How to Manage Google's New Privacy Policy Changes

A big change to Google's privacy policy has now taken affect, meaning it's now up to YOU to decide how much information you want collected by the search giant. Last Thursday, March 1, 2012, Google's much-discussed new privacy policy went into effect.

To say that the change has stirred concern on the Web would be an understatement. Public officials and Web watchdogs in the United States and elsewhere have expressed fears that it will mean less privacy for users of the Web giant's multitude of products, from search to Gmail to YouTube to Google Maps to smart phones powered by the Android operating system.

Google points out that the products won't be collecting any more data about users than they were before. And, in fairness, the company has gone out of its way to prominently announce the product across all of its platforms for weeks.

The major change is that, instead of profiling users separately on each of its sites and products, Google will now pull all of that information together into one single profile, similar to what's found on Google's dashboard page.

The result encapsulates perhaps the most basic conundrum of the modern Web. More information means better service (and potentially, more targeted advertisements). But that service (in this case more accurate search results, more interesting ads and new features that work across multiple sites) requires you to give up some of your privacy in return.

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz has called it "a somewhat brutal choice."

Google, not surprisingly, takes a different tack: The payoff for the company collecting your data is cool new services. For example, they could push cooking videos to you on YouTube if you'd been looking for recipes through Google search, privacy director Alma Whitten wrote in an editorial for the Sacramento Bee.

"We just want to use the information you already trust us with to make your experience better," she wrote. "If you don't think information sharing will improve your experience, you don't need to sign in to use services like Search, Maps and YouTube.

"If you are signed in, you can use our many privacy tools to do things like edit or turn off your search history, control the way Google tailors ads to your interests and browse the Web 'incognito' using Chrome." Last Wednesday was the last day for people to tweak those Google settings before the new policy begins, although they can change them afterward as well.

Here are a few tips on how to keep your data a little more private on some of Google's most popular features.

1. Don't sign in - This is the easiest and most effective tip. Many of Google's services -- most notably search, YouTube and Maps -- don't require you to sign in to use them. If you're not logged in, via Gmail or Google+, for example, Google doesn't know who you are and can't add data to your profile. But to take a little more direct action ...

2. Removing your Google search history - Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation has compiled this step-by-step guide to deleting and disabling your Web History, which includes the searches you've done and sites you've visited.

It's pretty quick and easy:
-- Sign in to your Google account
-- Go to
-- Click "Remove all Web History"
-- Click "OK"

As the EFF notes, deleting your history will not prevent Google from using the information internally. But it will limit the amount of time that it's fully accessible. After 18 months, the data will become anonymous again and won't be used as part of your profile. The EFF also compiled these six tips to protect your search privacy.

3. Clearing your YouTube history - Similarly, users may want to remove their history on YouTube. That's also pretty quick and easy.
-- Sign in on Google's main page
-- Click on "YouTube" in the toolbar at the top of the page
-- On the right of the page, click your user name and select "Video Manager"
-- Click "History" on the left of the page and then "Clear Viewing History"
-- Refresh the page and then click "Pause Viewing History"
-- You can clear your searches on YouTube by going back and choosing "Clear Search History" and doing the same steps.

4. Clearing your browsing history on Google Chrome-- Click on the "wrench" icon at the far right of your toolbar
-- Select "Tools"
-- Select "Clear browsing data"
-- In the dialogue box that appears, click the "clear browsing data" box (there are other options you may want to use as well)
-- Select "Beginning of Time" to clear your entire browsing history
-- Click "clear browsing history"

5. Gmail Chat - When you start a chat with someone, you can make the conversation "off the record." Off-the-record chats will not be stored in your chat history or the history of the person with whom you're talking. All chats with that person will remain off the record until you change the status. To go off the record:
-- Click the "Actions" link at the top right of the chat window
-- Scroll down to "Go off the record." Both you and your chat partner will see that the chat has been taken off the record.

6. What are Google's other products? Obviously, anything with "Google" in its name counts. But the Web giant owns other products that might not be so obvious to some folks.
-- Gmail. Yes, the "G" is for Google.
-- YouTube. Google bought the Web's leading video site in 2006
-- Picasa. The online photo sharing site became Google's in 2004
-- Blogger. The blog publishing tool has been Google's since 2003.
-- FeedBurner. A management tool for bloggers and managing RSS feeds. Google bought it in 2007.
-- Orkut. Google's original social-networking site isn't big in the U.S. But it's one of the most popular sites in India and Brazil.
-- Android. Yes, you probably know this. But just for the record, Google owns the most popular smartphone operating system.

So what do the analysts think? Is Google's new privacy policy evil? The search giant has begun sharing your personal data across almost all of its services — a violation, critics say, of Google's "don't be evil" ethos. Under Google's controversial new privacy policy, YouTube, Gmail, and nearly 60 other Google services will share your personal data.

Google is changing its privacy policies to allow the sharing of a user's data across 60 of its web services, including Gmail, YouTube, and personalized search (but not Google Wallet, Google Books, or the Chrome browser). For example, says Brent Rose at Gizmodo, "if you searched for 'Furbies' on Google's homepage (for some freaky reason) and then later went to YouTube, you might see Furbies videos pop up. That's new. Previously, data was compartmentalized between applications." Privacy advocates and many tech commentators aren't happy, especially because there's no way to opt out of the cross-Google data sharing. Does this change violate Google's "don't be evil" philosophy?

Yes. Google is turning evil: Google claims that this change better serves its users, but really, but I think it's really all about selling more targeted ads, says Mat Honan at Gizmodo. Come March 1, "things you could do in relative anonymity today will be explicitly associated with your name, your face, your phone number," and everything else you put in Google's hands. I'm "calling this evil" because Google is violating the core promise of respecting its users — a promise that Google used to "get us all under its feel-good tent."

Maybe, but c'mon, people are overreacting: This "Internet freakout" mostly shows that "no one actually reads privacy policies," says Kashmir Hill at Forbes. We have all given Google permission to share our information among Google services since 2005. The only change is that now it will actually use all that stuff it knows about you to, say, recommend YouTube videos. "When Google starts bundling everything it knows about its users and selling that to insurance companies, background check companies, and the Department of Homeland Security, that's when I'll trot out the 'evil label.'" For now, "kudos to them for being so explicit" about their privacy tweaks.

No, the real issue is Google's ambitions, of course Google isn't evil, says Adam Pash at Lifehacker. "But it's never been harder to take their famous 'Don't be evil' motto seriously." Google started out wanting to give us the web, then get out of the way. Now it "wants to grab every piece of the internet you use," trying for "world domination" like Facebook or, more damningly, 1990s-era AOL. That's not the Google we came to love, and it's "a fantastic bummer" for anyone who likes a free, innovative web.

In the meantime, Google is accused of secret tracking.

Google has been “bypassing privacy settings” to track the Web habits of people using Apple’s Safari browser, said Jennifer Valentino-DeVries in The Wall Street Journal. The Internet giant placed small tracking files, called cookies, on phones and computers of users who didn’t want to be tracked. Google says it has halted the practice, but Microsoft charged that Google also circumvented privacy controls on the Internet Explorer browser. Three congressmen have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Google is violating its recent privacy settlement.

And in Europe, the new Google policy breaks the law.

Data-protection agencies ini Europe have concluded that Google's new privacy policy is in breach of European law. France's data-protection watchdog, the CNIL, has also cast doubt on the legality of the policy and informed Google that it would lead a Europe-wide investigation. Google said in January that it was simplifying its privacy policy, consolidating 60 guidelines into a single one that will apply to all its services. - Reuters

- As seen in The Week
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Google is Hiring and Paying Big Bucks

Google will pay you $1 Million if you can hack its Web browser.

According to Forbes, Chrome has entered an international hacking contest called Pwn2Own (see also: pwn) for the past three years and has been left untouched, while other brand name browsers like Safari, Internet Explorer, and Firefox all fell victim to hacker cyberattacks. So why the huge cash prize? Google explains that it's asking for a detailed report of how the hacker was able to exploit the browser (which is not an official condition of the contest). That information will go into making future releases of Chrome even safer. "Not only can we fix the bugs, but by studying the vulnerability and exploit techniques we can enhance our mitigations, automated testing, and sandboxing," write Chrome security engineers Chris Evans and Justin Schuh. It all goes down next week as part of the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver.

Google is also hiring engineers to design and test the self-driving cars it's been working on.

According to LinkedIn, the following listings were posted within the last two weeks of February, 2012:

  • Automotive System Test Engineer. The job listing doesn't have much detail, but requires experience in the automotive industry.
  • System Test Engineer, Special Projects. This is apparently all about designing safety systems. From the listing: "As a System Test Engineer, you will design and execute test plans and procedures for automotive active safety systems. You will also be responsible for performing technical performance analyses of a variety of electronic and mechanical systems under test and writing detailed test and defect reports that summarize the test results."
  • Industrial Designer, Special Projects. This person will be working on automotive applications. We suppose it could mean navigation apps for Android, or something like that, but the "Special Projects" listing makes it sound like it's part of Sergey Brin's group. Brin is known to be overseeing the cars project. From the posting: "As an Industrial Designer focused on automotive applications, you will be working across a broad range of influence levels and within an interdisciplinary team with hardware, software, and user experience experts."

Last fall, we heard that the self-driving cars team had about 50 engineers and was working with major car companies. Several folks in Silicon Valley have seen the self-driving cars on the highway throughout February 2012. Google has also posted a couple job listings for "augmented reality" experts, and Wired speculates those jobs are for the glasses it's building (see: AR headset 8-)

- As seen in Business Insider
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Online Dangers for Children - New Report Exposes the Top 10 Myths of Internet Safety

Researchers published a list of the top 10 myths about Internet safety for children to show how many peoples' knowledge of online dangers are out of date. Among common mistakes is the belief that putting a PC in the family living room will help keep young people away from risky behavior.

In fact, say the team from EU Kids Online, children find it so easy to go online at a friend's house or on a smartphone that this advice is out of date. Parents are better advised to talk to their children about their Internet habits or join them in some online activity.

Another common myth highlighted in the study is that children know more than adults about the digital world – in fact only just over one in three youngsters are sure that they know more than their parents.

The top 10 list is published as part of the final report of EU Kids Online – a research project based at the London School of Economics and Political Science which surveyed 25,000 children and their parents across Europe to understand where the true online risks and opportunities lie. Funded by the European Commission's Safer Internet Program, the project aims to give policy makers the best possible advice on how to educate and protect against risks such as bullying, pornographic or inappropriate content and making contacts with unsuitable people in the real world.

The report makes a series of recommendations to governments, industry, children, parents and teachers which range from a call for more user-friendly parental controls and online safety features to ensuring children also lead a rich life away from the computer.

Professor Sonia Livingstone, who headed the project, said: "Most people have concerns about the Internet and the effects it can have on a new digital generation of children. But are they concerned about the right things?

'Our study showed that in general they are not. Often their view of how children behave online is out of date and needs updating – that's why we included the list of Top 10 myths in our report. For example, while parents worry more about 'stranger danger', children find cyberbullying the most upsetting risk. Also, it's interesting to note that the parents who are most worried have children who encounter no more risks than children of parents who aren't worried.

"Often people also don't appreciate that the digital world brings both risks and opportunities for young people, or that risk isn't automatically a bad thing as it may give children a chance to learn how to cope and become resilient. It's only by understanding and balancing these things that we'll be able to give children the practical help they need to get the best from the Internet and other online activity.

"The work our team of researchers has done offers governments, parents and teachers the most comprehensive insight yet into how to help."

The Top 10 Myths about Children's Online Risks

1. Digital natives know it all.
Only 36% of 9-16-year-olds say it is very true that they know more about the Internet than their parents. This myth obscures children's needs to develop digital skills.

2. Everyone is creating their own content.
The study showed that only one in five children had recently used a file-sharing site or created an avatar, half that number wrote a blog. Most children use the Internet for ready-made content.

3. Under 13s can't use social networking sites.
Although many sites (including Facebook) say that users must be aged at least 13, the survey shows that age limits don't work – 38% of 9-12-year-olds have a social networking profile. Some argue age limits should be scrapped to allow greater honesty and protective action.

4. Everyone watches porn online.
One in seven children saw sexual images online in the past year. Even allowing for under-reporting, this myth has been partly created by media hype.

5. Bullies are baddies.
The study shows that 60% who bully (online or offline) have themselves been bullied. Bullies and victims are often the same people.

6. People you meet on the Internet are strangers.
Most online contacts are people children know face-to-face; 9% met offline people they'd first contacted online – most didn't go alone and only 1% had a bad experience.

7. Offline risks migrate online.
This is not necessarily true. While children who lead risky offline lives are more likely to expose themselves to danger online, it cannot be assumed that those who are low-risk offline are protected while online.

8. Putting the PC in the living room will help.
Children find it so easy to go online at a friend's house or on a smartphone that this advice is out of date. Parents are better advised to talk to their children about their Internet habits or join them in some online activity.

9. Teaching digital skills reduces online risk.
Actually the more digital skills a child has, the more risks they are likely to encounter as they broaden their online experience. What more skills can do is reduce the potential harm that risks can bring.

10. Children can get around safety software.
In fact, fewer than one in three 11-16 year-olds say they can change filter preferences. And most say their parents' actions to limit their Internet activity is helpful.

- For a copy of the full report and further information about EU Kids Online visit their site at
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Facebook's "Like" Button, bet you didn't know...

It's just a little, clickable icon. But Facebook's "Like" button, with its omnipresent "thumbs up" symbol, has made the company billions of dollars. The story of the button's creation can be traced to a core group of Facebook veterans.

Facebook Director of Engineering Andrew Bosworth posted his version of the button's history on in 2010. Bosworth writes that he and a small group of co-workers worked on the project, codenamed “Props.” They debated other ideas including plus/minus signs and star ratings. According to Bosworth’s post, the Like button was originally going to be called the "Awesome" button. Apparently, founder Mark Zuckerberg put the kibosh on that idea.

The idea for the Like button began in 2007, according to Bosworth. There has been some debate over the years over whether Facebook copied the "Like" name from rival site FriendFeed. According to Bosworth, Facebook was working on the concept months before Friendfeed pushed out its own "Like" feature. Facebook unleashed the Like button in February 2009.

Whatever the timing, the success of the button can't be overstated. Rapper Eminem is the most "liked" person on Facebook. As of press time, the Detroit native had more than 52.5 million "likes." Others in his rarefied air include Lady Gaga (47.5 million), Rihanna (50.8 million), and Katy Perry (39 million).

The button itself is clicked millions of times every hour. Facebook doesn't publicly release stats on just how popular the button is, but back in 2010 (which, we admit, is an eon in Web years), 7.6 million pages were "liked" every 20 minutes, according to independent blog Business and Facebook.

According to Facebook's recent S1 IPO filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the site's users "generated an average of 2.7 billion Likes and Comments per day during the three months ended December 31, 2011." Break those numbers down, and it comes out to 112,500,000 Likes and Comments ever hour or about 1,875,000 every minute or, to break it down even further, around 31,250 Likes and Comments every second.

Now we're just waiting for the "Love" button!

As seen in Yahoo! Finance
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Facebook's IPO, yes it's a big deal!

Facebook is widely expected to file for its IPO this week, with an actual offering date some time in May. It will be one of the biggest public offerings of any company in history -- Facebook plans to raise up to $10 billion at a $100 billion valuation.

But the fact that Facebook is so widely used makes it a hugely symbolic event as well. Normal people who otherwise would never care about a tech company hitting the public markets are going to be paying attention to this one.

In coming years, the Facebook IPO will probably stand out as a once-per-decade event in the tech industry, alongside these other biggies:

* Apple's IPO in 1980 kicked off the
personal computer era.
Apple's IPO kicked off the personal computing era, but the company blew its early lead. IBM launched its PC a little later, but it really took Microsoft to open the PC market to dozens of low-cost clones, crystalize the vision -- a computer on every desk and in every home -- and figure out that software, more than hardware, would drive adoption.

* Netscape's IPO in 1995 launched the Internet era.
Before Netscape, the Internet was a tool for academics and nerds. Six months after Netscape went public, the phrase "dot-com" started showing up in TV commercials, and dozens of eventual Internet giants -- from Yahoo to Amazon -- followed. Netscape eventually got crushed by Microsoft's decision to bundle Internet Explorer with Windows (as well as by its own missteps), but the dot-com era was no doubt the Netscape era.

* The iPhone launch in 2007 began the mobile era.

Palm, RIM, Microsoft and a few other companies had built combination phone-computers before 2007, but Apple took the concept and pushed it into the mainstream, with a lot of help from Google's fast-following Android and all its hardware partners. In a short five years, Microsoft has lost its monopoly on Internet-connected clients, everybody has an "app store," and (as William Gibson once pointed out), the silhouetted figure of a person checking a smartphone has replaced the cigarette smoker as the most common scene on a city street.

* The Facebook IPO will kick off the social era.

In each case, these companies did not just launch products. They launched platforms on which thousands or millions of others could make their own businesses, and in the process changed what people did with technology. Facebook is doing the same thing with social. The importance of Facebook's IPO is not about Facebook the product, where people go to share pictures of their kids or their high scores on Farmville.

The importance is Facebook the platform, which allows developers to build social experiences into everything they create, regardless of the computing device that users have in front of them. Whether it's a desktop PC, laptop, smartphone, even a dumb phone, Facebook is building a platform that will let you share what you do.

There will of course be competing platforms -- Google is trying with Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn have their own spins, and companies like Box and Jive and Yammer might end up carving out the "Facebook for the enterprise" niche. But five years ago, a lot of people scoffed at the idea that mainstream computer users would want to share everything they did online. Now, the idea is taken for granted.

In another five years, we'll barely remember a time when it was HARD to share what you're doing, watching, hearing, or thinking with thousands of other people in real time.

(Oh and by the way, Google's IPO was a huge event, but it didn't kick off a new era in computing -- nobody else has a search business but Google, and the rise of Web apps and cloud computing, while significant, had its roots in the dot-com era and was driven forward as much by enterprise companies like Salesforce as it was by Google.)

-As seen in Business Insider
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Escaping Online in 2011

The sputtering economy in 2011 left us feeling fed up and disengaged, but at least we could escape online. So how exactly did we enjoy ourselves? In the last of a series of summing up 2011, this blog reveals how more and more, we find pleasure online.

On any given day, 58% go online for no other reason than to have fun or pass the time (Pew Research Center), and 37% turn to the Internet to help diagnose their illnesses (Marist Poll).

65% visit social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, but 7% have gotten in trouble at school or work, and 7% think they’ve lost a potential job, because of a comment or picture they shared online (Harris Interactive). Nonetheless, 27% of men and 23% of women say they have been photographed nude, and 16% have used their cellphones for “sexting”—sending naked photos or erotic messages to a partner.

The fun and games aren’t limited to partners, however: 31% of men and 26% of women admit to contacting an ex via Facebook or email. In a world where everyone is connected, trust doesn’t come easily: 41% of men and 47% of women have suspected their partners of cheating (Playboy/Harris Interactive).

- As seen in The Week
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The 4 Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2011

From neutrinos to new planets, a look at some of the most important scientific discoveries in 2011.

1. Upending the laws of physics
Researchers at the CERN laboratory in Geneva announced in September that they'd clocked subatomic particles called neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light. That finding directly contradicts Albert Einstein's 1905 special theory of relativity, which holds that nothing can outrun light. If neutrinos can, they could arrive at a destination before they even left, opening the prospect of time travel. Or could it be that neutrinos move through an undiscovered fifth dimension, separate from the three dimensions of space and one of time that we know about? Those ideas are so shocking that even the CERN team "wanted to find a mistake" in their data, says team leader Antonio Ereditato. But they didn't. And so far, further testing has failed to dismiss the finding, says theoretical physicist Matthew Strassler, as "a doorway into something fundamental and deep we don't know about nature."

2. Reasons to listen to your gut
Bacteria in our intestines may play a major role in the health of our minds and bodies. German researchers have discovered that just as each human being has a specific blood type, each of us also has one of three separate families of bacteria residing in our guts. A person's "enterotype" likely establishes itself in infancy and appears to affect everything from how well food is digested to how drugs are absorbed. The discovery of the three distinct gut ecosystems "was a surprise, and it's good news," says researcher Peer Bork. The finding could help physicians diagnose and treat serious digestive disorders, and also help explain why the effects of medicines and nutrients vary widely from person to person. Further studies have shown that ingesting a bacteria species found in certain yogurts and cheeses calms stressed-out mice — pointing to the prospect of treating psychiatric disorders with microbes instead of drugs.

3. Closing in on alien life
A galaxy-wide search for Earth-like planets has returned a startling number of candidates. Using NASA's Kepler space telescope, astronomers this year announced they'd spotted 2,326 new worlds and counting. Ten of those planets are close in size to our own and orbit their suns in the "habitable zone," where temperatures could be balmy enough to support liquid water — and potentially life. The best contender yet, Kepler-22b, looks to be a hospitable 72 degrees and circles a star very similar to our sun. The data pouring in from the spacecraft, launched in March 2009, are "game-changing," says Kepler principal investigator William Borucki. "It's just a tremendous amount of new knowledge." Already, other researchers are scanning the most promising Kepler finds for signs of alien life.

4. A new weapon against aging
The fountain of youth might one day flow within our own cells. Scientists working with mice have discovered that if they remove a special kind of cell that promotes aging, a host of age-related conditions disappear: The genetically modified rodents didn't develop cataracts, their skin didn't wrinkle, and they maintained high levels of energy throughout their lives. The so-called senescent cells have lost the ability to divide, and as they build up in aging tissue, they release toxins that destroy robust neighboring cells. Scientists devised a way of killing off those senescent cells, and the procedure "suggests therapies that might work in real patients," says Norman E. Sharpless, an expert on aging. If purging the cells works in people as it does in mice, the treatment could ward off a host of age-related diseases, from cancer to dementia, and keep us vigorous longer.

- As seen in The Week
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Websites Go Dark Today Over Piracy Bills

Need to look something up (other than an Internet term)? You won't find it on Wikipedia--for today anyway.

The popular online encyclopedia plans to black out its English-language pages for 24 hours starting today to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act. Popular sites Reddit, Boing Boing and others are also set to go dark today, January 18, 2012.

The two bills which are making the rounds through Congress, would grant the government the power to shut down website with content that infringes on copyright laws. Opponents content that the bills would cut too deeply into freedom of speech.

The point is the bills are so over-broad and so badly written that it's going to impact all kinds of things that, you know, don't have anything to do with stopping piracy," Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told the BBC.

Twitter, however, won't be joint the protest. CEO Dick Costolo tweeted his view Monday that "closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish."

- As seen in The Wall St. Journal

The 3 Worst Tech Predictions of 2011

When it comes to digital prognostications, some guesses actually stick — but not in these cases. What would we do without the rumor mill? Whether it's a proclamation from a business analyst with "insider" know-how or a whisper strung along by anonymous sources, for every correct tech prediction at least a dozen misguided ones are left out in the cold. Here, a look back at the year's most flat-out wrong guesses — just in case you've forgotten:

1. The "ultra sexy" iPhone 5
Remember how the latest iPhone was supposed to be an "ultra sexy" redesign with a "radical new case design"? In the pre-Siri era back in April, the website formerly known as This Is My Next published a sneak-peek mock-up illustrating a much thinner iPhone, featuring a larger screen and a rounded teardrop-shape profile, "based on information from a variety of sources," as editor in chief Joshua Topolsky put it. Meanwhile, Bloomberg and other sources were hinting heavily that a separate "cheaper iPhone" would debut alongside the iPhone 5. Instead, the spunky Siri-equipped iPhone 4S — an attention-getting upgrade, but not a new incarnation — arrived alone.

2. Amazon will never make a tablet
When rumors of a sub-$300 Amazon tablet began swirling back in August, several writers scoffed at the idea of an iPad challenger. Just "another round of tech headlines so clearly penned by Apple-hating geeks, who will do and say and write anything in the hopes of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy," declared Timmy Falcon at Beatweek Magazine. How, asked the Los Angeles Times, could an unconfirmed tablet "prompt such an optimistic, multimillion-sales forecast?" Fast-forward to November, when Amazon released its Kindle Fire touchscreen tablet, priced at $200, and shipped an estimated 5 million units in less than a month.

3. Facebook's Netflix impersonation
Back in September, Mark Zuckerberg took the stage to announce some "massive" changes to his 800-million strong social network, the biggest of which was a new type of profile dubbed Timeline. In the days leading up to Zuckerberg's announcement, several bloggers predicted he would also unveil Facebook's version of a comprehensive "movie rental service" a la Netflix — yet "another effort to make Facebook's website 'stickier.'" Despite the hype, the feature hasn't seen the light of day. At least not yet.

- As seen in The Week
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Is Apple losing its 'cool factor'?

One critic says the mighty Apple will lose its "cool factor" in 2012, as sexy new Android smartphones steal the spotlight.

A new year never fails to bring a flood of predictions from eager crystal-ball gazers. Tech analysts are no exception. Investor's Business Daily's Brian Deagon forecasts that 2012 will be the year that "Apple will lose its cool factor," as new gadgets like the latest Samsung Galaxy smartphones prove to be more exciting than the iPhone. Will Apple really fall from the pedestal of trendiness that it's long occupied?

Yes. Apple is on the way out: Sure, Apple "redefined markets and defined cool" with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad," says Deagon. But now what? "The iPhone is boxy, flat and feeling stale," and "the Samsung Galaxy smartphone seems cooler." As smartphone and tablets become cheaper and more widely adopted, Apple will be overshadowed by the many Android options. Plus, Apple is pinning its hopes on getting into the TV market, but that will be "a tough nut to crack," especially given that Samsung is already dominant in that industry.

Not quite: Sure, iPhones might not be as eye-popping as some Android phones, but "Apple is not going to lose its cool… for a long time," says Dan Rowinski at ReadWriteWeb. The company has "legions of developers" coming up with cool apps for its gadgets, and that's a big advantage. It also has the best marketing around. While it's true that the iPad and iPhone are both due for some big updates, it's "pretty safe to say that Apple will continue being just as cool in 2012 as it has been in previous years."

In fact, Apple has a promising year ahead: Apple won't be on top forever, but it's doubtful that 2012 will be a bad year for the company, says Zach Epstein at BGR. Apple is set to launch a totally redesigned iPhone and "a Siri-fueled HDTV" in the new year — no small feats. Given that the same analyst that predicted Apple would lose its cool also forecast that "Twitter will totter" (huh?) and "BlackBerry will go the way of Palm" (duh), his opinions shouldn't be taken too seriously. What do you think?

- As seen in The Week
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What We Googled in 2011... really?

In a short video and an extensive data site, Google Zeitgeist takes us back... and shames us with what we have searched for in 2011. This year we searched Google for answers about Rebecca Black, Steve Jobs, Google+, and the nonexistent iPhone 5.

The video: In December 2011, Google released its annual list of "the searches that compose the year's Zeitgeist — the spirit of the time." Google compiles its Zeitgeist reports by scouring billions of Google searches around the world and identifying the fastest-rising queries. You can delve deep into the data at its Zeitgeist 2011 website, and/or just watch its year-in-review video of top search topics (view it below). Topping the search list of world-captivating things: Rebecca Black, famous for a much-mocked music video. Next on the Top 10 list are Google+, deceased Jackass star Ryan Dunn, acquitted murder suspect Casey Anthony, Battlefield 3, the nonexistent iPhone 5, Adele, Fukushima I Plant, Steve Jobs, and the iPad2.

The reaction: Holy cow, "if this is the spirit of our time, then we are living in a sad time," says Sam Biddle at Gizmodo. What we apparently think "mattered" doesn't get any better if you dig through Zeitgeist a little deeper: Planking? "Tom Brady Haircut"? Google is showing us that we're, collectively, "awful people." Hey, "it was a weird year," says Jon Mitchell in ReadWriteWeb. Yes, the Arab Spring, the death of Osama bin Laden, and lots of other weighty things are more important than Adele, but with so many "grim and tumultuous events" in 2011, maybe we can be excused for our "mostly frivolous" googling. I'm in the "shame on humanity" camp, says Nitasha Tiku in BetaBeat. But Google's video retrospective is "actually quite moving," if you can ignore "the hideous Coldplay soundtrack — and that thing about Rebecca Black." Watch the video here...

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Let’s Talk Tech: News in Review - Dec, 2011

What a month in tech it’s been! Here are some of the top stories…

Tech News Stories of the Month

Occupy Everything on the Web
There's a "digital land grab underway” thanks to Occupy Wall Steer, said Suzanne Woolley in Bloomberg Businessweek, Internet domain registrar Go has sold 5,200 domain names with “Occupy” in them from September to early Novemeber, compared with 80 from January throught August.” People have snatch up everything from Occupy Boston to Occupy KStreet. There are sites dedicated to White House hopefuls (Occupy Herman Cain) the holidays (Occupy Hanukkah), and various locales (Occupy The Sea, Occupy the Universe), There’s Occupy This and Occupy That, Occupy You and Occupy and Occupy Me. Jordan Fainberg wants people in Occupy Bethesda in a conventional sense: by buying one of the Bethsesda, MA, houses the real estate agent has listed on ihns site. “It’s getting a bunch of hits.”

Privacy Dies with a Whimper
It may sound Orwellian, but GPS tracking is just the next step in the rapid erosion of privacy that followed 9/11, said Jonathan Turley at The Washington Post. How much privacy should Americans expect? asked Jonathan Turley. The answer to that question may determine whether the government will soon have the right to track you 24 hours a day, without a warrant. Under current law, the government needs a warrant to conduct any kind of surveillance that intrudes on a citizen’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.” But in a new case before the Supreme Court, the Obama administration last week argued that police should not be required to get a warrant to affix a GPS tracker to your car, to see if you’re involved in crimes; when driving, you really can’t expect any privacy, can you? It may sound Orwellian, but GPS tracking is just the next step in the rapid erosion of privacy that followed 9/11. Out of its fear of terrorism, the public has accepted airport pat-downs, surveillance of phone calls and emails, and constant monitoring by TV cameras in public places and offices. In this brave new world, we think Big Brother makes us safer. So don’t be surprised when privacy disappears altogether. “The problem is not with the government but with us.” Marking that shot “friends only” won’t prevent an online buddy from copying the picture and distributing it, said Farhad Manjoo at “Mark Zuckerberg wants you to know that Facebook has reformed,” said Farhad Manjoo. After a series of privacy violations and a Federal Trade Commission investigation, the social-media boss last week admitted that his site had “made a bunch of mistakes,” and he promised to give users greater control over how they share information. But Facebook’s privacy issues are as much our fault as Zuckerberg’s. Too many users seem to believe they can control who gets to see the private thoughts and photos they post to a site with 800 million users throughout the world. Facebook was designed to be “one of the most intrusive technologies ever built,” a vehicle for sharing personal information. Upload a photo of your drunken antics, and it’s on the Internet, stored on dozens of servers around the world. Marking that shot “friends only” won’t prevent an online buddy from copying the picture and distributing it. So next time you’re wondering about whether you should post something on Facebook, remember this simple rule: “The only sure way to keep something private on Facebook is not to post it to Facebook.”

Just 4.74 Degrees of Separation
Popular wisdom says that only “six degrees of separation” stand between you and anyone else. Now, a new Facebook study says we’re getting more closely linked than that. University of Milan researchers analyzed the “friend” links among Facebook’s 721 million members. On average, only 4.74 hops from friend to friend were needed to bring any two members together, as opposed to 5.28 three years ago. That means “when considering even the most distant Facebook user in the Siberian tundra or the Peruvian rain forest, a friend of your friend probably knows a friend of their friend,” Facebook says. The data highlight how useful social-networking sites can be to researchers studying the behavior of extremely large groups of people. But the new networks created by social media may not be as strong as friendships made the old-fashioned way. Facebook, Cornell computer scientist Jon Kleinberg tells The New York Times, allows us to be “close, in a sense, to people who don’t necessarily like us, sympathize with us, or have anything in common with us.” What Teens Don’t Know about Google Other studies have also shown that students really don’t bother trying to assess the credibility of information found online, said Clive Thompson at Young people are supposedly our most Web-literate citizens, said Clive Thompson. “But just how savvy are they?” Not very: They simply swallow whatever they find on Google. To study kids’ online-search skills, scientific researchers asked a group of students to look up answers to a series of questions. Not surprisingly, the kids relied on Web pages at the top of Google’s results list. When researchers switched the order of results, most students were easily tricked, and relied on the (falsely) top-ranked pages. Other studies have also shown that students really don’t bother trying to assess the credibility of information found online. Is an “article” a disguised advertisement? Was that profile of Martin Luther King Jr. actually posted by white supremacists? The average high school and college student is unable to discern the hidden agendas. This naivete is largely the fault of schools, which rarely teach critical thinking. And mastering “crap detection 101” isn’t easy; you need to be savvy about the world and how it works. Ultimately, a broad-based education is the only “true key to effective search.”

Here’s One Way New Terms are Created…
Union officials are not just complaining about “normal outsourcing”—their beef is with “Asianization,” said Chris Berg at the Sydney Morning Herald. The union dispute that grounded the entire Qantas fleet for two days last month has a nasty racial component, said Chris Berg. Union members are furious that Qantas is considering locating some of its operations abroad. But they’re not just complaining about “normal outsourcing”—their beef is with “Asianization.” That’s a clear “dog whistle” to racists. Google the term, and you’re buried in pages offering “manic claims about the Yellow Peril and warning about our national suicide.” This is no accident. Protectionism in Australia has often been linked to xenophobia. The “White Australia” immigration policy of the first half of the 20th century was led by a union movement that wanted to squelch labor competition. It explicitly encouraged employers to fire “colored” workers and replace them with white union members. Use of the term “Asianization” should have brought a chorus of outraged denunciation from our pro-multicultural, liberal media—and it would have, if a conservative had uttered it. But because it was a union leader calling for protection of Australian jobs, we didn’t hear a peep. So let me say it: “Warnings that Qantas will be ‘Asianized’ are ugly, xenophobic, and just plain wrong.”

Censorship, no matter where you are, is Never a Good Thing
Pakistan is having a bad month, and to top it all off, they've notified phone companies it would ban 1,109 "obscene" English words from text messages, including "quickie," "condom," "flatulence," and "periord." Really? I wondered what Siri will do! Who’s Siri, see next update…

Siri: Artificial Intelligence Becomes more Human
Apple’s voice-activated “virtual assistant” for the new iPhone 4S can talk in clear, conversational English. She can text your kids with words you dictate aloud. She can book you an appointment online. She knows precisely where you are, and can find the nearest Chinese restaurant, call a cab for you, and tell you what the traffic will be like on the way. Her name is Siri, said Brandon Griggs in, and she’s Apple’s voice-activated “virtual assistant” for the new iPhone 4S. Simply by speaking to your phone, you can tell Siri to perform any number of tasks—and she can talk back, in clear, conversational English. Not incidentally, this dutiful assistant has a female name and “distinctly female” voice. Does that mean Apple is relying on—and reinforcing—gender stereotypes? It’s a fair question, said Rebecca J. Rosen in Like most disembodied computer voices, Siri evokes the pleasantly compliant and submissive female assistant, as she goes about “classic personal secretary tasks.” Chauvinists might enjoy the idea of having a female secretary in their pocket, said Michael Agger in But Siri is no doormat. Apple wisely has given Siri a tart and witty personality. Curse at her, and she’ll tut: “Now, now.” Ask her to “talk dirty,” and she’ll say, “Compost. Pumice. Silt. Gravel.” Call her a bitch, and she will make you feel ridiculous: “Why do you hate me?” she’ll say. “I don’t even exist.” As a result, she comes across less as a sexy secretary than as a “second-grade teacher,” quick with a sarcastic response but also “willing to patiently explain.” It makes Siri so life-like, you almost forget that “the intelligence we’re dealing with is artificial.” That’s the plan, said Jon Stokes in Siri is a “cloud” application, meaning that Apple’s developers can update her “canned responses” in real time based on user inquiries. Over time, she’ll be able to draw on the questions of tens of millions of users and the responses by hundreds of Apple employees. As she gets smarter and smarter, you’ll be able to talk with Siri in a way that is almost indistinguishable from “intelligent conversation.” Hello, future, said Alexis Madrigal in Humans have always dreamed of creating a “talking automaton” that speaks “in the natural language that defines being human.” Siri is a big step in that direction. As she listens and learns from us, and helps organize our lives, she will transform “how we interact with our computers.”

Health Scare of the Month: Does Wi-Fi damage sperm?
An experiment by researchers in Argentina suggests that radiation from a Wi-Fi–enabled laptop may be strong enough to cause cell damage in sperm. If you’re worried about infertility, don’t try to Google the term with a computer on your lap, says the London Telegraph. A new experiment suggests that radiation from a single Wi-Fi–enabled laptop may be strong enough to cause cell damage in sperm. Argentine researchers took samples of ejaculated semen and left them directly under a computer—simulating holding a laptop directly above male genitals. Within just four hours, 25 percent of the sperm stopped swimming, and 9 percent showed signs of DNA damage. A control group of sperm stored at the same temperature, but away from a computer, showed much less degradation. Researcher Conrado Avendano says his team suspects that electromagnetic radiation in wireless devices “positioned near the male reproductive organs may decrease human sperm quality.” Scientists who specialize in fertility, however, say that sperm isolated outside the body are more vulnerable, and that further research is needed.

In Business Moves of the Month

War Video Game Sets Sales Record
The video game Modern Warfare 3 has set a sales record for the entertainment industry by grossing $775 million in global sales during its first five days on the market. The game, which retails for about $60, sold 6.5 million copies in North America and the United Kingdom on its first day alone.

Spotlight on Reid Hoffman
If you are a budding Internet entrepreneur, there’s really only one man you need to see for money, advice, and connections, said Evelyn M. Rusli in The New York Times. That’s Reid Hoffman, “the startup whisperer of Silicon Valley.” The co-founder of business-networking site LinkedIn, Hoffman is considered “something of a Yoda” in the social-media universe. “He’s the first stop for every hot deal,” says tech investor David Siminoff. A “nerd’s nerd” who likes to wax philosophical about the future of technology, Hoffman got his first job at age 12 when he “thrust a manual, marked with his suggestions in red ink,” into the hands of a fantasy-game developer. It was the beginning of his fascination with the way multiplayer games, and later social networks, come together. Hoffman “created the original social network, a dating service called SocialNet, in 1997,” said Nicole Perlroth in It flopped, but Hoffman learned from his mistakes and has helped “create nearly every significant social network since.” He’s also moonlighted as a tech investor for more than a decade, seeding early money in companies like Facebook, Zynga, and Flickr. Today he has a second full-time job, at venture capital firm Greylock Partners, where he invests in the “next generation of promising tech startups.”

Spotlight on Drew Houston

Drew Houston, the CEO of digital-storage service Dropbox, didn’t merely refuse to sell his company to the famously determined Steve Jobs in 2009, said Victoria Barret in Forbes. He refused Jobs’s nine-figure offer. Even then, Houston knew he had one of Silicon Valley’s most closely watched companies, and it’s only gotten better in the two years since. Dropbox, which gives people access to their files from any device, has had a “stunning ascent.” Its users have tripled in the last year, to 50 million, with “another joining every second.” Revenue is projected to hit $240 million this year even though 19 out of 20 users pay nothing. Little wonder, then, that the company recently became a verb (“Dropbox me”) and landed $250 million in venture funding to expand. Houston, 28, came up with the idea for Dropbox when he forgot to bring a USB stick on a long bus trip, said Jennifer Saba in He is determined to stay independent and isn’t concerned about competition from Apple’s iCloud. “We were not the first or the 10th or the 100th company to have this idea,” says Houston. But “if it were easy to build, someone would have built it already.”

Tech: Yelp Hopes to Raise $100 million in IPO
Yelp, the website of user reviews of businesses and restaurants, wants to become “the latest unprofitable Internet company to go public,” said Douglas MacMillan in The San Francisco–based company, founded in 2004, has filed for an initial public offering next year that could raise as much as $100 million. The announcement seems timed to build on the success of online coupon site Groupon, whose IPO last month generated $700 million despite the company’s lack of profits. “Investors are open to taking bets on companies that are generating losses” right now, said IPO analyst Tom Taulli.

Crowdfunding your Start-Up
“Need start-up capital—and fast?” asked Sarah E. Needleman in The Wall Street Journal. An increasing number of start-up entrepreneurs are turning to crowdfunding sites like and, which allow contributors to pledge money to developing businesses. The funds are gifts, not loans, and the campaigns must be completed in a set time frame and reach preset goals; otherwise funds won’t be released or the sites will take a bigger commission. But many campaigns bear fruit, says Slava Rubin of For the best results, he says, “have a good pitch, be proactive, and find an audience that cares.”

And In Tech Gossip…
Charlie Sheen: A Tweet meant for Justin Bieber went to Sheen's 5.5 million followers instead. Charlie Sheen could use a Twitter tutorial, said the London Daily Mail. The actor, 46, was overwhelmed by phone calls and text messages last week after he tried to send a private Twitter message to Justin Bieber, but instead tweeted it to his 5.5 million followers. “310-954-7277 Call me bro. C,” wrote Sheen. “Charlie’s phone immediately went into meltdown,” said a friend. “It was ringing wildly, and he got 1,800 text messages in minutes.” Sheen later changed his number.

- As seen in The Week
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Issue of the Year: High-Tech Burnout

Tech workers are beginning to object to the grueling hours and outsize expectations that are characteristic of start-up companies... really?

Discord is brewing in California’s Silicon Valley, said Evelyn M. Rusli in The New York Times. Life at a tech start-up can be notoriously stressful, but frustrated workers at Zynga, maker of uber-popular Web games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars (who held their IPO last week), say the long hours, relentless pressure, and outsize expectations have pushed them to the breaking point. With CEO Mark Pincus, a “professed data obsessive,” running the show, teams are constantly measured and forced to meet aggressive deadlines. That makes goings-on at the company feel like “a messy and ruthless war,” feeding a frustration that could “jeopardize the company’s ability to retain top talent.”

Michael Arrington has three words for these frustrated folks, said Connor Simpson in Suck it up. The influential blogger and tech entrepreneur says he’s sick and tired of hearing young Valley talent whine about how they have “to work so darn hard.” If you’re in the tech sector and feel that way, he says, “find a job somewhere else that will cater to your needs.” Working at a start-up is grueling, and it always has been. People in Silicon Valley have been sleeping under desks, passing out from exhaustion, and crying themselves to sleep for years. They stay because the rewards are great, and because they want to “make a dent in the universe.” So “work hard,” Arrington says. “Cry less. And realize you’re part of history.”

It’s a mistake to dismiss the depression that is stalking start-ups, said Foster Kamer in The New York Observer. The tech community has been quietly mourning last month’s suicide of 22-year-old Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the co-founder of social network Diaspora. The circumstances around his death aren’t known, but it’s sparked a debate over the culture’s punishing pressure. “I’d be really surprised if you could find a [tech] founder who hasn’t been through depression,” says one entrepreneur. You keep pushing yourself to work more hours and meet more deadlines, he says, because that’s what’s expected.

That grind is no longer limited to start-up companies, said Rebecca J. Rosen in It’s now “a feature of the American economy.” Worker productivity has soared as the number of jobs stagnates. Hardly anyone is immune from the pressure to work longer and harder. The Great Speedup may affect tech entrepreneurs more acutely, and perhaps they do have a shot at making history. But more likely, they—and the rest of us—are just part of “a broken American economy.”

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Can You Imagine Life at Work without Email?

Is email obsolete? Atos, Europe’s largest IT firm, thinks so. The company last week announced that it was banning internal email, as CEO Thierry Breton thinks that 90 percent of messages sent between employees are a waste of time.

Instead, Breton wants his 74,000 staff members to talk to one another in person or on the phone, and switch to "in real time" messaging tools like Facebook. According to Steven Rosenbaum in, it looks as if other companies will soon follow suit. By 2014, a technology research group has predicted, social networking will replace email as the main method of communication for 20 percent of businesses.

Good riddance, said William Powers in The New York Times. Email was supposed to boost productivity, but it has done the opposite. When a worker sends an office-wide message about a broken vending machine, everyone stops work to read a pointless bit of trivia. Studies show that such in-box–clogging interruptions can cost a 1,000-employee company up to $10 million a year.

Dumping email won’t fix those problems, said Peter Bright in Whenever office workers are interrupted—whether by an email, a phone call, or simply a co-worker stopping by their desk for a chat—it typically takes them 15 minutes to regain their focus and get back to work, studies have shown. So while 90 percent of Atos’s internal email might be worthless, ditching it entirely “doesn’t mean that employees will end their unproductive communication.” In fact, life without email could be far worse, said Richi Jennings in By nixing a “successful and efficient” communication tool, Breton will force employees to hold more time-consuming phone conferences and face-to-face meetings.

But like it or not, electronic mail is slowly wheezing toward the grave, said Dominique Jackson in the London Daily Mail. “The younger generation has all but given up on it”—visits to email sites by 12- to 17-year-olds fell 18 percent in 2010—and digitally savvy teens now communicate “almost entirely via social networks and instant messenging services.” These chat-type systems “have the advantage of immediacy over the disjointed timeline” of an email exchange; messages do not sit for hours in somebody’s inbox. In fact, instant chatting can almost feel like you’re having a real F2F conversation with a co-worker. Remember what that was like?

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Should I Shut Down My Computer or Put It in Sleep Mode?

The Answer? Shut it down. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, running a computer at night is akin to leaving on about 10 lightbulbs. You turn off lamps before you go to bed. Why not do the same to your PC?

That simple click saves energy and money. For every household computer you shut down, you could cut $10 to $30 off your annual electric bill, estimates Andy Leach, a Best Buy Geek Squad agent in New York City. Sleep mode uses less juice than full power, but shutting down has the added benefit of increasing your computer’s functionality, says Randy Gross, the chief information officer of the Computing Technology Industry Association. It gives your hard drive time to cool off (prolonged heat shortens its life span) and allows for automatic software updates. If you just snooze, you lose.

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For the Love of Funny, Clever Words :-)

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to supply alternate meanings for common words.

Here are the hilarious winners:

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.

6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men

The Washington Post also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are invited to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. And the winners are:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

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The 99% Movement: Discover what Occupy Wall Street is all about

As a resident of New York City, I'm frequently asked about the Occupy Wall Street movement. In short, I think it's fabulous that people are speaking out, about anything. The fact that this demonstration grew out of the financial crisis is modern movement for sure, but it's not just about money. It's about inequality, like the billion dollar start-up valuations I covered in my last blog. And it's not about hate, it's a revolution of love. So if you still don't know what the 99% are protesting, read the quote below and then read this amazing PDF "Occupy Wall Street: No Demand is Big Enough."

“Inequality creates a lopsided economy, which leaves the rich with so much money that they can binge on speculation, and leaves the middle class without enough money to buy the things they think they deserve, which leads them to borrow and go into debt. These were among the long-term causes of the financial crisis and the Great Recession. Inequality hardens society into a class system. Inequality divides us from one another in schools, in neighborhoods, at work, on airplanes, in hospitals, in what we eat, in the condition of our bodies, in what we think, in our children’s futures, in how we die. Inequality saps the will to conceive of ambitious solutions to large collective problems, because those problems no longer seem very collective. Inequality undermines democracy." - George Packer in Foreign Affairs

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15 Startups With $100 Million+ Valuations That Hardly Existed Last Year

As reported by Alyson Shontell in Business Insider, many of the world's most valuable startups haven't been around for very long. Some companies with $100 million+ valuations were founded just this year in 2011. Others have been around, but didn't receive any traction until a few months ago. Take a look at what investors perceive to be the most valuable new companies in the world.

15. Betterworks - A business platform where businesses can create, more rewarding work environments for their employees. Founded in 2011 and based in Santa Monica, CA it's estimated value is $100 million. The CEO is Paige Craig / Investors: Redpoint Ventures. The analysis? Betterworks is a social platform for employees that rewards them and encourages collaboration. In August 2011, Betterworks raised $8 million with an implied valuation of $100 million.

14. Instagram - Photo sharing for iPhone. Launched in November 2010 and based in San Francisco, CA, it's estimated value is $100 million. The CEO is Kevin Systrom / Investors: Andreessen-Horowitz, Baseline Ventures, and Benchmark Capital. The analysis? Instagram is a photo sharing application that is receiving an immense amount of traffic. It is growing shockingly fast. In less than a year, it has amassed 9 million users. There's no revenue model yet, but investors tend to get very excited about companies that grow their user-bases this fast. We therefore estimate that the company is worth $100 million.

13. Warby Parker - A prescription glasses online discount retailer. Founded in late 2010, launched early 2011 and based in New York, New York, it's estimated value is $120 million. The Co-CEOs are Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa / Investors: First Round Capital, SV Angel, Lerer Ventures, Davis Smith. The analysis? While margins for online retailers aren't huge, glasses are something that are purchased almost annually; Warby's product inherently encourages repeat customers. One of the sources estimates that Warby Parker has already sold more than 100,000 pairs of glasses in the last year. Two sources involved in the financing and one additional industry source say that the $12 million round Warby Parker just raised was at an estimated valuation of $100-200 million.

12. Beachmint - Social commerce company where celebrities launch lines and products. Founded in late 2010 and based in Santa Monica, CA, it's estimated value is $150 million. The CEO is Josh Berman / Investors: New Enterprise Associates, Trinity Ventures, Lightbank, Scale Venture Partners, Stanford University, Anthem Venture Partners. The analysis? The startup raised $23.5 million in June at a reported $150 million valuation, Film at 11.

11. Flipboard - Personalized social magazine for iPad. Founded in 2010 and based in Palo Alto, CA, it's estimated value is $200 million. The CEO is Mike McCue / Investors: Venture Partners, Comcast Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Index Ventures, the Chernin Group, angel investor Ron Conway, Square CEO Jack Dorsey, actor Ashton Kutcher, and Facebook co-founder and Asana founder, Dustin Moskovitz. The analysis? Flipboard is an easy news reading experience for the iPad. In April, Flipboard raised $50 million at an estimated $200 million valuation.

10. Shoedazzle - Personal styling and fashion services including the sales of shoes, handbags, jewelry, and more for a monthly fee. Founded in March 2009 and based in Los Angeles, CA, it's estimated value is $280 million. The CEO is Brian Lee / Investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Polaris Ventures, Accel Partners, Comcast Ventures, Allen & Company, and Khosla Ventures. The analysis? Shoedazzle offers its members personalized fashion, including shoes, jewelry, handbags, and other accessories. Users are charged to receive the monthly accessories at their doorsteps. The company is expected to generate $70 million in 2011 revenue, up from $23 million in 2010. Shoedazzle raised $40 million in May of 2011, with a valuation north of $200 million. Applying a 4x on 2011 revenue, Shoedazzle's valuation is at $280 million.

9. Vostu - Online gaming site and virtual goods. Founded in 2007 and based in San Paulo, Brazil, it's estimated value is $300 million. The CEO is Daniel Kaife / Investors: Tiger Management, Accel Partners, Intel Capital and General Catalyst Partners. The analysis? Vostu is an online gaming company that is big in Brazil. It has 42 million users. Vostu raised $30 million at the end of last year at what we estimate was a $300 million post-money valuation. While the company has grown significantly since then, a lawsuit with Zynga is a potential risk for Vostu. We estimate that Vostu will do about $50 million of revenue this year. We use a 6x multiple, keeping the valuation at $300 million.

8. One Kings Lane - Flash sale site. Founded in 2009 and based in San Francisco, CA, it's estimated valuation is $440 million. The CEO is Doug Mack / Investors: Tiger Global Management, Institutional Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Greylock Partners, Accel Partners, Comcast Ventures, Allen & Company, and Khosla Ventures. The analysis? The Wall Street Journal says One Kings Lane will likely generate $100 million in revenue this year, up from $30 million last year. In September 2011, the company raised $40 million at a $440 million valuation.

7. ZocDoc - Online booking for doctor and dentist appointments. Founded in 2007 and based in New York, New York, it's estimated value is $700 million. The CEO is Cyrus Massoumi / Investors: Jeff Bezos, DST Global, The Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, Mark Benioff, and SV Angel. The analysis? ZocDoc is an easy way to book last-minute doctor appointments online. It is used by more than 700,000 people per month. ZocDoc is free for patients and charges every featured practice $250 per month. In the summer of 2011, DST Global invested $50 million and Goldman Sachs invested $25 Million in ZocDoc at about a $700 million valuation.

6. Storm8 - The creator of Role Playing Games on the iPhone, iPod Touch and Android device. Founded in March, 2009 and based in Redwood Shores, CA, it's estimated value is $1 billion. The CEO is Perry Tam / Investors: Accel Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures. The analysis? Storm8 creates role playing games for mobile devices. It is rumored to be raising a $300 million round at around a $1 billion valuation from the likes of Accel Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures. Zynga was interested in acquiring Storm8 but took its name out of the running because the price was too rich.

5. Spotify - A digital music service that provides access to millions of songs. Founded in 2006 and based in Stockholm, Sweden, it's estimated value is $1.1 billion. The CEO is Daniel Ek / Investors: Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers and Digital Sky Technologies Global. The analysis? Spotify is enormously popular in Europe and recently launched in the US, where it has already amassed 2 million subscribers. The $50 million Spotify raised in February, 2011 was reportedly at a $1.1 billion valuation.

4. Rovio - Game development and merchandise, well known for the popular game, Angry Birds. Founded in 2003 (Angry Birds launched December 2009) and based in Finland, it's estimated value is $1.2 billion. The CEO is Peter Vesterbacka / Investors: Accel Partners and Atomico Ventures. The analysis? In March 2011, the Angry Birds maker raised $42 million from Accel Partners and Atomico Ventures at an estimated valuation of $200 million.In 2011, we estimate the company is on track to generate $80 million of revenue, and it's supposedly raising an even bigger round at a $1.2 billion valuation.

3. Airbnb - Offers a global network of accommodations offered by locals. Founded in August 2008 and based in San Francisco, CA, it's estimated value is $1.3 billion. The CEO is Brian Chesky / Investors: Andreessen Horowitz, DST Global, and General Catalyst. The analysis? Airbnb is a short-term apartment rental service. The company raised $112 million in July 2011, but Airbnb is not without its issues. Users have publicly complained about their apartments being destroyed by other Airbnb users. Reports suggest that Airbnb will do north of $500 million of gross merchandise sales in 2011, and book net revenue of about 5% of that. We put the company's value at $1.3 billion, which is about 2X gross merchandise sales and the reported valuation of the most recent financing.

2. Square - Accept credit card payments anywhere with your iPhone, iPad or Android phone. Founded in 2009 and based in San Francisco, CA, it's estimated value is $1.6 billion. The CEO is Jack Dorsey / Investors: In 2009, Khosla Ventures invested $10 million in Square. In January 2011, Square raised $27.5 million from Sequoia Capital, Khosla Ventures, and Jeremy Stoppelman. In June 2011, Square raised a massive $100 million round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Tiger Global Management. The analysis? Earlier in 2011, Square raised capital at a $240 million valuation. In June 2011, it raised an additional $100 million; two inside sources say the round valued Square at $1.6 billion. Square is getting used by more and more small businesses, but it is still largely unprofitable. The New York Times reports, "Square is on track to notch gross revenue of about $40 million. But its adjusted operating income is expected to be in the red, at negative $20 million. The hope is for Square to reach profitability in 2012 with gross revenue of at least $200 million."

1. Dropbox - A free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Founded in 2007 and based in San Francisco, CA, it's estimated value is $4 billion. The CEO is Drew Houston / Investors: Dropbox is rumored to have closed a massive round at a $4 billion valuation led by Index Ventures last month. It received seed money from Y Combinator and, in fall 2008, Sequoia Capital led a $7.2M Series A with Accel Partners. The analysis? Before the round was reported in August 2011, rumors were flying that Dropbox could be worth as much as $8 billion. Due to tanking markets or an interest in specific investors, Dropbox settled for a lower valuation. The $4 billion valuation could be justified. Dropbox makes it easy to store and backup documents in the cloud, sync them between devices and retrieve them later. It solves a problem everyone has, so it has a very big potential market. Dropbox's costs are always going to go down, because cloud computing costs are always getting cheaper. On the revenue side, Dropbox's revenues are always going to go up. It's a freemium business model, and freemiums works best when the value of the services go up over time. Most people won't pay to back up a few files on Dropbox. They'll pay to store them all.

- As seen in Business Insider and brought to you by NetLingo: Improve Your Internet IQ

Cleaning Up the Space Junk

The Earth is surrounded by an ever-growing cloud of space junk. Is it too late to take out the extraterrestrial trash?

How much space junk is up there?
Since the space age began with the launch of Sputnik 54 years ago, we've turned the region just above Earth's atmosphere into a giant scrap yard, littered with everything from exploded rockets to tools lost during space walks. The U.S. Space Surveillance Network is currently tracking some 22,000 pieces of orbital trash that are at least 4 inches across. NASA estimates that tens of millions of smaller, non-trackable objects are circling the Earth, such as screws and flecks of spacecraft paint. It can take centuries, but everything that goes up comes down. Smaller trash burns up on re-entry; larger objects can reach the ground. That was the case last month, when a 6-ton NASA satellite made a fiery descent through the atmosphere and splashed into the Pacific Ocean. With more and more countries lobbing satellites into space, Earth's orbit is filling up with waste faster than gravity can empty it. "The problem is worse now than it was 10 years ago," says NASA engineer LeRoy Cain. "In 10 years it will be worse still." Even if humanity never sends up another rocket, the number of stray objects will continue to climb.

Why might that happen?
There's so much debris in orbit, says the National Research Council in a recent study, that it could set off a "collision cascade": an unending chain reaction in which pieces of junk collide and create more debris, which in turn causes more collisions and debris. This runaway process could create a clutter barrier in space that would make it difficult to operate the satellites that enable our communications, meteorological, and GPS systems. "We've lost control of the environment," says retired NASA scientist Donald Kessler, who wrote the NRC study.

What makes the junk a hazard?
Most space debris flies at or near an orbital velocity of 17,500 miles per hour. At that speed, even a tiny bolt can cause massive damage. “If one collides with a satellite or another piece of debris at the not-unreasonable relative velocity of, say five miles per second, it will blow it to smithereens,” says NASA engineer Creon Levit. The International Space Station has been fitted with more than 100 shields made from layers of aluminum, ceramic, and Kevlar fiber that can withstand strikes from objects measuring 0.4 inches and smaller. But in April the ISS had to maneuver to avoid a large piece of debris — the fifth time since 2008 it was forced to do so. Two months later, the six-man crew rushed to their Soyuz escape pods when a small hunk of junk hurtled toward the station. The debris passed within 1,100 feet of the station, its closest shave yet. Other satellites make maneuvers almost daily to avoid collisions, costing them precious fuel and shortening their lifespans.

Can't we stop the buildup?
In 1981, NASA tweaked the design of its rockets so they would no longer explode into hundreds of pieces after delivering payloads into orbit. The Europeans, Russians, and Chinese followed suit over the next decade, and it appeared as though the space junk problem had been largely contained. That all changed in 2007, when China blasted apart a defunct weather satellite with a missile, creating 150,000 new pieces of debris, 3,118 of which are large enough to be tracked from the ground. Then, in 2009, the retired Russian communications satellite Cosmos 2251 smashed into a working satellite owned by the U.S. firm Iridium. The collision created another 2,000 big chunks of orbiting scrap. "Those two single events doubled the amount of fragments in Earth orbit, and completely wiped out what we had done in the last 25 years," says Kessler.

Is it possible to remove the junk?
The U.S. Air Force is developing a $1 billion "Space Fence" radar system to track debris as small as 0.4 inches and supply advance warnings to satellite operators. But there's a growing consensus that monitoring the problem isn't enough — someone needs to take out the trash. The European Space Agency has suggested sending up a probe to spray old boosters and satellites with expanding foam. The foam would increase the junk's atmospheric drag, ensuring a quicker re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. ESA scientists say their plan could remove the 50 largest pieces of junk within 30 years. NASA, meanwhile, has suggested using Earth-based lasers to nudge large pieces of space junk off collision courses.

When will the cleanup start?
At the moment, all the junk-busting gadgets are still doodles on the drawing board. But even if we had the technology at hand, no nation has the legal right to launch a mass cleanup of space. "You can't take, touch, or salvage space objects from another country," says Joanne Gabrynowicz, a space-law expert at the University of Mississippi. That’s a big problem, since only 29 percent of the clutter is American, while 37 percent is Russian and 28 percent Chinese. The international community isn’t likely to resolve this legal quandary anytime soon. "The U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space are still arguing about where space begins," says Victoria Samson of the Secure World Foundation, a lobbying group. That’s "the same argument they’ve been having for 40 years."

Getting hit by falling garbage
NASA estimates that at least one piece of trash hits the Earth's surface every day, but only one person is known to have ever been struck. Lottie Williams was strolling in a Tulsa park in 1997 when she saw a fiery streak in the sky and felt something tap her on the shoulder. It turned out to be a metal strip from a Delta II rocket, about the weight of "an empty soda can," she says. So don't panic next time a satellite re-enters the atmosphere. The European Space Agency estimates that in the course of a typical 75-year lifetime, the risk of being injured by space junk is less than one in 1 billion. In comparison, the lifetime risk of being struck by lightning is around one in 80,000.

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