Archive for October 2, 2011

FAIL: HTC Accidentally Opens Huge Security Hole In Its Own Phones

peter chou HTC

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Here's More Proof Apple's Building A Cheap 'Entry Level' iPhone 4


Android Police just discovered that recent HTC Android phones such as the Thunderbolt, EVO 3D, the EVO 4G are vulnerable to a huge security hole that leaves emails, GPS locations, and SMS text wide open.

HTC had just updated the devices with a new logging tool, which apparently opened the security hole.

If you use an app on your HTC device that asks for permission to use the internet, you immediately become vulnerable to the app stealing these personal files, Android Police reports:

  • the list of user accounts, including email addresses and sync status for each
  • last known network and GPS locations and a limited previous history of locations
  • phone numbers from the phone log
  • SMS data, including phone numbers and encoded text (not sure yet if it’s possible to decode it, but very likely)
  • system logs (both kernel/dmesg and app/logcat), which includes everything your running apps do and is likely to include email addresses, phone numbers, and other private info

Ordinarily, the android.permission.INTERNET permission would only give the app access to your internet connection, and not to your private files.

Currently, an update from HTC will be the only way to patch the giant hole, unless you decide to root your Android phone and manually remove the “APK” file logging your actions.

Rooting is probably not your best option though if you aren’t familiar with the rooting process. Until HTC releases an update for your phone, don’t download any nefarious looking apps—especially apps that look suspicious and have just been released.

For the complete report, or to learn which files to remove if you root your device, head over to Android Police.

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PayPal On Barriers To Google Wallet: Mass Adoption Of NFC Is Years Away

Google Wallet

As you may have read, Google officially launched its mobile payments platform Google Wallet recently, which allows you to pay for products in the real world by tapping your NFC-enabled Android phone against a compatible card reader. Shortly following the initial announcement of the technology in May, payments giant PayPal went on the offensive, filing a lawsuit against Google and two former PayPal executives who now are in charge of mobile payments at Google. Allegations of “misappropriation of trade secrets, and “breach of fiduciary duty” were thrown out against these individuals. Clearly, it’s messy. While the lawsuit itself spoke volumes about PayPal’s view on Google Wallet, the eBay-owned company has not really commented on Google Wallet over the past few months. Until now.

We sat down with PayPal’s director of communications, Anuj Nayar, who candidly gave me the company’s opinions on Google Wallet and NFC technologies. We know that eBay and PayPal have a somewhat interesting view on NFC technology. In a recent earnings call, eBay CEO John jokingly said merchants refer NFC “not for commerce.” But PayPal has dipped its toes in the NFC pool with support for Android, which Nayar explains as ‘keeping an eye’ on the technology.

Nayar says that one advantage he sees with PayPal’s payments platform vs. Google Wallet is that “we’re not asking anyone to do anything different.” He points to the fact that in order to use NFC right now, many consumers would have to change phones to the NFC-enabled Nexus S. “There simply aren’t that many NFC enabled phones out there and we don’t see NFC as something that will happen very quickly,” he explains.

Another challenge to the adoption Google Wallet’s platform and NFC, says Nayar, is trying to get merchants to change their behavior. As my colleague Greg Kumparak wrote in his review of Google Wallet, merchant adoption is still limited.

Nayar says that mass adoption of NFC is still at least three years away but even then, the technology will not replace mobile payments all together. Of course, he explains that PayPal is watching the NFC space closely (by launching their own integrations), but the sense is that the company isn’t heavily investing in the technology because of some of these barriers to adoption.

An area where PayPal is investing in is a comprehensive solution for in-store merchants to integrate PayPal into the checkout experience. Later this year, PayPal will be rolling out a one-stop shop for merchants, both online and local businesses, to manage payments from customers. Details are sparse but PayPal says that new features will include location-based offers, making payments accessible from any device and offering more payments flexibility to customers after they’ve checked out.

And soon, you’ll also be able to use PayPal in physical payments gateways at stores as well (where you would normally complete the credit card swiping process), and will have the ability to access realtime store inventory, receive in-store offers, and real-time location-based advertising from stores. The company is expected to announce a number of in-store partnerships with large retailers in the near future.

Nayar says that PayPal’s solution is more complete for merchants, and is capitalizing on a huge factor in the end-to-end shopping experience—data. He explains that relevant data and personalization will play a big role in the new payments experience, so that PayPal’s 100 million-plus users will be able to see more relevant offers and experiences and merchants will be able to target customers.

PayPal isn’t the first payments company to go on the offensive against NFC. Keith Rabois, COO of mobile payments company Square, said last week at GigaOm’s Mobilize conference that NFC “has no value proposition for consumers and merchants.”

Still it’s hard to ignore the fact that Google, as well as other mobile tech companies like HTC, LG, Motorola, RIM, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, are making major investments in NFC. Even credit card companies are making bets on NFC as well. And MasterCard, who is a partner in Google Wallet, has said that NFC is a “five-to-ten year effort.” As my colleague Sarah Perez points out, the merchant adoption hurdle to NFC is valid, but contactless infrastructure is already in more locations than consumers may realize, even if it’s somewhat underused.

While there’s no crystal ball to tell us whether NFC will be around in a few years or ten years, clearly PayPal isn’t making a huge bet on the technology and is investing in other in-store technologies. However, even if NFC is years away from mass adoption, Google is gambling that being early to the game will help the company dominate the mobile payments market in the future. It will be surely be interesting to see whose foresight pays off in five years.

And in case you were wondering, Nayar says there are no updates to the status of that PayPal v. Google lawsuit.

Go Forth And Conquer

by Scoble

Editor’s note: Guest author Aaron Levie is the founder and CEO of Box.net.

The old technology guard of Silicon Valley is rapidly unhinging.  From the really old facing oscillating strategies and leaders; to the newly old churning through CEOs as fast as they dead-pool products, refocusing the entire company on competing with Zuckerberg, or causing major customer confusion as they shift into the future; or even the older-new, content with a pivot or two before a friendly landing into Google or Facebook.

With this transition of old to new, and new to old, comes a strikingly rare opportunity to build the next great technology powerhouses. Today’s revolving technology landscape will favor those with a bias toward speed, change, and disruption.

In the past few months alone, I’ve heard of new companies that stand to radically transform how we interact with healthcare, blow open television consumption, and make education mobile.  And refreshingly, I didn’t need any modifiers to describe these startups: nothing about “watching television while tweeting,” or “facilitating healthcare with local coupons.”  No, these have the potential to be game-changing services from entrepreneurs that have set their eyes on the dream.

Marc Andreessen recently laid out an amazingly tight argument for why software will pretty much take over the world.  Or, to be more precise, eat it.  But this will only happen if we’re working on truly world-changing technology.  Technology that helps us to communicate, save and improve lives, or make better decisions in our businesses, faster.

The launches at Disrupt and Demo a few weeks ago got me thinking about that magical stage in the startup lifecycle: the point in the building process where anything and everything is possible.  You have yet to make your first pivot, you couldn’t have been turned down by more than a couple of VCs, and I’m sure the team dynamic is just copacetic.  Ah, the glory days.

Well, before you get much farther, here are a few unsolicited lessons I thought I’d share after five roller-coaster years in the valley:

Make sure you’re constantly doing something that wasn’t possible 3 years ago

The only companies worth starting in this industry are those that couldn’t have existed in another era.  And with the speed of change on the internet reaching escape velocity, eras are measured in quarters, not years.  If you’re not taking advantage of some fundamentally new enabler, you’re toast.  Maybe the advantage is an order of magnitude change in the price and availability of infrastructure because of the cloud (Cloudera, DotCloud, Twilio), or the now-ubiquitous access to powerful ‘smart’ devices (Square, Uber, Kno, Airy Labs), or a change in social behavior at both work and home (Yammer, Jive, HealthTap), or all three.  The idea is to constantly be reaching for the edge of what’s possible, extending the limits of what’s expected and turning the novel into habit.  If you don’t do this, you won’t stand out, you won’t gain traction, and you won’t win.  As Andy Grove would point out, if you’re not creating a 10X improvement on the dimension of cost, efficiency, or benefit to the consumer, you’re hosed.

And emerging startups aren’t unique here.  The same rule applies to building new products within existing companies.  It’s how Apple has stayed “in power” in such consistent yet – at the time – unpredictable ways.  It’s how Facebook has modeled its innovation engine.  Facebook routinely assures us they’ll remain in a position of strength by enabling experiences and value that is at the bleeding edge of what’s technically and socially possible.  And for this same reason, we’ve seen Yahoo flounder over the past decade.

In Yahoo’s case, we witness the fate of an innovator that has ostensibly “lost its way.”  On the web, you have very few opportunities for missteps.  To be the exception, the pace and frequency with which you need to build and bring new creations to market is incredible.  Even then, you’re assured of nothing, but it’s the only way to survive.  Consumers are fickle and a single technology cycle or trend that is missed can cost you relevance in the next wave.  Yahoo gave Google the keys to the search castle; they saw the internet media revolution coming, but fumbled by disintegrating Broadcast.com and producing poor user experiences throughout their media properties; and they let services exist without any clear and consistent strategy to unify the products, and with little innovation to boot.  This is an expensive lesson for one company, and serves as a great reminder to everyone else, large and small.

Do something you’re extremely passionate about

Startups are freaking hard.  Pretty much every day you go through a mood swing that would make you a poster child of TMZ (if you were only a little cooler).  For every one thing that goes right, there are no less than twenty-five things that have gone wrong.  There are dozens if not hundreds of other companies – some you’ve heard of, and some that won’t be launching until the next Disrupt – that would love for you to fail.  Andrew Mason has to contend with thousands of competitors, reporters, and speculators that would love to see his Groupon IPO falter.  That’s real pressure.  Employees, strategy, capital, competitors – and that’s assuming you don’t have any personal baggage.  Good luck with that.

If you don’t build something, or solve a problem, that you’re extremely passionate about, you’re really only going to be able to handle the good times.  When things are going extremely well, life will be great.  You’ll love your job, you’ll love your investors, and your mom will love you, too.  But when crap hits the fan you’re going to begin to get weary.  And tired.  And depressed.  And if you’re not extremely passionate about what you’re doing, a market’s quick turn or a VC’s even quicker “no,” is more than enough to discourage you from your effort.

But what kicks you back into gear is the utter energy, drive, and conviction that what you’re doing is so extremely badass – so uniquely tied to your actions and no one else’s – that you must go on.  This works even if you did happen to land somewhere other than your initial start.

When we started Box in 2005, we didn’t do so with the goal of eradicating SharePoint from corporations.  But we did believe people should fundamentally be able to share and work from anywhere with extremely simple software.  The enterprise then became the context in which we executed our vision. The overarching challenge and potential of the technology gave us the passion to drive forward.  It also brings us clarity when our marketplace gets ugly, when we experience new threats, and when we’re pressed to make strategic decisions that will determine the fate of the company.

Keep looking up (and never look down)

There have been countless times when Box was supposed to be engulfed by lumbering giants, offering the same services more cheaply to corporations.  It’s a risk that all startups face, but competing in a category so dominated by – and important to – legacy enterprise players, we’ve experienced the extreme of this challenge.  And at times, the academically correct solution to a problem would have been to over-pivot, to fail fast and cut our losses. Like when Microsoft got into the cloud game.  Back in 2007.  Well, we’re still here.

And this is where so many startups go astray.  Maybe it’s that they never believed in the idea in the first place; maybe it’s that they’re reading the market wrong, or taking faulty advice; maybe it’s because they’re tired.  I don’t know.  They will give up too early, quick to move onto the next idea, or act too small and not go big enough.

But looking around the ecosystem, the companies that remain relevant today, after years or even decades, are ones that always looked upward.  Even at $140B in market-cap, and 35 years in, Oracle still thinks about what it wants to be when it grows up.  Amazon has done this fairly masterfully as well, successfully expanding their range of competitive products in various markets in just a few years.

Thinking limitlessly about what you can be doing, and cutting the right moves to get there, is the game.  This often comes from a mix of having the right strategy (hard), the right people (harder), and maintaining the right psychology (hardest).  Are you growing as fast as you could be?  Are you taking on your big competitor in earnest, competing on the dimensions where you’re optimized and they’re not?  Is your business model optimal for your market?  How are you going to get your product past early adopters?  Are you building the right team to 10X your business?

The lean startup methodology, in which startups entrust most of their core strategy, teaches us so much about building products and learning from customers, but painfully little about building companies.  I find that we’re often so obsessed with the idea of disrupting the status quo that we sometimes forget what that means and what it entails to do so.  Everyone has that opportunity, but not everyone takes that opportunity.  Or takes it to the fullest.

Maybe I’m just in a sentimental mood, but we can probably all learn a little something from being introspective now and again.  We all have been given the gift of amazing resources, significant access to capital, amazing mentors, and the most democratic distribution channel the world will ever know.  Why shouldn’t every ounce of that good fortune go into building the absolutely most impactful and important companies that we can create?  Go forth and conquer.

Photo credit: Robert Scoble.


  • AARON LEVIE

Aaron Levie is the CEO and co-founder of Box.net, which he originally created as a college business project with the goal of helping people easily access their information from any location. Box.net was launched from Aaron’s dorm room in 2005 with the help of CFO Dylan Smith. He is the visionary behind Box’s product and platform strategy, which is focused on incorporating the best of traditional content management with the most effective elements of social business software. He has…

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How our online connectivity is making us better human beings

Technology isolates us. We end up with our faces glued to our computer or smartphone screens, and miss what’s going on in the world around us. It makes us antisocial and lazy. And if we’re not careful, it could take us on a one-way trip straight into Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

That’s what some people might have you believe. I, for one, don’t agree. Not entirely.

A little over a week ago, I came across a video in which a Mongolian family experienced seeing their photos for the first time. The video was the perfect reminder, not only of the things that we take for granted in our lives every day, but of the positive effect that technology can have on our lives. It’s easy to complain that our teenagers spend far too much time texting each other using their fancy smartphones, and like Louis CK once said, our sense of entitlement to that technology can be obnoxious, but there is good to be found in that technology too.

Louis CK’s diatribe is hilarious but there’s a lesson to be learned, and remembered – and that is the incredible opportunities that technology has afforded us.

Watching a little Mongolian boy look at his photo, sniff the Polaroid, and hand it back to the photographer, it’s hard not to feel some sense of emotion, it’s hard not to smile.

Technology creates miracles

I know that sounds cheesy but after watching a video of a woman who was able to hear herself speak for the first time, it’s hard not to think of technology itself as a miracle. With the help of technology, a 29-year-old woman who was born deaf can now hear the sound of her own laugh. It wasn’t long before the video went viral (it’s racked up over 3 million views in under a week) – and it’s the epitome of how technology can be good for our sense of humanity.

Of course the video wasn’t without its detractors, questioning the science, poking holes in the video and calling it fake. But set that aside, and you are able to share in Sloan Churman’s intensely private moment. This video is the epitome of how technology and humanity collide to create something significant, something life-changing and something beautiful.

“Machines are helping us to be more human”

In her TED talk, anthropologist Amber Case brings up several important points about the use of technology, social media and the Internet, and its effect of our humanity. She explains that we each possess what is called ‘Ambient Intimacy’ simply by owning a cell phone. In that tiny little device exists the ability to connect with hundreds, if not thousands of people, simply at the touch of a button.

There is, of course, the need to be able to detach ourselves from that at times, and resist looking down at our smartphone screens, and instead, make eye contact with a person as we speak to them. Achieve the right balance and you suddenly have an incredibly powerful, intimate and above all ‘human’ tool in your hands.

Just because the connection is made through a phone line, or a chat program, or even through a tweet, it is an expression of our humanity, of our desire to connect with people, and to be heard.

Twitter is a wonderful example of that sense of humanity. Yes there’s a lot of mundane what-they-had-for-breakfast tweets, or complaints about traffic, and many other tiny little moments of your day that in reality, no one is concerned with but you.

But then there is also the communal experience of coming together for a good cause.

Can we get Maikel Nabil to trend on Twitter?

This morning, when I logged on Twitter, I tweeted an article I posted on The Next Web, exchanged a few tweets about the state of Egypt’s tourism, and tweeted an article about a pair of Iranian bloggers whose suicides are shrouded in mystery.

Then one tweeter I follow began to tweet exclusively about Maikel Nabil. If you’re not familiar with Maikel Nabil – he is the first Egyptian blogger to be sentenced to prison after the toppling of former Egyptian president, Hosny Mubarak’s dictatorship. He was sentenced to three years for insulting the military. The insult was in the form of a blog post in which he documented the military’s human rights violations in Egypt since February 11th 2011. Maikel turned 26 while in prison.

For the past 40 days, he has been on hunger strike. Already suffering from a serious heart condition, and denied medical treatment, his condition is said to be quickly deteriorating and he could be the first political prisoner to die in Egypt’s military prisons since the uprising in January – that we know of .

It was one tweet in particular that caught my eye – a call to get his name to trend on Twitter.

MN How our online connectivity is making us better human beingsIn the grand scheme of things, does a trending topic on Twitter really matter? Maybe not. After all, it’s often over-run by Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga fans who can make pretty much anything trend if they want. Trending topics are more often than not the furthest thing from a noble cause you can imagine – and that’s fine.

But when people come together to express sympathy, to express outrage, to express a sense of understanding, collectively over one thing – it becomes a beautiful expression of humanity. It sounds silly without examples, but when Troy Davis‘ name was trending on Twitter it was a symbol of a collective consciousness standing up and speaking out against injustice. Yet, it’s not enough. People need to go out and take effective steps to make sure that no more innocent men are met with Troy Davis’ fate – but a trending topic can be a spark to let that happen.

Maikel Nabil is another perfect example of that. An outpouring of expression is taking place on Twitter – with tweets supporting Maikel Nabil’s cause, speaking about him, speaking about his history, his beliefs and who he is as a person.

My timeline was instantly filled with tweets about Maikel, and it felt natural to join. Some people questioned what good a trending topic is to Maikel, and some of you may be asking the same question.

mn2 How our online connectivity is making us better human beings

In the past, public outcry has proven to be all that is needed to pressure the release of activists, and Twitter has played something of a role in that task in the past few months. The expression of solidarity using technology is often a powerful tool. It is a tool of public awareness, and as a result of just the mere attempt of getting his name to trend, many people are finding out about Maikel Nabil for the first time.

Sarah’s request to get Maikel Nabil’s name to trend under the hashtag, #MaikelNabil, is an expression of her humanity, and by extension, an expression of the humanity of each and every single person who joined. It is a statement that we will not let Maikel Nabil disappear in silence. And is there anything more human than standing up for a person, whether or not you share the same beliefs, ideologies, or even language? Standing up for him is the ‘human’ thing to do – and the technology we have in our hands makes it possible for each and every one of us to stand up for humanity, right this minute.

OpenStack Leader: Open Source Needs to Rethink Its Priorities

Josh McKenty, Piston Cloud (150 sq).jpgPhilosophically, the open source concept borrows some selected elements from socialism. It upholds a notion of the “common good,” it eschews the appearance of authority or hierarchy, and it often frowns upon capitalizing on one’s own work, insofar as being exclusive. In practice, however, open source projects may look less like Big Brother from 1984 and more like Big Brother from reality TV.

Joshua McKenty’s still-young career is, compared to those of other capitalist executives, surprisingly replete. He’s led development teams for the Netscape browser, and is intimately familiar with Netscape’s successors at Mozilla. His next stroke of luck was with the space program, helping to create and then lead one of the world’s most successful cloud computing projects, NASA Nebula. His work with NASA spawned the open source community’s most successful – and perhaps most important – project in the last few years, the OpenStack cloud operating system – and he sits on that project’s governing body. In-between jobs, he just happened to pioneer an earthquake modeling system for the World Bank.

Amazon “Punches Apple Hard” With Kindle Fire’s $199 Price

Kindle fire $199

With the Kindle Fire, Amazon is making its first foray into tablet computers, a market where Apple dominates with its iPad and nothing else has even made a dent.  The Android-based Kindle Fire is an impressive media tablet, and Jeff Bezos understands that the device itself is only part of the equation. It is merely the front-end of a set of end-to-end services which will deliver digital media from Amazon’s servers to people’s hands.

But the Kindle Fire is no iPad, and Bezos knows that too. So he is using something else to differentiate the Fire from the iPad: price. The $199 price of the fire surprised almost everyone. It is $300 lower than the cheapest iPad 2. So even if it is not as fully featured, doesn’t work as smoothly and will launch with a laughably small number of apps (less than 1 percent of the number of apps available on the iPad, which is currently over 100,000), all of that may not matter. Because if it is good enough, millions of people will decide to buy it for $199 instead of spending $499 for an iPad.

One of Amazon’s advantages as a retailer with scale has always been price. And it is using it effectively with the Kindle Fire, which is already the second-best selling Kindle on Amazon (the first is the new $79 Kindle). There is a reason the Kindle Fire is not launching with 3G service, and only WiFi. Amazon had to do everything to get it down to that $199 price point.

Bezos knows he can’t take on Apple head on. Instead, he is doing everything he can to carve out a new space in the tablet market for Amazon, and price is a big part of it. In a letter to customers that is currently on the homepage of Amazon, he “punches Apple hard,” in the words of investor John Borthwick. The letter starts:

There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less. Both approaches can work. We are firmly in the second camp.

Bezos made the same point during the launch announcement of the new Kindle line last week. “We are building premium products at non-premium prices,” he said. Apple, of course, builds premium products at premium prices. Will it have to respond by lowering the price of the iPad even lower, or can it stick to the high road?


John Borthwick

 

Tesla’s Model S Betas revealed [photos, video]

Customer rides of the Model S Beta

Electric car maker Tesla Motors took the wraps off of its electric Model S sedan Betas at a customer event this weekend, allowing interested customers the opportunity to participate in short drives of three of the company’s Model S beta cars. Beta cars are essentially a fully-completed car before the car goes into final production, and you can see the differences in styling between Tesla’s alpha Model S cars (photos here), and this close-to-commercial beta.

Tesla’s VP of Worldwide Sales and Experience, George Blankenship, told me that close to 3,000 people attended the Model S Customer event on Saturday night at Tesla’s Fremont plant, and the event included tours of the factory, food and drinks, and the opportunity to buy more Tesla merch like t-shirts. As you can see from my photos, at least a dozen customers that already own Tesla’s first car the Roadster, attended and lined up their Roadsters outside of the event. I also saw two Nissan electric LEAFs, and a lot of really high-end cars in the parking lot.

The Tesla’s Model S is supposed to be available to the public in mid-2012 and will cost $57,400 (or $49,900 after the U.S. federal tax credit) for the 160-mile version. The 230-mile Model S starts at about $10,000 higher and the 300-mile Model S starts at about $20,000 higher than the base. Tesla says it has 6,000 reservations for the car.

Here’s a video I took of one of the test rides (It was just with my cell phone video, so excuse the shaky hand. We’ll have more detailed videos coming up):

Here’s my photos of the event:

 

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
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Is Kickstarter the best solution for independent creators?

Last week, YouTube star Freddie Wong made tech blog headlines when he launched a Kickstarter project to fund a new action/comedy web series about video games.

The fact that he’s using Kickstarter isn’t news — it’s the fact that in 24 hours, he raised $77,000, $2,000 more than his fundraising goal of $75,000. As of Friday afternoon, with 21 days left, over $118,000 had been pledged. This is only the latest example of the thriving Kickstarter economy, which since 2009 has become an increasingly common way for independent creators to fund their projects.

The economics of Kickstarter, if you’re not familiar, work like this: the aspiring create project pages to solicit funds from friends, family, their fans, or total strangers. Much like a PBS pledge drive, certain types of rewards kick in for set amounts — for $10, you might receive a DVD of the project once it’s completed, while for $50 you might get the DVD as well as a T-shirt.

And as the numbers go up, the rewards become increasingly lavish and creative: For $1,000 you might get a producer credit or a walk-on role in the project — plus, of course, the DVD and T-shirt. Other sites like IndieGoGo offer similar services, but Kickstarter’s catch is this — if a project doesn’t meet its fundraising goal within a set period of time, then it’s canceled, thus creating an urgency to the project that inspires donations. Kickstarter collects a five percent fee from a project’s funding total.

In the last year or so, this has lead to a surge of potential projects born with crowd-sourcing — if you’re on the Internet and know at least one wannabe filmmaker, then you’ve probably already received at least one Kickstarter request, which comedy sketch troupe The Vacationeers has satirized brilliantly.

But according to Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler, the site has become a serious option for creators seeking cash. The newest documentary by Helvetica director Gary Hustwit, Urbanized, raised its $118,505 budget this way; Pariah, a low-budget drama that premiered at Sundance 2011 and is considered a potential Oscar contender, used the site to raise $10,000 to finish production.

In total, there have been 3,500 successfully funded projects in Kickstarter’s Film and Video category, raising more than $35 million from donors: $12 million for narrative features, $12 million for documentary features, $11 million for short films, and two million apiece for web series and animation.

This makes the Film and Video category by far the most successful of Kickstarter’s 13 options, something Strickler attributes to the fact that filmmakers are used to the hustle required for fundraising. “When we were making Kickstarter, we had the broad idea of it being for creative projects — I don’t know that we expected film to leap out like it has,” Strickler said in a phone interview. “But I spend a lot of time working with filmmakers, and working in the film world means that you are a perpetual fundraiser.”

Putting a project on Kickstarter, therefore, is the natural evolution of, say, Spider-man director Sam Raimi asking dentists for the money to make The Evil Dead.

Elisha Yaffe first used Kickstarter last year, when he and his partners used the site to raise enough money to complete the independent web series Remember When. His second Kickstarter project, to fund a new web series called Girl Crazy, also just reached its fundraising goal with days to spare. To him, the benefits of Kickstarter are both financial and psychological. “In order to get my crew inspired, I felt we needed some support. No matter how much people give, it inspires a production,” he said in a phone interview.

One change Yaffe observed between the two projects was that whereas with Remember When, the donors were largely comprised of friends and family, with Girl Crazy there were more donors Yaffe couldn’t say he knew personally, pointing to the site’s potential power as a discovery engine. “It’s leading to a user base that supports cool independent projects that they want to see,” he said.

Another recent Kickstarter success is Jesse Thorn, who recently completed fundraising for the second season of Put This On, a sartorially-inclined web series that has raised over $70,000 for an ambitious concept involving travel to London, Milan and New York.

Put This On, Episode 7: Personal Style from Put This On on Vimeo.

Put This On and Kickstarter go way back — the 2009 pilot was funded by Kickstarter while the site was still in beta — and crowdsourcing made sense to Thorn, as he’d already built the podcast/radio show The Sound of Young America using public radio-style fundraising. The evolution of the site, for him, comes down to how potential donors approach it. “People originally wanted to support [Put This On] as a charitable endeavor, but they’re now understanding that it’s a financial transaction. They’re not just sending us a couple of bucks because they like us, but because they wanted to see a second season. They have a stake in it, and that’s great for us.” he said.

The pledge rewards are also a key element to inspiring donations. “The call to action has to have something to push people, because once they pull out their credit cards, the amount is negotiable. But if you’re not manufacturing a project, you either have to spend some money, or do something cool that uses a little bit of your time but doesn’t necessarily cost anything,” Thorn said. For example, for a $1,000 donation to Put This On‘s second season, rewards included a producer credit and a hand-selected necktie. One person took them up on that.

Yaffe warns, though, that Kickstarter isn’t necessarily the savior of the independent creator. “It’ll always be there as a solid tool to getting your full budget, but it’s not something you can rely on entirely.” he said. “More people are considering [Kickstarter] as an option, which is good, but the impact is a little less. We raised more money for Girl Crazy than Remember When, but it took more effort,” Yaffe said.

The key to Kickstarter seems to be this: As a way of raising money, it works — but only if you use it to channel your natural hustle. “Some people look at Kickstarter and think it’s free money, but it’s not. You have to have an audience,” Thorn said.

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Facebook vs. Google+ – A Tale of the Tape

It’s easy to draw comparisons between Facebook and Google+. Sure, the two products are both “social networks” in which you can add friends, share content, and interact. But the two are actually very different and serve very different purposes. A lot of people in the press decide to use headlines like this to make an interesting story, but once you really dive into each product experience, you can tell that the two are not alike at all. There is one battle though, and that’s a battle of developer agility, uniqueness, and user base. That’s the only “vs.” here.

Raging Bull 300x232 Facebook vs. Google+   A Tale of the Tape

The purpose

The purpose of Facebook is to connect friends and friends together, so that you can keep in contact with them. Facebook is where you announce a new relationship, show everyone who your mother is, and get kudos on your birthday. It’s a very personal experience, and with the new timeline profile display, the experience got even deeper and more personal.

Google+ on the other hand is more about discovery. Discovery of content, and perhaps making some new friends, or being impressed by a current friends interests in a new way. Sure, Facebook has a news feed and you can watch the links and videos trickle in there, but Google+ has a different experience, one that now includes search.

Google+ is driven by search, and Facebook is driven by human connection.

It’s a classic Robot vs. Human. There’s no “winner” here, the two are different experiences.

The agility

connection 225x300 Facebook vs. Google+   A Tale of the TapeI’ve been watching Facebook and Google very closely for the past few years. The last Six months has been the most active for the two companies when it comes to social. It’s not so much a feature war, it truly is a battle of quality.

Facebook has done amazing things with Photos and Videos, and most people take it for granted. Its service is rarely disrupted, the way it displays photos and video are elegant, and it’s amazing to think that these projects were started during a famous Facebook hackathon.

Google+ is Google’s first real social venture. The company has been working on it for years we’re told, and it shows. The Google Hangout experience is amazing. People think of Skype first when they think of video conferencing, but honestly Google+ destroys them with its handling of a large room of people talking in a video hangout. The video switches as people talk automatically, that alone is absolutely awesome.

The speed is not as important as the quality of the work, but both companies have exhibited that each can do both. No wonder the two are battling for talent. The survival of the fittest is at play here.

The business

Again, this is a man vs. machine model. Sure, Facebook has algorithms, but those algorithms are based on interpersonal relationships and interactions. Google doesn’t focus on connections so much that we can see yet, and as usual is focused solely on data.

There is no “winner” here yet. I have said for years that “the people are the platform”, and I still believe it to be true. The people who use a service are vastly more important than the service they’re using. Zynga would not be so popular on the Facebook platform unless there were people obsessed with playing its games and sharing every single mundane milestone they hit on said games.

Facebook flopped with project “Beacon”, its way of using people to sell product. However, seeing Spotify’s early success on Facebook’s platform shows the true power of people. Spotify is going to be a huge company with huge success, and huge profits.

Google on the other hand bought YouTube. A purchase that goes overlooked quite a bit, and that’s exactly what it wants. We all use YouTube, and Google has added its search and Adsense infrastructure to it, and it’s a beast.

Two different models of monetization here using two different approaches.

The end game

You may very well want to use both services. It truly shouldn’t be a one or the other, or a one is better than the other thing. Black and white doesn’t apply here. Things aren’t binary, even when it involves computers.

Facebook will be around for a long time, don’t believe the hype-creep on that. The company is not MySpace, and Mark Zuckerberg is not Tom. He is brilliant, the team he surrounded himself is brilliant, and its doing things to enable us to engage with people we haven’t talked to in years, and people we talk to everyday in ways we didn’t think were imaginable.

Google has opened up the world’s information for us. By typing a word into a search box, we can immediately get all of the information that we want. In seconds. Remember when you forgot who starred in that movie you liked? You had to call your brother, mom, uncle, cousin, and best friend. That was BG. Before Google. Google changed the world, and continues to do so.

You may complain about changes, and you may complain about features, and you may want to start a vs. war with Facebook and Google and that’s fine, because everyone is entitled to an opinion.

The real truth is, that we use these services for free. We do absolutely pay with our information and data, but that data is something we’ve shared since the beginning of time. It’s just now being stored.

Why not use Facebook and Google+? You might end up being the true winner.

Here Are The Top 7 Highest Paying Companies In Silicon Valley (AAPL, GOOG, MSFT, AOL)

jack dorsey twitter money suitcase

Image: Illustration: Ellis Hamburger

See Also:

katy perry at facebook 400

quora for iphone

nick bilton money


Former Google Engineer Gareth Jones is a number whiz, as you might expect.

Jones used “open sources of information on the internet” to create TechCompanyPay, a list of averages representing how well the biggest companies in Silicon Valley compensate their employees.

It only took Jones three hours to hotwire the site.

While we can’t vouch for the accuracy of the site, we’ll bet it at least provides a ballpark estimate into how much these companies are paying.

So which company comes in at number one?

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