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Category: Foursquare

Amazon Web Services cloud problems affect Foursquare, HootSuite, Reddit

HootSuite

Social media websites such as Foursquare, HootSuite and Reddit crashed temporarily Thursday because of problems at Amazon Web Services' data center.

HootSuite -- a Web-based "dashboard" application that allows users to manage content on Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter and WordPress -- said on its homepage Thursday morning that the problems were affecting a large number of sites.

"Oh no! It seems much of the Internet is struggling today due to widespread outage problems," HootSuite said on its homepage. "We're working diligently with our upstream providers to resolve the conundrums so we can be back online as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience."

Reddit, a social news website, was unavailable to users by about noon Thursday.

"Reddit is in 'emergency read-only mode' right now because Amazon is experiencing a degradation," said a note atop Reddit's homepage Thursday morning. "They are working on it, but we are still waiting for them to get to our volumes. You won't be able to log in. We're sorry and will fix the site as soon as we can."

While HootSuite and Reddit were down, the location-tracking service Foursquare was among the Amazon Web Services customers whose sites were down earlier in the day but back up late Thursday morning.

"Our usually amazing data center hosts, Amazon EC2, are having a few hiccups this morning, which affected us and a bunch of other services that use them," Foursquare said in a blog post.

Officials at the Seattle company were unavailable for comment on the server problems Thursday afternoon, but a status update page on its Web Services site said the problems began early in the morning at a server bank in northern Virgina.

At 11 a.m. Thursday, Amazon said in a status update that it was working on the problem but wasn't exactly sure when it would be resolved.

"A number of people have asked us for an ETA on when we'll be fully recovered," the Amazon update said. "We deeply understand why this is important and promise to share this information as soon as we have an estimate that we believe is close to accurate. Our high-level ballpark right now is that the ETA is a few hours. We can assure you that all-hands are on deck to recover as quickly as possible. We will update the community as we have more information."

Amazon Web Services uses a large number of server computers in multiple data centers across the U.S. Amazon also specializes in "utility" server needs, which allow users to buy storage space and hosting.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of HootSuite's warning to users that its service was down temporarily Thursday morning. Credit: HootSuite

Attention Facebook: Foursquare is still going places

We checked in today with Foursquare, which has rolled out a new version of its social networking service that lets people check in on their smart phones everywhere they go.

In August, when Facebook, with more than half a billion users, launched its rival product Places, there was much talk of doom and gloom for Foursquare. Seven months later, Foursquare has more than doubled its number of users, to 7.5 million. It adds about 35,000 users each day.

"We are seeing 2 million check-ins per day," said co-founder Dennis Crowley.

So much for Facebook flatlining Foursquare. 

Explorebutton "We are trying to do something different than what Facebook is trying to do. We are trying to change the way people experience the physical world so they will go out and actively explore more," Crowley said.

Foursquare is offering users a new way to discover places to go and things to do based on what you like, where you are and the kinds of places you typically check in. It's an "explore" button that acts like recommendations on Netflix or Amazon.com, he said.

"We are building technology that facilitates serendipity," Crowley said.

A new search function also lets you type in keywords to get suggestions on where to go. For example, a friend in Brooklyn with a flat tire typed that search term and found a nearby shop with a $10 discount when Foursquare users checked in.

Foursquare is also giving businesses a variety of deals and discounts they can use to win new customers or reward loyal customers.

And Foursquare has cranked up the game dynamics with a new leader board that gives you points for all kinds of activities such as trying a new restaurant or checking in with a group of friends.


Some people have been waiting for these new features for a long time. Crowley jokes that they have been on his to-do list for two years. After all, this is the natural evolution of Foursquare. Now the wait is over: The latest version of Foursquare will be available for iPhones and Android phones Wednesday. Was it worth it? Check it out and let us know.

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Foursquare says it grew 3,400% in 2010

Foursquare grew 3,400% last year, the location-based social networking service said of itself on Monday.

The small, but increasingly popular, company made the announcement in a blog post with an infographic, stating: "Honestly, 2010 was just insane. The numbers tell the story better than we can, so we put together this little infographic. (Also, our 6,000,000th user signed up last week!)"

Foursquare-logo According to Foursquare's graphic (which can be seen below), 381,576,305 check-ins took place last year worldwide. The last country to check-in in 2010 was North Korea.

Users can check-in to a location or event on Foursquare, using smart phone apps or online, to earn badges showing where they've been or what they've done. If a user has checked in more times than anyone else over the last two months, that person becomes the "mayor" of that location or event.

Many have questioned what the point of such location-based services might be, while others use it as a way to see what their friends are doing and where, or even meet people who frequent the places they do. Either way, it seems a lot of people took to the service in 2010. As of December 2010, the company had 5,000,000 users.

The largest number of people who used the service to check in to an event was 30,525 Foursquare users at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity in D.C. back on Oct. 30. Those who did check in at the event were awarded a special Foursquare badge that shows up online and in a user's Foursquare app user profile.

There was also one check-in from space, from the International Space Station, on Oct. 22.

The most popular categories for check-ins were food, work/office and shops.

The Hollywood Bowl was the second-most checked-in music venue last year, topped only by Terminal 5 in New York City. California was the top state for gym check-ins, with such check-ins accounting for 2.48% of all check-ins in 2010.

And -- displaying a sense of humor -- Foursquare noted that 224 people named Wendy checked into Wendy's restaurants last year and that one was even the mayor of a Wendy's in Madison, Wis.

Foursquare was launched by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas, in March 2009.

Foursquare_2010

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: Foursquare 2010 growth infographic. Credit: Foursquare 

Neer is location technology for those who don't want to overshare

Neer Logo Ever since Foursquare took off at last year's South by Southwest, one question continues to vex many of its users: What's it for?

For some, it's a game of capturing the flag for their local coffee shop. For others, it's about being able to say they're a Foursquare power user with a dozen badges to prove it.

At the same time, most users have another nagging question about location-based technologies -- are they oversharing? Why does the world need to know they're at the 24-hour Fitness on Sunset Boulevard, atoning for all those Christmas cookies?

Neer, a location-based application for Android and iPhones, tries to address both of those questions. Let's start with the first question: Why? The engineers at Qualcomm who came up with the app says families, tight social circles or work groups whose members meet often can use Neer to track one another's comings and goings to coordinate everyday activities.

Did the kids get picked up? Is now a good time to start dinner? Is a colleague still in her office, or has she already gone home for the night? Those are some of the use cases Neer wants to address.

As for the second question having to do with privacy and putting out too much personal information, Neer is designed so information is shared only within one's personal groups. Unlike Foursquare, users and their locations aren't searchable.

Neer adds a second layer of obscurity to thwart snoops. Locations are called by their generic names, not their actual map coordinates. It's assumed that when a user gets a ping informing them that their spouse has arrived at "work" or "soccer practice," they already know where those places are.

The app also lets users determine when certain people on their lists receive notices. Work colleagues, for example, can see location activity only on weekdays and only between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. You can also use the app to send group messages, such as "Free beer in cafeteria now!"

So why is a San Diego-based chip company coming out with a location app? Qualcomm, which showed Neer at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, wants to give users more excuses to use their smart phones, for which Qualcomm develops much of its technologies, explained Ian Heidt, Neer's director of business development.

Right now, Neer is accurate only within a couple of blocks. But as Qualcomm and others refine the technology to more accurately pinpoint locations using wireless signal characteristics, Heidt sees a day when users can be located within a couple of yards. That is, if they want to be found.

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Consumer Electronics Show: Social media -- in it to win it

-- Alex Pham

twitter.com/AlexPham

Consumer Electronics Show: Social media -- in it to win it

Sonicemotion

For exhibitors using competitions to promote their products at the Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest prize was having social media networks spread the word that giveaways were on the go.

Some posted their competitions on CES' main Facebook page. Qualcomm used the page to promote Twitter users’ chance to win a Windows Phone 7 device powered by Snapdragon. Notebook accessory maker Ergotron also promoted its computer-stand giveaway on the page, as did Gogo in-flight entertainment.

Some used more traditional social media campaigns. Electronics maker JVC used its Twitter page to offer prizes, and Facebook “Place” users who check in at its booth also will be entered into a competition to win products.

The first 50 check-ins at the Sony booth each day get $25 Sony Style gift certificates. Sony also runs a daily photo caption contest at its blog.

Kenmore hosted a Facebook sweepstakes where users can vote for their favorite funny videos describing an appliance of the far future.

Sharp used a Foursquare tie-in to market its consumer electronics. Attendees who check in to CES on Foursquare will be eligible to win a daily prize when they visit the Sharp booth. Prizes include an iPod docking station, a Blu-ray disc player, a Sharp sound bar and a 32-inch Aquos LCD TV. If a social media user “likes” Sharp on Facebook and “follows” Sharp on Twitter, they will receive sweepstakes entries to win a 52-inch Aquos Quattron LCD TV.

Swiss-based Sonic Emotion teams with audio products company Coby to launch several social-media-themed competitions to promote its new 3-D sound bar and IP radio products for the U.S. market. It will use Facebook and Twitter, and the Follow Me and Wildfire apps, to give users a chance to win a Coby sound bar.

HeartMath, a healthcare products and services supplier, offers competitions and prizes on its Facebook and Twitter pages and will announce details of product giveaways at its booth.

Kerry Bohen at HeartMath said engaging its social media fan base at last year’s show resulted in part in the company winning the show’s "Last Gadget Standing People’s Choice Award” for its emWave personal stress reliever.

Bohen said: “This experience proved just how powerful a social network can be. Not only were HeartMath customers voting, but they were also posting personal comments about how well the product worked for them.”

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Apple, mobile devices and social media will be cybercrime targets in 2011, McAfee says

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McAfee is forecasting that social media platforms, mobile devices and Apple products will be the focus of cybercriminals in 2011.

The Santa Clara-based tech security company said location-based services such as Foursquare, as well as popular social media sites like Twitter and URL-shortening websites, will be targeted by online thieves and hackers in its annual McAfee Threat Predictions report released Tuesday.

With more online computing being done on smart phones, tablet computers and other portable gadgets, mobile devices will likely be eyed by cybercriminals as well, leading to an increased risk of personal and corporate data loss, McAfee said in the report.

And Apple products, once largely ignored by hackers and tech-thieves, will see a rise in malware sophistication as their use in professional settings continues to increase, the report said.

"We've seen significant advancements in device and social network adoption, placing a bulls-eye on the platforms and services users are embracing the most," said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs, in a statement. "These platforms and services have become very popular in a short amount of time, and we're already seeing a significant increase in vulnerabilities, attacks and data loss."

Internet-connected TVs and platforms such as Google TV, which are growing in popularity along with everything else mentioned on the list, will also become a breeding ground for cybercrimes, too, McAfee said.

McAfee also predicts that politically motivated attacks will increase next year as groups emerge, following in WikiLeaks' footsteps.

While social media as a whole has grown in popularity over the last few years, URL-shortening services will be at the forefront of cybercrime activity, the report said.

The use of shortened web addresses on sites such as Twitter leaves users vulnerable to cybercriminals who can easily mask and lead users to malicious websites, McAfee said.

More than 3,000 URLs are shortened per minute, the company said, and a growing number of those Web addresses are actually sites that can barrage users with spam, malware and other scams to get a user's data.

Location-based websites and apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places will be exploited because they track and plot the whereabouts a user and their "friends."

"In just a few clicks, cybercriminals can see in real time who is tweeting, where they are located, what they are saying, what their interests are, and what operating systems and applications they are using," McAfee said. "This wealth of personal information on individuals enables cybercriminals to craft a targeted attack."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Doctor Nir Cohen shows a patient an X-ray image on an Apple iPad at the Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv on Dec. 22. McAfee, a tech security firm, pedicted that Apple devices such as the iPad will be targeted for cybercrime as their popularity in professional settings grows. Credit: Reuters/Nir Elias

Tech leaders want more employees, hugs and golf for Christmas, according to blog

Gifts When Christmas rolls around, even influential tech personalities have wish lists.

Craig Newmark, who founded Craigslist, would like a completely new Leonard Cohen album. Tony Hsieh, founder and chief executive of online shoe and accessories giant Zappos, is hoping for “hugs and kisses.”

And for Dennis Crowley, who founded Foursquare, 10 more engineers and two more project managers would really hit the spot.

Several big names are among the more than 130 industry players who fessed up to blogger Sam England, who listed their responses on What They Want for Christmas.

Mashable.com co-editor Ben Parr has lofty holiday requests: “true and everlasting love, followed by a Bernese Mountain Dog.”

Over at Gizmodo.com, editor Jason Chen wants attention. But not in the way you think.

“It is one of the rarest things you can get, yet everyone can give it,” he explains. “Unlike most actual gifts, attention is free, yet also very expensive. You can never get your attention back, and once you give it away, you can never give it again. There’s not an infinite amount of attention to pass around.”

Freakonomics author Steven Levitt was much less philosophical. He’d be happy with a round of golf with a top professional golfer.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo credit: Jim Barcus / Kansas City Star/MCT

Foursquare: Now with photos and comments

Foursquare Using your smart phone to check in on Foursquare? Now you can leave photos, and your friends can leave comments on the location-based social-networking site.

The new version went live Monday morning on the iTunes App Store for iPhone users and will be available on Android later this week and on BlackBerry next month, the company said in a blog post.

Members can now post comments on friends’ check-ins on the Foursquare website and on links posted to Facebook and Twitter. They also can add photos to the places they visit -- like an image of a particularly delicious cookie on the Foursquare listing for a local bakery.

Photos and comments on check-ins are only visible to a user’s friends, though photos attached to tips and venues are public.

The updated Foursquare already has linked up with photo services Instagram, Picplz and Foodspotting. Soon to come: photo-sharing to Facebook and Flickr, a comment-tracking system and a storage space for old photos other than the history page.

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Microsoft's Bing adds new mobile app, map, social-media and travel features

IPhoneOpenTableinBingApp

Microsoft unveiled a slew of new mobile, local, travel and social-media features for Bing in an effort to make the search engine more competitive with search-industry leader Google.

One new feature aimed at social media fans is the option to rank search results based on what a Bing user's friends have "liked" on Facebook.

Microsoft also updated its Bing mobile apps -- for smart phones such as the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7 handsets -- to enable users to make reservations using the popular OpenTable service or order takeout using Grubhub, all from within the app.

Once checked in to a restaurant using OpenTable, a Bing app user can then "check in" at the restaurant using social-media location services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places.

Another new location-based feature for the Bing apps are reminders that users can set to pop up on their smart phones when Bing recognizes that its near a specified business or place.

Bing apps also are gaining Microsoft's Streetside feature, which is similar to Google Maps' Street View. Streetside feeds panoramic photo views of city streets to the app's maps function.

Real-time public transportation information has also been added to the Bing apps. The travel info will tell users if a bus or train is running early, on time or delayed, and the app can offer predictions for arrival times.

For now, transit routes for 11 metropolitan areas are live including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Jersey, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Vancouver. More cities will be added in the future.

One feature that isn't available yet, but that Microsoft said it's working on, is in-Bing-app ticket-buying for sports games and other events using a service called FanSnap.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

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Images: Screen shots of new Bing app restaurant check-in features on an Apple iPhone. Credit: Microsoft

Can't get enough of Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, FarmVille? Could be social media addiction

Trying to kick the social media habit?

This hilarious video from YourTango (fashioned after a 1980s after-school special) is must see TV for the Twitterati.

"C'mon, it's one little Tweet."

-- Jessica Guynn

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