Archive for April, 2012

Skype ‘Humoticons’

Posted: April 29, 2012 in All Categories
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Skype’s has just started there latest marketing campaign, the video call service has launched a Facebook app geared at making our interactions more human: Skype Humoticons.

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This app basically allows us to recreate classic emoticon images — such as the smiley face, sad face or tongue-out face — with our own real-life expressions. You can post existing photos to a “Humoticon gallery,” or snap new pictures within the app. The results can be shared on a Facebook wall, downloaded, or turned into a URL to share in an Instant Message.

“It’s Time to Skype” campaign, launched earlier this month, is based on the premise that social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are “degrading humanity.” Some of the slogans Skype is using for the campaign: “140 characters doesn’t equal staying in touch” and “Upgrade from a wall post to a first class conversation.”

Reasoning behind Skype Humoticons? “Because nothing can replace the look on your face,” according to a Skype blog post. There is a distinct irony in the campaign. At the same time it blasts Facebook and Twitter, Skype isn’t above using both social networks for promotion purposes. As part of the “It’s Time for Skype” social media campaign, for example, the hashtag #timeforskype will be used on Twitter.

Ads include the following catchphrases:

“When did LOL replace the sound of laughter?”
“When did it become okay to text mum happy birthday?”
“Humans were made to look, listen and feel.”
“140 characters doesn’t equal staying in touch.”
“Your one-way ticket back to humanity.”
“Upgrade from a wall post to a first class conversation.”
“No delays on human conversation.”

The ads have a bold look as well, with “It’s time for Skype,” featured below the slogan:

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And not only does Skype have a video call integration feature on Facebook, but the entire Humoticons campaign is housed on a Facebook page. Do we really need to mimic emoticons to put the humanity back in our conversations?

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Today is Earth Day where everyone of us can make a difference in one way or the other contributing to the welfare, awareness and appreciation of the Earth’s natural environment. So I would like to dedicate this post to some social entrepreneur who have made significant difference in the same. By definition social entrepreneur recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create and manage a venture to achieve social change or venture. I personally believe there will a big wave of Social entrepreneurship in the coming days which looks to be the need of the day.

Social Entrepreneurship

Social Entrepreneurship

Here is a roundup of some really good projects harnessing the power of digital technology to create a social Venture:

1) Mifos

Idea: Mifos is an open-source, back-end operating system — built and backed by a community — to track the many loans and payments involved in microfinance.

Why It’s Working: Mifos is a platform used by more than 30 microfinance institutions, which offer small loans to nearly 825,000 clients. Think of Mifos as Quicken for microfinance — it’s a streamlined, organized system, and it can help the sector scale and get people out of poverty. Mifos makes microfinance more fair (since it’s data-driven) and transparent, and it’s helped Grameen Koota grow its client base by 40%.

2) re:char

Idea: Utilize organic waste to create carbon-negative charcoal, a substance that pulls CO2 from the air and helps crops grow taller and stronger.

Why It’s Working: re:char‘s mission is about providing farmers — both at home and in developing countries such as Kenya — with conservation-oriented soil-boosting complexes that can double food output compared to traditional farming methods. The startup raised $6,000 and spread awareness on Kickstarter, and the 102 purchasing funders will be contributing data for re:char to analyze.

3) ARCHIVE

Idea: ARCHIVE (Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments) is an international 501(c)(3) charity that brings awareness to the relationship between poor housing and poor health.

Why It’s Working: By designing and implementing housing improvements, ARCHIVE can bring down rates of tuberculoisis, HIV and AIDS — a healthier community means a healthier economy. And it all started with a blog. “I felt that as an architect, I could do more than speak about important, thought-provoking issues — I could mobilize people and communities to act,” says Peter Williams, founder of ARCHIVE.

4) Project Noah

Idea: Project Noah harnesses the power of mobile to let users contribute to real scientific data and research.

Why It’s Working: Nature Deficit Disorder, the idea that children’s behavioral patterns are changing because they are spending less time outside, was introduced in Richard Louv’s 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. In short, screens replace the wonders of the natural world that used to provide children with hours of entertainment, leaving kids to wither indoors. Project Noah thinks that spending time exploring nature and time attached to screens don’t need to be mutually exclusive. The startup hopes to mobilize a new generation of nature lovers in a digital experience that’s entirely current. “Project Noah is what would have happened if Charles Darwin had created Foursquare,” says co-founder Yasser Ansari.

5) Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action

Idea: Providing new and expectant mothers in need with free health information via mobile phones.

Why It’s Working: In 2008, India had the most maternal-related deaths out of any other country, according to the Indian government. Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), works with low-income and at-risk mothers and families in India — as well as Bangladesh and South Africa, which are countries with high populations of mobile phone users — to provide vital health information through SMS text messaging and simple voice messages.

Social entrepreneurs can be found all over the world, in most industries, and where the need is the most pressing. Here are a few worthy and notable Social Entrepreneurs of our era:

Istvan Aba-Horvath: Based in Hungary, Istvan’s mission is to aid Gypsy children in getting an education and simultaneously earn money. http://www.romacentrum.hu/kozhaz/debrecen

Raul Oscar Abasolo Trincado: Raul lives in Chile and works with poor, outcast youth in his country. He has provided an opportunity for them to become meaningful and productive members of society.

Mohammed Bah Abba: Mohammed has “resurrected” a form of pottery that was originally used in ancient Egypt. This pottery has allowed his people to keep their food fresh in the harsh climate of Nigeria.

Abbass Abbass: Abbass started AlManarah in 2005, an organization centered in Israel. His mission is to stop discrimination against disabled people in his country.

Rafael Alvarez: Rafael’s goal is to help American youth extend their outlook beyond graduation from high school, to highly skilled jobs by training students with the skills they need to do so. He accomplishes this goal through his organization, Genesys Works. http://www.genesysworks.org/

Anita Ahuja: In India, Anita has addressed problems of waste, sanitation, and unemployment into a social entrepreneurial organization. Her business produces high-end accessories, such as wallets and purses, out of plastic waste. http://www.conserveindia.org/

VoIP communications company Fonality conducted a survey to find out which mundane office tasks suck the most time out of the day. Pinpointing and compiling all those wasted man hours could save companies some substantial coin. The folks at social performance management tool Rypple compiled the infographic below based on that data.

The top time stealer? Trying to contact customers or colleagues. Duplicate or unwanted information (including spam) ranks highly as well. The study also proposes that “unified communications” (UC) solutions can reduce much of this waste, though it’s difficult to determine by how much.

“Calculating the potential cost savings for a UC implementation is an inexact science at best. Each company has different needs. And UC implementations do not consist of an exact set of components,” the report reads. Still, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that cloud computing is one way to mitigate certain time sucks. What factors waste your precious time at work? Can they be overcome with better technology? Let me know in the comments section.

”]Wasting Time @ Work - Click on the Image to Enlarge

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Are you one of those who never Reads to the TOS of any website, but readily clicks on the ‘I agree’ button just to proceed. Some terms and conditions are valid, some are stupid, but they can also border on the absurd and cause a busload of problems, warns ET. This was widely reported about a year back – about 7,500 people unknowingly sold their souls to Brit online gaming software retailer Gamestation. As a prank, the retailer added an ‘Immortal Souls’ clause into their terms and conditions (T&C ), legally awarding them the ‘souls’ of customers who bought from them.

But when do terms and conditions become something more than standard operating procedure – when do they become ransom notes? The consumer is forced to agree to the terms in order to proceed – whether it is to use a service or install software. Take for example, the terms and conditions as stated by one of the most popular DTH service providers in India.

“We reserve the right at any time, without prior notice to you, to add or vary all or any of these terms and conditions or to replace, wholly or in part the offers made to you or to withdraw them completely.” Take a moment to read that again. By agreeing to these terms, you are literally agreeing to anything and everything they may ask of you, now or in the future, as long as you’re availing their services. There aren’t too many ways out of it, other than opting for another service provider altogether. But needless to say, we do need to start reading through the terms more often. These are some of the things to look for before you click ‘I accept’.

Photo sharing & printing websites

You own intellectual property rights to your photographs. But what happens if you upload them to a photo sharing website? Who owns them if you upload them to a stock photo site? Or to a photo printing website? In a 2011 report by thenextweb.com, it was found that several photo sharing/ printing websites retain the right to use your photographs in any way they see fit in a “perpetual and irrevocable” manner. Check before uploading.

Sharing personal info on email

Notice how the text ads in your email inbox are creepily ‘right on the money’ ? All the baby clothing store ads appear if you’ve had a baby. Camera stores appear if you’re a photographer and local restaurants pop up if you’re discussing a dinner date with a friend.

Targeted ads – especially those that are accurately targeted with location and demographics – can earn a lot of money. You, by agreeing to the terms, become the conduit.

Buying online or booking tickets

This is one area where there can be a lot of ambiguity. Do manufacturer warranties apply on products you buy online? What happens in case of a defect or if you need to return the item?

In case of airline tickets, prices are volatile, and you need to read the fine print to make sure that you can return the tickets and get a refund if you need to. Many ‘special fare tickets’ are sold on the condition that they may not be returned/refunded.

Online shopping

Did you ever give a thought to how your name and email address finds its way to various websites you never even heard of? Whenever you sign up for newsletters, sign up to comment on an article you read or sign up for a community forum, your information could be misused.

Not only will the offending website start sending you email spam (special offers, notices), they could even sell your email ID to third parties without your consent.

Free mobile apps Many so-called free apps for your smartphone or tablet are ad-supported . But read through the terms – the app could be accessing your personal information – mainly to deliver targeted ads. Also, as mobile ads will be delivered whenever the app is active, which means they count towards your data usage at the end of the month.

Protecting Twitter & Facebook accounts

Increasing trend points towards websites allowing you to sign in and start using their services, simply by using your existing Twitter or Facebook ID. The advantages are that a registration process is skipped, encouraging more users – but the website still gets to identify visitors and get more info about them. This is officially allowed using Facebook connect and Twitter Sign in.

But beware, because you might find automated posts and tweets being sent on your behalf. Check what kind of permissions you are granting to the website or app before you allow access to your Facebook or Twitter account – if it says “allow app/site to post/ send tweet” or “Grant permission to post on your behalf to Facebook”, cancel and run.

Every year on April 1st Google comes up with this amazing April Fools Prank to all its users. This time Google couldn’t wait for April Fools’ Day to prank the web with its 8-bit version of Google Maps, temporarily replacing its standard version. Shortly after the “upgraded” Google Maps went live, users were posted world landmarks and historic sites that could be viewed on the map: the Parthenon, Area 51, Mount Everest (with a Yeti or hiker, say commenters), and many more “Easter eggs.”

“PLEASE don’t let this be a joke. 8-bit Street View is the greatest achievement in the history of all mankind,”. Someone else added, “Google… I want this for android navigation! You already did the work. Just release it.”

On Friday, Google posted this YouTube video:

Accessing the 8-bit map is easy. Use Google Maps as you normally would to search for cities or landmarks, then click on the “Quest” picture icon in the right area of the screen to view the map as large colored pixels. Another April Fools’ tease: When you load the map, you may see this joking response: “Your system may not meet the requirements for 8-bit computations.”

Last year, Google pranked the interwebs by introducing a faux new feature called Gmail Motion that would let users type emails by using gestures. The Institute of Creative Technologies later brought the concept to life.

What do you think of Google’s April Fools’ Day prank? Would you like to use this map every day of the year? Leave in note in the comments section below.