HP Research Could Yield Faster, more Powerful PCs

A new discovery by HP could lead to faster, more powerful computers and other devices in the near future.

Hewlett-Packard’s HP Labs Research Branch has discovered that the memristor, a new electric circuit developed by HP in 2008, has far greater potential than initially thought, the company announced on Thursday.

Previously seen mostly as a new type of storage similar to flash memory, HP found that the memristor can also perform its own logic. Such a discovery can pave the way for chips that can both perform calculations and hold data, potentially eliminating the need for a traditional core CPU.

“Memristive devices could change the standard paradigm of computing by enabling calculations to be performed in the chips where data is stored rather than in a specialized central processing unit,” said R. Stanley Williams, senior fellow and director of HP’s Information and Quantum Systems Lab, in a statement. “Thus, we anticipate the ability to make more compact and power-efficient computing systems well into the future, even after it is no longer possible to make transistors smaller via the traditional Moore’s Law approach.”

First conceived as a theoretical possibility in the early ’70s by Leon Chua, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, the memristor, short for memory resistor, can retain its memory even when power is lost. It’s considered the fourth type of electric circuit joining the resistor, capacitor, and inductor, which are currently used in the design and manufacture of today’s microchips.

Building on Chua’s research, HP announced the first development of a memristor around two years ago. That was then followed by a flexible memristor designed and demonstrated by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology last summer.

HP’s latest research has found that memristors use less energy and are faster than current storage technologies such as flash memory, and they can store twice as much data in the same space.

Memristors are virtually unaffected by radiation, which can create flaws in smaller, traditionally designed chips. And since memristors don’t lose their charge, they can lead to PCs that can easily be turned on and off like a light switch, said HP.

What’s next for the memristor? HP said it’s already created new architectures for chips using memristors and believes that devices using the new circuit could hit the market within the next few years. Researchers at HP Labs have also built a new architecture in which multiple layers of memristors can be stacked on top of each other in one chip.

In another five years, such chips could give handheld devices 10 times the memory capacity they now have and help supercomputers work faster than Moore’s Law ever thought possible. Beyond that, processors built with memristors could eventually replace the silicon used in e-reader displays and even push aside the need for silicon in a larger number of devices on a wider scale.



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Yahoo Unveils Entertainment App for iPad

Yahoo! Inc., recently announced Yahoo! Entertainment for the Apple iPad, which provides consumers with entertainment content, television listings, videos, news.

Yahoo! is leveraging the features of the iPad to create one of the most interactive and personal experiences possible. The Multi-Touch user interface makes it easy to help people discover new content on Yahoo! Entertainment, said a press release.

The app takes advantage of iPad’s geo-location functionality to pinpoint consumers’ locations to deliver relevant, local television listings and content. It offers real-time content from local providers, it surfaces and recommends TV shows, entertainment articles, and a wide variety of videos from across the Web.

The app can be used in both portrait and landscape displays.

“Devices like the iPad allow Yahoo! to create new experiences and expand the art of what’s possible in the eyes of consumers. Just like we did with Connected TV and mobile, we successfully re-imagined the consumer experiences for an entirely new platform,” said Tapan Bhat, senior vice president of Yahoo!’s Integrated Consumer Experiences.

Yahoo! Entertainment for iPad is available for free from the App Store on iPad.



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Surveys: IT Job Satisfaction Plummets to All-Time Low

Experts say unhappy critical IT workers will likely seek more ‘purposeful’ jobs elsewhere

The recession and its accompanying reorganizations, layoffs and corporate turns to outsourcing have been corrosive to IT employee job satisfaction.

And that job dissatisfaction is increasing concerns among many employment experts that key employees may leave current jobs as soon as they get what they perceive is a better offer.

A mid-2009 job satisfaction survey by the Corporate Executive Board, a Washington-based advisory firm that counts many Fortune 500 firms among its clients, found that the number of dissatisfied workers continues to increase. The firm surveys 150,000 workers each quarter, asking a battery of behavioral questions about their jobs. About 10,000 of the those surveyed work in IT jobs, board officials said.

The CEB’s latest survey found that the willingness of IT employees to “exert high levels of discretionary effort” — put in extra hours to solve a problem, make suggestions for improving processes, and generally seek to play a key role in an organization — has plummeted to its lowest levels since the survey was launched 10 years ago.

In 2007, about 12% of the IT employees fit in category of “highly engaged” workers, but that has since fallen to 4%.

“These are literally the most critical employees,” said Jaime Capella, a managing director in CEB’s information technology practice. Polaris Pool Cleaner Parts Moreover, such critical workers are 2.5 times more likely than the average employee to be looking for new opportunities.

“They are likely to be the first ones to leave your company as soon as they can,” Capella said.

Similarly, the Conference Board Inc., a non-profit research group, said Tuesday that occupants of 45% of 5,000 U.S. households it surveyed last year were satisfied with their jobs, down from 61% in 1987, the first year the survey was conducted. The Conference Board said that the job issues found in its survey, which cover all occupations, could cause multiple workplace ills, including declines in employee engagement, productivity and retention.

“When the economy starts to head in the right direction, the employees are going to vote with their feet,” said Mike Hagan, a vice president of infrastructure at a health insurance firm he asked not to be identified. He is also a co-author of Achieving IT Service Quality: The Opposite of Luck (Synergy Books, Nov. 2009).

Hagan said there is a lot of pent-up dissatisfaction in the IT workplace, as well as a backlog of people who normally would have moved to a different job in a stable economy. The recession has resulted in “unnaturally low attrition levels,” he said.

To keep key employees, Hagan said that IT managers must find ways to engage employees, and offer them a “line of sight to the corporate vision.” It’s important that IT managers create jobs that have a purpose, he added.

“The folks at Apple Computer, I’m guessing right now, are feeling very purposeful at work,” said Hagen, and thus are unlikly to be looking elsewhere. (See: Apple sets sales records ‘as if recession never happened.’). Employees elsewhere “are going to be shopping for [such] purposefulness,” he said.

And the opportunity getting a new job may be improving. Job board Dice Inc. is beginning to see some early indications of increased IT hiring.

For instance, in the New York area, there are about 6,000 IT jobs posted; a year ago at this point there were 5,600, said Thomas M. Silver, a senior vice president at Dice. The company has posted about 3,000 jobs in Silicon Valley, up from 2,700 last year, he added.

Overall, Dice had nearly 50,000 jobs listed today, which Silver expects will grow soon to 55,000 based on trends.

A Dice survey of 360 people in August found that over a third were planning to change jobs once the job market improves. Tech workers are under constant pressure to keep up and want to be in jobs where they can learn and grow, he said.

To keep employees, Capella said they are advising managers to take performance reviews very seriously, work on motivating teams and communicating more consistently and openly, as well as give employees more of a say in the jobs they want. If employees don’t believe that companies are being honest, they are more likely to become disaffected, he said.

If managers are frank with their employees they can “accumulate enough good will” to offset the negative impacts, said Capella.



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Copywriting for eCommerce

A site’s copy is one of its most important elements — especially in the world of eCommerce. And in eCommerce one of the worst mistakes a copywriter can make when writing is to concentrate only on product descriptions. While product descriptions are important, they’re only the tip of the eCommerce copy iceberg. After all, an eCommerce site is everything at once for an online retailer — simultaneously serving as a catalog, store, marketing tool, and company Polaris Pool Cleaner Parts information source — and the copy responsible for selling both your product and your company in the highly competitive web marketplace is at the center of it all.

There are three basic types of writing that an eCommerce copywriter will use while copywriting for a retail site: informational, marketing and notification. While the details of each type could fill a book, we’re only going to cover the basics of each here — once you understand the fundamentals you’ll be ready to raise your store’s copy to a new level.

Setting Your Tone

Before we begin, here are a couple of concerns you’ll need to address as you sit down with your catalog and bang out brilliant eCommerce copy:

* It’s important to understand your products’ target audience before you begin writing. Who, exactly, are you writing for? Grandmothers? Artists? Technophiles? For example, a store that wants to become the ultimate gear source for teenage snowboarders wouldn’t use the formal writing style of a site that appeals to middle-aged businessmen. You’re always writing for someone else, and you’ll keep your copy focused by not forgetting who they are.
* Once you’ve identified your copy’s target audience, decide how to appeal to that audience. Here’s where your company’s personality has a chance to shine through, setting you apart from your competitors. Remember, even though your competitors sell similar products, they aren’t you.

So decide who you are. Do you want to be considered glamorous? Hip? Maternal? Consider the Mac vs. PC ads that have been wildly successful for Apple over the last couple of years. In just a few seconds, the commercials immediately establish that Apple products are intuitive, user-friendly, and cool. They appeal to a certain audience in a unique way, and immediately set themselves apart from every other computer company on the market.

This is what you’re trying to do with your copy. Decide who you are, and embrace it. Use this identity to establish a tone for all of the copy throughout your site, down to the smallest error message. Each piece of copy is an opportunity to broadcast your brand — don’t waste any of them.

Information, Marketing and Search Engine Optimization

Now that you have established your store’s tone it needs to be applied to the three main styles you’ll use while writing. Informational copy is the copy you’ll often find in a site’s frequently-asked questions section and customer service blurbs. All of these examples share a common thread: The customer is looking for to-the-point information. Concentrate on avoiding flowery language or fluff copy; after all, filler can frustrate potential customers. Focus instead on keeping your writing straight-forward and uncluttered, making sure that the information an average customer would want to know is easily accessible and clearly explained. Remember, “straight-forward” isn’t the same as boring. You’re still writing for the audience that you identified when you sat down to write, and if you target that audience with a consistent tone your informational copy will align itself with your store’s brand and image.

Another type of copy, marketing, is mainly used in promotional materials and product descriptions. While this type of copy is extremely common, it’s also some of the hardest to write. Many eCommerce sites fall into a trap of confusing a barrage of positive adjectives with selling a product. Don’t make this mistake! Relying on clichés will only weaken your copy and, consequently, your brand.

Pause and consider your goals. You identified who your copy is for during the earliest stages of your writing; now you can focus on what  you’re trying to achieve with it. Customers are at your store to fill a need, and you must convince them that you’re best able to help them. Enhance your informational writing by highlighting your product’s benefits for potential customers, rather than repeatedly exclaiming to them that you’ve got a great product to offer. You want a customer to take action on your site — convert, sign up for your newsletter, etc. — so tell them exactly why they should take that action, and use effective copy to provide them with the information they need.

Don’t forget to consider search engine optimization when you’re writing both your informational and marketing copy. Search engine optimization is a huge part of writing for eCommerce, and you’ll want to try and familiarize yourself with the basics. Start by doing some keyword research to find out what potential customers are looking for, and what language might attract them. Incorporate these throughout your site’s copy, but don’t forget to keep your tone and audience in mind! The best eCommerce copy has its SEO keywords smoothly integrated so the average customer doesn’t think twice. Don’t bog your copy down by trying to pack keywords where they don’t belong.

Good and Bad eCommerce  Copy writing

Here’s an example of both good and bad product descriptions. Each of them is a combination of informational and marketing copy. Imagine that you’re a small business writing this product description for both new and repeat customers, and you want to maintain a polite, welcoming tone:

BAD: This newest model of the Sock-Saver 2007 is better than ever before! If you liked the Sock-Saver, you’ll love the Sock-Saver 2007. For the last year, we’ve been examining your feedback and implementing it into this great product. Now we’ve brought these changes to you in the form of the Sock-Saver 2007! Save more Socks!

Not only is this description fluffy and poorly organized, but it offers no real information to the potential consumer. What are the upgrades? Why would owners of the Sock-Saver want to upgrade to the 2007 model? Also, there’s no clear tone or audience established, which makes the description seem cluttered and ill-placed.

GOOD: We’ve examined vendor and customer feedback for our most popular product during the past year and discovered that buyers wanted more room in the main compartment, larger drainage holes, and a choice of colors to match a home or business. We’re now proud to present the Sock-Saver 2007. The newest Sock-Saver offers all of the missing sock protection of the original, enhanced with the customer-driven features outlined above. Just stuff the Sock-Saver full of socks, toss it into the washer and dryer, and never suffer from one-sock syndrome again!

If you’re a current owner of our original product, send in a photo of you loving your Sock-Saver for a 15% discount on the Sock-Saver 2007.

Notice how the tone of the example above maintains the company’s commitment to its repeat customers, as well as providing plenty of information for new customers. It carefully outlines the improvements that they’ve made to the product, explains how to use it, and offers a number of incentives for all customers to take action and buy the product. The benefits are clearly outlined in a way that is exciting for the customer, and maintains the tone that the writer has selected for the site.

Turning a Dead End Into an Intersection

So now you’ve got some great product descriptions, marketing materials, and a customer service page under your belt. What happens to your customer when they stumble upon a dead link somewhere in your site, need to know a credit card was accepted or make a mistake during checkout? This is where the last style, notification, comes in. Customers will need to be notified when they complete actions and no matter how great your site’s usability is, mistakes will be made, causing your customers to encounter positive and negative notification messages. Make sure that these messages don’t slow customers down, keeping them clear, concise and helpful. In error messages, quickly identify the problem, tell the customer what the error is, and how they can fix it.

Follow these same principles for your 404 page. Explain what the visitor is seeing on the page, taking care to keep your tone consistent with the rest of your store. Outline a list of common mistakes that might have brought them to the page, and offer helpful links to other parts of your store, as well as an e-mail link so that a customer can report a problem. Unhelpful notifications abandon customers at a time when they need help, and they are likely to return the favor by abandoning your site. With both notification messages and 404 pages, keep the personality of your site intact, and focus on the positive — i.e., how you and the customer can work together to accomplish what they need.

Your site’s copy is the key to your brand and company identity. Keeping quality in mind throughout all written aspects of your site will help ensure that you’ll never have to reevaluate whether your customers “get” you and your store. Let them know that you’re more than the sum of your product descriptions!



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The Longer Visitors are on your Business Web Site, The Greater The Opportunity for Branding

Some visitors who come to your business web site will know what they’re looking for, but many others need guidance. Some of them are considering the competition, and if they are shopping online, your business web site has to out-shine the others to get the business.

It’s important to try to keep your visitors on your site until they become a conversion, or to at least build a relationship with the customer through the web site until they feel comfortable enough with your business to come back later and complete the sale.

Below are some ways to use your business web site to increase potential branding, and branding means more opportunity for conversion.

Add some free information to your business web site

The more information you have on your business web site, the longer a visitor can browse the site without running into the same pages. If there’s more to read, it’s more likely that visitors will stick around to read it.

An added benefit of having more information on your business web site is that you will get more targeted traffic through search engines to the content pages of your site, where visitors can be introduced to your brand.

The free information on your business web site can come in the form of articles, reviews, statistics, and tutorials. You can also use this information to increase your range of customer services through your business web site.

Include interactivity on your business web site

People like business web sites that they can interact with. If you have a product or service that can be customized for a customer, consider creating an interactive media experience where the customer can generate price quotes based on certain information, or can see visually how a change of color or size will affect a product.

Keep your business web site live

One of the best ways to keep a business web site attractive and “stickable” is to make sure you have some current information. It has to look like your business web site is a live entity, with new information being added all the time.

These are just a few ways to add stikability to your web site. As long as you keep in mind that your goal is to keep customers on your web site until they become a business conversion, you can come up with some other creative ways to achieve



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Facebook Hires AD Exec from Google

Last month, when Facebook ended its advertising partnership with Microsoft, opting to take all its advertising sales in-house, I predicted that the company would soon be announcing the hire of a high-profile advertising executive.

Indeed, Facebook on Friday confirmed an All Things Digital report that it has hired David Fischer away from Google as its vice president of advertising and global operations.

“It’s a testament to Facebook’s expanding opportunities in advertising that we’re able to welcome an executive of David’s caliber,” read a statement from Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, herself a former member of Google’s ad corps. “I have worked closely with David over the years, and witnessed his passion, energy, and effectiveness at building teams on a global scale. David’s arrival deepens our operational capabilities so we can build upon our ability to serve advertisers, regardless of size or location, that are building their brands on Facebook.”

Advertising on Facebook was once seen as a dead zone, with critics–including Google’s chief financial officer–saying Social Networks were poor destinations for ad dollars. But thanks to its in-house “engagement ads” and self-serve ad targeting, Facebook managed to beat the odds and start raking in legitimate revenues.

The company is expected to soon unveil new revenue sources besides advertising, namely its “Credits” virtual-currency system. Ads, however, remain crucial, especially since the marketing world may soon be distracted by splashy new initiatives coming from Twitter, and Facebook has to stay ahead of the curve.



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Groom Updates Twitter, Facebook at The Altar

You know that apocalypse thing we’re always being told might be just around the corner? Well, do you feel the chilling breeze? Do you feel the troubled twittering in the trees?

For here is a tale that I know you will discuss with your loved ones, perhaps with other people’s loved ones, even with your psychological professional, the minute you hear it.

It appears a man called Dana Hanna is standing at the altar on November 21. He utters those most solemn vows about how he will love and obey or whatever it is that married people claim to do these days.

The officiant pronounces that Dana and his lovely bride, Tracy, are now married. Does Dana weep? Does he kiss his bride?

Ah, no. For Dana’s Twitter moniker is TheSoftwareJedi and his first loyalty is to his digital followers. So, much to his wife’s surprise, he whips out his cell phone and updates his statuses on both Twitter and Facebook. Right there at the altar. He also hands his wife’s cell phone over to her.

Now that he has uploaded the evidence (which we’re assuming isn’t staged), Dana insists that this was all done for fun.

Indeed, he explained on YouTube: “I have a lot of family scattered around the country and we all use Facebook a lot to keep in touch. So when Tracy and I were engaged, most of my family found out via Facebook because we updated our statuses.”

If you’re wondering what it is he tweeted from the altar, here it is: “Standing at the altar with @TracyPage where just a second ago, she became my wife! Gotta go, time to kiss my bride. #weddingday”

However, another tweet sent on Monday night by Hanna, who is chief architect of NextDayPets.com and president of Torian Technologies, might perhaps offer an even greater insight into his complex and socially networked psyche: “Just changed over the laundry for @TracyPage and was thrown off by the fact a bra was in there. Not used to living with a woman again.”

Oh, Tracy, are you sure about this? I only ask because I just tried to access the Tracy Page Twitter feed and received the message “this page doesn’t exist.”



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