App.net Lays Off All Full Time Employees

App dot net

I guess I’m part of the problem. I liked the idea of App.net when it launched – a Twitter-like service where the users were customers, not the product being sold. The service raised over $600,000 before launch from potential users, with the idea being that the service wouldn’t contain advertising, but instead would be based on a subscription model. Just a few months into the project, App.net announced a freemium plan. Now I have my doubts about how long the service will survive.

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3 Easy Tips to Help Build Pinterest Followers

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40Tech is pleased to present a guest post by Molly Borter.

It’s no secret that Pinterest has taken over the social networking sphere. Recent studies show the site is generating more referral traffic to websites than LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube combined, and with over 10 million registered viewers—the majority of which are female—it seems like brands everywhere are cashing in on the virtual pinboard craze. A soaring amount of traffic to your site just for pinning cool stuff?  That’s pretty awesome if you ask me, and a lot easier than other link building and social networking tactics.

Here are three easy ways to build followers on Pinterest and increase traffic to your brand:

Follow Your Niche

The simplest way to build your followers on Pinterest: follow users who actively pin items, ideas, and interests in your niche. Does your brand target middle-aged women? Follow these users! Also, brainstorm and find other brands that they might be interested in—Michaels, Martha Stewart, HGTV, Real Simple—and follow that brand’s followers. By following pinners in your niche, you are giving them the opportunity to discover something similar to their interests: your brand.

Pin Their Interests

Along with following those who might be interested in your brand, you should create boards and pin items that your niche is interested in. Pinterest frowns upon solely pinning products from your site, and Pinterest users can see right through these spammy tactics. Instead, channel your niche and create general boards that they’ll want to follow.  If you’re selling women’s accessories, create boards pertaining to fashion, beauty, classics, and trends. If you’re selling travel products, create boards pertaining to your favorite places, dream destinations, cool souvenirs, and travel tips. The more well-rounded and thoughtful your pins and boards are, the more followers you’ll have who trust your brand.

Create Pin-able Content

The key to building your Pinterest fan base is creating awesome, pin-able content. Swoon-worthy images and graphics are Pinterest gold, so make sure to include them in your brand’s blog posts and pin those. One cool picture or interesting piece of content could get you anywhere from 5 site visits to 30,000 site visits or more, so take your take your time when creating the best content. Charming images, colorful infographics, and crafty designs are the way to go. “Pin It to Win It”-style contests are popular, too, and help you build followers while increasing traffic to and conversion for your site. Pinterest is a win-win.

About the Author:  Molly Borter works as a social media specialist for Reading Glasses Shopper. When she’s not creating social waves on Pinterest or tracking the latest glasses trends, she enjoys running, trying new recipes, and reading suspense novels.

Summify Acquired by Twitter (and Going Bye Bye)

Summify Acquired by Twitter (and Going Bye Bye) | 40Tech

Back in August of last year, we wrote about Summify, a fantastic tool for getting to and sharing the highlights of your social streams and feeds. I’ve used this tool religiously for the past several months and have found it to be incredibly useful, especially with Twitter. Just last week, however, I received an email from the Vancouver-based start-up and discovered that they had become yet another in a long line of services to be snatched up and absorbed by a tech giant — in this case, Twitter. Great for them, but sad for you and me.

The Summify team will be moving to San Francisco, where they will become a part of Twitter’s growth team. Summify the service will be stripped down for the time being, and will eventually shutdown altogether as a standalone product.

Here’s the main list of changes from their announcement:

  • New account registrations have been disabled.
  • Email summaries remain, but only for a few weeks, and then they are gone as well.
  • Users will still receive their summaries via the web app (and the iPhone app, as well, I believe), but will no longer be able to make them public.
  • Profile and influence pages are gone, as is auto-publish.

I’ve also noticed that sharing posts to Twitter from Summify no longer adds credits to the end of the tweet. Previously, the tweet would add in an @mention to a few of those in your network that shared the information with you in the first place, but this is no longer the case, at least from the mobile app.

There is no word yet as to when Summify will shut down completely, or what cool newness might arise in Twitter as a result. Either way, while I’m happy for the people behind the great service, I will really miss Summify as a standalone tool. Hopefully, something truly great comes out of this. In the meantime, we can only hope that Zite — and maybe Flipboard — will pick up the slack by improving how they filter our streams.

What’s The Deal With Pinterest? Even My Wife Likes (Obsesses Over) It!

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So, Pinterest… It’s received a lot of coverage in the past year — it’s even received in the realm of 37 million in funding — but I had trouble seeing the appeal. I wasn’t sure the world needed another social bookmarking site. I wasn’t sure the world needed another way to share, well… anything. I admit, most of this feeling had nothing to do with Pinterest, per se, it was really more about social media overwhelm. I’ve seen a ton of social sharing services go up and down over the past few years, and, as much as I love Google+, I think it maxed me out. Besides, you can do things similar to Pinterest using tools like Evernote and Springpad, right? Right?

Then my lovely wife — a person who has no real interest in tech, barely any interest in social networking, and who only got a smartphone because it was free and I “was bugging her about it” — was somehow inspired to try it out. No prompting from me, or anyone else — she came to it entirely on her own. Now… she’s obsessed. Seriously. For example, I see her awake at 3AM and think that she’s feeding the baby, or something — but no. What’s she’s doing is maniacally pinning and re-pinning things to her boards, and often giggling like mad as she does it. There is apparently a lot of funny on Pinterest…

Title Image clipped from Pinterest Comic

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Recently, she’s taken to sharing some of that funny with me, and I’ve discovered that a good portion of it is Star Wars based. This confused the hell out of me (though I still shared some of it with you here and here). My wife has no interest in Star Wars. She’s one of the few people who has never even seen the films, and (horrifyingly) will actually say things like “What’s a hansolo?” I still love her, though. She’s that awesome. She’s beginning to make me see value in Pinterest, too. Anything that could inspire my wife to share seriously awesome Star Wars stuffs with me has got to be pretty powerful.

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I checked it out a little more thoroughly. I wanted to know what the deal was. Was there a secret sauce? How did it hook her? What I discovered was four things:

Pinterest is incredibly simple.

Pinterest is to sharing fun and useful images what Evernote is to easy, accessible note-taking. It focuses on that one thing, and makes sure that it is the absolute best at it. It doesn’t overwhelm the user.

 

Pinterest is visual — and good at it.

Everyone loves a good picture and everyone loves a good photo gallery. Funny and beautiful pics have been making the rounds since the internet was able to support them. People like to look at the images they like again and again.  And share them, re-share them, and re-share them again, as well. Pinterest makes this easy, but it also makes it beautiful. The designers have done a fantastic job of taking something that could be overwhelming, both in general and visually, and making it joy to experience.

My Wife's Pinterest Categories

 

Like crafty things? This is your home.

There are a ton of cool things to discover on Pinterest, but it really seems to have taken off with the crafty and DIY crowd. This is what ultimately hooked my wife. She loves to see things that people have made, especially if it involves baking or making something cool out of something else. She knows I like that sort of thing as well, and has not only shared some cool Star Wars crafts with me, but also a lot of DIY upcycling and repurposing projects. It’s how I came across Homestyler, actually, which was the topic of my previous post. There is some very cool stuff on Pinterest, and more is pinned every day.

Some of My Wife’s Pins

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It connects to the real world. It useful.

Pinterest is more than just a place to store and share images. The images link back to the site you found them on — and if we follow the crafty and DIY point from above, you end up with well-organized, very visual bookmarks back to sites that contain information that you might actually use in your real-world life. This makes Pinterest more than just a random bookmarking service, and more than just an image-sharing service. It makes it a tool that is useful to you both on and offline. It helps you to find, share, save and use things that are of interest to you.

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We’ve all heard that “<insert service> makes it easy to collect and organize what interests you on the web.” Pinterest actually does it. My wife is living proof. Anything tech-based that can make her go gaga is definitely worth taking a look at. It’s still in beta, but getting an account happens pretty quickly. I recommend giving Pinterest a try. You’ll probably love it.

What do you think of Pinterest? How do you use it?

The Death of Email — At Least Internally — At A Large Multi-national Company

The Death of Email -- At Least Internally -- At A Large Multi-national Company | 40Tech

People have been talking about the death of email for a while now. Every time there’s a new, communications-focused technology, most notably Google Wave — and we all know how that went — email eulogies pop up all over the internet. It seems likely to me that email is here to stay, at least for a while longer, but if other companies follow the example of Atos, a 74,000 employee French tech company spanning 42 countries, email may actually begin its prophesied decline.

Atos has banned email. At least, they’ve banned it internally. That’s right, those 74,000 employees can no longer send each other minutiae-filled email chains that may or may not ever get fully read. They will no longer be able to forward jokes and silly messages throughout the company or the office. They will no longer be able to send on-line emails to avoid the potential perspiration of actually getting up from their desk and walking over to their friend and asking in person. I say good riddance.

Atos announced the no-email policy in February of 2011, but have now officially implemented it. CEO Thierry Breton, who was also the French finance minister from 2005-2007, said that employee emails are only 10 percent useful, and are 18 percent spam — which seems about right to me, considering the emails I’ve received in companies I’ve worked for. All to often, the emails would be useless time-wasters — especially the ones that involved questions from co-workers that didn’t actually read the email in the first place.

Atos isn’t leaving their employees without a digital option for communication, though. They are using tools such as the Atos Wiki and their Office Communicator chat program to allow employees to collaborate on documents and projects, as well as chat, video  conference, and share applications and files.

I think the Atos approach is the only way for a company to successfully achieve adoption of internal social media tools and, so far, the only possible negative fallout I can see would be dependent on the tools they use and how user-friendly they are.  They seem to be doing okay in that department, however, as Atos has reported to ABC News that employee response “has been positive with strong take up of alternative tools.”

What do you think of the Atos no-email policy? Is it the beginning of a massive “kill email” movement? Will it lead to better outside-company communications as well? Discuss in the comments.

Tech Firm Implements Employee ‘Zero Email’ Policy [ABC News on Yahoo.com]

Social Media Overload: How Has Your Social Media Usage Changed Since the Release of Google+? [Reader Feedback]

Social media overload

We’re big fans of Google+ here at 40Tech. In fact, if you follow the Twitter accounts of either 40Tech or Bobby Travis, you’ll see that we’re not posting there quite as much as we did in the past. Are we alone in the way Google+ has detracted from our ability to be as active on Twitter? Let us know how your social media usage has changed since Google+ has arrived.

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Facebook: Then and Now

Facebook: Then and Now | 40Tech

Today, 40Tech is pleased to present a guest post by Lisa from USDirect.Com.

Facebook started with a few simple ideas, mainly serving as a way to stay connected with friends. In the early stages, it was a used solely by Harvard students and then gradually became available to other college students throughout the country, eventually going worldwide. When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, he didn’t realize the billion dollar force it would create. Let’s take a look at the differences in Facebook then and now.

The Beginning of Facebook

In the beginning of Facebook, there were very few features. There were no status updates, messages, photo albums, or even the platform to create a News Feed. At that time, everyone could provide and access only basic information. It was only a simple tool to be used by some people for some virtual social interaction. However, Zuckerberg achieved instant success when he launched thefacebook.com, with over 600 students instantly joining the first day and almost 1,000 joined the following day.

Original Facebook accounts had to be from a Harvard.edu email address and user names were verified.

What it did have:

  • Friends and Friend Request options, something that increased the underlying value of Facebook.
  • The Invitations feature was also available but the user had to input the email addresses as there was no Import Contact option.
  • A basic profile option, which only permitted uploading a single photo.
  • User data lists, including gender, birthdate, favorite music and books, about me, dorm info, phone numbers, and course information.
  • Search option – find users by name, courses, class year, etc.
  • Privacy restrictions
  • A friend graph, which was later removed

Facebook as we Know it Now

Facebook went viral, as net folks like to say. It spread like wildfire. Facebook became a public forum and social media communication tool, no longer used only by college students. Facebook became a platform for sharing an array of content for millions of people.

Because of the rising popularity in the News Feed function, people became concerned with controlling who sees their content. In 2009, Zuckerberg worked to build a better privacy model that applied to news feeds, photos and videos, and all aspects of a profile. Facebook’s settings have made it easier for users to hide information and now require users to gain permission before allowing a connection. They are also able to moderate and punish spammers.

The popularity of Facebook and relevance it has in our culture inspired the 2010 film, “The Social Network,” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake.

The User is in Control

In 2010, Facebook launched community pages. It also started various other ways to provide users social and personalized experiences on foreign sites they used. The rest is in your hands. You can now chat with your friends, group your conversations, and communication via Facebook is easier.They say the only thing that is constant is change and this is truly applicable to Facebook.

About the Author:  Lisa is an avid yoga enthusiast who enjoys writing in her spare time for USdirect.com – home of Direct TV.

The Future of Technology, Facebook, and Relativity

The Future of Technology, Facebook, and Relativity | 40Tech

Do you remember when cell phones were for rich people? It’s only a short jump in my memory to the day when a homeless kid got angry at me when I told him I didn’t have any change; convinced I must be lying because I was carrying a mobile phone. You know, back when they still kind of looked like phones, and Nokia was king?  I felt bad for the guy, but I really was broke. I got the cell phone on credit, could barely pay for the bill, and was having many a fight with the company over false charges.

This ramble isn’t to point out that cell phone companies were crooks, even back then, and it’s not to talk about my questionable technology-money choices. The point is that this was only a few years back. I was in my early 20’s — I’m only in my mid-30’s now — and have gone from having no computer, an unused email address, and the blissful (and retrospective) peace of not knowing or caring where people were or what they were doing, to being a geek tech-blogger that makes his living in online marketing and communications. I own an iPhone, my hold-out wife has finally gotten an Android, and my three-year-old owns my iPad — and regularly sends me artwork via email.

 

Tech is Hungry

Technology is now in the palms of tiny little hands. It’s affordable, or at least readily available, to the majority of the planet, and it’s entire weight of purpose seems to be to interconnect everyone and everything as fast and as in depth as possible. The flow of information has reached truly epic proportions, as has the ability and desire to track that flow, along the habits of the people drowning in it.

The technology behind this phenomenon feeds upon itself, and in many cases, it exists only to further itself. Some of the biggest blogs out there are only so popular because people need a filter; a place to better understand, control, and find some sense of order in the massive technology machine — redundant as that phrase may seem. Smaller blogs exist for the same reason. It was likely part of why Evan started 40Tech, why I joined him, and why you are reading this post right now.

 

Facebook

Facebook is a prime example of the direction of technology. It’s sole purpose is to become familiar and intricately entwined with as much of your life as possible. It attempts to augment your life; make it easier, faster, more connected. It’s addictive. Facebook is so successful at this that it has become embedded in the general populace to the extent that it can almost be perceived in the same way as a governing body. It creates rules that dictate our way of life, is an easy target for privacy concerns and conspiracy theories, and the smallest changes can lead to virtual revolt and widespread public outcry. Facebook, much like many of the governments out there, projects an image of a body that wants to further mankind; make the world we live in a better place and all that. And like many governments, it’s more than a bit of a stretch for most people to really believe that’s true.

Facebook isn’t going anywhere, either — not without a scandal that shakes the entire foundation of their business to the core, or a hostile takeover by a frightened government or technological superpower. With some of the things in the media regarding questionable privacy practices and the rapid expansion of Google+, those things may not seem so far-fetched, but even if the big bad were to happen to the social media giant, it would probably just morph, as opposed to vanish.

Social connectivity is a way of life for us now; whether we like it or not, and no matter the anxiety, stress, or fun disorders it could cause or amplify. It appeals to the voyeur in us. It allows us to meet people we would otherwise never meet, and keep in touch with people to a degree that would be impossible without it. It is a part of work, school, play, business, entertainment, and everyday, mundane life. For Pete’s sake, your washing machine can already contact you to let you know your laundry is done, and there are tweeting dog collars, man!

 

Bring on the Microchips!

Over the next 10-20 years, unless the “social media bubble” or end of days people are right, we will likely find ourselves micro-chipped, QR-coded, and surfing the web while jogging with augmented reality sunglasses that also allow us to huddle with our families, friends, or business contacts on GoogleBook. Don’t ask me how they will take our video — somebody else will figure that out, I’m sure. That is, of course, unless we are all suffering from wifi, cellular, and bluetooth radiation poisoning, which could bring the world to a screeching and potentially catastrophic halt that would make Y2K fears look like a happy day at the park.

Or maybe we’ll be busy ripping the fabric of the universe apart with time machines. Did you hear that Albert Einstein may have been wrong? Some scientists at CERN, near Geneva, may have just recorded neutrinos that were travelling faster than the speed of light. That might disprove the Theory of Relativity and screw up one of the major fundamentals of modern physics. Learned that on Google+, I did… And I’ll be sharing it on Facebook, too.

Games in Google+ are Here – Once Again, Google Seems to Get It

Games in Google Plus are Here – Once Again, Google Seems to Get It | 40Tech

One of the biggest bitches for me when it comes to Facebook is the way it handles social gaming. Yes, social gaming can be fun, and the quest to get the most points, coin, trophies, et al has its satisfying moments — but the constant invitations, notifications, and culling of said items from my Facebook stream is annoying as hell. I know I’m not alone in that sentiment, either. Google+ is jumping in to the games space today, and I’m happy to report that they, once again, appear to have gotten it right.

If you need a Google+ Invite, get it here.

The Facebook method of social gaming is actually very effective if your goal is to use social pressure and addiction propensity to keep people on your social network. Those things, in many ways, are the basis of how Facebook and its attached products work, and many people are tired of it. Google+ broke that model right from the start by removing any mention of “friends” and letting you decide how to label people in your social circles. Google+ games, which is rolling out today, keeps the low-pressure approach by keeping the crap out of your stream. As they say right in their blog post: ” Games in Google+ are there when you want them and gone when you don’t.”

Rejoice!

First of all, Games will have their own page that is accessible from the top of your stream. If you don’t see it yet, don’t fret, you know how Google loves a staggered rollout — just give it time. Once you’re on the page, you can see all of the latest updates from your circles, run through the invites you have (or ignore them entirely), and take a look at the games that other people you’re connected with have been playing. If you are the type that loves to broadcast your score and rub your awesomeness in the face of the masses, you can still do that — but the masses will be your circles, and they will only see your bragging and/or challenges when they feel like gaming themselves and can respond accordingly.

Better for everyone that way…

Google+ Games Homepage Screenshot

There are several games available already, such as Bejeweled Blitz, Bubble Island, and Diamond Dash for the Columns/Tetris style games lovers; Zynga makes an appearance with Zynga Poker, and there are also Sudoku, Dragons of Atlantis, Crime City, Zombie Lane, Dragon Age Legends (hell yeah!), and more. Angry Birds is in there too — but I don’t think I want to have to kill them again. The first time was difficult enough! I nearly had to call Mike Tyson to help me out…

Google+ Games at Launch

So far, the Google+ Games implementation doesn’t disappoint. Remember, though, as with everything else about Google’s new social network, it’s still only a preview. If you run into some problems, try not to hold it against them. Yet.

Let us know about your Google+ Games experience!

Image credits: The Official Google Blog

Summify Cuts Through the Chatter, Helps You Get The Real Goods From Your Social Streams

Summify Cuts through the Chatter, Helps You Get The Real Goods From Your Social Streams | 40Tech

Summify has been acquired by Twitter and will be shutting down. See this post for more detail.

I’d like to take a moment to step away from the general worship and awe of Google+, and circle back (hehe) to our old friend Twitter. Actually, I plan to talk about Summify, and how it can take the often-overwhelming amount of information that is travelling through your Twitter stream at any given time, and sort it into a “highlight reel” that can be shared as a whole and as individual posts. It’s easy, it’s effective, and maybe just a little bit brilliant — and I have no doubt it will save you time and make your online reading much less hectic.

Multiple Accounts

Summify isn’t just about Twitter, either. Sure, it can connect to as many Twitter accounts as you like, but it also connects with Facebook and Google Reader. In fact, the more accounts you add, the better your summary will be.

Control

You get to decide how often you get a summary, how many stories it contains, when it gets delivered to you, how it gets delivered, who gets to look at it, and whether or not it gets published to your accounts. For example: my Summify is set up to deliver a new summary of 10 stories, twice per day (at 8:30am and 8:30pm), to my email inbox. Others can view it, and I automatically publish a link to the summary on my main Twitter and Facebook accounts. I could have allowed Summify to send me a Twitter DM notification as well, but between email and the recently released iPhone app, I’m covered.

summify-1 Summify-2

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When you select a link in Summify (from email or your main summary), the article opens up with a handy toolbar on top (which you can close, if you want) that allows you to share the post on one or all of your connected networks. You can also see the avatars of the people who shared the article with you in the centre of the toolbar, and hover over them to view the originating tweet and click through to their account.

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If you don’t like the article and think it shouldn’t have been in your summary, you can click the little thumbs-down button to add it to your Filters list. This is a nice and easy way to weed out spammers and other annoying sites that occasionally sneak through. In fact, when you are in the Summify web app, itself, you can thumb an offending article down right then and there, without ever opening it. You can also filter by contributor, allowing you to block specific people from contributing to your summary. All you have to do is hover over one of the avatars below any given article, and then move your mouse over the little “x” that appears in the top right, and click it. This, and the thumbs-down functionality aren’t available in the email, of course, but they are also missing from the iPhone app; something that I hope changes, soon. Thankfully, though, Summify is smart enough that it gets it right about 98% of the time. And the iPhone app is pretty, and so is easily forgiven.

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People-Friendly Messages

When Summify sends out a summary message it takes great care to do two things: 1) It mentions some of the people who provided you with the information in the first place; which makes for nice Twitter etiquette. 2) It varies the messages so they aren’t always the same boring words with a new link. As an example, take a look below at three recent tweets (not clickable) that Summify sent out on my behalf.

tweet1tweet2tweet3

It should also be noted that mentions are automatically included in share of single posts, as well, and that you can edit the content of single-post shares before posting.

Easy, Good Looking, and Smart

Take the section-title anyway you like, but understand that it’s true, and it’s awesome! The apps (and even the emails) are easy on the eyes and easier to work with, and the service is smart enough to not only consistently deliver articles that you like, but it also will list out several other stories from websites that post multiple posts. This makes sure that you get all the highlights from Mashable and other large sites without having to visit them directly or open up another app.

I’ve been using Summify for a month or two now, and I’ve lost count of the number of hours I’ve saved by not scanning through the muck that is sometimes Twitter, and by not chasing down every shiny post in my 49 or so RSS feeds. Summify helps keep things clear and easy to manage, and has even kept me relevant on Twitter while I play with Google +. Speaking of Google +, I’m hoping that we’ll see it integrated into Summify soon (they already have the +1 button). Even better, Summify should be integrated into the Sparks feature! Now, that would be sweet! * pokes Google *

Note: For those interested, Summify is located right here in my (rarely) sunny home-city of Vancouver, and they have had the benefit of advising from the CEO of another little local social app called HootSuite. Maybe you’ve heard of it? :D

Give Summify a try and tell us what you think!

UPDATE: Summify has recently updated its look (pretty much the day after this post went up). It was pretty before, but now it’s awesome! It also includes Instapaper integration.

Summify-new.