Magic Piano Viral Video Is Fake, Say Redditors

 

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Reddit users are claiming that a viral Christmas video that appears to show passers-by interacting with a remote controlled piano is fake — in that the passers-by are played by actors.

The YouTube account RobBlissCreative uploaded a video called "Chicago's Magical Piano" earlier Thursday, earning more than 200,000 views. The video, supposedly sponsored by Amtrak, captures travelers in Chicago's Union Station playing with a remote-controlled piano, dancing and performing duets.

About two hours after it was shared on Reddit, a user named schwagro claimed in the comments that the video was fake. Schwagro posted a link to a notice about an Amtrak casting call for a video in Chicago's Union Station with a "magical piano around Christmastime that seems to be truly alive." Read more...

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Cartoon-Yourself App Bitstrips Secures First Funding Round

 

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Bitstrips is used to writing its users stories, so now it's working on writing its own

Bitstrips, the app that allows users to create cartoon versions of themselves to share on social media, announced new funding, new user metrics and a new blog on Thursday. All are steps toward generating long-term stability that can be fleeting for companies that grew to fame as desktop-only Facebook apps

The Series A funding round is a relatively small one from a big-name investor. Bitstrips took $3 million from Horizons Ventures in Hong Kong, a round led by Li Ka-Shing, Asia's richest man Read more...

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Instagram Direct Messaging: What's In It for Brands

 

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Whenever Facebook or Instagram introduce a product these days, there is an assumption that the monetization scheme can't be too far behind. But for Instagram Direct, a new set of private and group messaging features unveiled at a press event Thursday morning, making money off the feature may not be the ultimate goal.

A source familiar with Instagram's thinking told Mashable that the company isn't considering or even discussing the idea of bringing ads to Instagram Direct. Instead, Instagram is focused on testing and rolling out the sponsored posts that it debuted early last month.

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So Your Ad Went Viral — Big Deal!

 

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Most brands would be thrilled to have a viral video. Kmart had three in 2013

It all started back in April when "Ship My Pants," an ad featuring that double-entendre uttered a dozen times in 30 seconds, went viral, ultimately netting 20 million YouTube views by year's end

The brand followed that with "Big Gas Savings," another ad based on a mildly naughty double entendre, that is now at 6 million views. Finally, there was "Show Your Joe," a holiday-themed ad that featured men playing "Jingle Bells" with their privates. That brought in another 15 million views, getting Kmart's out to millions in social media. Read more...

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Conan, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart Take a Lift with Lyft

 

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There's nothing intrinsically hilarious about catching a ride with Lyft, the peer-to-peer rideshare service and Uber competitor — except when the passengers are Conan O'Brien, comedian Kevin Hart and Ice Cube.

The unlikely trio took a ride with an unsuspecting Lyft driver, who fielded questions about where to find weed, whether the passengers have ever had sex in the car and whether he would take sex as payment for the ride. (Answer: Sure.) The three then stop at a 7-Eleven to pick up a few 40 oz. beers, Swisher Sweet cigars and lottery tickets. When Conan gets out, Cube, Hart and the driver discuss how they feel about him. (The consensus: His jeans are too tight.) Read more...

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Final Print Edition of 'The Onion' Gets the Last Laugh

 

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The Onion’s last print edition couldn’t have happened any other way.

The Chicago-based satirical new outlet announced last month that it would cease offering a print edition, opting instead to go digital only.

Its last issue, which The Onion posted to its Tumblr on Thursday, speaks for itself. Although it does hit a little close to home

The OnionHave something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Read more...

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How Coinbase Became the Top-Funded Bitcoin Startup

 

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Less than two years ago, Brian Armstrong had to struggle just to explain the idea of Bitcoin to investors. On Thursday, his startup announced that it had raised what may be the largest funding round to date in the Bitcoin space.

Coinbase, a startup that provides a digital wallet for Bitcoin transactions, revealed that it has raised $25 million in a Series B funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz, the VC firm founded by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen. The funding is seen as another vote of confidence for the Bitcoin startup space from one of the most influential venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. But it's also a testament to the vision that Armstrong and his team had early on Read more...

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Shopify Raises $100 Million to Tackle Offline Commerce

 

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Shopify, an ecommerce platform that helps small merchants set up stores online, announced Thursday that it has raised $100 million in a Series C round of funding to expand into the world of offline retail

Seven years after launching, Shopify now serves as a platform for 80,000 active online stores, which collectively have processed more than $1.5 billion in payments in the year to date. Revenues and customers have doubled year-over-year for the past four years, according to the company. But it's another statistic that is driving the company's direction now: Shopify has found that 30% of its merchants sell items offline as well through pop-up shops, farmers markets and other options. Read more...

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YouTube's 10 Most-Viewed Ads of 2013

 

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As the people behind the KONY 2012 video know, it's not easy to come up with a sequel to a hugely viral video.

Yet Evian managed to do that this year with "Baby & Me," a continuation of the theme started in its hugely successful "Roller Babies" ad from 2009. Perhaps the trick was to hew to the same idea, but expand upon it. Or maybe people just like babies.

You can go crazy trying to figure out why some of the videos on YouTube's most-viewed ads of 2013 list took off. For example, why were people so jazzed about a woman talking about poo? Another mystery is why this list looks so different from Unruly's most-shared ads of 2013. Are people viewing these ads but not sharing them? Read more...

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Nevermind Amazon's Drones, Groupon Has Catapults

 

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While Amazon is talking up package drone delivery, Groupon is getting medieval on your ass.

The company is reaching back to the days of King Arthur for its latest innovation: catapults. If you see one in 2014, don't assume that you're about to get hit with a flaming bale of hay or a cauldron of oil. It may just be that package you ordered.

In all seriousness, the internal video was designed merely for a holiday season chuckle for Groupon employees. Still, not a bad idea if you happen to live within 50 yards or so of a Groupon distribution center Read more...

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4 Tips for Getting Press Coverage

 

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At small businesses both old and new, many hats are worn behind the scenes. Press outreach is handled by an owner or manager rather than being outsourced to an experienced firm. To complicate things, PR strategies vary based on location and industry — choosing the best media outlet to approach is just half the battle. It's no surprise many small businesses find themselves in the dark

But, getting press has powerful potential — the chance to get your product or service in front of people who may not only like it, but need it. Being coy with your offerings isn't only bad for business; it's unfair to people in your market who may be hoping to find something just like you Read more...

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3 Things to Consider Before Launching a New Product

 

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Whether you're launching a product for the first time or revealing a new collection, the process of getting the word out and driving conversion can be intimidating and overwhelming. Once you consider naming your product, financing, manufacturing and marketing, the prospect of launching a new product can create stress for even the most level-headed and accomplished entrepreneur

Below, we outline a few tips from industry experts about the important factors to bring into focus before launching a new product

1. Determine What Customers Want

This may seem basic, but before you go through the trouble of developing and launching a new product, you should do considerable research to ensure that there is a place for your product in the market. You might have a revolutionary and awe-inspiring product in mind, but if no one is willing to pony up the cash for it, you're out of luck (and you've wasted the time and money you spent investing in your idea) Read more...

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You'll Make More Money If You Can Code

 

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Being able to learn marketable digital skills is sluggish and difficult — or so they say.

Adda Birnir noticed a gender divide between a media company's business and technical side (read: men) versus the editorial side (read: women). She created online tech education platform Skillcrush to give women a way to learn marketable skills that could lead to steady, high-paying jobs and relevant, satisfying work.

The five-year-old company teaches digital skills: We're talking about technical jargon, coding, building a website and understanding user experience. You do so by signing up for classes that are designed to be fun and done on your own time. But that wasn't always the format for Skillcrush. Read more...

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The Doctor Will See You Now — On Your Cellphone

 

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Relief may be just a few touchpad swipes away with Doctor on Demand, a new app that lets you arrange video-based doctor visits on the fly, in the style of Uber.

The iOS and Android app promises to connect patients to a doctor and arrange a 15-minutes-or-less visit within minutes for $40. Doctor on Demand has a pool of about 1,000 doctors who can prescribe medicine, though the doctors will not prescribe narcotics or other potentially addictive drugs. The app is designed for short-term medical problems like the flu or a migraine, not something serious like cancer, says Pat Basu, an M.D. and company cofounder. Read more...

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You Can Thank Marijuana for at Least One Journalism Job

 

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Ricardo Baca is trying to figure out how to cover a market that has never existed before, at least legally.

The Denver Post's newly appointed marijuana editor will oversee the only mainstream media operation to dedicate a portion of its coverage entirely to marijuana, which will become legal for sale in Colorado to anyone 21 or older starting in 2014.

"I am guessing Jan. 1 for me will be a mix of in the office, out of the office, running around visiting the just opened pot shops," Baca told Mashable. "We’re assuming they’re all going to open, but we don’t really know because they haven’t done this and neither has anyone else. I can sit here and think I kind of know what’s going to happen, but I know it’s probably going to be the opposite." Read more...

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Meet Robot Boss, Your Worst Office Nightmare

 

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When I first saw it, I wasn't sure what I was looking at. I thought somebody had attached an iPad to a pole and wheels. Then I saw my boss' face featured prominently on the iPad's screen, whizzing around the office.

He was telecommuting using Double, the new telepresence robot. Unlike dialing into a conference call over the phone or using a webcam for meetings, Double actually lets you have a physical presence in the office — well, kind of. It can be quite startling at times when you turn to see a robot looking over your shoulder as you work.

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7 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Business in 2014

 

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If your New Year’s resolutions include quitting your job and starting a business, you’re not alone. What could be more fulfilling than calling the shots, setting your own hours, and making things happen?

However, going off on your own is no easy feat, and many would-be entrepreneurs quickly become unsettled by the hard work and uncertainty of the lifestyle.

You can’t prepare yourself for every aspect of running your own business, but here are some key questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge. Read more...

1. How well do you work without a playbook?

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Twitter Lets Advertisers Target Based on 'Broad Match' Keywords

 

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Evolving its ad targeting further, Twitter announced Wednesday that it is letting advertisers target based on "broad match" keywords, that is, two words that are linked to express a sentiment.

In a blog post announcing the move, Nipoon Malhotra, product manager for revenue, used the example of the phrase "like coffee," which might be expressed in the following ways:

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The offering also takes into account alternate spellings like "luv" and lets advertisers use the "+" modifier on the terms to prevent broadening. In the example above, for instance, a coffee shop that doesn't sell espressos can set their buy to exclude those who tweet that they "luv espresso." Read more...

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How Your IT Workers Are Putting Your Company at Risk

 

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The employees charged with keeping a watchful eye over a business's cybersecurity are the ones most likely to engage in risky activities, new research finds.

A study from McAfee revealed that IT employees, more than any other type of worker, use unapproved software and applications in the workplace. Specifically, 83% of IT employees, compared with 81% of other employees, admit to using technology solutions at work that have not been approved by the IT department or been obtained in adherence to IT policies.

Overall, 35% of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications used within companies are unapproved, the study foundMicrosoft Office 365, Zoho, LinkedIn and Facebook are the most used unapproved applications being accessed by employees. Read more...

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Netflix Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself

 

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Some businesses would love to get basic information like your name, age and gender to better understand how to market to you in the futureNetflix could care less

Netflix used to place an emphasis on collecting these types of biographical details about its users, but it eventually decided the data wasn't particularly useful. "It really doesn't matter if you are a 60-year-old woman or a 20-year-old man because a 20-year-old man can watch Say Yes To The Dress and a 60-year-old woman could watch Hellboy," Todd Yellin, VP of product innovation at Netflix, told Mashable in an interview this week

In recent years, the video streaming and delivery service has instead focused on tracking the kind of data that users wouldn't even think to provide themselves. It tracks what you like and just as importantly, it increasingly tracks what you don't like Read more...

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