Friday, May 31, 2013

'Chameleon Scarf' Changes Colors to Coordinate With Your Clothes


The weather outside may be warming up for some, but if you're looking for a somewhat warm and geeky addition to your wardrobe, check out this do-it-yourself scarf that changes colors via LED lights.

The DIY electronics site Adafruit has a tutorial for this LED-studded scarf. You'll need your own fabric, as well as Adafruit's Flora circuitry to make it all work, as explained in the video above. You might need to be a bit of a techie for this project (or recruit a techie friend), since you'll need to work with circuitry and coding.

More about Diy, Clothing, Apparel, and Lifestyle

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Big Impact On A Small Budget: Ben's Friends Wants To Build A Web & Mobile Support Network For Every Rare Disease

Screen shot 2013-05-31 at 7.42.09 PM

There’s a lot of exciting and head-turning technology out there today, and it’s changing our world in a multitude of ways, some more obvious than others — and at a fairly astounding rate. But many of these services, while making our lives more convenient or connected, aren’t necessarily helping people or having an impact at a more fundamental level. There are, of course, many exceptions, and Ben’s Friends is one of them — another example that for-profit, social enterprises can have a big impact even without venture capital, or big budgets.

For those unfamiliar, today Ben’s Friends is one of the largest platforms and support networks for people with rare diseases. Software developer and startup veteran Ben Munoz conceived the idea in 2006, after suffering from a life-threatening and rare form of stroke (as a result of a condition called “arteriovenous malformation”), which led to several years of intensive treatment, radiotherapy and neurosurgery. Unable to find the information or support he was looking for on the Web, he launched a site to find others who suffered from the same (and similar) conditions.

A community of people quickly formed around, and, joined by his friends Scott Orn, a partner at VC firm Lighthouse Capital, and Eric D. Kroll, the founders started Ben’s Friends to apply the concept to other diseases. In 2012 alone, the platform added seven new patient support communities to bring its total to 33 (which is now 35), allowing people to connect with others who share the same conditions or symptoms, whether it be in networks like “Living With Narcolepsy,” Traumatic Brain Injury or Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

The concept is similar in practice to that of a network called CureTogether, which was acquired by 23andMe last year. The difference between Ben’s Friends and other startups with similar ambitions, Orn told us recently, is that each disease has its own dedicated network and site. Everything on those pages, he says, revolves around that particular condition and the community of people who suffer from that condition. In turn, Ben’s Friends is volunteer-driven, with support communities adding content, resources and moderating each site themselves. The network of volunteer operators has grown to several hundred, Orn says.

The technology behind these sites isn’t necessarily new or sexy, originally built using a combination of Ning and Basecamp to keep the costs of hosting, scaling and project management low. And the community isn’t enormous, either. Ben’s Friends today only has about 30,000 members, but the engagement is high and the information collected by its community on these rare diseases is extremely valuable.

But it works, Orn says, because “the entire network is powered by volunteer moderators. We have 150+ people who keep the networks humming. They are also patients and understand what members are going through. They tell us that becoming a moderator changed their relationship with their disease. It took something negative and turned it into a positive.”

Comparatively, CureTogether took arguably an even greater quantitative approach to its community (which is what 23andMe found appealing), while Ben’s Friends has focused more on providing this kind of support — on making it easy for people to find and make those critical emotional connections with others who’ve experienced the same conditions. Of course, the importance of that shared community is something that holds true far beyond the scope of rare diseases and is as old as the earliest Web forums and, well, offline communities well before that.

Orn tells us that the look and feel of the site is owed to an approach the founders adopted early on: Capital efficiency. Monetizing rare diseases just isn’t an acceptable business model, Orn explained in the Harvard Business Review, which is why the founders felt they couldn’t justify raising venture capital. For it to work, everything had to be free and scalable, while avoiding as many fixed costs as possible. Since 2010, they’ve raised about $65K in donations from foundations, members and friends, as well as by running a campaign on Indiegogo — bootstrapping the rest of the way.

And, today, Ben’s Friends is launching its first native app (for the iPhone) to give patients around-the-clock, on-demand access to support groups while on-the-go. Reflecting macro trends, the founders say that mobile traffic to the site has increased significantly over the last year and now makes up over 25 percent of total traffic as patients turn to their mobile devices to access support groups and health info.

People with rare diseases also tend to find themselves spending a lot of time in waiting rooms at doctor’s offices, hospitals and clinics, making an iPhone app a fairly natural extension of the platform. Accessing support groups and relevant information at the time of diagnosis or surgery helps reduce anxiety, fear and figure out the right questions to ask. The same is true of’s iOS app (and these patient support apps), as well as more information-centric health resources like HealthTap, HealthKeep, HealthGuru and more.

To that end, Ben’s Friends has collected over 2,000 recommendations for doctors who specialize in rare diseases, which will be available in the app’s next update, coming soon. Recommendations like these are particularly critical for those with rate diseases, the founders explain, considering how frequently they are misdiagnosed. Naturally, being referred to a doctor who is aware of rare symptoms and conditions can potentially reduce the chance of being misdiagnosed.

“We never wanted to become one of those nonprofits that have massive overhead and have to spend half of their time raising money,” Munoz says. “We thought of it as a little software startup … in a garage eating Ramen noodles and peanut butter. How do we do it cheaper? How do we automate?”

And so far, it’s been working.

from TechCrunch

I'll See You in Hell


Hell Comic, Formal Sweatpants

Empty threat or a spoiler alert about your future?

"I'll see you in hell" is a phrase often uttered in anger, but in this comic by Josh Mecouch of Formal Sweatpants, we see that it can also work as a way to figure out who you'll be hanging out with for eternity

Comic illustration by Josh Mecouch, Formal Sweatpants. Published with permission; all rights reserved. Read more...

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Cookening Connects Tourists With Locals Through Home-Cooked Meals


The Launchpad is a series that introduces Mashable readers to compelling startups. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Cookening

One-Liner Pitch: Cookening is like an Airbnb for home-cooked meals.

Why It's Taking Off: Cookening offers a unique opportunity for travelers to eat fresh meals in the homes of locals in whatever city they're visiting.

Two years ago, Cédric Giorgi decided to stay at an Airbnb location for the first time while he was traveling in California. Although he loved the idea of Airbnb, he realized it was similar to “Tables d'hôtes” in France, which are shared dinners at French bed and breakfasts that are cooked by the hosting family. Read more...

More about Travel, Startups, Business, Travel Leisure, and The Launchpad

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'Prancercise' May Be the Weirdest Workout You'll Ever See


Joanna Rohrback uploaded the video you see above to YouTube back in December, but it received the social web's full viral attention this week. The clip, introducing a form of exercise called "Prancercise," shot up from just over 10,000 views at the beginning of the week to more than 2.7 million as of Friday evening

There's just one problem, however: Much of the attention has been negative, full of snark and mocking Rohrback's unique workout regimen.

Rohrback describes Prancercise as "a springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse's gait and is ideally induced by elation." She's also got a Facebook Page set up now and available book on Amazon Read more...

More about Viral Videos, Entertainment, Videos, Sports, and Watercooler

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Science- And Tech-Focused ‘STEAM Carnival' Hits Its Kickstarter Goal

steam carnival

Looks like Kickstarter can add “reimagined” carnivals with “robots, fire, and lasers” to the list things that its users have crowdfunded.

Earlier today, an event called the STEAM Carnival, put together by a company called Two Bit Circus, reached its $100,000 Kickstarter goal. The initials are a twist on STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — the A adds Art to the equation.

Here’s how the Kickstarter page outlines the vision:

You’ve heard of STEM… but we agree with John Maeda of RISD and MIT that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math aren’t complete without Art. Our culture isn’t doing enough to get kids interested in STEAM. As professional inventors, we rely on these disciplines every day, and want to share our excitement about them with kids young and old. Through years of building and demonstrating fun games we’ve learned no better way to get kids into STEAM than to show them an amazing time. When you say ‘engineering’ to most kids they zone out. But when you say ‘lasers, robots, and fire,’ you have their undivided attention.

As planned, the event will include a number of high-tech, educational games that are currently being developed by Two Bit Circus, such as the “Motion Capture Spinning Bull” and “Laser Maze Limbo”. It will also showcase the kids’ work too. Apparently something that combined a traditional hammer carnival game with lots of electricity was demonstrated on-stage at the D11 conference earlier this week.

Two Bit Circus is led by Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman — Bushnell is an engineer and an entrepreneur who was featured as an inventor on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (he’s also the son of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, who’s on the advisory board), while Gradman says his background includes experience as a circus performer, professional whistler, roboticist, and inventor.

The current plan is to hold events in San Francisco and Los Angeles next spring. And even though the STEAM Carnival has hit its funding target, the team is hoping to raise more money for a pretty straightforward stretch goal — bringing the event to more cities.

from TechCrunch

Will Facebook's Account Verification System Discourage Impostors?


When Victor Diaz Zapanta was featured on Mashable for his Facebook account's creative timeline design, he was excited. But that sweet feeling soon soured slightly when the 29-year-old designer's account was parodied by impostors claiming to be him.

It happened at least four times, and at one point Facebook even suspended his profile, forcing the Washington, D.C., resident to verify his account way before Facebook introduced its new page and profile verification on Wednesday.

"I've been playing whack-a-mole with reporting fake profiles on Facebook every couple months," he says. "I'm guessing people were into the Facebook timeline I made and just don't think it's a big deal to impersonate someone." Read more...

More about Facebook, Privacy, Verification, Timeline, and Social Media

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