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Instagram celebrates 300 million users with verified badges for VIPs

Published on December 10, 2014, by

Instagram has always been beloved by photographers, selfie-takers, and latte lovers, but now we can put its popularity in context: Instagram officially has more fans than Twitter.

The photo-sharing network has 300 million monthly active users compared to Twitter’s 284 million, despite the real-time news platform’s bigger profile. Of course, Twitter would argue it has a larger footprint than just monthly active users—CEO Dick Costolo has said the network reaches an additional 500 million unique visitors each month who never log into the network.

Like Twitter, Instagram is a celebrity favorite. Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and hundreds of other stars use the network regularly to post behind-the-scenes snapshots of their lives. Now Instagram is going to verify those users, like Twitter does, with badges for VIPs and brands. You’ll see those roll out this week.

Instagram has attracted scammers and spam accounts since launching four years ago. The network hasn’t commented on its anti-spam efforts until now:

“We’re committed to doing everything possible to keep Instagram free from the fake and spammy accounts that plague much of the web, and that’s why we’re finishing up some important work that began earlier this year,” Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said in a Wednesday blog post.

That work included the deactivation of spam accounts, but those accounts are now also being scrubbed from the network. If your follower count drops, that’s why.

Instagram has proved it has staying power, so now the big question is: Did Systrom sell too early? When Facebook acquired the app in April 2012, it was tiny: just 30 million users. That’s why Instagram’s $1 billion price tag seemed hefty at the time. But WhatsApp commanded $21.8 billion for its 450 million users when Facebook snatched up the messaging app earlier this year—perhaps Systrom and co. could’ve raked in a few more billion had they waited.

Then again, Facebook allowed Instagram to focus on building a solid user experience without worrying about making money, which the network is now slowly testing ads that don’t look out of place in your feed. And it looks like the two companies are enjoying their union, if Facebook posts are any indication:

original article via: PCWORLD
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Girl Scouts may now sell cookies online

Published on December 1, 2014, by

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The Girl Scouts of the United States of America added something new this week to a nearly 100-year-old tradition: Scouts will soon use the Internet to sell their cookies. And, crucially, they will ship those online orders directly to the buyers.

The cookie-selling program is designed to help troop members develop entrepreneurial skills — from setting goals and handling money to sharpening their sales and people skills — by selling and delivering the cookies themselves. The girls compete against each other, and with other troops, to sell the most cookies, with individual and troop-wide prizes available. Until now, that process has been strictly analog; online sales were banned by the organization.

Here’s how that will change: “Digital Cookie,” a platform recently approved by the organization, will allow Girl Scouts to sell cookies via a mobile and tablet app or a personal website starting in January. Troops have to opt-in to the online selling program for their cookie-selling drives.

The organization expects that as many as 1 million scouts — or about half of the girls who participate in the Girl Scouts — will use the online selling programs next year, the Associated Press reported.

But the new tools don’t allow Girl Scouts to simply set up a Web site, sit back and wait for the sales to come in. Each individual Girl Scout will have to initiate contact with a potential buyer; the personal cookie-selling sites are only accessible via emailed invitations. It’s a supplement, not a replacement, for the pen-and-paper spreadsheet sales that Girl Scouts (and their customers) know well.

The popular cookies sell for about $4 a box on average. Troop members traditionally make door-to-door sales (these days, with parents in tow), set up booths outside retail stores, or — controversially — send forms to their parents’ workplaces to sell as many cookies as possible. The online sales, the Girl Scouts hope, will become one of many strategies scouts use to learn about entrepreneurship.

Occasionally, the national organization will step in and remind scouts — and their parents — that cookie sales are supposed to be educational endeavors. In 2012, the organization told the New York Times that it disapproves of parents selling cookies at work on behalf of their children. “Adults should not be selling cookies,” a representative told the paper. “We do want parents to help. We do not want parents to make the sale.”

That has also happened, in the past, with online sales. An 8-year-old named Wild Freeborn worked with her software-programmer dad in 2009 to set up an online sales portal for her own cookie drive — until the Girl Scouts stopped her, citing the ban.

Some local Girl Scout parents reportedly complained about Freeborn’s sales drive, which came complete with a promotional YouTube video.

At the time, the Girl Scouts told the “Today” show that the ban was in place until the organization could find a way to allow online sales in a manner that is “fair and equitable for all girls,” while remaining safe for the scouts.

Girl Scout cookie-selling began as early as 1917 in Oklahoma. Scouts used to bake their own cookies following a popular recipe, the organization explained; eventually, the program expanded to include the variety of cookies familiar to many today.

The record for sales in one season? It belongs to Katie Francis, an Oklahoma City Girl Scout who sold more than 21,000 boxes this year.

original article via: WASHINGTON POST

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Reddit Gets Into Crowdfunding With Redditmade

Published on October 29, 2014, by

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Reddit continues its slow Internet takeover with today’s announcement of the new Redditmade crowdfunding platform.

The service, now open in beta, allows subscribers to set up projects to be backed by fellow Redditors.

“Redditmade is a new place to turn the best designs and products by the community into a reality,” a launch post said. “Redditmade gives you the flexibility to create almost anything you want, easily raise money, and support causes you care about. It’s also a great way for others to find awesome new products they’ll love.”

Redditmade focuses on small-time projects—hats, stickers, glassware, etc.—and calculates success based on the number of supporters, not the amount of money raised. Reddit’s Secret Santa subreddit, for example, is selling stickers ahead of the holiday season, available in packs of four for $6. The campaign, created today, has already gained five supporters, out of the necessary 100. All proceeds from the sales will be dispensed distributed to Reddit’s charity fund.

You decide the quantity and price, and whether the proceeds go into your pocket, or will be donated to another person or cause. Then you’ve got 30 days to reach your goal.

One of the problems some successful Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns have run into is manufacturing. But with Redditmade, Reddit will handle production if enough people pledge to buy a product in the allotted time—as long as it’s not age- or shipping-restricted merchandise. No one is charged until the campaign reaches its goal and production begins.

One of the main objectives of Redditmade is to allow subredditors a platform to create official merchandise for their communities, whether it’s a camping bumper sticker, Doctors Without Borders T-shirt, or Walking Dead decals.

“We provide a secure way to raise funds and make it easy to pledge your payment,” the site said, adding that campaign creators will never have access to supporters’ personal information.

Create your own project, or browse active campaigns, online at Redditmade. Still in beta mode, visitors can expect updates and improvements as the site receives user feedback.

original article via: PCMAG