May 22, 2008

Podcasts are basically audio files that can be subscribed to. That’s the big thing about them. Any old person could post an audio or video file to a blog, but podcasts (and vodcasts) are specifically those types of files that can be subscribed to directly. Social Media World has a good video about what podcasts are.

I also found an article called Seven Ways that Print Media is Like Podcasting. Not only does it point out why it is similar to print media, but it also points out the faults of television and radio that make a podcast so popular, such as the inability to listen to a radio show whenever you want. In that way, it would make sense for a radio broadcaster to put their show in podcast format so it would be accessible to a broader range of people.

One interesting thing is that many people in traditional media are embracing podcast technology. Because of the ability to subscribe to a podcast, many radio broadcasters use podcasts to supplement their shows and give their listeners the ability to easily keep track of new episodes.

Podcasts are useful partially because they are entertaining. I used to subscribe to a few that were connected to this one site. They not only used it as a blogging tool, using it to give updates on the site, but they also had interviews with people involved in that field. One of those involved fan fiction, so they often had people who maintained blogs on either the fandom or grammar, people who were popular writers, or they had people who were actually involved in the subject, such as editors or artists. One of them had people send in emails and their own audio files, which they either read or played back in the podcast. Basically, it was really good advertising.

(What I didn’t understand was why one of those sites set up a separate RSS feed for their podcast. I’m not talking about the subscription to the actual podcast; these guys had a separate page with all their past podcasts on the site, and that page had an RSS feed. If you clicked on the link in the feed, it would link you to another link, which would send you to the podcast. Could someone explain why they would do this? It just seems so redundant. I would think the feed for the podcast would be plenty and they wouldn’t have to include a separate feed.)

They are also useful because it releases some of the limits that limit solely text-based information. This is felt even moreso with vodcasts. Take, for example, a music blog. Instead of them linking the mp3 files directly into a text-based post, they could have a podcast with either clips or the whole songs that they wanted to show people. That way, all the music is in one place, and the consumer would be able to just download the one file to listen to.

I can think of a specific example of where a vodcast would be very, very useful. If they didn’t actually set this up (and if they had, then I really need to work on my observational skills), then they need their heads examined. I know it’s on YouTube and I could have just subscribed to the author, but that’s a bit different. Anyway, it’s this one show on Youtube called “The Guild”. It’s basically about the trials and tribulations of this one guild in World of Warcraft. If it were in vodcast form, I could have monitored their updates that much more closely. This obviously works with many other webisodes, including Ashen’s work (he reviews old, terrible consoles as well as cheap Chinese knockoffs) on YouTube (he has his own site, but I tend to just pay attention to what he puts on YouTube instead of his site, so he could have a vodcast that I don’t know about).

Screencasting, capturing a video of what is happening on screen, is good for those whose blog keeps track of new software. It helps show the features in real time, and can be subscribed to just like a vodcast.


I’m still not feeling my best this week, so I’m not too happy with how this week’s entry has turned out.

Mashups are web applications that are combinations of other different web applications.

The potential for this is endless. An already good application is used to create bigger, better applications with much more features. The people who make these applications, and whose applications are being used, allow this because it allows for better development of the technology and more resources to use.

One online program that gets implemented into many different mashups is Google Maps. There is a blog that actually tracks what mashups are being made using this application called Google Maps Mania. The latest site featured on that blog is Everyscape, where they incorporate Google Maps into an application that lets you see a street view of a location. The creators of Google Maps allow this because of the uses that can be gained from such sharing. If they were to restrict use of the application, then we wouldn’t have so many other resources out there.

This relates back to the open source movement because people are allowing the code to be improved upon. Just like Firefox lets people view their open source so that they can get greater and more useful user feedback about the equipment, API makers allow their applications to be used so more uses can come from the application.

I personally view mashups as a wonderful thing. There are so many different combinations of applications, you could almost make a mashup that will track your neighbors movements. Almost.

A website I found useful is Programmable Web. It tracks several different mashups that are out there. It’s a very useful tool if you want to find a mashup, or if you want to find an application to be included in your own mashup.

Research Processes

May 11, 2008

If one wants to find something online, they sometimes have to be creative.

Combing through tags at different sites, such as del.icio.us or a blogging site such as WordPress or Blogger, helps find links that other people would consider to be relevant. Even Technorati uses tags, which is very useful when you aren’t sure of what keyword to use.

There are also many other alternative search engines out there, including visual search engines (like searchme, which was reviewed at Techsnack) and searches that search several different search engines (like dogpile). ReadWriteWeb had an article awhile back called Top 100 Alternative Search Engines. There, you can find a search engine for any kind of media, or a certain type of search engine. You want to search blogs? You don’t need to use Google’s Blogsearch, you can just use Blogdigger.com. While those searches vary in quality, it is interesting to see so many of them listed in one place.

WebWorkerDaily also has a list of 8 Alternative Search Engines. They include reviews of the different search engines as well, so you know those are good quality. They even mentioned zabasearch.com, which I personally like because it helps find people that aren’t in the phone books.

You can even use an alternative web browser to help your search. Tech Radar has a list of 8 alternative web browsers that have their own special features. I mention this because it mentions browsers such as Flock and SpaceTime that could be used to streamline searches. Flock connects directly to social networking sites, such as Facebook and even YouTube, so you don’t actually have to go to them to check up on them. SpaceTime is unique in that it lets to flip through sites in 3D. That may not seem like much use, but it could be useful if you’re like me and have a million tabs open while searching. It also has a built in search tool that lets you search a whole list of sites, including Flickr and YouTube.

RSS feeds are another way to search. syndic8.com is a search engine that searches RSS feeds only. If you want to constantly keep up to date. News is Free is a browser-based alert system that keeps you up to date with your blogs and news. They also have a news search tool.

If the site doesn’t have an RSS feed, then page monitors are the way to go. There are many email, online, and downloadable monitors out there, including Google Alerts. There is also googlealert.com. What’s odd about this alert system is that it came before Google Alerts. Its website seems to also have a different target audience, seeing as how the site mentions it as a business tool.

If you want to narrow down your search options, Google has a page where they describe syntaxes to optimize a search online. The link is here: Search Operators. These typically work at any site, not just Google’s search engine. Of course, if you’re feeling Google loyalty, they do have quite a few other programs, some of which would be very good for searches. Here’s a Wikipedia article about the whole range of Google products.

Last but not least, you could search iTunes’s Store. They do have an assortment of Podcasts that may be on the subject you’re trying to search. I’ve even seen blogs with Podcasts.

Communities of practice are social learning. Every person in the network helps one another to get to their common goal. Etienne Wenger first proposed this form of learning in 1991. In the article Communities of Practice on his website, he says it is not merely a network of people, it is a group of people with a common identity working towards a common goal. While this is not a new learning concept, Wenger was the first person to describe the phenomenon.

Those of us who want to go into web design need to be involved in a community of practice. The web provides a good source for us to go to for any information we need to know. Blogs would be the most accessible source, though anywhere where people with similar goals go to talk about their interest would also work.

Communities of Practice: Learning as a Social System is another article by Etienne Wenger that was widely referenced by other students learning about communities of practice. It would seem that several professors think that it is relevant to the topic at hand, so I believe it also needs a mention. In it, he cites examples of communities of practice and how they are effective. He emphasizes how it is a group of people with similar goals, not interests. Our class is a community of practice in that we are bouncing ideas off of each other so we can more effectively learn. A group of programmers in a blogsphere is a community of practice. A group online devoted to, say, LOLcats is not a community of practice since, while they have a similar interest, they do not have a goal in mind. A community of practice is more of a team that works together than anything else.

In It’s not how famous you are, it’s how relevant, the author reasons that communities of practice thrive on relevancy and communication from the author. This article emphasizes the colloquialism of communities of practice. It is not how well broadcasted a person is, it is how relevant and accessible the information is to people in the same community of practice.

In Communities of Practice: A Means of Encouraging Knowledge Management, Amy Smith emphasizes that communities of practice are not only networking among a group, but also helping the novices in the community. The level of mastery in a community of practice is not the deciding factor in its success; instead, it is the level of participation amongst all members of the group.

Basically, what I get from communities of practice is that it is informal learning among a group of people. They each want to succeed in their field so they talk to the different members of their community. For us to have a more effective community of practice at school, we need to be able to not only network with those who have been through more of the program, but also effectively participate in not only our but their learning as well. It is a group effort for all of us and, if one of us does not succeed, then the group does not succeed as a whole. It goes back to that saying, we are only as strong as the weakest in the group.

Professional Blogging

April 26, 2008

I will admit, I’ve looked into making money with a blog. That’s why I even started that one blog, though Blogspot is nothing compared to WordPress. Blogging can be so competitive, but making money should not be the reason one should start blogging. Here are some ideas I got from searching around. I won’t post all of them because one of the tips from 10 Blogging Tips suggested making it brief.

Be interactive. Problogger.net has an article called 12 Ways to be a More Interactive and Accessible Blogger. I can tell you from experience that this is an asset. There is a blog out there called Generation Y (those of you who go to sites like digg.com should recognize this one) where, because of political restraints, she cannot post very often. It is basically a blog about Cuban life from the point of view of a Cuban. It is so popular, other than its controversial subject matter, partially because she is so informal in her writing. She is relating to the others, inspiring her readers to comment on her material. Listverse, a blog with lists of trivia, is another blog I go to on a regular basis. Jfrater, the person running the site, occasionally posts both question and answer sessions with her readers as well as lists about the mistakes with the site she’s made in the past. Both of these blogs are made so much more interesting by their interaction. I think that’s what I need to work on with my AI blog, since I felt its first post was a bit flat.

Be passionate about the topic. As problogger said (can you tell I like their blog?) in their How to Choose a Niche Topic for your blog, you have to not only like the topic enough to talk about it for over a year, it has to be a topic people will read and one that has a good amount of information on it. Granted, this is the internet, and weird topics pop up everyday, it’s the really popular topics that get all the hits on the blogs. I think I’ve covered this well myself, though I do have to have more initiative about blogging. Maybe I should make a schedule. “Okay, Nicole, note to self: you can only write to your personal blog after you update the AI one, and you should update the AI one every Sunday, or whenever you feel you need to update your personal one.” There, like my personal note? Got that covered…

That should cover the basics. There are other tips I’ve seen, such as consider blogging if you have good communication skills/writing skills, or are you social enough to start a blog, but I believe those two tips are ones that are most relevant to me as well as the most important in starting a blog. If you want more information, I love problogger’s Blogging Tips for Beginners. It lists several articles they’ve posted that is informative to us newbie bloggers.

I looked into blogging professionally because I needed the money, to be blunt. I am not the business type, but it intrigued me that a person could actually make money blabbing about some topic for a couple of hours a day. Eh, maybe I’ll find a good niche topic and fly with it. Heh, it’d be funny if we made a class blog with Adsense on it that we all contributed to. Anyone game?

Collective Intelligence

April 19, 2008

To me, collective intelligence is the intelligence of a group. The knowledge of one person is shared amongst the group. This concept is shown most clearly in the form of wikis.

The blog Wikinomics (a great blog that everyone should subscribe to, by the way) had a great article called Wikinomics Applied to Traffic that showed this concept working in the real world. While this is an odd article, and it might be a stretch to reference it for class, it does show how people working together create their own entity, in this case safer streets. As the article says, “It’s a great model for how pushing out central authority and decisonmaking to end users can result in more optimal behavior.” This sort of test is applicable to other parts of real life, including online wikis. Though, in a wiki it is information that is monitored instead of the actions of others. The people gathered their collective intelligence to form what they wanted themselves.

In Expert or Amateur? Both the author reasons that the web is taking a shift from collective intelligence, but not a complete shift. He quotes Tony Dokoupil from Newsweek, showing that while “everyday” people edit Wikipedia, the majority of articles are being edited by experts in the field the article is about. The author reasons that, while everyone submits content to Web 2.0 websites, it’s the experts that really shine through, that, “Today, an expert is someone who is expert in the network; connecting, sharing, sifting, ordering, and always taking the pulse of the wisdom of the experts and the crowd.” This is collective intelligence. The expert lends his knowledge to the group so that they, too can gain such knowledge.

Personally, this shows a much more open way of sharing information. For me, this means that much more knowledge is available to me than would have been years ago. In my PLE, networking is vital. I remember back when I used to always frequent message boards. We would share our knowledge amongst each other, and I learned so much more from them than I would have ever from a book. They would give advice on what to read, what to expect, who’s the expert in the field, as well as information on whatever we were discussing. It was a treasure trove of information. My PLE works in the same way (well, those message boards in a way were my PLE, even though I didn’t think of it that way), where others deal out whatever they know and can recommend and I do the same back. Looking up facts and discussing them among others is a much better way to learn than having a teacher lecture because it forces everyone to know the facts they are discussing (or writing about in a wiki).

When I first read about Personal Learning Environments, the first thought that came to my mind was: why wasn’t I told this before? The concept should be incorporated into every classroom. This would really help limit the hand-holding that many teachers seem to do.

Using a PLE would get me in touch with others out there who are trying to learn the same thing I am, which would help me understand the information that much more clearly. Content aggregators would be so helpful in organizing links involving the class, and would help others find the information. To be really immersed in learning something would be ideal, so I would like to try making my own PLE.

This blogger really goes into detail about what she uses in her PLE. She has such good tools, I think I’ll try to emulate what she has. Maybe. That may be to complicated for a PLE-newbie like me.

I read a blog (here) that mentioned a class wiki. Does that sound like a good idea for this class? It would not only put the information we learned in class into one location, it would also force us to think about the topics. Maybe it could even be an IMD-wide wiki, so that the students who are about to graduate could help contribute. That way, the upper levels would be more likely to network with us who are just starting. What does everyone think?

What about keeping in touch with each other using IM? I would prefer Skype, personally, but some people may be unable to download such a thing. Maybe setting up something that can be used with meebo.com? The problem with that would be coordinating people’s schedules.

What about Flock? Anybody use it? It’s a browser with social networking tools built into it. It sounds like it would be useful to help organize our PLE’s.

RSS Feeds

April 10, 2008

It is mostly agreed that RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication. Basically an RSS feed is a tool that lets a person view site updates without actually going to the website. They can be accessed using Live Bookmarks, or through a feed reader such as Google Reader. This way, the person only has to go to one place to view the updates. It is only one of many ways to organize information found on the web.

Web 2.0 for Designers

April 6, 2008

I wasted a huge amount of time trying to find a meaningful article on sites like Youtube and what it means for copyright, but I give up. I wasn’t happy with what I found, so I decided to give in and look up the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 design. Here’s what I found: Web 2.0 for Designers. While it was one of the first links I found on Google, it is also widely referenced and did provide some good information.

As the article states, “These tools… will become the frontier of design innovation.” They barely mention the actual look of the pages, instead opting to talk more about the programming and design aspect; the back end, if you will. They mention such things as RSS feeds, XML, and folksonomies.

I have to agree with them on the move from static to interactive. Websites nowadays focus more on participation than forcing the content upon the people. Instead of flashy displays, it’s the content that drives people to the site. It has become more flexible, more workable than the HTML of Web 1.0.

The move towards a more semantic web is also something important, and I’m glad that they mentioned it. The ability to describe the content on the site not only helps search engines find the most relevant sites, but also enables such things as RSS feeds.

I find it funny that they mention that Web 2.0 is a move from design to programming because there are places that say it is the other way around. Other places state that the advancing technology requires that the designer have not only a good grasp on such languages as XML and HTML, but also on elements of design so that the page comes together as something that is both functional and eye-catching. I feel that web design is the art of programming because the two elements of art and science have to come together and coexist in such a way to make the sites work. I have a cousin (yes, storytime, kids) who studied computer programming in college in the mid 90’s. He wanted to be a web designer. I find it funny that I’m in art school to learn how to do the exact same thing. The difference between the two was that the technology at the time he was in school provided a much more limited design capability, where HTML was king. Web design nowadays has shifted to a much more fluid programming capability, letting the designer actually design.

Also check out 7 Things you don’t see in Web 2.0 from Web 1.0. At the end of the article, they provide a link to yet another good article. If you’re interested in the graphic design of the web, those are very good.

The first article I found for homework is actually referenced in Wikipedia’s Web 2.0 article called Market Ideology and the Myths of Web 2.0 by Trebor Scholz. It is in a larger collection of articles called Critical Perspectives on Web 2.0 by Michael Zimmer. I wouldn’t have used it except for a statement made in it that struck me. In the section titled The Shifting Definitions of Web 2.0, they state that, “In 2004, the founder of a large technology publishing house, open source software proponent and multi–millionaire Tim O’Reilly coined the phrase Web 2.0, together with a colleague.” Remember that link from mental_floss where it shows a mention of Web 2.0 in The New York Times? That was in August of 2000. Not only that, but I remember a friend of mine in 2001, the designer of a Three Stooges fansite, addressed the high loading times of his site by saying that he wanted it to be “Web 2.0 ready” (though I don’t agree with my friend’s definition of Web 2.0 because he seemed to think it meant flashier, pseudo-interactive content that in fact was still only trying to pimp his fandom; though he did have a message board on the site). What the article may have meant was that Tim O’Reilly helped bring the term into the mainstream and provided a definite definition for the phrase.

The article itself isn’t too bad. It refutes the claim that Web 2.0 is a revolutionary change. Scholz basically states that using the phrase “Web 2.0” dumbs down the concept of what’s going on with the internet; that it phrases and hypes it for the mainstream. He does not deny that the internet is changing; he merely states that it is changing much more fluidly than one concept can capture. He claims that, while the Web 2.0 hype helped boost the use of the internet, it is “one that is build on false pretenses.”

In it, they reference the fact that much of the technology used has in fact been around for years. I say that, while it is true that those technologies were around for years, it is the application of such technology that makes it unique. Our use of the technology is maturing, and that is the beauty of Web 2.0.

Even though there were “Web 2.0” sites around for years before the dot-com bubble, the majority of the sites were one sided places where one could not provide much feedback. At that time I remember most websites were connected using webrings. There were a few sites, such as Yahoo Picks and Cool Site of the Day, that provided a site to go to per day, though those tended to be based solely on the preferences of the webmaster (ha, archaic term). The biggest thing about those old sites that stands out for me is that the user could not comment on these sites. Those sites’ Web 2.0 counterparts, such as i-am-bored.com, have user submissions and a place to comment. Many sites in the mid-90’s had guestbooks, but those were annoying as anything. The article only takes a look at the forerunners and does not look at the state of the majority of the sites at the time.

The article is right about the change being more gradual; it’s just that the article was that the author downplayed this shift by describing it as he had. Sure, it was more gradual than Tim O’Reilly makes it out to be, but many cultural shifts in history have labels that “dumb down” what happened. My first home computer was a Sony Vaio PCV-70, bought in 1996 (awful computer, full of bloatware). I connected to the internet via AOL using a 56k connection. Yet, I got into the game late; a friend of mine recalls accessing BBS’s using a 1200 baud connection. At least I had graphics, even though most of those were animated gifs and garish colors. There was a change between what my friend saw when he first connected and what I saw when I connected, just like there is a change in the ways people connect nowadays. The technology has been maturing and evolving for years at an exponential rate, and labeling this shift is only human nature.

The author annoyed me a bit at his description of Web 2.0. Labeling something does not dumb it down for the public, it’s only tries to substantiate a phenomena into a catchy term. Contrary to what the author states, the web has shifted its focus, as it has in the past, and will change for years to come.