Starbucks is trying to get a bit more hip on the social scene with the addition of a “Barista” badge to the popular location-based game Foursquare.

Foursquare has been the big buzz word lately in location-based games.  By checking-in at locations you visit, you unlock badges and get to see who else is at the same location as you.  Some businesses have already arranged promotions with Foursquare, but the biggest name yet becomes active today, and that would be the coffee mega-chain, Starbucks.

Starting today, after you check-in at five separate Starbucks, you will unlock the “Barista” badge.  For right now that is the only perk to the promotion, but there are some definite hints of more coming down the road according to The New York Times.  “This allows us to do things that are not just coupons,” said Chris Bruzzo, vice president for brand, content and online at Starbucks said. “You can expect us to be experimenting in this space,” he concluded.

Some of the possible future promotions mentioned include things such as invitations to special events, photo sharing or online reputation scores.

The problem we see with this particular promotions it the requirement to visit five locations.  This puts this badge firmly in the arena of badges that can only be unlocked by those in major cities.  For instance, there is one Starbucks in a 90-mile radius of the StarterTech offices.  Doesn’t appear any of us will be unlocking this one.

While this particular badge isn’t the exciting, it’s what it possibly foretells that is most interesting.  What other possible big name brands may sign up with the location service?

Categories: Social Networking   

When you’re an unemployed late night talk show host, what do you do with your time? Well, if you’re Conan O’Brien, you change the life of one Twitter user with the simple click of a button.

On February 24th, Conan O’Brien launched a Twitter account that he has been posting to once a day ever since.  The Tweets have all been extremely random, and mainly make fun of his unemployed status since he left The Tonight Show.

As his follower count grew past the 500,000 mark, there was an oddity in that he was not following any one back.  Around 4 PM EST on March 5th, Mr. O’Brien decided to change all that with just one Tweet:

I’ve decided to follow someone at random. She likes peanut butter and gummy dinosaurs. Sarah Killen, your life is about to change.

Before this Tweet, Ms. Killen had three followers, but as I write this she has 9,438 followers.  She has received a free Mac as a gift, been extended an offer for a wedding ring for pending nuptials, been interviewed by MTV and who knows what else.

Will her new found Twitter fame last?  Who knows.  So long as Conan O’Brien follows only her, she will stay in the spotlight, and it does make for a heck of a joke.

Congratulations Ms. Killen on your new Internet fame, and on your impending nuptials.

(In case you’re curious, Mr. O’Brien’s people reached out to Ms. Killen prior to the Tweet via MySpace to make sure she would be okay with this, but she didn’t believe it would actually happen … apparently he is a man of his word)

Categories: Social Networking, Twitter   

If there was ever any doubt that Twitter is beginning to play an important part in all of our lives, it was pretty much dispelled this week when the National Football League (NFL) unveiled its official Twitter hashtag for the Super Bowl.

Twitter has become the hub for conversation of current events, and the best way to track those conversations is via the use of hashtags.  You simply add something like “#topic” to your post (minus the quote marks), and then people can track that conversation via the search feature, or by clicking on the word to see a page of results about it.

One of the problems with hashtags has been the Twitter community coming up with a uniform tag for any given event.  You’ll see multiple tags going for an event like the Apple iPad launch, so some of the conversation may get lost.  With Super Bowl XLIV being this Sunday, the NFL decided that it would remove some of that confusion for you by launching the site Tag The Super Bowl where it unveiled the “official” hashtag of the game, #SB44.  (thankfully they didn’t go with #SBXLIV)

Tweets and images on Flickr that are tagged with #SB44 will appear on the tag page, so you’ll get some “official” NFL glory for your efforts.

While it seems a little silly at first, it makes some sense instead of everyone trying to get their own hashtag to be the one everyone adopts.

Categories: Social Networking, Twitter   

It seems that people just can’t get enough of Facebook and is logging into the site at the rate of 175 million per day.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that the site is now seeing 175 million users log in per day, and this is only counting people that visit the main site, not those also using the Facebook Connect log in service.  With 350 million registered accounts, the site is expected to have nearly half of all Internet users in the world logging into its site at least one a month some time this summer.

While the interview is full of interesting tidbits about the financial status of Facebook, it’s the numbers that matter, and its current growth rate is just astronomical as it has doubled in size from a year ago.  Unless there is some radical shift in the social media scene, it seems that no one will be able to catch up to Facebook at this point, and if it does choose to begin entering into other markets such as has been rumored, those sites that stand in its way could be in for a serious fight.  Twitter has withstood the status update attack, but could Foursquare stand up to a location check-in attack?

Only time will tell for sure, but it appears Facebook is going to be with us for quite some time to come.

Categories: Social Networking   

If you see anyone posting pictures of their “ex-girlfriend” on Facebook, don’t click the link … unless you want to be embarrass yourself.

All Facebook is reporting that a new worm is spreading around Facebook.  An image is posted of a woman in her underwear along with a note saying it is a picture of the person’s ex-girlfriend.  If you should happen to click on it you will end up posting it to your account as there is code embedded in the post that will activate your share feature.

It appears that the worm does no damage, nor steals any information, but it does end up embarrassing the heck out of you as your friends think you have suddenly lost your mind and decided to be low-class by posting pictures of your ex.

Just be careful of what you click on.  Sample photo below from All Facebook.

Categories: Facebook, Social Networking   

Do you remember MySpace?  Think back a year or so … yep, there it is in your memory.

MySpace was the king of the social networks for a while, but due to it being overrun by teenagers, fake accounts and horribly ugly profile pages, it lost a lot of its cache with people once Facebook launched to the general public.  While the site still exists, and is popular with some folks still, admitting you still have a MySpace account is akin to committing social media suicide.

I fully admit I still have my account … but I have no clue when I last logged into it.

This is the idea behind the latest cartoon from SuperNews! … poor little MySpace guy …

Categories: Social Networking   

Are you with COCO?

An image that says “I’m With COCO” is quickly over taking Facebook, and in case you don’t know what it’s about, it is an image to show your support for Conan O’Brien in his current dispute with NBC over the announcement his time slot would be given to Jay Leno.  (You can click the image to the right for a full-sized version of it that you can use as you see fit)

The online movement to express displeasure with NBC over the company’s treatment of the recently installed host of The Tonight Show has been an interesting study in the power of social media.  Most online polls are showing 83% of respondents back Conan O’Brien in all of this craziness, and the online movement only seems to be picking up momentum to the point that NBC is going to have no choice but to actually pay attention to it.

It is by no means the most important story in the world right now, but it is an interesting example of how social media can so rapidly react to a rapidly developing story.  With each new bit of info, the news is spreading rapidly and O’Brien fans are reacting quickly to how thet best help the late night host they have opted to back.

So, if you’re on the team, check out the original I’m With COCO page and show your support for the man with the funny hair.

Categories: Facebook, Social Networking   

drew careyHave you followed Drew Carey on Twitter yet like we suggested to you back in October?  If not, why haven’t you?

Back in October of this year we wrote up how Drew Carey was working to drum up charity donations for the Livestrong Foundation to further cancer research.  At that time he was aiming to raise $100,000 by getting 100,000 followers.  Well, he reached that goal, so he upped it to $1,000,000 for 1,000,000 followers and … well … here is some of what I wrote on my personal blog:

This was all inspired by Drew Olanoff, a well-known individual in the social media scene, auction off his Twitter username, @drew, to raise money for cancer research.  Mr. Olanoff recently had a fight with cancer himself, which it thankfully appears he has won, and he felt auctioning off a desirable four-letter Twitter username was a way to go.  His minimum bid was $10,000, but Drew Carey was the first to bid, and he went right for $25,000.  See, Mr. Carey got stuck with the username@DrewFromTV, so of course he wants @drew.  Well, the problem was that it appeared he scared off other potential bidders, so he said if he had 100,000 followers by Nov. 9th, the end of the auction, he would pay $100,000 for the name.  When he easily beat that goal, he extended it to Dec. 31st and $1,000,000 for one million followers.

As I write this, Mr. Carey is at 307,212 followers with a week to go.

… what is wrong with you people?

That was a few days ago, and with less than 48 hours to go, he is up to just over 320,000.

Please folks, please go and follow Mr. Carey.  He doesn’t care if you unfollow him on Jan. 1st, all he is doing is trying to raise awareness of cancer research and to peg his donation to something.  As I also said on my personal blog:

I normally don’t believe in guilting people in to doing things, but come on folks: You click a button, and someone else gives a $1 to charity.  All you have to do is click a button.  That’s it.  Nothing else is required of you.  If you’re a Twitter user, please do it.

It is so simple, and as I said, you just click a button, and someone else donates the dollar.  Just follow the man!

And if you think this deviates from the normal tone of StarterTech, it does somewhat, but it is also about the power of social media to affect change in the world and … oh, forget it, just go follow the man … please.  Again, it is @DrewFromTV, just click the “Follow” button and you’re done!

Categories: Social Networking, Twitter   

blippySocial media can be a wonderful tool when used correctly, but then someone has to come along with an idea that is so outrageously silly that you have to wonder if we have all lost our minds.

Blippy is a new service currently in private beta that allows you to enter your credit card number and then every time you use that card it shares a message with your friends about where you used your card and how much you spent.  With services such as Amazon, iTunes and Zappos, it will even tell them what exactly you bought.  Your friends can then leave you comments about your purchases.

… What sort of illicit drugs were the people behind this site taking when they came up with this concept?

Social media, as we are told ad nauseam, is all about sharing information with one another and having conversations.  Fine, no problem with that.  However, the idea of letting a third-party service into my wallet, and then allowing the information from that sharing to go out even further to my friends is just beyond the scope of over sharing.

And what about the day you forget your card information and you accidentally purchase something you really don’t want the world to see?  MG Siegler of TechCrunch interviewed Blippy founder Philip Kaplan about the service, and Mr. Kaplan even suggested you have a “social” credit card and a “private” credit card.  You would only use the social card when you wanted your friends to see what you were buying, and you use your private card, which is not connected to Blippy, when you buy things you don’t want to share.  I have a better idea, how about Blippy simply doesn’t exist?

It’s easy to get caught up in all of the hyperbole that surrounds social media, and we only write up this story because we want to make sure you don’t get involved with sites such as this.  It looks all shiny and exciting, but this is simply a bad idea from the ground up.  There are zero redeeming qualities to this site.  Period.  My good friend Steven Hodson wrote up similar views over at Shooting at Bubbles, and you can hear Steven and I discuss it on the CobWEBs podcast from last night.  (warning, the podcast has rough language)

Just say no to services like this folks, it is just a bad idea no matter how you look at it.


Categories: Shopping, Social Networking   

facebook logoApparently it is no longer just potential employers looking into your social networking accounts for incriminating evidence of your wild ways, now it’s also insurance companies.

CBC News is reporting that 29-year-old Nathalie Blanchard is currently on extended medical leave from her job at IBM in Bromont, Quebec for major depression.  During this time she has been receiving monthly sick-leave benefits from Manulife, but those ended this fall.  The reason?  She posted happy looking vacation pictures on Facebook.

Here are the details from the CBC:

When Blanchard called Manulife, the company said that “I’m available to work, because of Facebook,” she told CBC News this week.

She said her insurance agent described several pictures Blanchard posted on the popular social networking site, including ones showing her having a good time at a Chippendales bar show, at her birthday party and on a sun holiday — evidence that she is no longer depressed, Manulife said.

Blanchard said she notified Manulife that she was taking a trip, and she’s shocked the company would investigate her in such a manner and interpret her photos that way.

“In the moment I’m happy, but before and after I have the same problems” as before, she said.

Blanchard said that on her doctor’s advice, she tried to have fun, including nights out at her local bar with friends and short getaways to sun destinations, as a way to forget her problems.

While we aren’t medical experts around here, making a medical decision based on how someone’s mental state is by how they appear in a few pictures seems a bit extreme to us.  Ms. Blanchard is being sent to a doctor for more tests and to see about getting her benefits reinstated.

However, it really isn’t so much Ms. Blanchard we are writing about here, but once again showing an example of how you need to be selective in what you put online about yourself.  if even insurance companies are going to start checking social networking profiles, which Manulife has admitted they do, are there things you want your insurance company seeing?  What if you post a picture of you holding a cigarette or cigar, even in jest?  They could cancel your policy under the belief you have taken up smoking, or raise your premiums based on you with holding information from them.

The cons of sharing personal photos on sites such as Facebook just seem to greatly outweigh the pros. Sure you can always mark your images as private, but in Ms. Blanchard’s case, her images were marked as private and yet when she called the insurance company they described the images to her shot-for-shot.

There are exactly 7 pictures online that show my face.  Four of those are from professional networking events, one is a profile picture for articles I write, one is me at the JFK Presidential museum and one is of me on vacation having lunch in a German brewpub in Boston.  That is it.  While I post pictures on sites such as Flickr, they are images of scenery or events but there are certainly no pictures of me doing anything that could harm my reputation or be taken as showing weak moral character and so on.  There is nothing wrong with taking those types of pictures, but do you really want them getting out to the world?

No matter if you set images to private, my opinion has always been that once you place an image anywhere on the Internet, you might as well suspect that it will get anywhere eventually.  I recently viewed the Facebook pictures of a friend of mine who is well respected in her profession, deals with clients and so on, and to be honest I couldn’t believe the pictures she chose to put on her account.  Drinking, hanging on people, compromising positions and so on, and all I could think of was “wait until her professional colleagues see these, and they will.”

By no means should I be construed as a prude, but I think there is a time and a place for those types of images, and putting them on social networks just never seems like the right idea to me, especially if you rely on insurance or are trying to get a job.

Categories: Facebook, Social Networking   
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