up with an idea to make me stand out. Maybe it didn't work this time but if I try 30 times in a row, something will stand out.
  4. Use your brain, part II. The idea muscle is like any other muscle. It needs exercise or it atrophies. Take out a waiter pad and a pen, go to your closest cafe, and come up with ten ideas that will make the world better one year from now. Even better: ten ideas you can do. Even better: ten ideas you can do with the tools available to you today, at your business, on your computer, whatever.
  5. Use your brain, part III. Like any exercise, you don’t get the “burn” unless you sweat. Sweat a little. You just made the list above. Now what are the ten next steps. List them.
  6. Now do it. Make sure you can execute on your ideas. Else they are bad ideas. Then do them TODAY. Then tomorrow, repeat. I’m onto my next thing. No harm. No foul.
  7. It didn't take that much time. It forced me to exercise my brain in unusual ways. It forced me to exercise my networking muscle. And if my devious, world-dominating plan had worked, it would have had great results. For me. if not for the Wikimedia Foundation. If not the entire planet! Why do I want to promote myself? For no reason at all. Just for fun. But who can argue with that?
  8. Repurpose. I made a TechCrunch article out of it. BAM!

Some sources from Wikipedia used in this article:

See Also: “The ONE way to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions”)

And “How to Have a Big Idea”

Engineering Serendipity

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 06:04 AM PST


Editor’s note: Guest contributor Catherine Cook is the co-founder of MyYearbook, a social network for meeting new people.

When John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale reach for the same pair of black gloves in the movie Serendipity, they meet and fall in love.  The goal of social discovery applications is to engineer this kind of serendipity. By leveraging demographic and interest data, and by providing good reasons to interact with strangers, this emerging category seeks to make meeting people feel fun and natural.

And it's not just about dating.  Most people I know I met through serendipitous encounters.  Whether it's the friend I bumped into at the college bookstore as a confused freshman or the boyfriend I met at the coffee shop, most human relationships start the same way – in a serendipitous moment.

But not a random moment. I wasn't waiting in a random line in a random store in a random city; I was waiting in my college bookstore, surrounded by people in close proximity with shared ambitions and life stages. Even at the coffee shop, it's not a random cross-section of society that caffeinates there each day, but a group of people particular to the location and environment of Georgetown. Social discovery apps spend much of their time focused on this problem: how to infuse apparently "random" online interactions with the sort of affinity that leads to connection—not unlike a good mutual friend who enjoys playing matchmaker.

Yet there has traditionally been a distinction between meeting people online and doing so offline: intention. We tend not to wake up one morning and say, "I'm going to meet a friend today." Sure, you need to be open to friendship to find it, and it helps to be in places where you might meet someone (malls, bars, casual sports, and so on), but you don't start every conversation with "Do you want to be my friend?" The key for social discovery apps is to mirror those offline meeting places by providing an experience that's still fun on the days when the serendipity part just isn't happening.

Let's face it: picking someone out of a list feels less than magical, yet that's where online social discovery has traditionally been stuck. Whoever can make it feel as natural as grabbing a coffee, hanging out at the bar, or wasting time in the mall is going to win the race for leadership of what I believe will be a very big category. And there's no shortage of contenders, from more established players like Badoo and Tagged to extremely interesting venture-backed services like Banjo and Shaker. My own company, MyYearbook, is also competing for the same prize (so I am completely biased, but I am also a complete believer in these trends).

How big could this prize be? Everyone in the world has a desire for friendship, especially as teens and young adults when so many long-lasting relationships begin. It is inconceivable to me that there will not be the mobile equivalent of the mall or the coffeehouse, that there won't be a dominant meeting place that will intelligently take into account location, interests, and every other available cue to make serendipity happen.

What is at stake is nothing less than the future of meeting new people—of how people discover one another and make relationships in a world where mobile devices behave like extensions of the human body. How do you create a social graph not of the people you know, but of the people you want to know? How do you make meeting people fun, at scale, for everyone? How do you make all that serendipity stuff just happen? These are the challenges we face, because as friendships themselves increasingly migrate online, we think it's only natural that friendship-making will too.

Daily Crunch: Hex Enduction Hour

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 01:00 AM PST

4SquareAnd7YearsAgo Becomes Timehop, Takes You A Year Back In Time Through Online Content

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 07:55 PM PST

Screen Shot 2012-01-06 at 7.49.40 PM

4SquareAnd7YearsAgo, that emailed you your Foursquare checkins from exactly a year ago, has branched out beyond Foursquare. Now the service, newly re-monikered Timehop, includes your Facebook status updates, photos you updated, photos you were tagged in, as well as Twitter and Instagram posts from 365 days past.

The tech industry is starting to see a resurgence of products that play into social media nostalgia; Facebook Timeline, Memento and Memolane for example. “Everybody is starting to realize that there’s value in the past,” Timehop co-founder Jonathan Wegener tells me. He hopes that the startup will one day be the “ultimate” way people experience their content history online, despite the tight constraint of only showing anniversary content — which Wegener likens to Twitter’s “140 characters.”

In fact, when I covered 4SquareAnd SevenYearsAgo last year, I specifically told Wegener that he should let people search through all their past content. “Sometimes less is more,” he says about limiting the product, which expanded to including Facebook at the TC Disrupt Hackathon in May.

Wegener’s future plans for Timehop include expanding to other services, allowing people to share content more easily and supporting collaborative “history writing,” which would also include simultaneous content shared by friends.

“Its oftentimes the things that we don’t think twice about that are very powerful in retrospect,” says Wegener, “Everything is more emotional when it’s in the past.”

OLPC XO-3 Tablet To Be Shown At CES

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 06:30 PM PST


After years in the making, the One Laptop Per Child program’s XO-3 tablet will be shown in more or less final form next week at CES, according to the project’s founder, Nicholas Negroponte. The latest image of the tablet is shown here, though it is from some time back and may no longer be representative.

The price of the tablet will in fact be under $100, he said, though various options will put it over that. It has an 8-inch screen — traditional LCD, though it may be upgraded to a Pixel Qi display for power savings and e-paper-like capability. If they stuck to their original specifications, it will also be waterproof, durable, and about a quarter of an inch thick. The version they’re showing will run Android, though what version was not specified.

Solar panels, hand cranks, a bigger battery, and other accessories will be available, though no pricing has been given. It’s also unclear whether the device will be offered a la carte via retail, or will be limited to bulk purchases.

The tablet comes on the heels of the news that India’s own mass-market tablet, the Aakash, has garnered serious interest, selling thousands and producing interest potentially in the millions of units. The OLPC device will be more expensive, but I feel justified in saying it will likely be of a higher quality as well, though the future of the Aakash and tablets like it is in flux and both are totally incomparable to commercial tablets like the iPad.

Negroponte also said that they would be conducting a long-term experiment using the devices, collecting reading data from youths age 3-8 in India, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone. Apparently the tablets come with a reading platform that records audio and video and adapts its lessons to the needs of the children. Negroponte described it as possibly “the most important thing I have ever done… if it works.” Whether this is related to his plan to airdrop the devices onto remote regions was not made clear.

Needless to say, our team at CES will be seeking out the device and Negroponte himself if he is present. Watch our CES 2012 page for more information next week.

When “Find My iPhone” Becomes An Adventure

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 06:21 PM PST

Screen Shot 2012-01-06 at 5.07.44 PM

TechCrunch reader Nikos Kakavoulis sent us the following amazing story earlier this week … The Daily Secret founder used “Find My iPhone” to catch an naive iPhone “thief” — turning on the Play Sound feature in Starbucks in order to locate his lost phone inside the person who had found (and kept) his phone’s pockets.

Writes Kakavoulis (yeah, I know, us Greeks and our “names”):

So I'm sitting in Starbucks in Athens, Greece, meeting with Daily
Secret developers. After taking a quick break, I realize I've left my
iPhone on the bathroom sink. It's gone. The barista says no one's
handed in a phone but suggests I check the 'Find my iPhone' app. Our
head designer, Spiro, is already on the case—by the time I get back to
the table, he's got the app on iCloud. The good news? My iPhone's
still in Starbucks. The bad news—it's on silent (probably turned on silent).

There's a small button on the iCloud interface, which I'd never
noticed before—Play Sound. In an instant, we can all hear my iPhone
beeping. I'm looking around Starbucks and the noise is coming from a
couple with a baby two tables away. "Have you seen my iPhone?" I ask.
The guy pretends not to hear, which is insane because the beeping is
now incredibly loud. "Maybe the baby took it?" I say, even though
their kid's about a year old. The beeping stops.

I go back to our table, click the same button and this time, when the
beeping starts up, the guy takes my phone out of his pocket all
contrite—"Oh is this your phone? I found it on the floor." I'm almost
speechless by now, then his wife jumps in—"You've got it back, what's
your problem?"

By the time we call the police, the couple has disappeared. No apology, nothing. Do I want
to file charges? No. Facebook? Hell yes. We post the guy's pic on
Facebook. Ten minutes later, the kicker. His wife comes back into
Starbucks, presumably to apologize. She comes up to our table. "I've
lost my sunglasses. Have you seen them?"

While Kakavoulis’ story had a happy ending, “Find My iPhone” didn’t have the same results for Prism SkyLabs founder Steve Russell, who live-Facebooked tracking down the iPad he lost on a flight to the Carriage Green Apartments in Aurora, CO (United/Continental’s Lost and Found Facility is down the street).  While he updated the thread with every step of the process and at times was so close, Russell never did end up with his iPad.

Russell later wrote me with this suggestion for the makers of “Find My iPhone,”

“Wouldn’t it be neat if an option on the “Find my iPhone” App was to automatically submit your device serial number to police and and various lost and found registries…as it was for me…I couldn’t find my serial number and it was logged by “Find My iPhone” so it made talking to the airline and police about my device much more difficult …

Airlines, like pawn shops are required to do today, should be required to submit the serial numbers of found high end electronics to the police and possibly set up an online registry.  In the Pawn shop case, this is actually how MOST stolen iPads are found and returned, according the police person I talked to.  They Cops wait until the thief tries to sell the device…and then pick it up from the pawn shop. “

I too have had a “Find My iPhone” adventure, rifling through anything and everything backstage for hours last month at Le Web, to find my iPhone that supposedly was right there according to “Find My iPhone” but actually wasn’t. I also didn’t get mine back. Maybe that guy’s wife was right?

Review: AAXA P4 Pico Projector

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 05:09 PM PST


Short version:

A powerful little device, significantly brighter than others of its size, with decent battery life and a good picture. Too bad it’s so damn loud, and not the most user-friendly thing of all time either.


  • 80 lumens, 2000:1 contrast ratio
  • 854×480 native resolution, 1280×768 max resolution
  • 5

  • 2GB onboard storage, microSD slot
  • Composite and mini-VGA inputs, 3.5mm audio out, USB ports
  • MSRP: $399 (sells for $339)


  • Very bright, sharp image for its size
  • Onboard storage and SD useful for photos, presentations
  • Full-on Windows CE environment in there if you like that kind of thing


  • Constantly running, quite loud fan
  • Needs better file support
  • Interface can be unresponsive or break

Full review:

The line between “pico” projector and simply small projectors is increasingly blurry as we see large-ish but still not large products like 3M’s MP160 and the upcoming Shine. They won’t fit in your front pocket, but they’re sure more portable than traditional projectors. AAXA’s P4 is of a type with these: portable, but not micro.

It’s a boxy, gadgety-looking little device, with the controls on the top, inputs and outputs on the side, and USB stuff on the back. It comes with a controller of dubious quality — instead of arrows, the buttons are labeled “up,” “right,” and “Sour” (source), that kind of thing.

Don’t expect a very short throw on the image – but at the same time, it’s not as long as others I’ve used. At 6 feet away, I got about a 35″ image. They claim 80″ is possible in low light, and I don’t doubt it – but you’d need quite a bit of space. For small environments like offices and apartments, you’re probably going to be getting 35-50″. Battery life is somewhat more than an hour, but less than an hour and a half. This is par for pico projectors, though notably the P4 is brighter than its brethren.

Upon starting the device up, you can choose between playing on-device videos, pictures, and music (music, really?), going to a connected source, or entering a full-on Windows CE desktop. The only one I didn’t have trouble with was the plain pass-through source; my SNES and laptop signals were clear, sharp, and bright, with solid color, no visible artifacts or optical effects, and no lag.

Getting to media you have on the device or an attached microSD card or USB drive is easy if you don’t have much on there – but if you tend to keep lots of photos or shows on a drive, be ready for a long wait as the P4 indexes the media. I managed to fully crash it several times as it attempted to index all the images on a drive I’d plugged in:

That said, a card with a couple dozen pictures and movies on it loaded very quickly.

Unfortunately, media playback wasn’t the best. Anything larger than VGA tended to choke and stutter, whether I had download it or made it myself (AAXA tells me this is not a problem via the mini USB port, and may be fixed by firmware). So don’t expect to be watching HD movies on this thing, despite its relatively high-res image. And when it didn’t stutter, sometimes it would not respond to controls or fail to hide the on-screen display, resulting in much of the image being obscured by buttons and a filename right in the middle of the video. Note that this does not apply to videos played through another device, like an iPod or laptop.

Photos looked all right, but large ones (~4MB, 3000x2000px) took around five seconds to load. It supports JPG, GIF, and BMP, but not PNG. PDF files are not opened natively; you have to go open them in WinCE mode via Foxit Reader.

And throughout all of this, there is a white Windows cursor in the middle of the screen. Why?!

Probably because it’s all running on top of Windows CE, which you can switch into by going to “Desktop” mode. It’s actually pretty cool, although without wireless capability it’s quite limited; if you want to add programs you have to transfer them over USB or figure out a way to share your net from your PC. It’s kind of great that there’s a whole little Windows computer in there, but unless you really want to spend some time configuring it, there’s not much it can add to the bargain. Especially since it’s very difficult to navigate with the clicker.

AAXA was nice enough to pack a tiny keyboard/touchpad combo thing, which works perfectly with the projector and is cute as hell. I like this little thing. If the Windows portion of this projector were more practical, this would be very handy indeed.

Lastly, the thing makes a racket. These larger pico projectors aren’t generally too quiet to begin with, but this thing starts whirring from the moment you turn it on, and there is a high pitched noise that’s added when an image is being produced. It also doesn’t have much in the way of volume so you’ll have to pack speakers if you want to hear what’s being said in videos over the din of the fans.


While the P4 is well-built, compact, and produces a really bright and solid picture, its other features are just not very usable. To be fair, the others in the space are often just as poor performers: I haven’t met a pico projector yet that provides a satisfactory movie-viewing experience or is actually easy or fun to navigate. If you want a multimedia device, the P4 isn’t for you. If you don’t mind the noise and plan on doing mostly pass-through stuff from other sources, it could be just fine. They do have a smaller, slightly less bright version coming out (the P3) which might be a little more practical, but that doesn’t come out for a few months.

Product page: AAXA P4 Pico Projector

Spotify Has Gotten Big In The US Via Facebook, But Serious Free Users Will Have To Start Paying Soon

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 03:54 PM PST

Screen Shot 2012-01-06 at 3.18.00 PM

Many of you who have been using streaming music service Spotify for free in the US from when it launched last July are now going to have to start paying, as Business Insider points out today.

The reason is the company’s policy of limiting free usage to ten hours and/or five plays per track every month, after the first six months of the trial. Full access, if you haven’t paid for it yet, will cost you $9.99 per month, with partial access (no mobile, no offline, etc. but also no ads and no streaming limits) at $4.99.

What we’re really looking at here is two parts of a conversion funnel — the traffic growth part, then the paywall part — for what appears to be a legitimate contender to iTunes (and any other music service out there). Presumably, that was the plan.

When I say “you,” I specifically mean all the people who joined because of the special integration with Facebook that Spotify has had going since September. Those people won’t be hitting the six month limit quite yet, but there’ll be a lot of them, judging by all the growth Spotify has been enjoying on Facebook lately.

Today it has 5.4 million daily active users (although the numbers fluctuate) and 12.3 million monthly active users, according to the AppData app tracking service. Engagement of nearly 50% is impressively high for any Facebook app, especially one that’s grown this much this quickly. Before the launch in late September, Spotify had 3.4 million monthly actives, with daily active numbers that averaged around half that.

Meanwhile, basically no other music service is even close to Spotify on Facebook — the other ones that launched on Facebook in September have gone nowhere (on Facebook). That’s partially because Facebook seems to have given Spotify special prominence in users news feeds and the ticker for months. Spotify’s Facebook growth is also because Facebook forced Spotify to require all of its users to only log in using their Facebook accounts.

The only other company that has any sort of serious traction on Facebook is internet radio company Pandora, which has 1.2 million daily actives and 9.5 million monthly actives, despite not being involved in the September launch. It’s not clear where that growth is coming from, other than purely organic growth.

Facebook Says Privacy Advocates Should Applaud Timeline, EPIC FTC Probe Unnecessary

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 03:25 PM PST

EPIC Vs Facebook

TechCrunch has received a response from Facebook to the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s letter urging the US Federal Trade Commission to investigate Timeline for privacy violations. Facebook says it has not violated user privacy or its November settlement with the FTC. That’s because Timeline simply makes historic content more accessible, not visible to anyone who couldn’t already see it. Also, Timeline provides Activity Log for managing the visibility of this content. I agree. Facebook may be bending the rules of privacy, but it hasn’t broken them.

In response to EPIC’s call for an FTC investigation, as reported by Identity Matters, Facebook’s Director of Public Policy Andrew Noyes tells TechCrunch:

“As we explained when we announced timeline in September, and we reiterated last month when it became available worldwide, timeline doesn’t change the privacy of any content. Everything is accessible to the same people who could or likely had seen it already in their News Feed sometime in the past. In addition, timeline offers a number of new, simpler, and more effective ways for people to control their information, including activity log, the most comprehensive control tool we’ve ever developed. We think these innovations are things privacy advocates should be applauding.”

Maybe ‘applauding’ goes a bit far, but privacy critics should be satisfied that Facebook has paired easier access to content with better ways to manage it. Before Timeline launched, to reach years old content one had to click the “older posts” button over and over. Profile owners were unlikely to go to this trouble, but someone intent on running a background check or defaming them might do so. In this way, the “privacy by obscurity” that EPIC says Facebook has violated may have been more dangerous than helpful to users.

The critical clause of Facebook’s FTC settlement is that it agreed to “obtaining consumers’ express consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established.” The fact is that migrating to Timeline does not change one’s privacy settings. Anything set to friends, friends of friends, public, or a custom setting stays that way. Therefore, EPIC’s claim that “Facebook is changing the privacy settings of its users in a way that gives the company far greater ability to disclose their personal information than in the past” is simply false.

I’m a big advocate for users combing their Timeline for embarrassing content they might wish to remove. If the FTC wants to make a recommendation about Timeline, it should ask Facebook to more actively encourage use of Activity Log. But ultimately, it should see past EPIC’s sensational claims and conclude that Timeline does not violate user privacy.

With Version 2.0, Onesheet Becomes The For The Entertainment Industry

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 02:30 PM PST


Back in July of last year, ArtistData Founder and serial entrepreneur Brenden Mulligan brought his newest project, Onesheet, into beta. At the time, Alexia described Onesheet as the “ for bands”, which is an apt description considering Mulligan’s professed goal for his startup was to create a simple way for bands to build a real presence on the Web without having to religiously maintain that presence. That means that bands can use Onesheet to create aggregated, customizable profiles, verifying their identities through Facebook or Twitter to connect with third party services like Soundcloud, Bandcamp and ReverbNation. (And social media services like Posterous, Tumblr and YouTube.)

It’s great for artists, because they can tweak the look of their page, re-position widgets and so on without putting in a lot of effort because their pages update themselves through connectivity with those other third party platforms. In fact, this kind of functionality was enough in demand that, one month later, Onesheet came out of limited beta, whereupon we learned that over 10,000 artists had signed up to use the service. What’s more, Onesheet has been voted a finalist in the “Best Bootstrapped Startup” category for the 2011 Crunchie Awards.

With a decade of experience in the music industry managing bands and building music products, Mulligan’s goal from the beginning with Onesheet was to target bands and musicians. But he also smartly chose a name for his product that has broad entertainment industry implications, versus something like BandPage. (After all, in the industry, a “one-sheet” is a document that summarizes a product for publicity and sales.) Because, the fact of the matter is, there are a lot of people out there that represent themselves with media, rather than through a biography and dont want to spend a lot of time building a Web presence, nor do they want to pay a ton for that ability.

So, after spending six months understanding what the product needed to be for bands, today Onesheet is launching version 2.0 to bring its services to the entire entertainment industry. No longer just for bands, now filmmakers, actors, TV shows, movies, comedians, and more can get in on the action.

In doing so, Onesheet is launching a number of subtle changes based on feedback from its users, starting with increased flexibility in the type of Onesheets that can be created. This means that users can create as many Onesheets as they’d like, so that a musician can create a page for his or her band, as well as for a specific album or song, just as a director can create pages for themselves as well as their individual movies, for example.

Mulligan and team have also restructured the pages so that users can add content as widgets, allowing for further page customization, with support for audio powered by sites like Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Reverbnation, Broadjam, and for events through AristData, Songkick, and others, mailing list signup, Facebook wall posts and comments, pledging, Amazon MP3 and CD Baby store access, tweets, and video through Hulu YouTube, Vimeo, etc.

In turn, the team has also altered Onesheet’s “Premium Plan”, moving many of the service’s premium features into its free plan, along with reducing premium pricing to $5 a month. (You can read Mulligan’s blog post on the changes here.)

These changes reflect Onesheet’s user-centric approach, and as musicians happen to be some of the more cost-sensitive people out there, lower premium pricing will be music to their ears, just as it will be for other industry professionals. In creating an for the entertainment industry, it’s essential that Onesheet allow its users to connect to the plethora of services bands and others are using to share their tunes, manage their operations, sell their content, connect with fans, and everything in between.

This is especially true considering the fact that artists are using Onesheet as a PR vehicle just as much as they are using it as their web presence, Mulligan says, citing the example of the band Paramore. With nearly 19 million Facebook “Likes”, Paramore has a big web presence, but they and other artists are using Onesheet to post their new single instead of emailing radio stations and other distribution sources. They can just upload their single to SoundCloud and allow users to access it via Onesheet, where fans can also see a multitude of other stuff, like their official videos, etc. With this kind of use case, Onesheet is becoming a suped-up, interactive allmusic. Or at least a great complement.

Now offering additional video content from Hulu and Vimeo, artist information from IMDB, audio from Rdio, and more, Onesheet is becoming a flexible resource for aggregating the Web services that make the entertainment industry tick and allow them to put their best face forward for public viewing and consumption.

If Onesheet is successful its users to make the site their primary web presence and PR vehicle (and with tens of thousands of users, it’s on its way), it will be around for a long time to come. It also helps that Mulligan has made custom domain names available to all Onesheet users, for free. Of course, to really go the distance, Onesheet will need a mobile presence. Though Mulligan says Onesheet apps are on the way.

For more, check out the announcement here and the video below. Let us know what you think.

SV Angel And Founder Collective Give Hackruiter $200K For Its Hacker School

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 01:29 PM PST

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YCombinator-backed hacker recruiter platform Hackruiter has raised a modest seed round from investors SV Angel and Founder Collective. The company raised $200K but could have raised much more, because it is already profitable co-founder David Albert tells me.

Hackruiter is already profitable because startups like Tumblr, Weebly, Loopt, Artsy and currently pay Hackruiter $20K per programmer referral on average (Amazing, right?). And Hackruiter finds people to refer through its Hacker School, which is now entering its third batch. Unlike beginner code-learning programs like Codecademy, the in-person Hacker School is exclusively focused on making already good coders better.

Based in New York, Hackruiter Hacker School is full time (eight hours a day, four days a week for three months) and free for students.  Hackruiter started out with a batch of six students in July, then 12 and will now have 25 places come February. Interested parties can apply here.

“The biggest problem is there aren’t that many good programmers in the world,” says co-founder Nicholas Bergson-Shilcock, “We see programming as a craft and we see Hacker School as environment were people can flourish.”

“We can afford to do it for free by helping place students at jobs afterwards if they’re interested (there’s absolutely no obligation),” says Albert, “We don’t know if this is the final business model, but the school currently pays for itself, so we’re going to make it as big as we can and see what happens.”

PayPal’s First In-Store, Brick And Mortar Mobile Payments Integration Is At Home Depot

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 01:23 PM PST


As we’ve reported in the past, PayPal announced an in-store payments technology both via mobile and point of sale systems that is currently being tested on a 'friends and family' basis in a national retailer. That retailer is Home Depot, we’ve learned from PayPal.

PayPal said of the Home Depot announcement: We frequently run trials with our retail partners. In this case, PayPal and The Home Depot are engaged in a limited pilot program for new POS technologies. The pilot is currently being run in five stores and involves a small number of PayPal employees.

Gil Luria of Investment house Wedbush Securities also put out a research note today that confirmed that the first retailer is the Home Depot.

Basically, via the pilot customers (PayPal employees) are able to pay for items via their PayPal account at Home Depot’s point of sale systems. They can either use a pin code or a specialized PayPal ctedit card that can be swiped, the the payment amount will be deducted from their PayPal account.

The bigger vision of the in-store integrations are set to include location-based offers, making payments accessible from any device and offering more payments flexibility to customers after they've checked out. Users will have the ability to access realtime store inventory, receive in-store offers, and real-time location-based advertising from stores. While exact details are still unclear, it sounds like PayPal will use location and transaction data to help in-store retailers improve the experience for consumers.

We heard recently that PayPal is partnering with at least 20 other known top-tier retailers, which will be unveiled later this year.

Not Bad, LG Marketing, Not Bad

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 01:20 PM PST


Watch first, then read. Or just watch, that’s cool too.

I just have to say bravo to the team that put this together. Simple, funny, and gets the point across. Sure, the slimmer TVs get, the less I care about how slim they are (who really needs that extra half a millimeter?), but I can still get faced in an ad like this and own it.

The fact that there is no overt LG branding other than the sign on the store suggests it is either a viral attempt or just a spec ad created by an agency and rejected (lots of promo stuff gets posted this way). It was filmed (at least the outdoor portion) in a town in the Netherlands called Hilversum, according to a Redditor who recognized the locale. That doesn’t have much to do with anything, but it’s pretty great that someone popped up within a couple hours with the exact location.

You can tell it’s fake though (aside from the fact that it’s obviously fake) because security cameras don’t generally record in 720p. It’s the little things, viral marketers!

AIAIAI’s New Headphones Continue Trend Of Understated Design

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 12:26 PM PST


We don’t design and hardware quite as much as we used to, but I’m making an exception for these. A good while back, I wrote about a pair of headphones I thought was the most understated and attractive I’d ever seen. They were the TMA-1s from Danish design house AIAIAI, and while I never got to get my hands on them, I’m going to make it my business to try their new pair out.

Capital is the name of the new headset, and they’re a larger, over-ear, more heavily-designed piece of work. But I still love them — especially the black version.

To be fair, they have lost some of the understatement that made the TMA-1s so interesting to me. The Capital has more pieces, more design elements, more flair. But they’re still simply and beautifully made, from fiberglass-reinforced nylon, with 40mm drivers and a folding design for travel.

They’re being shown at the Agenda trade show in LA today, so if you’re heading down there, be sure to drop by AIAIAI and congratulate them for me. We’re on our way to CES, where design is not a primary concern, and I’m pretty sure we won’t see anything quite as excellent and utilitarian as this.

Dijit Remote Control App For iPad Finally Goes Live

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 12:23 PM PST


Dijit teased us with a preview of their iPad-optimized remote control app back in December, but home theater convergence aficionados will be glad to know that the app is finally available in the App Store.

As previously mentioned, the Dijit app has already graced many an Android tablet, but the iPad-friendly version sports a few new tweaks to improve usability.

Full screen remote? Check. Larger buttons? You bet. And as always, Dijit allows users to manage their share what they’re watching on Facebook and Twitter, manage their Netflix queues, and engage in some good old-fashioned channel surfing with minimal setup.

The app is live (and free) in the iOS App Store, but you’ll need some extra hardware in order to use your iPad for artfully dodging Jersey Shore reruns. Don’t forget to have a Griffin Beacon IR blaster or a compatible Roku device handy, or else you’ll be left checking listings and sharing show recommendations on one device and controlling your home theater setup with another.

A Very TechCrunch CES: How To Follow Our CES Coverage

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 12:21 PM PST


As you well know, next week is CES 2012 and TechCrunch will be there – with bells on. We’re focusing on start-ups, small companies, and interesting people and we’ll be doing a lot of live streaming, video interviews, and live giveaways. You’re going to want to watch. But, you’re saying, how can I interact with the CES team while they’re on the floor? With Twitter, of course!

First, follow @techcrunch for up to the minute news. We will be posting giveaways to this feed when they happen live and we’ll be asking for feedback as we go along. We’ll be using the hashtag #CEScrunch for all the CES stuff, but expect a little bit more noise.

Finally, follow @johnbiggs (angry rants), @grg (CES achievements), @mjburnsy (yard-long beers), @jordancrook (one woman’s opinion), and @chrisvelazco (impressions of a former Best Buy employee) to interact with us all directly. We need your questions and commands. We are your automatons.

We are going to limit the CES stories that appear on the front page so if you want to just follow CES news, add this to your feed reader. See you in Vegas!

Next On Amazon’s Road To World Domination? For Home Decor

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 12:17 PM PST

Amazon Casa

The rights to (Spanish for ‘house’) have been transferred to Amazon, indicating the ecommerce giant’s next dedicated vertical shop may be a home decor site. Amazon’s Quidsi network of sites already runs for baby goods, for pets, for — well, you get it. If you visit now you’ll find more evidence, with a blank screen explaining “You have reached an invalid location. Maybe you are looking for,…” could offer a more affordable, traditional home decor shopping alternative to luxury and flash sales sites like One Kings Lane and Gilt’s Decorati.

Domain Name Wire first reported on the domain switch, noting that was protected by whois privacy for years prior to the transfer. Also, I found that Quidsi employee Morgan C. lists herself on LinkedIn as a “Merchandising Associate at Quidsi Inc.,”, and Domain Name Wire spotted another Quidsi employee with the same title. You won’t find that logo above anywhere else though, it’s just a mockup I concocted.

Amazon bought parent Quidsi for $545 million in November 2010. When Quidsi launched for toys in September 2011, it’s CEO Marc Lore told TechCrunch that the company’s next vertical site was going to continue its focus its core demographic of moms. fits that bill perfectly.

The new one-stop shop could include standard Quidsi features such as a combined shopping cart with other Quidsi sites, free 2-day shipping for purchases over $50, seasonal product selections, and featured picks by the site’s team. Considering One Kings Lane was expected to do $100 million in 2011 sales, the home decor market could be a huge opportunity for Amazon.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

Report: Kaz Hirai To Become Sony President In April

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 12:16 PM PST


Big news from Sony today: according to a report just published by Japanese business daily The Nikkei, Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai, currently the company’s Executive Deputy President, will become president as early as April this year. Hirai doubles as the Chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment.

The move doesn’t really come as a big surprise: in March last year, current president Howard Stringer called Hirai the “leading candidate” in the race for the next CEO. If the Nikkei report is to be believed, Stringer will stay on board as Sony’s Chairman and CEO.

In his role as the company’s Executive Deputy President, Hirai’s main responsibility is to control the Consumer Products & Services Group (TV, home video and audio, cameras, gaming, and mobile devices) and Sony’s “network business strategy”.

The Nikkei is reporting that Hirai’s promotion will be finalized next month at a Sony board meeting.



TechCrunch Giveaway: 2 Tickets To The Crunchies #Crunchies

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 11:19 AM PST


Who’s excited for the Crunchies Awards? All of the finalists have been announced and the voting has begun. There are some interesting match-ups this year. We have Google+ going up against Facebook Timeline, Instagram, Path 2.0 and New New Twitter for Best Social Application of 2011. Foursquare is going up against Airbnb, RunKeeper, Grindr and Uber for Best Location Application. And which startup do you think will take the award for Best Overall Startup of 2011? Heavy hitters like Dropbox, Instagram, Square, Gilt Groupe, Spotify and Tumblr are all finalists.

The Crunchies Awards are going to be really big this year, and we will have nothing short of the best in the technology industry joining us. We have started to release tickets in batches and will continue to do so as we get closer to the event. They sell out really fast, so we will continue to give our readers chances to win tickets for free to the Crunchies as well.

As always, an after party will follow the ceremony with all of the distinguished guests and speakers. We will have a fully stocked bar, plenty of food, a casino game room, and other fun entertainment and surprises.

So who wants to come with us? We are giving away two free tickets to one lucky person. To enter, all you have to do is follow the steps below.

1) Become a fan of our TechCrunch Facebook Page:

2) Then do one of the following:

- Retweet this post (including the #Crunchies hashtag)
- Or leave us a comment below telling us why you want to come

The contest starts now and ends January 8th at 7:30pm PT.

Make sure you only tweet the message once, or you will be disqualified. We’ll choose the winner at random and contact them this weekend. Anyone in the world is eligible. Please note this giveaway only includes two tickets to the ceremony and after party, and does not include airfare or hotel.

PhotoPin: Creative Commons Photos For All Your Stock Photo Needs

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 11:14 AM PST

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I’ve been looking for something like this for years: a central, easy-to-use site for stock photos. Called PhotoPin, the site features a search engine that trolls Flickr for pictures. Some of them are also available to buy, but the vast majority are CC licensed.

Obviously the site (it’s more a widget, really) reminds you to link back to the original image, but if you’ve ever tried to find an acceptable image for “ninja stormtrooper” then you’ll understand the value of the site.

Just search for any topic using the search box (ex: passion, puppies, etc.), preview the photo, and click “get photo” to download the photo as well as the proper attribution link. If you prefer to pay for the photo rather than linking to it, the results at the top will take you to a partner stock photo site where you can buy the photo (currently fotolia).

The site is surprisingly barren but quite handsome and much better than the jumble that is Flickr’s own CC site. It’s a clever site and an interesting diversion on this fine Friday afternoon. There is actually no contact information on the site itself, so there’s no telling how long it will stay up or if they’re looking for funding.

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