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What is BitStrips?

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Another viral phenomenon is sweeping across Facebook and it isn't pictures of Giraffe (although that's great too). 

Let's be frank, comics are now for the die-hard enthusiasts and are rarely seen on supermarket and newsagent shelves. But would you read a comic strip that starred you and your friends? BitStrip lets you, and it must be said, it's kinda cool.

BitStrips is an app that you connect to Facebook, where you create your own personal (strikingly similar) avatars for use in comic strips. You dictate which kind of comic strip you would like to place yourself in, such as on holiday,  enjoying a romantic meal with your girlfriend's avatar (if you're that way inclined) or clubbing with a friend. To be honest, there are so many quirky themes, that it is well worth downloading just to see what it's all about.

The customisation doesn't stop there either, you can add speech bubbles and change the facial expression of your avatars. All of the BitStrips have a caption that is unchangeable, but that doesn't bother us too much as they're quite funny anyway. The case could also be made that if you allowed users to change the caption to their own taste, you'll soon find a number of inappropriate, rude BitStrips on your Facebook news feed.

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bitstrips

 

So is it any good?

In truth, it's a little bit buggy at the moment. Images often take forever to load and if the servers are rammed, you get a general "comic servers overloaded. Please try again soon" message in its place. You also can't save your BitStrips to your camera roll, at least not without taking a screen shot. 

All of this aside, it's great! The BitStrips are funny, personal and it's superb for procrastination. Not that we advocate that ;).

http://www.bitstrips.com

By Social Media Manager - Bradley Gavin - @BradGiraffeSM

How might Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia affect mobile?

Microsoft, worldwide technology titans, have recently purchased Nokia, creator of once loved indestructible phones (Nokia 3210 – great memories) for a staggering $7.2 billion! A move that seemingly gives Microsoft not only a massively popular software division, but also a solid device and manufacturing division. It’s very similar to the set up over at Apple and Google (who purchased Motorola for $12.5 billion in 2011). Both of these companies have been hugely successful in their handset and mobile operating systems, so you’d assume that Microsoft are aiming for something similar. 

So how is this going to affect its mobile phones?

First of all, Microsoft isn’t exactly new to this kind of business. Does anyone remember the Hiptop or the Kin phone? No? There’s probably a good reason for that!

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 The Kin phone (Did you ever have one?)

 Past ventures with relatively unknown mobile manufacturers haven’t worked out too well, but Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia gives them a company with a fantastic reputation and a supply chain like no other. Surely they can’t fail?!

 

Will Nokia once again become a big name in mobile?

Microsoft hasn’t just bought the Nokia name, they have bought the rights to its highly rated NOW maps and turn by turn navigation Microsoft currently includes in its Lumia range of phones. As a Lumia owner myself, I find them both really useful and the turn by turn navigation has got me out of a few lost car journeys! 

This is something I suspect many consumers would really like. Particularly as Sat Nav apps in some stores can be as expensive as £50! Nokia have also developed a Spotify-ish music service it includes on its Lumia phones, which gives you free access to playlists created by users and celebrities. 

It’s a nice package of apps to have from the off on your phone and you’d assume with Microsoft’s endless pot of money they can throw at it, they’d be plenty of time to develop these apps and create more (hopefully free) apps in the future. You would also assume that there would be a substantial development in new phones under the Nokia brand, but is there enough room for a once great brand to make a triumphant return?

 

Microsoft’s Nokia vs Blackberry?

Given that Blackberry are already struggling in the mobile market at the moment, the ageing handset creator could be in real trouble with the purchase of Nokia by Microsoft. The low end Lumia phones have been strong sellers over the past year and with the connections to Microsoft office from phone to PC they offer, the business market Blackberry associate themselves with could well move over to Nokia, meaning Blackberry could find themselves at a point where they are no longer first choice. From a consumer perspective it would be a shame to see RIM die out, as it's always nice to have a healthy choice amongst smartphones.

In summary, Microsoft's purchase of Nokia seems like a good move for all parties involved. The once great phone company were struggling to find their place in the modern smartphone market, but with a company like Microsoft taking them under their wing, they have a wealth of resources to pick it back up.

 

By Content Assistant - Sean Haydock - @bseanty 
  • October 11, 2013
  • By Bradley Gavin
  • Comments Off on How should you prepare your Facebook page for graph search?
  • in Business, News, Social Media

How should you prepare your Facebook page for graph search?

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As of March 2013, Facebook have begun to implement a new search tool into their interface and in July of the same year, they opened it up to the whole Facebook community. This new, embedded search engine is known as the Facebook graph search.

But what exactly is the Facebook Graph search?

To put it simply, the graph search allows you to search for friends or other groups of people based on interests, education, location, relationship status and other types of criteria.

So what does this mean for your Facebook page? A whole lot.

With regards to searching on Facebook, it changes the whole dynamic of how people are going to find your page when entering in search criteria. So you have to be prepared.

The first step is to get your page SEO in order. If the content of your page is not optimised with the relevant keywords that you have set out with, the chance that you are going to be discovered is minimal. Therefore, those keywords that you pride your efforts on when setting up your page, need to be there when people search particular interests or hobbies. Additionally, your SEO efforts wont just benefit Graph Search, Facebook will also outsource your page to Google search and most recently Microsoft Bing.

One of the main things that your page needs to make use of is the great search functionality that it provides. For the first time on Facebook, you can now combine search functions that include location and hobbies thus making it easier to target your market. For example, if you are a Musical instrument store located in Leeds you can now input into the search engine something along the lines of “People who like Music and live in Leeds” . This will produce a list of potential new customers in that area without need for extensive market research.

The last real tip to get your page really making use of this new search engine is to use it in order to conduct research on existing fans of your page. If we stick with the example used earlier (The Musical Instrument store in Leeds) you could research those fans that have joined and find out their lifestyle and preferences. For instance if a large number of your following like playing guitar, you could tailor your Facebook posts and offers towards that instrument.

Facebook Graph Search should be embraced by Facebook pages and if you use it wisely,you could see a huge improvement in your SEO and brand awareness.

By Content Assistant - Daniel Horton - @ItsDanielHorton
  • October 8, 2013
  • By Kane Lodge
  • Comments Off on National Poetry Day 2013
  • in News

National Poetry Day 2013

National-Poetry-Day-2012Thursday (3rd October), last week was National Poetry day here in the UK.  For a few laughs, we decided to set you awesome lot the task of writing short poems about Giraffes, we received so many awesome ones across all our social platforms, that we decided to share them in a blog post.  Here are our favourites!

Giraffes are long, giraffes are strong. They are covered in squares, but they can"t go upstairs. @SueSeahorseArt

A rhyming giraffe tweet? Alright! Take a seat. They eat trees and sway in the breeze Coz their heads are too far from their feet.  @SociallySteve

I'm a giraffe, I hate chilly weather. I'm knitting a scarf, it's taking for ever.  @JannieJack

Write a twitter poem? Are you having a laugh?, We cant think of anything, That rhymes with Giraffe. @MovingPad

I know two young guys from Giraffe, When in China we had such a laugh,This professional pair, admired for their hair are clever and also quite daft. @LisaLavers71

  • October 3, 2013
  • By Kane Lodge
  • Comments Off on Say Hello to NBA TV: The Starters
  • in News

Say Hello to NBA TV: The Starters

TBJ-with-Logo_600x391.shkl_I am always telling people that we are lucky to live in an age where you have the tools to achieve anything you want to.  All you need is passion, determination and the ability to work hard.  This morning I read a story that brought a smile to my face and it highlights EXACTLY what I've been raving on about for the last couple of years.

If you didn't know by now, I am a huge NBA fan - I've loved basketball since turning 16 and in the last couple of years I have barely missed a Chicago Bulls Game (NBA League Pass is my savior).  Last season I stumbled upon a podcast called 'The Basketball Jones' (TBJ), the set up seemed simple enough... a few Canadian friends and an Australian dude sat around each day chatting about the games from the previous night.  Unlike most NBA press coverage there are no barriers to the show, it doesn't feel staged and ultra-professional, it feels like you're sat around with your mates picking apart the night before and having a laugh while you do it.  What is most impressive about the podcast is it's huge community of fans who absolutely love what TBJ is all about.

So, why am I writing about a basketball podcast on my site?  Well, to answer that - you need to understand the origins of TBJ.  The show started as a few friends recording it every week out of one of their houses.  They created something from nothing, and lo and behold achieved a small audience.  The amount of work that would have gone into producing a weekly podcast, for just this small audience, would have been monumental.  But the guys just kept at it, they were passionate about what they were doing - and determined to make it work.  I found this hugely inspiring, as it reminded me of Kane and I starting Giraffe.  Unfortunately, my feel-good mood wouldn't last long.

Sadly at the end of last season, I was informed that my new favourite podcast was leaving and would hopefully return in some new form which was currently a mystery to even the boys at TBJ it would seem.  I was pretty gutted as it all sounded a little uncertain.

This morning I wake up and read that TBJ is no more, because, get this... It's been picked up by the NBA itself! Say what?!  A podcast started in someone's house, by some mates, has been picked up by the NBA - and it is going to be turned into a daily TV show called 'The Starters'?!  Amazing.  I'm so pleased for all of the team, because I know they work so hard on the show and give it all for their fans.  They have earned this, and I'm so psyched to see the new format.

If you want something enough, and you love what you do - you can achieve anything.  Just ask the guys at TBJ, new NBA TV show 'The Starters'.

 

 

  • September 7, 2013
  • By Bradley Gavin
  • Comments Off on Apple iTV – What can we Expect?
  • in News, Technology

Apple iTV – What can we Expect?

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There have been numerous rumours over the past two years regarding the release of a product from Apple which would better their current TV offering. However, with the current set top box market currently being saturated with names such as Sky and Freesat, rumours have unfortunately stayed rumours whilst Apple negotiate and decipher how they will bring something bigger and better to the market. Despite rumours, speculation has multiplied recently in the US due to manufacturer Foxconn  having to play down reports that it had begun to produce Apple iTV's, their CEO was quoted as saying it was “making preparations”. So the question then posed, is what can we expect if Apple iTV finally happens and when can we expect it to happen?

Over the past few years, most rumours have predicted a 2013 release date and as we head in to the fourth quarter of 2013 it doesn’t look likely that this will happen. On the other hand, Apple are known for their late announcements and as most of their previous product launches have been in the fall, it is possible that we could see something, if not a product, by the end of 2013. There have been strong suggestions that an Apple iTV could appear in November, ready for the Christmas rush.

With regards to features, there hasn’t been much in the way of confirmed facts, Apple being the way they are, are extremely  notorious for surprises. It has been suggested however, that the product could range in price from  £1,000 - £1,500,  with screen sizes varying from 42 to 55 inches. Much speculation has surrounded the design of the proposed product with many of Apple’s contacts  reporting that they have seen a working prototype. What we do know is that it is likely to be created by a team that have created many successful Apple products previously, the team may consist of Jeff Robbin, who helped leaped the creation of the iconic iPod.

We can presume that many featured aspects present in iPhone products and the like could well be evident in any TV offering. Such features may include an A5 processor and 1080p video. It has also been rumoured that Apple may produce an A6 processor which was originally rumoured to be included in the new iPad. By far the biggest and perhaps most exciting rumour that came from MacWorld in the first quarter of 2013, described a top of the range sound system that could be launched alongside iTV. It has been suggested that the system could determine whether a user is in the room and if he or she is in optimum range, from this the TV and speakers combined would modify the audio output as necessary.

As with any Apple product there are numerous rumours, what is clear is that if such a product came to light, it is almost certainly going to be a huge player in the TV market. With any luck we won’t have to wait much longer for some form of announcement. If all rumours come to play, it will be an exciting product that will be worth the wait.

By Content Assistant - Stephanie Balsom-Eynon - @sbalsomeynon
  • August 20, 2013
  • By Bradley Gavin
  • Comments Off on What can we expect from the iPhone 5s?
  • in News

What can we expect from the iPhone 5s?

There were many aspects to the iPhone 5 that separated it from the iPhone 4 and 4s. The most significant differences were the shape, size, retina display and the new lighting connector, which despite being an arguable improvement, eliminates the reassuring knowledge that nearly every person has the same iPod or iPhone charger in case of an emergency.

In the same way that the iPhone 4 and 4S had no change in appearance, it's unlikely that Apple's iPhone 5 will undergo much of a design change. 

But with the vast step up between generations of iPhone, what could Apple possibly do to make improvements?

As modern technologies develop at a rapid rate and demand increases, the pressure to deliver the best latest gadget is greater than ever. It is quite possible that plans for the iPhone 6 are well under way and that the iPhone 5S is just a distraction until all is perfected. 

One aspect that defined the 4s and the iPhone 5 was Siri. It's had its critics, but its probably cemented itself as the most reliable voice assistant for smartphones.Therefore the question posed is how can Siri possibly do much more? In future Apple phones there may come a point where we barely have to lift a finger, with Siri being able to connect and control our homes and lifestyles with minimal effort. Another change that is quite possible in a potential iPhone 5s is to be able to access Siri without pushing down the home button, is there a possibility that it could well be voice activated?

The retina display and A6 chip have meant that the iPhone 5 is faster and the screen is more vibrant than ever. It is quite likely that newer and faster software is being developed already for future iPhones, iPads and Macs. IOS7, which is due out this fall, is the softwares biggest overhaul since its birth. It represents a cleaner, sleeker looking iPhone where tasks remain simple to undertake. With an iPhone 5s we can expect to see a polished version of this software, with perhaps some more customisable aspects to the iPhone that extends beyond the usual change of wallpaper.

The iPhone 5 has also been designed for faster Internet connection and with the iCloud well in tow, it’s certainly not an Apple idea that I take for granted. However, iCloud doesn’t sync unless you have an Internet connection! Take for example Photo Stream, at present you can take numerous pictures whilst out but they will not be readily available on your Macs, iPads or any other Apple related device until your phone is connected to Wi-Fi. Perhaps for the iPhone 5s they can create a way to sync your Apple gadgets without the need for an Internet connection. That would be impressive. 

Others features that are in the rumour mill are slow motion video recording which could possibly leave there being more focus on the camera functions than the actual functions on the phone. As brilliant as iPhones are, they still lack the assortment of features that a digital camera has and in my opinion, could always be improved. The iPhone 5s camera is not only likely to change, but simply has to. The fact that Apple can cram all of this software into a chip no smaller than your finger but continue to push on with a camera that remains at a very basic 8 megapixels, suggests there is obviously room for improvement.

One of the most important aspects that people tend to forget is rivalling the competition. The HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 are both worthy competitors that Apple are no doubt looking at. Not only do these smartphones feature high quality software, but they also come from brands that you trust. It is also worth considering that the HTC one and Samsung Galaxy S4 are slightly cheaper than the iPhone 5, so may we see an update Apple model that has a more modest price itself?

In summary, the iPhone 5S and it’s future successors will all be worthy competitors in the smartphone market. Apple really need to nail the prospective 5s, convincing customers that it is more than a moderate upgrade. Even before the 5s is released, there is likely to be new affordable technology that is primed to take the limelight.

Content Assistant - Astrid Hall - @astrid_hall
  • July 15, 2013
  • By Meera Patel
  • Comments Off on Will social media eventually replace the news?
  • in News, Social Media

Will social media eventually replace the news?

Twitter trends are a brilliant way of seeing what’s going on in the world. Too often, however, these trends point only towards the activities of Beliebers and the Kardashians, and include a hashtag that goes something along the lines of #3reasonswhyilovefarting. Lovely.

Occasionally trends on our favourite websites point to something more significant than awkward moments on the X-Factor. In fact, more recently, social media has been the only way of communication in countries such as Egypt, where the Government famously tried (and failed) to block the sites to prevent a revolution. But can we ever utilise these relatively new forms of communication to become our primary source of news?

In many ways, yes. Some people are more plugged into social networks than they are into any other form of media. How did you find out about Oscar Pistorius? Or Kimye’s baby? Or Steve Jobs’ death? Probably via some kind of TwitBook site.

Earlier this year there was a helicopter crash in central London. Twitter was a great way to quickly catch updates and to check out photographs of the crash scene. One particular photo was retweeted 2,500 times, but all the comments underneath were exclusively from news channels- CNN, Fox News, BBC, Channel 4, (to name a few), all asking to use the picture at no cost. It seems that more and more we are relying on social networks to source, compile and deliver our news for us.

But there is a reason why Egypt only used twitter’s mobile site as a last resort to communicate with the outside world once the internet had been disconnected. Twitter is so inherently social that it is no more than an online equivalent of neighbourhood gossip.

Sally Bercow recently came under fire as her tweet regarding Lord McAlpine was deemed to be highly inappropriate, and falsely accusing him of something he had never done. If we relied solely on independent, objective news providers, e.g. the BBC (although some sceptics do query how ‘neutral’ they really are), this story would never have been published until all the details were verified.

As someone who works with young people, I know how much social media can damage people. Teenagers tread a fine line between digital popularity and digital humiliation. The slightest mistake, one out of context photo or a poorly timed status update can turn the online crowds against you. Social media is a dangerous thing when you’re at the wrong end of it, and every week I have to mop up the mess that it causes amoung teenagers who think their whole life has just fallen apart.

Social media is a great way to deliver sensationalist, up-to-the-minute news bulletins, but for now I think we would welcome the continued prescence of the independent news crews- I for one, give a big ‘thumbs up’ for good quality, investigative journalism that isn’t based on hype.

 

Content Assistant - Josh Hunt - @joshhunt89
  • July 10, 2013
  • By Bradley Gavin
  • Comments Off on How was Social Media Used for the Oklahoma Disaster?
  • in News, Social Media, Technology

How was Social Media Used for the Oklahoma Disaster?

Rescuers search through rubble after a tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma

In the past when natural disasters have struck cities and rippled across countries, the rest of the world has been both slow on the uptake and limited in what they could do to support victims. I believe as human beings we are naturally inclined to help others that go through unwarranted tragedy as much as possible. It has been the case however that in a pre-internet age, what we could hope to do was limited to a village raffle or a collection at a church.   

However, when Moore, Oklahoma was struck by a tornado on May 20th of this year, the world had the means to raise awareness and actively help out. Thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter,  the world knew in minutes what had happened. This time social media was there.

Hemant Purohit and Professor Amit Seth of iRevolution.net observed in the first 48 hours of the Oklahoma disaster there had been 2.7 Million tweets on the subject, often accompanied by a hashtag (#). This amazingly equates to approximately 15 tweets a second. iRevolution.net sampled 2.1 million of those tweets made in the first 48 hours and found that 7% of them (around 14,6000 tweets) included discussions with regards to donations.

It is immediately evident that there was a great deal of awareness after the event and with awareness comes activists who want something to change. Many individuals simply used social media to assist the people affected by the Tornado as best they could.

The available support for Oklahoma could also be observed in some of the several Facebook pages that were created online. One of the more notable pages was a Facebook page titled ‘Oklahoma disaster relief direct donations to victims’. This page used the online Facebook community to create an environment where victims could request the essentials they needed in the knowledge that supporters would be able to send them.

The Pastor of the NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma also testified to the impact of social media, stating that “Social media became one of the quickest ways for us to mobilize volunteers and send supplies to areas that were being neglected.” The church also acted as a place of hospice for what were now, homeless families. 

Sadly natural disasters will continue to happen and there’s little to nothing we can do to stop it. The only thing we can do is use what is available to us and help the people affected. The kindness of others combined with the current power of social media has ensured that we’ve taken a big step in improving what we can do together.

 

Content Assistant - Daniel Horton - @itsdanielhorton
  • June 2, 2013
  • By Meera Patel
  • Comments Off on Social Media case study: How does the BBC use it?
  • in News, Social Media

Social Media case study: How does the BBC use it?

Just like the NHS, Cream Teas, the Queen and my favourite Prince Philip, the BBC is a well-established British institution.

Of course, it has issue. For example it doesn’t publish the salaries of Clarkson, Paxman and others, it got embroiled in the Saville scandal and there are always questions about whether or not license payers get value for money.

But the corporation must be given credit as well. It dared for example to invite Nick Griffin to their flagship debate programme Question Time back in 2009 and its coverage of last year’s Olympic Games was fantastic without doubt. Furthermore, where on earth would we be without iPlayer?

Our public service broadcaster can also be commended for its embrace of social networks. This is because it has a significant presence on Twitter, with accounts for TV and Radio shows and channels such as BBC Three, The Today Programme and Springwatch, and major events including the Glastonbury Festival and the Proms. In addition, there is a presence for breaking news stories, world, continental, county and city news, other news genres (Sport, Politics, Weather) and current affairs stories in other languages, including Welsh, Turkish and Urdu.

These efforts by the BBC to promote its programmes and channels on Twitter have also partly encouraged various presenters to have an account, including the Business News Editor Robert Peston, Graham Norton and cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew. Whether or not the corporation has any editorial control over what is published is a different matter though. They are responsible however for numerous hashtags. Those who watch Question Time religiously on Thursday evenings for example will be familiar with #bbcqt, whilst viewers of the The Voice may be aware of #teamjessie, #teamwill et al.

Apart from Twitter, the corporation has a similar and significant presence for its channels, shows and news output in English and other languages on Facebook, but with a greater emphasis on images. There are also a number of similar accounts on Google +, although just like many other accounts on this site, they don’t seem to be updated as often. Furthermore, the BBC has made use of Instagram to promote Children In Need, developed travel, food and future accounts for Pinterest and hosted numerous blogs on its website, including one their Political Editor (and former young conservative) Nick Robinson.

The online activities of the BBC can be criticised in two ways though. First, although there are numerous accounts, hash tags and retweets, there is little direct engagement about individual’s opinions. Most importantly however, there is no opportunity to put forward your opinions about recent programmes directly to the corporation on social media. This might be because any account would reduce the chance for staff to laugh and throw letters in the bin in disgust.

In summary: very good, but just that little bit more accountability would make it even better!

Alexander Blakey - Social Media Content Assistant - @ajrblakey
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