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You have to be careful with the phrase "personal brand" - if you use it too much, people will think you're a wanker. Especially in phrases like "I can't just tweet about 'Marley&Me', it would damage my personal brand".

But whether you like the comparision to advertising or not, the idea of putting yourself across well and having a set of things that make you distinctive is a useful thing in this time of financial instability.

Linked-In - the business social network has just set up a survey called BrandYou which aims to analyse people's networking behaviour and then
"In today's competitive business environment, personal branding has never been more important. The way we present ourselves, our experiences and aptitudes is integtral to career success."

It's all a tick-box survey, and makes me feel like I'm on the Apprentice. Questions include: "How often can you be found networking live in a personal capacity?" and "Do you talk about current affairs on your social networks?". Already, I found myself lying to make myself sound better. To a computer...

It doesn't feel like the most comprehensive survey ever, but it's fun and I think you're guaranteed to get a pretty badge at the end, so go for it. In fact, even if you click the worst option for every question going, you still get a nice badge which says "Alternative Thinker" - I guess that's a nice way of saying "Antisocial Wastrel".

Take the BrandMe survey

See our related story: Making a CV stand out in this digital age
also - Put your CV on a T-Shirt why not?

Dead Drop.jpg

This week it seems everyone on twitter has been talking about the great new project by Aram Bartholl - Dead Drops.

'Dead Drops' is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public spaces. In other words Bartholl has been "injecting" USB flash drives into walls, buildings and curbs so that anyone in the public space can access them. So far there are 5 dead drops in NYC that you can go plug your laptop into and share your files. Bartholl wants to encourage participation in the project so has created a 'How to make your own dead drop' manual that you can check out at

Despite the obvious problems (viruses, porn etc) this is a great way of bringing together technology, art and information.

Partnering up with both Gowalla and Foursquare, location-based start-ups and apps - it looks like the two will feed into Facebook Places.

Scott from Gowalla came on stage and talked about the integration between the app and the Facebook user page: look out for some visually rich material, gowalla lets you add pictures to check-ins.

The Foursquare rep Olga bigged up his company's contribution to the world of location-based work.

Seamless integration has been promised... we'll see how they turn out when the app updates launch tomorrow.

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Annoyed by politicians? Feel like slapping them? That's exactly what the Slapometer lets you do. Set up your laptop in front of the TV tonight as you settle down for the election debate and get slappin'.

The site totals up the slaps for each politician. Gordon Brown is currently the most slapped, but I have to say through some interface quirk it's quite hard to slap David Cameron.

See site here: Slapometer

Oh my. This Tumblr blog is a nice turn-up for the books, cute boys with cats marries two great things in one simple image blog. Thank you internetz. Sometimes is a real close call which one is cuter:

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Another lovely pairing:
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And one which approaches soft porn for those of a geek-boy-and-cat-loving bent:
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Cute Boys With Cats Tumblr here

[thanks to @clashcityrocker for this tip]

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Gmail has just made it easier to organise events over email. Google Calendar (or G-Cal as its fans like to call it) is now an integral part of the compose email screen. "Insert: Invitation" is now a default option next to "Attach a File".

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I'm pretty excited. There still isn't a great, free, web-based calendar and while this is hardly a web-wide solution it does make me slightly more likely to use Google Calendar. It's just one click away now, not two.

Currently I find events and diaries are split up across the net - and it's a bit annoying: I find social events end up on Facebook events, a mixture of social and work stuff I manage to input into my phone's calendar and then occasionally I use Google Calendar if I want to invite one of my gmail contacts.

What would be lovely is something that could sync all three plus any other events calendars up there. The ideal calendar would also have different views.

In fact, since the difficulty of organising events online is a bit of a personal bugbear, I'm going to do another story on this right now. In the meantime here's another exciting screengrab of what that invite in email looks like - streamlined eh?

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Yes, it happens. And it's amazing. Thank you cat owner for investing in that cat-sized pig suit. Any ideas for a icanhazcheezburger-worty caption?

erm.. Eated Pig, Took Skinz - NEXT!

I had to try.

534 1 skull large.jpgSatellite Mapping tool Google Earth has helped discover one of the human races earliest ancestors. No, he wasn't caught lounging around in some undiscovered rainforest by a Google Spy Camera, but Google Earth did point some archaeologists towards a cave where his remains where hidden.

That little skull on the right was discovered in South Africa, and could be one of the most significant discoveries of recent times, it's almost 2 million years old. At least two human-like skeletons were found in the discovery and scientists have dated them to somewhere between 1.78 and 1.95 million years ago.

The skeletons were found in one of the most well-searched areas of South Africa's Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, but images from Google Earth turned up new evidence that had previously escaped archaeologists. Using data they already had, they worked out the patterns that caves make on the surface of the ground, researchers scanned Google Earth images of the areand and worked out new patches of ground likely to have caves underneath them, then sent in exploration teams. Look that's what caves look like from above:

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This is a nice result for Google Earth - a service that always looked lovely but seemed somewhat useless. Now you know at least one thing it's good for: finding humanoid fossils.

[via Official Google Blog]

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If a website that recommends you outfit combos based on the weather in your area sounds a bit gimmicky - don't be put off, this is fun. Weather Stylist, a website and now an iPhone app, asks you to input your city then finds you a selection of different outfits that match what the weather will be.

Okay so it doesn't change depending on whether rain is intermittent or patchy but it does seem to be affected generally by the temperature. Take the clip below for example:

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It shows about four items, then you can refresh pretty endlessly to get new outfit ideas. Click on the image of an item and it gives you a price and a link to an e-tailer.Not sure if it adjusts the fashion style to the city you're in. I guess fashions are a bit different in Salt Lake City compared with LA. I aint no fashion specialist but their suggestions look pretty useful. It's not Vogue photoshoot fashion - but then, you can't wear that anyway.

Big Downside 1) pretty crucial for any UK readers - this doesn't cover the UK. It claims to cover 500 "international cities" but sort of freaks out when I type in London.
2) the temperatures are in farenheit, I don't even understand that anymore.

So, I wouldn't bother downloading the app, but check out the site, and we'll see if they start to build the UK into it.

Related: Met Office release free weather app

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If you thought Chatroulette was a free-wheeling site where you could just sit around peacefully flashing at strangers - think again. Users on the site can be blocked for inappropriate behaviour (as we pointed out back here) but from comments on our site it seems that the report button is frequently being used to block people that users just don't fancy.

According to several commenters, fully-clothed men doing nothing offensive are getting unfairly blocked because chat partners decide they'd prefer an attractive woman. You think the guys would just F9 and move on, but no, apparently they prefer to block other men - thus reducing the number of other men on the site and by the same reasoning, increasing the proportion of women to men.

God almighty guys.

Here's the comment:

David says:
"After getting blocked for the first time today for no real reason (just a clothed guy sitting here doing nothing remotely offensive, certainly don't look offensive, and not getting to see any connection long enough to be considered "boring"), I discovered this is happening to may others as well. I think some of the pervs are looking for girls to "watch them" and are just clicking the "Report" button when they see yet another dude."

Paul says:
"I fully agree with you their david, ive had the same thing happen to me 3 times already, im fully clothes, not doing anything remotely offensive, all i see is dudes and then block... its kinda pathetic really."

David's come up with some sort of solution:
"The block thing was a good idea, but isn't working in practice. I'm not sure how they are tracking you (e.g. IP address, MAC address, etc.), but my recommendation would be to have a system more like stackoverflow where you can earn reputation points for not being obscene and then based on your reputation, anyone with less reputation can't down vote you, or maybe their down vote is worth less than yours, or something. There just has to be something done to keep the pervs or just everyday people from reporting people for not being the proper sex."

Anyone else had any experience of this?

Related: 5 things you didn't know about Chatroulette

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Good god that pouty blond teenager is everywhere: iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and did I mention Twitter.

The internet loves him almost as much as it loves sarcastic cats and that's a lot. But given that there are a lot of pop acts out there, why has this one captived the soul of the internet like nothing else?

Theories abound.

1) He's a promotion mastermind who has targeted the fans not the charts. According to some serious analysis on HypeBot, by releasing a steady stream of content, Bieber has hit the internet jackpot, and avoided the trap of milking singles for all they're worth, in total releasing a phenomenal 18 tracks in 9 months.

2) Repetition. Going back to this erudite Hypebot analysis and we can confirm that Justin Bieber sure repeats the punchlines in his songs. The joke is that he repeats "I'll tell you one time" in hit "One Time" 32 times. Ironic, no? It goes down well with tweens who like repetition apparently.

3) Chuck Norris is getting old. We need a new person to make memes about. See, ahem, twitter #justinbieber, and uh, Facebook group: JustinBieberBringsAllTheGirlsToTheYardAndThey'reLike, "CanYouEvenGetHard?" we're not condoning it, we're just saying it exists.

4) He's sweet, adorable, cute, looks like a baby, a girl, a chipmunk or Miley Cyrus depending on which forum you read.. seemingly we love all that stuff.

5) Even if you don't think he's cute what you think doesn't matter, unless you are a 13 year old girl. The yahoo answers woman has basically got it right: "i guess it's because his songs are catchy and on the radio a lot and little girls think he's cute and they want to date/marry him".

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Watch out blogaholics - it may seem fun blogging about your dates, friends, sex and chats with famous people while generally becoming a new media love/hate figure - but - it can exhaust your soul.

Julia Allison, described by Gawker as a "prolific, conflicted egoblogger", started a personal and party blog NonSociety back in 2006. Generally considered to be shameless self-promotion mixed with some relationship gossip, it was kind of compulsive reading and did get her a lot of attention - a mixture of negative and postive. After letting the blog posts slide for a while, Allison bared all again on Friday in a dramatic post marking her exit from the internet and blogsphere.

"I'm exhausted - not physically. My soul is exhausted. I've lost my purpose. I've lost perspective. Worst of all, I've lost the joy I used to find constantly in life, except in very rare moments. I don't feel like ME anymore. I'm just ... I'm sad. I'm really, really sad."

However, she will be back this week, it turns out, because she still has another month's contract with a brand advertising on her blog. So all is not over thank goodness.

On a larger scale the winding up of NonSociety does make the point that personal blogs tend to have set life-spans often stretching out to 3-4 years max before the blogger in question does get exhausted. We sure hope personal blogging isn't quite over though. Where else are we supposed to read soul-baring gossip about people in New York we don't know... ?

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Content. It's the lifeblood of the Internet. It's what we all come here for usually. That and chatting to our chums.

There are more content aggregrators on the web than there are pictures of girls in various states of undress. That's probably not true, we're emphasising for effect. There are a lot though.

But are they good for the Internet? More importantly are they good for content? Do they drive content producers to write posts built to a formula that appeals to them?

Such is their power in terms of the shere traffic they can point towards websites many blogs and large news co-operations find it hard not to pander to them.

So we've decided to compare seven of the biggest content aggregators and content sharing networks out there.

digglogo9.jpgName: Digg
Founded: 2004
How it works: Digg features content submitted by users into different sections. There is a frontpage featuring latest stories and separate sections for different types of stories. If you like a story you digg it which adds to the digg counter -- but you probably knew that. The average user joins and checks in a few times a week to see what's popular. Others start to follow users whose submissions they like.
Pros: The biggest user generated content sharing network on the web. A wonderful spread of content. Engaged and generally intelligent users.
Cons: Attracts formulaic content. Power diggers hold too much control. Users not renown for their collective sense of humour.
Conclusion: A wonderfully well-implemented platform. With great supplementary options such as the ubiquitous Digg button and Twitter feeds. The qualms over power diggers are founded, but the content they submit can only be truly successful when normal diggers pick up their stories.

redditlogo1.jpgName: Reddit
Founded: 2005
How it works: Unlike Digg stories are more prone to going up and down. You can bury stories in Digg but the option to vote a story down on Reddit is far more pronounced and actually far more part of the process. Unlike Digg stories tend to be more serious and are often political. User generated one-joke images are also pretty common. The readership are a learned lot; it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say Reddit is probably the most intelligent user-base of any content sharing site.
Pros: Power users don't hold the same sway. Users have a sense of humour. Good spread of content.
Cons: Comments can be a bit ranty, very ranty in fact. The interface is charming but really a bit rubbish.
Conclusion: Reddit's real strength is it's user base. Unpolished would be the kindest way to describe the site itself, but it's really worth bearing with for the multitude of content you'd have never come across otherwise.

BuzzFeed.jpgName: Buzzfeed
Founded: 2006
How it works: You submit content, usually pictures or video, they can contain links to fuller articles. Buzzfeed isn't a content sharing network in the purest sense of the idea. It combines a viral-snapshot mechanism and user generated content, to produce a snapshot of the viral internet. Basically it's more of a collaborative blog, where users vote up and down posts. Buzzfeed's level of interaction with each post is unparralled. You have the option to give a one word response which amounts to a vote, you can love or hate a post or you can reply with a comment or picture. Their is also a wierd Viral League thing where you predict what's going to go viral. Inbetween the posts are partner posts from a host of the internet's best sites and blogs.
Pros: Amazing design, a nice tongue in cheek slightly ironic outlook, plethora of interaction options.
Cons: Not really a content sharing site, difficult to get a popular post, generally spurious content.
Conclusion: If you don't take this site too seriously you'll really enjoy it, don't consider it a means to get bucket loads of traffic to your site like Digg and Reddit, but if you can get onto their partners list you'll be golden.

stumble.jpgName: Stumbleupon
Founded: 2001
How it works: Sign up, tell them what you like, and start stumbling. It's that simple really. Depending on what you like, you'll be landing on sites that people with similar interests to you like. Stumbleupon builds up a profile of you and shows you stuff you're more likely to like, like. It's really simple, but the mechanism for getting content featured is difficult it's all about social suggestions.
Pros: Genius idea that feels like you're channel hopping on the Internet, probably the broadest range of content on the web.
Cons: Convilluted submission procedure, difficult to make chums, lots of sites can be one click wonders.
Conclusion: A nicely implemented idea that would only be better if it's sharing mechanism was better.

iamlogo2.jpgName: I-am-bored
Founded: 2003
How it works: You can submit, pictures, videos or links. You can sign up to their partners list and depending how many hits you send their way they'll put some of your content, or links to it, in their main stream. You won't believe the the sheer amount of traffic it wields. Get a link up there and your Google Analytics might prolapse.
Pros: Hilarious mix of content, surprisingly intelligent user-base contributing consistently hilarious comments, no such thing as power users.
Cons: Seems like there is no rhyme or reason to link backs, the UI is crap.
Conclusion: If you like your comedy pretty dark, and let's face it, you probably do, this site is for you. Again not really a content sharing site in the purest sense of the word, they want a lot from you before they give you anything back -- but you know, that's just life.

googlenews1.jpgName: Google News
How it works: The Google news aggregator is a shady mechanism that Google uses to funnel traffic to certain, usually mainstream, new sources. About 60% of users will just go straight for the top link, the rest will look at all the options of the story and pick a source or headline they like the look of.
Pros: The shere breadth of content and options, nice simple design, no discernable bias.
Cons: Tends to favour the larger media producers (though they can't be blamed for this as it is part of the mechanism)
Conclusion: The best news aggregator going. But Google's presence in this market brings up more questions about their broader role with regard to the Internet.

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moviestorm screenshot

Fancy directing a film but don't have cameras, actors or a film crew? Well new site Moviestorm offers off-the-peg animation. If you've got a story to tell then you can use their SIMs-like sets and characters to creat a short film.

Download the Moviestorm platform for free then you can choose from a range of backgrounds and characters, then you can accessorise them and input a script. The computer-game style interface makes it pretty straightforward to understand.

It's not dissimilar to Xtranormal, which we reviewed here though seems to be capable of doing things that are a bit more complex.

I've just watched one of Moviestorm's success stories and gotta say it's pretty good. The director/writer has obviously found a way to work with the limitations of the set-up.

What are the main limitations? the faces on the computer generated characters aren't a strength so pointing the camera at other things while they talk looks good: roving over skylines or following wires round corners. For example. Again character movements can be a little stilted so doing interesting stuff with the camera shot (focussing on shadows for example) instead just pointing it at the characters provokes a great sense of tension.

Here's a video showing how it works:

Interested? get going! instructions on using the site here. And it looks there are communities & forums set up around the films if you need support.

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Ben Folds very funny Chatroulette video

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No long explanation necessary - genius songwriter, live gig, Chatroulette = major hilarity and half a million YouTube views.

I am so sorry to inflict this on everyone before lunch, But the creation of this Mozzerella-based monstrosity must be noted. I'm sure it's an important stage in human evolution or something.

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A geeky cook blogger who loves Macs and likes getting creative with uh cheese has carved a recogniseable sculpture of Apple's CEO Steve Jobs in Mozzerella. He suggests you serve it with crackers and fruit - probably accessorising the cheese head with a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles.

His blog post contains an entire How-To. Please don't is my only I think it's the beard (flecks of ground pepper) clinging to the puce mottled colour of the skin that I find most repulsive.

Here's a photo from the How-To section. Meanwhile, excuse me while I go off and retch slightly.
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[via thecooksden]

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Despite new technologies, we still spend a lot of time on the phone but the quality of the phone calls has gone down, says research by BT.

Overall the amount of time we spend communicating has increased. While that's largely due to texting and social networking online, we still spend about 4 hours a week on the phone (mobile and landline) talking to friends and family.

But, as psychologist Emma Kenny, employed by BT tells us - more of us are squeezing phone calls into time when we're doing other things instead of sitting down to have a proper chat.

She analysed 450 calls over a week and found that more than half were squeezed in while out and about or preoccupied with other tasks around the home. These calls were less likely to generate quality conversations (which started on average 2 minutes 48 seconds into calls) and left the caller feeling 'rushed' and the recipient 'irritated'.

Calls made hurriedly in transit (or 'chit' for short) are getting in the way of our chat.

I suppose that 20 years ago, people couldn't have made phone calls while they were travelling because unless they were one of a tiny few, their phone would have been attached to the wall on a cord. With mobiles, the temptation is to fill in a little time while waiting for the bus.

Interested in the findings? BT have set a website Talk Traits which defines 6 different types of communicators: Happy Chatter, Social Butterfly, Impersonal Organiser, Duty Dialler, Unrung Hero and E-vader. See more on their website above.

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I thought it was time to do a little round up of ten social media apps and sites that may just become the next big thing. It is interesting that while the first wave of social media sites focused on networking, these have a slightly different approach. Many have strong networking elements, but they also incorporate a lot of mobile technology and the companies behind them are perhaps much more focused on developing business models that generate revenue from day one than their predecessors.

For me then the hot areas are...

Location based services
Group shopping
Instant blogging
Augmented Reality
Video networking

Here then is my top ten for now (in no particular order)

1 Groupon


This is without a doubt the hottest property in the US web scene at the moment. It has the backing of some serious investors and is starting to gain a very large following who are spending real money on the site. So why haven't you heard of it? Well Groupon works by offering discount deals on goods and services in specific cities. And so far the company has focused on the US - the London launch is apparently months away. The really clever bit is that the day's offer is only activated if enough people get together in a group and agree to go for it. So, for example, to get a 70% off deal from a hairdressers you might need to get 100 people to sign up for the deal. And you do this by spamming/sharing the offer with all your mates on Twitter and Facebook and via email. Businesses love it as they can guarantee a certain amount of business while getting a huge dollop of social media PR at the same time.

With a very obvious hole in the market a host of UK companies have launched their own Groupon rivals. The most noteworthy are Snippa and Groupola. Neither though has so far delivered enough really cool offers to turn heads. The good news for them is that if they can get it right there is more than enough room in the market for several of these services. There are also a lot of cities in the UK. Northern entrepreneurs really ought to be on the case here. The concept could even go hyper local with smaller communities in large cities having their own offerings. This will be very, very big.

2 Appmakr


There are a lot media companies and indeed bloggers with large followers, who would love to have a presence on the iPhone and the iPad. That's where Appmakr steps in. This controversial US company enables anyone with content to easily create an iPhone app. Think of its as the Wordpress of iPhone apps. There are however several catches. Firstly you still have to pay a fee - the entry level basic service is $199. Secondly there are rumours that Apple is about to crack down on RSS content only apps in the near future. The argument runs that the apps don't ofter anything than the websites/blog, which is easily accessible via the iPhone anyhow.

Conspiracy theorists point to Apple's cosy relationship with big publishing houses as being the real reason it is slightly sniffy about content driven apps. After all how many dreadful games are there on the platform? This however might prove to be Appmakr's big opportunity. If it can develop basic apps that cost little yet add features such as retail or location based services as well as content it might keep Apple happy and generate a whole new way for smaller media companies to make money.

3 Chatroulette


In many ways this has already gone mainstream with features in the media as well as an odd marketing campaigns from French Connection. However I think Chatroulettte could mature in 2010 from being a service that is the preserve of exhibitionists through to one that enables people to make real connections. In case you missed the hype Chatroulette is little like video Skype but with a genius twist. You switch your webcam on and start having a video conversation. What makes it interesting is that the person you speak to is chosen at random.

What has made Chatroulette notorious is that some users say that as many as one in ten of the people they encounter are naked men. Ever the optimist I believe that people will get bored with this, or maybe even Chatroulette's developers will work out a way of weeding nakedness out. Then it is very likely that people will find real uses for the services. Think speed dating. Or even niches. I might be want to speak to a group of Arsenal fans after a game and if I specify that request I could be chatting to Mikhail from Moscow about the Russian Gooners appreciation society. Think too how it might work if it were incorporated into a TV and you could talk with randoms about live events.

4 Stickybits


There's a full review here but the gist of Stickybits is that it allows you attach any kind of content - images, words etc to a barcode. So now if you scan the barcode of the Crunchy Nut Flakes in our kitchen you get to see a pic of my daughter along with an audio message telling her father that the CNFs are hers and I need to open the Bran Flakes instead. Where it might score in the future is that you can buy a kit to add your own barcodes to things. At the moment these are a bit pricey. But imagine if you could leave barcodes in public places where you could then access information or cheeky messages - that would be fun.

For me though the optimum use would be having a barcode in a business card. When the users accessed it they could then get an audio message, some video, and some text which explain in much more detail about who I am and what I do. Stickybits is clearly great fun and there are loads of features to explore, but it does strike me as an app in search of a killer feature. Cleverly Stickybits are using the community to come up with ideas which strikes me as a very sensible idea.

5 Siri


Siri is an amazing free app for the iPhone that basically acts as a voice-driven personal assistant. You ask it what's the weather going to be like? and it delivers a forecast for you. It can do loads more cool things, read the review here. The future it portrays sounds amazing. Here's what the makers say. "You will soon pick up your phone and start asking your assistant things like "take me to live CNN news," "send my dad the latest John Grisham book," or "tell Adam I am running 20 minutes late," and you will then watch it all happen. This evolution towards simplicity of interaction will reduce the barrier to almost everything you use your mobile device to do."

The annoying thing though is that it is so far only available in the US. I guess they have to work on voice translations for the UK which means it may never come here. Which would be a tragedy! Anyway if this sounds good join the Siri to the UK Facebook group here

6 Foursquare


Out of the top ten Foursquare is perhaps the best known and most popular in the UK largely because it is already been championed by a significant section of the British social media Twitterati. The one thing it doesn't have in its favour is that it is not that easy to explain. In fact in many ways until you use the service you probably think it sounds a little well, rubbish. It is built around an app which is available on many mobile platforms. When you fire up the app you get the opportunity to check into the place where you are. So if I an in cafe I check in and I get awarded some virtual points by Foursquare. I then compete with my friends to see who can get the most Foursquare points during a week. It does sound dreadfully sad (like a weak mobile version of Top Trumps), but believe me it is very addictive. The game also has lot of social features, so you can add comments about the places you visit. It also hooks up nicely with Twitter so you tweet about where you are and what you are up to.

However in spite of geekiness Foursquare is growing very quickly. Brands have also started to take it seriously. Soon it will be commoun to check in at places using Foursquare and get free offers etc. Some far sighted UK brands have been doing this already. I can't quite see Foursquare ever really emerging as a social network to rival Facebook or as a serious reviews site either. It is however lots of fun.

7 Posterous


Given my passion for blogging I had to include one content platform in the top ten and inevitably it goes to Posterous as I use it almost every day. This service, which began nearly two years ago now, enables users to blog very quickly and easily either by sending an email with the post and the picture included, or by using a very clever bookmarklet that lets users instantly grab an image on a page and then opens up a text box for them to get typing. The other clever bit is that once our post is up Posterous can send a link to any number of social sites including Twitter and Facebook to entice readers.

Posterous also has a very simple to use iPhone app too and quite a few high profile US bloggers are very vocal about the format. It also has a rival called Tumblr, which is aso excellent and works in a similar though slightly more complicated way. Unluckily for Posterous several of its key features have now been incorporated in mainstream blogging platforms like Wordpress and Typepad, but Posterous is still growing very nicely and I would put money on the developers once again delivering some killer new unique features in the not too distant future.

8 Layar


One of the most talked up technologies of 2010 is Augmented Reality. AR browser Layar lets you overlay a layer of digital content over external reality as seen through your phone's camera. Point your phone's camera at a street/building/person, and on the screen, information about what you're seeing is overlaid onto your view of it. With Layar any developer with a bright idea can add their own layer of content. There's a Wikipedia layer for location-tagged Wikipedia entries, a find-an-available-house layer called Funda set up by an entrepreneurial Irish developer with an interest in property, and a bank has done one marking all nearby ATMs.

There are also some fun apps including one that offers a very cool Beatles virtual tour of London. A lot of developers are working with Layar now and there are apparently over 400 apps for it. A lot of brands have taken notice too, so expect to see a rush of AR apps in the not too distant future.

9 Twitcasting


There are lots of apps that enable you to stream video from your mobile, Qik, for example, has been around several years.Twitcasting uses social media to take live streaming onto another level. After downloading the app, link your Twitter account to Twitcast site by signing in here and then shoot away. The screen on the Twitcasting app is split into a video recording screen and a twitter feed. Hit "Go Live" to go live and as you shoot the video a text box pops up suggesting you post a link to livecast to twitter. Any of your followers can then click on the link and go over to your video channel on the Twitcasting site - just the same way that TwitPic works. The livecast switches off if you receive a phone call.

The website grabs @replies on Twitter and posts them as comments under the video - it's pretty cool, it also archives your videos just like Twitpic does with pictures. Twitcasting might not be a huge mainstream success but some of its features are sure to be incorporated into other video sites very quickly.

10 Kobo


Kobo is a really good idea that makes a lot of sense for those who love electronic books. Unlike rival services Kobo sets itself apart from other digital book stores by offering a synchronised eBook library across a number of gadgets, from smartphones to netbooks.

For instance, if you're lucky enough to own an iPhone, an e-reader, a tablet PC and a desktop PC, Kobo will use cloud storage to sync your library across multiple devices, meaning your page is kept whatever you're reading the eBook on, as well as giving you access to all your novels at any time. It has just launched in the UK, boasts a huge library of titles and best of all has a lot of the classics for free.

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Is Foursquare just a London thing?


foursquare.jpgThere's no denying that location based game Foursquare is on a bit of a roll at the moment. The number of people playing the online location based game has rocketed, it recently announced some interesting partnerships with UK retailers and it has Vodafone on board too.

And now Foursquare appears to have landed the big one. According to Mashable the company has just agreed a deal with the biggest coffee maker of them all - Starbucks. The actual deal itself isn't very exciting either for Starbucks or Foursquare addicts. Starting today, frequent Starbucks visitors who check in at retail locations using Foursquare will earn customer rewards. Although there's no financial incentive or free coffee to begin with, customers can unlock the "Barista badge" after five check ins.

There's no announcement on a UK deal with Starbucks but we bet it isn't far off.

Yet there remains one big question about Foursquare. While there are loads of people playing in London all vying with each other to become mayor of their local coffee shop, are people playing Foursquare in other cities in the UK?

I only ask because a friend of mine in Surrey recently admitted he was getting a little bored with Foursqaure, as in his own words - ' he's the mayor of half the county.'

So are people playing in other big British cities like Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow? And what about smaller places? Whose mayor of the pier cafe in Lowestoft or of the Bridgend Balti House.

Let us know in the comments or vote in the poll.

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Love or hate Google, you gotta admit it provides some of the best web services out there - maps, docs, mail - and all for free. One of the latest tools they've released is Public Data Explorer, a way of making important public data into brilliant graphs.

The Data Explorer is a data visualisation tool turning dry as dust spreadsheets into colourful and interactive infographics. Love it. See the fertility v life expectancy chart embedded above.

It works with public data - so information on birth rates, GDP and other info from charities and public bodies. You can't add your own data, but you can adjust and then embed the graphs.

Google say:
Students, journalists, policy makers and everyone else can play with the tool to create visualizations of public data, link to them, or embed them in their own webpages. Embedded charts and links can update automatically so you're always sharing the latest available data. Here's an example of an embedded visualization.

Public Data Explorer is still in Google Labs

[via Businessinsider]

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