Category Archives: Feed Review

Team Twitter

Twitter

Clock number 5Nearly everyone in Web Services has a Twitter account.
MikeNolanJanetHowarthstedanielstraffordtigerpiddyzedzdead

Many of the team have a Delicious account for storing all our bookmarks there’s even a team one.

We needed  a way to comunicate useful information from the team without it getting lost in the clutter of our personal posts.  We needed a team identity on Twitter.

Delicious

Most people have heard of twitter (its so mainstream, even the BBC now offer a #hashtag at the beginning of some of their programmes if you want to get in on the discussion) but if you haven’t heard of Delicious, it’s a social bookmarking site. It saves your bookmarks to a website, so as long as you have a connection to the web, you’ll have access to your bookmarks no matter what browser or device you’re working from. It’s social, because you can network with other users and push links to those who you might think would be interested them.

We push links to the ehu.webteam account that we think the team might find interesting or useful. Pushing a link is easy (in this case I’m using the Firefox plugin):

FireFox plugin

RSS

The link will be stored in the inbox of the ehu.webteam delicious account. Everything in delicious has an rss feed, including inboxes, so we can pull that feed into anything we like, even a twitter account. Pulling an rss feed into a twitter account is easy too. Just create an account at TwitterFeed.com and add your feeds:

TwitterFeed

Twitter Feed

As we also blog, so it made a lot of sense to add the feed from that too.

Finally we created our twitter account under the rocking title of @EHUWebServices. We’re using a HAL9000 image for our avatar, but we’ll change that if you have a better idea.

Christmas question: Why was the computer in 2001 a Space Odyssey called HAL?  Google Caesar cipher for a clue if you don’t want to go straight to the answer!

So now we have a twitter account for Web Services which automatically displays any worthy links spotted by team members and all of our blog posts. Follow us its good stuff!

ehche.ac.uk in 1999

ehche.ac.uk 1999-10In catching up on my feeds over the last week I came across an interesting diversion from Sitepoint looking at ten websites from ten years ago.

So using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine I pulled up previous copies of the Edge Hill website. Of course in 1999 the site was hosted at ehche.ac.uk but far more than the name has changed in the last ten years. If you look at homepages for 1999 it barely changed all year – we now change the main feature on the homepage a couple of times a week and news and events change almost daily. In certainly was simpler back then!

Google Wave is coming soon! – Part I

Google Wave was launched on the 28th May, 2009 at the ‘Google’s I/O Developer conference’ in San Francisco. It has been developed by a team working in Sydney, Australia. Which consist of two brothers, Jens and Lars Rasmussen and has Stephanie Hannon as the lead project manager, all of whom were previously involved in Google Maps.

What it is Google Wave?

It is a new platform for communication and collaboration on the web in real time coming later this year. I can’t wait!

It is based on a “Wave”, a different way to communicate by integrating many of the tools we are currently using such as email, maps, videos, photos, blogs and chats in just one interface. So, we can create a wave and invite our collaborators to join the conversation by giving them access to send simple messages and edit the wave directly. Truly Impressive.

It combines some of people’s favourite aspects of email, instant messaging, wikis, blogs, chats, projects and social networks. There’s even a twitter client (Twave robot) – you can tweet into and out of a wave!

Google Wave interface

The following are few of the cool features from the demo:

  • Real Time: Drop photos onto a wave and see the thumbnails appear on the other person’s machine before the full upload is finished. Just watch the demo to view this
  • Embeddability: The waves can be embedded in any blog or site
  • Drag and Drop: Wave lets you drag and drop files directly onto its interface
  • googlewave1editdoc

  • Open Source, Applications and extensions: With open APIs developers will be able to create different applications for the waves. There will be plenty volunteers.
    The API has been used to build a bunch of cool extensions such as:
    • Bloggy, a blog client, lets you make a blog post as a wave
    • Linky is a link-recognition engine that is clever enough to recognize that the link you just entered is a YouTube video
    • Buggy, a bug-reporting tool that can also be a participant in a wave
    • Bidder, You can turn a wave into your own eBay
  • Wiki Functionality: anything within the Google Wave can be edited by other members
  • Playback: We will able to reproduce any part of the wave to keep track of what is being said or done and to see how it evolved
  • Translation: Wave has the capacity of autocorrecting and translating in real time, which allows collaborative work among people that don’t share the same language
  • Spell Checker: an extension called Spelly which uses the entire corpus of the web as its dictionary

googlewave4spelling

Google Wave is promising to change the scope in: Education, e-learning, collaborative projects, companies and organizations, as it can be the most popular tool to create Personal Learning Environment or Personal Learning Networks.

Could Google Wave really redefine web communication? We’re going to have to wait a while though to find out, as this product is still under development. Right now it’s only available to a select group of developers who attended Google I/O conference and have an account to create their own Wave servers. I’m sure there will a lot of articles on the web keeping us informed of the development process, pros and cons.

If you want to find out more about Google Wave, allow yourself some time to watch the full demo, then you will be able to understand why people are extremely excited.


Encarta bit by Wikipedia: Another triumph for Web 2.0

Microsoft announces the closure of Encarta later this year after losing ground over the years to freely available reference material on the Internet and on web sites like Wikipedia.

“People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past,”

the software maker said in a notice posted on its MSN website. As described in a Bits blog, the Wiki-dominance is so far-reaching that it got 97% of the visits that Web surfers in the U.S. made to online encyclopaedias, while Encarta was second with 1.27%.

Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopaedias and reference material has changed. Now Encarta itself has fallen victim to changes in technology. Well, it looks like Wikipedia is here to stay without strong rivals on the net, the question is for how long?

The plug will be officially pulled in October of this year but Microsoft will also stop selling the Encarta products by June. RIP Encarta 1993 – 2009.

Janeth

Choice Part 7: Bite the hand that feeds you

RSS Awareness DayI meant to blog about this last week but bank-holiday-weekend-fever caught up with me. 1st May was RSS Day – aimed at raising awareness of feeds and how they can be used to stay connected to websites that interest you.

I’ve blogged before about the topic and said then we’d be introducing more feeds in the future. Well we have – you can now subscribe to feeds of news, events and jobs so you can stay right up to date with what’s going on at Edge Hill. In most cases there are multiple feeds available allowing you to narrow down to just what interests you.

If you’re new to feeds then this video from the folks at the Common Craft show to see how they work and can benefit you:

To justify this post being part of the “Choice” series, I should probably say a little more about the developments in the new site. We’re providing feeds initially for areas of the site that are now in databases. The jobs website has been like this for a while but news and events are now structured properly to allow us to create a feed directly from the database. We’re using a plugin for symfony called sfFeed2Plugin which allows easy creation and manipulation of feeds and saves us from having to worry about the finer details of the Atom specification.

We’re going to provide more ways of using our data in the way you want in the future, including some stuff for the Institutional Web Management Workshop in July so stay tuned for more about that.

Just for Fun

Keeping on top of your feeds can be hard work – all that news and analysis flooding in every day can be a bit heavy so I subscribe to some which are a bit more light hearted.

As I mentioned previously I’m going to self-censor

  • Dilbert – I sometimes worry that I’m becoming more and more like Dilbert and frequently the comics mirror my own life. I just wish I had a tie that curled up.
  • User Friendly – if Dilbert isn’t quite geeky enough then try out User Friendly. It’s set in an ISP and it’s easy to identify some of the character flaws^H^H^H^H^H traits in the Real World.
  • Rusty Lime – this is one of those sites I stumbled across quite a while ago and subscribed to just to see what came along – it’s not disappointed and has a steady stream of off-beat news stories that slip under the normal news agenda. I’m sure it’s all stuff you could find by watching digg, but why waste time sorting through the crud when someone else can pick out bits for you? Rusty Lime have also had some really nice designs for their blog which unfortunately you miss out on in the RSS feed.
  • explodingdog – you send in the titles, sam draws the pictures.

What feeds do you subscribe to just for fun?

It’s a serious business

Technology, and especially the Web, is a fast moving environment and it’s sometimes hard to know where to keep up to date with the latest news. Two sites I subscribe to are TechCrunch and GigaOM which both feature news and analysis about Web 2.0 products, services and companies. They cover similar material, often batting to be the first to break a story but it’s worth reading both to see the differing opinions.

Now for some audience participation! What tech news sites do you read? Do you go for tried and trusted traditional sources like Computing and Computer Weekly or go for blogs with a slightly less heavy style? Answers on a comment and feel free to post your opinions on TechCrunch and GigaOM too!

Bob Cringely from the Pulpit

So I’m off on holiday for a few weeks, but as promised I’ll be reviewing some of the feeds I subscribe to starting off with one of the most interesting people in technology journalism – Robert X. Cringely.

The history of Bob Cringely is bizarre – he’s a character from US trade rag InfoWorld and written by a series of authors. One of these – Mark Stephens – took the character off paper and onto the screen in the 1996 documentary Triumph of the Nerds. It tells the story of the rise of the PC including very interesting interviews with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. There was a falling out at some point which resulted in Stephens being able to keep using the character for certain purposes so he’s still able to keep writing on the PBS website for a column titled The Pulpit.

Project BlackboxCringely has been blogging for a decade in the form of a weekly column and they’re well worth a read. He might not always be right (like the recent article claiming that the iPhone had hidden 3G capabilities, published after it had been stripped down to prove it didn’t!) but more often he writes insightful, well informed articles. For example, back in November 2005, Cringely wrote about Google’s plan to use shipping containers as data centres – almost a year before Sun announced Project Blackbox. He does this time and time again.

The most interesting articles each year are his annual predictions in January. With an average accuracy of 75% they can be a good indicator of the year ahead. We’re into July so they’ve already started coming true:

Some smart or lucky company will buy FeedBurner, which ought to be the YouTube or Skype equivalent for 2007. Yahoo really needs it and ought to buy, but being without a brain or a required sense of urgency Yahoo may miss the opportunity. Google ought to buy it but may not because Google has a similar service in beta that probably won’t succeed. But SOME company will buy FeedBurner and start printing money as a result.

Well done Google and well done Bob!

Hope you’re able to check out Robert X. Cringely’s columns – it’s always good when they drop into my feed reader on Friday morning. Enjoy the summer and look out for another feed review soon!

The Facebook debate goes on…

Everywhere I turn people seem to be talking about Facebook (I know I’m very guilty of it). From a University perspective it’s creating a lot of debate – How much should we encourage it’s use? Should we be plugging into it? Can we reprimand our students if we find information we don’t like on it? And then there is the view ‘well it’s just a fad so why bother worrying about it’.

Just as we’re getting comfortable with the concept of Facebook and making decisions about how much we wish to engage with it… they change something else and we have a whole host of ‘new’ things to talk about.

Today the headline is Social site Facebook buys Parakey! Basically Facebook have bought an internet startup called Parakey which is causing TechCrunch to ask Could Facebook Become The Next Microsoft?.

So could it? Is that where it’s heading?

I’m not convinced it’ll be the next microsoft but in terms of huge growth – yes I can see it happening. The great thing about Facebook and it’s developer platform is that ‘we’ the users create most of it’s usefulness. We’re adding, linking, building applications and we’re making it more useful for ourselves. We have few constraints. If it doesn’t do something you want it to do then you can build your own application and plug it in.

It looks like Facebook’s aim and direction are clear. So how will we respond? Well I for one still maintain they are the site to watch… and watch I will.

Happy Birthday Blogosphere

The WSJ has decided that blogging is 10 years old. Their article, while having a bit too much of a US bias, is interesting reading to see the kinds of people who produce and consume blogs – it’s no longer the reserve of the tech community with all areas of life opened up to blogging.

It’s also interesting to see some of the blogs that other people read. Most people don’t openly publish their reading list and the web is often a very solitary experience – you can’t sneak a look at what magazine someone is reading like you could on a train. Sites like del.icio.us help sharing of individual pages but more often subscribing to a blog feed is about more than just an individual post – you’re in it for the long term!

So over the next few weeks – while I’m away from the office – I’m going to try to share with you, dear readers, some of the feeds I subscribe to, the reasons why and what I’ve learnt from them! Of course I will be self-censoring and picking mostly feeds that might be of interest to more than just me but hopefully it will spread the message about some useful sites.

Feel free to join in at home or work – post your own blogs about interesting feeds or leave a comment, and if you’re not yet taking advantage of the power of RSS, then why not log on to Google Reader* and get started!

Via GigaOM and The Guardian.

* Other listings magazines are available.