Web 2.0 Companies Throw Contests for the Holidays

Christmas is finally rolling around, and we’ve noticed Web 2.0 companies are getting in on the holiday spirit. Remember though folks, even though America is the land of opportunity, in good American fashion you gotta work for it. Here are three contests you can enter to take a shot at having a little extra under the tree this year. After reading these, you won’t find it strange if a guy who looks like a reject from the Blue Man Group comes up to you in the mall and asks you to take his picture. If you’ve heard of any other holiday giveaways or contests being put on by companies in the Web 2.0 sphere, leave them in the comments!


What you can win:
$50 Amazon gift cards (yes, plural)
What you gotta do: Upload some good docs.
Web 2.0 Company:
Contest description (from company):
We want you to upload your professional documents and share them with the world. So, we’re giving away $50 holiday gift certificates to Amazon.com until December 23rd. The contest starts Wednesday, December 5th, 2007, and goes through Sunday December 23rd. Winners will be notified daily by email and announced each week on the Docstoc Blog. Winning users and documents will also be featured on docstoc.
Where to enter:
Click here.


What you can win:
A Playstation 3
What you gotta do:
Paint yourself blue(!)
Web 2.0 Company: Gizmodo
Contest description (from company):
This is going to be a photo contest, so here’s what you do. First step: paint yourself blue. Second step: go to a public place and take a picture of yourself. Points will be awarded both for being more blue and being more embarrassing in public than other contestants. The more blue/embarrassing you are, the more likely you are to win. It’s up to you to decide how blue and how embarrassing you want to be. Dressing up like a Smurf may or may not get you more points (it probably will).
Where to enter:
Click here.


What you can win:
Cash/trip to Google’s Mountain View HQ
What you gotta do:
Create kick ass open source code*
Web 2.0 Company: Google
Contest description (from company):
Google is holding a contest for pre-university students (e.g., high school and secondary school students) with the aim of encouraging young people to participate in open source. We will work with ten open source organizations for this pilot effort, each of whom will provide a list of tasks to be completed by student contestants. Tasks can be anything a project needs help with, from bug fixes to writing documentation to user experience research.
Where to enter: Click here.

* Oh, and be in high school.

Voki begins to Twitter

 imageNow Voki has a new trick up its sleeve - the next version of the Voki avatar will link to Twitter and lip synch to your Twitter messages.

Voki is the site that came up with the slightly doleful looking avatars that you can pattern after your own likeness and embed on your web page. When visitors arrive at a web page, the Voki’s moppet like eyes follow the mouse around the page, and mouth snippets of wisdom.

Fred Wilson of A VC reports that the Voki avatar service from Oddcast, one of his portfolio companies, will let you link Voki to other services such as Twitter, in its next release.

Could be an attention grabber for a web page, but it still remains to be seen if an animated avatar can have real commercial value.

Earlier we reviewed Fix8, where you can impose an avatar image on your video, to make your own animated action movie strip. Great technology but again, it will be interesting to see how this category of eye candy can be monetized.

Technorati Tags: voki, twitter, fix8

Avail Media Raises $30M for IPTV

image Avail Media Inc. has completed a $25M Series B round which will put it well on its way to expanding its IPTV domain. The current round includes Valhalla Partners along with Columbia Capital, Novak Biddle Venture Partners, and Pioneer Ventures, from the prior round. The funding raised includes another $5M in debt financing from a strategic investor, and Silicon Valley Bank.

Reston, VA based Avail media delivers IPTV content to customers on a variety of platforms - cable, telecom and internet. The company will use its latest funding to expand its market reach and to add new features to its offerings.

Clearly, Avail Media has pedigree. The company was formed as a merger between Auroras Entertainment and Broadstream Communications. CEO Ramu Potazu was previously the CEO of Broadstream Communications, and before that, COO of Intelsat. Diane Smith, formerly the CEO of Auroras Entertainment, is president of Avail Media. 

image Avail Media, founded in early 2007, added VOD (Video on Demand) to its repertoire by acquiring ViewNow, a provider of VOD programming.


Technorati Tags: avail media, columbia capital, novak biddle venture partners, pioneer ventures, broadstream communications, auroras entertainment, Intelsat

Google’s fuzzy logic for image search gets clearer

Google continues to make forays into the world of images, on several different fronts.

Image recognition in Google searches is taking shape. Although not highly publicized yet, there is a way to search images for certain elements such as faces. For example, if you do an image search for “USA”, you get a slew of maps. If you do the search “usa imgtype=face”, the search does indeed turn up pictures of people.

According to Google’s Sergey Brin, it will be possible for the computer to soon automatically search images for patterns, such as that of an elephant, in a picture.

While identification of physical objects in pictures will go a long way towards helping categorize the trillions of images on the web, there are aspects of classification which are abstract, and subjective. For example, the picture on the left can be categorized as 1. sky, 2. bird or 3. soaring.

image A new Google project called Google Image Labeler has popped up for improving the relevance of image search. At any particular time, two random users who have signed up for the experiment, are paired up. Over a period of 2 minutes, both are shown a set of images for which each provides as many labels as they can think of. When the pair has a match, each of them get a certain number of points depending upon how specific the description is.

I tried out the application in guest mode (see the pictures below). Interestingly, each picture starts out with a list of “off-limit” terms which are actually the first ones that would come to mind. The purpose of these might be to look beyond the most obvious categorization. For example, in the map example below, the descriptions “map” or “Australia” were off limits.

While the Image labeler seems like a pretty entertaining project at this point, Google’s objective is to probably use the real human fuzzy network data to refine its automatic image filtering, rather than a simple grand scheme to use free cpus to classify all of the web’s pictures.


Technorati Tags: google, google image labeler, image recognition

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