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November 16, 2011

Baltimore's 1st EduHackDay: the results

This past weekend, Baltimore's first "EduHackDay" was held over at Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore.

Educators teamed up with computer geeks to build web and mobile apps for education. In many ways, Baltimore is becoming a little hotbed of education technology, and this grassroots effort to percolate ideas was a great effort.

I didn't get a chance to go to the event, because I was out of town. But with the help of Mike Brenner, one of the co-organizers and an advocate and conncector of startups in Baltimore, I'll share some details.

In Mike's words, here's how the weekend-long event unfolded:

We had roughly 70 attendees: ~ 40 developres, 20 designers, 10 teachers. We let the teachers pitch their ideas, read some some educator ideas that were pitched on our wish list from a global pool of teachers, and then let developers come up and pitch their own ideas. From that, we ended up voting on our favorite ideas, ending up with 10 ideas to work on throughout the weekend.

[On the] last night we had the 10 teams demo what they built to a panel of judges and the results are below.

Quick take away from me: I wanted to stimulate more activity from within our entrepreneurial community and thought education was a worthy customer / product to go after. I didn't expect folks to reinvent curriculum this weekend but I wanted to put the right problems and people in the room to show that there's a viable opportunity to build education technology products here in Baltimore. We need to be building less photo sharing apps and instead, more things that are meaningful.

The judges were:

Frank Bonsal, general partner at New Markets Venture Partners
Matt Van Italie, CAO of Baltimore City Schools, KIPP, McKinsey
Brian Eyer, Principal at Digital Harbor High School
Tom “TK” Kuegler, GP at Wasabi Ventures
Tom Murdock, Founder at Moodlerooms
Bill Ferguson, State Senator for Maryland
Scott Messinger, City Schools Teacher & Ed Tech Founder

The winning app ideas:

1st - Digital Harbor

2nd - Pluck

3rd - Pedante

4th - ParentConnect

5th - Board Speak

6th - CheckPlus

7th - Hey, Teacher

8th - What's Due?

9th - Baltimore School Watch

10th - Toader, a MakerBot project

Below are some screen shots of some of the projects:


ParentConnect%20Dashboard.jpg


Baltimore%20School%20Watch.jpg


pluck.png


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check-plus-screenshot.png


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech

November 7, 2011

Uppidy raised* $300K in equity for text message app

joshua-konowe.jpgA Northern Virginia and Columbia-based firm that markets the Uppidy app on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry is seeking to raised $300,000 in equity financing, according to an SEC filing today. according to company founder Joshua Konowe.

* Update: Konowe reached out to me to update with some more facts, after I initially reported in this post that Uppidy was in the process of raising $300K. He said that Uppidy has already raised the $300K.

The investors are Fortify.Vc of the Washington area, Paul Silber of Blu Ventures of Northern Virginia, and an angel investor group from Silicon Valley. They'll be spending the money to round out the tech team, and add premium services and game mechanics "to speed viral growth," says Konowe. What's interesting is that Uppidy has "spent $0 on marketing" so far, and has thousands of users, Konowe said. 

Uppidy, which is led by entrepreneur Joshua Konowe, is an app that allows smartphone users to "share, search and store text messages."

It's basically an app for managing your mobile messages, offering users a dashboard and even a hashtag service (#upp) that they can use to post messages on Uppidy's own Twitter-like site: Uppidy Live.

For people who are heavy texters (not me), it sounds like this app is a big help. TechCocktail has more details on the tech here.

 

 


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:07 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

October 24, 2011

Stories of three entrepreneurs in mobile apps

This past Sunday, I wrote about the "mobile app economy," and told the stories of three Baltimore area entrepreneurs who are finding successful with building apps. Check out the story.

Thanks to Todd Marks, of Mindgrub; Shawn Grimes and wife Stephanie of Shawn's Bits and Campfire Apps; and Jason King, of Accella, for opening up to me and sharing some great details about their businesses.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:12 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas, Smartphones
        

October 12, 2011

AirPlay mirroring in iOS5: Oh, this can be big -- really big -- for Apple TV.

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When I finally get around to downloading iOS5 for my iPhone and iPad, I'll certainly appreciate the 200+ new features that Apple is introducing with this big, free software upgrade, such as full Twitter integration, iMessage and Reminders.

But the big one I'm looking forward to? AirPlay mirroring. (SplatF's Dan Frommer's post about his most anticipated iOS5 updates got me thinking about this topic this morning.)

So what is AirPlay mirroring and why will it matter for users and the Apple TV? (Note: As a commenter below states, the AirPlay mirroring feature is only available for iPhone 4S and iPad 2.)

AirPlay is Apple's Wi-Fi content-streaming technology that enables you to push music and video from your iDevice to your television, with Apple TV ($99) as the wireless intermediary that makes it happen. Since I've owned an Apple TV, I've streamed photos, videos, and music from my iPhone to my TV. For instance, I take a bunch of photos of my kids playing outside and later, when we're inside, I flash those photos quickly on my TV. Wirelessly. Simply.

Now, AirPlay mirroring will allow you to mirror the entire iPhone or iPad, including all your apps. Suddenly, you can presumably start playing an iPhone game, and shift it to play on a bigger screen.

Or how about that Keynote or PowerPoint presentation you've been preparing? Imagine you have a demonstration to present to a group, and there's a 50-inch TV in the conference room. You bring your slim Apple TV and your iPhone/iPad and, bam!, you're giving a presentation without a laptop.

I really believe if Apple sets up a couch, a big-screen TV, an Apple TV and an AirPlay-enabled iPhone or iPad in each Apple Store, the company will see its Apple TVs fly off the shelves in short order. So much for Apple TV as a side "hobby," as Steve Jobs once called it.

I really believe AirPlay mirroring can be the sleeper hit feature of iOS5, which actually drives more hardware sales for Apple.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:37 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Wireless
        

August 29, 2011

Cool app: University app turns smartphones into live broadcast tool for security

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Computer scientists at the University of Maryland have built a first-of-its-kind smartphone app that automatically connects students and staff with campus police by opening up video and audio feeds on their devices.

The app is called "M-Urgency," and for now, it's going to work with Android phones. An iPhone version is coming for the campus.

I have more details in my Sunday story about the app and the burgeoning business of campus security apps.

But don't expect those quaint "blue light poles" -- the ones with the phones that patch you through directly to campus security -- to go the way of the dodo bird anytime soon.

blue-light-pole.jpg

[Image source: Sinclair.edu]


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:34 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Gadgets, University Tech
        

August 15, 2011

Survey: 13% of Americans use cellphones to avoid interactions

In a report today from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 13 percent of Americans indicated that they use their cellphones to avoid real-life interactions with others.

The survey tosses out a number of statistics on the habits of American cell phone users.

Some more:

* Half of all adult cell owners (51%) had used their phone at least once to get information they needed right away. One quarter (27%) said that they experienced a situation in the previous month in which they had trouble doing something because they did not have their phone at hand.

* Cell phones can help stave off boredom – 42% of cell owners used their phone for entertainment when they were bored.

* One third of Americans own smartphones. And it's in that demographic's usage patterns do you have a window into our mobile future: Fully nine in ten smartphone owners use text messaging or take pictures with their phones, while eight in ten use their phone to go online or send photos or videos to others. Many activities—such as downloading apps, watching videos, accessing social networking sites or posting multimedia content online—are almost entirely confined to the smartphone population.

[Thanks to @johnbhorrigan, who tweeted out the Pew report.]


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:02 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Smartphones, Wireless
        

August 9, 2011

Baltimoreans can rent out their parking spots thru Parking Panda

parking-panda-image.gifHey Baltimore: Here's your chance to make a buck off your own parking spot.

Parking Panda, a Baltimore web startup, recently went live with its website -- parkingpanda.com -- which can also be accessed by mobile phone browsers.

Parking Panda is kinda like the Airbnb (a site that lets people pay for or rent out homes and apartments for travelers) of parking.

People who are looking to make a little extra money off their unused or lightly used parking spot can list it for rent on the site. And people who are looking to park in city neighborhoods -- perhaps during big events such as baseball or football games, or the upcoming Grand Prix -- can turn to it to find a spot they can rent with their smartphone.

The site is the work of Nick Miller and Adam Zilberbaum, two young guys from Baltimore who won a startup competition in the city in the spring. They are currently working on their startup in New York City, at the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, but they plan on returning to Baltimore to jump-start their business.

[I wrote a story about Parking Panda and the trend of business accelerators recently.]

And they're hoping the Grand Prix, over Labor Day weekend, will generate demand for their app as people struggle to find parking downtown.


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Amazon Kindle getting social -- but does it get it?

kindle-social.jpg So it looks like Amazon is trying to make the Kindle experience more social. There's a good write-up in The Atlantic that discusses the new social features of the Kindle and the website, where the e-reader's public notes feature is integrated with Twitter and Facebook.

I'm not a Kindle user so I don't have a feel for how much of a demand users have to be "social" on Twitter/Facebook while trying to read a book.

Amazon's been steadily adding "social" features to the Kindle platform over the past year. But do you want to be social while trying to enjoy the peace of mind of reading a book? I dunno....

I guess I can see some usefulness in it.

As The Atlantic writer notes, readers may enjoy the ability of sharing lending versions of e-books with others in their social networks.

But it's also not in Amazon's interest to make it too easy for people to mass-lend their e-books, cuz it could potentially hurt Kindle sales. Or not?

Tim Carmody, over at Wired, has a good rundown of the details of how Amazon's pimped-up social network is behaving for users. Growing pains are evident.

I suspect we're seeing the early stages of social network experimentation for Amazon. There are rumors they're building their own tablet to compete with the iPad. Building a social network around books (and Amazon does music, and millions of other stuff, too) may be just the beginning.

Amazon could build a social network that incorporates and integrates both the virtual AND physical worlds better than anything out there right now that Apple/iTunes or Facebook/Twitter or Google/Microsoft could ever hope to accomplish. One that's powered by its deep reservoir of customer reviews and integrates well with its Amazon hardware, i.e. e-readers and tablets.

(Image via FastCompany)


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:24 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Gadgets
        

July 1, 2011

Mint vs. Pageonce: the iPad dilemma

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I'll admit: I haven't been an early adopter of applications that help you track and analyze your finances, such as the popular Mint.com.

It was just this week that my wife got motivated enough to dump our financial info into the Website and get an aggregated view of all of our bills, expenses, investments and savings. Mint impressed us, and we've been pretty excited about the insights it already has given us into our financial habits.

Mint has an iPhone app that's somewhat limited. But here's the crux for myself and many others: It doesn't yet have an iPad app. Mint is reportedly working on an iPad app, but it seems the long wait for it has annoyed its user community. Mint apparently uses a lot of Adobe Flash to generate those nice charts and graphs for you to analyze your data -- but all of that doesn't work on Apple's iPad and iPhone platforms, where Flash is forbidden.

Mint, which used to be independent, is now owned by Intuit. People wonder why Intuit hasn't moved quicker to roll out an iPad app for the millions of users on that platform. A Forrester Research report released this week indicates that Mint will roll out iPad and Android tablet apps in the fall.

So, yesterday, I went through what I guess every Mint user who owns an iPad has gone through: I searched for the Mint iPad app online, which I obviously didn't find. Instead, I found its lesser known competitor, Pageonce, which happens to be on basically all platforms: Android, Blackberry, Apple iPad/iPhone, and even the relatively new Windows Phone.

And, because I want to use my iPad as part of my efforts to track my finances, I signed up for Pageonce. I'm willing to give Pageonce a chance right now -- which is something that Mint should have never allowed for me to do! If it works as well as Mint, I may say goodbye to Mint because I can use Pageonce on all my various gadgets.

So, add this blogpost to the cacophany on the Web about Mint's iPad app: What's going on, Intuit?



This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:27 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Apps
        

June 30, 2011

Shortmail: A Baltimore-grown email service

Shortmail.jpgThere's a new email service on the block as of today, and it's called Shortmail. But do we need another email program? you ask.

Well, if you're overwhelmed with spam, tired of long-winded dissertation-type emails, and suffering from inbox overload, maybe you do.

Shortmail, created by 410Labs, is the latest offering in the nascent trend of short email services. It's somewhere between traditional email and Twitter. Whereas Twitter has a 140 character limit on messages, Shortmail has a 500 character limit. It integrates nicely with Twitter, too.

For instance, my Twitter account is @gussent, and my Shortmail address is automagically gussent@shortmail.com.

You can merge your Gmail and Twitter contacts into your Shortmail contacts.

But I think one of the most useful features of Shortmail is that you can keep a message private, or make it public, via your own Shortmail personal page (i.e. shortmail.com/gussent.) This can definitely come in handy, especially in my job as a journalist.

The folks behind 410Labs include Dave Troy, an entrepreneur and vocal advocate for Baltimore's tech scene, and Matthew Koll, a veteran entrepreneur.

The company also makes other other social communication products, including Replyz.com, which helps you get answers to questions in a social-y, Twitter-y way, and Mailstrom, an inbox analytics tool that aims to be the Mint.com of your email life.

For more details on Shortmail's launch, which happened officially in San Francisco this week, check the news release here.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

May 17, 2011

Paying with your iPhone, browsing menus with your iPad

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In today's story about technology in the Baltimore area, we take you to two popular destinations in Howard County, Md.: Houlihan's and Victoria's Gastro Pub.

At Houlihan's, the Columbia restaurant has enabled a smartphone app called Tabbedout to work with its point-of-sale terminals, where orders are punched in and credit cards are run. Tabbedout is made by an Austin, Tex.-based company and it's being marketed in partnership with MICROS Systems Inc., a big player in POS terminals for restaurants.

Basically, you input your credit card info once into the Tabbedout app and then you can request the tab -- and pay it -- with a few swipes of your finger while at the restaurant.

At Victoria's, also in Columbia, management there is allowing its restaurant to be used as a test bed for MICROS's iPad menu app, which is under development. The app allows beer and wine drinkers to browse the restaurant's extensive libations selection (250 beers enough for you?), and keep track of the beers you drink as a beer club member.

It remains to be seen in which direction MICROS will go with the iPad app, but don't be surprised if one day soon you're able to download your favorite restaurant's iPad app and interact with it, say, as a member of a diner's club, even when you're not there.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech

April 20, 2011

Borrow Amazon Kindle books -- from the library

Amazon today announced that it will soon enable Kindle users (including those using Kindle software on Apple and Android devices) to borrow Kindle books from more than 11,000 libraries across the country.

This is good news for the digital reading platform and helps keep libraries part of the books ecosystem. (Okay, maybe that's a stretch.) The cool tech feature of Amazon's "Kindle Library Lending" service is that you can make digital notes in the e-books you borrow, and the notes are saved. So if you borrow the book again, or choose to buy it, your notes are maintained.

In a printed book, mind you, the library doesn't like it when you write in the margins.

Here's the original Amazon news release, for more details.

FYI -- Amazon is partnering with a service called Overdrive to make Kindle books available through local libraries. There's also an Overdrive app for the Apple iPhone platform that offers a similar service. But iPhone/iPad users also have access to the Kindle app, too.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:58 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Gadgets
        

April 5, 2011

Baltimore's Tixato: Ticketmaster, beware

Chris Ashworth's small Baltimore company -- Figure 53 -- has already scored a huge hit in the niche field of theater show management software, with thousands of paying customers and even more users of its free product. QLab is a "live show" controller that makes it possible for theater geeks to control all their multimedia special effects from their Macs. BaltTech covered QLab's success last year.

Now Ashworth and his motley crew of computer geeks have built a new Web-based product: Tixato. It's an online ticketing service for small theater and event companies -- and it's entering a highly competitive field that ranges from TicketMaster to smaller regional and local players.

But QLab is such a beloved piece of software in the independent theater community (oh, it's used on Broadway, too) that Ashworth has the kind of street cred among theater geeks that may be missing from certain competitors.

I spoke with Ashworth this afternoon and he said he thinks there's good potential for crossover in theater customers who use QLab and those who may be in search of an inexpensive box office solution. He sees his company building out a suite of features for small theater operators looking for affordable software and online products to run their businesses.

"Our approach is to pay attention to the smaller guys, because we are a smaller company and we can afford to do that," said Ashworth.

If Tixato takes off as well as QLab has, Ashworth and crew might be on to something big.

Alas, Figure 53 ain't THAT small anymore. On Friday, Ashworth moved the five-person company to a new office on St. Paul Street in Baltimore's Charles Village neighborhood. Before that, they had been working out of his house in Charles Village.

Here's Ashworth explaining how the QLab software works:


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Web Dev & Apps
        

March 31, 2011

Johns Hopkins No. 2 in "social media colleges"

StudentAdvisor.com ranked the top 100 colleges that deploy social media strategies on campus for students, prospective students and faculty -- and ranked Johns Hopkins University No. 2, behind Harvard University, where Facebook was born.

The online site, which helps students research and rank colleges, singled out Hopkins for its "fantastic" social media page and its "best-in-class" iPhone app.

This honor is not only good for Hopkins, but also good for a savvy little Baltimore tech company called Mindgrub. ViaPlace, a startup sister company of Mindgrub, designed the Hopkins iPhone app and specializes in building interactive mobile apps and websites. The company's done an app for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is currently working on an app for Loyola University Maryland.

The Mindgrub crew went to the digital interactive festival, South By Southwest, in Austin, Texas, earlier this month. Here's the video to prove it:

[via CityBizList]


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:40 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Social Media
        

March 16, 2011

Baltimore parking tickets no more!

I love the smell of irony in the morning.

As part of its Open Data initiative, Baltimore city releases a trove of public data, including parking citation, speed camera and red light ticket data. And the first app to go public by developers is one that helps citizens dodge those very same tickets.

I'm talking about SpotAgent.com. Yesterday, I wrote about this site and its creators, two Baltimore geeks named Shea Frederick (left) and James Schaffer (right).


spotagent.jpg

Frederick and Schaffer meet each other a couple months ago through mutual acquaintances. Both were intrigued by the parking data that the city had released for different reasons. Frederick, who says he's never gotten a parking ticket in Baltimore, saw it as a rich data set for mining cool information, while Schaffer was just tired of getting parking tickets and wanted to figure out a way to beat the meter maids.

So they paired up to create SpotAgent.com, and they are building mobile apps, too. They're using data from the Baltimore's Open Data project.

Frederick and Schaffer caution that the app isn't perfect and can't predict whether you'll get a ticket or not, but it can offer you a sense of what's happened in the past on the block where you choose to park. Take that information for what it's worth.

Anybody else building cool apps with Baltimore city data?

By the way, Shea shared some interesting statistics from the parking citation data he's been crunching. For 2011, Shea found:

- The bulk of citations are given to MD residents, with PA and VA rounding out the top three.

- 17% of citations are given to repeat offenders.

- The most ticketed vehicle in 2011 already has 6 citations, totaling $1512 in fines.

- Speed cameras citations generate twice as many fines as expired parking meter citations.

- Ford vehicles are given 35% less citations than luxury car makers like Lexus, BMW and Mercedes.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Startups
        

January 6, 2011

Apple opens an app store -- for the Mac

The App Store for the iPhone/iOS platform has been a huge success for Apple and a trend-setter in the world of mobile devices. Now the company is trying to replicate that model for its desktop and laptop computer business.

Today, Apple announced that it had opened the Mac App Store for business, with more than 1,000 free and paid apps. You can launch the store on your computer with a software download at http://www.apple.com/mac/app-store/.

The Mac App Store follows the iPhone App Store revenue model, meaning that app developers keep 70 percent of sales revenues, while Apple gets the rest.

This will be an interesting experiment for Apple and developers, who sell their software through other channels online and keep more of the revenues/profits for themselves. Yet, consumers who are seeking a streamlined, authenticated experience through an official Apple storefront may find the Mac App Store attractive.

But will the developers bite on it?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:21 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps
        

January 3, 2011

Amy Webb bringing Awesome to Baltimore

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Hey, Happy New Year!

Did you catch the Q&A I did recently with Amy Webb, digital media consultant with Webbmedia Group in Baltimore? She's bringing something called the Awesome Foundation here to Baltimore. And she's an interesting and ambitious individual to boot.

Read on:

Amy Webb believes in the power of awesomeness so much that she wants to bring some to Baltimore.

As the founder of Webbmedia Group, a Baltimore-based digital media consulting firm, Webb moves in technology circles, where the idea for the Awesome Foundation originated.

The Boston-based foundation, begun in 2009, is encouraging the creation of chapters around the world. The idea is that a "dean" and 10 trustees at each chapter give $1,000 grants every month to a project in their community that they deem, ahem, awesome. Each board member is required to donate $100 a month to fund the grants.

Webb is the dean of the Baltimore chapter and is now recruiting trustees to help her fund Baltimore-based community initiatives each month.

A graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Webb is a former reporter for Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal in Asia, where she covered emerging technology. When she's not volunteering on boards and organizing events in the digital media world, she's advising corporate, nonprofit and government clients on how to harness the power of the Web and social media.

In a recent interview with The Baltimore Sun, Webb talked about the Awesome Foundation, her work and technology trends.

Question: Tell us about the Awesome Foundation. What's it about?

Answer: Rather than trying to reward people for huge projects that could take a long time to implement or ultimately not work out, the idea is to give people a chance to come up with something creative that somehow makes the city more awesome. The way we think about it is if the MacArthur Foundation had micro-grants to award for geniuses.

It's not a gigantic initiative. It's a way to help creative communities flourish and bring creative ideas into a city. People feel excited about the project. A thousand dollars is not a ton of money, but it's meant as a way to help get ideas off the ground.

Continue reading "Amy Webb bringing Awesome to Baltimore" »


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November 30, 2010

Maryland tech gifts: a guide

Many consumers now think "buy local" when it comes to food, or in choosing to shop at small local storefronts as opposed to national big-box chains.

But how about buying local when it comes to technology purchases, especially around the holidays?
BaltTech compiled a list of products — hardware, software, accessories and games — that originate in Maryland, and could make for holiday gifts. Your dollars also would help to support Maryland's technology entrepreneurs and businesses.

If you're still shopping, here's the local list of tech gifts by category:

Home Audio: Polk Audio is a Baltimore-based company that produces speaker systems for cars, boats and the home. Check out the $299 I-Sonic iPod radio dock. (PolkAudio.com)

Console/PC gaming: Maryland has a pretty robust video game industry. Check out Sparks-based Firaxis Games' popular "Civilization" video games, including the newest fifth installment. $39.99 to $49.95 (Civilization5.com) Bethesda Softworks, based in Rockville, makes a lot of video games for PC, Xbox and Playstation, and even the iPhone. Fallout 3 is a recent title that was designed by a Loyola University grad. $15-$43 (BethSoft.com)

Mobile device cases: M-Edge, of Odenton, Md., makes several cases for the Amazon Kindle, Apple iPads, and electronic readers by Sony, Borders and Barnes & Noble (MEdgeStore.com). The Latitude Jacket for Kindle costs $34.99. ZeroChroma, a new Baltimore company, makes unique cases that double as stands for use with Kindles, iPods, iPhones and iPads. The iPad case, for $69.95, is very useful. (ZeroChroma.com)

Cybersecurity: Got a friend or a relative who hates it when people glance at their laptop monitors while he is working? Oculis Labs' Private Eye software might strike his fancy. The Hunt Valley-based company's software uses a computer's webcam to detect when someone other than the computer owner is looking at the monitor. It blurs the screen when it detects an eavesdropper or if the user turns his head away. $49.95. (OculisLabs.com)

Baltimore-themed: For that recent transplant to Baltimore, help her learn about the city's geography and history with an audio tour. Baltimore Audio Tours sells a CD or digital download for an MP3 player that delivers an auditory tour of the city. $12.97. (BaltimoreAudioTours.com)

iPad/iPhone games: Jumbalaya is a $1.99 word game for sale in the Apple App Store designed by Fastspot, a Baltimore-based interactive design agency that works on iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. It's addicting. And you can give it to someone through iTunes. (PlayJumbalaya.com)

Gift cards: Don't want to burn the mental energy of choosing a gift for someone? Go the gift card route. Save some money by buying discounted gift cards through GiftCardRescue.com, an Ellicott City-based company. Some stores include Cheesecake Factory, Bed Bath & Beyond and Radio Shack. (And for those who receive unwanted gift cards, you could sell them through GiftCardRescue.)

Got an idea for a Maryland-based technology product that might make for a good holiday gift? E-mail it to me and I'll try and share on the BaltTech blog.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:59 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Apps, East Coast, Gadgets, Gamers, Geeks
        

November 24, 2010

Baltimore Hackathon: I'd call it a success

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These folks only had a weekend. Imagine if the Baltimore Hackathon lasted a week!

I'm belatedly and quickly recapping the first-ever Baltimore Hackathon, which took place over the past weekend at the Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore. (Arthur Hirsch of The Baltimore Sun had a nice write-up of it, in case you missed it over the weekend.)

Dozens of hackers, geeks, programmers and tech enthusiasts participated. Millennial Media, a thriving Baltimore startup that's a dominant player in the mobile ad space, doubled the contest cash prizes at the last minute. And people broke out their soldering irons and laptops for a long weekend of hacking and modifying.

The proof is in the Flickr Photostream!

I was only there for most of the last-day presentations, and I must say, I was impressed with what the teams and individuals were able to pull off in a short weekend. There must have been around 20 presentations or so, I'm guesstimating. The judges, who included Chris Brandenburg, cofounder of MIllennial, chose the best individual and team efforts. (Chris blogged about it here.)

Here are the results with some descriptions of each -- sorry, I didn't get the names of the winners.

Best Individual Hardware: Black Candy Audio Scrambler Pedal (a modified guitar thingamabob)

Best Individual Software: iPad Interactive Ebook (a children's book!)

Best Group Hardware: RotoFoto (a rig that enables you to produce 3D rotating photo images with a cheap camera)

Best Group Software: Headline Split-Testing (for auto-test alternate headlines on blogs, and automatically choosing the one that's most popular with readers based on click feedback.)

Audience Favorite - Nickel for Scale (a device that can measure a hand, using a nickel for scale, so you could quickly make, say a ring with a plastic prototyping machine)

One of the sponsors, Tropo.com, gave out prizes for those who made best use of their programs for integrating voice and SMS applications in their projects.

Best Tropo App: Call-the-Door - a service that allows you to call a door, punch in a code with your phone, and unlock it.

Best Tropo App Runner-Up: Parking Spot Locator -- uses a sensor to let you know when a parking spot is free, and auto-dials your phone.

Best Tropo App 3rd Runner-Up (tie): CloudRant and Voicebump -- CloudRant generates word clouds based on commonly used words in conversation. VoiceBump enables a blogger to call a phone number, speak a blog post, and auto-transcribe it to a blog.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:35 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas, East Coast, Events (Baltimore area), Gadgets, Geeks
        

October 20, 2010

Apple bringing App Store model to the Mac

Steve Jobs just announced that the Mac desktop computer will get its own App Store. So Mac users will have access to apps in the same way that iPhone users have grown accustomed to downloading apps.

Developers will keep 70 percent of the revenues, while Apple gets the rest -- the same revenue split as the iPhone App Store.

It appears Apple is hoping that the iPhone App Store model will turbo-charge app sales for the Mac. Interesting times. It shows how Apple's mobile experience is influencing its desktop business.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps
        

October 5, 2010

Baltimore data trove could spur new apps for citizens

:: Become a friend of BaltTech on Facebook::

Imagine if our government made raw data — from crime trends to building permits to contract spending — freely available on the Web.

That's starting to happen. Washington, D.C., was a front-runner a couple years ago in making such information available, through http://data.dc.gov, and other cities have followed its lead. Another site, USASpending.gov, parses government spending at the federal level. And now, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration says it soon expects to offer a trove of data —for free — through a city Web portal.

What can citizens and technology enthusiasts do with huge chunks of Baltimore data? Just look at what's been done in Washington, D.C. Web developers there have built dozens of Web and mobile phone applications, including an app for the iPhone and Facebook that allows people to make and track 311 calls; an app that combines bike maps and crime data; and another that helps drivers find parking spots.

Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said that the idea for making city data available through a Web portal came up a couple months ago and that the mayor gave the city's information technology department the job of developing the project.

“We're looking to Washington, D.C., as a model,” O'Doherty said.
Baltimore officials are still debating what data to release, but it could range from planning department to police department information. A launch date has not been set for the Baltimore Web data portal, but it is expected to go live this year.

What Web and mobile phone applications would you like to see designed using Baltimore data? I asked this question last week on my blog, BaltTech, and got some interesting responses.

Commenter Steve said he would like to see an application that tracks the prices of steamed and live crabs at crab houses across the region.

Commenter Hilzoy would like to see an “app that lets you report problems (potholes, graffiti, etc.), e-mail a picture in to go with it, track your request, etc.” — essentially a 311 mobile app. Hilzoy also noted that a “traffic app would be nice, as would a bus/subway/light rail schedule and map app.”

Commenter Andrew Hazlett wondered if the video feeds from the city's hundreds of blue-light police surveillance cameras could be made available online and through an app.

John Marsh, interactive director of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), said governments should recognize the importance of mobile phone applications and move to provide information through them to citizens.

Marsh’s ideas include a daily budget and spending tracker application, a crime-mapping application based on a user's location, and a parking app that shows citizens where tickets are most likely to be issued.

He said DBED itself could benefit from a mapping and commercial real estate application that would allow businesses interested in moving to Maryland, or relocating within Maryland, to review available opportunities.

One of my own ideas is an application that would show new construction and permitting across the city. Or how about an app that tracks formation of new businesses and their locations?

Another app could help track housing code enforcement and allow citizens to file complaints easily.

Keep the ideas coming! Post more below!


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:15 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas
        

October 1, 2010

UPDATE: Baltimore IS working on an open data portal

UPDATE: The previous headline of this post was "Baltimore is CRAZY for not opening up its data and encouraging app development (cc: Mayor Rawlings-Blake)." But I've gotten word from the mayor's office this afternoon that, based on citizen feedback, the city IS indeed working on an open-data portal for city data. So take everything I say below as background on the topic. Hooray Baltimore!

 

 

What apps would you like to see for Baltimore?

Did you know that Washington DC has a contest called "Apps for Democracy," which awards prizes who use data from DC government to build useful Web, mobile and Facebook apps? The contest yielded dozens of apps and saved the city money.

The folks who run it are sharing how they did it with the world. Peter Corbett, founder of iStrategy Labs in D.C., which created the contest, said it's been adopted in about 20 places around the world.

See the graphic below:
Apps-for-Democracy.png
Can Baltimore do something similar?

Mike Brenner thinks so. Mike is a web developer and runs the new blog, Startup Baltimore. He's put out a call to do a similar "Apps for Democracy" contest in Baltimore.

Our political and business leaders should take Brenner's call-to-arms seriously. From Brenner's blog post:

Other cities caught wind of this incredible venture and started planning their own versions of the open-data app contest. New York City and its mayor Michael Bloomberg launched NYC BigApps, powered by the NYC.gov Data Mine. It initially cost the city $20,000 and returned 85 apps with an estimated value of return of $4.25 million. Again, an almost incalculable ROI of 21,150%. California has recently launched a similar statewide competition dubbing it as “The Great Data Gold Rush”. One of the most noteworthy outcomes of California’s open-data initiative has been an app that uses San Francisco’s 311 API to create service requests from Twitter via TweetMy311.org.

What does Baltimore need to get started? First, our city government needs to make a wide range of data publicly available, so that developers can tap into it. Washington DC did it with their data catalog.

Corbett said that the technology is relatively easy to set up. And he pointed out that Baltimore was one of the first cities in the country pioneer a "Comstat"-type system of data reporting for its police department and other government agencies, under Mayor Martin O'Malley.

The data is there -- we just need to turn it on for public access.

"I don't know why the city wouldn't want to publish data openly in the way that DC does," Corbett told me. "It really shouldn't be a political issue. Citizens and hackers aren't making government officials look bad. They're building apps to help citizens."

 What do you think? Do you support Baltimore City's opening of public data feeds for the development of Web and mobile apps for citizens?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:18 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Apps
        

Happy Hour Baltimore: the app that helps you find post-work nirvana

:: Become a friend of BaltTech on Facebook::

happyhour_1.PNGThere's a new app in Baltimore that is targeting the city's bars and restaurants, and the happy hour deals they're offering.

It's called Happy Hour Baltimore, and it's available for free in the Apple App Store. (The creators are working on an Android version.) Here's its website.

The two guys behind the app are Brian Champlin and Tom Camposano, who got the idea about a year ago while lounging in hammocks at Camposano's home in Southeast Baltimore.

After a year of development, planning and investment (the guys pumped in about $20K to get the app and website off the ground), they launched it about three weeks ago.

The app does a couple things well. It allows you to browse a map of the city with bars and restaurants that offering specials.

It enables each establishment to post up-to-the-minute offers and deals through the "dispatch" section.

It can connect you with a taxi cab (Raven, Yellow or Blue cab companies) by phone.

And it allows you to share these happy hour spots with friends on Facebook and Twitter, or by email.

 

"Even the old school baltimore bars that have been there forever, even those guys are going for it," Champlin said. "They get to pull in some of the younger crowd."

Now, what's most impressive, in my book, is that Champlin and Camposano have hammered out a nifty business model. For $250 a year (introductory offer), a restaurant/bar can be included in the app, and they get access to the Dispatch section. That means each restaurateur or bar owner can control the message he/she wants to put out through this app.

This is smart on two levels: it gives the establishment full editorial control over the advertising content they're putting out to consumers. And it means Champlin and Camposano don't have to have a staff manually inputting new happy hour information into the app every day or week.

Right now though, the tough part for the pair, whose business is called Dilly Dally Apps, is getting the word out on the app to establishments and to iPhone users. It's a marketing challenge. So far, they've gotten about 70 bars and restaurants as subscribers (which is pretty good so far, I'd say) and hope to break even this year, and turn a profit next year.

"We basically are in the process of covering the entire city on foot and showing them the app, and selling bars and restaurants on the service," Champlin said. So how'd they build the app and website? Champlin tells me that he and his partner don't have much web design/programming experience, so they hired to computer/Web geeks to build the iPhone app and the website. (Geeks make the world go round.)

Word of mouth works, especially in Baltimore, where people who love this city can be quite chatty. I first learned about the app from following The Falls, a Mt. Washington restaurant on Facebook. That restaurant (full disclosure: which is owned by some friends of mine) put out to their Facebook followers that they were offering specials through the Happy Hour Baltimore iPhone app. Smalltimore. :-) 

happyhour_3.PNG happyhour_2.PNG


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Apps, Smartphones, Social Media, Web Dev & Apps
        

August 19, 2010

Facebook Places and Foursquare: who'll own "location"?

Facebook yesterday announced their offering in the geolocation "check-in" space -- a new feature called Places. The company also said it will be working to integrate with the two leading players in the field: Foursquare and Gowalla.

Both Foursquare and Gowalla have been on a tear, adding users by leaps and bounds (especially Foursquare.)

But how will these two darlings fare with Facebook, the 800 pound gorilla, now playing in their space?

Personally, I think you'll start to see new subscribers to Foursquare and Gowalla start to slow down in coming months -- unless those two services can find dramatic new ways to differentiate themselves. (I like Michael Gartenberg's analysis of the Facebook Places announcment.)

In the meantime, I bet you'll start to see businesses experimenting with ad and marketing campaigns on Facebook Places (and shifting their efforts from Foursquare) since so many are already running Facebook campaigns to begin with.

At the end of it all, my prediction is that in 12 months or so, Facebook just buys off either Foursquare or Gowalla, fully integrates them into the Facebook platform, and the other just fades away.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:45 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps
        

July 7, 2010

Forbes Investment Guide iPad app: Two Baltimore companies built it

It's good to see Baltimore companies getting deep into iPad development.

Baltimore's R2integrated led the development of Forbes' Investment Guide Plus iPad app, which is now available for free in Apple's App Store.

R2i worked closely with another Baltimore firm, Mindgrub Technologies, to build the app for Forbes.

Any other Baltimore firms out there building iPad apps?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps
        

April 16, 2010

Baltimore iPad app makers gettin' busy

Without an iPad in hand months ago, the folks at Fastspot in Baltimore used pieces of paper to mock-up how they'd play the new word game they designed. Watch the video!
 

My story about Baltimore-area iPad/iPhone developers hit the paper and the web today -- check it out here. You should also take a gander at the video we shot of Fastspot, a Baltimore interactive design firm, and the iPad game it built: Jumbalaya.

Interested in another iPad app by a Baltimore company? Check out TwitterTube, by Emagine Web Consulting of Pikesville.

One of the more interesting things is that there's a growing ecosystem of businesses that are sprouting up to support iPad/iPhone and other mobile apps.

For instance, Gregg Weiss, a Florida businessman, operates two Websites -- iPad App Developers and iPhone App Developers -- that links developers with companies needing someone to build the apps for them. Gregg also works closely with two companies that help market mobile apps: Appular and Appency.

I think the question that's on everyone's mind is if the iPad will turn out to be as big -- or bigger -- than the iPhone? Or will it be a moderate success?



This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:21 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Gadgets
        

April 12, 2010

Microsoft's new Kin phones -- a semi-smart social phone

kin-phone.jpg

Partners Microsoft, Sharp and Verizon announced a new pair of phones today called Kin, which are built around social messaging services like Twitter and Facebook. The phones are really geared toward people who are constantly chit-chatting via such status services and text-messaging. They won't run third-party applications.

(Whuh? A phone making news because it won't try to have a huge app store?)

Here are some links to learn about the Kin: Engadget's hands-on; CNET's article; BetaNews' take on it; and Microsoft's official news release on the devices.

Watch this video of the Kin demo from Engadget. Notice the new style of user interface for the Kin. Could you see yourself using a phone like this?

 


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Gadgets, Smartphones
        

Adobe Creative Suite 5 debuts today -- will you buy?

adobe%20logo.jpg

If you're a design geek, you probably know this news already: The latest installment of Adobe Inc.'s popular Web/publishing design software -- Creative Suite 5, aka CS5 -- debuts today.

Adobe will preview the top five new features of CS5 online, at 11 a.m. ET. Here's the link to the company's site where it'll take place: http://cs5launch.adobe.com/

Adobe's been in the tech news lately thanks to Apple, which has taken steps to cut out Adobe's Flash platform -- common for video and animations on the Web -- from the iPhone and iPad. Apple's decision has caused tension between the two companies.

Check out this angry blog post from an Adobe employee, who tells Apple to go screw themselves. Really. He says that.





This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Web Dev & Apps
        

March 31, 2010

iPad Apps roundup

appleIpad.jpg

Here's a quick late afternoon roundup of iPad Apps-related news moving quickly on the Web right now:

:: The Huffington Post has a cool video montage of 10 iPad-ready apps, describing them as "awesome." We'll see....

:: BBC has a report that iPad apps will generally cost more than their iPhone/Touch counterparts. Of course they will!

:: This Saturday, April 3, is when the iPad hits the stores. Expect pandemonium. The San Jose Mercury News reports developers have been racing to build apps that can get approved in time for the launch. Crunch time!

Below is an interesting, "hands-on" video by Engadget with the iPad that isn't official Apple marketing material:


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:50 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Wireless
        

March 18, 2010

The year of the Internet on your TV?

This may well be the year of the Web on your television.

Now there's word that Google is looking to partner with Sony and Intel to bring Web videos and other apps to the television through a set-top box. The New York Times reports that Google plans to base the platform on its Android operating system for smartphones.

Televisions are being sold now that that can hook up to the Web and use at least some apps, such as social networking sites. There's also the set-top boxes made by Roku (I own one) and video console systems like the Xbox, Wii and PlayStation that have some Web connectivity.

Meanwhile, TechCrunch theorized that Google's entry into this area would finally spur Apple to do something more with its own offering, called Apple TV. Apple TV, which is a very closed system right now, has a long way to go because, I think, people will want variety in their TV/Web offerings (Netflix, Amazon video, etc) -- and not just a commitment to Apple's iTunes environment alone.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:26 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Apps, Media, Web Dev & Apps
        

March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Apps abound

stpattysmusicapp.jpgOf course there are St. Patty's Day-related iPhone apps, silly!

Check out "St. Patrick's Day Songs" -- a free iPhone app that hit the App Store earlier this month.

Live stream Irish tunes and sing along while you drink your green beer and eat your corned beef and cabbage.

St. Patrick's Day apps abound in the iPhone App store. Just type in "St. Patrick's" as a search to pull them up.

Don't you feel lucky now?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:34 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Apps
        

January 28, 2010

Apple iPad: pros and cons

iPadProsCons.jpg

As I reported (along with the rest of the techy and general media), Apple Inc. introduced the highly anticipated iPad tablet computer yesterday.

In general, I think, it was about what people had come to expect after months of speculation. As always, I expect Apple to add more bells and whistles to the thing -- and drop prices -- in six to 12 months. I might be a relatively early adopter, but I'm not bleeding edge, preferring to mull over a tech purchase and consider closely my own use patterns and needs.

That said, I sketched out some preliminary pros and cons of the iPad, as I perceive them. What am I missing? Of course, there's a little irony that I used a cheap Office Max yellow-lined pad in my analysis of a $500 pad-like machine. (Here are Apple's official tech specs for the iPad.)

The way I see it, if Apple managed to eliminate just two of my cons -- I'd say any two -- I'd feel more excited about the iPad. Til then, it's entered "wait, see and touch" land in my thinking -- which means many more future visits to the local Apple Store. (Aside to wife: Sorry, honey.)

That said, I think natural customers of this device will be iPhone and iTouch users, as well as those looking for netbooks to use primarily as a Web browsing device. I think that if most iPhone and Touch users are honest with themselves, they use these gadgets to do a LOT of Web surfing and content consumption -- and they may unconsciously be pining for more screen real estate to do these tasks on.

The iPad may not be an instant success, but I think the new category that Apple is taking a gamble on is here to stay.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:23 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Gadgets, Wireless
        

January 15, 2010

Twitter to launch Facebook Connect copycat?

Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch says that Twitter will soon debut a set of tools that will allow web developers to tightly integrate the service into their websites -- much like Facebook now offers through Facebook Connect.

The new Twitter product will allow sites to authenticate users, pull data and then publish back to Twitter, we’ve heard. All of these features exist today via the Twitter API, but the slick Facebook Connect-like packaging and easy-to-use widgets don’t exist yet.

Arrington notes that Facebook says 80,000 websites have added Facebook Connect, and 60 million Facebook users engage with Facebook connect on these third party websites each month.

Generally, I think I would be much more inclined to connect to a site via a "Twitter connect" feature than Facebook Connect. I have far less personal information associated with my Twitter account than with my Facebook account.

I know we're all supposed to be living in a post-privacy Internet (according to Facebook), but I still think a lot of people want a way to connect with others without sharing all sorts of private information with third parties.

Will Websites be as willing to integrate Twitter as they are with Facebook?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:18 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, West Coast
        

November 19, 2009

Why are utility apps so juicy for advertisers?

MobileInAppCTRchart.jpg

One of the more interesting nuggets to come out of Millennial Media's latest monthly report (called S.M.A.R.T.) on smartphone ad-market analystics was this above chart showing average click-through rates in five (not four) app categories: games, social, entertainment, utility and navigation.

The chart above compares the smartphone platforms of Apple, Google's Android and Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry.

A click-through rate of 2 percent for ad campaigns is considered "very successful." So which category blows the others out of the water? That's right: utility. All three smartphone platforms showed a high click-through rate for advertisments that ran in utility apps.

I'm a newbie to these ad analytics for mobile, but I'm very curious to peel back a few more layers of this onion, to see why smartphone users are more inclined to click on in-app ads in the utility apps, compared to the other categories.

So how about that Millennial and MobClix? What are your theories on what's going on with these utility apps and why are smartphone users more inclined to click on in-app advertising with them?

(Note: Millennial's monthly S.M.A.R.T. report was put together with statistics from MobClix. The above data are year-to-date figures.)


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Media, Research, Smartphones, Wireless
        

September 16, 2009

Would you pay for the mobile version of the WSJ?

The_Wall_Street_Journal_app_270x404.jpgI never understood why the Wall Street Journal, which charges for its online edition, launched an iPhone app (two, if you count All Things D) that gave away its content for free.

Now we know that free doesn't mean free forever.

The Journal's owner, Rupert Murdoch, said the news publisher plans to charge non-subscribers $2 a week for the mobile version (on BlackBerries and iPhones), and $1 per week for online-only subscribers.

Subscribers to both the print and online editions would get it for free, according to this <ahem> free report from Reuters.

I used to have a WSJ online-only subscription, until they more-than-doubled my rate over the course of two years.

I was stupefied they gave away their content on the iPhone for free. But now that experiment in free appears to be over.

And I, of course, wonder how many people who are not already subscribers will be willing to pay to read it on their smartphones.

The truth is, though it was free, I didn't really use the WSJ iPhone app that much. The content that was funneled through it was good, but not overwhelmingly special.

All Things D satisfied my tech itch, and I hope that stays a free app. But even if not, there are still numerous sources on the Web and on my iPhone that will fill the gap.

What do you think? Would you pay for the WSJ app now that you've had a chance to experience it for free for so many months?

(photo credit: Image of WSJ via CNET)


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:26 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Apps, Gadgets, Media, Smartphones, Web Dev & Apps
        

July 22, 2009

Tweeting dads in the delivery room

To Tweet or not to Tweet during your wife's labor? That is the question.

Back in October, I used Twitter to post 9 or so updates throughout the day as my wife went through labor. It gave me something to do with my fidgety fingers in my downtime, and some friends and relatives found it useful. (I informed my Facebook friends I'd be Tweeting and sent them a link to my Twitter page.)

Twitter, in effect, was really the sole efficient way to communicate in a "one-to-many" way to people outside the comfortable bubble we were in at the hospital. My pleasant wife only begged me to not Tweet anything gross, which I obliged.

At the end of it all, we brought home a healthy, gorgeous baby girl. A few days later, I went back through my Tweets and compiled them, and saved them in a screen-shot on my computer, for posterity. It's now a cool little digital memento for us that I can print out and add to our family photo album.

My colleague Joe Burris says in a story today that Tweeting dads are becoming more common.

Of course, there's a debate on how to use such technology during such a sensitive time as a child's birth. I guess all I can say that I think it's really up to the couple to come to an agreement and set some ground rules. You both should feel comfortable about what it means to Tweet the delivery. And Dads, it goes without saying that you shouldn't let it get in the way of any of your fatherly duties.

So what do you think? Is live-Tweeting your kid's birth a ridiculous idea or just another sign of the times in our texting/Twitter digital lives?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Apps, Good Reads, Smartphones, Social Media
        

July 9, 2009

More Google Voice accounts starting to roll-out?

If you just look at Twitter, dozens and dozens of people today are tweeting about recently receiving an invitation to launch their new Google Voice accounts.

Google Voice, as you may know, is Google's revamping of the Grand Central phone app that the company bought a few years back. Google lets you use one phone number to manage multiple phone numbers. Some think it'll be revolutionary. Check out the list of goodies it promises to offer us, such as free voicemail transcription and answering any of your multiple phone lines (home, work, cell) on one phone.

I'm wondering if the big roll-out wave has finally begun. Can anybody help confirm? I know Google started sending out invites to some in late June. Is this just another big batch of invites, or the whole enchilada?

Baltimorean Patrick Knight sent me a copy of his invite. Here it is below:

You are invited to open a free Google Voice account.

To accept this invitation and create your account, visit https://www.google.com/voice/

If you haven't already heard about it, Google Voice is a service that makes using your current phones much better!

Here's what it offers:

• A personal phone number that rings all of your existing phones when people call

• All of your voicemail in one inbox with unlimited online storage and free voicemail transcripts sent to your phone and email • Low-priced international calling to over 200 countries and free SMS

• Other powerful features like the first phone spam filter to protect you from unwanted callers, the ability to ListenInTM on your voicemail messages while they are being left, conference calling and more

To learn more about Google Voice before registering, visit: http://www.google.com/voice/about Please note that Google Voice is only available for sign up in the US.

We hope you enjoy Google Voice,

The Google Voice Team


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:07 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Apps, Social Media, Web Dev & Apps
        
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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
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