February 2, 2012

What the Facebook IPO filing misses: age demographics

I keep hearing in my travels that the young folk (teens and tweens) are using Tumblr alot. Tumblr, indeed, is on a roll.

In the context of Facebook's IPO filing, I went looking for age demographics in its S-1 filing with the SEC.

Guess what? It wasn't there.

With 800+ million worldwide users, Facebook is gargantuan. But the social networking giant hardly gave insight into the demographic undercurrents driving the website's growth, in terms of age.

We've seen some of these graphics and stats elsewhere on the Web before. Like here, for 2010 estimates. And here, for 2011 estimates.

If I were investing in Facebook, I'd like to see more reporting on their age demographic trends. How fast are their various age segments growing? What is user activity among 18-25 year-olds like? What is your most engaged age demographic from a daily-average/monthly-average user perspective?

The only on-point statement I found the filing that addresses the younger demographic is the following: "We also believe that younger users have higher levels of engagement with the web and mobile devices in general and with Facebook specifically. We anticipate that demographic trends over the long term may contribute to growth in engagement as a greater number of users will come from demographic groups that have grown up with the web and mobile devices and who spend more time online every day." (page 46)

To me, one of the biggest competitive threats to Facebook is what online tools a 13 year old is using today to share their lives with friends.

Back in 2008, this chart I found on Myspace and other networks showed that 0-17 year olds were its largest demographic. Next largest? 45-54. And women dominated the site more than men.

AOL was once pretty omnipotent. But guess what? A new generation adopted new tools and new sites. Sure, people are still using AOL (dialup, no less), but AOL is a shadow of its former self.

Another random thought: Facebook has grown, in large part, thanks to women users. Look at the user stats from the above link (yes, this one). There are more women using Facebook than men in every age category.

That's pretty impressive. Women control many household purse strings. They are financial decision makers. I'm not saying this with any gender bias. But women increasingly really are decision makers, and advertisers recognize that. This is a feather in Facebook's cap.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:21 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Social Media

February 1, 2012

Facebook files for IPO, seeks to raise $5 billion

At 4:47 p.m. today, Facebook Inc. filed its S-1 registration statement as it seeks to go public and raise $5 billion.

Some key facts: from the filing:

* The Web 2.0 company has 845 million monthly active users. It had revenues last year of $3.7 billion, compared to $1.9 billion in 2010.

* It had a profit last year of $1 billion last year, compared to $606 million in 2010.

* Facebook has $3.9 billion in cash in the bank.

* Founder Mark Zuckerberg controls 36 percent of Class A shares. Baltimore's T. Rowe Price Group, a mutual funds investor, holds 5.2 percent of shares.

* Here's a monster number: 483 million daily active users (DAUs) on average in December 2011, an increase of 48% as compared to 327 million DAUs in December 2010.

* Zyngaville! Facebook says its relationship with Zynga accounted for 12 percent of its revenues. A healthy amount, but not surprising.

* The filing says Facebook plans to list its stock either on the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange (You mean they haven't decided yet?)

* VERY interesting: Because Zuckerberg controls so many shares, the company is "not required to have a majority of our board of directors be independent, nor are we required to have a compensation committee or an independent nominating function."

* Total cost and expenses for running Facebook quadrupled to nearly $2 billion in 2011, from $515 million in 2009.

* Here's a chart of Facebook's history, from the filing:


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, West Coast

January 31, 2012

Look at how easy it is to organize a tech event in Baltimore

There's been a flowering in Baltimore in the area of event planning and organizing, among the tech/entrepreneurial crowd. Social media has really connected people like never before. One of the more dynamic groups at the moment is the Baltimore Tech Facebook group, which is an organic mass of 600+ members. (Are you a member yet? And while you're at it, follow BaltTech on Facebook too, for news updates from me.)

One of the points I make in today's article is that some of the traditional groups normally behind Baltimore tech events -- TEDCO, Emerging Technology Center, and the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, for instance -- find themselves attending as many, or more, independent community events as they now organize for the community. Such as yesterday's Practice Your Pitch event, organized on the Facebook group and held at Naden/Lean in Cockeysville.

Monica Beeman tweeted about Practice Your Pitch here. And I expect local video tech guru Eli Etherton to post a video soon of all the pitches and feedback. I'll post it here when he does.

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January 24, 2012

Abell Foundation: Waiting for a sustainable online journalism site to fund?

Robert_c._embry%2C_jr.jpgWhen you run in fast local media-gossip circles like I do (ha!), you can't resist the opportunity to ask a local power player whether his foundation is still interested in buying The Baltimore Sun.

Yesterday, I interviewed Robert C. Embry Jr. (left), president of the Abell Foundation, about the philanthropic institution's increasing emphasis on funding local technology startups. Abell has just committed $75,000 to a new group called the Innovation Alliance, which will use the funds to conduct a big survey of what the tech community wants and needs.

Toward the end of my interview with Mr. Embry, I asked if Abell still has any interest in buying the Baltimore Sun. (Abell was reportedly part of a team of local investors, led by Ted Venetoulis, who had floated the idea of buying the Sun about five/six years ago.)

Embry told me that the Tribune bankruptcy (Chicago-based Tribune Co. owns the Baltimore Sun, as well as the Chicago Tribune, LA Times and other papers) muddled the prospects for an acquisition several years ago. Indeed, bankruptcy is a sort of limbo for companies in most cases.

If and when Tribune emerges from bankruptcy, Embry said, "then we would re-open the question."

I also asked Embry if Abell, which has funded high-tech energy and biotech companies lately, has any interest in funding new online journalism startups?

Said Embry: "We've spent a lot of time considering that. A lot of people have approached us with ideas, but we haven't been presented with any that are self-sustaining."

I don't know what Maryland-based online news sites have presented themselves to the Abell Foundation for funding, but I can rattle off a bunch off the top of my head that are a steady part of my local media diet.

There's Baltimore Brew (which did a fantastic job raising $24,624 on Kickstarter -- well over their $15,000 goal.)

There's CityBizList, for Baltimore area business.

And, for state house politics news.

Are these sites "sustainable"? I don't know. At this point, they seem to have had some longevity. They are veterans, in terms of online years. That counts for something.

In fact, in addition to the Sun, which still dominates, there's still a healthy selection of print and online sources of good journalism and opinion-ating around Baltimore, and a little beyond. There's CityPaper, the Daily Record, Caroll County Times, Urbanite, the Patuxent publications, the Gazette, the Washington Post, and Center Maryland. (Update: Yes, I'm sorry, I forgot to mention the Patch sites.)

The not-so-hidden players in the local media scene anymore are Twitter and Facebook. The public has more power than ever before to push stories to the top of a traditional reporter's agenda. And the public can respond to a story -- and the newsmakers behind it -- with online persistence and inquisitiveness.

In the old days, journalists would work hard to find new angles and keep a good story alive every day. (We still do.) Today, the public does the same thing on Facebook and Twitter, if the story means enough to them (us).

Just yesterday, I watched as a story I wrote about the Abell Foundation and the Innovation Alliance immediately got some push-back in the comments section of the Baltimore Tech Facebook group.

Within a couple hours of posting the story, Newt Fowler, head of the Innovation Alliance, was immediately responding to questions from the tech community.

This is truly a revolution in news, information-sharing and accountability.

Sure, we lost the Examiner a few years back, but we've actually seen the remaining publications -- and new ones, including us at The Baltimore Sun -- start to adjust to the online world.

Anybody can make and break news, and anybody can immediately question the newsmakers -- and the news writers. This rocks.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Media, Social Media, Startups

November 23, 2011

Facebook buys Baltimore company that sued it: report


Sometimes the surest way to get noticed by a giant is to just sue them.

A small Baltimore company that sued Facebook two years ago was reportedly acquired by the mega-social-networking company earlier this month.

WhoGlue Inc., a company owned and operated by Jason Hardebeck (that's him above), said in an interview this morning that he sold his company for an undisclosed amount to Facebook in early November. The lawsuit that he had filed against Facebook -- for infringing on a patent titled "distributed personal relationship information management system and methods" -- was settled last year in a "very positive" way, Hardebeck said, and he and Facebook execs kept in touch.

"It's not typically how you introduce yourself to someone, to serve them with papers," Hardebeck said. "My experience with Facebook was very positive, very surprising, given its perception in the press and certainly from the movie [The Social Network]. It turns out that they are really good guys."

Facebook has bought several companies over the years. The WhoGlue acquisition appears to be the first acquisition by Facebook in Baltimore. [List of Facebook acquisitions.]

WhoGlue specializes in designing private social networks, for member groups, such as alumni associations. Hardebeck sees a future where public social networks interact with private networks more seamlessly.

He declined to comment on what exactly Facebook acquired from WhoGlue Inc. As part of the deal, Hardebeck ended up buying back some assets, trademarks and customer relationships from Facebook, and formed a new company, WhoGlue LLC, that can continue to operate the same business. WhoGlue had about a dozen shareholders, including the big tech company Siemens, which created the technology in the patent that WhoGlue held.

Hardebeck declined to say if the patent was sold as part of the Facebook deal. But he made clear that his company's sale didn't mean an early retirement for him. He intended to keep working in the same industry.

"Where we intend to go is where the world is going," Hardebeck said. "Eventually, public social networks will need to interact with private social networks."

"What we've beeen working on for 12 years just gets accelerated," Hardebeck said. "There's a very good chance now that we go out and get big fast."

WhoGlue consists of just two full-time employees, Hardebeck and a developer in Berlin. The company also works with contractors, he said.

I have a request for comment into Facebook. The deal was first reported by the Baltimore Business Journal.

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November 2, 2011

Survey: 2/3 of young workers choose Internet access over car


A new worldwide survey of 3,000 people, including college students and young workers, shows how the Internet has become a primary medium for news, social networking and communication, and for many, as important water, food, air and shelter.

The Cisco Connected World Technology Report can be found here.

It's chock full of snapshots of the Millennial generation, such as: More than half of the study's respondents could not live without the Internet and cite it as an "integral part" of their lives. In some cases, they call it more essential than owning a car, dating, and going to parties.

Indeed, the survey found that 2/3 of global students/young workers would rather have Internet access than a car.

As Fast Company points out, the next generation of workers want full access to social media and the Internet as part of their work life. And they have a whole set of expectations that employers are going to have to grapple with, to keep them happy.

[Thanks to @jessica_lee for tweeting about the report!]

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:53 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Social Media

October 10, 2011

Technology, social media disrupt Baltimore's tech association

sharon-webb.PNG I recently caught up with Sharon Webb, the new-ish CEO of the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, for a nice long chat about technology, the GBTC, and entrepreneurial activity -- oh, and raising multiples. (She's a parent of triplets and I have twins.)

Since I've been covering local tech the last 2+ years, I've definitely noticed a big surge in networking and startup events. The GBTC is sometimes involved, sometimes not.

So the main line of questioning I took with Sharon was: Can the GBTC be relevant in a world where anyone (with a half decent reputation and set of connections) organize meetups, talks, breakfasts, panels and events.

Here's the full interview with Sharon. Take a look.

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August 24, 2011

Baltimore's first earthquake tweet


We all know by now that social media, specifically networks such as Twitter and Facebook, played a big role in connecting people after yesterday's earthquake. [Note:Did you see my story about it?]

Well, the folks at Twitter sifted through all those messages yesterday and then emailed me with some interesting facts, including Baltimore's first earthquake tweet.

The tweet came from Verna-Catherine (@prettyinbluee_) Her first tweet was "Earthquake?" (see above)

At first, as you see by her tweets, she thought someone was breaking into her house. Then, she grabbed her dog and her TV.

Here's the tweeter -- she's fast with her texting. Someone in the media should think about hiring her!


My favorite tweet of hers: "People just happy that something interesting happened in MD."

Some other earthquake facts from Twitter, courtesy of PR person Jodi Olson:

* A Tweet can reach your followers in less than a second. So in areas far from the epicenter, some people read Tweets about the quake before they felt it.

* Within a minute of the earthquake, there were more than 40,000 earthquake-related Tweets.

* Twitter hit about 5,500 Tweets per second (TPS). For context, this TPS is more than Osama Bin Laden's death & on par with the Japanese quake.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:38 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones, Social Media

August 15, 2011

Did you find a job with help from social media?

In case you don't get the Sunday paper (and why wouldn't you?), I had a story yesterday about the rise of social media usage in recruiting and job-hunting.

I talked with some local companies and recruiters about their efforts in using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to connect with job candidates.

My take-away: professional networking and job-hunting in some ways requires good social media "hygiene." Just like you'd go to a dentist or general practitioner annually for a thorough checkup, you need to be diligent about maintaing a social media presence that's geared toward your career.

Freshen up your LinkedIn page and contribute to its Groups. Use keywords and tweet with hashtags on Twitter. Explore your friends' job connections on Facebook. Keep yourself visible (without embarrassing yourself, of course.)

If you found your job with the help of social media, give us a shout-out in the comments below.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:54 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Jobs & Recruiting, Social Media

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 -- -- 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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August 8, 2011

The new "innovation community manager" at GBTC

HazlettGBTC.jpegGive a big hello (and "follow" on various social networks) to Andrew Hazlett, the Greater Baltimore Tech Council's new "innovation community manager."

Catch his blog here.

Back in June, I wrote about this new job created at the GBTC. It's great to see someone else who's going to be writing about the tech and entrepreneurial scene in Baltimore.

Andrew has a pretty diverse background, as he writes, in journalism, government, urban public policy and book publishing.

I'm looking forward to following the stuff he does. 

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, East Coast, Events (Baltimore area), Social Media

June 9, 2011

Over-reaction? Gone-golfing tweet leads to social media worker's firing

It's not as titillating as Congressman Anthony Weiner's tweet saga, but a social media specialist's tweet about workers at a Lehigh Valley economic development agency leaving work early to play golf was deemed inappropriate enough to lead to her firing.

According to the Morning Call newspaper, the offending tweet from the Lehigh Valley Ecoonomic Development Corp.'s official Twitter account was: "We start summer hours today. That means most of the staff leave at noon, many to hit the links. Do you observe summer hours? What do you do?"

That was enough for Vanessa Williams, a newly employed social media specialist, to lose her job.

The agency head quickly told the local newspaper that the policy was for people to leave early on Friday only if they had worked their 40 hours for the week. The tweet was sent out last Friday and the head said no one left early that day, according to the Morning Call.

Do you think Williams' firing was appropriate or an over-reaction? If there was clarification needed -- i.e. something like: "actually, no one left early today but sometimes, when they do, they choose to go golfing after working their full 40 hours" --- why couldn't that have been accomplished in follow-up tweets without firing this person?

And yes, actually, I think it is a good thing for an economic development agency to know if its local companies have a practice of adopting summer hours. So I can see where the social media specialist may have thought she was doing a good thing to understand how local businesses were approaching the topic of summer hours.

Here's the problem, I think: too many companies and agencies are jumping onto social media without thinking through the ramifications. And they're using a hammer in touchy circumstances, when a soft touch would suffice.

What do you think?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:46 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: *NEWS*, Social Media

June 7, 2011

Groupon in Baltimore: hot and cold experiences?

My Baltimore Sun colleague -- and cubicle neighbor -- Jay Hancock has an interesting column that takes a look at Groupon from the local perspective. What are some restaurants' experiences with the social deal website?

He talked to a bunch of restaurants and got their experiences with it, good and bad. It's an interesting topic that's come to the fore again, as Groupon last week filed to go public in an IPO in the future. The company is pulling in tons of revenue, but is not profitable. (Some in the tech world are even calling the company "Grouponzi." Ouch.)

I'm wondering what the perspective on Groupon is from consumers in Baltimore? Do you find yourself buying -- and actually using -- Groupons? Are you happy with the service you receive at places where you redeem a Groupon?

Shoot me a tweet via Twitter at @gussent.

(Sorry...Our comments are temporarily disabled due to spam.)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:14 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, Startups

May 19, 2011

LinkedIn IPO launches into stratosphere


Buckle in, folks! It's gonna be a wild ride from here on in.

LinkedIn Corp., the social media network for workers, went public today and its shares, which started out priced at $45, zoomed up to $90.50 in morning trading. It's currently at around $85, as of 10:40 a.m. today. That means, on paper at least, LinkedIn was valued upwards of $8.5 billion.

The Wall Street Journal story this morning noted that investors are hungry for similar IPO stories. By "similar stories," the WSJ probably means everyone is waiting to see how IPOs for Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and Zynga might do.

LinkedIn has been the under-rated, less sexy social media company, compared with those other four. But it was the first one to go IPO. I'd hate to be the last of those companies doing an IPO. Who'll have money to invest at that point?

Seriously though, I have to wonder if how well LinkedIn performs in the next couple of quarters will either whet investors' appetites for more social media companies on Wall Street, or turn them off on such company stocks. It's not a given that a big first day in the stock market for LinkedIn presages successful IPOs for Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and Zynga. LinkedIn, for one, has a lot of work to do for those investors who bought in between $45 and $90 today.

As Michael Moe, chief investment officer of GSV Capital Management in Woodside, California, told Bloomberg News yesterday: “The valuation for LinkedIn is rich. To earn the valuation, it has to continue to grow very, very fast.”

A lot can happen in the next couple of quarters. Internet competitors and the speed in which the market changes is faster than the speed at which Wall Street bankers operate. If LinkedIn knocks it out of the park the next couple quarters, that bodes well for its peers. If not, well, maybe we'll see more IPOs. Or maybe instead we'll see some acquisitions and mergers.

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May 17, 2011

Paying with your iPhone, browsing menus with your iPad


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.

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May 16, 2011

Do you ever wish you could just unplug?

Do you feel overwhelmed and, perhaps, addicted to your smartphone, social media or the Internet -- or all three? Do you regularly wish you could just unplug, if you could just find the discipline to Put. Your. Phone. Down.

My story in yesterday's newspaper considered this topic from the perspective of some people who choose to take a "media fast", an "Internet Sabbath" or an "Internet Sabbatical." The idea has different names, for sure, but it's basically about setting time for yourself to unplug from digital life, slow down on the multi-tasking, and live in your physical reality, not a virtual one.

Gin Ferrara, a community manager at NewsTrust, was game enough to let me interview her for my story. She's an advocate of such media fasts. In fact, you can see her talking about her experience with the idea -- media free week -- in this video where she presented at a recent Ignite Baltimore event.

One area that I forgot to mention in my story (and I'm embarrassed for forgetting this) is the role that technology can actually play to help us better manage our relationship with technology -- does that make sense?

When people talk about unplugging, many mean they wish they could put down the work BlackBerry and not be reachable on the weekends by their bosses. When it came to smarter email management, I thought of Jared Goralnick. For my story, I interviewed Goralnick, founder and CEO of Awayfind, a tool that helps you get a handle on your email inbox. Basically, checking email can be a huge, compulsive time-suck. I probably check my email inbox a 100-200 times a day, but only a tiny fraction of that time am I receiving something I need to act on immediately. So Awayfind, a Made-in-Maryland company by the way, helps ferret out the important emails from the not-so-important ones.

"If you’re successful, you spend less time in your inbox," Goralnick said. "We’re a big fan of minimizing interruptions."

Personally, I think Goralnick is spot on. Lately, I've found myself feeling more refreshed and productive and focused when I'm working out of the office then while at the office. And then, it hit me. At the office, where I have MS Outlook, I'm constantly being distracted by email alerts that pop up (I have to change that setting), while outside the office, I don't have that distraction.

I probably get 300 emails a day. I can't keep up with them. About 90 percent is horrible spam. But I lose emails -- including ones from my bosses -- in the stream.

It's frustrating. And, by the end of the week, all I want to do is unplug.

Below is a picture of Gin and her husband, David Pepper, at home with Scrabble -- a game they play during their media free weeks.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:52 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Social Media

May 13, 2011

Stolen laptop recovered with help of technology, Twitter followers

Sean Power (or @seanpower) riveted the Twitterverse last night with his play-by-play of his efforts to use technology and the Twitter crowd to reclaim his stolen laptop.

His computer had been stolen days before in New York City and Sean had to fly to Canada in the meantime. But on his computer, he had free, open-source location-tracking software, called Prey, that alerted him when his laptop was being used. His laptop's webcam took pictures of the alleged thief, and tracked him as he surfed the Web, used Skype and even logged in to his bank account!

Sean ends up calling the guy and arranging for his computer to be given to two people, who apparently heard about the drama as it unfolded on Twitter, and offered to help Sean.

It's a crazy tale of high-tech and, um, crowdsourcing, I suppose, your stolen laptop's recovery. Hit up the links over in Geekwire to dig further into the story.

Here's a question: how popular is the Prey software today after Sean's story?

Here's their video of how the software works:

Prey Project introduction from Carlos Yaconi on Vimeo.

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April 11, 2011

Columbia University study: Facebook users either sharing too much, or too little

A computer scientist at Columbia University found that every single person surveyed in a study about Facebook usage was sharing something they wished to hide, or hiding something they wished to share -- a finding that highlights the shortcomings of the online social network's privacy settings, according to his research.

The study is believed to be the first that considers the privacy intentions of users of the popular network, which has more than 600 million members worldwide, and attempts to reconcile users intentions with how their information is actually displayed on the site.

Steven M. Bellovin, who as a graduate student helped develop the USENET internet discussion board system more than three decades ago, reviewed his study during a talk to students at the University of Maryland School of Law today in Baltimore.

"If you think it should be kept private, have you succeeded in doing so?" Bellovin posited to the crowd.

Bellovin said that most people indicated in his study that they cared about privacy, and that media coverage of privacy concerns with Facebook had made them pay more attention to the issue. But a majority of users indicated that they can not or will not fix errors in their privacy settings, he said.

"The overwhelming majority of people have given up," said Bellovin. "That, to us, is a fairly damning statement on the user interface."

The study was limited to surveying 65 Columbia University students, who were recruited on campus, and completed by using a customized Facebook application.

Below, Bellovin, left, accompanied by UMD law professor Danielle Citron.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:31 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Social Media

March 31, 2011

Johns Hopkins No. 2 in "social media colleges" 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]

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:40 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Social Media

January 24, 2011

Twitter advertising to triple in 2011

Attention Maryland marketers and advertisers:

Heard the news? Twitter supposedly is going to attract roughly triple the advertising revenue this year, at $150 million -- compared to $45 million last year. An article in eMarketer had some numbers, including a forecast that Twitter will grow through 2012 to encompass $250 million in ad revenues.

What I want to know from Maryland companies is: Are you going to advertise through Twitter this year?

Twitter's seems to be rolling with its "promoted tweets" feature, but it's unclear -- to me, at least -- how effective its product is for advertisers.

Twitter is no where near the size of Facebook in terms of ad revenue, but eMarketer forecasts that Twitter could become bigger than MySpace in coming years. I guess that's not saying much, though.

So will Twitter become a more robust platform for advertisers and marketers? And if it does, will the increased presence of ads just annoy users who want less "noise" in their Twitter experience?

Part of the monetization challenge for Twitter is that corporate America generally does find it to be a useful communication tool for engaging customers and protecting their "brands," but how can Twitter make money off such a usage pattern?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:39 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Social Media, Startups

January 21, 2011

Google launching Groupon competitor


You're probably thinking: Gosh, you know what I REALLY NEED right now from the Web? Yet another site that wants to send me daily deals on everything from discounted pedicures to half-off prices at the local deli.

Well, folks, you're gonna get it: Multiple online news outlets are reporting that Google is planning on launching a Groupon competitor. Google failed at buying Groupon so apparently now it's introducing its own service to try and kill it.

It reportedly will be called "Google Offers."

The mad race for Google, Groupon and other big companies is for the local advertising market. Some big companies want to be the ones to crack the hyperlocal advertising and deals market, because it's worth potentially billions and no one's really tapped it on a grand scale.

Despite Google's failure at buying Groupon (for a reported $6 billion, I think), I would expect to see some major consolidation in the market in a year's time. There are, my guess, scores of Groupon clones out there, including a local one in Baltimore called Chewpons.

Hit the jump for the story I wrote about Chewpons in December.

Continue reading "Google launching Groupon competitor" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:02 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Social Media

January 13, 2011

10-20 Media raises $800K to continue home and garden data venture

10-20 Media, a Howard County firm, this week raised $800,000 in debt financing, which it will apparently be pouring into its business as a "home and garden marketplace data aggregator," according to an SEC filing this week.

The company has an iPhone app called GardenPilot, which puts 14,000 choices of flora from multiple retailers into the hands of consumers. It also builds online tools that helps retailers show off their offerings on their websites.

The $800,000 round is the latest of multiple investments in 10-20 Media over the past two years. The company has raised a combined $1 million in debt through three previous filings.

By the way, the term 10-20 is a trucker/CB radio term signifying your location.

Below is a snapshot of the Garden Pilot app.


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January 5, 2011

Marketing agency MGH tweaks competitors in a print ad


Mind you, I have nothing to do with advertising at the Baltimore Sun, but this is too juicy to not comment on:

MGH, a marketing firm, took out a full-page ad in the Monday paper to highlight its expertise in social media marketing. (See above) In an eloquent bar graph, MGH depicted its Facebook fans (aka "likes") at 2,174 -- far more than 10 other competing agencies.

MGH basically called them out, by name. Yowza! Of course, I first learned of this on MGH's Facebook page, which had attracted some great discussion on the ad, so they must be doing something right -- and hey, one could argue the ad worked to a certain extent. It got people talking. Some even wondered why a modern marketing agency bothered advertising in the "declining" Baltimore Sun. Ouch. Hey - don't shoot the messenger, folks.

But it gets better: Matthew Pugh, who works at R2integrated, the firm with the second most fans, laid down a challenge on MGH's Facebook page, which MGH apparently accepted. And Baltimore Social Media Club jumped in on the action! All we need is a steel cage, Randy "Macho Man" Savage and Ms. Elizabeth to crash the event!

Here's part of the exchange on the MGH Facebook page clipped below:


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:40 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Social Media

January 3, 2011

Baltimore's tech community and its rising political voice

I've been keeping this blog for about 18 months now, and I've noticed one overarching trend during this time in Baltimore: the "tech" community is expanding and pulling in excited people from all walks of life in the metro area. Social media (Facebook/Twitter, mainly) are connecting locals more than ever before.

Perhaps most importantly, the still-relatively-small community of tech/social media geeks are organizing for different goals, from business-oriented networking events to social projects. The fact that such organization is happening, so efficiently and quickly, leads me to believe in one thing: the Baltimore tech community is developing its own influential voice -- so much so that politicians are noticing.

It may not be one unified voice. But great power potentially resides in those who know how to maximize the use of technology and the Internet.

It is nowhere more apparent than last year's local effort to organize a Baltimore application for the Google Fiber for Communities project. It started as a grassroots effort that grew to the point where it made sense for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to embrace it. Suddenly, Baltimore was gussying itself up trying to impress Google, a West Coast company who's looking to build a spanking-new fiber optic network as a test bed for new technologies.

(We also shouldn't forget how, statewide, the tech community organized to defeat passage of a tech services tax a few years back -- one of the organizers was Tom Loveland, Baltimore's "Google Czar.")

Now we see another step in the political awakening of Baltimore's tech community: Dave Troy's endorsement of mayoral candidate Otis Rolley on Jan. 1. Troy (pictured) is a Maryland Renaissance man, dabbling in various entrepreneurial and startup projects, public/social endeavors, and big-idea thinking. He's got the business chops and the technology chops to make stuff happen, and increasingly, he's paying attention to who's politically in charge. (And politics watcher Adam Meister is now watching him.) Troy helped pull together Baltimore's Google Fiber effort, along with Tom Loveland.

And Dave, mind you, is well-connected to geeks across the land, not just Maryland. Geeks know how to work the Internet and social media -- and political candidates like Rolley and Rawlings-Blake, I think, recognize that they'll increasingly need the geeks in their corner.

President Barack Obama tapped the geeks for his campaign, with great success.

"[T]he use of the Internet for political and community organizing will usher in an era of unprecedented change in American cities," Troy writes. He says of Rolley:

I support Otis Rolley in his candidacy for Mayor of Baltimore in 2011. At 36, Otis is part of the new guard. He’s qualified – he has a masters’ degree in City Planning from MIT. He has been in Baltimore since 1998. He served 10 years in the public sector and two in the private sector. As an executive, he led the Baltimore City Department of Planning and – shockingly – produced the city’s first actual master plan in 39 years.

If more geeks, in addition to Troy, break Rolley's way, we could see a very interesting and robust Internet-based campaign season break out in Baltimore for the mayoral election later this year.

Rawlings-Blake, for her part, has pushed for more transparency in city government using technology. The last we heard, her administration is working to unveil large sets of data from city agencies that will give the public -- and eager tech geeks -- material to create new Web mashups that inform the public about government operations.

For more info:

* Rolley's Website.

* Rawlings-Blake's Website.

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Amy Webb bringing Awesome to Baltimore


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 16, 2010

Diamond Fans unite on Facebook -- thanks to a Baltimore jeweler

diamondfanslogo.jpg One of the most popular destinations on Facebook with ties to Baltimore isn't connected to a sports team or a national brand, but to a downtown jewelry shop.

Ron Samuelson, of Samuelson's Diamonds on West Baltimore Street, operates the “Diamond Fans” page on Facebook, which recently surpassed more than 500,000 fans and is now the largest jewelry page on the social media site.

By comparison, Zales Jewelers, a national chain, has 27,000 Facebook fans, while Kay Jewelers has fewer than 600 fans. Another local company, Baltimore-based Under Armour Inc., has 390,000 Facebook fans, while the Baltimore Ravens football team has 252,000 fans.

The most popular page is Texas Hold ’Em Poker, with 27 million fans of the Facebook game.

 “It’s just so incredible,” Samuelson said. “Here we are sitting on Baltimore Street and we have the largest jewelry page on Facebook.”

AllFacebook, a website that tracks Facebook news, recently ranked the “Diamond Fans” page as the 63rd most popular page in the fashion category of Facebook, beating out Hugo Boss, Levi’s and Versace.

Thousands of small and large businesses, pro athletes, celebrities and nonprofits maintain fan pages on Facebook. Facebook users become “fans” of the pages to keep up with news, events and promotions that are offered through the pages. Increasingly, having a Facebook fan page is an integral part of a company’s marketing strategy.

Samuelson claimed the “Diamond Fans” page about 2 1/2 years ago, and he has been diligently updating it with photos and links to news, facts and trends in the world of diamonds. He does occasional promotions through the page for products for sale at his Baltimore store — but pushing advertising about his business isn’t the main purpose of the page, he said.

Instead, Samuelson is using the page to build a worldwide community of fans of diamonds, who incidentally might choose to buy jewelry from his store. He regularly polls the fans of the page to gauge changing tastes and trends in jewelry. For instance, do they prefer yellow or white gold, or platinum settings?

His Facebook fans can tell him which kinds of products to focus more on selling in his bricks-and-mortar store, he said. Online revenue from leads generated from the Facebook page is still small, he said.

“This page, much like social media, is not about pushing deals in people's faces,” Samuelson said. “Much like any other medium, it’s all about establishing trust and communicating with people, and then the business comes.”

Samuelson’s grandfather opened the shop in 1922, and the grandson has taken the family business into the age of social media. An early adopter when it comes to Facebook and Twitter, Samuelson has used the services to build the brand reputation of his jewelry business. Thousands of followers of the Diamond Fans page live abroad, he said.

Samuelson also has a Facebook page and a website for his own business, under the name Baltimore Diamonds. But when you search for just diamonds on Facebook, Samuelson’s “Diamond Fans” page is typically the first one that shows up.

Samuelson’s strategy “looks brilliant, to use a term for diamonds,” said Jeff Davis, partner with Sawmill Marketing Public Relations, a Baltimore firm with an expertise in social media.

Davis said that Samuelson was smart in claiming the generic name “diamonds” on Facebook, because that term would be searched more than his business’ name.

Looking at the degree and quality of interaction on the Diamond Fans page, Davis said it appears that Samuelson is having great success with his followers.

“That’s an incredible number of people ‘liking’ the fan page,” Davis said. “So obviously they've seen value in the content.”

(Below, the Samuelson's Diamonds store in downtown Baltimore.)


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:06 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media

October 1, 2010

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

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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

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Apps, Smartphones, Social Media, Web Dev & Apps

September 28, 2010

Good news for Zynga, others: virtual goods market to grow 40 percent

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Last Sunday, I wrote a story about Zynga and its Baltimore connection: the San Francisco online social gaming company's office in Timonium designed its second most popular game at the moment: FrontierVille.

The good news for Facebook and Zynga (and its peers, both big-time and small game developers), is that people continue to shell out real bucks for virtual goods, usually in games.

The Inside Network estimates that the virtual goods market will grow from 1.6 billion this year to $2.1 billion next year, according to the New York Times.

Below, Brian Reynolds, Zynga's chief game designer and head of its Timonium office.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:43 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gamers, Social Media

September 23, 2010

BaltTech getting a Facebook Page

Hi folks,

Bear with me a little as I get the Facebook page for BaltTech up and running. If you just search for "BaltTech" on Facebook, you should find it. Or "Like" it below:

:: Become a friend of BaltTech on Facebook::


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:39 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Social Media

Spotted: Zynga's chief game designer in natural habitat

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I recently visited Zynga East in Timonium, Md., just north of Baltimore, where I had a long chat with legendary (to the gaming masses) game designer Brian Reynolds.

Zynga, which runs online social games, such as FarmVille, Mafia Wars and FrontierVille, launched its first game studio outside of its San Francisco headquarters here in the Baltimore area last year. They started with about a dozen or so people and have now grown to about 30.

You couldn't tell it from the humble signage outside Zynga East's office, but the company is on a huge tear in the world of online social gaming, thanks to its success on Facebook.

This Baltimore (er, Timonium) office, including Zynga's chief game designer Reynolds, is responsible for the successful FrontierVille, which has about 35 million users. Reynolds, in his past life in the Baltimore area video game scene, worked for Microprose and co-founded Firaxis Games and Big Huge Games.

I'll be doing an in-depth story about Zynga that will appear shortly in the print Baltimore Sun and here online, but I wanted to give you a little photo peek. That's Reynolds below, holding a cup of black tea.



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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:49 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: East Coast, Gamers, Social Media, Web Dev & Apps

September 13, 2010

Post-vacation debrief: I wish I had a dumbphone

bethany_beach.JPGWell folks, I'm back from vacation. My wife, toddler and I spent a glorious, sunny week at the beach in Delaware.

As for my efforts to unplug from the Internet, I'd have to give myself a "B-" grade.

I brought my iPhone and iPad with me. I left the iPad alone for most of the vacation, but the iPhone didn't leave my side. I brought it to the beach every day, but didn't use it there except to take pictures. I did not post to Twitter, although I check my stream several times a day.

I posted a few times to Facebook, mostly to share pics of my daughter or to boast about some good food I ate, such as a piece of Smith Island cake.

Overall, I felt fairly relaxed while on my break and acted more as a lurker and passive viewer on social networks than as a participant. I benefited from using the iPhone to find restaurant recommendations and for GPS.

I always want to have a cellphone on me for emergency situations -- something wacky always seems to happen whenever I don't have a phone on me. But having a smartphone -- a small Internet connected computing device -- on my body during a time of leisure may be a little much.

One has to master the obsessive compulsion to periodically check email/Facebook/Twitter/news every few minutes. The temptation to check, check, check is just so strong when the device is in hand and it's so quick and easy.

I could tell when I was doing a good job of restraining myself because at the end of the day, when it came time to plug in my phone, my phone's battery level was either higher or lower, depending on my usage that day.

Toward the end of my vacation week, I had gotten better about it and I could tell I was using it less because I had more battery power left.

The lesson learned? I'd be willing to try trading in my smartphone for a dumbphone whenever I go on vacation, to force myself to unplug more from the mobile Web. I'd also be less anxious about dropping it in sand or salt water!

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:12 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Social Media

July 1, 2010

Groupon and McClatchy: Newspaper chain jumps into online group coupons

groupon_logo11209.jpgFirst, newspapers blamed Craigslist for stealing classifieds. Then job listings were taken over by different online players. Now, another piece is being subsumed by Internet startups: couponing.

Groupon, the growing social site for daily deal coupon hunters, has partnered with the McClatchy newspaper/media company to offer "groupons" to the company's 28 markets.

It's my view that newspaper companies should've started their own Groupon-like site years ago -- or directly incorporated such features into their main websites. But anyway....

The point now? The McClatchy newspaper chain -- which owns the Miami Herald and the Sacramento Bee -- has access to local markets, and Groupon, a hot startup that has many emerging competitors, wants to target local advertisers with its coupons.

It's a partnership that makes sense for both newspapers and new media players. (As an aside, a good friend who owns a restaurant in Baltimore just cut a deal to be featured on Groupon in the Baltimore area.)

I was alerted to this news story by Dave Troy via Twitter, who reminded me that I had had an idea for a local "daily deal" (or deals) for newspapers a while ago. I had shared some ideas with Dave over a couple beers. To me, roping in local advertisers -- small mom and pop shops and restaurants -- to allow them to give daily and weekly deals, coupons and specials through a newspaper Website just makes absolute sense.

Newspapers, not the Web and Google, still have a real connection in local neighborhoods and businesses, so why not make use of that connection to promote business on the Web?

If you make it fun and interesting, and make sure the deals are actually worth it, you -- the newspaper company -- can be providing a real consumer service to your readers. So, in my view, I think you'll see Groupon really start to find success in hitting up local news sites and blogs across the U.S.

I'm getting off my soapbox now -- what do YOU think? 

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Categories: *NEWS*, Social Media

June 21, 2010

The tech behind Facebook

One of the more interesting tech articles I read this past weekend was an easily digestible piece on the Royal Pingdom blog on the software that powers Facebook.

With a service approach 500 million users, Facebook is entering a rare space on the Internet. It's easy to take the free service for granted because the site's been doing a good job lately of working well -- and fast. But managing the scale of the millions -- okay, billions -- of daily interactions on that site must be an awesome feat every day.

For instance, Royal Pingdom writes that Facebook has more photos than all other photo sites combined, including Flickr.

It's interesting to note that Facebook has developed programming languages that they've allowed to go open source.

Take a gander at the article if you're feeling a tad geeky this morning.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Social Media

June 17, 2010

Everybody's doing it: Maryland General Services department joins Facebook

everybodys-doing-it.jpgThis isn't really big news or anything of the sort, but you can definitely file this under the category of "EVERYBODY IS NOW ON FACEBOOK."

The Maryland Department of General Services, the state agency that manages state buildings and facilities, now has a Facebook account. To "friend" the agency, search for "Maryland DGS" on Facebook.

From a press release issued today:

“Facebook is one of the nation’s premier new media venues and I believe it is imperative that we should use this valuable communications and networking tool to let those we do business with know that DGS stands for Doing Great Service,” DGS Secretary Alvin C. Collins said.

Is it weird for some to be "friends" with a state agency? I'm interested to see how a state agency like DGS uses their new-found Facebook prowess.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:25 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Government Tech, Social Media

May 27, 2010

Of Facebook and privacy control changes, daylight savings time and smoke alarm batteries

File this post under "I'm tired of hearing about Facebook privacy issues so much that I'd rather sleep while standing":

exhausted%20baby.jpg Are you tired of hearing about the Facebook privacy debate? Don't you just wish the company could just get it right? Are you concerned that toddlers across the land are tired of the Facebook privacy debate too? (See left.)

I think we all -- and Facebook -- should now agree to revisit the website's privacy issues twice a year, every year, when we turn our clocks forward and back. This Facebook-privacy debate has become such a ubiquitous phenomenon that we just need to settle on a periodic method for dealing with it, so it becomes automatic.

In my proposal, we will all be reminded bi-annually to double-check our privacy on Facebook, change our clocks and replace the 9-volt batteries in our smoke alarms.

Through all the public service announcements on TV and radio that cover clocks and smoke alarms, add double-checking your Facebook privacy settings to the list.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:24 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Social Media

May 24, 2010

Crowd-sourcing a new name for, uh, "crowd-sourcing"

Two firms that specialize in crowd-sourcing are holding a contest for -- what else? -- to come up with a replacement term for crowd-sourcing!

This is sooo meta. Or ironic. Or whatever.

The firms are GeniusRocket, and 99 Designs, and they will launch a website tomorrow for people to submit their best ideas. A panel of judges will narrow the field down to 20 finalists, and then -- get this -- the wisdom of the crowd will be used to source the best entry. The best one will win $1,000.

I don't know yet what the contest website for this contest will be, but I'll post it here as soon as I do.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Social Media

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?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:18 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, West Coast

December 23, 2009

Why you can't ignore the email newsletter as an online publishing model

I spent several days recently researching a story about the business of email newsletters. Greg Cangialosi, CEO of Blue Sky Factory, an email marketing agency in Baltimore, gave me some great insight. gregcangialosi.jpgI asked Greg (pictured left) about the business model approaches of email newsletters vs. Websites, from an advertising and monetization perspective.

He said, in a nutshell: "The difference between Website and email advertising is the targeted nature of the [email] list of people. If that list demographic fits the target of the advertiser, they're going to get a good response rate."

Greg pointed to successes like Daily Candy and Thrillist as successful email newsletter companies, and talked about two of the local ones his company provides email newsletter services to: CityBizList in Baltimore and ExecutiveBiz in Washington D.C.

One of the big advances in recent years in email newsletter technology, Greg said, are the features involving sharing with a social network.

Companies disseminating email newsletters can embed them with options that allows the user to share the information on Twitter and Facebook, thus helping them grow their email subscriber base organically and through word of mouth. Pretty cool stuff.

Hit the jump to check out my full story on the topic.

Continue reading "Why you can't ignore the email newsletter as an online publishing model" »

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December 7, 2009

Baltimore man invented word of the year "Unfriend"?

Could the word "unfriend" -- which has come to mean dumping someone as a friend on Facebook -- have been invented right here in Baltimore?

Ron Samuelson thinks so -- and he claims in a blog post he was the first to use it in an earlier blog post which got the attention of a Wall Street Journal reporter, who ended up writing a story about the topic.

"Unfriend" really wormed its way into our lexicon -- it just so happens that "unfriend" was named "word of the year" last month by the New American Oxford Dictionary.

Samuelson, who sells diamonds via Samuelson's Diamonds in downtown Baltimore, tweets under @diamondbuyer and @SamuelsonsRocks on Twitter.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:11 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Geeks, Social Media

November 4, 2009

TEDxMidAtlantic: behind the scenes


You may have heard about the big TED conferences that are organized around the world every year around the slogan: "Ideas Worth Spreading." At these events, hyper-smart people give talks on cutting edge -- or sometimes obscure but interesting -- topics, and the audience members are given lots of time to talk and network amongs themselves. The talks are video recorded and made available for free on TED's Website.

That basic format is coming to Baltimore's Maryland Institute College of Art, and it's called TEDxMidAtlantic. I wrote a story today that talks about how more than 100 enthusiastic volunteers came together to organize the free all-day event. The photo depicts several organizers, including Dave Troy in the middle, whose idea it was to bring the event to Baltimore.

It's gonna be a packed house. Stop and say hi if you see me!

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September 17, 2009

FYI: Facebook co-founder to give keynote in Maryland

Here's an FYI...

Chris R. Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, is slated to speak at a Tech Council of Maryland speakers' event in December. Hughes also founded

His talk will be titled: "The Success of Facebook and It Can't Get Any Bigger Than This."

Hehe. Modest, aren't we now?

The details: The event is at Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center on Dec. 2., from 8-10:30 a.m. To register, e-mail Wendy Dudrow at

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Social Media

August 27, 2009

Should Facebook be allowed to patent "community translation"?

My blog post on Tuesday about Facebook trying to patent their "community translation" process, which they've been using to crowd-source the translation of their site around the world, really did end up going around the world, thanks to tons of retweets.

The issue even got picked up yesterday by TechCrunch, in a thoughtful post by Jason Kincaid who noted some other sites that have used crowd-sourcing in this way.

Which brings me to the poll of the day below. [Note: The first five people who vote and leave a comment will get a free "BaltTech" magnet for their fridge!]

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Big Ideas, Social Media, Web Dev & Apps, West Coast

August 26, 2009

IBM building a TV remote that will auto-blog for you?

What do you buy your blogger friend who's also a couch potato? Why, IBM's proposed new auto-blogging remote control, of course.

Engineers at IBM have been developing a TV remote control that can be programmed to auto-blog while you watch whatever it is you want to watch, according to the patent filing.

How does it work? Let's take a look at a snippet from the patent filing, which was submitted last year but didn't show up online until April.

A viewer selects a media program to view by use of a remote controller with networking capability. Upon the viewer wishing to send a blog posting to a blog, the viewer determines whether a tag to be included in the blog posting is to be a pre-existing tag or a custom tag, wherein the blog posting comprises program information about the media program useful to identify the media program. If the tag is to be a pre-existing tag, the viewer selects the pre-existing tag from a plurality of pre-existing tags using the remote controller and if the tag is to be a custom tag, the viewer generates the custom tag using the remote controller. If a protocol provided by the remote controller to send the blog posting to the blog allows a snapshot of the media program to be included in the blog posting, the remote controller takes the snapshot of the media program and includes it in the blog posting.

So, basically, IBM has built a pretty potent little remote control that can be networked. You can set it to automatically post what you're viewing to your blog. (The patent talks about posting automatically to a microblogging service -- probably Twitter.)

The patent also references Joost, the social network for video watchers. One might surmise that IBM is looking for a way to do what Joost does for online viewers, but for your television set. One of my favorite parts of the patent offers this rationale for the remote:

"...more than ever, people wish to be able to share their comments with others in real-time as they experience life. In the case of television, for example, one of the joys of watching television is discussing with one's friends the juicy bits of a favorite show or the latest television program."

I contacted an IBM spokesman who couldn't help me ferret out more details in time for this posting. He could only confirm that the patent filing -- for "automatic blogging during media viewing" -- was indeed theirs.

Want to read the full filing? Go here.

But come back and let me know what you think? Do you watch so much TV and share your viewing habits so often with others that you'd need such a remote control?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:15 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Big Ideas, For The Home, Gadgets, Social Media

August 24, 2009

Facebook applies for patent for community translation tool

My latest hobby is scouring the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's website for innovative ideas. One that stood out to me today: Facebook's patent application for what it called "community translation on a social network."

Below is a diagram I pulled from the patent application (filed in December), which can be found here.

Basically, in layman's terms (if I'm reading the patent app correctly), Facebook users will be able to submit text they seek translated to the Facebook community, with responses that can then be rated. Voila! Near-instant community translation.


Are the implications of such a service pretty big -- especially if the tool is designed in such a way that Facebookers can use it quickly and seamlessly? I have to think so. 

I tried getting a comment from Facebook on their patent application, but I received a generic response from their press email contact. I'll keep trying.

In the meantime, would you use such a tool on Facebook? My own take on it is that such a translation tool could potentially be a novel item, since most tools right now on the Web are algorithm based and far from perfect.

But if you can get the big crowd to translate for you quickly, and with better results, that could be something special for Facebook. No?

UPDATE: I got a response tonight from Elizabeth Linder, a Facebook spokeswoman, who clarified to me that this patent applies to their existing Translation tool, which they've been successfully using over the past year to get the site translated around the world.  Here's a link to the application.

Says Linder:

The translation app has been available on our site since we first introduced Spanish, and has been instrumental in enabling us to translate Facebook quickly and efficiently: it calls on the collective expertise of our users around the world to translate Facebook, so that the site feels comfortable for everyone, no matter what language they speak.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:20 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Big Ideas, Social Media, West Coast

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:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Apps, Good Reads, Smartphones, Social Media

July 15, 2009

"Hire Me" Nation: Using the Web & social media to get a job

My story today about people launching "hire me" Websites was sparked by "retweets" last month about Matt Bivons, who launched an online drive to get a job at Blue Sky Factory, a Baltimore-based email marketing firm. He calls it

Who was this guy? Why was he doing this? Will we all eventually have our own "hire me" Websites? I spoke to Matt early on, and then ruminated on the phenomenon for a few weeks, poking around here and there and trying to see if anyone else was doing this. I started finding more and more sites like Matt's when I simply Googled "" or "" (Here's a short list of some I perused.)

Quickly, I learned that Jamie Varon, a 24-year-old from California who launched, may have been among the first -- if not the first -- to do something like this (at least since Twitter and Facebook have been around.)

Two people I interviewed who didn't make it into my print story were Susan Lewis and Eric Barker. But it wasn't because their efforts and ideas weren't remarkable. On the contrary:

Susan, 39, a marketing pro from Dallas, launched, which turns the typical job hunt on its ear. If you're a boss, you can't hire Susan. She's gonna hire you. She graduated from Seth Godin's informal MBA program in New York this year (a six-month boot camp for smart, social-media-savvy people) and launched her site.

Susan told me about 30 companies expressed interest in her (30!), and she's narrowed the field down to about three potential employers. "Some (opportunities) could be project work," Lewis said. "There's one I might end up making an offer to."

Eric Barker, 36, of Los Angeles, told me how he's been running inexpensive ads on Facebook to target employers he wants to work for. The way it works is he puts up an ad that he targets to employees of a particular company who happen to be on Facebook. When you buy an ad on Facebook, the site offers you granular tools to target your ad to people, say, who claim they work for a certain company. The ads get him noticed and he gets calls from recruiters.

Barker, a former Hollywood screenwriter with an MBA, said his Facebook campaign has cost him little more than $100. He's targeted ads to Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Youtube and IDEO -- basically companies that are in media. He's gotten contacts and interviews, ironically, with other companies who were impressed by the ad.

He said he "went nuclear" with the Facebook approach because of the rough job market and he needed to get attention quickly. "My background is in Hollywood," he said. "Nothing in Hollywood gets done effectively through formal channels. Everything is done by friend of a friend and reputation. The real world is not that much different."

His dream job would be something in product marketing and/or development, he told me.

About his Facebook approach, he said: "We're all marketers now, like it or not. Getting access [through the Web and interactive social media tools] is easy. It's now all about marketing and branding yourself."

If you're curious about using Facebook -- and even LinkedIn -- as ways to advertise yourself to a new job, you should check out some tips from Willy Franzen over at the One Day, One Job blog.

Let me know if you have success with your online campaigns to get the job of your dreams (or even just a job your mildly happy about, especially if it involves decent pay and health bennies.)

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

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

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: 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:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:07 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Apps, Social Media, Web Dev & Apps

July 8, 2009

A quick round-up from the local blogs

I've been a little busy the last week putting together some print stories, but finally today got a chance to do some catching up on my blogroll. With a cup of coffee and a cup of instant oatmeal in hand (one at a time) I took a quick cruise through the Baltimore/Maryland/DC tech blogosphere. Here's a snapshot of what people are writing about:

* DCTechEvents. Scads of events and meet-ups all week, except for Friday, when apparently all the DC Techies just drink alone.

* UMBC's Ebiquity blog takes a look at the "high impact factor" of the Journal of Web Semantics.

* Entrepreneur Dave Troy takes a look at Baltimore from the train in his simply-titled post: "From the train, Baltimore looks like hell."

* Beltway Startups covers some local tech-company news, such as Merkle (of Columbia, Md.) buying Cognitive Data, and Cognitive Data buying CMS Direct. Is this a case of big fish eating smaller fish, which ate an even smaller fish?

* In one of the more pleasantly insightful Michael Jackson-inspired blog posts, local tech guru Mario Armstrong writes about the recently deceased pop singer's patent on special shoes that would help give you the illusion you're leaning forward at a 45-degree angle.

* One Fine Jay gave himself a new blog look, and he's got a post about how Twitter hashtag contests are hurting the free service. Amen, brother. Oh, and he thinks the phenomenon of bloggers generating mindless lists also stinks. Double amen to that. (I haven't done any lists for this blog, I think, though I'll concede you might see me generating an occasional list or two here; I will try, try, try to make them absolutely useful, One Fine Jay. I promise.)

* Want to learn more about Wolfram Alpha (that new computational search engine)? Somewhat Frank sat down with one of its co-founders for an interview, with video. See below.

* Technosailor, taking a cue from the Steve McNair death coverage, urges the mainstream media to report important breaking news even if it's a rumor, to hedge your bets.

* Things are looking up for Technotheory, who is off to Barcelona for the summer. Good luck! Have fun! Eat lots of tapas for me.

* EastCoastBlogging writes about Tweetdeck and Evernote as a match made in heaven. I haven't gotten into using either app yet. Should I?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:39 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: East Coast, Good Reads, Media, Social Media

June 30, 2009

Big online gaming co. Zynga opening 1st East Coast office in Baltimore area

brianreynolds.jpg Some of you have been seeing the job ads posted locally for a couple weeks now and wondered what Zynga Inc. was doing recruiting in the Baltimore area.

I'll tell you what they're doing: they're opening their first East Coast office, here in the Baltimore/Timonium area, hiring 12-15 people, and calling it Zynga East.

One of the biggest companies in the booming field of online social gaming, Zynga has come to the East Coast -- and chosen Baltimore (er, maybe Timonium) to plant their flag. If you've ever played Mafia Wars or Texas Hold'Em or Pirates or Scramble on Facebook or MySpace, you've played a Zynga game.

To lead Zynga East, Zynga hired Brian Reynolds, an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore-area gaming scene who co-founded Firaxis Games (Hunt Valley) and Big Huge Games (Timonium), which was bought last month by Curt Schilling's (yes, the retired Major League Baseball pitcher) 38 Studios.

(That's Brian Reynolds to the left, in a pic taken Feb. 17, 1999 by a Sun photographer, when he was VP of software development at Firaxis Games, and designed the game Alpha Centauri. Sorry Brian, couldn't find a more recent pic in our archives.)

A Zynga spokeswoman told me in an email last night that Reynolds will be bringing some of his "key associates" to work with him.

Zynga East will be working on a new online game, but the company wouldn't say what it was about.

Reynolds has a deep background in building strategy games, so maybe that's what we can expect to see more of?

The Baltimore area has become a bit of a game developer's haven.

Zynga's presence here will add a new competitive dimension to the game development scene, with online gaming being white-hot right now. And Zynga itself is a buzz machine.

They've attracted something like $40 million in investment capital and they're reportedly cash flow positive, with around 250 employees. It reportedly has sales of around $100 million and is profitable, but it's privately held, so we don't know how profitable.

BusinessWeek's Valley Girl has the good lowdown on the company and how -- you ask -- it's actually supposedly making all this money. Basically, it seems people are willing to pony up a few bucks here and there to play their games. They've got 12 million daily users and 50 million monthly users, the company reports.

For a quick rundown of Zynga in the news, check this out. And my online news story is here. Good news for Baltimore area game developers? Let me know what you think.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:50 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: East Coast, Gamers, Jobs & Recruiting, Social Media, West Coast
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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:

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