Nov 21, 2009

Google Calendar Starts Testing “Sneak Preview”


Google Calendar is testing out a new feature that should make scheduling events a tad easier than it used to be by allowing you to see at a glance if the event you're creating will conflict with the schedules of the people you're inviting. Dubbed "Sneak Preview", the feature's name is perhaps more exciting than its actual function, but it should prove to be quite useful. The feature is apparently in a limited rollout right now, so don't be surprised if you don't have access to it.

Once you've activated Sneak Preview (assuming you have access to it), whenever you create a new event you'll see a new viewing mode that displays a calendar alongside your event details. This calendar will show the schedules of each of the people you've invited to the event (provided you're a friend or coworker with access to that information), and the proposed time for your event will appear as a semi-transparent blue box so you can quickly see where you might have conflicts. You can click each guest's name to show/hide them on the calendar if some are more important than others.


Google Calendar is testing out a new feature that should make scheduling events a tad easier than it used to be by allowing you to see at a glance if the event you’re creating will conflict with the schedules of the people you’re inviting. Dubbed “Sneak Preview”, the feature’s name is perhaps more exciting than its actual function, but it should prove to be quite useful. The feature is apparently in a limited rollout right now, so don’t be surprised if you don’t have access to it.


Once you’ve activated Sneak Preview (assuming you have access to it), whenever you create a new event you’ll see a new viewing mode that displays a calendar alongside your event details. This calendar will show the schedules of each of the people you’ve invited to the event (provided you’re a friend or coworker with access to that information), and the proposed time for your event will appear as a semi-transparent blue box so you can quickly see where you might have conflicts. You can click each guest’s name to show/hide them on the calendar if some are more important than others.








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2010: The Year Android Will Shake Its Money Maker




Editor's note: More and more mobile app developers are deciding to make apps for Android, even though it still doesn't have the same reach as the iPhone. In this guest post Kevin Nakao, the VP of Mobile for Whitepages, makes the argument for taking the Android plunge now (as he is preparing to with a new Whitepages Android app launching next week). Follow him on Twitter @knakao

Mobile games publisher Gameloft might have thrown in the towel on Android, but that is a mistake. I certainly understand why they gave up on Android. Since launching in February of this year, our own Whitepages Caller ID app has become a top ten grossing Android application, and yet we've seen less than $54,000 in revenue. While our iPhone app download counts are in the millions, our Android app downloads are a mere 17 percent of this volume.

Despite our meager return on investment this year, I believe that the real potential for Android app developers lies in the New Year. Here's why:



Editor’s note: More and more mobile app developers are deciding to make apps for Android, even though it still doesn’t have the same reach as the iPhone. In this guest post Kevin Nakao, the VP of Mobile for Whitepages, makes the argument for taking the Android plunge now (as he is preparing to with a new Whitepages Android app launching next week). Follow him on Twitter @knakao


Mobile games publisher Gameloft might have thrown in the towel on Android, but that is a mistake. I certainly understand why they gave up on Android. Since launching in February of this year, our own Whitepages Caller ID app has become a top ten grossing Android application, and yet we’ve seen less than $54,000 in revenue. While our iPhone app download counts are in the millions, our Android app downloads are a mere 17 percent of this volume.


Despite our meager return on investment this year, I believe that the real potential for Android app developers lies in the New Year. Here’s why:


End-To-End Goodness


In addition to being an open platform that facilitates device innovation, Android offers choice and progress when it comes to the marketplace where consumers discover and download applications. While iTunes and The Official App Store are the only places consumers can download apps for their iPhone, Android’s open platform allows merchants like MobiHand and HanDango to set up storefronts, ultimately providing more purchasing options for consumers. Google’s focus on improving its the user experience in its own Android market will also continue to boost revenues for app developers. For example, when the recent 1.6 OS (Cupcake) upgrade provided a much needed facelift for the market, we saw an immediate 18 percent lift in sales for our paid Caller ID application.


Billing Options Get Greener


While Google still has a long way to go in terms of reaching as many consumers as iTunes does, with the power of “what’s hot” and capabilities like in-app purchases, they have begun to enlist an armada of players—including carriers with deep experience in integrated billing—to create better markets for the merchandising and sale of applications. In early November, T-Mobile announced that they will launch their own Android market with integrated carrier billing, giving consumers the ability to charge applications to their phone bill. Also on the Google market roadmap is the ability for publishers to offer subscription purchases.


The low friction of bill-to-phone capabilities for consumers and the recurring revenue benefits of subscription services have the potential to drive significant revenue into the hands of developers. For example, we recently launched a service that allows consumers to text any number to 566587 (LOOKUP) to identify unknown callers and the bill-to-phone conversion rates have been two times what we have seen with the application market conversion rates. Thirty-four percent of our customers selected the unlimited subscription option over a single-use fee.


“Always With Me” Needs to be “Always On”


With the influx of more applications that require persistence—streaming music, Facebook, Skype, IM, & Caller ID—Android’s ability to run more than one application at a time is becoming more important. The “always with you, always on” benefits of mobile will be a key advertising opportunity especially for location-based offerings. Publishers will be able to use Android to generate more revenue by staying in front of users to produce more ad impressions. Advertisers also will be able to reach consumers closer to the point of sale, and take advantage of geo-triggered offers. Higher frequency of usage should also reduce churn for subscription-based services.


T-Mobile Got It Started Right, Verizon Will Unleash the Beast


T-Mobile launched the first Android phone in the U.S., and embraced the open platform. Any other U.S. carrier might have been tempted to meddle, but T-Mobile proved that an open platform would not be riddled with malware and abuse. With Verizon now going big on Android, we will start to see significant uptake. Verizon has 89 million customers with an average Data Revenue Per User of $15.69 to T-Mobile’s 33.5 million customers and $10 in Data Revenue Per User. Sprint has the highest data revenue per user of $19 and 48.3 million customers. In short, Verizon and Sprint will attract many more customers willing to spend more money on Android applications.


Android Needs To Be A Player, Not An iPhone Killer


For the same reason developers support multiple game platforms, browsers, and operating systems, Android just needs to achieve enough consumer scale to justify the investment. As long as Google stays focused on providing freedom in an open and competitive ecosystem, app developers will be rewarded. In just six months, we handily recouped our investment from launching an Android application and expect a significant return next year as Google leverages the reach and power of players like Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Motorola, HTC, Dell, and Samsung to grow its platform.


Think Different


Future app developers should approach Android with more than a simple port of an existing iPhone application. Our initial interest in Android was motivated by innovation and new product features that required integration with core device functionality offered by Android but firewalled on the iPhone. Android’s absence of an approval process facilitates rapid product development and the open platform provides the opportunity to innovate, giving every developer the freedom to compete and earn a place in the consumer’s pocket.


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Screening The News




Editor's note: Today, being a news junkie requires not just the ability to keep up with hundreds of breaking stories a day, but the ability to redistribute those stories to your followers and news sites. To get some insight into the modern news junkie, we asked Mrinal Desai to share with us how he screens the news in the guest post below. Desai is the co-founder of CrossLoop, but some of you may recognize him more from Twitter or Techmeme, where he tips stories every day—580 of those tips have appeared as headlines since the beginning of this year. You can read his last guest post here.

Like many out there, I have been, am and always will be a news addict. For many news junkies, it is the fleeting, current fix of information about a breaking topic that interests them, only to be replaced by the next headline. They jump from headline to headline, forgetting the one they just read as they move on to the next one.

For me personally, news is not only timely information on the current state of affairs but also a way to take a deep dive, to connect analysis and information together and learn through application. I am looking for insight. It could be patterns, it could be knowledge about an industry or it could be an opportunity to become introspective and ask questions.

Keeping this in mind, here is a snapshot of my consumption and distribution of news both offline and online. I'll divide the way I screen the news by the screens on which it comes to me.



Editor’s note: Today, being a news junkie requires not just the ability to keep up with hundreds of breaking stories a day, but the ability to redistribute those stories to your followers and news sites. To get some insight into the modern news junkie, we asked Mrinal Desai to share with us how he screens the news in the guest post below. Desai is the co-founder of CrossLoop, but some of you may recognize him more from Twitter or Techmeme, where he tips stories every day—580 of those tips have appeared as headlines since the beginning of this year. You can read his last guest post here.


Like many out there, I have been, am and always will be a news addict. For many news junkies, it is the fleeting, current fix of information about a breaking topic that interests them, only to be replaced by the next headline. They jump from headline to headline, forgetting the one they just read as they move on to the next one.


For me personally, news is not only timely information on the current state of affairs but also a way to take a deep dive, to connect analysis and information together and learn through application.  I am looking for insight.  It could be patterns, it could be knowledge about an industry or it could be an opportunity to become introspective and ask questions.


Keeping this in mind, here is a snapshot of my consumption and distribution of news both offline and online.  I’ll divide the way I screen the news by the screens on which it comes to me.


No Screen:



  • I don’t start a day without reading The Wall Street Journal in print

  • Currently, I get 4 magazines and I go through them on the weekend: The Economist, The Atlantic, Wired and Fortune. Before they stopped, I used to also get Business 2.0 and MIT’s Technology Review.


Screen 1 – MacBook Pro:


Apps: Twitter, Google Reader, Techmeme and a little bit of Facebook


Twitter: I’ve been a user since January 2007.  Its always on for me. I invest a significant amount of time in figuring out who/what to follow based on my interests.  Today this ‘list’ stands at 489. Building this list is a continuous process and it typically consists of people who can teach or inform me of something, news sources and people I respect and with whom I want to build a long term relationship with independent of business. Of this, I have a column/list/group called “Pigeons” (birdie, early days of communication—you get it, right?).  I read each and every tweet of this group. I have about 75 in this group. 15 of my personal favorites, apart from @techcrunch and all those who write for it @techcrunch/team, are:


@bxchen – Technology Reporter, Wired

@148apps – iPhone App Reviews

@msuster – General Partner, GRP Partners

@jennydeluxe – Technology Reporter, The New York Times

@scobleizer – everything social media

@Learmonth – Reporter at Adage

@jasonhiner – Executive Editor at TechRepublic (CBS Interactive)

@leplaporte – Technology Journalist and Broadcaster

@appadvice – Editor, Webware (CBS Interactive)

@taylorbuley – Technology Reporter, Forbes

@sarahintampa – Writer, ReadWriteWeb

@reckless – Nilay Patel, Engadget

@gizmodo – Everything gadgets blog

@dmac1 – Technology reporter, Business Week

@joshk – General Partner, First Round Capital


You can follow them all in one click on the Twitter List I created called “Fifteen


Techmememobile


Screen 2 – iPhone: I have played with a few iPhone news apps, both paid and free.  These include the mobile apps from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times , Byline, Fluent News, News Fuse, BBCReader, NPR News, ReadItLater, ZenNews, and News Pro. I also visit mobile news sites. Being a little glued to Techmeme, I was very excited to see its new mobile version for smartphones—the icon took a spot right away on my home screen:


After experimenting and trying them all out, though, my current favorite native iPhone app is Newsstand (iTunes Link) which stays on my dock. Its a $4.99 app but it does the following extremely well for me:


1. Synchs beautifully with Google Reader and is fast.  It allows me to organize my folders, move them up and down and importantly very easily “Mark all as Read” :)


Below is a snapshot of my Feeds and a folder creatively named ‘Top News” that I keep a close watch on every day.



2) Newsstand has a lot of social goodness to share through Twitter, Delicious, ReadItLater and Instapaper



What’s Missing:

bit.ly so that I can track data on the links I share as I do on Tweetie 2 with my API key.

—Sharing on Facebook

—Ability to RT or @respond to my twitter stream that I subscribe to as an RSS feed from within Google Reader.


Before social media, I always shared news via email to specific people. Now I have replaced email with these easy tools:

Twitthat bookmarklet. One click.

Twitterbar a Firefox Add-on customized with a prefix. One click.


—Google Reader’s Share is connected to my Twitter account. One click.

—Facebook Share bookmarklet or if I want it all on one place, I recommend Shareaholic.


Screen 3 – TV. I do not get my news here since I watch very little TV.


Screen 4 – eReader

I have a Kindle that I use to read books and have not switched from print to this one yet for news. As you can imagine, I get enough news on my other screens all day and like some time away from it.


Below is a visual of how I personally share news and the tools I use. Everything goes through Twitterfeed as my central hub for news going in and out.  Note that lately I stand undecided between Seesmic and Tweetdeck. (Image courtesy: Zurb, click to enlarge).


socialnewsdiagram


I spend a significant amount of money on news—4 print magazines, 2 newspapers with one online and iPhone apps.


The only screen I care about:



  • well written analysis

  • Unique and timely content/information

  • Thought provoking story telling

  • “Connection” with the writer—literally or figuratively from a style perspective

  • Delivery channel. Find me—the “paperboy route” has changed


How do you screen the news?


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Saturday Giveaway: Kodak 5250 All-In-One Printer, Just For You


Good afternoon, readers! What does Santa have in his bag for you today? Interestingly enough, he was unable to bring his bag because this printer is far too big for it. We present, for your inspection, the Kodak 5250 all-in-one: a scanning, printing, faxing, photofinishing machine that can best the big boys in the printer race.

Best of all, the 5250 has built-in WiFi so you can stick the printer on your network and print from any computer in the house. Take a look at Kodak's 5250 product page and then click through to figure out how to win.









TechCrunch Readers: God is Your Co-Pilot, and Stuff that Piggy Bank


When pitching to VC’s, entrepreneurs hype the heck out of their ideas, years of experience and management teams. But I’ve never heard of anyone touting their luck or connection to God. After reading the posts on TechCrunch, one could easily get the impression that God doesn’t play much of role in Silicon Valley. But ask any successful entrepreneur in private what made them successful, and you might just hear a different story. In a research project my team just completed, the majority of 549 company founders told us that their most important success factor, after “experience” and “management team”, was “good fortune”. Many respondents wrote in comments stressing the extreme importance of faith and God.

You didn’t think that successful entrepreneurs were this pious did you? Neither did I. After all, what did God have to do with Google aside from Jeff Jarvis stealing his book title from fans of Jesus and their much copied meme? Did God build the Internet? Did he build the microchip? I’ve never been religious myself and have always believed that with hard work and determination, you can surmount just about any obstacles. But I also learned the hard way that you can do everything right and fail. Sometimes you do just about everything wrong and make it big. My belief: success is 51% luck and 49% execution. You need to execute with precision, but a little luck goes a long way. It is always good to have God on your side. So it was interesting and illuminating (pun intended) to see what other entrepreneurs thought about this.


FaithWhen pitching to VC’s, entrepreneurs hype the heck out of their ideas, years of experience and management teams. But I’ve never heard of anyone touting their luck or connection to God. After reading the posts on TechCrunch, one could easily get the impression that God doesn’t play much of role in Silicon Valley. But ask any successful entrepreneur in private what made them successful, and you might just hear a different story. In a research project my team just completed, the majority of 549 company founders told us that their most important success factor, after “experience” and “management team”, was “good fortune”.  Many respondents wrote in comments stressing the extreme importance of faith and God.


You didn’t think that successful entrepreneurs were this pious did you? Neither did I. After all, what did God have to do with Google aside from Jeff Jarvis stealing his book title from fans of Jesus and their much copied meme? Did God build the Internet? Did he build the microchip?  I’ve never been religious myself and have always believed that with hard work and determination, you can surmount just about any obstacles. But I also learned the hard way that you can do everything right and fail. Sometimes you do just about everything wrong and make it big. My belief: success is 51% luck and 49% execution. You need to execute with precision, but a little luck goes a long way. It is always good to have God on your side. So it was interesting and illuminating (pun intended) to see what other entrepreneurs thought about this.


To collect and collate precisely that type data, I and several colleagues (with the support of the Kauffman Foundation) researched the backgrounds, motivation and success factors of company founders in several high growth industries including aerospace and defense, computer and electronics, health care, and services. Our earlier paper titled Anatomy of an Entrepreneur revealed that these founders typically came from middle-class backgrounds, have parents who are less educated than they are, and tend to be married with children when they launch their first company. Most had always wanted to start their own companies. They were driven by a desire to build wealth, commercialize business idea they had and to stop working for others.


For a new paper, titled Making of a Successful Entrepreneur, we analyzed the factors which made these company founders successful. Nearly all (96%) said that prior work experience was an important factor in their success and 58% ranked this as extremely important. The vast majority (88%) said that previous success and failures were important. But lessons from failures were judged as extremely important by more respondents than lessons from success. That’s right, those that had experienced failure valued it more highly than their successes.


Management teams were ranked as important by 82%. The next highest ranked factor was good fortune, with 73% ranking this as important, and 22% ranking this as extremely important. When asked what other factors played a role in their success, many who responded stressed the extreme importance of faith and God. It wasn’t just those with names from one religion who said this. Rather, it seems that Christians, Jews, Hindus and Muslims alike share the same beliefs. Yes, these people were on a Mission from God – or, at the very least, they strongly felt that their faith fed the entrepreneurial drive and the intangibles required to succeed in the brutal endeavor of making something from nothing, of birthing a company.


Another surprising bit of wisdom we got from these entrepreneurs was this. The Lord may be their co-pilot but their most trusted banker was the same guy they saw in the mirror every morning. Anyone who follows TechCrunch probably assumes that the vast majority of successful technology startups receive some sort of outside capital and that, in fact, the outside capital plays a key role in allowing these startups to get off the ground. But our sample of entrepreneurs told us that personal savings was the primary source of funding.


sources of financingAnd this was not by a small margin. Roughly 70% of our respondents used personal savings to fund their first businesses. Even the serial entrepreneurs who probably could have tapped venture capital preferred to keep control of their own funding sources by bootstrapping. In second, third or fourth startups, over half of all entrepreneurs relied on personal savings to underwrite their launch.


My academic colleagues don’t like to hear this, but company founders didn’t rank university education as highly as other factors. Yes, 70 percent said their university education was important and Ivy-League graduates valued this more, with 86 percent indicating this was important. But only 20 percent of all entrepreneurs and 18 percent of Ivy-League graduates ranked university education as extremely important, however.  And the alum networks which are supposed to be really valuable for business contacts, weren’t ranked that highly. Only 19% of the entrepreneurs believed that university or alumni networks were important for their business. Even the Ivy grads didn’t think that their legendary networks were so important: only 29% ranked their legendary networks ranked these as important, and of these only 10.5% said these were extremely or very important.


Hardly any of the company founders ranked state or local government assistance as important. But those from the Midwest and Southwest put a slightly higher premium on this assistance than others, with 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively, ranking it as important. Entrepreneurs from New England put the lowest premium on it, with only 1 percent ranking it as important, followed by the West and South, both with 4 percent.  That seems logical, since high-growth startup mechanisms are most developed and the communities to support them most mature in the West and Northeast.


All told, even a skeptic like me was extremely surprised at how much these entrepreneurs valued things that no amount of money could buy – thriftiness (personal savings), faith (belief in the supreme being and oneself), and self-selected networks (friends and weak social ties). The moral of all this, I guess, is luck may be critical but self is essential to the successful startup.


Editor’s note: Guest writer Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. Follow him on Twitter at @vwadhwa.



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