Monthly Archives: November 2009

Twine

If you’ve ever wished that there was an independent online community of music video connoisseurs, you should check out Twine. A new web application, Twine is an online service that provides its users with interest-based networks. For different topics such as sports, green jobs, or art, Twine provides a forum for users to post relevant articles and other online items for the consumption of the network community.

Like many networking sites, Twine requires you to construct a personal profile, complete with a profile picture and small biography. While setting up your profile, Twine will also ask for you to list some current interests. Using indices of tags, Twine uses this information to suggest twines that it thinks you’ll be interested in. You can also search for Twines and join an unlimited number of these forums.

Each Twine, or forum, is basically a wall with chronological postings, with the most recent appearing first. From my exploration, most of the posts are articles from news agencies. Additionally, there are some advertisements and personal posts. Each post has the URL that links to the outside source and a comment tool that allows users to conduct discussions. The process for starting new “Twines” is simple and quick, and they can be made public or private.

The advantage of this application is that it provides some autonomy in the consumption of news and material relevant to your interests. Rather than visiting a for-profit news website, you review user-generated content with Twine. However, this approach also carries some drawbacks. Since it is user-driven, you may miss out on some important occurrences in a certain field or consume articles that you think are useless. Also, each Twine is dependent on user posts and therefore may not always be up to date. Overall, a worthy attempt at creating user-based interest networks.

“MyCasting” with Orb

For all those out there with enormous amounts of media on their PCs, you can now use your own home PC to broadcast that material. Orb Networks, a web developer, has produced an application that allows you to use devices such as cell phones and laptops to access all of the media on your home PC. They call this process of PC-to-portable device sharing “MyCasting.”

To begin, you need to have a home PC that is “always on” and connected to high-speed internet. Once you download the free version of Orb, you can begin selecting the media that you want to make available as well as the recipients of that material. Any portable devices that have a browser and a streaming media player are able to receive the streaming media from your PC. Xbox, Wii, and PS3 are even able to receive these “MyCasts.” Not surprisingly, you must be in a place that has Wi-Fi or broadband internet access to get connected.

The various types of media that your PC can broadcast through Orb include video, pictures, audio, documents and more. If you install a TV tuner on your PC, then you can also stream television onto your portable devices. Overall, Orb allows you constant access to material on your PC without the inconveniences of synchronizing several hand-held devices.

Downloading Orb is free and can be done quickly from their website. The application requires 512MB of RAM and Windows Vista or Windows XP. They have also recently published a version for Mac, which requires Mac OS X Intel 10.5 or later.

Tumblr keeps blogging simpl

Tumblr is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to make awesome and lean blogs. They allow you to integrate a bunch of types of media posts very quickly. And there are ways to integrate tumblr accounts with other services. For instance, contents of a tumblr can be easily ported into another blog or social networking site. And tumblr can be updated just as easily, either through emails, texts, Twitter, and more.

The usefulness of tumblr might be in its ability to act as a more basic form of blogging than WordPress, if WP seems too daunting for a professor. However, it would become fairly confusing to have so many different Yale blogs floating around, without having any way to collect them. But there would be a trade-off between the complexity presented to ITG and the complexity presented to the professors. Perhaps tumblr’s simplicity can help ease professors into blogging if they’ve never used it before. They look really great and they’re simple, so professors might start clamoring for more robust blogging software in no time.

Meebo Me

AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Windows Messenger, Gmail Chat, Facebook Chat, and Twitter make keeping in touch easy. Instant messaging is definitely a convenient tool, but on the other hand too many IM applications results in several open windows, four different applications, and a tiring back-and-forth dance between the tabs on your web browser. Using them altogether isn’t just difficult, its a nightmare. A few mobile phone operating systems solved the problem with a single application that allows multiple logins to different IM services within one interface. The architects of www.meebo.com provide a similar solution with an FREE online program that allows users to login to a variety of different IM services, including ones we’ve never heard of. Beyond Myspace, Meebo.com goes as far as to include login support for www.aujourdhui.com and www.quepasa.com accounts -not that we’ll be needing those. Meebo even allows video and voice chatting, a more popular feature of Gmail Chat, Yahoo, and AIM. Though we are unlikely to be using video chat, it has potential for other uses in the future. By simply registering with a username and a password, users can immediately add their accounts to their Meebo account and start messaging friends. No downloads or lengthy activation periods needed.

Meebo also went through the trouble of creating Meebome, a widget that can be embedded in your webpage so that visitors can chat with you from your website. The display of the widget can be modified from your account page on Meebo. Meebo even provides the HTML code that you need to embed the widget further simplifying the process for those unfamiliar with HTML. The Meebome widget will be instrumental to ITG’s Clip Capture Service here at Film Studies Center. Instead of sending long email chains describing problems and difficulties with video capturing, our clients can chat with any person who is stationed at the Clip Capture Service.

I will post more on Meebo later after we finish testing it.

For those who are too hungry to wait for the next post, the website is www.meebo.com.

Digital Scholarship Sites

While listening to the Digital Campus podcast out of George Mason Univ., a biweekly podcast about how digital media and technology are affecting learning, teaching, and scholarship at colleges, universities, libraries, and museums, two sites authored by Lisa Spiro, director of the Digital Media Center at Rice University’s Fondren Library caught my attention.

First, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities is a blog about how digital resources and tools are affecting scholarship in the humanities and consider the potential for digital scholarship. She poses questions (taken from her about page):

  • What kind of resources do I find by relying on databases and search tools? What kind of searches work best? What hasn’t yet been digitized or is difficult to find?
  • Does tagging help me to organize and share my research?
  • What new insights come out of using text analysis and text visualization tools? What’s hard about using these tools?
  • How do you make available not only research conclusions, but also the detailed research process that undergirds these conclusions–the successful and unsuccessful searches, the queries run in text analysis software, the insights offered by colleagues and commentators?
  • How will all of this information be preserved for the long-term?
  • What effect will making the research practice transparent have on the way that research is conducted, and what kind of scholarly community will come out of this work?

The second site, also edited by Spiro is DIRT – http://digitalresearchtools.pbworks.com/ which is a wiki that collects information about tools and resources that can help scholars. Here’s an example of the list….

I want to…

The approach on these two sites is interesting because it approaches the problem from the prospective of “what do i want to do?”, or “what outcome or goal am I trying to obtain?”

Another blog mentioned on the podcast was Found History “which explores public and digital history in all its forms. Found History is produced by Tom Scheinfeldt, Managing Director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.” While very thought provoking the Briefly Noted postings have a lot of information to digest, with many many links. I fear sifting through all of them would take the better portion of my day….

TokBox could be UseFul. MayBe.

TokBox allows for really simple interface for video conferencing with users on a variety of accounts (Google VChat, AIM, etc.) and also for users who only use TokBox. Multiple users can conference all at once with video and text, and even, like in a Google Wave, embed photos, YouTube videos, and other multimedia into chat window. This might be useful if there are discussions or meetings outside of class hours, or for working on projects. However, since we don’t do much distance learning here, it might not be as useful. (Perhaps students who have swine flu and can’t come to class might find this useful, but I doubt they would be in the mood to chat, especially not with video.)

Another useful aspect of TokBox is that you can embed it as a widget, much like Meebo, for a live video chat capability inside a weblog or a website. This doesn’t require signing up for an TokBox account, and it allows all visitors to a site to sign on to this chat by allowing the flash player access to the microphone and camera. This might be useful to provide support to faculty, since, even if you don’t have a camera or microphone, you can still text chat with the user at the other end. Then, they can just visit a site and speak with support.

Common web tasks more intuitive with Ubiquity

ubiquity-headerMozilla’s Ubiquity, an extension for the Firefox web browser, allows users access to a wide array of useful commands. The most impressive for everyday users might be the ability to select text and run a quick search, find a local map, or translate this text into English. While none of these commands are impossible to do without Ubiquity–Google, Google Maps, and Google Translate are just a few steps away–Ubiquity centralizes these commands in one intuitive interface. Just hit Alt + Space, and a slick window comes up where you can enter, search, and preview commands.

However, the most promising thing about Ubiquity is the fact that new commands can be edited and written. Although it requires some programming know-how, there are many user created commands “in the wild” as Ubiquity’s site says. Much like the Zotero extension, Ubiquity commands oriented towards research and academic uses could be very helpful. For instance, the translation command is great for automatically translating little snippets of in-line text on a page, but how about selecting text in another language, hitting Alt + Space, and automatically searching for a translation published elsewhere.

Another great advantage of Ubiquity is the intuitive command names, and the ability to automate some web tasks. Intuitive command names such as “print” make it easy for users unfamiliar with the keyboard shortcuts or who don’t navigate as easily through the menus at the top of the screen. And these commands are customizable, so print could really becomeOr if you want to switch to a tab but don’t remember which one it was that had a bit of text, Ubiquity can automatically find that text and send you to that tab. (Like I said, none of these are impossible without Ubiquity, but they are easier and more intuitive.)

While it’s not quite developed enough to be recommended for popular use, it sure shows a lot of potential for how we could be interacting with the internet in the future.

Download and test out Ubiquity here.