Monday, March 30, 2009

Skype for iPhone and iPod Touch!

Skype for iPhone: It's official | CTIA show - CNET Reviews:
"Assuming your connection is solid, you can dial a number or quickly call a contacts stored in your address book. iPod Touch users will need earphones with an embedded mic to talk. During a call, you can mute the line, go on hold, or put the call on speakerphone. In the My Info window, you can follow a link to buy more SkypeOut credit online."

Cool! iPod Touch as IP phone care of Skype, wifi and a headphone + mic combo. Bring it on! :o)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Deleting bits of my online self

Sometimes a gal gets a bit bored. Y'know. The shiny sparkly new service / tool she's started using loses its lustre. In the spirit of that, I just deleted myself from Plurk. It's not that it's a bad tool, particularly. It's a bit unreliable along the same lines as Twitter and its infamous Fail Whale, if y'know what I mean! There were some advantages to using it - the threading of discussions was good, for example. But, the difficulty of following conversations where you missed the start or where your contacts have lots of other contacts you don't know (and who you wouldn't choose to follow)... and you can't avoid their interjections makes it much harder work than it need be. Yes, you can easily mark all messages as being read... but you can't just pick out some messages to read and others to avoid terribly easily. On Twitter, I dip in and dip out and it doesn't seem to matter. I don't have lots of messages waiting for me. I just have a stream which continually flows. No 'read or unread' required really. Just watch it passing you by.

So... bye-bye to Plurk. It was fun. I couldn't keep up. Turns out I like the simplicity of Twitter more than I thought! Now then... about that next shiny bright thing on the horizon... :o)

PS Deleting my Plurk account involved a couple of clicks. Can hardly believe it was that easy. Time will tell no doubt...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tranmission misunderstood

Yet another journo gets their own transmission-media mindset tangled up with the concept of Twitter:

Is your life really better for being Twittered? - Telegraph:
"I can see that Twitter is a useful tool for genuinely breaking news, as during the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, but it is somewhat less compelling when charting the minutiae of daily life. Our parents' generation made do with a handful of curling photographs, letters, and their memories. Now, every tiny happening can be instantaneously logged and broadcast: 'Finding time to put the rubbish out!' people tweet, or 'Just enjoying a glass of champagne in the sun!'"

I suspect the author in question is yet to have that 'ah-ha, that's an interesting use' moment with regards using Twitter because she's certainly neglected to consider it as being anything other than a means to broadcast. For me, it's a useful place to see what's going on with colleagues, whether they're ones I see on a day-to-day basis to those who work in remote locations or simply in the same field as me. It's a useful place for a bit of occasional chit-chat / banter to break up an otherwise intense day. It's a useful place to explore ideas / concepts in a manner which forces you to be concise and clear about your writing style. It's a useful place to pick up links and resources. It's a useful place to make connections. It's a useful place to quickly canvas opinion. It turns out, it's just a useful place.

Two years ago, I had the exact same reaction. Why bother? Who cares? But... it's one of those things. Shift your mindset and you might find that it could become a useful place for you too. Y'never know. Transmission-only, it ain't.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bringing your online life together - Skimmer

Skimmer - We Are Fallon:
"Skimmer℠ is an Adobe AIR desktop application designed to streamline, beautify, and enhance the experience of participating in your most frequently used social networking activities. It improves upon your day-to-day interaction with multiple social networks, removing distractions and providing a rich experience that is particularly suited to multimedia content."

I do like a nice simple life and anything which pulls 'things' together all those bits of my online life into one easy to access place is good for me. I've been using Digsby for a while and I do like it in lots of ways. It's quick. I can access Facebook, Twitter, MSN, MySpace (although I don't know why because I very rarely log on there) as well as Gmail and Google Talk all at the same time. When I'm online, I'm online with those services without having to sign in umpteen times. However, it's not that pretty. If you're not after chat, then for pretty... take a look at Skimmer.

So far the supported services are Twitter, Facebook, Flickr (which trumps Digsby), Blogger (also not available via Digbsy) and YouTube. The streaming of the feeds from the various services is excellent and although it won't set the world on fire in terms of speed, the concept behind it is great. A bit like "Flock does Adobe Air".

Screenshots are available on the Skimmer site and perhaps it is design over function, but hey, I like design from time to time! Will be interested to watch this develop.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day dithering

A couple of months ago, I signed up to the following:

'I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire' - PledgeBank:
"Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women's contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements."

... and the slightly sad fact is that I cannot think of anyone. I don't actually revere any particular person for their role in technology. A quote I remember reading about ten years ago has always stuck with me:

"Over the course of several hundred years new people come along and each lays down a block on the top of the old foundations, each saying, "I build a cathedral". Next month another block is placed atop the previous one. Then come along an historian who asks, "Well who built the cathedral?" Peter added some stones here, and Paul added a few more. If you are not careful, you can con yourself into belief that you did the most important part. But the reality is that each contribution has to follow onto previous work. Everything is tied to everything else."

(Source: Paul Baran cited in "Where Wizards Stay Up Late -- The Origins of the Internet", Hafner and Lyon, 1996)

... and it's true. No one person made 'the' difference which made all the difference. No one woman made 'the' difference. We innovate because others innovated. We are the sum of all that's gone before.

So, while I reconise the difference that some people, women included, have made. And whilst I recognise that women don't have parity in the technological workplace (definitely haven't within any of the tech-type jobs I've had over the past decade or so) and that there is an issue there. I rather like the writing of several women in technology / ed-tech... but I still can't think of a specific woman who I particularly admire above all others.

My Ada Lovelace Day post is going to have to just be a celebration of all those who do help build that cathedral. Who do take what's gone before and push to see where it can take them. Who can stand back and transform ideas into reality. No names. No individuals. Inspiring people are all around us... whether they're male or female. A society in which those innovative, creative voices can be heard. Now that's gotta be worth celebrating.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wearable computers... a step too far...

Bleurgh!!! In today's BBC News:

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Finn creates USB 'finger drive':
"Jerry Jalava uses the 2GB memory stick, accessed by peeling back the 'nail', to store photos, movies and programmes.

The finger is not permanently attached to his hand, so it can be easily left plugged into a computer when in use."

Things not to do on a first date: "Hold on dear, I'm sure I've got that photo to show you somewhere..." *removes finger and plugs it in to nearest computer"


SlideShare goes Mobile

SlideShare goes mobile. Having tried it on my iPod Touch, I have to say it's okay but slow and in just a few minutes of using it, it couldn't cope with a couple of slideshows and the search facility will only allow you to search for slides not users or groups/events. But, it has potential (cooer, that's the sort of thing I might write in feedback on an assignment... whoops!) :o)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wordling WCAG 2.0

Why the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines are not a helpful day-to-day resource for people:

Wordle: WCAG 2.0

Do you notice how 'reasonable', 'adjustment', 'accommodation', 'needs', 'usability', 'accessibility', 'improve' etc don't feature in them at all? If we're trying to get across the concept that embedding accessibility within education is about improving teaching and learning... potentially for all who want access to it... then directing them at a set of guidelines which have a specific technical purpose is not helpful. It gives the impression that the issue is complex, confusing, filled with issues, standards, levels, adherence etc etc etc. It's so far removed from the purpose or intention of making things more accessibility that it risks becoming a barrier to change for those exposed to it.

Love Wordle!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The beauty of simplicity

For the past week or so I've been battling with trying to get a VLE to behave in the way I need it to behave for the group of academics I'm currently working with. I want them to be able to get access quickly and easily to the tools they use most often. Yes, there are plenty of other tools and things the VLE can do... but we don't need to know that right now. I've been messing about with workarounds to get the navigation system as simple as it needs to be... and a few minutes after coming up with a design which was more user-friendly, I saw this image on the LifeHacker:

Isn't that just fantastic? Point people at the bits they need, explain in a few words what they do and hide the rest (for now, they can always take off the paper as they get more confident).

So often in elearning-land things are made so much more complicated than they need to be. We get caught up in the things that can be done. The things that might be done. We forget that because it can be done, it doesn't mean it should. We forget that just because there are lots of tools available, they don't all need to be made available.

Simple is good. But simple can be the furthest thing from your mind when you're caught up in trying to explain something complex, can't it? Here's to paper-wrapped remote controls and ingenius ways of making life simpler.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The conundrum of the celebrity Twitterer

The Ed Techie: Celebrity twitter doesn't matter:
"My beef with the celebritisation (that's not a word is it?) of Twitter is twofold: Firstly, I think if you're signing up for twitter to follow celebrities, you'll miss the point of it. A conversation with a celebrity is not a normal conversation. It is unequal, and this skews the conversation. But if that's what people want from their use of it, that's fine."

Totally agree with Martin (although thinking about it, our reaction isn't exactly 100% logical since there may well be other people I follow who I don't expect a reply from). It's something I've been mulling about for a while since the explosion of Twitter-celebs and the general oddness of seeing someone you 'know' (either solely online or a combination of online / face-to-face) sending messages to people you know they don't know. The internet has always felt like a pretty democratic place. I can't see you. You can't see me. Stripped of other cues we communicate only through the power of what we have or haven't got to say. But then, along comes a medium in which things start shifting - celebs on Twitter. I can see the attraction, in some ways of watching a celeb's life float by - they're supposed to be living a more interesting life than us, right? But why bother sending a reply to them when the odds of them actually replying are many thousands to one? Is it for the thrill that you're reaching into their world? For the pleasure of making contact with the otherwise uncontactable?

Comments on a blog invite conversation. Discussion forums invite conversation. Twitter invites conversation. It's not cyber-stalking made easy, is it? I generally follow people who have decided they want to follow me on Twitter. I don't mind following organisations who I'm interested in. I expect them to be broadcast only. I don't mind following people in the same field - at least following them is relevant to me. If I reply to them, they may or may not reply, but it doesn't really matter because professionally what I'm getting is kinda useful. Replying to a celebrity. Hmmm. That's a whole host of oddness right there that I don't really get.

Half-formed thoughts on this one only from me. I guess this was my long-winded way of expanding the question which pootles through my mind when I see an @StephenFry message from one of his quarter of a million followers and internally ask of them, 'why are you bothering?'

29 rantable tech phrases

This article appeals to my inner ranter... take a look...

29 tech phrases you should be punched in the face for using | News | TechRadar UK:
"We're told that if you give a million monkeys a million typewriters, they'd create the works of Shakespeare - but what would you end up with if you threw a million typewriters at a monkey?

The internet shows us the answer: perfectly good phrases are replaced with rubbish, grown-ups talk like toddlers, and business bullshit is everywhere.

In an ideal world, anybody using these expressions would be punched in the face by their PC; for now, we'll have to make do with mocking them instead."

Have to say, they could have made that list 30 if they'd just included the word "FAIL". No, no and no.

PS For some reason I particularly hate items 23 and 26 and could rant about them for a fair while if so induced... ;o)

PPS I know I use too many emoticons. I'll have a stern word with myself in a minute. :o)
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