Gates, the philanthropist, on lessons learned (Q&A)

SEATTLE--Bill Gates thought that coming up with vaccines would be the hard part and that delivering vaccines would be the easy part.

It turns out they are both hard.

That's one of the lessons that Gates tells CNET he has learned in his new role as full-time philanthropist. In travels to Africa, he saw firsthand the challenges of delivering vaccines, many of which have to be kept cold to be effective and are needed in places with no refrigeration.

"We were a bit naive about that, particularly getting new vaccines adopted by countries," Gates said in an interview with CNET's Ina Fried last week. "It had been so long since they had done it, I just assumed they would look at the numbers, it would be a very straightforward process. Well, the process doesn't even exist."

Plus, he said, "The cold chain is more messed up than I expected."

In the interview, which was done in conjunction with the release of the annual letter (PDF) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates talked about other surprises he encountered in his travels, including the fact that one of the ways to reduce the spread of AIDS in Africa is to promote adult circumcision--something that he wasn't sure would be feasible.

"Male circumcision--which I thought wouldn't be a big effect because I didn't think adults would be that interested in it--it looks like that's really going to help slow the disease," Gates said.

Gates also talked about his recent foray into Twitter and the launch of his Gates Notes Web site.

"The Internet is tailor-made for the kind of activities I'm involved in," Gates said. "When I take a trip, we have all these photos. And there were things that were fun and exciting, and people want to see that. It's very easy to put it up there...I think it's going to be a lot of fun to be sharing on an ongoing basis, and people who are interested in a particular topic can just find that piece and go after that." … Read more

Lenders using social networks to assess applicants?

Could stacking your Twitter or Facebook contacts lists with financially-responsible friends help improve your chances of getting a loan?

The answer could be yes, according to a report out this week from In a story entitled, "Social networking: Your key to easy credit?" reporter Erica Sandberg writes that, "In their quest to identify creditworthy customers, some (creditors) are tapping into the information you and your friends reveal in the virtual stratosphere."

The idea here is that banks, credit card companies, mortgage issuers, and other lenders may have stumbled onto what they think is a … Read more

Astronaut sends first live tweets from space

You really can't escape Twitter. Even in space.

NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, on board the International Space Station, made social-media history Friday morning when he became the first person to send a Twitter message from space. Creamer, under his Twitter username @Astro_TJ, tweeted, "Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station--the 1st live tweet from Space! :) More soon, send your ?s."

The astronauts on the International Space Station have connected to the Web through Crew Support LAN, which significantly enhances the private communication access that astronauts have while floating above the Earth. … Read more

Fist pump! All your 'Jersey Shore' finale tweets

When the biggest pop-culture sensation on television details the adventures of a bunch of loudmouthed, lowbrow twentysomethings, of course the buzz on Twitter is going to be a big deal.

So for the Thursday season finale of MTV's "Jersey Shore," the network has launched a "Twitter Tracker" to see which of the reality show's excessively tanned, middle-finger-flipping cast members are getting talked about the most.

Created in sync with social-media firm Radian 6, the tweet aggregator brings up extremely scientific graphs pulling in data for Twitter searches for the show's characters so that … Read more

Seesmic makes Twitter pretty, with Look

Seesmic, which makes Twitter and Facebook apps for AIR, Windows, and mobile platforms, on Thursday is launching Seesmic Look, a new product designed for the Twitter watcher much more than the Twitter contributor or participant. The app lets you scan the feeds of popular Twitter celebrities, or show feeds for specific topics, like the NFL or Wall Street business. It can display tweets as they come in, or it can go into "playback" mode to let you catch up on what you missed.

Look is a pretty, touch-enabled app. Seesmic CEO Loic Le Meur says Look is optimized … Read more

4 ways to score free iPhone apps

When it comes to freebies, the iTunes App Store offers an embarrassment of riches. I'm routinely surprised, and delighted, by some of the superb apps you can get without spending a cent.

Ah, but how do you find them? Sure, iTunes lists the "top free apps" for various categories, but those lists rarely show new items. Also, what about those apps that are only temporarily free?

I've rounded up four free and easy ways to find, monitor, and fetch free apps.

New site Free App a Day offers exactly what you'd expect: a new freebie every day. However, each one is free for that day only, so you need to check in regularly. Better yet, sign up for e-mail notification, which you can filter based on categories of interest--a nice touch, or follow its Twitter feed. I continue to be a big fan of FreeAppAlert, which produces a daily roundup of apps that previously cost money but are now free (either temporarily or permanently, though it doesn't indicate which). The site is great, with full-size screenshots that appear when you mouse over thumbnails, but I like the reminders I get from FreeAppAlert's Facebook feed.… Read more

Using Twitter to help Haiti

So, you've donated your $10 to relief efforts in Haiti via text message on your mobile phone and you want to do more to help. A Web site launched this week allows anyone with an Internet connection to help collect information from people on the ground in Haiti and distribute it to relief workers there.

Haiti Live has an embedded Twitter stream with tweets from Haiti with information on things like where medical supplies are needed and what local infrastructure is like in particular areas. Visitors to the site read the Twitter news stream, and when they see an … Read more

Bill Gates joins Twitter

Bill Gates is many things: software giant, philanthropist, and now Twitter user.

As of a few hours ago, the Microsoft chairman is one of the millions offering brief takes on their world to anyone who wants to follow them. I doubt that he'll be sharing what he had for breakfast or bemoaning the fact that his cell phone just dropped a call, but Gates is now on Twitter.

The "@BillGates" account existed before, but it wasn't actually Gates or anyone on his staff doing the posts. Now, though, the account is held by Gates and is … Read more

Twitter grows up in aftermath of Haiti earthquake

In the wake of the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, Twitter has been serving as a major hub of information, the Nielsen Company reports. Nielsen refers to preliminary analysis of data indicating that Twitter posts are the leading source of discussion about the quake, followed by online video, blogs, and other social media.

Although most online consumers still rely on traditional media for coverage of the quake, they are apparently turning to Twitter to share information, react to the situation, and rally support. Sysomos, an analytics firm in Toronto, estimated that nearly 150,000 posts containing both “Haiti” and “… Read more

Twitter airport bomb joker arrested

I have an announcement to make. You know this Twitter thing? Well, it's public. Lots of people can see it. That might just include policemen.

I am forced to make this announcement because of the plight of Paul Chambers.

Chambers, according to the Independent, had decided to go on vacation to Ireland. He was, however, disturbed that his local airport, in Doncaster, U.K., was closed due to the snow that has stunned the old country into its much-admired traditional winter paralysis.

Being a Twittering fiend, he tweeted to his followers: "Robin Hood airport is closed. You've … Read more