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Crisis at Facebook?

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Facebook scrambles to respond to critics. Facebook has faced user uproar in the past, but nothing as deafening as in the past week. Ever since the social network automatically enrolled all of its users in its "Instant Personalization" program, which exposed previously private information, it has faced mass defections and harsh criticism. Jason Calacanis suggested that entrepreneurs should use Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's nickname, Zuck, as an obscenity meaning "when someone either steals your business idea or screws you as a business partner." The company has responded by calling an all hands meeting this afternoon, during which, All Facebook says, the company will suspend the program or otherwise move to strengthen user privacy. "[I]t's clear that Facebook is feeling the pressure," writes blogger Nick O'Neill.

8 website ideas that are totally played out. For every original website idea, like Facebook or Twitter, there are dozens of clones and copycats that offer nothing new or exciting. With that in mind, technology blog, The Tech Update, has a humorous illustrated list of 8 websites you need to stop building. Not surprisingly, number one of the list of least-needed new sites are "Websites that let me know what my friends are up to." Other unnecessary websites on the list include Digg and Reddit clones and any website with a Flash intro, which the post equates to a grocery store manager blocking the entrance of his store and doing a little song and dance before allowing customers to enter.

Where to find digital talent. Boulder, Colorado was recently named the No. 1 city for tech start-ups, so it's no surprise that the University of Colorado's fledgling program Boulder Digital Works is becoming the go-to place to find the most tech-savvy talent out there, according to The New York Times. The program aims to help businesses cut down on training costs by teaching its students how to work with the most up-to-date technology on the market. One current student tells The Times, "The problem with traditional educational programs trying to teach digital is they're kind of strapped down to that old model." These classes are committed to staying current. Some courses teach eager techies how to design for the iPad and the Android, while others, like the Start Up class, ask students to think like entrepreneurs and develop their own commercial web applications.

Kayak founder looks to bring free Internet to Africa. As he explained in our February issue, Paul English, co-founder of the travel search engine Kayak, is completely obsessed with customer service. But as he tells FastCompany.com, another passion is bringing free wireless Internet to the entire continent of Africa. The ambitious project, called JoinAfrica, will be a "nonprofit/for-profit hybrid" that builds on smaller programs English has established in Burundi, Uganda, and Malawi over the past decade. "Having e-mail and Skype has been transformative for the handful of villages I've worked in," English tells the site.

Brazil's slumdog entrepreneurs. In TechCrunch, Sarah Lacy describes how technology is enabling entrepreneurship--and in some cases saving lives--in Brazil's favelas and India's slums. Rio's government has recently been successful in "pacifying" some favelas and driving out the drug lords. And in the absence of the neighborhood's richest people--the criminals, says Lacy, "survival-level entrepreneurs" are emerging, supported by programs like CDI, which offers access to computer labs for affordable prices in exchange for undertaking civic projects. One community video-tapped a rat infestation to show the city officials who otherwise would never have ventured in to investigate. Entrepreneurs who came up from Rio's favelas, adds Lacy, "trace back the early days of his company to tinkering and, essentially, hacking; one with computers, one with planes and advertising and one with bureaucracy. Computers, mobile and the Internet are the best canvases to hack and allow that hacking to have a bigger impact." Read more here.

Overwhelmed by the sudden explosion of local deals? With competition for group buying sites heating up, it can be hard to keep up with all the local bargains to be had. The New York Times Bits blog reports that a new site called Dealmap is setting out to aggregate all those deals from sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offering daily coupons, as well as social media sites like Twitter and Foursquare. Search for the type of place or event you want, and you can look at a map of all the places around you to find the lowest price. Dealmap is an offshoot of Center'd, a local search engine start-up that has secured $8.8 million in venture capital financing.

When inventors tackle the wrong problems. In our February issue we covered Saul Griffith, an inventor and entrepreneur with wildly discursive interests to a brain that's always humming. In a recent interview with the New Yorker, he spoke about a machine he had designed to manufacture low-cost lenses for the third world. The invention might have earned him a MacArthur "genius" grant but it was only later that he had discovered that he was solving the wrong problem. Chinese labor and global shipping had obviated his invention; the real need was for administering eye tests and writing prescriptions for people with little or no medical care. Here are 14 other inventors we love, including the minds behind bubble wrap and the Ferris wheel.

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Last updated: May 13, 2010




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