Sunday, December 6, 2009

Get started with managing Facebook App ads through OpenX

To manage your Facebook App ads through OpenX Hosted, you must have an OpenX Hosted account. If you don't already have an account, it's free to sign up.

Once you have logged into your OpenX Hosted account, follow these steps:

1. Add a website to represent your Facebook App.

Add a website

2. Add a zone. A zone represents a location on your Facebook App page where ads will display.

Add a zone

3. On the zone's Invocation Code tab, select the type "Facebook App Tag" then follow the directions to
get the demographic targeting script and the OpenX zone tag for your Facebook App ad.

zone invocation code

4. Add an advertiser.

Add an advertiser

5. Add a campaign. A campaign represents the collection of ads you will be delivering.

add a campaign

6. Add a banner. To add demographic targeting to your banner, select the desired targeting criteria on
the banner's Delivery Options tab. For your Facebook App ads, you will be able to select demographic
targeting criteria such as Age Group, Education, Gender and Relationship Status.

add banner

7. Link your banner to your zone. Go to your banner's Linked Zones tab and select the zone you created in step #2 to display your Facebook App ad.

add banner

That's all it takes to start serving Facebook App ads through OpenX.
Sign up for your free OpenX Hosted account to get started!


That's all it takes to start serving Facebook App ads through OpenX.
Sign up for your free OpenX Hosted account to get started!

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Saturday, December 5, 2009


Is intelligent and entertaining

The one crew member from Paa I hurried to look up on the internet, apart from the make-up artists, was the dialogue writer. Turns out, it’s director R Balki (of Cheeni Kum fame) who’s written the film’s crisp conversations.

Talking about the internet, there is a charming dialogue in the movie when 11-year-old Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) looks up an errant politician on the computer saying ‘Google se bach ke kahan jaoge’ (you can’t run away from Google).

It’s difficult then, not to fall for Auro, the possessor of a dry humour that consistently produces gems like the one above. We flashback to his mother, medical student Vidya’s story (Vidya Balan), who, after an affair with a political science student, Amol (Abhishek), gets pregnant and is disappointed when she is asked to get an abortion.

She speaks to her mother (Arundhati Naag, superb) who had brought up Vidya all alone after her husband’s demise. When plainly asked whether she wants to keep the baby or not, Vidya decides to go ahead with the pregnancy. Already wondering how she’ll bring up a child all alone, she’s shattered to know her newborn is suffering from progeria, a rare disease causing premature ageing in children.

At that moment, when you see Vidya Balan’s expressions on learning that her child is likely to have a life-span of only 13 years, you feel every bit of her anguish. All grown-up now and studying in a school, how an adolescent Auro rediscovers his Paa after 11 years forms the rest of the story.

The finest quality of the film is its refusal to coax pity out of the viewer - either for Auro or for single mother Vidya. A successful gynaecologist, Vidya is shown to provide Auro with all the comforts - from a nice car to a computer and even a play station. Together with Vidya’s mother, they form a cosy unit always good-naturedly ribbing one another. The inclusion of the Paa happens only after the interval, reminding you of Taare Zameen Par where Aamir enters the story around the middle.

You adore Amitabh Bachchan’s performance while applauding his commitment to his craft. Reportedly, it took a 60-plus Bachchan five hours to wear the prosthetic make-up for six hours of shooting, with another two hours to take it off. So truthful is this performance, you begin recognising Auro as an existing character with flesh and blood and forget you’re watching Amitabh Bachchan.

Abhishek Bachchan is also excellent as the do-gooder politician, who never agrees with his father’s (Paresh Rawal) seasoned opportunism. The story is as much Vidya’s as Auro’s and Vidya Balan is fabulous as the proud, independent single mother. Kids playing Auro’s friends, especially Pratik as his best bud, are fabulous.

In the technical department, the first mention must go to make-up artists Christien Tinsley and Dominie Till for painstakingly and expertly converting Amitabh Bachchan into Auro. Cinematography by P C Sreeram, editing by Anil Naidu and art by Sunil Babu are top-notch.

Styling, too, deserves special mention. Vidya Balan’s lovely saris are matched by a thick-strapped ‘working-woman’s’ wrist watch and subtle earrings. However, it's a little odd that the foreign-educated doctor doesn’t have any contemporary western clothes in her wardrobe. Abhishek’s clothes are delightful as is Auro’s oversized hooded shirt that he picks up for a special occasion.

Music by Illayaraja and lyrics by Swanand Kirkire make for hauntingly beautiful songs. Just for the Ittefaq song and its wonderful picturisation, this writer intends to watch the film again.

Some might fear Paa would be a depressing, melodramatic film or a shadow of 2005’s heavily emotional Black. It’s not, and neither does it have any link to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

For a couple of moments, the film does turn your eyes moist, but there are dozens where you’ll enjoy Auro’s antics. Of course, you wonder about the film’s anti-abortion stand and it’s propensity to encourage child-bearing - in a rather awkward scene, Dr Vidya tells a couple, who confess they’re too busy to have a child, that they ought to have one as life changes for the better after a baby.

The melodramatic finale, too, seems unnecessary and it appears that the director, who had so boldly shown a mother raising her child without getting married, cops out towards the end.

These are minor complaints still, in a film that holds you from the first scene to the last. R Balki outdoes himself with a film that’s intelligent, entertaining and visually arresting.

It’s indeed a pleasure presenting four stars to a film after years. You don’t want to miss this one.

Rating: Four stars

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Developer tools: what's in your box?

Hey software/web developer friends,

I've been keeping a list of the software that should come standard on our developer boxes (ya know, on the off chance Dustin and I ever get around to hiring someone), but I'm curious what tools other people are using that are sweet/useful. Here's what we've got (excluding SDKs and Unixy tools):

Windows and Mac
Firefox 3.0, Chrome 1.0, Safari 4
FireScope [great find by Star]

Windows specific
IE6, IE7, IE8 (is there something better than MultipleIEs for this?)
Microsoft Script Editor (for IE<8 debugging)
SharpKeys by RandyRants (for remapping Caps Lock)
Pixie by Nattyware (for determining the color of a pixel on the screen)
PrintScreen by Gadwin (for screenshots)
Free Extended Task Manager by Extensoft (task as in "OS process," not "project to-do")

Mac specific
Parallels (for IE testing)

Any additions? Any substitutions, cases where there's a better tool for the thing we're trying to accomplish?

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Name Our Company (1000 dolla bounty)


I'm quite serious. Dustin and I have been trying for months, and it turns out we're just not very good at naming things.

If you successfully name our company, we will give you (a) our undying gratitude and admiration and (b) $1000, if you're into that sort of thing. Here's everything you need to know:

Desirable properties

- Can unambiguously determine spelling from pronunciation
- Can unambiguously determine pronunciation from spelling
- Shorter is better
- Doesn't sound "Web2.0"-y
- .com doesn't have to be available, but can't be a well-established website/brand

Brand qualities we'd like to convey

- Solid, but not heavy
- Professional, but not stodgy
- Dependable
- Deliberate
- Powerful (as in "powerful tool", not "powerful President")
- Empowering
- Transparent / honest / straightforward
- Pervasive / invisible (like the telephone)
- Background / invisible (like the piece of paper on which something's drawn)
- Progressive
- A new way of doing business, a breath of fresh air
- Fast (as in responsive)
- Bringing people together
basically the qualities of Barack Obama

What does your company do again?

Our startup is developing an extensible productivity suite that we'll sell to organizations, and make free to consumers, to solve the group collaboration problem. We're addressing the same problem space as Microsoft Office/Exchange/Access/VBA

, but our solution is tightly integrated, focused on structured data, and built for the Web from the ground up.

Our product will ship with a set of core applications -- including project management, calendaring, discussion lists, sales CRM, customer support ticket management, and others -- as well as a development toolkit in which third-party software developers (and even power users) can add new applications and functionality seamlessly.

Though our business model is focused on enterprises and other organizations, there will also be a free consumer version that we hope will become a natural part of every day life, just as productivity tools of the past (email, spreadsheets, etc.) have made their way from the office to the home.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Can You Be a Web Designer

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What is Copyright? for small business

Prior to crowdSPRING, I was a lawyer for 13 years - focusing on complex commercial and intellectual property litigation. This is the first in what will be a regular feature in our blog discussing important legal issues that impact every small business.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of legal protection provided to those who create original works. Under the 1976 Copyright Act (United States), the copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, distribute, publicly perform and publicly display the work. Any or all of these rights can be licensed, sold or donated to another party. One does not need to register a work with the U.S. Copyright Office for it to be automatically protected by copyright law (registration does have benefits - but we won’t be covering those in this article).

Copyright laws around the world can differ in significant ways. Most countries are signatories to various International treaties and agreements governing copyright protection (such as the Berne Copyright Convention). Under the Berne Copyright Convention, if your work is protected by copyright in your own country, then your work is protected by copyright in every other country that signed the Berne Copyright Convention.

What does Copyright protect?

Copyright protects works such as poetry, movies, writing, music, video games, videos, plays, paintings, sheet music, recorded music performances, novels, software code, sculptures, photographs, choreography, and architectural designs.

To be protected by copyright, a work must be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” This means that the work must exist in physical form for at least some period of time. A tangible medium includes paper (even a napkin will do!) and digital forms of storage. Additionally, the work must be original. It doesn’t matter if the work is similar to existing works, and copyright law is blind to whether the work is good or bad - so long as the work is original, it is protected by copyright. Finally, a work must be the result of at least some creative effort by the author.

Copyright doesn’t protect an idea, system or process (you would need to obtain patent protection for those). So, for example, if your small business is creating software programs, you would generally be unable to protect under copyright law the algorithms, methods, systems, ideas or functions of software (your code, however, is protected – nobody can sell or distribute your code without your permission).


How Long Does a Copyright Last?

For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work or a work made for hire (we’ll talk about that in a later post), the copyright lasts for 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first. For works first published prior to 1978, the term will vary depending on a number of factors.

What Should Small Businesses Do To Avoid Violating Copyright Law?

Here are five practical things you should do to make sure you don’t violate copyright law:

1. Don’t copy material just because you don’t see a copyright symbol. Since 1978, U.S. copyright law has not required that the copyright owner post a copyright notice with their work. That means that any work reduced to a tangible form (paper or digital, for example), is automatically protected by copyright.

2. Respect Creative Commons licenses. Creative Commons is a powerful framework that works alongside copyright law, but don’t confuse Creative Commons with “free for the taking.” There are a number of different types of Creative Commons licenses and you should review the specific license before you use something protected by Creative Commons. For example, when searching for images on Flickr to include in my blog posts, I always search for images licensed under Creative Commons and available for commercial use.

3. Don’t use works created by someone else merely because you can’t find any copyright restrictions or the author’s identity. Merely because you don’t know who created a work doesn’t give you the right to use that work. This is commonly abused when people do a search - on Google, for example - for images and use an image they’ve found in an article, blog post, or design.

4. Define Copyright Ownership. When you hire independent contractors to create work for you, consider including “work-for-hire” provisions in your legal agreement with your independent contractor (more about this in a later post) or provisions that transfer the ownership of the work created by those contractors - or at the very least, a license to use - to you and/or your company.

5. Understand the Permitted and Prohibited Uses Under a Copyright License. When you buy or use stock photos or other materials protected by copyright in your marketing materials, advertising, or as part of your website, pay attention to what you are and are not permitted to do with that work. For example, stock photos from sites like iStockphoto and Shutterstock are protected by specific licenses which restrict the uses for those photos and prohibit, among other things, use of stock for logo design. Don’t assume that a license gives you unlimited rights - it most likely does not.

In a later post, we’ll talk about more advanced copyright issues, including what to do if someone violates your copyright. And If there are other small business legal issues you’re interested in reading about, please leave a comment and let me know.

Please remember that legal information is not the same as legal advice. This post may not address all relevant business or legal issues that are unique to your situation and you should always seek legal advice from a licensed attorney.

image credit: MikeBlogs

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9 Things I Learned from Reed Hastings @ Netflix

At a private CEO event a few weeks back, I had the pleasure of seeing Reed give a powerpoint-less presentation.   His way of looking at business is quite inspirational, and there’s now doubt it’s a major reason why Netflix succeeded where many others have not.  I’ve been thinking about which of these ideas fit for BzzAgent…regardless, every company could add a little bit of his wisdom.  Here’s what I jotted down (note much of this is paraphrased):

  1. When outlining a strategy, instead of just articulating what you’re going to do, always add what you’re NOT going to do.   To know what your strategy will force you to not do will make things much clearer.
  2. If you can grow within your market by 10x, then stay in that market.  If you can’t grow by 10 times, then expand into other markets where you can.
  3. Companies aren’t like families.  Families provide unconditional love and are highly dysfunctional.  Companies, rather, are high performance teams.  Sports teams make their players try out for their job every year.  If you need a great left tackle, you shouldn’t just keep someone because they were there last year.
  4. A great company is not sushi at lunch; it’s working with incredible people.
  5. Don’t optimize for people who follow process, optimize for people who think and are mavericks.  Flexibility is more important than efficiency.
  6. Coordinate team on strategy but avoid buy0in on tactics.  Think: Highly aligned, loosely coupled.   Occasionally stuff goes wrong, but this allows for much better speed to execution.
  7. Managers need to ween selves from crutch of an employee’s time in seat vs how they’re succeeding.
  8. If a smart person does something dumb, figure out the problem in the context that you set, not the tactic that they failed at.
  9. Value is what you hire and fire on.  Forget the bs flowery stuff.  Your values are based on what makes you decide to hire someone.

When I caught up with Reed after his speaking gig, we talked a little bit about some of his other ideas on compensation.  I’m not sure I buy into those yet, but he’s got me thinking…

Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix

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Thanksgiving‏ wishes from Barack Obama

Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, Americans across the country will sit down together, count our blessings, and give thanks for our families and our loved ones.

American families reflect the diversity of this great nation. No two are exactly alike, but there is a common thread they each share.

Our families are bound together through times of joy and times of grief. They shape us, support us, instill the values that guide us as individuals, and make possible all that we achieve.

So tomorrow, I'll be giving thanks for my family -- for all the wisdom, support, and love they have brought into my life.

But tomorrow is also a day to remember those who cannot sit down to break bread with those they love.

The soldier overseas holding down a lonely post and missing his kids. The sailor who left her home to serve a higher calling. The folks who must spend tomorrow apart from their families to work a second job, so they can keep food on the table or send a child to school.

We are grateful beyond words for the service and hard work of so many Americans who make our country great through their sacrifice. And this year, we know that far too many face a daily struggle that puts the comfort and security we all deserve painfully out of reach.

So when we gather tomorrow, let us also use the occasion to renew our commitment to building a more peaceful and prosperous future that every American family can enjoy.

It seems like a lifetime ago that a crowd met on a frigid February morning in Springfield, Illinois to set out on an improbable course to change our nation.

In the years since, Michelle and I have been blessed with the support and friendship of the millions of Americans who have come together to form this ongoing movement for change.

You have been there through victories and setbacks. You have given of yourselves beyond measure. You have enabled all that we have accomplished -- and you have had the courage to dream yet bigger dreams for what we can still achieve.

So in this season of thanks giving, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to you, and my anticipation of the brighter future we are creating together.

With warmest wishes for a happy holiday season from my family to yours,

President Barack Obama

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Opera 10.10: Web Browser and Web Server In One


opera_uniteWith such strong competition from Mozilla and Microsoft, the only thing Opera can do to stay competitive is to innovate. And one has to hand it to them: although it doesn’t have a huge user base in the desktop web browser space, Opera is always one step ahead of the rest, for better or for worse.

With version 10.10, Opera (Opera) has taken its biggest step into the unknown so far, marrying the web browser with the web server. It definitely makes it unique in the world of web browsers, but there’s always the lingering question whether all these new features are really something we need, or is it just confusing the users?

With Opera Unite integrated into the browser, the web becomes a read/write affair. You can share photos (10 GB of them), stream music, serve a chat or even an entire web site directly from your browser. At Opera, they have high hopes for the technology. From the official site:

“Our devices will evolve. From in-dash computers in trucks to entertainment systems in airplanes, and from a netbook in North Dakota to a phone in North Africa, every device is both a consumer and a provider of content.”

The idea is certainly interesting, but the web has been moving in another direction in the past couple of years: the cloud. Instead of having stuff run on your computer, your applications and your data reside in the cloud, with all the resources and the know-how provided by a company like Google (Google). So yes, with Opera Unite, you can host a web site on your own home computer, but you might run into bandwidth issues; with Google Sites, you can easily create a web site without worrying about bandwidth, but you’re at Google’s mercy, so to say. So far, despite possible privacy and security issues, cloud computing has been taking over, and it’s hard to imagine Opera turning the tide in the other direction. Some Unite applications, however, like the media server or the chat, are quite useful and might win over some converts for the Norwegian browser.

Other interesting features in the new Opera 10.10 include Opera’s Turbo technology, which speeds up browsing by compressing web pages on Opera’s servers and delivering you the “lite” version, Opera Link, which lets you synchronize data across several computers, a slick new look with a resizable tab bar, and a BitTorrent-enabled download manager. See the full list of features here.



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Monday, November 23, 2009

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Miley Cyrus - 7 Things

I probably shouldn't say this
But at times I get so scared
When I think about the previous
Relationship we've shared

It was awesome but we lost it
It's not possible for me not to care
And now we're standing in the rain
But nothing's ever gonna change until you hear, my dear

The 7 things I hate about you

The 7 things I hate about you (oh you)
You're vain, your games, you're insecure
You love me, you like her
You make me laugh, you make me cry
I don't know which side to buy
Your friends they're jerks
And when you act like them, just know it hurts
I wanna be with the one I know
And the 7th thing I hate the most that you do
You make me love you

It's awkward and silent
As I wait for you to say
But what I need to hear now
Is your sincere apology
And when you mean it, I'll believe it
If you text it, I'll delete it
Let's be clear
Oh I'm not coming back
You're taking 7 steps here


And compared to all the great things
That would take too long to write
I probably should mention
The 7 that I like

The 7 things I like about you
Your hair, your eyes, your old Levi's
And when we kiss, I'm hypnotized
You make me laugh, you make me cry
But I guess that's both I'll have to buy
Your hand in mine
When we're intertwined everything's alright
I want to be
With the one I know
And the 7th thing I like the most that you do
You make me love you
You do (oh)

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Grappling with a wealth of guilt

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 20, 2009

Young heirs seek moral balance between inherited windfalls, social responsibilities


One night in Adams Morgan, the sons and daughters of lawyers and corporate executives padded into a friend's rowhouse for a kind of group therapy session about their families' wealth.

They are young people who have inherited or stand to inherit big money, and they are spending their post-college years living modestly and working to address the needs of the poor, hungry and politically disadvantaged. But the privilege they grew up with and the money coming their way nag at them in ways few people not in their position can fathom.

Burke Stansbury, 33, a nonprofit administrator who inherited $1 million in stock three years ago, opened up about how his newborn's breathing problems were forcing him to reconsider how much of his fortune he should use for his family and how much to give away.

"Those of us with wealth and progressive values resist the privilege and actually deny it because of this inequality that exists in society," said Stansbury, who has spent his time since college working for a nonprofit organization devoted to labor issues in Latin America.

"We're not going to accept that form of privilege," he said. "But when it comes to [my son's] health care, we're not going to mess around. You're going to take advantage of [the money]. It's a real blessing, but it's not fair."

The dinner in Adams Morgan was held at the home of a private school teacher who inherited $1.5 million. It was a rare chance for members of the Resource Generation, a nonprofit group whose 35-and-younger members devote themselves to philanthropic work for social justice, to talk about their guilt and their views on social inequalities without fear of eye-rolling from people who might view them as spoiled rich kids playing at helping the downtrodden.

"Can I share something on my mind?" asked Liz Goldberg, 25, a nonprofit development associate whose father is a partner at the consulting firm KPMG. "I have epilepsy, and I require certain things over the year. Most recently, it was an MRI, and I can't afford it on my own, so I am forced to rely on my parents. I think of myself as independent, but I am not able to reconcile that payment."

Janelle Treibitz, 28, a part-time waitress who performs with the Puppet Underground performance group, which raises money for grass-roots organizations, could relate.

"In Vermont [this year], I broke my finger and didn't have insurance," said Treibitz, whose father is chief executive of a Colorado company that designs visual presentations for court trials. "I got my X-ray and gave [the hospital] a fake name and walked out. Is that okay that I am doing that -- taking up resources because I am refusing to take money from my parents?"

Inspired and challenged

The young wealthy are keenly aware that there is little public sympathy for the moral doubts they struggle with. In a harsh economy, few people worry about the insecurities of heirs in their 20s and 30s who choose to work in social change philanthropy.

But these young people represent a huge amount of money, and some feel not only inspired but also challenged by the choices they face.

Since the late 1990s, after a Boston College study concluded that $41 trillion would be passed from one generation to the next over the first five decades of the 21st century, several banking and nonprofit organizations have initiated programs catering to the emotional and financial literacy needs of young heirs. (The tally of wealth that will be inherited has since risen to about $50 trillion, according to the college.)

This year, the Council on Foundations started a Next Generation task force to explore ways to support young philanthropists.

Washington's chapter of the Resource Generation, many of whose members work in the arts, education and other nonprofit groups, has forged connections by giving young heirs a place where they can divulge their insecurities. At the recent dinner, those who have not inherited their wealth grappled with their decisions to live a low-wage existence in Washington.

"I definitely feel like I am at war between my desires instilled in me to eat out at nice restaurants and my better sense and principles," Treibitz said in an interview. "If I make different choices when I am older, I hope to God they're coming out of principles. Everyone changes. My great-grandmother was a communist in her 20s and a total conservative in her 90s. I won't rule out anything."

The stratosphere of wealthy Americans of any age has shrunk in the past two years. The number of children of millionaires has decreased from 26 million in 2007 to 19 million, according to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College. The number of millionaire homes in which the head of household is 35 or under has also dropped, from about 370,000 in 2007 to about 250,000, according to the center.

Juggling ambivalence

For Stansbury, who works at the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, housed above a Mount Pleasant church, his $1 million inheritance at age 30 triggered crosscurrents of ambivalence.

He grew up in Seattle, the son of a lawyer and interior decorator, went to private school, played lacrosse and enrolled at Georgetown University. But he disliked the college's preppy scene, so he dropped out after a year and traveled around Mexico with a friend in an orange 1974 Volkswagen pop-top van.

"In Mexico, I saw really extreme poverty," said Stansbury, who lives in a $1,600-a-month one-bedroom basement apartment in Mount Pleasant with his partner, Krista Hanson, and their newborn, Lucas. "I saw deforestation. I saw more problems in the world than I saw in my private school. I saw an uprising in Chiapas of indigenous people -- corn farmers -- against trade policies, and I discovered solidarity activism."

When he returned, he transferred to the University of Montana. After graduating, he began working on behalf of Salvadorans. He was making $25,000 a year at the Solidarity Committee and now works there part time. At 30, he inherited $1 million in a trust set up by his grandfather, John G. Molz, who made his money in real estate and a wine business.

Stansbury has invested his inheritance in "socially responsible" mutual funds, he said, and monitors his investments closely.

When he learned that Costco was opening a store in Mexico that would entail cutting down trees and displacing a "sacred community, I put together an action at a shareholders meeting," he said. "They opened the store but made concessions. People were still upset, but the company clearly got the message."

At Resource Generation meetings, Stansbury vents about politics and critiques his inheritance, which he says perpetuates social inequalities and what he views as an insulated upper class. (He supports increasing estate and capital gains taxes.)

Life's complications

When Nigel Greaves joined Resource Generation, he found the members' hand-wringing about inherited money a bit much.

"The conversations were hard for me to hear at first," said Greaves, 32, a filmmaker who does not come from wealth but joined the group because he believes in its social change mission.

"This idea of guilt and not understanding or knowing what you can do with the money can be frustrating for someone who doesn't have a familiarity with the group. But I have more of an appreciation of that journey now."

But for those with money coming their way, the questions seem to get harder. Now that he has a child, Stansbury said he can no longer view his inheritance as a pot of money to be donated to causes. "We've just started thinking about it. I want to provide the best health care for Lucas, which is going to be a real need."

What about nannies and private school?

"I'd like to have my kids be exposed to more diversity, something less sheltered than where I went to school," said Stansbury, sitting in his living room and surrounded by books on subjects such as Karl Marx and the farm crisis in Mexico. "It depends on where we live."

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How to get local results on ShopSavvy

The most compelling feature about ShopSavvy is NOT the ability to scan a barcode, instead it is the ability to expose inventory and pricing information from local retailers.  In the Android version of ShopSavvy our standard screen had a Web tab and a Local tab that exposed the number of results for each.  If the user scans an item that we don’t have a local result for we show “0″ as the number of results.  Over the past year we have regretted this decision as users will email us letting us know they aren’t pleased we don’t have local results.  In our iPhone version we fixed this issue.

In the iPhone version of ShopSavvy if you scan an item WITHOUT local prices we simply show a tab that says “Prices”.  If we have local prices we show the two tabs, i.e. Web and Local price.  By not calling attention to the fact that we don’t have a local price for an item we don’t get many emails from annoyed users relative to local results.  Of course, in our world, not many is hundreds so I thought I would explain how to get local results on ShopSavvy.

Most new users (i.e. the vast majority of support emails) download ShopSavvy at their house and begin scanning items they already to own.  Many of these items are grocery related and we don’t cover groceries very well (read more here).  The rest are old books and DVDs – many of these are still available online, but they are no longer in local stores.  These ‘DEMO’ scans often yield poor results, a) the items are no longer sold in local stores, b) they are of groceries and c) the barcodes are hard to read.  We have received hundreds of negative ratings from these users even though they have never actually tried to use ShopSavvy to shop.  My advice?  Use ShopSavvy when you shop – you will be surprised how helpful ShopSavvy can be.

The reason ShopSavvy performs well in retail stores is fairly obvious.  First, the items sold in one retail store are likely sold in other retail stores – meaning we will have local inventory and price.  Major local retailers carry between 10,000 and 100,000 items – this is out of millions of items.  Second, the lighting in retail stores is often far better than the lighting in your house – this means scanning will be faster.  Third, the barcodes are almost always printed on flat surfaces – this means scanning will be faster.  Trying to scan items in your house means you are scanning items that might not be currently sold, might have hard to read barcodes and scanning in low light.  Before you give us a poor review or rating, please actually use ShopSavvy when you are shopping for Christmas.



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Saturday, November 21, 2009


thumbs up

A Balanced Assessment of the Criticisms of Engaging Social Media:

Determining the advantages and disadvantages of particular activities for people and organizations is an important task. Why else would education, books, think tanks, and presidential debates exist. I thought fleshing out my personal experience with the advantages and disadvantages might be instructive in determining “the truth” about social media, web 2.0, and blogging technologies.

Advantages of Social Media

• Democratization of media.
• Relationships and conversation.
• Creativity and re-mix culture.
• Embrace your passion and identity.
• Community, sharing, and connecting.
• Increase transparency in government and organizations.

Criticisms of Social Media

• Lots of great content still gets overlooked. Current lack of good filters creates problems finding the best content.
• Writers have problems delivering content consistently.
• Anonymity can engender polarization and hate.
• Information overload and social networking overload.
• Work/Life balance is hard to achieve.

As society and technology moves forward we stand at a watershed moment and history, so it is vitally necessary to stop and think about our societal trajectory. Thoughts? Did I miss an advantage or disadvantage?

How you can learn more or learn how to make your corporate blogging efforts more strategic and productive:

If you liked this post you might be interested in a more comprehensive criticism of social media which suggests that its a little early to drink the social media and web 2.0. Alternatively, if you want to strategically blog or productively use social media and web 2.0 tools which addresses many of these concerns, you should check here. Finally, the problems with the traditional social media agency.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media Part II: The Risk of a Web 2.0 Bubble

This presentation by Dave in January of 2008 outlines the economics and cultural stresses which might cause one to be wary of the web 2.0 wave, and as a very astute venture capital investor he ultimately concludes with a happy future for the world of Web 2.0:

Web 2.0 is Dead; Long Live Web 2.0!<div style="font-size:11px;font-family:tahoma,arial;height:26px;padding-top:2px;">View more presentations from Dave McClure.</div></div>

(image credit: pikkus)

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The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes



Humanity in Focus recently featured “The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes“:

This was 16 years ago, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Rio Summit, Earth Summit (or, in Portuguese, Eco ‘92), a major conference held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3 to June 14, 1992. the UN international Environmental Conference.

Did anybody listen?


(hat tip: technology health and development)

This is a great speech by Severn Suzuki to the United Nations. More recently she wrote a book called “Notes from Canadian Young Activists: A Generation Stands Up For Change” and spoke out on the issues of responsibility and social change in an interview with the Tyee in Canada:

There are … so many amazing things happening right now…..

I’ve met a couple of people lately who have a very interesting attitude. They [said], “How lucky are we? How exciting is this time? How lucky are we to be alive when the forces of good and evil are just so clear, when we’re undergoing such a massive time of shift and when our actions really, really matter, for good or for bad?”

This is a really unique period in history and it’s a time when an individual can have more impact than ever before in our human history because of the Internet, because of communication, because of how easily we can travel. … We really have to realize how empowered we can be, how much we actually matter.

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Top 50 downloads: music

Top 50 downloads:

1 Jay-Z - Run This Town Feat. Kanye Wes..
2 David Guetta - Sexy Bitch
3 Pitbull - Hotel Room Service
4 Teriyaki Boyz - Tokyo Drift (Fast & Furious)
5 Pussycat Dolls - Hush Hush
6 New Boyz - Tie Me Down
7 Beyonce - Sweet dreams
8 robbie williams - bodies.mp3
9 Rihanna - Te Amo
10 Green Day - 21 Guns
11 Pitbull - I Know You Want Me
12 Pitbull - Hotel Room Service
13 Linkin Park - In The End - Linkin Park
14 Black Eyed Peas - Boom Boom Pow
15 Paramore - Ignorance
16 Sean Pual - So Fine - LMP
17 Nelly Furtado - Manos Al Aire
18 cascada evacuate the danceflo..
19 Lenka - The Show
20 Usa For Africa - We Are The World
21 Dorrough - Ice Cream Paint Job
22 The Lonely Island - I'm On A Boat
23 Jay-Z Ft Rihanna & Kanye .. - Jay Z Ft Rihanna Kanye West R..
24 alexandra burke & flo rida - ..
25 Fabolous ft. The Dream - Throw It In The Bag
26 spankers sex on the beach
27 Linkin Park - In The End - Linkin Park
28 importiert - Pitbull - I Know You Want Me (
29 A.R. Rahman - Jai Ho
30 Lady Gaga - Paparazzi
31 Jay Sean - Down
32 Justin Bieber - Favorite girl
33 black eyed peas - i got feeli..
34 Muse - Uprising
35 Hoobastank - The Reason
36 Lily Allen - Fuck You
37 SIDEKICK - Deep Fear
38 Inna - Hot
39 Jeremih - Imma Star
40 Pitbull - Hotel Room Service
41 Taylor Swift - Love Story
42 Keri Hilson Ft Kanye West &am.. - Knock You Down
43 Jay-Z Feat. Kanye West and Ri.. - Run This Town
44 Shakira - Hips Don't Lie
45 WwW.BiG.aZ - Sean kingston - Face Drop
46 Shakira-She wolf
47 Jordin Sparks - Battlefield
48 MGMT - MGMT - Kids
49 Aerosmith - I Don't Want to Miss a Thing
50 Sean Kingston - Fire Burning The Dancefloor

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Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources


Buttons, whatever their purpose, are important design elements. They could be the end point of a Web form or a call to action. Designers have many reasons to style buttons, including to make them more attractive and to enhance usability. One of the most important reasons, though, is that standard buttons can easily be missed by users because they often look similar to elements in their operating system. Here, we present you several techniques and tutorials to help you learn how to style buttons using CSS. We’ll also address usability.

Links vs. buttons

Before we explain how to style buttons, let’s clear up a common misconception: buttons are not links. The main purpose of a link is to navigate between pages and views, whereas buttons allow you to perform an action (such as submit a form).

In one of his articles, Jakob Nielsen writes about command links, which are a blend of links and buttons. But he recommended that command links be limited to actions with minor consequences and to secondary commands. To learn more about primary and secondary commands (and actions), check out Primary and Secondary Actions in Web Forms by Luke Wroblewski. To learn more about the differences between links and buttons, read Creating Usable Links and Buttons at UXBooth.

Basic Styling

The simplest way to style links and buttons is to add background color, padding and borders. Below are examples of the code for the link, button and input (”Submit”) elements.

Sample button
<button class="button" id="save">Sample button</button>
<input class="button" value="Sample Button" type="submit" />
.button {
background-color: #dcdcdc;
border: 1px solid #666;

This simple code minimizes the visual differences between links and buttons. And here are the rendered examples of the code above:

Different Buttons in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

The important thing to note is that these three elements render differently with the same CSS. So, you should style these elements carefully to ensure consistency across your website or application.


Adding images to buttons can make the buttons more obvious. Sometimes the image itself clearly communicates the purpose of a button; e.g. a loupe icon for searching or a floppy disk icon for saving. The easiest way to add an image to a button is to use a background image and then position it accordingly. Below are our examples with a checkmark icon.

.button {
padding: 5px 5px 5px 25px;
border: 1px solid #666;
background: #dcdcdc url(icon.png) no-repeat scroll 5px center;

Different Buttons2 in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Button States

In addition to their default state, buttons and links can have two other states: hover and active (i.e. pressed). It is important that buttons appear different in different states so that users are clear about what is happening. Any element in a hover state can be styled by invoking the :hover CSS pseudo-class.

a:hover {

Though very important, the active state is rarely implemented on websites. By showing this state, you ensure that your buttons are responsive and send a visual cue to users that a button has been pressed. This is called isomorphic correspondence, and it is “the relationship between the appearance of a visual form and a comparable human behavior” (Luke Wroblewski, Site-Seeing). The article Pressed Button State With CSS elaborates on the importance of the active state.

a:active {

There is yet one more state, one that is seen when navigating with the keyboard: the focus state. When the user navigates to a button using the Tab key, it should change appearance, preferably to have the same appearance as the hover state.

a:focus {

The examples below shows the common way to style button states. The hover state is a bit lighter than the normal state, while the active state has an inverted gradient that simulates a pressed action. Although you need not limit yourself to this styling, it is a good place to start.

Button States in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

We should talk about how to handle the outline property for the :active and :focus states. Handling this property well is important for the experience of users who employ the keyboard as well as the mouse. In the article Better CSS Outline Suppression,” Patrick Lauke shows how buttons and links behave in different combinations of states and explains why the outline property should be invoked only with the :active state.

Apple in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

The blue “Buy now” button on has a slightly lighter background for the hover state and an inset style for active state. Even the main navigation button on Apple’s website implements all three states.

Tearoundapp in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Although it doesn’t implement the active state, this fancy button on Tea Round has a nice fading effect on hover.

Uxbooth Button in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

The “Read more” button on UX Booth turns green on hover and moves down one pixel in the active state, which simulates the effect of pressing a button.

Useful Reading

The article Rediscovering the Button Element shows the differences between links and buttons and explains how to style buttons easily.

Rediscover Button in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Styling Form Buttons covers the basics of styling buttons, with many examples.

Tyssendesign in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Beautiful CSS Buttons With Icon Set shows how to style buttons using background images. Although not scalable, these are really nice buttons.

Buttonnice in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Recreating the Button is a very good article that explains how Google ended up with the buttons that it uses on majority of its websites.

Stopdesign in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Scalable CSS Buttons Using PNG and Background Colors explains how to create really stunning buttons for all states. Although it uses jQuery, it degrades gracefully if JavaScript is turned off.

Monc in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Sliding Doors: Flexible Buttons

One important consideration needs to be made when styling buttons: scalability. Scalability in this context means being able to stretch a button to fit text and to reuse images. Unless you want to create a different image for each button, consider the “sliding doors” technique. This technique enables you to create scalable, rich buttons.

Sliding Doors in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

The principle involves making two images slide over each other, allowing the button to stretch to the content. Usually, this is done by nesting a span element within a link. As shown in the image above, each element has its own background image, allowing for the sliding effect. The two code snippets below show the structure and basic styling for this effect.

Typical sliding doors button
a {
background: transparent url('button_right.png') no-repeat scroll top right;
display: block;
float: left;
/* padding, margins and other styles here */
a span {
background: transparent url('button_left.png') no-repeat;
display: block;
/* padding, margins and other styles here */

The advantages of this technique are that it:

  • Is an easy way to create visually rich buttons;
  • Ensures accessibility, flexibility and scalability;
  • Requires no JavaScript;
  • Works in all major browsers.

Useful Reading

The “Sliding Doors of CSS” article on A List Apart (part 1 and part 2) covers the basics of this technique. Although a bit old, these articles are a must-read for every Web developer.

Alistapart in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Also a bit old, Creating Bulletproof Graphic Link Buttons With CSS is an excellent article that shows how to create bulletproof, resizable, shrunk-wrap buttons. Also a must-read.

456bereast in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Filament Group has a variety of excellent articles and tutorials. Its second article on CSS buttons, Styling the Button Element With CSS Sliding Doors,” explains how to create buttons by combining techniques. Although it doesn’t support the active state, it can be easily extended.

Filament in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

How to Make Sexy Buttons With CSS is one of the best and simplest explanations of the sliding doors technique. It also contains a little fix for the active state in Internet Explorer.

Oscaralexander in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

If you want Wii-like buttons, the article Simple Round CSS Links (Wii Buttons) provides all the necessary resources and explanation on how to style them.

Wii in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

The common way to achieve the CSS sliding doors technique is to use two images. However, the article CSS Sliding Door Using Only One Image shows that it is possible to achieve the same effect with only one image.

Kailoon in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

CSS Oval Buttons and CSS Square Buttons from Dynamic Drive are two other articles that show the effectiveness of CSS sliding doors.

Dynamicdrive in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

CSS Sprites: One Image, Not Many

With CSS Sprites, one image file contains multiple graphic elements, usually laid out in a grid. By tiling the image, we show only one Sprite at a time. For buttons, we can include graphics for all three states in a single file. This technique is efficient because it requires fewer resources and the page loads faster. We all know that many requests to the server for multiple small resources can take a long time. This is why CSS Sprites are so handy. They significantly reduces round-trips to the server. They are so powerful that some developers use CSS Sprites for all their graphics. The Holy Sprites round-up on CSS Tricks offers some very creative solutions.

The example below shows the simplest use of CSS Sprites. A single image contains graphics for all three button states. By adjusting the background-position property, we define the exact position of the background image we want. The image we’re choosing to show here corresponds to a background position of top: -30px and left: 0.

Sprites in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

a {
background: white url(buttons.png) 0px 0px no-repeat;
a:hover {
background-position: -30px 0px;
a:active {
background-position: -60px 0px;

For general information and resources on CSS Sprites, check out The Mystery of CSS Sprites: Techniques, Tools and Tutorials.”

Useful Reading

In this easy-to-follow tutorial How to Build a Simple Button with CSS Image Sprites,” Chris Spooner explains how to create a CSS Sprites image in Photoshop and use it with CSS.

Line25 in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Transforming the Button Element With Sliding Doors and Image Sprites shows how to enrich a button element with a combination of sliding doors and image Sprites. It implements the active state in a very interesting way, not by using different images or colors but rather by positioning.

CSS 3: Buttons Of The Future

CSS 3 allows us to create visually rich buttons with just a few lines of code. So far, this is the easiest way to create buttons. The downside of CSS 3 is that it is currently supported only by Firefox and Safari. The upside is that buttons styled with CSS 3 degrade gracefully in unsupported browsers. By using the browser-specific properties -moz-border-radius (for Firefox) or -webkit-border-radius (for Safari), you can define the radius of corners. Here are a few examples of what can be done with the border radius property.

Css3 Rounded in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

For better results, you can combine CSS 3 rounded corners with the background image property. The example below shows a typical button with a gradient image, the first without rounded corners, and the second with.

Rounded Corners in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Compared to sliding doors, this technique is far simpler. However, if you want to maintain visual consistency across all browsers, then use sliding doors, because it works in all major browsers, including IE6. To learn more about the capabilities of CSS 3, read CSS 3 Exciting Functions and Features: 30+ Useful Tutorials.” And here are a few good tutorials on styling buttons with CSS 3 features.

Useful Reading

Super Awesome Buttons With CSS 3 and RGBA shows the power of CSS 3 with rounded corners, Mozilla box shadows and RGBA, which is a color mode that adds alpha-blending to your favorite CSS properties. This is one of the best examples of CSS 3 buttons.

Zurb in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Create a CSS 3 Button That Degrades Nicely is a good example of CSS 3 buttons that degrade gracefully in browsers that don’t support CSS 3.

Stylizedweb in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Creating buttons without Images Using CSS 3 explains the drawbacks of using images for buttons and shows several options for creating image-less CSS 3 buttons.

Opera in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Emulating Google-Syle Buttons Using CSS 3 & dd_roundies JS is a fantastic article that shows how to create Google-like buttons. It goes even further and shows how to create the button pillbox commonly seen on Google pages.

Instant Tools: Are They Useful?

Tools exist for creating buttons, such as Easy Button and Menu Maker and My Cool Button, and for creating CSS Sprites, such as CSS Sprite Generator, but the question is, do they really help you create buttons that fit your needs. Although they are configurable and easy to use, your creativity and control over the results are limited, which makes for average-looking buttons. Using one-size-fits-all buttons is not a good idea.

The solution is to use Photoshop (or a free alternative) and the proven techniques described in this article. If you are a beginner with Photoshop, here are several excellent tutorials on creating amazing buttons.

If you don’t know where to start, iPhone-Like Button in Photoshop is the perfect choice. In only 10 to 15 minutes, you will be able to create the kind of buttons seen on the iPhone.

Iphone Button in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

How to Create a Slick and Clean Button in Photoshop is a very detailed tutorial that guides you through 30 simple steps and helps you learn the Photoshop basics. In addition, the article explains how to use these graphics in combination with HTML and CSS to create fully functional CSS buttons.

Sixrevisions in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Photoshop Button Maker is a fantastic tutorial from PSD Tuts that shows how to create fancy oval buttons (or badges).

Psdtuts in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Buttons And Usability: Instead Of Conclusion

The techniques described above can help you create stunning buttons. However, because they play a critical role in website usability, the buttons should meet some key principles:

  1. First consider the labeling. Always label buttons with the name of the action that the user is performing. And always make it a verb. A common mistake is to label buttons “Go” for various actions such as searching, sending email and saving. Labels should also be short and to the point; no need to clutter the user interface.
  2. As mentioned, include all button states (default, hover, active) to provide clear visual cues to the user as to what is happening. Button outlines should remain in the active state only.
  3. Clearly distinguish between primary and secondary actions. The most important action should be the most prominent. This is usually done by giving primary and secondary actions different colors.
  4. Pay close attention to consistency. Buttons should be consistent throughout a Web application, both visually and behavior-wise. Use CSS sliding doors for reused buttons or CSS 3 rounded corners to maintain consistency.
  5. Though obvious, we should note that the entire button area should be clickable.

The articles below provide even more usability guidelines and best practices for designing buttons.

Make Complete Button Surface Active and Enhance Usability is an in-depth article that shows mistakes in button design and that explains why the entire button surface should be clickable.

Uxpassion in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

Creating Usable Links and Buttons explains why users expect buttons sometimes and links other times. It also shows how to choose between the two elements.

Uxbooth in Designing CSS Buttons: Techniques and Resources

How to Design Buttons to Help Improve Usability explains some usability principles that should be considered when designing buttons. It covers the basics of icon usage, appearance, behavior, hierarchy and consistency.


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