Tag Archive | "halloween"

Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff Receives Major ‘Star Trek’ Event

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Family Guy Star Trek

TinyCo, Fox Digital Entertainment and CBS Interactive have announced a limited time content update in Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, bringing the world of Star Trek to Quahog. From now until April 30, players will race to save humanity after the USS Enterprise and its crew travel back in time to protect baby Stewie, whose future self creates a technology which threatens the Borg’s existence.

In this update, players will repair the Enterprise after it takes heavy damage from the Borg, and will explore multiple areas of the ship’s interior, from the Bridge and Holodeck to the Sickbay, Engineering and more. As players complete quests, they’ll meet and unlock various crew members from Star Trek: The Next Generation, including Picard, Data, Worf, Geordi and more, with voices from the actors of the original television series.

As part of this update, gamers can send teams away on missions to other planets, gathering resources and rewards in the process. Back on the Enterprise, players use photon torpedoes to blast enemies and debris into deep space. This event will also see players fighting against Tribbles, which are trying to take over Quahog’s communities, and includes opportunities to meet additional characters from the Star Trek universe, including Captain Kirk.

This isn’t the first major crossover to come to Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff. For example, a 2014 Halloween event brought the world of Ghostbusters to the game. Later in the event, horror villains Freddy and Jason also made appearances.

Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff is available to download for free on the iTunes App Store, Google Play and the Amazon Appstore.

Article courtesy of SocialTimes Feed

Pinterest Expands Search to Include More ‘Guy Stuff’

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Pinterest was the Fastest Growing Social Network in 2014No, it’s not an Onion headline. Pinterest really wants more men. According to reports, they’re changing their search to feature more “gender neutral” results. From the Wall Street Journal:

Some of the most popular topics on Pinterest, such as cooking, gardening and travel, interest both men and women. So the company says it has made subtle changes, such as serving up more tacos and pizzas alongside its popular baked goods and family meals when users are searching for recipe ideas; or showing a range of costumes on Halloween, from single women in the cities to Dads in the suburbs.

But why? According to Pew, 42 percent of American women polled in a recent study are on Pinterest. Who needs men? Advertisers aren’t satisfied with those gender breakdowns. With the new “promoted pin” ads, the network is missing out on some brand opportunities, but maybe it shouldn’t focus so much on the pitfalls of being “girly.” That doesn’t have to be a bad things. Girls buy stuff. Lots of stuff. And then they tell other people to buy it, too.

Over at MediaPost, Eric Sass agrees, although he breaks it down a little controversially:

Although I am going out on a limb here, I also think there is are important underlying differences in the ways men and women pursue their interests and hobbies. I know this may sound too simplistic or stereotypical, and I fully expect some criticism for saying it, but in my view women’s pursuits lend themselves more to static images, a la Pinterest, while men’s lend themselves more to video, like YouTube.

It may be simplistic, but anyone who’s ever watched a teenage boy gape at looping videos his cell phone knows he could be right. But it’s not worth the argument about what social media fits what gender best. The important thing is that their search feature is expanded. It’s not that there are too many cake recipes and ribbon tying tutorials (although there is a lot of that), it’s that there wasn’t anything for guys in the first place, really. Pinterest writes in a statement:

For example, say you’re looking for a new watch. Before when you searched Pinterest for “watches,” your results would include mostly women’s timepieces. But now, men will see Pins and guides inspired by what other guys have Pinned, and everybody’s results should feel a lot closer to what they’re looking for. Of course if you ever want results for another gender, like if you’re shopping for a gift for someone else, you can always use the guides to fine-tune your search.

The more the merrier, right? But don’t expect to see guys swiping through Pinterest anytime soon in public.

Article courtesy of SocialTimes Feed

Study: Ecommerce sites went big on Facebook ads on Black Friday, Cyber Monday

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Many pre-holiday reports suggested that this could be the biggest season yet for Facebook advertising. According to Facebook Marketing Partner Nanigans, ecommerce companies are allocating more money to Facebook mobile ads — and it’s paying off.

Nanigans found that among ecommerce clients, there has been a 132 percent lift in early holiday (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) mobile ad spend this year compared to last year.

These clients are also seeing solid results on desktop with 66 percent higher clickthrough rate on Thanksgiving than the previous Thursday and a 36 percent lift in CTR on Black Friday, compared to that Monday. Overall, the return on investment for ecommerce clients on Black Friday rose 286 percent week-over-week.

Nanigans Marketing Director Cheryl Morris shed some more light on holiday ad performance:

As big retailers like Walmart continue to spread their Black Friday bargains into week-long events, and shoppers continue to research holiday gifts as early as Halloween, we may continue to see similar stretching-out effects in seasonal ad engagement and purchasing data. For example, while many stores are not open on Thanksgiving Day, this data indicates that consumers were in shopping mode regardless, engaging with ecommerce ads on Facebook.

Is the best yet to come for retailers this holiday shopping season? Bill Martin, founder of in-store analytics company ShopperTrak, advises: “We need to be cautious about looking at a single day or two in projecting the season’s total. There is a significant amount of energy left in the consumer.”

2014-Thanksgiving-Week-Facebook-Ads-Purchase-Rates-Ecommerce-DesktopTop image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Heirloom App Preserves Print Photos With A Single Snap

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Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 2.17.07 PM

Family Believes Missing Engineers Body Was Found In San Francisco Bay

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Gratafy Lets You Send Food & Drink Gifts To Friends Using Just Their Email Or Phone Number

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Starting today, you can send your friends and family members gifts using only their email address or phone number. This new trick comes from Gratafy, a Seattle-based social gifting platform launched last year, which lets you digitally share gifts that everyone generally likes: food and drinks. The gifts come from participating restaurants and bars in Los Angeles and Gratafy’s hometown of Seattle. You can think of the service as an new take on the restaurant gift card, but one you can buy from the web or your phone, and offering a broader selection of cards than just those for big chain restaurants – like you might pick up at your local drug store, for instance.

The service is aimed at those who need to buy gifts for people who are hard to shop for, or for any other occasion where you might opt for a gift card over a physical (and let’s be honest, more thoughtful) present. Previously, users could login to Gratafy using Facebook, and their friend would then receive the gift you chose – a fruity cocktail from a favorite bar, an entree, a dessert, etc. – via email, text, or Facebook.

Participating restaurants like Gratafy because it gives them another way to sell their full-price menu items and potentially reach new users. Meanwhile, Gratafy makes its money by charging a few extra dollars on top of the gift being ordered as a convenience fee.

But Gratafy’s Facebook requirement also limited how Gratafy could be used. That is, you could only send gifts to Facebook friends. Now you can send to anyone you have an email address or phone number for. Users can also choose to login using only an email address themselves, instead of authenticating with Facebook.

To date, the company has partnered with close to 250 restaurants in Seattle and Los Angeles, including Seattle’s Tavern LawEthan Stowell RestaurantsJohn Howie Steak, and Tom Douglas, as well as Los Angeles-based PaicheThe Hudson, and Sassafras among others.  However, when Gratafy expanded to L.A. in August, it was reporting around 200 restaurant partners, so the service has not grown significantly on the merchant side in the year since – however, that may change soon as the company expands.

Gratafy is the kind of service that would see a lot more sales and user growth during big gift-giving seasons, like the holidays, which, according to the decorations that went up everywhere the day after Halloween, have apparently arrived. Founded by University of Washington grads, Ryan Halper and Brian Erke, Gratafy plans to expand into other major U.S. cities later this year.

It’s interesting to see how companies like this an others are leveraging email to power sharing. Square, for example, recently made it possible to quickly send others cash via email with its simple Square Cash app. Google Wallet is now bundled into Gmail for something similar. And now Gratafy is letting you send gifts over email, essentially.

The startup is competing in a tough space, where even Facebook has struggled with so-called “social gifting” and competitors like Wrapp have far more funding. (Gratafy has under $3M, while Wrapp just raised another $15M this summer). At the core of social gifting is that by making gifting easier, to some extent, you’re also removing the thought and care that goes into the gift-giving process. And despite our modern, disposable culture, that’s not something everyone is willing to do just yet.

The Gratafy updates should arrive later today. The app is available in the App Store and on Google Play.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Review: Exo, A Cricket-Based Protein Bar That Won’t Destroy Your Productivity

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My sweet tooth is the enemy of productivity: sugary snacks are a one way ticket to midday brain fog and squishy love handles. As TechCrunch’s resident healthnut, I regularly get pitched by food startups claiming to solve the workplace snacking problem, but their “healthy” alternatives invariably raise my blood sugar like a Snickers bar fried in Pepsi.

Last night, I’m happy to say, I tried a new protein bar that was sufficiently tasty, didn’t raise my blood sugar, and was packed with raw healthy ingredients. There’s just one catch: it’s made from pulverized crickets (video below).

The admirably bold Exo team wants to bring crickets to the American diet, and has successfully raised $20,000 on Kickstarter in just 3 days to build a factory that churns out bug-based snacks. “Exo will introduce to the West one of the most nutritious and sustainable protein sources in the world: insects,” declares their Kickstarter page.

According to Exo, their cricket flour has more protein than beef, and perhaps more importantly, doesn’t contribute to a food system that destroys the environment. Livestock produce as much carbon as a car, eat food that could otherwise go to starving children, and are pumped full of drugs that threaten humans with deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria. So–just putting this out there–we probably want to find an alternative and bugs could be it.

The bar itself is a mix of cricket protein, dates, cocoa, coconut and almond butter. The Exo has the taste and texture of a mildly sweet protein bar. No, you can’t taste the crickets. The early version the team sent me was very crumbly and a bit crunchy (coconut chips).

Not going to lie, I’ve had better tasting snacks, but they all raised my blood sugar. Many popular energy/protein bars have the food profile of a Twix, and the high-fructose corn syrup makes them about as healthy as Halloween leftovers.

The truth is, the only way to get nutrition in a way that doesn’t destroy your body is minimally processed all-natural ingredients that resemble the original food as closely as possible.

This is why the market has seen a rise in so-called “raw” foods: no grains, dairy, sugars, or heated ingredients My go-to energy bar, the date-based LaraBar, was acquired by General Mills in 2009. Exo uses one of the few acceptable sweeteners: raw honey (the other trendy honey-like sweetener, Agave, is probably killing you slowly).

And, unlike LaraBar, it’s got 10g of protein, which will satisfy the fitness folks in your life.

I don’t know if Exo will satisfy the sweet tooth of a mass market addicted to super-sugary snacks, but I do love the idea that they could have found a sustainable protein. At the very least, it is tasty enough for a workplace looking to be healthier.

My recommendation: buy a bunch for the office and see what your co-workers think (and then let us know!)

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

DoorJamz Is A Doorbell With Custom Tones You Can Control With Your Smartphone

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doorjamz yo

I have two problems with doorbells. First, they sound incredibly annoying. Secondly, there isn’t an easy way to turn them off.

DoorJamz provides a solution for both of these problems. It’s still a doorbell, but instead of the consistently infuriating “ding-dong”, you can choose to have it play whatever you like. If can have Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir play whenever your guests or the Jehovah Witnesses announce their presence. That’s pretty cool.

The DoorJamz is controlled from an app on your smartphone. Once a particular song or sound file is uploaded unto the app, it wirelessly transmits your new doortone to the DoorJamz.

From the app, you can also schedule to have certain doortones ring on certain days. For example, on Halloween you can set your DoorJamz to play a howling wolf, a cackling witch, or maybe an audio recording of you screaming “I DON’T HAVE CANDY” followed by a long string of curses whenever those trick or treaters come to call.

But the best feature, and one parents everywhere will appreciate, is that you can lower the DoorJamz’s volume whenever you want. So if your baby is napping during the day, you can basically mute the DoorJamz until they wake up. It’s insane that the doorbells we have now can’t do this.

A DoorJamz can be had for a $99 contribution at their IndieGogo page. They’re trying to raise $90,000 by May 1st.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

YouTube Files Appeal Against Regulator In Russia Over Content Blocked By New Firewall

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YouTube russia screen shot

Google this week fired off one of the first high profile tests of Russia’s controversial new firewall — erected November 1, 2012 to block child porn, drugs and suicide content; but seen by critics as a route for the government to block whatever else it chooses. Google’s YouTube operation in Russia has filed an appeal against the Russian regulator for blocking YouTube content. The appeal, filed on February 11, concerns a block of a video that showed how to apply Halloween makeup: because it shows how to make a wound, Roscomnadzor (Russia’s consumer watchdog) also deemed that it encouraged suicide and suicidal tendencies.

The news was first reported in the Russian newspaper Vedomosti. Google’s position is that there is not enough clarification on what kind of content is permitted or not. In this case, a video intended for entertainment has been misinterpreted, it believes. A spokesperson in Russia, Alla Zabrovskaya, provided the following statement to TechCrunch:

“YouTube provides a community where people from around the world can express themselves by sharing videos and being informed. While we support the greatest access to information possible, we will, at times, restrict content on country-specific domains where a nation’s laws require it or if content is found to violate our Community Guidelines. In this case, we have appealed the decision of Russian Consumer Watchdog because we do not believe that the goal of the law was to limit access to videos that are clearly intended to entertain viewers.”

This case is an appeal of an existing ruling to block a video; it’s not a lawsuit and so it does not entail and financial claims over lost revenue, TechCrunch understands.

The situation highlights a problem of Russia’s new firewall: it was erected to block specific pages that violate Russia’s laws, but has apparently it been less nuanced in its actual application. On top of that, when the regulator decides to block one piece of content on a site, the entirety of that IP gets blocked. While it is appealing the decision, YouTube has taken down the suicide video, but if it had not, then all of YouTube would have been blocked in Russia.

It also underscores the tension that continues to exist in Russia over free speech and government control; and the role that international (Western) giants like Google play in the country’s information and tech economies.

YouTube has been dancing around the Russian regulator’s firewall for months now. Back in November, just weeks after the laws came into effect, YouTube faced a temporary block that was later attributed to a technical error. At the time, this is how Zabrovskaya described it to me:

“There is not much to comment, it was a technical mistake…YouTube was never blocked, it just appeared in the “black list”, and then was deleted almost immediately as the news cycle started.”

But at the time she also sounded a note of warning, which this week is now coming into play with YouTube’s formal appeal:

“We have expressed our opinion on the law, underlining that IP or DNS-blocking system is damaging to Internet development in Russia, as these are the ways which could potentially block the entirety of the product (YT or any other UGC-product ) over one piece of illegal content.”

We are contacting Roscomnadzor for comment and will update this story as we learn more.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Turkey Day Was Instagram’s Busiest Ever, With 10 Million+ Thanksgiving Photos Shared At Up To 226 Per Second

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Instagram Thanksgiving

While the day after Halloween is typically Facebook’s biggest photo sharing day, Instagram had its busiest 24 hours to date over Thanksgiving when users shared 10 million photos with holiday references, peaking at 226 per second. The surge likely inspired plenty of sign-ups too, as iPhonographers and Droidographers alike showed off their touched up snapshots to family.

Instagram said “Overall, the day broke all Instagram records as we saw the number of shared photos more than double from the day before, making it our busiest day so far.” It eclipsed the 800,000 Hurricane Sandy Instagrams to become the services most photographed event yet.

The company counted up photos with tags like #thanksgiving and #turkey and saw a sustained flow of over 200 holiday photos a second for several hours surrounding the 12:40pm PST peak at 226 per second.

It wasn’t just users getting into the spirit either. Instagram recently began giving brands tips on how to make the most of their photos, including advice to add links in the comments and description section to be able to drive traffic and return on investment from the Instagram presence. Plenty surely noted upcoming Black Friday deals or just took a moment to thank their customers and fans.

With Instagram’s new web profiles and public links, sharing a photo to the service makes it easily accessible even to friends and family that don’t have the app. Shooting an email with an Instagram link to grandparents is a lot easier than trying to walk them through the Facebook sign-up process.  Over time, that could actually give Instagram a leg up over Facebook’s walled garden and make it the photo app of choice when you want to share with folks who don’t live and breathe the Internet.

[Image Credit: DylForLife]

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

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