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Original author: 
Peter Kafka

Thanks to Quartz’s Zach Seward for jogging my memory about this oldie and goodie: Tumblr’s David Karp in a video interview taped in 2007, when he was 21, had 75,000 users and was talking about stuff like Digg, Flickr … and Twitter.

Karp’s interviewer is Howard Lindzon, who’s now known as the guy behind StockTwits. Assuming that the interview was taped close to the time it was published, it would have meant that the two men were talking as Karp was raising his first funding round of $750,000, led by Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital.

No need to say anything else:

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Original author: 
Liz Gannes

Sosh, a service that gives people interesting and personalized local recommendations, has been live in San Francisco for a little more than a year. The company combines a heap of analysis of online postings with a sliver of hands-on curation to figure out good stuff to do.

SoshIn San Francisco, the site and app have signed up one in eight people between the ages of 21 and 40 (and these are real people; Sosh requires Facebook Connect). In certain circles — and not just the techies — you hear about Sosh all the time.

Now Sosh is trying its first remote launch, in New York City. So New Yorkers, if you’re looking for secret menu items and special shows and quirky events, you can try it, too.

By the way, Sosh doesn’t monetize yet, and you won’t find discount deals on the service — this is a venture-funded company that thinks it can build a marketplace for the interest graph — eventually.

Next up for Sosh: Chicago, Boston, L.A. and Seattle.

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Original author: 
Peter Kafka

Maybe you’ve heard that your Facebook “Likes” say more about you than you think — and that there’s a scientific study that says so.

But it turns out that you really didn’t need a study to suss out some of this stuff. Stephen Colbert explains.

Bonus: Keep your eyes peeled and see if you can spot a “native ad” from Cadillac!

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A more honest “Like” button. Image: Webmonkey.

Social sharing buttons — Facebook “Like” buttons and their ilk — are ubiquitous, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good idea.

Designers tend to hate them, calling them “Nascar” buttons since the can make your site look at little bit like a Nascar racing car — every available inch of car covered in advertising. Others think the buttons make you look desperate — please, please like/pin/tweet me — but there’s a much more serious problem with putting Facebook “Like” buttons or Pinterest “Pin It” buttons on your site: your visitors’ privacy.

When you load up your site with a host of sharing buttons you’re — unwittingly perhaps — enabling those companies to track your visitors, whether they use the buttons and their accompanying social networks or not.

There is, however, a slick solution available for those who’d like to offer visitors sharing buttons without allowing their site to be a vector for Facebook tracking. Security expert (and Wired contributor) Bruce Schneier recently switched his blog over to use Social Share Privacy, a jQuery plugin that allows you to add social buttons to your site, but keeps them disabled until visitors actively choose to share something.

With Social Share Privacy buttons are disabled by default. A user needs to first click to enable them, then click to use them. So there is a second (very small) step compared to what the typical buttons offer. In exchange for the minor inconvenience of a second click, your users won’t be tracked without their knowledge and consent. There’s even an option in the preferences to permanently enable the buttons for repeat visitors so they only need to jump through the click-twice hoop once.

The original Social Share Privacy plugin was created by the German website Heise Online, though what Schneier installed is Mathias Panzenböck’s fork, available on GitHub. The fork adds support for quite a few more services and is extensible if there’s something else you’d like to add.

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magnifying glassLast year, Facebook started running ads that used your Web surfing history to target you. Soon they’ll be a little more obvious about the fact that they’re doing it.

But not a lot more obvious.

After months of discussion with the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Facebook is going to start incorporating a small triangular “AdChoices” logo on some of the ads where it uses “retargeting” — the common Web practice of serving ads to surfers based on the sites they’ve already visited.

If you have a sharp eye, you may have seen the triangle on lots of other Web sites, including those run by Yahoo and Google. That’s the result of a self-policing move Web publishers made a couple years ago, in an attempt to keep privacy watchdogs and Federal regulators off their backs.

Here’s what it looks like, for instance, on an ad running on Yahoo’s home page today.

yahoo adchoices

In theory, when you see one of the triangles, you can click on it and learn more about a given Web publisher’s targeting practices. And then you can opt out of them if you want (here’s what happens if you click on Yahoo’s triangle).

In practice, I find it hard to believe most consumers notice the icons at all (that text looks a whole lot smaller when it’s side by side with everything else competing for your attention on a Web page). Or that they’ll understand the language they’ll encounter if they do click on them (“The Web sites you visit work with online advertising companies to provide you with advertising that is as relevant and useful as possible,” etc.)

In any case, Facebook is going to start using the same icons for some of the ads it serves up on the right side of its home page, where it has begun selling retargeted ads through its Facebook Exchange program.

Except you won’t see them unless you look for them, by hovering your mouse over the ad and clicking on the grey “x” that appears when you do. And Facebook doesn’t plan on using them on all of its retargeted ads — a Facebook rep says the company will only do so when its advertisers or ad tech partners choose to use them.

If that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s at least an improvement over the current set-up. Right now, the only way you can learn that you’re seeing a retargeted ad is if you mouse over the ad, click the grey “x” and then click on the “About this ad” option.

If it turns out you’re seeing a retargeted ad, you’ll see a page that may or may not explain what you’re looking at. Here’s one I found today, from retargeter Chango, after clicking on a Dish Network ad.

If you care and know about this stuff, you’ll understand what you’re looking at. If not …

Which brings us back to the eternal “who does care about this stuff” question.

As The Wall Street Journal has documented via its excellent “What They Know” reports, the Web ad guys know a ton about you (so do the offline ad guys). And if you tell a normal person about it, they’ll get a little creeped out. They’ll also tell you that they think privacy is really, really important to them.

But in practice, this doesn’t seem to be an issue that galvanizes regular folks. And it has yet to find a powerful political ally — you didn’t see anyone running on the “I took on the cookie people” platform last fall.

Maybe that will change, and Facebook and its peers will have to be a lot more obvious about this stuff — or even ask consumers for permission before they go about doing it.

But for now, this seems like it will be enough.

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Venture investors still have a healthy appetite for early-stage consumer Internet companies, but those startups are having a harder time raising follow-on financing.

Overall the amount invested in consumer information services was off 42% in the first nine months as the difficulties of newly public Internet companies such as Facebook and Zynga cast doubt on the business models and valuations of social media companies.

Read the rest of this post on the original site

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Ten days ago, the social video app Cinemagram was hovering around No. 50 in the iOS U.S. photo and video category. The company needed about eight Amazon servers to keep itself running. It had a respectable number of downloads, but no real pop.

Then it released a new version that, among other tweaks, required users to create accounts in order to use the app  – effectively making Cinemagram a social network rather than just a GIF creation tool.

Temo Chalasani

The pickup was nearly instant. Cinemagram shot up to the top of the App Store — it went as high as No. 2, and is currently No. 4. The five-person company needed as many as 720 Amazon servers before figuring out how to be more efficient. They’re now at about 300.

Today, the app is nearing five million downloads, with hundreds of thousands of daily active users growing at a rate of 10 percent to 15 percent per day, according to internal metrics.

(Check out the App Annie charts to see how things shot up shortly after the new release on Oct. 10.)

I met Cinemagram founder Temo Chalasani for a hurried lunch amid Amazon outages on Monday, during which he described a bit more about how his company emerged from relative obscurity to madcap momentum.

To be sure, it’s entirely unclear what angle this particular growth event will look like in a few months. Will this be the beginning of the Cinemagram hockey stick? A spike that recedes back to normalcy? Will everyone get caught up in the “is-it-the-next-Instagram?” hype and then regret it?

Chalasani is the first to admit that there are many mobile social video apps. And many of them are trying various tricks to make video more snackable and mobile-friendly — for instance, Vine, which was recently bought by Twitter before even being released, promised to make it simple to make little video summary highlight reels.

And, actually, when I first talked to Chalasani in April, he wasn’t calling Cinemagram a video app. Rather, it was a GIF creation app. Basically, you could make a sort of hybrid photo-video where you animated one part of a photo while leaving the rest frozen by “masking” it. The effect can be really cool and mesmerizing when done right.

It turned out that people liked creating these nifty, artsy GIFs, but they also just liked making short, silent personal videos. A few months ago, Cinemagram started offering the option to post straight videos without doing the GIF animation trick. Today, 75 percent of Cinemagram videos have no masking effect.

Still, the original concept of animated GIFs provided some constraints for videos that actually work nicely on mobile phones. Cinemagram’s “cines” are limited to two seconds, and are silent. They’re so short that they’re basically just moving pictures. And they automatically repeat, so they’re easy to tune in and out of.

“This is not the kind of video you would find on YouTube,” said Chalasani.

Rather, it’s the kind of video that’s incredibly easy for people to make and watch on mobile phones.

Chalasani pointed out that two seconds is actually a normal limit for the length of a shot you’d see in a movie — only a professional editor would cobble tons of these little shots together.

A couple seconds is not enough for a plot, but you can maybe get across an emotion or a mood.

As such, cines tend to be quite personal. But like any other social network, Cinemagram benefits from the halo of celebrity users. Below is a popular cine of rapper Tyga’s brand-new son, from a few days ago.

So is that the lesson, then? Slap a social network onto a nifty video app and you’re done? Maybe, but it wasn’t just that, Chalasani said.

For instance, one other recent trick that helped boost Cinemagram growth was better social sharing. Of the major social networks, only Tumblr supports GIFs. So Cinemagram made a sort of widget that makes its videos play in Facebook news feeds.

TechCrunch’s Kim-Mai Cutler also notes that Cinemagram isn’t the only mobile social media iOS app that seems to be growing like a weed; Snapchat is another recent standout. (Super-secret tip: For more on Snapchat, come to our Dive Into Mobile conference next week.)

Cinemagram raised a $1 million convertible note over the summer, and much of the team is in the process of moving from Montreal to San Francisco. Currently, my Cinemagram feed is jam-packed with Silicon Valley investors giving it a whirl.

Besides the VC money, Chalasani and the team do have some semblance of a business plan. They already have a relationship with Red Bull to make highlight reels out of user-submitted cines.

But right now they’re just trying to keep up with hypergrowth.

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Asa Mathat / AllThingsD.com

Like any young start-up, the early days of Facebook were thin and scrappy. Its very first server back in 2004 cost $85 to rent. They didn’t spend more than they had in the bank. They were small, tight and still had everything to prove.

To do that, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, the company needed to test its mettle against its existing competitors. And back then, those weren’t MySpace or Friendster, but the existing social networks inside U.S. universities.

“We first went to schools that were hardest to succeed at,” Zuckerberg said on Saturday morning, kicking off the Y Combinator Startup School event in Palo Alto, California. “If we had a product that was better than others, it would be worth investing in.”

Zuckerberg spoke to a packed house in the Stanford Memorial Hall auditorium, with an audience mostly composed of twentysomethings, the veritable next wave of young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. The conference is geared toward the young and idealistic, those who may build the Facebooks or Twitters of tomorrow. Hence, Zuckerberg focused on the challenges of turning a rough-and-tumble outfit into the 1-billion-user-strong social giant it is today.

So if you’ll hearken back to 2004, Facebook’s first days were limited to college students alone, those who had verified university email addresses. It was a play for an early conception of true online identity; unlike other existing networks, you were supposed to be yourself on Facebook.

After first growing Facebook inside of Harvard’s network, then, the plan was essentially to go hard or go home — to launch the network at universities like Columbia, Stanford and Yale. These were the schools, Zuckerberg said, that had the most integrated social networks campus-wide. If Facebook caught on here, it’d be safer to assume that scaling to less-integrated schools would be a downhill battle.

That’s exactly what happened. Facebook spread from school to school, moving slowly to cope with the early scaling issues that popular services often face (Twitter and the Fail Whale, anyone?).

Much of the other advice Zuckerberg offered to the young crowd was the usual platitudes — listen to your users, stay simple, be reliable.

But his most important point was clear: Punch above your weight class. If your product is better than anything out there, the users will let you know it.

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Social learning start-up Grockit launched Learnist on Thursday, a stand-alone product separate from Grockit’s flagship online collaborative test preparation service.

Learnist builds on Grockit’s social teaching concept while adding another element that company founder Farb Nivi claims is crucial: The visual element.

Think of Learnist as something of a mashup between Pinterest and Wikipedia. Users find content from across the Web — videos, news stories, music, Soundcloud links and what have you — and post it to a personal board that other users can follow. It’s ideal, Nivi says, for teachers who want to curate multimedia lessons for students to follow, though without the feel of a stodgy, traditional lesson plan.

Grockit has already garnered a following, attracting more than a million users through its test prep service product alone. But the user pool for online test prep is only so large. With Grockit’s wiki-like Learnist product, the company hopes to spread its reach far beyond the cramming crowd. Facebook integration, which the product indeed has, will only help to further the cause.

Naturally, iPad and iPhone apps are in the works, to be expected in the coming weeks.

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