Google has been getting a lot of press lately for the development of its new social venture – Google+. But the beastly company has been dipping its toes in other waters, too, including an online contest site. This is thanks to its acquisition of Slide, a social gaming company, and the reason the new site doesn’t really look like it belongs to Google.

Prizes.org launched this past weekend, and can best be describes as a social contest website. Basically, users create contests that involve solving some sort of problem, like answering a question or completing a particular task. The user then awards the best answer a cash prize that typically ranges from about $10-$50. The contests can be anything from naming a new restaurant or answering what the best dog food brand is.

You may remember Slide from the creation of Disco, another Google creation that lacks the Google look and feel. Disco is a group chat app for iPhone and Andriod.

So what do you think? Will you pay someone to help name your startup or to give you advice about the best vacation spot? Or will you be more the type of person to answer questions in hopes of winning the prize? Although I can’t see myself creating any contests, you might find me answering a question or two.

July 5, 2011 · Posted by in misc, social media, web  

When you think back to your grade school education, you probably have memories of large science books or overheads. Well, gone are the days of overhead projectors, now replaced by smartboards. And apparently, those hefty science books may be a thing of the past, too. McGraw-Hill just announced it’s first all-digital textbook for K-12. Sure, they want to turn around the trend of schools spending less on books these days, but it’s a smart move for kids whose lives are increasingly more digital.

If you give a child the option to read a chapter from a big biology textbook or read an ebook with animated video clips, I have the sneaking suspicion that the child would choose the digital option. There’s even the option to have digital conversations right alongside the text, similar to what the kids are accustomed to with Facebook. Polly Stansell, director of product development for McGraw-Hill, says, “We’re trying to meet students and teachers where they’re at digitally.”

A lesson from one of McGraw-Hill's digital textbooks, via Mashable

Now, this sounds really smart. Allowing students the chance to learn digitally since they live their lives digitally seems like a natural progression, right? But is there a negative side effect of being in front of a computer screen all day? Are we creating learners who are better multi-taskers or stimulus-addicts?

According to CNN, our digital lives may be giving us “popcorn brain.” Rather than choosing to spend time outside or enjoying a few moments with their children, people are choosing digital stimulus. Experts are speculating that our brains are now so used to the constant stimulation of digital multitasking that we basically can’t live functional lives offline. Normal life just moves too slowly for our digitally-addicted brains.

Why does this happen? Our brains are wired to like the fast-paced nature of technology. We feed off of the instantaneousness. In fact, being online stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain. So it’s no wonder we’re drawn to this digital lifestyle. However, if this “popcorn brain” goes on long enough, it can cause a physical change in our brains. Those who spend too much time online have less gray matter – the thinking part of the brain. That’s a serious issue. To cope, set time limits for your online life or reserve time in the evening that you’ll stay away from technology.

So what do you think? Is digital learning for students a good progression, or are we setting young people up for “popcorn brain” issues? Share your thoughts in the comments!

June 28, 2011 · Posted by in misc, web  

I remember going to the Book Fair in grade school to buy the Harry Potter books. Those little paperbacks got quite the beating, as they went everywhere with me until they were finished. I’ve grown up reading the books and watching the movies… so you can imagine how thrilled I was to see the upcoming (and final!) movie’s trailer just a few days ago.

In case you were wondering, I’m fully aware of how nerdy that makes me. And no, I’m not ashamed. (Okay, maybe just a little…)

Pottermore Website

But back to the point. This trailer led me to find out about Pottermore. Potter-what? My thoughts exactly. It could be, well, anything. Speculation includes an online game, new fan site or online encyclopedia about the popular wizard.

Now, normally I would find the lack of information irritating, but I’m sucked in. Perhaps it’s my love for everything Potter (want to take a guess at what I dressed up as for Halloween?), or maybe it’s the very intriguing campaign.

Pottermore Twitter. Location from the first tweet take users to a secret street view.

The coordinates take you to this street view spot.

Wait, wait! I saved the best for last. Owls have taken over a special YouTube page, and they’ve been gathering for days. Seriously. When I checked just a few days ago, there were only three owls or so.

Owls gather on the YouTube page, as a countdown for the announcement ticks on.

Okay, so maybe you’re not quite the Potter enthusiast I am, but you must admit, this does make you wonder what on Earth this announcement – and website – could be. My vote? An online game. But we’ll just have to wait and see, I guess!

June 21, 2011 · Posted by in branding, event, misc, social media, web  

When you think about Facebook, you think about your college friend’s status update about his new car or the Girl’s Night event or your old co-worker’s new baby photos. And if I’m doing my job correctly, you’re thinking about a brand because you really love their products… or they’re running a contest that you’re dying to win.

It’s just a guess, but one of the last things you’re thinking about is creating a constitution. On Facebook? You’ve got that right. That’s exactly what they’re doing in Iceland, and I have to admit, it’s a pretty genius way to make decisions for very large groups. Okay, maybe Facebook isn’t the most appropriate place, but the recommendations are flowing on in.

The 25-member council who is drafting the new constitution is actively crowdsourcing information for the updated document – from livestock treatment to natural resources. And Facebook isn’t the only social application being used to gather information. The council is also seeking out recommendations on Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

A site dedicated to the creation of the new constitution says, “In this way the Constitutional Council [emphasizes] an open communication with the Icelandic nation and has given the people an opportunity to participate in the formation of a new Constitution of the Republic of Iceland. The Council’s work can also be seen on the major communicative media such as Facebook, Youtube and Flickr. Every day short interviews with delegates are put on Youtube and Facebook.”

As reported on SmartPlanet, Thorvaldur Gylfason, a member of the Constitutional council, said, “The public sees the constitution come into being before their eyes. This is very different from old times where constitution makers sometimes found it better to find themselves a remote spot out of sight, out of touch.

This brings a whole new meaning to the idea of “by the people, for the people.”

June 14, 2011 · Posted by in misc, social media  

NOH8 in MKE

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Z2 is very proud to announce that NOH8 (“No Hate”) will be in Milwaukee on Friday, August 12 at InterContinental Milwaukee from 4 – 8 pm.

What is NOH8? “The NOH8 Campaign is a photographic silent protest created by celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley in direct response to the passage of Proposition 8. Photos feature subjects with duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Prop 8 and similar legislation around the world, with “NOH8″ painted on one cheek in protest.”

How do I get my picture taken? The photo shoot at InterContinental Milwaukee on Friday, August 12 is scheduled to begin at 4pm and end at 8pm. The photos are taken on a first come, first serve basis, but we assure you that the wait will be worth it! When you get there, you’ll receive a model release to fill out and then you’ll get a NOH8 temporary tattoo. You’re asked to wear a plain white tee to match the signature look of the campaign, and after the photos have been retouched, they’ll be made available on website, usually in 4-8 weeks.

What does it cost? The cost for the NOH8 portraits are $40 for a solo portrait and $25 per person for couple and group portraits. You can pay with cash, credit and checks. “Funds raised by the NOH8 Campaign will be used to continue promoting and raising awareness for marriage equality and anti-discrimination through NOH8′s interactive media campaign.”

We’re so excited that InterContinental Milwaukee is going to be hosting this event. We look forward to seeing you there!

June 7, 2011 · Posted by in event, misc, photo  

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