MySpace outlines makeover after executive shake-up

Long ago lapped by Facebook in popularity and with fast-growing Twitter on its tail, social networking site MySpace is planning a series of updates over the next months that will link its users’ posts to those sites more easily and carve out its niche as an entertainment hub more clearly, reports the Associated Press. The changes were unveiled by co-presidents Jason Hirschhorn, 38, and Mike Jones, 34, this week following the abrupt departure of CEO Owen Van Natta in February after just 10 months on the job. The two remaining executives acknowledged that change has been slow coming to the site, and critics have often cited its clunkiness compared to Facebook. MySpace’s monthly visitors declined 7 percent in January from a year ago to 120 million worldwide, compared with Facebook’s 471 million visitors, a 100 percent increase, according to internet tracker comScore Inc. Hirschhorn said MySpace needs to be more uniquely focused on the 14 million musicians who put songs and videos on the site and how fans interact with them, and it will give more control to artists over their profiles. The site also will open up its platform for games more widely and reward users who act as evangelizers of content. Refocusing its gaze on the core 13-34 age group that represents more than half of its visitors and 84 percent of all time spent on the site, MySpace also will add a better, smarter “stream” that allows users to see more of what their friends are doing in a central location, as well as a “Super Post” update bar that allows users to post links, videos, and updates to MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter all at once…

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Facebook group urges Rutgers to reconsider internet speed cap

In just three weeks, more than 1,000 Rutgers students banded together on a Facebook group to protest a new speed cap on the university’s residential internet network, reports the Daily Targum. Implemented at the start of the spring semester, the new speed cap for downloading and uploading is set to a maximum of 1.5 megabits per second and 768 kilobits per second, respectively. School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Kevin Song created the group, called “Rutgers Students for Faster Internet.” Song established the group to convince the school’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) to change the new policy to something more satisfactory. Before, the residential network had a bandwidth limit but no speed cap. OIT Director Frank Reda said numerous complaints from students and faculty prompted the university’s decision to remove the download limit when their internet privileges were suspended after exceeding the limit. “Providing uniform, uninterrupted internet access to all students is a fair solution. Now, no student will have coursework impacted by suspension of internet connectivity,” he said. “The only potential con is that peak transmission speeds are slower than previously available.” The new policy has affected students in different ways. “I used to have video chats with my family back home,” sophomore John Campagnone said. “But with the [new] speed cap, the video quality is horrible, and I can’t really see them.” But Reda said the speed caps should not affect network resources on campus, or internal university web sites such as Sakai and school eMail accounts…

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Google tweaks Buzz social hub after privacy woes

As it introduced a new social hub, Google quickly learned that people’s most frequent e-mail contacts are not necessarily their best friends, the Associated Press reports. Rather, they could be business associates, or even lovers, and the groups don’t necessarily mix well. It’s one reason many people keep those worlds separate by using Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for professional contacts, or by keeping some people completely off either social circle despite frequent e-mails with them. Google Inc. drew privacy complaints this week when it introduced Buzz and automatically created circles of friends based on users’ most frequent contacts on Gmail. Just days later, Google responded by giving users more control over what others see about them. Google introduced Buzz on Tuesday as part of its existing Gmail service. The service includes many of the features that have turned Facebook into the Web’s top spot for fraternizing with friends and family. Like Facebook, Buzz lets Gmail users post updates about what they are doing or thinking. Gmail users can also track other people’s updates and instantly comment on them for everyone else in the social circle to see. But while Facebook requires both sides to confirm that they are friends before making that relationship public, Google automatically does so by analyzing how often they’ve communicated in the past. Those frequent contacts become part of the circle of people you follow and who follow you.

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Google’s eMail gets social in Facebook face-off

Google Inc. opened a new social hub in its e-mail service on Tuesday, leaving little doubt that the Internet search leader is girding for a face-off with Facebook, reports the Associated Press. The new Gmail channel, called Google Buzz, includes many of the features that have turned Facebook into the Web’s top spot for fraternizing with friends and family. It comes less than a week after Facebook made changes of its own. Among other things, Facebook now shows a list of friends available for chatting on the left side of the page, similar to where Gmail now displays its chat feature. The Google Buzz features won’t reach all of Gmail’s estimated 176 million users worldwide for several more days. A link to the service will appear on the top left of the page, in a prominent position just under Gmail’s inbox tab…

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Students create site for college journalists to talk about the craft

Two young entrepreneurs have launched an online community where college journalists are sharing ideas on technology, leadership, news judgment, and content, Poynter.org reports. Kelsey A. Schnell and Brandon Martinez built CollegeNewsroom.org in Big Rapids, Mich., the home of Ferris State University. So far, students from about 30 colleges have joined. Schnell, creative developer for CollegeNewsroom.org, is editor-in-chief of the Ferris State Torch. Martinez is web editor for CollegeNewsroom.org and the Torch, which are independent of each other. CollegeNewsroom.org, which launched in November, has featured discussions about college editors’ use of Twitter and, within days of its launch, the iPad. Posts about whether college papers should print the n-word and whether it is OK to take a reporter’s byline off a poorly written story have made for some lively discussions on the site. Other posts include information on how to come up with catchy headlines and how to retain and motivate staff

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Charges of internet censorship could harm U.S.-China relations

The Chinese Foreign Ministry lashed out Jan. 22 against a speech on internet censorship made the previous day by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, calling on the United States government “to respect the truth and to stop using the so-called internet freedom question to level baseless accusations,” reports the New York Times. Ma Zhaoxu, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a written statement that the criticism leveled by Mrs. Clinton was “harmful to Sino-American relations.” The statement signaled that China was ready to wrestle politically with the United States in the debate over internet censorship. The debate was brought to the fore in China last week when Google announced it might shut down its Chinese-language search engine, Google.cn, and curtail its other operations in mainland China if Chinese officials did not back down from requiring Google to censor search results. Until now, the Chinese government had been trying to frame the dispute with Google as a commercial matter, but in the aftermath of Mrs. Clinton’s speech, that attitude could be changing. Mrs. Clinton pointedly said that “a new information curtain is descending across much of the world” and identified China as one of a handful of countries that had stepped up internet censorship in the past year. Her speech was the first by a senior American official that put forward internet freedom as a plank of American foreign policy…

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U.S. government posting wealth of data online

In a move that could benefit researchers and consumers alike, the Obama administration is posting to the internet a wealth of government data from all Cabinet-level departments on topics ranging from child car seats to Medicare services, reports the Associated Press. The mountain of newly available information comes a year and a day after President Obama promised on his first full day on the job an open, transparent government. Under a Dec. 8 White House directive, each department must post online at least three collections of “high-value” government data that never have been previously disclosed. The Transportation Department will post ratings for 2,400 lines of tires for consumer safety based on tire tread wear, traction performance, and temperature resistance. The Labor Department will release the names of 80,000 workplaces where injuries and illness have occurred over the past 10 years. A Medicare database that previously was available for a fee of $100 on CD-ROM now can be downloaded free of charge, providing detailed breakdowns of payments for Medicare services. The Medicare data will be sortable by the type of medical service provided. “We’re democratizing data,” White House Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra said in an interview…

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Colleges increasingly use social media to interact

Social media accounts are becoming as common as work e-mail for admission counselors at Evangel University. They now have work accounts on Facebook where they converse with future students. “(The students) don’t return a phone call but respond to a Facebook message,” said Jeff Burnett, director of admissions at Evangel. As students and society change the way they communicate, universities and colleges in Springfield are building a presence on sites like Facebook or Twitter, where they believe their constituents are hanging out. “People are communicating in so many ways that you try to do the best you can with all of them,” said Joel Doepker, spokesman for the Ozarks Technical Community College. “We want to hit them all.”

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Verizon Wireless ups data charges to raise revenue

Reuters reports that Verizon Wireless said on Jan. 15 that the company is raising its prices for data services like mobile web surfing to increase revenue and profits. The venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc said that instead of a $19.99 service plan for 75 megabytes of data downloads, it will now offer a $9.99 per month plan which caps data use at 25 megabytes of downloads. The company also announced an unlimited talking and text, video and picture messaging plan for $89.99 a month. The move comes as Verizon and its rivals look for ways to ease pressure on their data networks as the growing popularity of Internet capable phones increases demands on data services…

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Haiti text donations to Red Cross pass $5M

U.S. cell phone users have contributed more than $5 million in $10 increments to the Red Cross for Haiti disaster relief, by far the largest outpouring of support via mobile devices in history, reports the Associated Press. The response to the devastating earthquake produced the highest amount of mobile donations “that we have ever seen,” said Jenifer Snyder, executive director of mGive Foundation, the nonprofit group that is working with the Red Cross and wireless carriers to channel the donations. To donate to the Red Cross, mobile users are texting the word “Haiti” to the number 90999. Snyder said the money is coming in at a rate of roughly $200,000 an hour. As of Thursday afternoon, people had donated $5.1 million. “We could be handling more,” she said. “We are not at capacity.” Red Cross spokesman Roger Lowe called the outpouring of $10 donations by hundreds of thousands of mobile users “nothing short of awe-inspiring.” But he said the largest donations the organization is getting is still coming in online…

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