Recently, I was able to interview Jay Feitlinger, CEO and Founder of ShopTab, a company that allows businesses to sell through their FaceBook pages.
RS:Â First off, WHAT is ShopTab?Â
JF: ShopTab is a Facebook App that allows business owners to sell more products by creating a shop tab on their Facebook fan page, showcasing products from their existing online store. Easily. Quickly. Inexpensively.Â
RS:Â When did ShopTab launchÂ
JF: ShopTab launched in October 2009Â
RS: What made you decide to create ShopTab?Â
JF: Over the past 8 years I have been working with small to large clients with their online marketing and social media strategy. One of my biggest passions is helping small to medium size business owners understand and leverage the internet to connect with their customers. Many of my smaller ecommerce clients have been requesting my help on how they can monetize their efforts on Facebook.
My wife owns an online baby product business http://www.littlebutterflykiss.com. She, as with many of my smaller ecommerce clients, donâ„¢t have large budgets to afford website development of a custom Facebook shop tab nor large marketing budgets. I decided to help and after 3 months of development we recently launched ShopTab to complement any ecommerce tool. It has some built in social shopping features such as Share to Facebook Wall to get the word out about their Shop Tab products.Â
RS:Â What sets ShopTab apart from other similar applications?Â
JF: There are a few shop type applications on Facebook but ShopTab specifically:
- Was designed and developed from the business owner perspective. We focused heavily on the needs of the business owner when developing the application and spent the extra time and money to ensure the tool did not require any technical knowledge. We require no additional programming code or html.
- Works with every ecommerce tool.
- Allows a shop owner to export their products from their current ecommerce tool and upload through our easy to use admin tool. A few of our recent customers told me they set up their 500+ product store within 10 minutes.
- Ds not charge an upfront fee for the shop tab application, nor take a percentage of each sale. Our customers pay a flat small monthly fee starting at $10/mo for up to 500 products. We also offer a 7 day free trial and they can cancel whenever they want — no long term contracts
- Ds not require they use any specific platform to handle payments, sales tax, shipping, security, etc. We send their prospective customer to their website to handle the transaction.
- Sends customers directly to an existing shopping site, increasing traffic and enabling a shopping experience unfettered by any limitations within Facebook. For instance, upselling, cross-selling, recurring purchases and so forth can still be handles as they always have.Â
RS: Why Facebook?
JF: With over 350 million fans and growing everyday and the strong desire for business owners to find a way to monetize their Facebook presence â€œ Facebook was the right choice for our intial launch.Â
RS:Â If I were looking at setting something like this up, what would I need to do to get started?Â
JF: Simply visit http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=189977524185 and click on Go To Application. From there a business owner would create their account, log into the admin, and either use our product feed upload tool or add products individually.Â
RS: What features are you looking at adding in the near future?Â
JF: For this we are relying on our customers to tell us what else they need. Just last week customers asked us for a way to shareÂ a product to their wall. That feature was added yesterday. We are going to rely on what features make the most sense for our business owners but do not require an increase in monthly cost to the ShopTab business owner. There are a few features such as horizontal vs. vertical layout that we have in the works but again if another feature comes up that is more important to our ShopTab business owner customer it will take higher priority over our feature roll out schedule.Â
One question which amazes many people is how the world of Open Source runs and from where it gets all its funds. Open Source and Linux developers work for free and it is a community driven and open project.
Anyone can join and for that question, anyone can leave as well. There is no-one bossing you around. But that is true only for projects which are hosted for free. There are other projects managed by Linux giants like Red Hat and Novell which get their funds from the Enterprise Solutions they provide. Additionally, there are many companies financing the world of Open Source, especially the world of Linux for their own benefit. Many of them are reputed companies specializing in providing state of the art business solutions.
One such company is Google. Even antitrust controversies like Microsoft are in the game. Microsoft has its CodePlex foundation where, it is said, Microsoft puts employees to write open source code and pays them and has been denying this fact ever since it surfaced. But Microsoft has other better things to worry and care for.
There are many other companies which deal in Linux development specifically.
Red Hat is a S&P 500 company and is a major promoter of Linux and Open Source. Its most popular product includes Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora. Red Hat was founded in the year 1993 and has never looked back ever since.
The company went public in 1999 and has received wide appreciation from the Open Source world. It has its headquarters located a Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. It has 2800 employees and has a net income of 78.72 million USD. Achievements :
Red Hat grabbed the Operating System Product of the Year award more than once and has been awarded a number of times elsewhere.
The entry of Red Hat into the S&P 500 was a big win for the world of Linux and ensured continued development over the years. Red Hat has followed a number of acquisitions ever since its birth. It acquired Cygnus Solutions in 1999 and the JBoss in 2006.
These were major milestones for Red Hat. Products :
The major products of Red Hat include the Red Ha Enterprise Linux and the community driven and Red Hat backed Fedora Project. Red Hat developers work for the Fedora project project along side their mainstream job and many developments from the Fedora project make it to the Red Hat distribution releases.
Canonical Ltd. is a company founded by South African multi-millionaire Mark Shuttleworth. He made a furtune when he sold away his venture Thawte to VeriSign. Ever since, Mark Shuttleworth has been financing open source software and development all over the world through his company Canonical Ltd., which is a private company dedicated to this sole purpose.
The company was founded on 5th March 2004 and has its registered headquarters at Douglas, Isle of Man in Europe. Canonical Ltd. has revenue of 30 million USD and has a little over 200 employees.
The company has been involved in a number of activities right after after its birth.
The Software freedom day is held on the third Saturday of every September. Canonicals sponsored the event in 2005-2006 by a huge amount.
Freedom Toaster is an innovative kiosk designed for users to save on download costs and burn CD/DVD of their favorite Linux distribution of choice, for free of cost and in seconds.
The major contribution of Canonical to the world of Linux includes the Ubuntu distribution of Linux which forms the base for a number of side projects like Mint, Ubuntu Ultimate Edition etc. Ubuntu has a definitive 6 months release cycle ensuring a continuous flow of quality work from the developers. Other products include Landscape, which is a browser based web-server manager, Launchpad, the website containing Open Source software projects and Ubuntu One which is a closed source file synchronization service.
Novell was founded in 1983 and has over 4000 employees currently. Its headquarters are located at Waltham, MA, USA and the company specializes in enterprise software solutions for Linux. This is one of the oldest players in the Open Source world and has played a key role in emerging technologies like the LAN and network security.
The company was one of the first tech giants to compete with Microsoft and started with buying UNIX rights from Novell. Novell was headed by current Google CEO Eric Schmidt for a long period and has flourished to be a key competitor to the closed source world of paid software.
The company ran into many controversies due to its deal with Microsoft and was looked down upon by major Open Source communities around the world. Things have started getting better now and Novell will probably gain back the confidence it had once. Novell has a net income of 8.7 Million USD.
Novell entered into an agreement with Microsoft on 2nd November 2006 whereby it decided to setup a lab which allowed research to be carried out for better compatibility of its software with other software vendors. Novell is especially known for its excellent customer support and it holds support as a top priority in its business solution.
Novell has a number of products which include Novell NetWare, SUSE Linux and the Novell Cloud Security Service.
Recently, I was able to sit down and talk with the founder and CEO of upillar.com, Trevor Milton.
RS: First off, WHAT is upillar.com?
TM: upillar.com is a free nationwide online classified website. Items are listed both locally and nationally allowing buyers and sellers to reach the broadest possible audience absolutely free! upillar.com never takes a portion of the sale. We provide our services 100% to the public. Whether you are buying or selling; Motorized vehicles, Clothing, Electronics, Real Estate, or looking for your next job, upillar.com‘s free online classifieds are the place to go.
RS: What made you decide to develop upillar.com?
TM: I was going to college trying to make college payments by buying and selling stuff. Nothing was available at the time. The only free services were very cumbersome and difficult to use. I decided the public deserved a place to go where everything was free, and actually easy to use.
RS: Why the name upillar?
TM: The letter “u” signifies “you” or “yourself” , the word “pillar” gives reference to a sign of strength. So you are what makes our free marketplace strong.
RS: What is your background? Did you work at an internet company previously?
TM:No internet background whatsver. I ran with this as a dream, and was able to put together the entire site from scratch during 4 1/2 years of development with a whole team of programmers.
RS: What is your vision for the future of upillar.com?
TM:We hope that upillar.com becomes THE place to buy and sell goods for free. With major releases soon coming, upillar.com will offer sections that specifically cater to Real Estate & Jobs. Although you can find those categories in our current classified section, the new release will customize an entire section of our website dedicated to those categories giving some of the biggest names in the internet a run for their money.
RS: What were some of the major obstacles you encountered while starting this site?
TM: Some of our biggest problems were; Name, Trust, Organizing our website, flow(How users click through the website),and credibility. With our newest release coming the first week of December, we hope to improve many areas of our current system.
RS: What is on the immediate horizon for upillar?
TM: upillar.com has just signed a major national advertising campaign that will begin the first week of December. We would be happy to tell you more about it once the official releases go out! We anticipate millions of listings in our first quarter of next year.
RS: What sets upillar apart from ebay and Craig’s list?
TM: upillar.com is often referred to as a hybrid of craigslist and ebay at first glance.
upillar.com‘s services are completely free like Craigslist.org, but has some major functionality differences between the two. First; when you list an item for sale, the item is placed into a category instead of a city. This enables users to list an item once, and it immediately becomes searchable both on a local level and a national level. Second; You can place up to 20 photos for free on each listing. upillar.com also gives buyers easy access to the seller by providing a safe way to communicate with the seller without giving up personal information.
upillar.com also offers a very powerful keyword search technology that enables users to find what they are looking for in under 30 seconds. This is accomplished by “category narrowization” . Ebay has a great platform where this technology has proven to be valuable. Since upillar.com is a classified website, sellers dont have to worry about monitoring their listings to make sure minimum dollar amounts are met. Just list your item and let it be until someone emails you or calls you.
RS: What was the first item sold on upillar?
TM: First item sold on upillar.com was my own personal Sony camera. First public item sold was a purebred Labrador puppy.
RS: Technologically speaking, what was the biggest issue you’ve had thus far?
TM: Biggest problem so far has been our patent pending technology of displaying book values on all our motorized vehicles. Teaming up with NADA guides, upillar.com was able to create the first ever website that shows what each car,boat, motorcyle, or ATV is worth without ever leaving that listing. Need to know if what you are buying is a good deal? You’ll never have to worry about it again on www.upillar.com. We have since figured the technology out and by January first the values will be displayed in each motorized listing. (Values are currently available on upillar.com, but can be somewhat confusing to some users. The fix will come January 1, 2010 for that specific technology.
Check out the site at http://www.upillar.com
Linux has been a thing of pride amongst all geeks. Linux is the buzzword amongst noon-geeks as well; they refer to it as some Martian mojo. Though today, Linux has come a long way from being all fast text being typed into boring terminals and long frightening messages scrolling up and down user screens.
Linux is no more all about the command line. GUI in Linux was popularized by the release of Red Hat Linux 9. From then Linux has improved both, in its features as well as its GUI. Today, Linux has a GUI comparable to any Windows that will be released in the next five years. The plasma effect of KDE desktop and the Compiz effects have proven time and again that GUI is not all about Windows.
Linux has a plethora of desktop environments, distribution types and specialized distributions to choose from unlike Windows versions of Home Basic version, Home Premium version, Ultimate version, Professional version, Corporate Version and all that confusion.
The distributions in Linux are all managed and released by individual groups of developers. Unlike the Suse, Ubuntu and Red Hat Linux we know of, Linux actually comes in many different flavors and distros with different features and capabilities each. Many of them are built for specialized operation like scientific research, network testing system stability and performance testing etc.
Here are three of the lesser known but widely used Linux distributions. These distributions are specialized for particular tasks only though, general users can always give it a try and the best thing, these professional operating systems, are all free and open source.
Scientific Linux, is a Red Hat based Linux distro and is developed by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) and CERN in collaboration with many other laboratories across the world. The primary objective of the Linux distro is to prevent duplication of development of the same features by labs around the world and provide a standardized OS for various research and experimental works. It is basically Red Hat Enterprise Linux, recompiled from the source. This ensures a full compatibility with all software from Enterprise. Also, this Linux forms a base for the addition of additional specific packages for a particular lab. Also, each lab is allowed to create its own distribution with all its scripts and custom software, and redistribute it. The OS is available for all users as it is Open Source and you can try it out too if you are curious about what all the CERN uses.
The environment used is Gnome and there is extreme support for programming in Java.
Visit the Scientific Linux homepage here.
BackTrack is the Linux of choice when it comes to networks security and exploit testing. BackTrack contains a powerful 300 application base, packaged into one distro to make it the #1 Linux distro amongst networking professionals. BackTrack was awarded the #1 Security Live Distribution by inseccure.org in 2006. It was formed as a merger of two popular distributions, WHAX and Auditor Security Collection. The BackTrack distribution is based on Slackware Linux and just like any other Linux has a live CD too.
One of the featured applications in BackTrack is Metasploit, which is tightly integrated into the distro. Also, the applications in BackTrack are categorized and structured for ease of access. Any new feature is made available immediately, through updates. This makes BackTrack the perfect Linux for both budding hackers and security professionals dealing in Computer Forensics. BackTrack is used in many institutions providing specialization in network security.
The desktop environment available in BackTrack is KDE.
Visit the BackTrack homepage here.
ArcheOS is an acronym for Archaeological Operating System. This Linux distro is based on Kubuntu 8.10, although a new version is under development which will be based on Debian Squeeze. The distro is available as a live DVD like any other Linux and the Kubuntu base means full compatibility with the Ubuntu repositories. This gives it the ability to add more software packages. The distro features many specialized softwares like AutoQ3D for CAD, QGIS and GRASS for GIS (Geographical Information Systems), GPSDrive for GPS, Blender for 3D graphics, Gimp for fast image editing and other basic application like Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice etc.
The ArcheOS distro features a KDE desktop environment.
Visit the ArcheOS homepage here.
An important feature of Linux, Live CD, which allows us to try a distribution before installing it, is present in all the three distributions. Linux has finally captured more than 1% of desktops worldwide. More and more people are using Linux every day. Clearly Linux is not all about web-servers and any general PC user can always try out one of these distributions.
Friday was the release date for two Google phones, called Droids, with Verizon Wireless. Both phones run Google’s Android Operating System and both look like they’re the start of some exciting mobile options for Verizon customers. Both phones, the Droid Eris by HTC and the Droid by Motorola, are both phones similar looking to an iPhone with large touch screen interfaces.
This is not surprising, as Apple’s iPhone is likely going to be the main competition for this new deal between Verizon and Google. The initial buzz surrounding these new Droids is positive. They’re powerful phones, with plenty of hard drive space and a good camera. They feature
QWERTY keyboards, WiFi, Flash, all the standard social application abilities, and a growing app library called Android Market. Predictably, the phones all include a full suite of Google features, such as Latitude, Gmail, Search and YouTube and Picasa. The Droid is supposedly the world’s thinnest QWERTY slider.
Presumably these are the first in a line of phones released for Verizon that will feature Google’s Android OS. Their main rival would appear to be the iPhone, and their first strike appears to be a good one. Apple has a head start, something that is very helpful in terms of available apps for download, but with the huge amount of Verizon customers now potential customers, I’m sure the Android Market will be growing fast. Couple this with the better coverage area and reception Verizon offers compared to AT&T and Apple could be in trouble.
Still, these are the first Droids on the market. They are the version 1.0 of the Google and Verizon deal. Similar to the initial version of C3PO that Anakin Skywalker was working on in Episode One of Star Wars, these are the first thoughts of what a phone equipped with Google and Android can do. As they refine what a phone can, and should, do the Droids will be even more exciting. Much like generation one iPhones still can’t do SMS these Droids are the first step in a long process of development. There will likely be bugs, and quirks, and things that just don’t feel right. My initial thoughts on the bigger Droid were that it looked a little boxy, and not quite as sleek as it could be.
The main thing to note here is that Verizon customers never had an option for an iPhone, or a G1 Google phone. Whether it was contracts, perks, quality or loyalty keeping customers with Verizon, the choices were between a couple of blackberries and a handful of Windows Mobile smartphones. Few of those options compare to an iPhone, or these new Droids. Now Apple may be hurt by keeping the iPhone exclusively with AT&T, when millions more would’ve purchased one given the option with another carrier.
As web developers, keeping up with the web browsers is an ever-moving target. We write the cleanest, most universal code we can, but unfortunately not all browsers were created equally. Even when we’ve created what is ostensibly the best application we can, we must still run the site through some testing to ensure browser compatibility.
I always have the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Safari installed on my development machine, but depending on the client, you may need to ensure other browsers.
Thankfully there are applications out there devoted to this.
BrowserCam (http://www.browsercam.com) is another valuable service for web development. BroswerCam allows you to test your site similarly to Browser Shots, but BrowserCam is not free. You can sign up for a free trial that will let you see the screen captures from the various browsers for only 24 hours and you can only do that 200 times before having to pay. The interface isn’t as streamlined as Browser Shots, but BrowserCam allows you to choose the Operating System specifically along with the browser. So for instance, if a customer is having issues running Firefox 1.5.0 on a Windows 2000 machine without Adobe Flash installed, you can emulate that exactly on BrowserCam. You can also denote the screen shot format (JPG, PNG, or BMP), the screen resolution, and even if the capture will be just the browser or the entire desktop. This service is incredibly useful while troubleshooting specific situations and issues without having to build a system on which to test..
Lastly, if you would rather have 307 different browsers on your system, the Browser Archive is there for you (http://browsers.evolt.org/). The Browser archive is a collection of every browser and version you have heard of and many you haven’t. If you are looking for an old version of Netscape Navigator or the kid-friendly browser Surf Monkey, then this site has the installer for you. Download the installer and install the browser and get ready to take a trip back in time!
Whichever you prefer, it’s always best to test your sites across multiple platforms and browsers prior to the launch and with the help of these sites, hopefully that process just got a bit simpler!
Video game sequels are some of the most anticipated products in the market. They can be more anticipated than television premiers and sell more than blockbuster movies. Franchise games like Halo, or Grand Theft Auto are among the more popular, and more highly anticipated, video game sequels. Both have released games that have broken all sorts of records for video game sales. The first day these games were on the market they made more money than record-setting movie Spiderman 3, and more money than record-setting book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
The problem is some games are billed as sequels when they’re nothing more than expansions. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is one of these games. The game was a lot of fun, it was beautiful looking, and it had a good amount of playable characters and a great storyline. I enjoyed playing it a lot, but it felt too simple. There was very little added to the game that wasn’t in the first one. The customizable aspects and powers gained on each level were watered down a bit, but the way to use your character was a little simpler. The graphics were better and the camera movement was much better, but all of this basically makes the game seem very similar to the first, with a different story.
I enjoyed the storyline; I went out and started reading the Civil War comic books that it was based on. There is a choice that has to be made in the game that branches it into two separate set of levels before they reconnect later, which gives the game a pretty good replay value. The cast of characters is nice, but there are always more superheroes you can add. It’s neat to be able to control some of the supervillians in this game, due to the nature of the Civil War story line.
Another troubling trend in video games is the remake. This seems to happen more often with Nintendo and the Wii. A couple of weeks ago I picked up Wii Punch Out!! which is a remake of the old Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on the NES. The game, obviously, has superior graphics. It has the benefit of modern controls and animation. Even some modern day toasters have more power than the NES system. All this makes for a very nice game. However, the problem is that anyone interested in the game is probably only interested in it for nostalgia’s sake. It doesn’t contain a ton of new content. It almost felt like cheating, because I knew all the tips and tricks to play the game.
This isn’t all bad. You can get a lot of enjoyment out of playing a game spruced up from an old classic. Franchises such as Madden NFL, NHL 2K10 or MLB: The Show release what is basically the same game every year and do wonderfully. The difference is that these games put a lot of work into doing what they can to be at the forefront of video game development. These sports franchise games, unlike other remakes like Punch Out!!, know they have to make people want to buy a game that is basically the same game they bought a year ago. Keeping up with one of these games is like tracking the evolution of the video game industry as they add new features and better graphics and utilize everything they can think of. MLB: The Show added weather to their games, Madden 10 introduced an online franchise mode and improved tackles. The graphics and animation get better every year, and they’re getting to the point that at first glance you could think you’re actually watching the real thing. The Madden franchise doing this for 20 years suggests that remakes, if done properly, can be very successful.
Video games have taken huge strides in the entertainment industry over the last decade, competing with many of the other top products. With the market and technology available to them only growing video games will continue to be a top seller. Whether it’s remakes, franchises, sequels, or expansions, people are buying them at record rates.
Have you ever been at a web site and thought, OK, now what?
This is what you DO NOT want to happen to the users of your web site. One of the most under-rated items when it comes to web site development is usability testing.
Usability testing is just an evaluation of the site’s ease of use and navigability. Take a look at the brick and mortar stores. Many stores have this concept mastered. If you are looking for something, you can look across the store and look for signs, or ask an associate who is identified in a brightly colored vest. When you are done shopping, just head for the exit and you will see the check outs. If your site doesn’t have plainly labeled areas, a search function for users to find their items and an obvious check out method, you will lose customers. After all, it is easier to leave a browser window than walk out of a store.
As Steve Krug titled his book on usability, Don’t make me think! That’s the secret. People don’t think about where the checkouts are in any store..they just head towards the exit.
Here’s what you need to perform your own usability testing on your site.
- 1. Find 7-10 people who may use your site. These should be a variety of people and not just family and friends.
- 2. Write down a list of questions to ask the testers. These should be centered around the activities on your site. For example if you are an e-commerce site, ask them to buy a specific item. Have them walk you through their thought processes as they go through the process of that activity. It may be helpful to video tape these sessions for review later.
- Keep the requests simple.
- If they have trouble finding something, ask them What are you looking for? or What are you expecting to see?
- You will find 80-90% of all the usability issues after 7-10 people.
- Keep record of the patterns that occur between testers. Are they all having trouble finding one particular item?
- Don’t worry about them successfully completing the task, just document what they did to accomplish it. Later, analyze the results to see if there were any changes that would make sense for your site.
- Keep the testers at ease and let them know you are not evaluating them, but rather the web site. Reassure them that they are helping the web site development team make the site better for everyone.
- Make the changes deemed necessary to improve the usability of your site. This could range anywhere from relabeling some navigation items, to a complete redesign of the site.
10. Finally, reevaluate after making some changes. Test with another group of 3-4 users to see if the same issues continue to occur. Keep all usability testing sessions brief. Also don’t be afraid to retest after any changes in the site in the future. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the faults of the site since we are the developers and it makes complete sense to us.
Many successful sites like Amazon.com and Google rely on usability testing to ensure people can easily use their site to fulfill their needs. Usability testing is easy to do and relatively inexpensive, so start small and do it. Your visitor’s will thank you with more visits and maybe more purchases.
When Twitter was first created many people couldn’t understand the point and proclaimed, Twitter sucks!. Many still don’t see the point of it. It’s ridiculed as lazy blogging, pointless drivel, a waste of time, and the end of the world as we know it. With things like potted plants and grocery stores tweeting, the derision of Twitter grows.
Many things that break new ground are often misunderstood or greeted with skepticism. Twitter has begun to evolve into a huge part of the web, and more and more people are using it for all kinds of things. The skeptics just haven’t found their niche yet, or are too stubborn to open their eyes and see what’s evolving. They’re distracted by the noise, spam and useless information; All common problems across the Internet. There have been polls that suggest 40% of all Twitter traffic is basically useless information. Is this out of character for the Internet? Look at all your emails for a day; how many of them are spam, newsletters you never read, and forwarded chain letters? Poke into any random forum post about any topic and you’ll likely find 40% of it is just reiterating what’s already said, unrelated tangents, and one line agreements with the the original post. If you just take a quick glance at a couple of twitter pages and don’t find the information to your liking doesn’t mean that there is no value there. Tweets are fleeting, and they reflect present time much more than they provide any archival value.
Even what’s deemed useless information or a waste of time might be helpful to someone. Maybe checking out what others are having for lunch will help you make your own decision about what to eat. Maybe you’re in a basement somewhere but noticing tweets from people you know are nearby about the crazy thunderstorm that just rolled in reminds you to bring an umbrella when you go out. Other people’s meaningless tweets could serve as restaurant reviews, traffic alerts, or a note about a nice sale at the mall. Twitter is by no means the be all and end all of social media. However it’s an important first step in what will eventually be one big integrated redevelopment of how we use the web.
Twitter reflects the stream of consciousness of the Internet, and sometimes the Internet contains noise, spam, and junk. There is also value if you know where to look. If you are tuned into Twitter, news will come to you without having to search it out. Once you build a solid group of followers with a diverse subset of interests stories and news and information that is actually pertinent to you will come across your Twitter screen. Instead of having to hunt down information, often when you don’t even know that something has happened, you check Twitter and everything is there for you. Rather than have to listen to news reports or radio stations, news and events that may be relevant to you or your day can be accessed via Twitter.
Twitter is just like what you would discuss at the water cooler in the office, except you’re discussing it with everyone, at every water cooler, at every office, in every part of the world. If a major sporting story, such as a no-hitter in baseball or a player getting traded, chances are you’ll first hear about it on Twitter. If a celebrity dies, a new movie trailer comes out, or a band adds a tour date to their schedule it makes it’s way around the world via Twitter and everyone that’s interested finds out about it. For those further interested, a simple search on Twitter will reveal all sorts of chatter and discussion around the topic. You can here anything anyone has to say about it, instantly. You’ll see statistics mentioned, highlight plays, discussion on the player’s attitude, and just about anything anyone has to say. On a broader scope, you could follow big events like the NFL draft, a presidential press conference, or the World Series of Poker as they are happening. This is what’s called trending topics, which are basically the hot news of the hour. If you search for these trends you’ll see a continually updated stream of people weighing in on the topic. Some of it will be from experts or authorities on the topic, and others will just be the thoughts and word of mouth of other people that are interested in what’s happening. Instead of tuning to a news channel or going to one news website, you’ll be tuned into the stream of consciousness from interested parties around the world. If someone 3000 miles away happens to hear a tidbit of information in his own corner of the world, he can instantly tweet that data and suddenly everyone knows it. This information gets propagated and retweeted throughout Twitter until the insight of one individual is carried across the globe.
From a marketing standpoint, Twitter can provide some instant feedback on your product. You can conduct surveys and interview people and find out what people are thinking, or you can type in your product’s name into Twitter and find out what people are saying. One quick search can tell you what people think about a new movie release, a new commercial, or a new piece of software. Faster than any RSS reader Twitter can alert followers to a new post on a blog.
Twitter is a part of the future of the Web. Even people that don’t tweet are affected by Twitter because it’s become a concept more than any one site. It’s about the propagation of information, and that propagation continues beyond the website when users repost what they’ve learned into IM away messages, email, IRC chat rooms, Facebook, or by word of mouth to the person sitting next to them. This concept has been there all along, and Twitter just streamlined it. As more and more people and companies start using Twitter it’s only going to continue to redefine how we use the web.
Sony launched a major offensive in the console war this week with a number of big announcements. During a presentation at the GamesCom 2009 event in Cologne, Germany they unveiled the new slim PlayStation 3 and talked about their plans for the platform. There have been suggestions that Sony are lagging behind Nintendo and Microsoft in the battle for gamers and this package of products and updates is clearly an attempt to redress the balance.
The Wii and the Xbox 360 have been outselling the much more expensive PlayStation 3 and Sony has resisted any price drop. Back in June they claimed to be happy with their price point, which even then represented a loss on every console sold. With pressure to stimulate the market amid falling sales they have finally made a move. The new version of their popular console heralds the long awaited price drop and the 120 GB machine will cost $299 in the US, ¢â€šÂ¬299 in Europe and £249 in the UK. By comparison the 120 GB Xbox 360 Elite remains priced at $399.
The new PlayStation 3 slim is 33% smaller and 36% lighter than the old PS3. The interior has undergone a complete redesign and the console will use less energy and operate more quietly than the old model. In fact power consumption has been cut to two-thirds the previous level and as a result the machine does not heat up so much so there is less need for noisy fan operation.
The console looks sleeker and more attractive than ever and the visual redesign has also seen the logo change to lower case and a matte, textured finish instead of a shiny one. It supports Wi-Fi out of the box, it has two USB ports and you can access the hard drive from the front and upgrade more easily than with the previous iteration. In fact you can now upgrade the hard drive without voiding the warranty. The old 80 GB and 160 GB models will now be phased out.
If you are looking for a downside then perhaps you could point to the lack of backwards compatibility for PlayStation 2 games, although it can run PlayStation 1 games. You also can’t store the PlayStation 3 slim vertically unless you buy a stand and they have ditched the option to install another operating system.
Sony didn’t rest there and the announcements continued with a big firmware update for the PlayStation 3 platform. PS3 Firmware 3.0 adds some useful menu updates which make navigation on the console a bit smoother with easier access to the store and a redesigned friends list. There are a few new cosmetic updates as well which allow animated themes and the option of new avatars for your profile. Most exciting for UK gamers is the support for BBC iPlayer. There is also a new video on demand movie rental service offering HD and SD movies due to launch in November.
These new developments look set to take advantage of the superior capabilities of the PS3 and technically speaking it is by far the best console of the current generation. The PS3 supports Blu-ray playback, it offers 1080p HDMI output, integrated wireless, free online support and a 120 GB upgradeable hard drive. The firmware update will combine with a big redesign of their online Home space where companies are now looking to establish an online presence.
The new offensive was not limited to the console space and Sony had news for the handheld market as well. The PSP Go was unveiled back in June. It is a smaller, slide open version of the PSP handheld. At GamesCom Sony announced that they will be launching a mini-game store for the machine and gamers will be able to download casual games which are under 100 MB in size. They also plan to launch a reader for the PSP which will allow people to read full length novels on it and the video on demand service due to launch in November will be extended to the PSP as well. To round things off it will be available in some funky colors.
There are obvious moves here to beat Microsoft on price and also to challenge Nintendo on accessibility and the casual gamer market. Sony is uniquely placed to capture hardcore and casual gamers and their PS3 console is truly an entertainment center. If consumers were to shop for a Blu-ray player with internet surfing capabilities and access to streaming video on demand they would be hard pressed to find a device cheaper than the PlayStation 3 and it offers gaming as well. Perhaps with this new design and all important price drop we’ll see the console really take off at last.