Convore is a Y Combinator startup that’s out to challenge the likes of Campfire and IRC with a free group-chat web app.
Users can create groups, either public or private, with multiple topics in each group, all free of charge. Private groups require would-be members to get moderators’ permission to join. Users can pick public and private group participants from your Facebook or Twitter friends, or they can invite members via e-mail.
Because it has options to connect one’s profile with one’s social networks, its onboarding process is fraught with opportunities to start chatting right away with people who already happen to be one’s friends.
The instant messaging is quick and incredibly simple to set up. It features a clean interface, and it’s usable in a way that very few new web apps are.
We also like the Mentions feature, which allows users to see who has sent them a message or replied to their message from within a group chat — an especially good feature for when chats get fast-paced or “noisy” or for when a person goes offline.
And while the uses for individuals and friends are undoubtedly there, what really excites us is what the app means for users in businesses, from tech startups to distributed SMBs to the enterprise.
All in all, it’s a prettier, more social media-friendly version of the group chat apps we already know — apps that, in spite of their popularity within the digitally addicted tech set, haven’t really rocketed to mass adoption just yet. In other words, even though there’s a lot of competition in this space, there’s still plenty of room to improve on current offerings and create a viable business.
Convore comes from the minds of developers Leah Culver and Eric Florenzano, as well as designer Eric Maguire. The latter two were recently working at online gaming powerhouse Mochi Media. Meanwhile, Culver and Florenzano met while coordinating some Django meetups in San Francisco, and the collaboration took off from there. The team has been working on Convore full time for approximately the past two weeks, out of an office in SOMA.
The first question that comes to mind, of course, is how does Convore plan to make money with a free web app, especially when their competitors are charging money?
In a conversation today, Culver told us that the plan is to get users first, then find out what features people will be willing to pay for once the company collects more user feedback. While the team was in our office, we mentioned that uploading files would be a nice option, as would being able to download chats as a text file and being able to play YouTube videos from within the app. The team told us some of these ideas might make for good paid features in the future.
Culver said mobile apps will also be a focus and hinted that the ability to embed code snippets might be coming soon, too.
Give Convore a shot, and in the comments, let us know what features you’d actually be willing to pay for — either as an individual or as part of a company that needs or already uses a group chat application.
Weber Shandwick released new research Wednesday, suggesting that “the crowd” knows a thing or two when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
The study, conducted last October by the PR firm‘s Social Impact speciality group in partnership with KRC Research, interviewed 216 executives from Fortune 200 companies involved with philanthropic or community outreach to determine the value of crowdsourcing and social media to CSR.
While only 44% of the executives said they had used crowdsourcing to generate ideas and spur decision making, 95% of those reported that it had been valuable to their organization’s CSR programming. Crowdsourcing helped create new perspectives, new energy, build audience relationships and find new clients, the report claimed.
Social media reversed that ratio with 72% saying they had used a social media service in regards to CSR, but only 59% believed that it had a positive impact on their communications with consumers. Facebook (67%) was seen as the most valuable social network while Twitter (46%) and Foursquare (44%) lagged behind blogs (60%) and LinkedIn (58%) in terms of perceived value.
In an earlier report from the same sample set, Social Impact and KCR Research reported that these executives valued CSR most for its impact on critical issues rather than more business-oriented motivations like customer loyalty. This is encouraging as CSR becomes increasingly important for major companies. Corporate social responsibility is a nebulous term that variably refers to the way businesses try to help and give back to the community and public well-being. CSR goals and expectations change from business to business, making it difficult to measure just how “socially responsible” a business is without internal documents.
These studies point to promising results, with top executives viewing non-profits as ideal partners because they make CSR investments more effective and provide a critical foundation and infrastructure.
Read below for the full report along with lots of graphs breaking down the core results by effectiveness. What do you think of CSR as a concept, are these results a step in the right direction?
PicPlz, the Instagram-like photo app for iPhone and Android, has just announced the latest version of its Android app.
The 2.0 version features an upgraded UI, a new Activity feed, an option to post pics already in your phone’s gallery and a slew of bug fixes.
Perhaps most exciting, especially given the variety of hardware available to Android users, is the addition of native camera support. This particular news is great for more advanced smartphones with cameras that allow for zoom, flash, white balance and focus adjustments.
Here are a few screenshots from the 2.0 version of the app, including a shot showing how we took a pic using the native camera on an Evo and using some of the fancier Evo camera options:
The company also released a new version of its iPhone app a couple weeks ago, bringing better design, navigation and speed.
If you use the app, you can go to the Android Market now to download the update. Let us know in the comments how it’s working for you.
HP unveiled its three new devices at a press event in San Francisco today: the Veer, Pre 3 and TouchPad. The Veer is a credit card-sized phone with a 2.6-inch screen, QWERTY keyboard and 8 GB of storage. The Pre 3 boasts a larger 3.6-inch screen, a 5MP camera and a front-facing camera for video conferencing.
The TouchPad was the star of the show, though. The iPad competitor has a 9.7-inch screen and a 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It’s a 1.6 pound machine with stereo speakers and 16 or 32 GB of memory. You can learn more about the device in our overview of the TouchPad.
I’ve had a chance to briefly play with all three devices. While I won’t be able to deliver a full review today, I do have a few random thoughts on each device:
HP Veer: This thing is tiny, but I can see the appeal for more casual users — just think about the Palm Pixi. The keyboard is well designed for its size, but no matter what, when you have a keyboard that tiny, you’re going to have problems typing. It feels responsive to the touch, though, and running apps doesn’t present a problem.
HP Pre 3: This thing feels sturdy and the keyboard’s been tweaked to make it easier to type. The card system for switching through apps is great. It feels “cheaper” than an iPhone, though. It’s plastic, not glass.
HP TouchPad: It doesn’t feel all that different from an iPad when you hold it. The OS features are commendable. Abilities, like integrating Facebook Photos or transferring web pages from the tablet to the phone just by touching the devices, are things that Google and Apple should learn from. With that said, this device needs a $500 or $600 price tag to be competitive with Apple.
We have photos of all three devices in a gallery we’ve assembled. Check out the photos and let us know, in the comments, what you think of HP’s new line of webOS devices.
Watch a lot of YouTube, but hate the way it thrashes your computer’s CPU? You’re in luck. Today Adobe released a new version of Flash Player, the software that powers most online video. Adobe says the new release is 34 times more power-efficient than previous versions — and should use no more than 15% of your CPU.
Flash Player, a product that dates back to 1997, started serving streaming video in 2002, and quickly became the industry standard. Adobe says nearly three quarters of all online video is encoded in Flash format. But it also started to gain a reputation as a processor and power hog. When the iPhone was launched in 2007, it deliberately shunned Flash in order to save on battery life. Last year, Steve Jobs wrote an open letter to Adobe claiming Flash was “the number one reason Macs crash” and that it reduced the battery life of mobile devices by half.
The secret sauce in Flash Player 10.2 is called Stage Video, a hardware accelerator that allows websites to speed up the video delivery process. “Stage Video can effortlessly play beautiful 1080p HD video with just 1-15% CPU usage on a common Mac or Windows computer,” Adobe product manager Tom Nguyen wrote in a blog post. “Working across platforms and browsers, it will enable the best video experience for the most people. Many millions of additional PCs, from netbooks to desktops, can now become slick HD home theaters on the web.”
Users who upgrade won’t see any improvement unless the website delivering video has also adopted Stage Video. But Nguyen says YouTube, Vimeo, Brightcove, and Epix have started enabling the new software. Regardless, there’s at least one more cool new feature in Flash Player 10.2: You can now watch video fullscreen in a second monitor while continuing to work on your primary screen. Multitaskers, start your engines.
Are you seeing performance improvements with Flash Player 10.2? Try Adobe’s preferred YouTube test video, below, to find out.