Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ipod Touch: iPod Touch Running iPhone Apps

touchunlock.jpgReader Felix just let us know that he's jailbreaked and installed many of the iPhone third-party apps onto his iPod touch—including the new Summerboard hacked Springboard that lets you scroll between many different homepages. He's got Google Maps from the iPhone running on there, as well as all the other fun ones like Apollo and the NES emulator. Hit the gallery to see shots of it in action. [Thanks Felix!]

Update: Here's an earlyJailbreak Guide

And here's a list of iPod Touch Compatible Apps


Thin-Film Solar Funds: Innovalight Raises $28M

innovalight1.jpg In the race to produce cheaper solar cells using new manufacturing methods and materials, solar startups have been requiring more and more money to get their products to market. Over the past few months, Konarka, Miasolé, HelioVolt, and Nanosolar have all raised funding in an effort to reach the large-scale manufacturing stage. Another company made a funding announcement this morning: Innovalight, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based solar startup founded in 2002, said today it has raised $28 million in a Series C round.

Innovalight CEO Conrad Burke explains to us in an email that the company's technology is based on a liquid silicon ink, which contains silicon nanoparticles. A lot of the other thin-film startups are using non-silicon materials, which (at the moment) can be cheaper than silicon, but also less efficient. Innovalight is betting that its silicon ink and printing process can bring down the cost of manufacturing a solar cell and also keep the cell's efficiency levels up.

The round was led by Norway-based investor, Convexa Capital, with participation by Scatec AS, Apax Partners, ARCH Venture Partners, Harris & Harris Group, Sevin Rosen Funds and Triton Ventures. The company already raised $14 million in its Series A and B rounds. With the new funds, the company says it will move to a new 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, Calif., and hopes to start selling its solar cells in 2009.


How to create a great website


Seth's post encapsulates much of what IS web 2.0. Web 2.0 is not just social networking. Rather it is the philosophy and business practice of listening and leveraging the power of the people -- whether it is having the community to atomic units of work like tagging photos on Flickr or having members share things like app sharing on Facebook. Most advertisers are so used to one-way media such as TV, print, and radio, they are still using the Internet in the same way -- banner ads, adwords, etc.


How to create a great website

Here are principles I think you can’t avoid:

1. Fire the committee. No great website in history has been conceived of by more than three people. Not one. This is a dealbreaker.

2. Change the interaction. What makes great websites great is that they are simultaneously effortless and new at the same time. That means that the site teaches you a new thing or new interaction or new connection, but you know how to use it right away. (Hey, if doing this were easy, everyone would do it.)

3. Less. Fewer words, fewer pages, less fine print.



Search Engines: Seventy-two percent of online users report ...

Seventy-two percent of online users report experiencing " search engine fatigue," impatience and frustration at not being able to find information they need.

Suffering from Information Overload? You Aren't the Only One!: 72 Percent of Consumers Report Having ``Search Engine Fatigue,'' Reports Autobytel    

Independent "State of Search" Survey Finds 3 out of 4 Online Consumers Leave Their Computers without Finding What They're Looking For

85 Percent Wish for a One-Stop Shop to Find Everything Related to Cars, Including Purchase, Service and Accessories

IRVINE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--According to a new, independent Kelton Research survey commissioned by Autobytel Inc. (Nasdaq:ABTL) and released today on the "state of search," a whopping 72 percent of online searchers are experiencing "Search Engine Fatigue," meaning they become impatient or frustrated when they are unable to quickly find the exact information they need. Of those experiencing this modern day ailment, three out of four physically leave their computer without finding the information they are looking for.

Given that 90 percent of all car buyers1 use the Internet to shop for a vehicle, these consumers are prime candidates to experience "Search Engine Fatigue." In fact, the new Kelton Research/Autobytel survey found that nearly 40 percent of Americans describe finding the "right and relevant" car-related information on the big search engines - such as Google and Yahoo! - as overwhelming and time-consuming. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said that they have actually put off purchasing a car because they found the overall car-buying process too overwhelming or frustrating.

Considering the size of the automotive industry, estimated by several sources to be well over $1 trillion, including new and used vehicles, accessories, parts, service and repair, and taking into account the thousands of automotive-related sites on the Internet, it's no wonder that online automotive information seekers, in particular, are suffering from information overload.

Survey Shows Online Car Shopper Frustration Growing

When seeking specific car-related information, 86 percent of consumers feel big search engines have limitations or drawbacks. But their frustration doesn't end with the search engines. The survey found that online automotive researchers are also frustrated with third-party sites, such as, and More than two out of three (67 percent) feel that these third-party sites are "mostly similar," without offering "substantial differences." Thirty-six percent of consumers indicated they have to visit other websites to make sure they get the comparative information they need to make decisions.

Originally, the Internet helped to eliminate the days and hours car shoppers were forced to spend traveling from "dealership to dealership" to research and find the best deals. Now, in 2007, with the tremendous influx of information available on the Internet across all categories, online automotive consumers appear to be spending more and more time going from "site to site" to gather all the information they need to make informed decisions. Overall, according to the Kelton/Autobytel survey, the average consumer is visiting five different websites to find what they are looking for during the auto research process.

In the survey, when asked to choose from a "wishlist" of what they would like from an automotive website, the largest block of consumers (37 percent) said they would like to have access to the Internet's full range of automotive information in order to receive the most relevant information they are seeking. The survey also found that large percentages of automotive information seekers are looking for services, products and information beyond vehicle purchasing. In fact, 85 percent wish there was a one-stop shop for everything related to cars including purchase, service and accessories.

Alternatives Are Out There

The good news is that innovation in the online search industry is picking up. Vertical search sites that return only relevant industry-specific results have popped up in the travel ( and health (WebMD) categories. Today, Autobytel's next generation consumer website,, officially launched. The site is designed to connect consumers to all things automotive from across the Web, a site where shoppers can find cars, parts and accessories; see thousands of vehicle photos and automotive-themed videos; research to buy vehicles based on the vast amount of available information, including local dealership details; learn from the best automotive publishing brands and writers; and belong to communities focused on their unique automotive interests.

The official "State of Search" study was conducted May 2007 and involved 1,001 nationally representative Americans age 18 and older who have Internet access. The survey results indicate a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

Autobytel has prepared a white paper, "The State of Search," which discusses the results of the survey in more detail. A copy of the "State of Search" white paper can be obtained by contacting


Polyvore To Tempt Fasionistas To Create, Then Spend

Polyvore, founded by ex-Yahoo'er Pasha Sadri (he created Yahoo Pipes) will appeal to the fashionistas out there in the world.

Users install a bookmarket and grab images from around the web (see demo here) - this part is very similar to what Kaboodle, recently acquired by eBay, does.

They then take those images, plus any images others have uploaded, and create "sets" which are ensembles of individual items, put into, say, a complete outfit. Examples are here.

Sets can be viewed by others, commented, rated, shared, embedded into websites (which I have done above), etc. Users can also take items from the sets (or the set itself) and place it into their own collection for modification (Polyvore also links back to the original set for attribution).

Clicking on any item brings up information about it, plus a link back to the original page where it was grabbed. This is where the potential revenue model comes into play - As a user buys that ring on Amazon, for example, Polyvore can get a revenue share.

Sets can be tagged or favorited, and users can befriend eachother (its a social network). If someone uses an item that you originally saved/bookmarked, you get a status point. The site also runs themed contests to encourage competition and usage. Finally, since no new service is complete without a Facebook application, Polyvore has one of those, too.

The fashion industry is just ridiculously huge. We've covered sites that let (mostly) women show off their outfits. And the success of Sugar Inc., which just made its second acquisition , has been phenomenal. My guess is Polyvore will have its share of rabid users, too.


Demo of the Year 2007: Zude


If you search Google for “Demo of the Year” you’ll find my writeup of Microsoft’s Photosynth.

But last week I got the demo of the year that I’ve seen since then. Zude is a new way to create Web experiences. I can’t really call them pages anymore. Anyway, this is a long one — this demo is so cool that we went an entire hour. Rocky also edited down a “Editor’s Choice” which is a lot shorter (only eight minutes).

Zude has some of the coolest JavaScript I’ve ever seen. Anyone have something cooler?

Oh, and this proves that you can take an hour to do a demo and still engage me.

UPDATE: I just asked Rocky and he agrees that this is the coolest commercial thing he’s seen come through my show.

Zude is really aimed at killing MySpace but I love how you can build Web pages, er, experiences.


iPod touch now running Mail, Google Maps, and more

Filed under: ,

We're not looking at general availability yet, but those happy hacking cats unravelling the iPod touch have decrypted the ramdisk and are now busy installing applications. Already, Mail, Maps, and other 3rd party apps are up and running on their jailbreaked touches. The race is on between the cat and the mouse to see who will release their wares first. Maps screenshot after the break.

Continue reading iPod touch now running Mail, Google Maps, and more


Merge Multiple RSS Feeds Into One with Yahoo! Pipes + FeedBurner

One of the very popular question in the FeedBurner FAQ is about merging XML feeds from different sources (like Blogger, WordPress, Flickr, Twitter, Jaiku) and then syndicate the entire content as one FeedBurner feed.

This is desirable because a single feed makes it extremely easy for your subscribers to track new content and updates from you.

Though FeedBurner doesn't provide any native feed mixing service, you can use the excellent Yahoo! Pipes service to combine two or more feeds and burn them into a single FeedBurner feed.

Here's a step by step guide (or you can watch the video tutorial)

merge rss feeds

Step 1: Go to the Yahoo! Pipes website and Create a new Yahoo! Pipe here.

Step 2: Drag-n-drop the "Fetch Feed" tab from the Sources tab to the main drawing panel.

Step 3: Add all the different Feed URLs in the same Fetch Feed Module (click the plus icon).

Step 4: Once you are done adding all your RSS feeds, drag the lower circle from Feed Fetch module to the Pipe Output at the bottom.

Step 5: Give some name and save this Yahoo! Pipe. Now run the pipe and you will see a new RSS feed - syndicate that feed via FeedBurner so you can even track the feed subscribers. It's all very simple - watch the video demo below:


Screencast video created using Camtasia Studio 5. [download, 2.5 MB]


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Send Snail Mail via Email with Postful

Address and send traditional snail mail via email on the cheap with web site Postful. In contrast to a similar service called eSnailer, which sends snail mail for free but requires you to sign up for a "special offer," Postful asks for a relatively low fee of $.99 for the first page and $.25 for each additional page. Whether it's to keep in contact with a Luddite lacking an email address or you just really hate buying stamps and finding a mailbox, Postful is a potentially worthwhile tool. You can even set up unique Postful email addresses for frequent contacts so that, for example, you can include your email-less grandparents in an email you're sending.


3G: Turn Your iPhone/iTouch Into a 3G Web Device

from Gizmodo by Jason Chen

We haven't tested this ourselves, but Pyrofersprojects came up with an interesting, but ultimately impractical, way to turn your iPhone or iPod touch into a 3G internet-using device. All you need is a 3G smartphone with Windows Mobile 5 or 6, a 3G data account, and the know-how to follow a guide teaching you how to set up internet sharing over Wi-Fi. After that's done, you can use your iPhone/iTouch to go through your other smartphone (which costs probably as much as your iPhone/iTouch), in order to get online. It's pretty gimpy, but at least it's 3G—and the irony of having to use a WM phone with an iPhone isn't lost on us. [pyrofersprojects]


Iron Chef: PopSci Culinary Gadgets Put the "Chen" Back In "Kitchen"

Evaporator_PopSci_Kitchen.jpgEver wonder how crazy stuff gets whipped up in pro kitchens? Take for instance the Heidolph VV Micro Evaporator, that $3,000 kitchen distiller above. Recognizable food stuffs go in one end, and a powerfully flavored goo comes out the other. (How very... soylent?) Below in the gallery, there are four more unbelievable food processors, and sh'loads more at PopSci's kitchen gadget round-up. If you want to know what kind of mind it takes to dream up and use all of this stuff, read the accompanying feature about kitchen crazyman Dave Arnold. [ PopSci]


New Yorker on ultra-expensive wine counterfeits

Mark Hurst's Good Experience newsletter alerted me to this New Yorker article about the crazy world of very expensive wine and how it is being counterfeited and sold to rich people who don't know the difference.
200710101003[Michael Broadbent, the head of Christie's wine department] is a Master of Wine, a professional certification for wine writers, dealers, and sommeliers, which connotes extensive experience with fine wine, and discriminating judgment. He pronounced a 1784 Th.J. Yquem "perfect in every sense: colour, bouquet, taste."

At two-thirty that December afternoon, Broadbent opened the bidding, at ten thousand pounds. Less than two minutes later, his gavel fell. The winning bidder was Christopher Forbes, the son of Malcolm Forbes and a vice-president of the magazine Forbes. The final price was a hundred and five thousand pounds -- about a hundred and fifty-seven thousand dollars. "It's more fun than the opera glasses Lincoln was holding when he was shot," Forbes declared, adding, "And we have those, too."



All I want for Christmas is my HDTV... and an Apple

from Engadget by Thomas Ricker

Filed under: , , , , , ,

A national survey of 1,200 consumers conducted by Solutions Research Group found that 3 out of 4 surveyed Americans wanted a new gadget this holiday season. The rankings went a little something like this:
  1. HDTV (35%)
  2. Windows-based notebook (20%)
  3. Digital camera (17%)
  4. Windows-based desktop computer
  5. GPS car navigation
  6. Cellphone
  7. Digital video camera
  8. Nintendo Wii
  9. Sony PS3
  10. HD DVD or Blu-ray player
So where's Apple, the big bad daddy of consumer electronics? Well, their best showing was the MacBook with an 11 ranking followed by the iPhone at number 15. Pretty good when you consider the level of brand awareness this represents in a field of otherwise unspecified laptops and cellphones. In fact, 1-in-6 consumers are hoping for some type of Apple gear under the Chanukazaa tree this season.


IBM And Linden Lab Team For Virtual World Interoperability

ibm.jpgIBM and Linden Lab (the company behind Second Life) will announce a new partnership at the Virtual Worlds Conference in San Jose today that will focus on virtual world interoperability.

The initial focus of the joint effort will be the ability to allow users to use a single virtual persona (or Avatar) across multiple virtual platforms, with seamless interworld transactions to be considered later.

Discussions and efforts surrounding standards and interoperability are in vogue this year, as the marketplace for virtual worlds has matured. Chinese Second Life clone HiPiHi announced its intention to lead a push towards standards based virtual worlds in August, and TechCrunch 40 presenting company Metaplace offers interoperability between user generated worlds on its DIY virtual world platform.

IBM has been highly active in the virtual worlds space, both as a user of platforms such as Second Life as a conference and business communications tool, and as a creator with its Active Worlds chat platform. IBM's Italian employee's went on strike within Second Life in late September.


Consumer Feedback Impact - AT&T Changes its ‘Terms of Service’

Remember the brouhaha about AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) and the awkward language in their user agreements that prevented people from among other things criticize them. (As Bill Maher says, I kid the phone companies.) AT&T, seems to have taken the feedback from blogs and is changing the language of its terms of service. An AT&T spokesperson emailed us with the following statement.

We are revising the terms of service to clarify our intent. The language in question will be revised to reflect AT&T's respect for our customers' right to express opinions and concerns over any matter they wish. And we will make clear that we do not terminate service because a customer expresses their opinion about AT&T.


THIRTY virtual worlds in San Jose

First the good news: virtual worlds are experiencing their own dot com boom. Now the bad news: virtual worlds are experiencing their own dot com boom. Tomorrow and Thursday, the second Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo launches in San Jose; the first one went off last March in New York, when just nine worlds/MMOs were showcased. Six months later, thirty of them will be on hand, many you've probably never heard of, and if past history is any guide, just as many you'll probably not hear much about, afterward. Seven slated for the show are kid-oriented, including Zwinktopia, Gaia Online, and Habbo Hotel, all of which have been featured on GigaOM; with the continued growth of MMOs for minors, this isn't surprising. But then, four of them are virtual worlds designed for enterprise solutions, including Forterra, Unisfair, Project Darkstar from Sun Microsystems, and something called VT&T, a stealth project from a team of developers formerly of AT&T.

Like the original dot com boom, the Expo is an awkward convergence of traditional media corporations like Disney (new owner of Club Penguin), MTV/Nickelodeon (announcing eight virtual worlds), and Turner (which recently bought partnered with Kaneva), scrappy start-ups like Metaplace and Ogoglio, and lumbering into the proceedings like they always have, Microsoft with Virtual Earth and an unknown MMO set to be announced there.

And if the last boom's trajectory of hubris and greed is followed, most of these are destined for obscurity– or acquisition by their wiser superiors. While kid-oriented MMOs have the most active users and thus seem like the safest bet, for example, as FoundRead editor Carleen Hawn suggests, they're also fragile ecosystems that can fall apart with too much outside interference and commercialism.

In any case, I'll be there to appear on a panel, and looking for GigaOM stories to file from the scene. If you see me, be sure to say hi; and if you miss me at this virtual worlds conference, you can still look for me at the one in London, later this month.

Disclosure: My Second Life blog New World Notes is a "media partner" with the Expo.


With more than 30 virtual world platform providers participating at our Fall Conference, attendees will gain unique insight into the solutions available to meet their individual needs.

For the first time ever, professionals seeking to leverage virtual world technologies will be able to review and interact with all the major providers in one location. Attendees will be able to discuss business strategy, gain a comprehensive understanding of available technology and learn best practices. The Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo provides participants an edge in using virtual worlds applications to deeply engage their customers, partners or employees.

Virtual World platform companies participating at Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo:

Company Platform Name

Animax Entertainment  
Areae, Inc. To Be Announced
Conduit Labs To Be Announced
Disney Online Club Penguin, Virtual Magic Kingdom and others
Doppelganger vSide 
Forterra Systems OLIVE platform
GAIA Interactive Inc Gaia Online 
GoPets Ltd. GoPets
HiPiHi Co., Ltd HiPiHi
IAC/InterActiveCorp Zwinktopia
Icarus Studios Icarus Platform 
Ironstar Helsinki MoiPal mobile platform
Kaneva Kaneva Platfrom
Linden Lab Second Life
Makena Technologies
Microsoft Microsoft Virtual Earth
Microsoft Entertainment Effort To Be Announced
MindArk Entropia Universe
MTV / Nickelodeon  more than 8 virtual worlds and growing
Multiverse Network Multiverse platform
Numedeon Inc 
ProtonMedia ProtoSphere
Qwaq Qwag Forums
Stardoll Stardoll Platform
Sulake Corp. Ltd. Habbo 
Sun Microsystems Project Darkstar
Three Rings Whirled
Transmutable Ogoglio
Unisfair Unisfair Virtual Event 
View 22 Immersiv Platform
VT&T To Be Announced

The conference has five primary tracks:

Entertainment and Marketing
Virtual Worlds for the Enterprise
Business Strategy and Investment
Community and Customer Service
Design and Development.


DOE to Invest in Projects to Store 1 Million Tons of CO2

About half of the electricity Americans consume comes from coal, and China's economic boom is being fueled by the dirty-burning stuff. So while we'd prefer an end to all coal, technologies to capture and store the carbon emissions from coal plants will just have to help us out in the meantime. The DOE said today that it has awarded the first three large-scale carbon sequestration projects in the U.S., the largest single set of projects in the world to date.

The three projects — the Plains Carbon Dioxide Reduction Partnership, the Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, and the Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration — will test the storage of 1 million or more tons of CO2 in deep reservoirs. The basins supposedly have the capacity to store over 100 years of CO2 emissions, and the DOE will invest $197 million over ten years, subject to Congressional approval. Including partnership cost share, the total value of the projects is $318 million.

For now the technology of capturing and storing carbon emissions is unproven, expensive and still in the research stage. And clean coal technologies in general are highly controversial. Though that hasn't stopped the venture world from investing in startups like GreatPointEnergy and Secure Energy. Check out the release for details on the individual projects .


Tuesday, October 09, 2007 Raises $1.5 Million

from Silicon Alley Insider by Peter Kafka

Outsidein, the Brooklyn-based "place blogging" site, has raised $1.5 million, which it will use to build out the site and develop a geo-targeted ad platform. The site, founded by writer-entrepreneur Steven Berlin Johnson last year, raised $900,000 this spring.

Most of the original investors re-upped for this round: Union Square Ventures, Milestone Ventures, Village Ventures, George Crowley, John Seely Brown, Esther Dyson and John Borthwick. We're confirming whether Marc Andreessen, who invested in the first round, participated in this one.

Related: Launches Neighborhood News Widget
Brooklyn Bonkers About Blogging


Nine Inch Nails Help Seal Record Industry’s Coffin

Highly popular Industrial Rock Band Nine Inch Nails have announced that as of today they are free agents, and will not be using the services of a record company in the future.

Nine Inch Nail's Trent Reznor wrote on the NIN site that the writing is on the wall for the traditional music distribution model, saying that the music business has radically mutated from one thing to something inherently very different today and that "it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as i see fit and appropriate."

It's expected that Nine Inch Nails next album will follow on from Radiohead's Rainbows and be released directly to the public.

I think Gizmodo hits it right on the head when they write:

If two of the biggest acts in the industry can see the digital writing on the wall and totally embrace it—that the old way of doing business is broken—why can't the labels? What Radiohead and NIN are showing is that the business model "of the future" feared by entrenched interests isn't arriving some time in the horizon. It's touching down now.

See also Michael's take on the music industry here.


Search Engine Marketing Firm ReachLocal Takes $55.2 Million

reachlocal.jpgWoodland Hills based search marketing firm ReachLocal has taken an additional $55.2 million in funding, brining total funding to $67.9 million on a valuation of $305 million.

The round was led by Rho Ventures, with original investors Galleon Crossover Fund VantagePoint Venture Partners also participating.

ReachLocal offers a local-focused search marketing product that targets SMBs. ReachLocal offers campaign management for online advertising on major services including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL, and also provides campaign specific site building and click tracking to customers.

For what is basically a SEM firm, the valuation is staggering; however despite the direct to buyer model of advertising options such as Google Adwords there is a growing market for middle-man services such as ReachLocal. There will be many people in the SEM business who will be re-evaluating their company valuations following ReachLocal's new round of funding, and I'd suggest that many of them may be sitting on a lot more value than they had previously thought.

(in part via LA Times)


What The Kids Are Stealing These Days -- And What They'll Be Buying Soon

ZoeThe same record labels that complain about the epidemic of file-sharing/song-stealing also pay close attention to what songs file-sharers are swapping. Why? Because song-stealers tend to have the same tastes as song-buyers, but they tend to move faster. So if you track the what songs are moving quickly on P2P file-sharing systems, you can get a good sense of what's will be selling in a few weeks' time.

Online measurement firm BigChampagne has generated a "biggest movers" chart for us, which tracks which songs have had the biggest week-to-week increases on file-sharing networks. We've published it after the jump. Note that it doesn't correlate at all to CD sales, because people who buy CDs aren't buying them because there's one good song on them. But if there's more than one good song on them, they tend to do very well. That's why we're confident that Gorilla Zoe, who we'd never heard of prior to today, will be selling a lot of copies of his album Welcome To The Zoo in the coming weeks. The album, released by Warner Music Group (WMG), has two fast-moving songs on the BigChampagne chart.

Related: Big Music "Wins" Trial Against Song-Stealer; Industry Still Screwed



ASUS P5E3 Deluxe mobo boots in five seconds with embedded Linux

If you're an impatient individual, you're probably going to like what you hear about ASUS's newest motherboard, the P5E3 Deluxe. Sound fancy? Well, it is -- featuring Intel's X38 chipset (with an FSB running at 1600MHz), Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Extreme CPU support, plus the company's Energy Processing Unit, 8-phase power, and WiFi-AP. Of course, that won't help with your MTV-generation attention span and lack of patience, but the embedded micro-Linux variant, Express Gate, just might. You see, when you boot the system, you're given an option to immediately enter into a small Linux OS -- within five seconds, they say -- called SplashTop (developed by DeviceVM). The OS is coupled with a stripped-down version of Firefox and Skype, allowing you to update your Facebook profile almost instantly. The whole shebang is available right now for three-hundred and sixty of your precious dollars.

[Via Phoronix]


Ontario's privacy commissioner to geeks: design for privacy!

Here's a one-hour video of a magnificent lecture from Canada's Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr Ann Cavoukian, to the University of Waterloo's Computer Science Club. The talk is called "Privacy by Design," and it charges technologists to build tools that minimize the collection and retention of personally identifying information, and to consider a complete, end-to-end, comprehensive framework for protecting user privacy. As Mitch Kapor said when he founded EFF, "architecture is politics" -- when you design tools that have wiretappable elements, you invite wiretapping. When you design tools that retain user data, you invite identity thieves and overreaching subpoenas.

Cavoukian argues that privacy and security are not zero-sum, that privacy is just as important in the "post-9/11 world" as it was before, and that you don't need to give up one to get the other. She addresses specific privacy-protection computer science techniques, and cites Kim Cameron's wonderful Seven Laws of Identity (I wish Kim would approach trusted computing with the same skepticism that he brought to identity issues, but that doesn't take away from his excellent work there).

There's something incredibly refreshing about hearing a high-ranking government official say things like, "Privacy is integral to freedom. You cannot have a free and democratic society without privacy. When a state morphs from a democracy into a totalitarian regime, the first thread to unravel is privacy." Link (via /.)


Monday, October 08, 2007

Mint Rakes It In

picture-190.pngSince launching and winning the top spot at our TechCrunch40 conference three weeks ago, personal-finance startup Mint has been on a roll. On Friday, Mint was named Best of Show at the 2007 Financial Innovations conference (along with peer-to-peer lender Prosper and mortgage-finder Mortgagebot).

CEO Aaron Patzer reports to us that, in just the past three weeks, Mint has already helped organize more than $2 billion worth of people's personal financial accounts, and identified more than $40 million in potential savings for those members. (Mint helps you find better interest rates on bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial products). Interest in the site spiked right after TC40. At one point, Mint was signing up a new member every five seconds. Not bad for a service from a previously-unknown startup that asks for access to all of your private financial data, including your bank and credit-card accounts.

Apparently, getting consumers to give up that level of privacy, has not been an issue so far. (The old axiom is true: people really will do anything to save a buck). Now comes the hard part. Getting all those people to keep coming back past the initial stage of curiosity.

Update: I asked Mint CEO Patzer for some more details on how many people are using Mint, and he responded with the following data. Keep in mind, this is only 18 days worth of data and thus should be treated as extremely preliminary (these are early adopters, so they may be more likely to embrace such a service and use it more often than a mainstream user):

—That $2 billion is spread across 50,000 registered users.
—About 70 percent (or 35,000) have come back more than once.
—Those who have been in the system at least a week (including beta testers), visit 2-3 times a week.
—About 10 percent (or 5,000) come to the site every day.
—And 10 percent have signed up for mobile alerts.

(See also his comments below about the lengths Mint goes to secure customer data).


Adult Alternative: Facebook and iTunes Teaming Up?

akon-jack1.gifTo fight off the evil empire that is MySpace, tiny entities Facebook and iTunes may be teaming up to bring a musical component to Facebook's offerings (while offering Apple another venue to sell their music).

According to the unconfirmed rumblings, Facebook is working on expanding their interface. Musical artists will now have special pages with integrated widgets for promoting band events. The upcoming iTunes widget will allow users to sample and even eventually buy music through Facebook (in support beyond the current iLike software). iPod owners who use Facebook will surely take glee in this new integration, but honestly, many of us avoid MySpace like the plague because it's full of a bunch of losers with crappy bands. Now all those losers with crappy bands are going to set up pages on Facebook, find their way into our networks and infiltrate our clean social networking. Not that we're paranoid or anything. [paidContent via macworld]


Sunday, October 07, 2007

MIT students' Biocell creates electricity from biomass on the cheap

Five MIT students under the team name BioVolt have created a $2 gadget that uses biomass to generate electricity. The output of the device isn't particularly significant -- six months to charge your cell means you shouldn't throw away that charger just yet -- but the low cost of the components, the availability of "biomass," and the capability for chaining multiple devices together means this is the perfect solution for isolated areas or poor communities. It's good news for the researchers too, who happened to win $5,000 in a design competition for their efforts. Good show lads.