All Articles Tagged "mobile app"
Behind The Click: Marissa Jennings’ SOCIALgrlz App Targets Black Teen Girls, An Often Overlooked Demographic
Welcome back to “Behind the Click,” the column in which we profile Black women in STEM professions. Want to pitch this section? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Marissa Jennings
Favorite read: Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughter and African Tale by John Steptoe
Recent read: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Most inspired by: “Improving the quality of life for African-American girls through technology.”
One quote that inspires you: “…I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.” – Nelson Mandela
Mobile devices and apps place nearly everything in the palm of our hands. Think of Apple’s App Store or Google Play and the numerous apps held in each. Seems like there’s no shortage of content, tools or resources, but technology founder Marissa Jennings found a void when it came to a digital hub for African-American girls.
Her senior project in college morphed into the creation of SOCIALgrlz, a website and mobile app that houses interactive content for African-American girls between the ages of 13 and 17. “The SOCIALgrlz app is being designed for the average African-American girl,” says the founder.
We caught up with the Washington, DC–based entrepreneur to discuss the importance of SOCIALgrlz, running your own company and the best piece of advice, among other things.
MadameNoire: How did you get your start in the technology space?
Marissa Jennings: SOCIALgrlz was actually my senior college project at Bennett College. I was challenged by my college advisor, Charmaine McKissick- Melton, to create a public relations campaign for a product or company. I decided to create my own company and started to think, “What kind of company would I want to run.” I realized that I would love to create a magazine for African-American girls. I wrestled with the idea and realized paper was dying; websites were becoming a resource center, and apps were actually the future for interactive content.
After research and discussions with my COO and mentor Elenore Vaughn, I decided to develop a website and mobile app with interactive content for African-American girls ages 13- 17. Our research showed that not one mobile app was designed for this precious demographic. I became frustrated and excited at the same time. How can this demographic spend nearly $100 a month and not one app be designed for them? How could this demographic set unbelievable trends in fashion, education, sports, and no one is engaging them? I was presented with facts indicating that African-American girls were being overlooked in the mobile and web industry. I had to do something about this. Our girls deserve to be recognized in an industry they utilize every day.
MN: You’re the founder of SOCIALgrlz LLC. What inspired you to create this community and, furthermore, the app?
MJ: My nieces, Bennett sisters, my mother and grandmother inspired me to create this community. The young lady who helps her mother and other siblings get ready for school inspires me. She inspires me because she takes public transportation to school, uses her phone to check in with her family when she leaves and arrives to school. She inspires me when she walks through her community and has to be careful and cautious of strangers. I am inspired by the girl who is too shy to ask questions, but uses the internet as the help desk. She inspires me, and I don’t even know her name. I just know she exists and I have to make sure she has a safe place to see women and girls who look like her through technology. The SOCIALgrlz app is being designed for the average African-American girl. Apps are communities with like interests. I believe it is time to cultivate, nurture and educate the girls where they are. This demographic utilizes apps and we need to go to them.
MN: Blacks and Latinos lead the charge on social media, namely Twitter and Instagram. How do you think SOCIALgrlz will tap into these users and encourage content creation among young women of color?
MJ: We have designed various platforms that include Twitter and Instagram. What sets SOCIAlgrlz apart from other content-driven apps is we have a platform where we crowdsource content with images, video and text. Here, girls are able to add their voice to the story and identify solutions to practical [issues] they may face in a creative and exciting way. (It hints to our slogan: “Your Voice. Your Story.”) I believe once the girls are able to take ownership in their content creation, they will be inspired, feel like their opinion matters and have an opportunity to share thoughts in a positive and productive manner through social media.
MN: As a startup founder and CEO, what’s a day in the life for you?
MJ: I usually wake up very early to catch the headlines and crank out a few corresponding emails to my team (some live on the West coast). Once I check in with my team on goals, task and mini fires that seem to be burning, I exercise and find some “me time.” I often find myself researching, meeting with my tech solutions partner, Clearly Innovative, and seek new ways SOCIALgrlz can be visible and a resource to our target audience and our target audience’s parents. I think it is important to check in with everyone, the very people who believe in SOCIALgrlz, but also the future of SOCIALgrlz, including my mentee, Briana Hammons, a political science major at Howard University. She and I have cultivated a relationship that helps me truly identify the needs of girls younger than me. With a simple text or call, I am able to learn so much about the generation that grew up with technology. Although she is very much a responsible young lady — and no child — she also faces the challenges I once did. It is extremely important to have these conversations to help me and, my secret weapons, as we strategize the best way to tackle topics African-American girls face. My days and nights seem to run together only because I am so excited about the work I am doing. Here at SOCIALgrlz I refer to the team as “Team No Sleep!”
MN: There’s been a lot of conversation around diversity in technology. How has your experience been in maneuvering through the space?
MJ: I have been maneuvering in the tech industry with my gut and guidance from experts in several fields. As an African-American millennial tech CEO, I have found this journey to be challenging but equally rewarding. Raising awareness of the lack of apps designed for African Americans, let alone African-American girls, is the very reason why I created SOCIALgrlz.
I have been fortunate to be surrounded with experts and individuals, near and far, who have offered a helping hand, suggestions and evaluation in and out of the tech industry. I can also stand on solid ground and say that I know I can call upon other women in the tech industry who are taking a similar journey in the tech industry. We often share our experiences, contacts, disappointments and congratulatory tweets! This is what has helped me maneuver in the tech space. We have a long way to go breaking the barriers, but I believe holding companies accountable will help shift the diversity data.
MN: What will it take to bridge the current tech-talent pipeline issue?
MJ: We need the tech industry to be more receptive and reach out to communities of color who are active and visible in the tech industry. We also have to be more visible to giant tech organizations. For example, Microsoft recently reached out to me to develop a partnership with SOCIALgrlz because I was visible and active at various tech events. SOCIALgrlz has a 3-D vision that I shared at SXSW earlier this year. We realize we need doers, donors and door openers. With this vision my team and I were challenged to get out there and tell our story. We have learned in a short amount of time visibility pays off; success does not occur in the dark.
MN: Your startup is based in Washington, DC, which has a burgeoning tech scene. What does the DC tech scene offer that San Francisco or New York City may not?
MJ: The DC tech scene literally has the World Wide Web at our fingertips. Every embassy in the world has offices in Washington, DC. As a result we have international and national opportunities for the DC tech industry. In addition to the significant access, diversity resides in every major industry in Washington, DC — from energy, tech, finance, policy and education. Our tight-knit tech community does not have one face like many other tech communities. DC also has the best testing grounds for tech startups. It brings a great diversity in age, interest, professions and ethnicities.
MN: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received or given?
MJ: Stop being a jack-of-all-trades and master being a CEO!
Based in New York City, Janel Martinez is a multimedia journalist who covers technology and entrepreneurship. She is the founder of “Ain’t I Latina?” an online destination geared toward Afro-Latinas. You can follow her up-to-the-minute musings on Twitter @janelmwrites.
Not only has Big Sean released a song not so subtly titled “I Don’t Fu*k With You” to let the world know that he doesn’t mess with a certain someone anymore, he’s also released an official photo editor.
— Big Sean (@BigSean) October 9, 2014
The photo editor allows you to upload a photo of you and the person you no longer mess with, and blur their face out. It also stamps the photo with the hashtag #IDFWU. The images are collected into a gallery and it seems like people are having a lot of fun with it. Maybe it’s someone you don’t like, something you don’t eat, something you won’t wear. You can digitally let the world know that uh uh, you don’t f with with.
Since the song’s release there’s been strong speculation that Sean is venting about his former fiancee Naya Rivera. The song has taken off online with over five million plays on Soundcloud and providing the sound in many in popular viral Vine videos. The hashtag #IDFWU might just be working its way up to #YOLO status.
— Big Sean (@BigSean) October 13, 2014
With the printed magazine now a thing of the past, Jet’s new magazine app launches today. It will be weekly, with new content publishing each Friday. The app will showcase 3D images, video clips, audio, archival content and weekly news. All subscribers will have a 30-day free subscription.
The app’s first cover girl is Keke Palmer, last night’s backstage and social media hostess at the BET Awards and the new host of Just Keke, a talk show aimed at the millennial generation. Just Keke premieres today at 5pm ET.
In addition to Keke, this debut issue will also offer up Jet Beauty, a beauty package that offers enhanced views and interaction with a beauty model, a preview viewing through July 6 of the debut episode of “RoomieLoverFriends” from Black&Sexy TV, and celebrity updates.
“In the new digital magazine app, readers will still find their favorite JET staples such as the JET Beauty, Playlist and the Love & Marriage section. However, these features will be offered with digital enhancements and interactivity. Through the digital magazine app, content can come alive in the form of video and/or audio content, and readers can click through pages and immediately react/respond to what they just saw,” Cheryl Mayberry, Johnson Publishing’s COO told us via email.
You can download the app on the Jet website.
More than four million texts have reportedly been sent so far. Although the app was released on April 1st, it only gained popularity in recent weeks.
The notification you receive is a text with ‘Yo’ in it along with an alert that says ‘Yo’ in a robotic like voice. In a world where there are people who are trying to cure cancer who are lucky if they get $30,000 (as one Techcrunch reporter pointed out) and women entrepreneurs receive less than 15 percent of early-stage funding, news like this is pretty frustrating.
The Yo app was created by Israeli native Or Arbel, and it was initially rejected from Apple, because the app appeared to be incomplete. One tech evangelist says it’s “the stupidest but most addicting app ever.” But the stupidity, or rather the simplicity of it, is the app’s hook. The founder explains where it would take 11 taps of your finger to send ‘yo’ on any other texting service, it only takes two on the Yo app.
Arbel is the only full-time employee of the company. And the app is avail on Apple and Android phones. It has already become one of the top choices in Apple’s App Store. Let’s see how long this success lasts.
Popular social networking site Facebook has introduced a new mobile feature called “Nearby Friends” to the sound of complaints voiced across social media, mainly citing privacy concerns. FB has made it an optional feature versus a default setting.
The friend-tracking feature uses location information to let users know which friends are near them in real time. Ideally, Facebook wants to make it easier for people to meet offline, transforming Timeline conversations to in-person meetups—and more selfies and photo bombs of course.
Facebook’s product manager Andrea Vaccari writes in a press statement: “If you turn on Nearby Friends, you’ll occasionally be notified when friends are nearby, so you can get in touch with them and meet up. For example, when you’re headed to the movies, Nearby Friends will let you know if friends are nearby so you can see the movie together or meet up afterward.”
Your friends will only be able to see where you are if you opt-in to the live-tracking feature. You can enable the feature by clicking on the chat menu in the app’s upper right-hand corner. The option will appear at the top of the page, above the list of friends who are online. There is a slight chance you won’t see the option as of yet since Facebook is rolling out the feature slowly, Mashable reports.
Once you select Nearby Friends, you’ll have to check out a mandatory four-page tutorial, explaining all there is to know about the feature. The last page is where you’ll select whom you want to share your location with: all your Facebook friends, close friends or a customized list of people. Only those who have also opted-in to the service will be shown. Many are happy to know you can’t share your location with the public or friends of friends. After you “Turn On” the feature, your friends using the feature will be able to see your general location (no matter where in the world you are).
Once activated, you’ll see which friends are close by and approximately how close they are to you. You can check out more information on someone nearby by clicking on said person’s name, which will then take you to this person’s user profile page where you can either inbox them or give them a ring.
Data is collected as soon as you active the feature, which has a few people concerned about how secure their information is (i.e. home or work address) within Facebook’s servers, especially in the case of a hack attack or security breach. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the company will use GPS data from the feature for location-based advertising.
Users can turn off Nearby Friends and clear their location history, however, it’s not that easy. Mashable broke down the steps: “Click on the ‘More’ button in the lower right-hand corner of the app while using Nearby Friends. Scroll down, click on ‘Activity Log’ and then “Filter.” Now you need to scroll to the very bottom, and select ‘Location History.’
“At this time, data from Nearby Friends or Location History is not being used to target ads and the launch of this product doesn’t impact the way advertisers can target people based on location,” a spokesperson for Facebook told us. “When you opt-in to Nearby Friends, we will collect and store your precise location, even if you leave the app. This allows us to notify you when a friend who is sharing their location with you is nearby. We display this information in your Activity Log. Only you can see your Activity Log, and you can choose to delete this information at any time.”
Business Insider published a recent report that looked at mobile marketing, which revealed local apps and advertising lead to in-store purchases. Hence, small businesses and larger brands stand to eventually profit off of this latest feature.
Nearby Friends will be available on Facebook’s iOS and Android apps.
Do you plan to enable Facebook’s Nearby Friends? Let us know in the comments section.
Based in New York City, Janel Martinez is a multimedia journalist who covers technology and entrepreneurship. She is the founder of“Ain’t I Latina?” an online destination geared toward Afro-Latinas. You can follow her up-to-the-minute musings on Twitter @janelmwrites.
Played any good online games lately? From Candy Crush Saga to Flappy Bird, there’s a mobile game for every taste.
With the growth of social media — and all the sharing that comes with it — many people’s tech tastes have come to include vivid images. It’s not just about telling people what you see, hear, or think. It’s about showing them.
One day while driving through LA’s Malibu Canyon, Rochelle Thwaites came across a view she wanted to share with her friends. Rather than telling them where she was, she wondered who could guess where the photo was taken. That thought was the seed that would eventually become Nomino, a new digital game that Thwaites, Talitha Watkins, and actor Dulé Hill co-created.
Nomino is described as “a social game app that allows users to challenge their followers to solve riddles associated with a photo or video.” Participants play for points. Players can redeem their points in a marketplace (Update: The marketplace is now open).
For now, the game is only available for iOS devices, including the iPad and iPod. But the focus for the near future is on getting it up and running for Android users. According to Watkins, the app is already taking off, earning top 10 status for trivia apps in the Apple store, exceeding 3,000 downloads per day and gaining traction on Facebook and Twitter.
“People grabbed a hold of it and mastered it very quickly. I’ve been stumped many times on my own app,” Hill told us on a conference call.
Clearly, in order to play the game (let alone be the co-creator of it), you have to be digitally adept. As it happens, most everyone these days is just that. We walk around with computers in our pockets, downloading things, uploading things, checking in, tweeting and updating. So while Nomino is brand new, there is something familiar about it, which facilitates the quick adoption that the founding team is so pleased about.
“People have been posting photos on Instagram and asking people to guess what they see,” Thwaites said. “So it was a trend from way back.”
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Hill added.
Still, this is a new company and a fresh idea. Before Nomino was launched to the public — a redesign is already on the way — the team had to make sure they were on the same page.
Similar to the Around The Way app, the BlackTradeLines app was created to help African-American shoppers locate and support black-owned businesses. The app creators have a bigger picture in mind. “This is a result of an ongoing movement to get the African American dollar to circulate within the community to create jobs and alleviate poverty,” reports Virtual Strategy.
“The app is designed to be functionally intelligent and to serve its purpose which is to find and alert you of black businesses any where you go automatically,” says Iyua Yakobu, the company’s senior software engineer.
The app, which can be used on iPhone and Android, can search for African-American owned business in stealth mode. So even when the app is not in use, it uses the phone’s low pulse GPS locator to alert the user when they are 100 meters in walking mode from a black-owned business or 1,000 meters in driving mode, reports the website. There is an alert message that tells the user its proximity in meters or miles between a business or multiple businesses and their location.
Black businesses are categorized by business, deals, events, activities, and videos. For business owners wanting to list a business, download the app, add the name of the business, the product or service, take a picture of the business or product and you’re live and findable.
According to BlackTradeLines, the services both on the website and mobile applications are tailored to connect business owners and their customer base all under one platform.
As a black woman, the process of finding the right hair salon is a lengthy one of researching hair blogs and forums, word of mouth and sometimes a bit of trial and error. It’s easier if you’re looking for a salon in the neighborhood where you grew up or in a city where you know a lot of people, but what if you don’t know anyone? If you’re on vacation or out of town on business the process can be almost impossible, forcing you to overpay, or spend hours in the search.
A new app called “Black City” has just hit the market to address that issue. The app allows you to search black salons in your area. The search function breaks out into four categories: barbers, salons, natural and braids. After you select, the type of salon you’re looking for, just enter your zip code and a list of salons will come up.
The salon details include the names and address, the phone number, contact information and a button to show reviews or add reviews. The app just hit the market, so many of the salons have yet to be reviewed. But as it grows, that should change.
And in certain zip codes may show no results, in part because, let’s be honest, not every zip code will have a black salon in it’s vicinity. If, as with Google, you’re creative with your search, you should be able to find something you can get to. The app also takes advantage of crowdsourcing data and gives users the option to add a shop. When I searched various zip codes, four or five salon options would come up.
The interface is pretty simple and a bit reminiscent of the old school hair books that sit around in salons, but the functionality is easy and fast. The only major thing it seems to be missing is the option to display photos.
If the app catches on, it has the potential to become a rich database of black salons across the country.
Would you download this app? Let us know what you think.
From Black Enterprise
For many women of color, teenage memories include curling up with the latest issue of Honey,Suede, Essence or Vibe Vixen, among other print favorites. But with the current tech boom, is there really a place for today’s girls of color to get that same experience?
It’s a question that came up when Marissa Jennings, founder of SOCIALgrlz LLC, a social community designed for African-American girls between the ages of 13 and 17, was a student at Bennett College. Dedicated to creating a platform for African-American girls by African-American girls, it inspired Jennings to develop a teen magazine for this niche audience. Years later the Los Angeles native stuck with her vision, adding a new-age twist, launching her mobile, web and publishing company SOCIALgrlz in 2010, and an online educational platform in 2012. The company launched its first crowdfunding campaign, the Add Your 2 Cents initiative, which will help develop the first mobile application for African-American girls on the Apple and Android platforms.
“My entire career path has been focused on working on behalf of girls, especially girls who look and come from similar backgrounds as myself,” said Jennings to BlackEnterprise.com. “Today technology is the leading tool to communicate across the world. I’m witnessing the print industry essentially changing, with some publications ceasing to exist, and the Internet and mobile applications have become a resource as well as a tool with content interaction.”
Read more at BlackEnterprise.com
Police officers, in particular, are anticipating the release of an app that can locate outdoor surveillance cameras within a 100-meter radius of an iPhone. The smartphone application was developed by Kaza Razat and Khalid Mills after they noticed that law enforcement had low access to this information, reports Mashable.
Razat explains that after the Boston marathon bombings, the FBI issued a survey to surrounding businesses to see who had security cameras. “You would think that the FBI would have those tools or software but they don’t,” he said in Fast Company.
The new mapping app called Surv allows city-slickers to dodge security cameras or acknowledge their presence for safety reassurance. Currently, the app is undergoing a beta version after it has been approved by Apple. “It will be available in the app store once it’s further developed and legal issues are addressed,” Smart Planet says.
Surv runs by the collaborative efforts of the users who upload photos, description, and coordinates of the discovered surveillance cameras. Razat and Milis are attempting to fund this project by launching a campaign on Kickstarter, which allows creators to receive online funding from supporters. They are hoping to raise $25,000 to develop a more smooth-running version of Surv for the public.
For now, the app can only be accessed by New Yorkers.
Do you think this app will be beneficial in our lives? Or used for illegal purposes? Would you download Surv? A video about the new app, with a voice over by a stern British robot, is available below.