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The Secret Service Plays Video Games to Prepare for Trouble. The Secret Service is scrapping the tabletop model, dubbed Tiny Town, that it has used for security training scenarios over the past 40 years.

The Secret Service Plays Video Games to Prepare for Trouble

Now, instead, the agency will practice on something called the Site Security Planning Tool, a kind of "Virtual Tiny Town" that uses 3-D models, game-based virtual environments, touch interfaces, and virtual disaster response scenarios to help Secret Service members prepare for the worst. In other words, the Secret Service is prepping for possible disasters with video games. Virtual Tiny Town is made up of three 55-inch touchscreen monitors, a computer running the Virtual Battle Space simulation game, and an attached projector and camera.

In-game happenings can be displayed on large LED 3-D monitor for demonstrations and class teachings. So far, Virtual Tiny Town can help agents prepare for chemical, biological, and radiological attacks, as well as armed attacks and suicide bombers. Plentyoffish CEO: We Were Hacked, Almost Extorted – So I Emailed The Hacker’s Mom. The title of strangest WTF story of my morning is Plentyoffish CEO Markus Frind recounting how his online dating site got hacked, he and his wife were harassed and someone clumsily attempted to extort his company in the aftermath of the events.

Plentyoffish CEO: We Were Hacked, Almost Extorted – So I Emailed The Hacker’s Mom

If that is in fact what happened … First up, Frind points out that the site has indeed been hacked last week in a “well planned and sophisticated attack”. Apparently, POF users’ email addresses, usernames and passwords were downloaded, although Frind does not say how many. Nordstrom Acquires Flash Sales Site HauteLook For $270 Million. In one of the larger exits so far in the flash sales business, retail chain Nordstrom has acquired flash sales site HauteLookfor $180 million in Nordstrom stock and three-year earn-out of up to $90 million.

Nordstrom Acquires Flash Sales Site HauteLook For $270 Million

HauteLook has raised $41 million in funding. Thanks to the immense popularity of members-only, online sample sales, HauteLook has grown to 4 million members since launching in 2007. Can you fire someone for disparaging your company on Facebook? (Editor’s note: Curtis Smolar is a partner at Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley.

Can you fire someone for disparaging your company on Facebook?

He submitted this column to VentureBeat.) A reader asks: I have an employee who has gone onto Facebook and griped about my company. Can I institute company policies that prevent employees from doing this and terminate their employment them if they continue? Answer: It’s a frustrating and embarrassing situation for a business to see its employees assailing it via social media platforms – but penalizing them for it is a tough, if not impossible, task. The debate over the First Amendment rights of the employee to post their negative feelings about a company and the rights of the company to protect its private informa tion used to skew in the employer’s favor.

Nowhere to Hide: Assessing Your Work Reputation Online: Tech News and Analysis « By now if you haven’t heard of Klout and in a moment of vanity checked your own Klout score, you’re in the online minority.

Nowhere to Hide: Assessing Your Work Reputation Online: Tech News and Analysis «

Klout engenders a lot of debate about its algorithms and relevance, but regardless of opinion, the undercurrent of the conversation is that we’re heading into a world of Klout whether we like it or not. More broadly, we’re heading into a world of unprecedented measurability. In the Future, Robots Will Surf Their Own Internet. If robots are to become our overlords, they will need their own Internet to communicate with each other.

In the Future, Robots Will Surf Their Own Internet

RoboEarth, a just-launched robot information sharing network, gets them that much closer to world domination. The EU-funded RoboEarth project is bringing together European scientists to build a network and database repository for robots to share information about the world. They will, if all goes as planned, use the network to store and retrieve information about objects, locations (including maps), and instructions about completing activities. Robots will be both the contributors and the editors of the repository. The point, according to the RoboEarth project, is to allow robots to learn from past experiences and share them with their peers. Cynthia Breazeal: The rise of personal robots. Livestream: Debating the National Broadband Plan : Tech News and Analysis « As the Federal Communications Commission strives to deliver broadband access to every American under the National Broadband Plan, it faces the challenge of connecting residents — and keeping them connected — at competitive rates and with competitive features in a not-so-competitive market.

Livestream: Debating the National Broadband Plan : Tech News and Analysis «

Today GigaOM and the New America Foundation are sponsoring a debate between Craig Settles, an author and broadband consultant, and Blair Levin, the author of the National Broadband Plan, to discuss how America can meet the broadband needs of its citizens for the current century. Please follow along in the live stream below from 10:00 a.m. How Bradford Cross Plans to Save the Media Industry: Tech News and Analysis «

By now, it’s become obvious that the web is disrupting the media business in some fundamental ways — and not just the distribution of content, but the monetization of it as well. Publishers and content producers of all kinds are desperately trying paywalls, metered access, iPad apps and pretty much anything else they can think of, while users are turning increasingly to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook for their news, as well as aggregation apps like Flipboard. Bradford Cross, co-founder of a new startup called Woven, thinks most of those solutions attack only part of the problem.

He wants to solve the entire thing — the content-discovery side and the monetization side. That’s a pretty big assignment, as Cross freely admits. In fact, it’s a little like saying you want to cure cancer and make hospitals fun places to stay at the same time. ? read Twitter as a daily newspaper. Raises $2.1 Million For Social News Curation, Hits 2 Million Users. Exclusive - SmallRivers, the Switzerland-based company behind, a service that taps social streams from users and turns them into personalized online newspapers, has just raised $2.1 million in funding from Highland Capital Partners, SoftBank Capital and Endeavour Vision. Raises $2.1 Million For Social News Curation, Hits 2 Million Users

The fresh capital and relations will service to grow SmallRivers’ team, establish partnerships with global service and content providers and set up shop in the United States and Asia. For starters, SmallRivers is planning to move part of its team from Switzerland to California. Disney looks beyond apps with HTML5 game maker Rocket Pack. Disney has acquired gaming startup Rocket Pack, a specialist in games which use HTML5, the latest version of the Web’s lingua franca.

Disney looks beyond apps with HTML5 game maker Rocket Pack

The deal signals a move in the game-development community towards HTML5 games, which can be played across almost every modern device and Web browser. Games and other apps built specifically for Apples iOS devices or Android devices have to be rebuilt in order to work on other platforms, so HTML5′s portability makes it appealing to developers and game publishers alike. The move mirrors Disney’s larger corporate strategy as well, in which it seeks to distribute its content across as many platforms as possible. Rocket Pack, based in Helsinki, Finland, will become a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company in the Disney Interactive Media Group. Social Games vs Multiplayer Games: A Commentary on Raph Koster’s Social Mechanics Presentation.

[Editor's note: Guest columnist Tadhg Kelly has an in-depth review, below, covering a presentation recently given by veteran game developer Raph Koster at the Game Developers Conference happening this week in San Francisco.

Social Games vs Multiplayer Games: A Commentary on Raph Koster’s Social Mechanics Presentation

Please note that in order to follow along with Kelly's commentary, you'll need to reference Koster's original presentation. Please view the presentation itself, here, for reference.] The excellent Raph Koster delivered a long presentation (190 slides) at GDC on Monday on what he called social mechanics. Zynga buys social browser Flock … or maybe just its engineering team. Social Web browser Flock just announced that it has been acquired by social gaming giant Zynga, confirming an earlier report in TechCrunch.

Chief executive Shawn Hardin wrote that the deal is a “perfect fit” and that “Flock will help Zynga in achieving their goal of building the most fun, social games available to anyone, anytime – on any platform.” (Zynga has built its massive audience on Facebook, but is now trying to diversify.) The Future of Cities, Information, and Inclusion. The Future of Cities, Information, and Inclusion Over the next decade, cities will continue to grow larger and more rapidly. At the same time, new technologies will unlock massive streams of data about cities and their residents. As these forces collide, they will turn every city into a unique civic laboratory—a place where technology is adapted in novel ways to meet local needs.

State, Local Government Agencies Reach Agreement with Facebook on Legal Concerns. State and local agencies are now more enabled to use Facebook to disseminate information to the public after attorneys general from 15 states reached an agreement with the social network. Specifically, Facebook and representatives of the state worked on the company’s terms of service in order to address legal concerns some of these public entities encountered when using the site. The deal shows that Facebook is willing to cooperate with governments, meaning future deals regarding other things like government access to private information or compliance with potential privacy legislation might similarly go smoothly. Facebook could become a more significant way for communities to become closer. In the past, a town newspaper, newsletter, or bulletin board might have held important information about municipal policy and planning.

Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future. Video Credit: Neil Chambers In an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the book, Kahn compares us to "the Titanic on the night of April 14th 1912". He goes on to say that we all know the way the story ends with the then-largest passenger steamship. It is easy to assume that if the watchmen abroad would have seen the iceberg in the distance, they would have surely changed course.

A slight navigational tweak would have meant the difference of one of the most tragic stories in history being avoided. The Titanic Kahn focuses on the city as the source of much needed attention...that unlike the steel boat that was bent on being the fastest ship to sail between England and New York, urban areas are where most people live today and that the trend of more people living in these areas will only increase. 2010: the year in internet stats. Five overhyped tech trends for 2011. Social Media Week / Event Spotlight: Startup Lab, Hosted by Augmendy. MindJolt to feed games to 110M users through deal with local web site aggregator. Gartner Forecasts Mobile App Store Revenues Will Hit $15 Billion in 2011. More Tech Tools for Egypt's Protesters:, an Online Hub for Grassroots Activists.

Technology 500: Tech industry is on an upward swing. How Social Media Is Pushing the Limits of Legal Ethics: Tech News and Analysis « Game Design Has Become a Game. Social media case studies from JetBlue Airways, Saab, Sony Ericsson, and 10 more. Hacking is the new cheat, News from GamePro. How LinkedIn Today Will Change Your Social Media Life.