Sunday, March 31, 2013

True Blood Teaser Reveals a Bloody Season 6


HBO is gearing up to debut season six of its vampire series, True Blood, and the network released a titillating teaser to fire up fans

Posted to YouTube on Saturday, the 30-second promo features plenty of blood and gore, with stars Anna Paquin (as Sookie Stackhouse), Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton) and Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård) at the center of the drama. Watch the entire clip, above

Season six of True Blood premieres June 16. Do you plan to watch it? Tell us in the comments, below

Screenshot image courtesy of YouTube, trueblood

More about Television, True Blood, Entertainment, Tv, and Youtube Video Lead

from Mashable

The Weekly Good: KULA Helps You Turn Loyalty Points, Rewards And Miles Into Charitable Donations


[Editor's Note: This is a weekly series. If your company is doing something amazing to help a charitable cause or doing some good in your community, please reach out.]

It seems like every time we make purchases online or in a store, we’re collecting some sort of points or rewards. For the most part, those points go unused, mostly because the companies who give them out don’t do a great job of explaining what you can actually do with them.

You know the drill, you purchase a video game and you get some GameStop points that you can use after you purchase three more games, or something along those lines. Inevitably, you forget to use them when the time comes or you refuse to sign up to get their card.

A company called KULA Causes wants to point those points, rewards and frequent flyer miles to good use — for charity. KULA converts those points into actual currency, spreading goodwill all over the world.

According to the research firm Colloquy, at least $16B worth of reward points and miled went unredeemed in 2011 alone. KULA has built a service to turn those unused rewards into cash contributions for over 2.5M causes around the world. By working with brands on building this three-way bridge between companies, causes and consumers, KULA is making a real difference in over 80 countries all over the world. Since there are so many causes in KULA’s database, it’s easy to find a few that you really care about, and then you’re motivated to put your unclaimed rewards to good use.

KULA calls the process “democratized transactional giving,” which the company hopes will build goodwill between companies and consumers, even if the reward points that someone has collected aren’t used by them for in-store purchases. The company was founded in 2010 and has raised $1.6M to date.

It’s up to the companies to integrate KULA into their reward offerings, but it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

The company also has a great blog called “The Currency Of Giving” that is worth a read. The mixing of companies focusing on both profitability and non-profit programs is an important one, as consumers do care more about companies that do social good.

Would you give your points and rewards away for charity?

from TechCrunch

Google Introduces “Gmail Blue” - It's Completely Blue, Because Brown Was a “Disaster”


The Google April Fool’s train continues with the announcement of “Gmail Blue.” Yes, it’s a version of Google’s email service where everything is the color blue. The YouTube one was OK, and the Nose one was just so-so, but I’d actually use this product if it existed.

The video is pretty damn hilarious and worth checking out:

I can’t help but wonder if this is a not-so-subtle poke at Facebook, which of course is well-known for having the color blue all over the place within its apps and site. Regardless, hearing Googlers make fun of themselves and their “moonshots” was enjoyable.

Get ready for more April 1st funnery, and the rest of the Internet, tomorrow.

from TechCrunch

Everyone Loves Jennifer Lawrence (and so do Teens)


In the eyes of media and fans, Jennifer Lawrence can do no wrongThe Hunger Games star fell while accepting her Best Actress Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony last month, but managed to recover gracefully. She then effortlessly charmed reporters during her post-win press interviews

Now, Lawrence has conquered arguably the most temperamental of all age groups: teenagers.

In the YouTube video, above, watch them react to (and fall in love with) J. Law's endearing quirks.

What's your opinion of Jennifer Lawrence? Tell us in the comments, below Read more...

More about Teens, Film, Watercooler, Videos, and Jennifer Lawrence

from Mashable

10 Creative Ways to Use Your Favorite Running App


If running is a staple of your regular workout routine, odds are you have a favorite smartphone app to run alongside you. Whether it's RunKeeper, Nike+ or MapMyRun, you use mobile technology to measure your distance, pace and speed, and to push yourself to the limit.

But with all their features, how else could you use these apps? We put together a list of 10 ways to get the most out of your running app. Try measuring how fast your dog runs, or see how active you really are when you mow the lawn

Do you use a running app in particularly clever ways? Let us know in the comments Read more...

More about Mobile, Apps, Fitness, Running, and Runkeeper

from Mashable

Ambitious Startups Could Signal The Coming Of A Second Space Age


In late March, the American Geophysical Union announced that the Voyager I space probe became the first man-made object to leave our solar system. Just a few hours later though, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory shot down that claim noting that the tell-tale sign of hitting interstellar space (a “a change in the direction of the magnetic field”) hasn’t been detected yet.

Still, this whole thing got me thinking: NASA launched Voyager I in 1972 to peer more closely at the outer planets. By late 1980 the probe had completed its tour of Jupiter and Saturn, and made a gravity-assisted beeline for the edge of the solar system. In the 40 or so years that Voyager has toured the outer fringes of the solar system, our focus on space has grown more limited, and in many ways its a new breed of space-based startups that are helping to spark imaginations the way NASA has done for decades.

You see, back on Earth, some people are looking to the heavens with renewed vigor — emphasis on “some.” There’s still plenty of work to be done in low Earth orbit, with SpaceX and a handful of other companies crafting and perfecting their cargo-ferrying space taxis for trips to the International Space Station, but the U.S. government’s drive to search out newer and farther frontiers in space has been seemingly tempered by political pragmatism and a dearth of available funds.

Ventures like Curiosity’s Mars landing were highlights in the history of space science and exploration, but these days NASA can’t even maintain its public outreach programs thanks to recent budget cuts.

That’s why the promise of privately operated space startups are so captivating: national priorities have shifted since the sixties, but that hasn’t kept some ambitious entrepreneurs from almost literally reaching for the stars. SpaceX founder Elon Musk famously noted that he hoped to establish a full-fledged colony on Mars, and at least one mildly kooky organization is looking to get people living and working on the Red Planet as soon as possible by way of a televised spectacle meant to raise funds and select the first batch of Martian astronauts. Mars isn’t the only floating hunk of rock that entrepreneurs are currently eying up, either. A startup called (unimaginatively enough) Planetary Resources has received backing from some serious names and aims to explore/hopefully mine nearby asteroids for precious materials with a fleet of specialized robots.

It’s not as though every space startup has ambitions as wild-eyed as those listed above. Altius Space Machines took home the top at NewSpace 2011′s business plan contest for its vision of simplifying the process of wrangling out-of-control satellites and the like. Meanwhile, SpaceGround Amalgam won that same prize a year later for its inflatable antenna concept — they fold up for easy storage during launch, and can inflate and harden once in orbit. These sorts of less-flashy startups are just as important as SpaceX and Planetary Resources — should their long term visions pan out, they could help lay the groundwork (spacework?) for more majestic, horizon-expanding ventures to come. Even the Startup Weekend guys are getting into it: the very first SW event dedicated solely to space is slated to kick off in late May with the goal of coaxing would-be space entrepreneurs into cooking up the next great space startup.

Some of the plans above sound like spurious tales of science fiction, pages ripped from a pulp novel, but they shouldn’t be immediately discounted just for that. I suppose the notion that a device of mankind’s creation would break free from the influence of the sun would’ve sounded like science fiction a few decades ago, so who’s to say what the next few years will bring.

Speaking of the next few years, Voyager doesn’t have much longer to live. At the probe’s current rate of power consumption, it has enough juice in its plutonium-powered generators to keep it going until about 2020, when NASA will begin to remotely shut down Voyager’s instruments one by one. Ultimately, Voyager will continue to drift in the sea of interstellar space, but humanity will lose contact with its most far-flung explorer in short order — here’s hoping that some savvy startups help to kick off a second Space Age before then.

from TechCrunch

The Big Roundtable Rethinks The Editorial Model For Long-Form Journalism, Hits Its Kickstarter Goal

big roundtable

Michael Shapiro isn’t the sort of person I’d expect to circumvent the gatekeepers of traditional journalism. He’s a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, and he said he’s been published in The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, and Sports Illustrated — in other other words, he seems to be on pretty good terms with those gatekeepers.

Yet Shapiro is launching a new journalism startup called The Big Roundtable. The reason? He said that there are a lot of untested assumptions in the journalism world. As a parallel, he pointed to book publishing, where he said it was long believed that “black people don’t buy books.” There was, in fact, “this whole sub rosa world” of independent black book stores, with its own bestsellers like Iceberg Slim‘s Pimp: The Story Of My Life. Yet traditional publishers had no idea that world existed until the mainstream success of writers like Terry McMillan in the 1990s.

Similarly, Shapiro isn’t criticizing any particular editor, but he said that submitting to the shrinking number of magazines that support long-form journalism means subjecting yourself to the taste of individual editors. He said he’s often asked by students and colleagues whether the New Yorker or a similar magazine might be interested in a particular story: “The answer is probably not. This is not the era in which I came of age.”

The web has spawned new venues for selling that long-form journalism, like the Atavist, Byliner, and Amazon’s Kindle Singles program, but Shapiro said they’re still applying the same editorial model. With The Big Roundtable, he hopes to do things differently. Shapiro has assembled a group of 50 readers, who are supposed to vet the stories. The first 1,000 words of each submission gets sent to a subset of those readers, who are then asked whether they’d read more. (That’s all they’re asked — Shapiro said that in earlier versions of the system, readers offered more detailed feedback, but “it felt like homework” and “it quickly devolved into workshopping — you know, ‘I wouldn’t choose a semicolon here.’”)

If someone in that first group likes the excerpt, then it’s passed to a second group, and if someone likes it there, only then does an editor — specifically Mike Hoyt, executive editor of the Columbia Journalism review — start working with the author. Ultimately, Shapiro plans to sell a new nonfiction novella on the site every week, and the writer will get $1 from each sale.

Hopefully, this will allow The Big Roundtable to find work that didn’t catch the attention of particular editors but will still resonate with some readers. In that vein, Shapiro is looking for finished pieces rather than commissioning articles in its advance — this should be a story that you had to write, and you just haven’t found a home for it.

“If you’re going to say, ‘Well, I don’t know, I want to take my idea to some place where they can pay in advance,’ my response is: Go with God,” Shapiro said.

He also said he wants to expand the reading group from 50 people to “hundreds”, with a broad set of tastes and experiences, but Shapiro emphasized that it’s not quite the same thing as crowdsourcing.

“The thing about crowdsourcing is, it’s a crowd,” he said. “By its very nature it’s a huge, undifferentiated bunch of people.”

To illustrate his point, he pointed to the Literary Digest, a magazine that, in 1936, polled millions of people and as a result predicted that Alfred Landon would beat Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the presidential election — which was completely wrong. Shapiro’s point: That it’s less important to have an enormous group of readers, and more important to make sure that it’s the right mix. Put another way, Shapiro is emulating the Algonquin Round Table (a famous group of writers) and “scaling it out intellectually.”

To help fund The Big Roundatble’s costs, Shapiro has been raising money on Kickstarter. He recently passed his $5,000 target, but he said he deliberately set the goal low to make sure that he would meet it. He’s hoping to raise more money, which would presumably support The Big Roundtable for a longer period of time and allow it to get a little more ambitious. Shapiro said he’s going to be exploring other funding options, too.

“I’ll be looking at things like grants or investors to establish a real, ongoing laboratory, a laboratory in which … this is all to be shared,” Shapiro said. “I’m welcoming competition. If this spawns more digital publishing ventures based upon our knowledge, then I will believe that we are succeeding.”

from TechCrunch

5 Fascinating Facts We Learned From Reddit This Week


Was that a ghost in the mirror? Nope. Most likely, it was just your (scumbag) brain

Take a look through the gallery to see what other bizarre and spooky factoids we rounded up for this week's Reddit Facts.

Did you stumble across any cool facts on the web this week? Share them with us in the comments.

Mashable composite: Image courtesy of Flickr, Cea.

More about Reddit, Social Media, Features, Gallery, and Conversations

from Mashable

Did Da Vinci Invent Google Glass?


Leonard Da Vinci, the 15th-century Renaissance man, is credited with envisioning or outright inventing hundreds of modern-day devices; facsimiles of everything from a machine gun to parachutes and even today's helicopter can be found in his detailed drawings

The schematics and notes he left behind are a treasure trove for researchers, including Dr. Burt Wilde. The University of Illinois researcher says he’s discovered evidence that the first design for something very much like Google Glass was created by the master himself.

“The drawing is rudimentary, but the text and notation are unmistakable,” said Wilde in a phone interview Read more...

More about Tech, Dev Design, and Hot Story

from Mashable