Just ask any anyone: kindly asking someone to please bring you another beer from the fridge is one thing. Asking them to run to the store and get it is a whole other matter. But now, you guessed it, there's an app for that. Liquorun is an app that has a "bring me beer" button. [...]
The post Liquorun launches in Melbourne. It has a "bring me beer" button, people. Need we say more? appeared first on Anthill Online.
The Queensland State Government has gone to market to set up a whole of government cloud computing panel which would allow its many departments and agencies to purchase IT infrastructure services in this category from a set list of suppliers.
On the heels of Turntable.fm shutting down its recorded music listening rooms to focus on live events, Oslo-based rival Soundrop is doubling down on the social listening model. Today, to complement an existing app for Spotify, Soundrop is launching an app on Deezer - a streaming music rival to Spotify - which will let users on Spotify and those on Deezer come together in virtual rooms (‘tens of thousands' of rooms created so far) to consume music simultaneously, and extend Soundrop's scale as a marketing platform for the artists, labels and brands with whom it works. At the same time, Soundrop's co-founder Inge Sandvik is stepping down as CEO, replaced by Jørn Haanæs, Soundrop's chief revenue office and a former exec from Warner Music.
To mark the new app, Soundrop is launching three new rooms featuring Euro club DJs and producers: Trentemøller on November 25 at 6 PM GMT; The Bloody Beetroots on November 26 at 4 PM GMT; and Yuksek on November 27 at 6 PM GMT. You can listen to those here.
Soundrop, which officially turns two today, launched its first service in January 2012 as a Spotify-only app. It quickly picked up traction at a time when Spotify had little in the way of its own discovery features and social features to help users wade through the millions of tracks they could potentially listen to on the platform. The “rooms” on Soundrop are interactive: users can “vote up” tracks they like, see how others are voting, and speak with others in the various listening rooms.
Since then, though, times have changed for both. Soundrop has added access via Facebook as well as its own standalone iOS app and web interface - services that incorporate videos from YouTube in cases where tracks have not been available on Spotify. Spotify has also enhanced its own platform with web interfaces; discovery and social features of its own; more apps from third parties - and potentially a lot more, courtesy of its latest, $ 250 million round of funding.
Launching on Deezer is emblematic of how Soundrop wants position itself as more platform agnostic. It's a different tune from Soundrop's Spotify-only early days: the two share an investor (Northzone, which backed Soundrop with $ 3 million last year); and at one point Soundrop engineers were working out of Spotify's offices in Stockholm.
Soundrop features both user-created listening rooms and brand-, label- and artist-created listening rooms. The latter service, which works on a B2B2C model (in which labels, brands and so on pay Soundrop to create the promotional rooms on its platform) has shot up in activity: Soundrop hosted 42 artist events in October, compared to eight during all of Q4 2012. The company tells me that it is now at 150,000 monthly active users (before today's launch).
Adding a Deezer app will potentially help Soundrop scale out that B2B2C business because it means a bigger potential audience for those listening rooms, something that may be spurred also by a potential Deezer launch in the U.S. And that will give Soundrop an important negotiating chip with those labels, brands and artists. From what I understand, the intention is to add more streaming platforms over time - although, given some of the consolidation we're seeing in the space, the list of potential candidates make shrink before Soundrop has a chance to reach them.
As for the management change, it's not completely clear why Sandvik is stepping down as CEO. From all of my conversations with him in the past, it sounds to me like Soundrop is executing on plans that Sandvik himself had helped lay out. It sounds like he may be moving on to something new - playing on his background as a serial entrepreneur, perhaps.
“I have been putting all my time and effort to the company now for the last 2 1/2 years. It's been a great time and I am proud of what we have accomplished,” he told me. “What drives me is to build great products with great people, and I see that there are some great opportunities to do that outside Soundrop.” He tells me that he will stay on the board and will remain a major shareholder of Soundrop.
Haanæs - who had been Soundrop's chief revenue officer before taking the role of CEO - had previously been an executive for Warner Music in Norway. It may be just a coincidence, or it may be by design, but Warner Music happens to be owned by Access Industries, which is also a major shareholder in Deezer.
TechCrunch » Social
Pinterest Launches Its First API, And It’s All About Big Brands: Zappos, Walmart, Disney In First User Group
Pinterest is today, at long last, releasing its first API for developers, which will let third-party sites embed Pinterest pins, and make it easier to post content into Pinterest itself. First partners for the service are a list of big brands and retailers - including Zappos, Walmart, Disney, Nestle, Random House and Hearst - underscoring how the site is ramping up for revenue generation with advertising and cross-marketing.
“We're releasing documentation for multiple APIs that will roll out to partners over the coming weeks,” the company notes in its blog. These will include Top Pins API (showcase top clicked pins / top re-pins, launching on partner sites today); Domain search (surface trending results for keywords such as "Men's Boots", "Thanksgiving recipes", or "Fashion Week"); Most Recent (bring a stream of your latest pins to your site); and Related Pins (suggest other pins people may like based on the item or content they're viewing).
More features will be getting added to the API over time, the company says.
Pinterest has already proven itself to be a strong driver of referral traffic on the web - second after Facebook in a list of leading traffic referral sites from Shareaholic, but growing the fastest.
What adding an API will mean is that Pinterest is now laying the groundwork to expand that role. It will make existing pins more useful to sites and brands, and also make it easier for people to post to Pinterest. Both of these will also help Pinterest string its data together in a more actionable way. Just as the recent deal with Getty will provide more metadata to pins that use Getty images, stronger links between pins and the sites/brands from which they come will mean that they can be better tracked by Pinterest, and those brands themselves. That will mean, too, potentially more marketing spend against that.
Pinterest notes also that users can now pin directly from these sites, “so there's no need to interrupt your shopping, reading, or browsing.” The full list of partners for the early roll out are AllRecipes, Better Homes and Garden, BuzzFeed, Disney sites Babble and BabyZone, Elle Magazine, Mashable, ModCloth, NBC News Digital's iVillage, Nestlé, Random House, Snapguide, Target, Walmart, Wayfair, Whole Foods,Zappos, Zulily, with Spoonful and Taste Book coming soon.
TechCrunch » Social
Sunsets? Landscapes? Latte art? Look back at your old photos and you'll notice they're boring unless there's a human face in them. Now think about teens on social media. Immaturity fuels bullying and drama-filled comment reels. So RockLive has taken funding from Justin Bieber to solve these problems with Shots of Me, a self-portrait photo sharing iOS app that launches today.
Selfies - photos you shoot of yourself, often with the front-facing camera. That's what you do on Shots of Me. Take selfies. Share selfies to the app's Instagram-style internal social network or to Twitter (with Instagram sharing coming soon). Like Selfies from other people.
Yes, you read that right. It's a social network entirely for selfies. The premise is simple, but it hides the amount of work and detail that went into Shots of Me.
“We were creating these games and had a good, young demographic. Always high schoolers,” RockLive CEO John Shahidi tells me. “We giggled that we knew how to market to high school girls so let's build something even bigger,” he says.
The idea for Shots of Me came from Shahidi looking at the photo app craze and realizing “People enjoy looking at humans. Not just yourself. People like looking at other people. It doesn't ever really get old. Looking at a coffee or salad…”, Shahidi trails off, but the implication is clear. Instagram is the home for photos of food and inanimate object photography, as the filters make them look interesting. But they're not. And people are sick of staring at your lunch.
Does the world need another photo app? Maybe not. But if you suspend your skepticism for a moment, seeing the smiling faces of your friends more often probably isn't such a bad thing.
Instagram For Selfies
RockLive's five-person team began building Shots of Me in May and today it becomes available for download. Open the iOS-only app and you'll find a full-screen feed of selfies from your Shots of Me friends and anyone you pull from your Twitter contacts.
In a cool chameleon design trick, the name/location and caption/likes bars above and below each photo take on the colors of the pic and change as you scroll. It's like you're looking through a steamy window. Shahidi proclaims “We want to be a top of the line product. You spend $ 500 on a phone. Does this app fit the quality of the iPhone, does this feel like a like Mercedes or a Ferrari?” That might be pushing it, but the app has number of flourishes like letting you pick the color of the navigation chrome.
To enforce the selfies-only rule, you have to take photos using the front-facing camera. And similar to Snapchat, you can only shoot Shots of Me within the app. No uploading means the emotions you see in a newly uploaded Shot Of Me is how that person is feeling right now.
What makes Shots of Me functionally unique is actually what it lacks: Comments. “People share photos because they felt so positive at that moment” Shahidi explains. “Drama kills that moment.”
If someone makes fun of your photo of the ocean, whatever. But selfies leave people vulnerable. A hateful comment about your face could really hurt, especially if you're a sensitive teenager. So rather than comments, Shots of Me has a direct messaging system where you can ping anyone who follows you, similar to Twitter. This way, any drama stays private and randos can't troll you.
The Bieber Seal Of Approval
It was this philosophy of positivity that attracted Justin Bieber to Shots of Me. The pop star was introduced to the RockLive and Shots of Me, and Shahidi says “Honestly, he loved it. He was a bit annoyed by other platforms” referring to the constant homophobic slurs and hate Justin gets on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks.
“The commenting thing was something he really cared about. Not just for himself, but for the kids. He said ‘I want a platform where my fans don't have to deal with this. We didn't ask him for money. He said ‘I want to be part of this.'”
RockLive had already raised $ 1.6 million from Shervin Pishevar, boxer Floyd Mayweather, early Apple employee Tom McInerney and NALA investments. NALA had set terms to put in some more money, but RockLive let Bieber in at the last minute to let him contribute the majority of the $ 1.1 million second round.
This is Bieber's first publicly announced personal investment without the help of his manager Scooter Braun, who he's invested in a few startups with. Shahidi says Bieber “did a lot of due diligence. He asked a lot of questions and he calls all the time.”There's no business model to analyze, though, as Shots of Me is focused solely on growth, which will be a tough fight.
Some will undoubtedly say Bieber has no business investing in tech, but if he can consistently sell millions of record and huge numbers of concert tickets, he must have a knack for understanding what kids want.
A Photo App Shootout
Overall, Shots of Me feels refreshing because every face is fascinating. There are no botched attempts at artful photos of stale scenes cluttering the feed. Sure, Shots of Me could become a vehicle for vanity, but that's human nature. You can say it will fail. You can say it's dumb. But it doesn't change the fact that people are taking selfies at an alarming rate. Someone's going to capitalize. Some say selfies are a fad, but we've been painting and shooting portraits for a long, long time.
The question now is whether Shots of Me's focus on selfies, no-drama feed, and aid from the Bieber-nation will be enough to carve out an audience amongst the slew of other photo apps.
Most obviously, Shots of Me will be taking on Instagram and its 150 million highly engaged users. Then there are stalwarts Facebook and Twitter. Snapchat has become a destination for sharing silly self-portraits, and maybe the mysterious, unlaunched startup “Selfie” will seduce some users.
The biggest threat may be the recently launched Frontback, which cleverly lets you share two-photo diptychs that feature a front-facing selfie plus a rear-facing shot to show where you are. With 300,000 downloads since its launch in August and $ 3 million in new funding, Frontback is capitalizing on its unique format. It permits funny photo mashups, also prohibits comments, and combines eye-catching faces with added context. Beating out all these apps will be a serious challenge.
Shahidi remains confident, noting that “Taking one photo is already a lot of work” and that the non-selfie part of Frontbacks could get stale because “people are typically doing the same thing every day. If you're in the office, the office is kind of boring”. RockLive actually considered offering the diptych style, but concluded “There's more opportunities to take photos of yourself than figuring out the other side.”
With any luck, Shots of Me will get Bieber to share selfies exclusively on its app to attract some of his 47 million Twitter followers and 57 million Facebook fans. It could blow past Frontback if just 1 percent of those people checked out Shots of Me. Still, Shahidi hopes his product can stand on its own two feet.
“Before Instagram, there were dozens of apps that could let you take photos with filters, but Instagram was the first to create a home for your filtered pictures. You knew you were going to see elegant photos.” He hopes Shots Of Me will do the same for selfies. “People are going to enjoy seeing their life documented through the app. They're your memories. If you're not in the photo, it didn't happen.”
TechCrunch » Social
Field trips generally venture only as far afield as the local heritage village, where you're likely to catch pilgrim ‘Ezekial' behind the butter churning hut sneaking a modern-day cigarette. Google wants to offer a more far-reaching experience, with a new Connected Classrooms initiative that lets classes take “virtual field trips” using Google+ Hangouts. So instead of learning about pioneer times from a local drama student who has to keep the goat stables clean in addition to infotaining the kids, you'll check out the Seattle Aquarium, Minnesota Zoo or the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Google says that teachers already employ its social network in classrooms, but the Connected Classrooms program is designed to make it easier for more of them to do so. It offers not only those virtual excursions mentioned above (along with a number of other destinations), but also provides teachers a chance to work together on class plans and learning experiences for use both in the classroom and out.
Field trips take place at specific times, since they're actually live hosted events that offer interactive learning experiences, and teachers can check out Google's calendar to find out more. The first three are happening today, where Seattle Aquarium staff will take classes participating underwater; the Minnesota Zoo explores the Black Bear and their habit of sleeping through the colder seasons; and Solar Impulse, a long-range solar plane project, offers a chance to speak with the founders and learn about the design of its wing and cockpit. Upcoming trips over the rest of the month include virtual photo walks and museum tours provided by National Geographic and others.
Google clearly wants to encourage education to adopt Hangouts, and by extension, Google+. It's one of the many markets Google is pursuing with its social strategy, but it's one that could have the biggest future impact, when viewed in tandem with its low-cost Nexus device and Chrome OS initiatives. Both of those have the potential to get cheap Google hardware in schools, from which students would naturally benefit by complimentary content experiences.
TechCrunch » Social
Music-focused social network SoundTracking released a new version of its smartphone app today, one that co-founder and CEO Steve Jang said will make the app useful beyond “hardcore music lovers.”
We're also hearing that SoundTracking has reached an agreement with Sprint, with SoundTracking being preloaded or featured on certain Sprint Android phones starting next spring. However, Jang declined to comment on any potential partnership, so hopefully we'll know more about that soon.
Anyway, back to the updated app. There's a new design with features like larger photos and brighter colors, but the most interesting addition is probably a Discover section, which is basically a new take on finding music through Soundtracking.
Previously, people discover music based on what was shared by the users they followed. With the new section, you can find music in a way that's not subject to the randomness of who you follow and when you checked your newsfeed. There's a song of the day chosen by the SoundTracking team (something the company was already experimenting with via email, and which got a positive response), hashtag-based search, and charts of general trending music and music nearby.
Jang said he plans to go further in this direction with more charts focusing on different types of music.
The obvious comparison seems to be Twitter #Music, an app that recommends music based on what people are tweeting. Jang suggested that social networks in general have moved toward personalized recommendations that less reliant on timelines and on who you follow. On the other hand, a recent report suggested that usage of the #Music app has declined and that Twitter may shut it down. The problem in that case, Jang suggested, is that people wanted that experience in Twitter itself, not in a separate app.
Jang added that 14 million tweets, Facebook status updates, Instagram pictures, Foursquare check ins, emails, and SMS messages are sent each day from SoundTracking. Users have created a total of 40 million music moments, which have been shared more than 6 billion times and viewed 530 million times within the company's mobile and web apps.
“The stats reflect that we continue to create a product that's' really great for expression, sharing, and outbound messaging,” he said. “I think our work on the Discover section and charts and personalized is really going to address the other side. … Now we need to help people who love music that are little bit more passive, more of viewing and listening type.”
” So we can expect more “lean back” type experiences to come in the future.
TechCrunch » Social
With Black Friday looming, expect buy buttons to be clicked and registers rung at record speeds. And it is likely to be tablets all the way as second and third screens become the norm in homes and among the most requested tech gift ideas.
With so many high-class models to choose from, the field has never been more open. So which will win in the battle for sales?
At the beginning of the year, just after Amazon reported a big profit dip for Q4 2012, Slate business correspondent Matthew Yglesias posited (with tongue planted in cheek) that Amazon was “a charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pointedly dismissed that observation in his following shareholder letter, but today one has to wonder if the charity implication didn't have some sort of lasting impact on the company. That's because Amazon has just rolled out a new initiative called AmazonSmile, which will see the e-commerce titan automatically donate 0.5 percent of all eligible purchases to a U.S. charity of the buyer's choosing. And to top it all off, there's no upper limit to the amount Amazon will give away.
The high-level message is clear: Amazon wants people to know it cares about people and communities. But there's an underlying message that seems just as apparent: we'll keep giving as long as you keep buying.
Let's consider the brass tacks. Starting today, interested users can mosey on over to smile.amazon.com, at which point they're prompted to select a charity for the proceeds of each transaction to go to (naturally, you can change your mind at any time). Amazon says there are nearly a million charities available to choose from, with recipients ranging from prominent projects like charity:water to much more local, grassroots affairs. A quick search for my hometown for instance revealed that I could indirectly donate to the Bahais Of Cherry Hill Township, the local fire department, or (my personal favorite) the Friends of the Cherry Hill Free Public Library.
Once all that's done, it's essentially the exact same shopping experience, complete with Prime shipping if you've already shelled out for it. AmazonSmile GM Ian McAllister said that “tens of millions of items” are eligible for the program but there are some notable exceptions. Auto-renewed subscription purchases don't fall under the AmazonSmile umbrella, and neither do digital products like mp3s, video content, and Kindle books (“for now,” anyway). And this isn't just a temporary move meant to reflect the spirit of the upcoming holiday season either - McAllister confirmed that the company intends for the program to be around for the long haul.
To hear him tell it, there was no specific moment of inspiration or event that prompted Amazon's brass to venture down this charitable road, just a desire to build things the company thinks its customers will “love”. Love, suffice it to say, is a curious thing in business. Apple aficionados love their Apple products to the point of waiting in line for days, and BlackBerry fans are among the most ardent and vocal I've ever seen in spite of waning fortunes. And if Amazon can entice a larger swath of people to love it because of this new charitable angle, the company won't be seeing hearts as much as it sees dollar signs.
The upsides here are obvious. With only a fraction of a fraction of each transaction being passed along to charities, Amazon still stands to make gobs of money, especially if this program manages to lift sales volumes in any appreciable way. And you can bet that Amazon is going to play up this charitable angle over time, a move that should only endear users to the process of buying their, well, everythings from the massive e-tailer.
After all, the very thrust of this initiative is to make sure that end users like you and I won't see any functional difference between plain ol' Amazon and AmazonSmile - why wouldn't we donate to charity if doing so didn't impact us in any appreciable way? What are we, a bunch of jerks? And then there are the potential tax implications to consider too. You as a user won't be able to claim these donations the next time you fill out your taxes, as they're all being made on behalf of a foundation established by Amazon. In short, if Amazon plays its cards right, it stands to make plenty of money by giving a ton of it away.
Tiger Pistol, is launching version 2.0 of its platform aimed at making social media marketing easy for small businesses. It's also announcing that it has raised $ 1 million in additional funding.
The company says that when customers sign up, Tiger Pistol can use information like the type of business, its location, and its status on Facebook to create step-by-step instructions on how the business should be promoting themselves. It includes the ability to schedule posts and ads, as well as guidelines on what kind of content should be included.
“The complexity in social marketing comes from companies not knowing what to post, when to post, whether they should advertise, how to advertise, when they should try and generate sales and what they should expect in return, and we've seen how much support they need,” co-founder and CEO Steve Hibberd told me in an email. “Their requirements are no different to big businesses, but they don't have the thousands of dollars to hire experts or pay agencies.”
When I first wrote about the company last year, it was leaving its closed beta. Now Tiger Pistol says it has already worked with “thousands” of customers in more than 100 countries, and Hibberd told me the new version includes “unprecedented levels of smart automation and analytics.”
Behind the scenes, he said the company is using large amounts of data to determine what will and won't work for its customers. He also noted that from existing customers, he's learned that “small businesses want and need their unique personalities to come through”: “Templates and canned copy simply doesn't work, but at the same time they need guidance on what to write, so it's a fine balance.”
Tiger Pistol (the name comes from the tiger shrimp) previously raised $ 1 million in angel funding led by Australian investor David Solomon. The new funding comes from the new firm Rampersand and existing investors.
TechCrunch » Social