How One Company Saved Thousands of Dogs Using Social Media

Frank Barry, professional services manager at Blackbaud and blogger at NetWits ThinkTank, helps non-profits use the Internet for digital communication, social media and fundraising so they can focus on making an impact and achieving their missions. Find Frank on Twitter @franswaa.

Social media is all the rage, but does it actually help create real change in the world? The folks at Best Friends Animal Society would answer with a resounding yes!

Best Friends has introduced the Invisible Dog Campaign, a nod to the invisible dog leash from the ‘70s and ‘80s. “Invisible dogs” refer to the forgotten pets found in city shelters that face tremendous odds to get adopted. “[We’re] turning that into a real message about adopting dogs unseen in the nation’s shelters,” explains Claudia Perrone, marketing manager for Best Friends.

Best Friends provides a valuable example of social media mobilizing people to take action in the real world.

1. Beginner: Hashtags

Use them — constantly. Twitter hashtags are an extremely effective (and free) way to consolidate topics and information that relate to your campaign. The Invisible Dog campaign uses #InvisibleDog in every tweet, every mention, every IRL adoption event and on the home page of its microsite to spread the word and let people track the whole conversation around the campaign.

2. Intermediate: Drive Action

The Invisible Dogs campaign asks people to take action by pledging online. Without pushing people to make an immediate commitment to adopt a shelter dog, the campaign urges people to pledge any action (adoption, dog walking, etc.) that helps invisible dogs. So far 1,758 people have made the pledge.

3. Advanced: User-Generated Content and Events

Letting people run with your message or events is scary, but it can be worth the effort. Best Friends hosts a DogWall where people share adoption photos, videos, text stories, tweets and Facebook messages. People can text photos to the wall instead of logging in to upload.

Best Friends is also using’s Everywhere capability to let people create their own events all over the country. People sign in with their Facebook accounts to join or to create a local Invisible Dog walk or “pup crawl.”

What’s Next?

Most interesting, Best Friends gathers user-generated content to identify dogs that need help. It’s also planning to work with FourSquare on National Shelter Check-In Day this Nov. 12.

The content, conversation and online social-sharing activity generated by this digital movement will help Best Friends save thousands of dogs by 2012.

Diaspora Co-Founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy Dies at 22

Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the co-founder of the open-source Facebook alternative Diaspora, has passed away at the age of 22. The cause of death is not yet publicly known.

Zhitomirskiy, along with Dan Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg and Raphael Sofaer, created the open-source software as part of a project while they were students at New York University. Diaspora was created as a response to Facebook’s controversial privacy changes in 2010. The team was able to raise $200,000 on Kickstarter to launch the project.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to Zhitomirskiy’s family and friends.

Mirrorcube luxury treehouse disappears into the wilderness

Escape into nature with this mirrored Scandinavian treehouse that is almost invisible in the landscape.

Two well-known Scandinavian architects, Bolle Tham & Martin VidegĂ„rd, have designed a luxurious Treehotel that not only gives you a home away from home, but lets you blend right into the landscape. Inspired by the idea of experiencing nature on nature’s own terms, this beautiful piece of modern architecture fades away into whatever landscape it is placed in, rather than interrupting the scenery with an obstructive design.

The Mirrorcube Treehotel ($377,000) is made from wood and aluminum and uses reflective “spyglass” to create the nearly-invisible look. The glass is treated with a special infrared film that is invisible to humans, but highly visible to birds to prevent disruptions of nature and unwelcome crashes. The simple box-shaped escape appears to float in the air, but is secured by wires and anchor points to its host tree, which is visible from the interior of the cube. The Mirrorcube comes with a custom-built rope bridge to allow for easy access from the ground.

Inside, the design is simple and classically Scandinavian. Light-colored wood makes for an airy interior and the custom-designed-and-built furniture keeps things simple but comfortable. Numerous windows allow natural light in and give users a feeling of being enveloped by nature. The cube comes complete with a Queen-sized bed with storage underneath and an ash-wood ladder leads up to the roof terrace.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 sells 6.5 million units in first 24 hours

Activision sets one-day record across all forms of entertainment media with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

In what is probably a surprise to no one, Activision has announced that the first-day sales for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 have not only broken the record for a video game, but for any entertainment product ever released.

According to a press release issued by the company this morning, more than 6.5 million copies of Modern Warfare 3 were sold in the first 24 hours of the game’s release — a tally that put its one-day sales at over $400 million. This amounts to the most profitable first day of any game, movie, or other entertainment product in history.

Of course, this is quickly becoming a habit for Activision, as the Call of Duty franchise previously set records with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009 ($310 million in its first day of release) and Call of Duty: Black Ops last year ($360 million).

“Other than Call of Duty, there has never been another entertainment franchise that has set opening day records three years in a row,” said Activision CEO Bobby Kotick in an official statement accompanying the sales figures. “Life-to-date sales for the Call of Duty franchise exceed worldwide theatrical box office for ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Lord of the Rings,’ two of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time.”

Amazon: Kindle Fire will come with Hulu Plus, ESPN and Newsstand

Just a few days before its new tablet begins shipping in the US, Amazon has announced that its Kindle Fire device will be coming preloaded with Hulu Plus and the Kindle Fire Newstand. This follows announcements earlier in the week that Netflix and Pandora will also be included. Barnes & Noble will be feeling more than a little miffed.

Earlier in the week, when Barnes & Noble unveiled its new Nook Tablet, it proudly announced that Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora would come preloaded on the device, pointing out that Amazon’s Kindle Fire would not. But that was then.

On Wednesday, Amazon took some of the shine off Barnes & Noble’s announcement when it released a statement saying that actually the Kindle Fire would be coming preloaded with Netflix and Pandora, together with apps for Facebook, Rhapsody, Twitter, Comics by comiXology, and the Weather Channel, among others.

And now news has come that the Fire will also have support for Hulu Plus, along with ESPN’s ScoreCenter, which allows sports fans to keep track of the latest scores from various sports leagues and competitions around the world.

Support for Netflix and Hulu Plus means Fire owners will be able to choose from thousands of TV shows and movies, alongside what it already offers with its Amazon Prime service. It should also ease some of the criticism Amazon has faced over its largely closed ecosystem.

Those behind the marketing of Barnes & Noble’s new device must be feeling a little deflated by this news, as Monday’s Nook Tablet presentation was keen to highlight the fact that Hulu Plus would be absent from the Fire.

‘Well, at least the Kindle Fire doesn’t have anything like the Nook Newsstand,’ Barnes & Noble executives may have been thinking – until Friday. In a statement on its website, Amazon has just made another Fire-related announcement, unveiling the Kindle Fire Newsstand. Ouch! Amazon’s newsstand will contain more than 400 newspapers and magazines (Nook Newsstand currently offers around 270) optimized for the Kindle Fire, with a free three-month trial subscription of 17 CondĂ© Nast magazines being offered to those who subscribe before March 1.

“The response from publishers has been overwhelmingly positive and they are excited to make their magazines and newspapers available on Kindle Fire, and we’re adding new titles all the time,” Amazon’s Russ Grandinetti said.

How much weight this week’s slew of app-related announcements will carry in the minds of consumers looking at both the Fire and the Nook Tablet remains to be seen. For most, factors such as cost and tech specs will most probably play a bigger part.

Both tablets start shipping next week – the Kindle Fire on Tuesday and the Nook Tablet on Thursday.

SIM cards get even smaller with new nano-SIM from G&D

The new nano-SIM development will enable companies to create thinner devices and devote the size cut to improved performance

As is the way with most tech, SIM cards are poised to get even smaller than they are now. Gieseck & Devrient, the company responsible for the first commercial SIM card 20 years ago, is introducing a new product called the nano-SIM. The Munich-based tech group will be displaying the new SIM card at a trade show in Paris, November 15 to 17.

The Nano-SIM will be 30 times smaller than the micro-SIM cards used in the iPhone 4 and the recently launched 4S, and 60 times smaller than the 25mm x 15mm SIM cards used in many handsets today. The world’s smallest SIM will measure approximately 12mm x 9mm, and will have decreased in thickness by 15 percent—a technological feat the company is very proud of.

If the Nano-SIM is adopted, G&D says the drastic cut in size will affect many aspects of today’s mobile devices. Besides creating a new generation of smaller and thinner devices, nano-SIM frees up space which can be used to address memory issues or make batteries large which will definitely boosting performance.

“The invention of the SIM card remains a milestone in the history of G&D. With the nano-SIM, we have shown how this development can move closer to perfection,” said G&D Secure Devices head, Axel Deininger.

Worried about being left behind? The new SIM cards will be backward compatible with older device models by using an adapter. According to Giesecke & Devrient, we’ll probably begin to see companies (Apple?) implementing the technology into mobile devices as early as 2012.

This new development coincides with Apple’s interest in developing a smaller SIM card. Orange CEO Stephane Richard spoke earlier this year. about working with the Steve Jobs-founded company to standardize a new, smaller format of SIM.

Apple’s iPhone battery fix fails to fix

Apple's iOS update, released on Thursday, was supposed to fix the problem a number of iPhone users have been having with the device's battery life. It appears, however, that for many phone owners the fix has had no effect.

At the end of last month some owners of Apple’s new iPhone 4S device running iOS 5 started to report problems with battery life.

After posts by disgruntled owners of the phone began to accumulate on various Apple forums, the Cupertino company acknowledged the problem. “A small number of customers have reported lower than expected battery life on iOS 5 devices. We have found a few bugs that are affecting battery life and we will release a software update to address those in a few weeks,” it said in a statement.

Version 5.0.1 of the iOS was seeded to developers on November 2, and a short time later it was sent to select end users to try out. Everything appeared to be going smoothly, possibly ahead of schedule.

On Thursday iOS 5.0.1, supposedly containing the fix, was released by Apple. It appears, however, that some iPhone 4S users are still experiencing issues with battery life.

Forums are once again filling with posts by frustrated owners of the phone, complaining that the ‘fix’ hadn’t actually fixed anything at all. One poster wrote: “After installing update phone was fully charged at midnight. This morning at 8AM just sitting on desk, not used at all, battery down to 59%.”

Apple has up to now been somewhat reticent over the specific cause of the battery problem, saying only that it was related to a “few bugs” that had affected a small number of phones. Considering that the latest iOS update hasn’t solved the problem for all users, it seems that the Cupertino company doesn’t actually know the root cause of the problem.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller said, “The recent iOS software update addressed many of the battery issues that some customers experienced on their iOS 5 devices,” adding: “We continue to investigate a few remaining issues.” Meanwhile affected iPhone owners will just have to sit tight in the hope that Apple come up with a solution soon. And keep their phone on charge.

Photos: Super Mario 3D Land invades Times Square

Nintendo celebrates the launch of Super Mario 3D Land by recreating a level in Times Square, New York. We also sit down and ask NOA's Cindy Gordon about the state of the 3DS.

Nintendo took over Times Square in New York City today to celebrate the launch of Super Mario 3D Land. Since it’s not often that you can see a life size Bullet Bill, we decided to check out the festivities. The celebration kicked off at 10 a.m. with a few dozen acrobats dressed as Mario crossing Times Square to converge on Military Island, where Nintendo had a full size portion of a Mario level built. The “3D” construction was built because Super Mario 3D Land is the first actual Mario game to hit the Nintendo 3DS, a handheld system with glasses-free 3D. The playplace of sorts was fun to see and was full of trampolines so that everyone could jump like Mario. Piranha Plants, Goombas, a Bullet Bill, coin blocks, flying coins, warp pipes, a warp pipe slide, and an end-of-level flag pole were all present, along with a lot of AstroTurf.

Crowd members were given free pizza, Tanooki tails and ears, and kids were invited to come and jump on the life-size replica and the Toys R’ Us next door had a day-early sale on the game, allowing participants to buy Mario 3D Land before anyone else in the country.

We got a chance to sit down with Cindy Gordon, VP of Corporate Affairs at Nintendo who said that the new game is part of Nintendo’s strategy to shore up sales of the 3DS system and give it a proper boost into the holiday season. In August, Nintendo slashed the price of the 3DS due to low sales. However, since the company dropped the price of the hardware, sales have tripled, she said, and the 3DS is now on route to surpass the first year sales of the Nintendo DS, which has been Nintendo’s most successful handheld to date. When asked about the proliferation of games on smartphones and tablets, Gordon didn’t seem worried, commenting that Nintendo is making its systems more connected, but the more people who play games, the more potential customers Nintendo has.

Electric car batteries under investigation after Chevy Volt crash test causes fire

Unexpected fire after Chevrolet Volt crash test prompts investigation of electric vehicles using lithium-ion batteries.

A routine crash test for the Chevrolet Volt has prompted a federal investigation of the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars.
According to Reuters, the incident has led to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration turning its attention toward manufacturers of electric vehicles, and asking for details about how they handle the batteries and minimize fire risk.
However, the agency has made it abundantly clear that the incident appears to be a fluke thus far, and reiterated its support of the Volt and other electric vehicles.
Various reports indicate that the Volt crash test occurred in May, and the fire broke out several weeks later in the massive, T-shaped battery that runs from the back of the car and through the center of its frame. General Motors stated that it was not aware of any prior incidents like this with the Volt, and the NHTSA said it hasn’t received any consumer complaints about this type of fire with the Volt or other electric vehicles.
General Motors and NHTSA were also unable to replicate the fire in follow-up tests, so it seems like electric vehicles continue to get the green light from federal safety agencies.
“First and foremost, I want to make this very clear: The Volt is a safe car,” said GM’s chief engineer for electric vehicles, Jim Federico, in an official statement. “We are working cooperatively with NHTSA as it completes its investigation. However, NHTSA has stated that based on available data, there’s no greater risk of fire with a Volt than a traditional gas-powered car.”

Speed Unleashed: HBH barks and bites with Aston Martin Bulldog GT

Take a look at the Aston Martin Bulldog GT, a stylish and powerful rear mounted V12 engine supercar by Danish firm HBH.

Recently the proverbial well has run a little dry with traditional GT and super cars entering the fray — what with the Tokyo Motor Show just around the corner and all the quirky pint-sized EV’s and plug-ins that the far-east show has become known for gearing up to take center stage. Who better than Aston Martin to get our engines revving again as talk of miles per gallon and charging times gives way to horsepower and lb-ft of torque? Where the number next to the V in cars specs refers to the arrangement of cylinders and not the voltage needed to charge the car.
Danish firm HBH latest project the Aston Martin Bulldog GT is  beautiful car that any auto-enthusiast would love to have parked comfortably in their garage. Adorned with two superchargers and a 6.0-liter V12 lifted from the Aston Martin Vantage. The Bulldog GT is capable of outputting a devilish 666 horsepower and 548 lb-ft of torque that enables sprint speeds of 0-62 in 3.9 seconds and top speed of 186 mph. The body style of the Aston Martin Bulldog GT is a unique aluminum and helps ensure the engine sits comfortable behind the sporty cabin.
The Aston Martin Bulldog GT hasn’t been made official yet, but test drives are tentatively scheduled for 2013 with pricing estimated to exceed $181k, the cost of stock V12 Vantage.

Honda teases Small Sports EV and ACX plug-ins, cars to take bow in Tokyo

Honda is teasing us with two new concept models the company plans on unveiling at the Tokyo Motor Show. The Small Sports EV and ACX plug-ins will make their official debut later this month, with no word on whether they will make it to production.
Japanese automaker Honda is looking to make a big splash at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month. The company is planning to bring a veritable host of concept and production vehicles (more than any other automaker) to the show.
Attendees will get a chance to see a range of concept vehicles the company is considering bringing to production. Part of that group of concept vehicles is a new plug-in hybrid as well as an EV dubbed the ACX.
Details are scarce at the moment, with Honda tight-lipped on any details with the Small Sport EV Concept, while details on the ACX are not much better. We do know Honda is aiming to impress with the ACX plug-in — a vehicle that is well equipped to handle bustling urban environments, while at the same time offering a true open road experience. The company says the ACX will come with a two-mode drive system with an engine mode for that added push in power and performance, and an automatic drive mode for standard driving.
Again, no word on pricing or if these two concepts will make it to production, but we imagine more information will follow once they are unveiled in Tokyo.

Mind Control: Hackers working on project that will let you control Siri with your brain

Science fiction or reality? Hackers have figured out a way to operate Siri simply by using brainwaves.

When Apple unveiled to the world the clever personal secretary we have come to know as Siri, many were excited at the possibilities this new application could bring. Apple itself touted Siri as an ingenious breakthrough and achievement — something that, once again, set Apple apart from its competitors. Of course, the reality is often less romantic than the tale, and while Siri is by no means a failure, there are still some issues surrounding the friendly and altruistic personal assistant. Voice recognition, difficulties with accents and security holes rank among the various issues users have experienced.

While it will take some time to address the different issues surrounding Siri, some hackers have devised a way to get Siri to operate by simply thinking their commands. Users will be able to, in the timeless words of Captain Jean Luc Picard, “make it so” by merely thinking out there instructions.

Achieving this feat was no easy task, but the hackers were able to accomplish their goal in seven steps. For the thought recognition to work, an ECG pad is connected to a user, which collects their brain waves and converts them into synthesized speech, which is then sent via the headphone jack and acknowledged by Siri as a command.

Here is the full seven step process:

1. ECG pads provide raw skin conductivity / electrical activity as analogue data (0-5v).

2. This is plugged into the Arduino board via 4 analogue inputs (no activity = 0v, high activity = 5v).

3. The Arduino has a program burned to its EPROM chip that filters the signals.

4. Josh trained the program by thinking of the main Siri commands (“Call”, “Set”, “Diary” etc.) one at a time and the program where we captured the signature brain patterns they produce.

5. The program can detect the signature patterns that indicate a certain word is being thought of. The program will then wait for a natural ‘release’ in brain waves and assume the chain of commands is now complete and action is required.

6. The series of commands are fed to a SpeakJet speech synthesizer chip

7. The audio output of which simply plugs into the iPhone’s microphone jack

The ambitious venture taken by the hackers, which is being called Project Black Mirror, is in the process of getting off the ground. The group at Project Black Mirror is looking to produce a working prototype and submit the design to funding platform Kickstarter. If all goes well it could certainly change the way we interact with not only our smarphones, but other devices as well.

One third of employees use Facebook while at work

While employers are looking into the amount of time workers are spending checking social networks, many employees admit to checking Facebook and other social networks during the workday.

According to a recent survey conducted by British job site, approximately 33 percent of employees admit to using social networking within the office. Facebook was the most popular choice preferred by 45 percent of the people that did admit to logging into a social network. Facebook was followed by LinkedIn, a social network that’s becoming commonly used to research potential candidates for job openings. Other choices included video sharing site YouTube, Twitter and various blogs. Marketing and IT professionals are the most likely to be browsing social networks at work while engineers and accountants were far less likely to log into Facebook during the workday.

Sneaking Facebook at workWhile two thirds of the respondents believe that companies have a right to ban social networks within the workplace, less than 30 percent of the companies in the survey completely block access to all social networks while another 40 percent limit access to social networks. Thirty-two percent didn’t block any social networking sites or bother to set up a policy to forbid employees from logging into the networks. Of the people that did log into a social network on a daily basis, 35 percent claim that it was specifically for business. Ten percent claim it was for personal reasons and 55 percent went with both options.

While 62 percent of the employees only log into the social networks one to two times a day, the remainder log in more than three times a day. Five percent admit to visiting into a social network over ten times a day. Many employees do attempt to keep social network visits on personal devices though. Sixty-four percent check networks like Facebook and Twitter on mobile devices such as a smartphone, but 36 percent do use a work computer to log into social networks. As more employers look into how much time employees are spending on Facebook, it’s likely that companies will become more restrictive with network access rights.