Social Couponing Explodes in NYC

It wasn't long ago that clipping coupons was something you'd picture your parents or grandparents doing, maybe sitting in a rocking chair, looking for deals at the local grocery store. But times have changed, and in New York City, the coupon market has a completely new feel — it's going social, and the Big Apple’s nearly unmatched density of businesses has made it a prime target for the trend as New Yorkers indulge on deals at restaurants, salons and activities.

Services like Groupon, LivingSocial and Scoutmob have led the social couponing charge, with some leveraging group-buying power for huge daily discounts at local businesses. Their reach has ballooned over the past seven or eight months — even amNewYork launched its own Daily Deals earlier this year — making many wonder: Are our days of coupon clipping on their way out?

"At least with certain demographics, like younger buyers, absolutely," said Michael Stanat, a global marketing executive with SIS International Market Research. "These new social platforms engage users in ways coupon clipping never could … and they give consumers a way into New York experiences they'd otherwise never have," he said. Last month Google and Facebook jumped into the ring with their own services, though spokespeople declined to say when they'd launch here. Still, businesses citywide have been jumping on the social trend for years.

"For restaurants in this city, print [marketing] is done," said Mark Kelly, owner of Tree Bistro in the East Village. "Social has completely changed how the restaurant industry works in New York." Groupon reportedly had $103 million in revenue in February.

Amanda Kludt, editor of, said the deals can be a boon for struggling or new restaurants. "A lot of restaurants that participate with Groupon say they don't really make money off it, but it's good marketing," she said, though adding that it "almost creates a caste system" among places who need the exposure and the higher-end ones who sidestep it altogether. Still, many New Yorkers are buying in.

"All of my friends are on it, and it just makes it easier to find deals and be social," said Chris Ess, 24, of the Lower East Side. Oscar Martinez, 34, of Williamsburg, agreed. "I don't pay retail price ever, so this is a way to discover new trends and brands and services for cheap," he said.

By the numbers:
10% of U.S. adults have bought a social coupon in 2011.
45% of purchased coupons go unused.
2,203% growth of Groupon revenue between 2009 and 2010.
-As seen in AM NY

Planking: Top 10 Facebook Crazes

A 20-year old man, Acton Beale of Brisbane, fell seven stories to his death last week while trying to lie facedown on a narrow balcony railing, prompting calls for an end to the Facebook craze of "planking."

The practice, which involves lying like a plank somewhere odd or dangerous and posting the photo on Facebook, is particularly popular in Australia. The Planking Australia Facebook page has more than 120,000 members and boasts photos of people planking ona McDonald's sign, a highway, and a ski lift.

As "planking" becomes the latest Facebook craze, here are ten other fads that have swept through the social network.

1. Farmville – The virtual farming game now has 46 million players on Facebook, and has even launched a Lady Gaga version. Gagaville is a “magical place” according to the popstar where fans can farm crystals, unicorns and motorcycle-riding sheep.

2. Doppelganger Week – During “doppelganger week”, Facebook users change their profile pictures to a celebrity who they think they resemble. Popular choices include Muppets and Hollywood stars. Cartoon Status week also saw Facebook users change their pictures for cartoon characters.

3. The Numbers Game – Facebook users post a number as their status update and their friends write what ever comes to mind after they see the number. Popular choices are 1, 7, 21, 69 and 420.

4. Bra Color – To help raise awareness of breast cancer, female Facebook users change their status to the color of the bra they are wearing. The most popular colors are black, white and beige.

5. 25 Random Things about Me – A chain letter called "25 Random Things about Me" wormed its way through Facebook, with recipients rattling off 25 random facts and then inviting their friends to do so.

6. Dipping – Teenagers caused a stir in 2008 by using Google Earth to spot houses on a map with outdoor swimming pools and then organizing impromptu pool parties through Facebook.

7. Sleeveface – Using an old record sleeve and a digital camera, Facebook users take pictures of themselves with the sleeve in front of their face. The results were collected into a book in 2008.

8. I Like it On – Another campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer, female users suggestively update their profiles with “I like it on” followed by words such as “floor”, “kitchen counter” and so on.

9. Miss Bimbo – In the hugely popular Miss Bimbo game, Facebook users as young as nine are given an alter ego who they can give plastic surgery and diet pills to snare a billionaire boyfriend.

10. Frape – Combining “Facebook” and “rape”, fraping involves sneaking onto someone’s Facebook profile and changing their pictures, interests and sexuality. Fraping can also involve poking and messaging strangers from someone else’s account.

- As seen in The Week and The Telegraph

Getting Energy from a Silicon Leaf

A silicon “leaf” that mimics photosynthesis could open the possibility of an entirely new source of cheap and abundant electricity. MIT researchers say they’ve developed an advanced solar cell the size of a playing card; when floated in even muddy water under direct sunlight, it splits H2O into hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be transferred to fuel cells that produce an electric current.

Lead researcher Daniel Nocera tells Wired that a single artificial leaf and a gallon of water could produce a day’s worth of electricity for a household in the developing world. There have been previous attempts to create artificial leaves, but they have often depended on expensive chemicals and proved difficult to sustain for long periods. What makes Nocera’s version different—and scalable—is that it uses inexpensive materials and can operate for at least 45 hours straight.

An Indian company has already signed a development deal, and a commercial application may be ready in the next three to five years. Nocera is convinced his leaf can bring affordable electricity to communities without access to power grids. “Our goal is to make each home its own power station,” he says. And we say, more power to you! - As seen in The Week

Track me to the Islands then, I may never come back

I've been telling you this for years, and it's not like you can do much about it, but I just want you to know: the iPhone and other mobile devices are tracking where you’ve been. Two data scientists revealed that iPhones, iPads, and iTouches track their owners’ GPS locations, store their movements for up to a year, and stream this information back to Apple.

If you have an iPhone or other Apple mobile device, your every move is being tracked and recorded, said Nathan Goulding in Two data scientists triggered a new privacy firestorm last week by revealing that “without your consent or any warning labels,” iPhones, iPads, and iTouches track their owners’ GPS locations, store their movements for up to a year, and stream this “geodata” back to Apple.

These devices are creating records of unprecedented scope and detail, said Alexis Madrigal in “Even searching a suspect’s house could never yield a full inventory of that person’s friends and acquaintances, the entire record of their voice and text communications—and all the Web pages he’d ever looked at.” Now Apple—and cops, prosecutors, divorce lawyers, or anyone who gets your cell phone—“can have all of that in two minutes.”

“Ooh, big brother is watching,” said David Pogue in The New York Times. Frankly, “who cares if anyone knows where I’ve been?” Banks, credit card companies, online marketers, and phone companies are already collecting vast amounts of information on all of us. Indeed, cell phone companies track our movements, too; the only difference is that the information is stored on their computers, not on your cell phone. And Apple’s not “the only big bad villain here.” Google’s Android phones, along with BlackBerries, Palms, and most other smartphones, are tracking our movements, with varying degrees of thoroughness and transparency.

If you think there are any laws against this, said Jordan Robertson in the Associated Press, “think again.” Phone companies can’t share information obtained from your cell without your consent, but the government hasn’t gotten around to hardware and software makers like Apple and Google. Of course, all makers of “spyphones” have their excuses for snooping. They claim that mining data about our whereabouts will be good for us, because it will allow them to identify “Wi-Fi hot spots” and create services to fit our needs, including advertising aimed at reaching us when we’re near a particular store.

Sadly, most people will accept this latest intrusion with “a weary yawn,” said John Naughton in the London Observer. “Technological fatalism” has set in. Scott McNealy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, once said, “You have zero privacy. Get over it.” A decade later, “it looks like he was right.” - As seen in The Week

See also: fingerprint, digital footprint
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