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Archive for February, 2011

US DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY AND MASDAR COLLABORATE IN TESTING CUTTING-EDGE SOLAR PV COATING TECHNOLOGIES

Clean energy cooperation between the United States and the United Arab Emirates continues to strengthen as the U.S. DOE and Masdar begin to unveil collaborative initiatives

(ME NewsWire) — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s multifaceted renewable energy initiative, announced that they will collaborate to test the performance of specially coated solar photovoltaic modules designed to avoid the moisture and cementation problems currently faced by PV module producers worldwide and prevent dry dust adhesion.

Developed by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)– the U.S. federal laboratory dedicated to the research, development, commercialization and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies ­– the coatings have been selected for testing following exchanges of scientific and technical information with Masdar, including soil sample collection and site visits to Abu Dhabi. The cooperation is a direct result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed by the DOE and Masdar last April to promote collaboration on clean and sustainable energy technologies.

Daniel B. Poneman, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy, and Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar, made the joint announcement at the solar test field of the specially coated photovoltaic modules located within Masdar City, which serves a clean tech cluster and test-bed of renewable energy and sustainable technologies.

Deputy Secretary Poneman said: “This collaborative testing exemplifies the shared vision of the United States and the United Arab Emirates to advance innovation and clean energy solutions. Masdar’s innovative test-bed supports the development of the cutting-edge technologies that will help overcome our energy challenges and aid economic growth. Through bilateral relationships like this, we can help build a secure, prosperous and sustainable energy future for the citizens of our nations and the world.”

Dr. Al Jaber said: “This pilot project demonstrates the real, tangible benefits created by the ongoing cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America. Our strong alignment in renewable energy research and development will not only benefit both of our nations, but also the global transition towards clean energy solutions.

Collaboration and increased international partnerships can generate vital momentum in addressing the energy challenges of today – creating a pathway for thriving, diversified economies and clean energy innovation,” added Dr. Al Jaber.

Since signing the MoU in April 2010, bilateral working groups have been carrying out significant scientific and technical information exchange in areas including carbon capture and sequestration, buildings technology, clean energy sector national outreach, as well as investment-orientated analysis with the Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy (ARPA-E).

“Acting as a test-bed for the United States to evaluate new technologies affirms Masdar’s global leadership as a hub for collaboration in renewable energy and clean technology development,” added Dr. Al Jaber. “It is a testament to Masdar’s commitment to work in parallel with global partners to advance the adoption of clean energy worldwide and foster human and scientific development.”

The current U.S.- UAE collaboration complements Masdar’s existing strong partnership with commercial entities and academic institutions in the United States, including: cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the establishment of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology a not-for-profit, post-graduate research institute dedicated to renewable energy, environmental technologies and sustainability.

The United States and the United Arab Emirates will continue collaboration when the second Clean Energy Ministerial is held in Abu Dhabi on April 6-7, 2011. U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu, alongside other member nations, will be in attendance. Established in 2009, thehigh-level global forum brings together governments to promote policies and programs that advance clean energy technology and facilitate the transition to a global clean energy economy.

About Masdar

Masdar is Abu Dhabi’s multi-faceted initiative advancing the development, commercialisation and deployment of renewable and alternative energy technologies and solutions. The company serves as a link between today’s fossil fuel economy and the energy economy of the future – developing the “greenprint” for how we will live and work tomorrow. Backed by the stability and reputation of the Mubadala Development Company, an investment vehicle of the government of Abu Dhabi, Masdar is dedicated to the emirate’s long-term vision for the future of energy.

For more information about the Masdar Initiative, please visit:www.masdar.ae


Contacts

Masdar

Meray Atef

press@masdar.ae

+971 2 653 6014

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Are you involved in environmental activities? Do you find the shift to a green environment challenging? Let us know your say on this press release.

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UAE: Excellence and Quality meet as DEWA Launches Staff E-Learning Programs

(ME NewsWire) — Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) strengthens  its initiatives to implement the e-learning system as part of its steady march towards excellence and building up an integrated society based on knowledge. DEWA, meanwhile, takes into consideration attracting and bringing in the most up-to-date technologies and solutions and integrating them into its various e-operations. DEWA has launched several e-learning programmes including New Employees Programme, which includes Time Management and Pressures, Successful Work Team, Decision Making & Problem Solving, e-management intended to DEWA Middle Management Staff.

This initiative is accompanied by the process of personnel development, enhancing the level of job performance, and    fine-tuning    their skills using the best scientific techniques and methods, as it believes in the effectiveness of the learning system based on research and knowledge collection. As a result, DEWA has created e-learning programmes for its staff.

In this regard, HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer MD & CEO of DEWA stated: “DEWA gives due care to its employees  and developing their capabilities at workplaces in line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. These directives stress the importance of paying great attention to manpower and providing them with everything necessary to raise their level of performance and job satisfaction. Also, DEWA strategy aims to encourage and develop its employees’ capabilities and provide them with all the necessary tools, courses and programmes so as to enhance all employees’ performance level and polish their skills in order to promote work environment”.

“DEWA’s initiative to implement e-learning system is regarded as part of its strategy to adopt the most state-of-the-art technologies either in services or in training its employees,” HE Al Tayer further added.

On his part Dr Yousef Al Akraf, Vice President – HR, said: “DEWA has launched monthly e-Courses including the monthly e-Training Programme, which aims to enlarge the scope of knowledge and educate all employees on e-Training System. Every month we present some e-courses in different administration-related fields to develop and enhance employees’ efficiency.”

“Applying and implementing the e-Learning system is considered an introduction that supports the process of training and development. This system is based on an essential component – Learning Management System (LMS), which is designed to help in managing, following up and evaluating training and on-going learning. Also, this programme enables users either administrators or trainees to benefit from the applications of the system depending on their own needs and requirements,” Dr Al Akraf added.

Dubai electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is one of the first Government Departments to implementthe e-Learning in work environment so as to enhance the efficiency and performance of its employees. This can be clearly seen through its march and accomplishments as it is always gaining world prestigious prizes in the field of excellence and quality. Consequently, it has established a very high position on the local, regional and international levels.

-ENDS-


Contacts

Contact:

Media & Marketing, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa)

media@dewa.gov.ae

+971 4 324 4444

Websites to Google: ‘You’re killing our business!’

February 27, 2011 4 comments

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Google made one of the biggest changes ever to its search results this week, which immediately had a noticeable effect on many Web properties that rely on the world’s biggest search engine to drive traffic to their sites.

The major tweak aims to move better quality content to the top of Google’s search rankings. The changes will affect 12% Google’s results, the company said in a blog post late Thursday.

“Our goal is simple: to give users the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible,” said Gabriel Stricker, Google spokesman. “This requires constant tuning of our algorithms, as new content — both good and bad — comes online all the time. Recently we’ve heard from our users that they want to see fewer low quality sites in our results.”

Typically, Google’s algorithm changes are so subtle that few people notice them. But these most recent changes could be seen immediately.

How to test the change: The IP address 64.233.179.104 displays Google search results as they would have appeared before the recent algorithm change, according to several webmasters posting to the WebmasterWorld.com forum.

Google would not confirm that IP address uses the older algorithm, but comparing searches of trending topics on google.com with searches using the special Google IP address reveals how the search engine now seems to be favoring certain content.

The changes appear to be affecting so-called “content farms” the most, which are websites that amass content based on the most-searched terms of the day. Demand Media, AOL, Mahalo and the Huffington Post have all been accused of such tactics, including a notable “story” from HuffPo about the Super Bowl that Slate.com media critic Jack Shafer called “the greatest example of SEO whoring of all time.”

Tests using trending topics show Google’s tweaks in action.

The current top Google result for a search of Charlie Sheen rant target “Haim Levine” is a New York Daily News page, followed by a story from gossipcop.com. The old algorithm would have featured two Huffington Post stories at the top, with the New York Daily News story not appearing appear until the second results page.

A controversial decision: Any change to Google’s algorithm is a zero-sum game. Some websites win, some lose.

Comments from site operators lit up on the WebmasterWorld.com forum starting on Wednesday. Many webmasters complained that traffic to their sites dropped dramatically overnight, and others expressed concern that they can’t adapt quickly enough to Google’s changes to its algorithm.

“Why is it that every single time the search engine result page starts to stabilize and sales return, Google has to throw a monkey wrench in the system again?” asked commenter backdraft7. “Hey Google, this is not fun anymore – YOU’RE KILLING OUR BUSINESSES!”

“My God. I just lost 40% of my traffic from Google today,” said commenter DickBaker. “Referrals from Yahoo, Bing, direct sources, and other sources are the same, but Google dropped like a rock.”

There are many legitimate ways content creators optimize their sites to rise to the top of Google’s results. But Google has been cracking down on what it regards as inappropriate attempts to do so: The company recently penalized Overstock.com and JC Penney in its search results after the companies were found to have set up fake websites that linked to their own, causing Google’s algorithm to rank them higher.

When it comes to site content, the lines get very fuzzy. Operators like Demand Media (DMD) — which now has a market valuation of $1.9 billion, more than the New York Times Co. is worth — sit right on the ever-shifting boundaries.

“Sites of this type have always been controversial,” said Daniel Ruby, research director at Chitika, Inc. a search advertising analytics company. “On one hand, they often do produce extremely informative, well-written articles. On the other hand, they put out countless articles on a daily basis, and some claim they exist only to generate the top result on as many keywords as possible.”

Demand put out a very carefully worded response to Google’s changes.

“As might be expected, a content library as diverse as ours saw some content go up and some go down in Google search results,” Larry Fitzgibbon, the company’s executive vice president of media and operations, wrote in a blog post. “It’s impossible to speculate how these or any changes made by Google impact any online business in the long term — but at this point in time, we haven’t seen a material net impact.”

So will Google’s changes have a lasting effect on search quality? Perhaps. But it’s an arms race: Any time the company adjusts its algorithms, those determined to beat them immediately adjust.

“Content originators make money, and Google makes money,” said Whit Andrews, analyst for Gartner. “Their interests will always be in conflict, and as long as there is greed, people will try to game system.” To top of page

Social Media Names The Oscars Winners [INFOGRAPHIC]

With the Oscars awards broadcast only hours away, we can’t wait another minute — we’d like to know who’s going to win, and we want to know now. Here’s an exclusive infographic that could give us a hint or two.

However, according to Webtrends, this pre-show buzz might not indicate the real winners. When Webtrends experts were looking at the details of the data, “it was clear that this is the ‘people’s choice’ – a popularity contest and not necessarily the view of the Academy.”

How did Webtrends get this data? It scoured blogs, Facebook, Twitter feeds and other microblogs, putting a finger on the pulse of the online world, picking up the pre-buzz and figuring out who might have a good chance of winning.

So take a look at this data, keeping in mind that these “winners” might not necessarily point toward the Academy’s choices. Who do you think will win? Let us know your picks in the comments.

*Source: Mashable

Facebook Writes Its Privacy Policy in a Language Humans Can Read

Facebook rolled out a new way for users to read and understand its privacy policy. Although none of the terms of the privacy policy have changed, the new site and policy outlines has been rewritten, reformatted and reorganized in a way that makes it easy for non-lawyers to understand.

This trial format comes a day after Facebook responded to an inquiry from the the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. In its response, Facebook said that it agreed with the FTC’s finding “that any privacy framework must be implemented in a way that both honors consumers’ expectations in the contexts in which they use online services and promotes the innovation that has fueled the growth of the Internet of the past two decades.”

Facebook explained the rationale behind the new human-friendly draft of its privacy on the Site Governance page, stating it had settled upon a few basic principles when trying to figure out what users want from a privacy policy.

These principles are:

  1. First, it should be easy to understand, even when the concept is complicated or is of no use to anyone.
  2. Second, it should be visual and interactive, because that’s the way people use the web today.
  3. Third, it should focus on the questions Facebook users are most likely to ask, because that makes it relevant.

Looking at the draft policy and at Facebook’s official privacy policy, we know which one we prefer.

It’s really amazing what kind of difference larger fonts and well organized information can have on the readability of a document.

Make no mistake: Even in this early draft, the Facebook’s privacy policy is still a dense document. That said, information is much more understandable and the navigational aspects are a huge improvement.

Frankly, our hats are off to Facebook for putting this type of document together. We wish other companies (read: Google) would be so willing to better present this type of information.

Top 10 Twitter Trends This Week [CHART]

American pop music has loosened its grip on the top Twitter trends and yielded to the news of populist uprisings in Libya, which have been fueled in part by social media themselves. The Libyan protests hit the number one spot on our chart this week as tweeters fervently discuss the future of democracy in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, as Britney, Gaga and Bieber tussled for Twitter clout these past few weeks, the one-year anniversary of the music video “Baby” propelled the pop prince to the fore. Bieber grabbed the number two spot, with Gaga trailing closely behind at number three.

The NBA All-Star Game and the ongoing political upheaval around public worker unions in Wisconsin round out the week’s top Twitter chatter.

For the full list of top trends, check out the chart below, compiled by our friends at What the Trend. Because this is a topical list, hashtag memes and games have been omitted from the chart.

You can check past Twitter trends in our Top Twitter Topics section, and read more about this past week’s trends on What The Trend.


Top Twitter Trends This Week: 2/18 – 2/24


Facebook in Real Life: Startup Finds the Art & the Ego in Social Interactions

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Social Printshop

Quick Pitch: Social Printshop is an early-stage startup working to significantly alter the web’s relationship with the physical realm. Its first product, the Facebook Friend Poster, is the equivalent of a real-life Facebook Wall.

Genius Idea: Capitalizing on social interactions

Benjamin Lotan is the founder and CEO of Social Printshop, a startup that turns social media connections and photos into physical prints that buyers can put on display in their homes and offices.

On the surface, it’s a straightforward printshop serving the social media obsessed. Social Printshop’s products — Facebook fan/friend posters, Twitter prints, social media stickers and mini photo books — all add tangibility to social media relationships. What better way to experience those Facebook or Twitter relationships than to observe the avatars of these “friends” on your wall, in an art-like fashion?

There’s no controversy here, except that Lotan admits to building a business that caters to the ego and capitalizes on social interactions. It’s a regular business objective, but Lotan sees himself as a Robin Hood. “We’re almost stealing money from our customers,” he says, “to reroute money into projects we believe in.”

Lotan, a Visual Arts student working toward a Master of Fine Arts at the University of California at San Diego, believes in the artistic sensibility of those around him. Frustrated by seeing friends’ and fellow students’ solid ideas fail for lack of funding, Lotan chose a road that would potentially right those wrongs.

“I saw the tech route as the easiest route to get money pretty quickly,” he says. So, Lotan built and launched the Facebook Friend Poster in a week, and used it as a vehicle to mobilize friends and create a business.

Lotan speaks of a three- or four-year plan to make Social Printshop into a profitable company, at which time he’ll funnel the money into projects closer his heart.

The immediate goal is to feed off early attention, create a brand and work on a more meta goal of adding point-of-sale to social interactions, something Lotan refers to as both “supremely nice and supremely evil.”

Though a handful of other products have since been released, the Facebook Friend Poster remains Social Printshop’s most recognized product. Mashable, as a customer, will create the world’s largest real-life Facebook Wall to put on display in our New York headquarters as wallpaper. Our interest has spawned a me-too reaction from huge brands who want a giant life-sized social canvas of their own, according to Lotan.

The look-at-how-big-my-following-is motivation has an Old Spice Guy ring to it. Look at your Facebook fans. Now back at mine. Now look at all of the people who love me, and marvel at my greatness.

Lotan, omni-conscious of the ego-appeal in his existing products, may or not may soon release SuperEgo.me, a site that could take self-importance too far into the absurd.

The name alone sounds like everything that’s wrong with the web, and that’s almost the point. The app caters to the notion that you are your greatest fan. It will hook into your Facebook profile, strip out your friends, and just show you in all your glory.

SuperEgo.me started as a way to poke fun at Facebook photo app Pixable and online start page About.me. Lotan says that the irony behind these products is that people really only want to look at photos of themselves. Though, after continuing to iterate on the app, he’s now conflicted between building a product with real appeal and releasing something that could be perceived as a joke.

That battle wages on, but Social Printshop’s 15-person team — an unusual blend of developers, writers, musicians, poets and an investor with a soft-core porn background — is currently using its $70,000 in seed funding to build two photo-centric mobile apps, with associated for-charge print products, of course.

Today, Social Printshop processes anywhere from one to ten orders per day and handles custom corporate requests. “To get to be a 100 million dollar company,” Lotan says, “we’re going to need to produce something significant.” He talks of producing a print API and creating an ecosystem of its own to make that happen.

Still, Social Printshop traffics in the ego. And, is there any less art in that? A Twitter photo print of all my followers would be a cool way to represent four-plus years of social achievement. Where do I sign-up? Cha-ching.

*Source: Mashable