Searching Images

I was poking around the Twicsy website this morning.  The concept is rather interesting.  Anytime someone posts an image and announces it via Twitter, the image is indexed.  Using the resources at Twicsy, you can search for images posted with tags or announced on the timeline.

There was a time when this might have been a redundant service.  After all, everyone posts their images via Twitpic, right?

Not any more.

Image via Wikipedia

Even with Seesmic Desktop, I have the option of using Pikchur, Posterous, Twitgoo, and yfrog.  Life was simple when Twitpic was the only game in town.  Just go there and follow the public timeline, or if you understand URLs, take a gander at the results by username.

Why not just use Twitter search then?  If you’re like me, you don’t want just want one result – you want them all!

With Twicsy, you now have the power of search engine – this time it will search through Twitter to find pictures posted to, not only Twitpic, but to all sorts of references that people have tweeted about, with thumbnail results.

With all these citizen journalists running around with digital cameras and cell phones and sharing them, there’s an ever growing resource for images.  Embed continues to be your best friend.

What could make it better?  Like all things, integrate the search functionality into Firefox via an addon.  That would be the awesome next step for the product.

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links for 2009-06-24

An Amazing Class

On a few occasions this year, I blogged about my experiences with a group of students from Gore Hill Public School.  I don’t get an opportunity to visit classes often with the other commitments that I have but there was something really special about this group of students.

My relationship really started by accident when their teacher, who is one of our Computers in Education School Contacts, took an interest in what I was doing with my own PD Wiki.  All of our meetings and resources have been shared through there for a while now.  Throughout our meetings this year, we’ve done some exploring various web based applications to add to the opportunities that our students are given.  I distinctly remember when it all came together for me.  We were at a PD session and I had just returned to the room and happened to look at her computer screen as she was bragging about one of the student efforts in the class wiki.

I wrote about it in my February newsletter and it had a remarkable effect.  Over the period of a month, virtually all of the students were inspired to develop their writing skills and I was able to revisit it in my March newsletter and I also blogged about it.  This class continues to amaze and impress me with what they’re doing.  I know that they are also impressing their teacher.

I also noted, by looking through the history of the class blog, that their learning and efforts continued well into the evening and it was the inspiration for my blog post about analyzing data presented in the PBWorks history.

Last week, the teacher invited me back to the class and I was asked to show the students how to use Fathom, StarOffice Calc, and Notepad to create their own graphs.  Well, Notepad was the plan, but this application wasn’t available to students because of danger to the network so we used Wordpad instead.  Now, I could have done the lesson but this amazing group of students didn’t need me to do that…one young lady ran the computer and I led a discussion with lots of input from the class to do the task.  As a teacher, it’s one of those platinum moments that we all dream about.  What’s even more amazing I found out later, was that we worked right through their recess and their gym class.  Normally, those two things are sacred but they were just so engaged and interested.  And polite…they didn’t complain at all!

Now, I can’t visit the class in person often as we have so many locations and there are so many other things to do.  However, with access to their class wiki, I’m able to follow my friends online.  I was prompted by the teacher to take a look at the wiki after my visit and I was so impressed.  Virtually every student had gone through and analyzed their own wiki editing habits and posted it to their pages yesterday.  Hey, we’re in the last couple of days in the school year – it was in the 30s yesterday and this school isn’t air conditioned. I was so impressed that they wanted to put this finishing touch to their works of this year.


They’ve had a huge and diverse number of computer experiences this year.  From the wiki to podcasting to creating stories to learning about alter egos to Forest of Reading … they even had a number of my teacher candidates from the University of Windsor have their placements at Gore Hill.  They also went on a tangent about Tarantulas with one of the teacher candidates’ pets.  They created Prezis to demonstrate the results of their research.  I enjoyed their research about Identity Theft, Pandemics, Mary Celest, and even Shark Attacks.

It was a spectacular year from my outsider perspective.  I think what’s even cooler is that they will remain as a group with the same teacher of Media Literacy and Library for next year.  They’ll continue to develop and share their interests.  Sharing is a huge key to the success and the wiki was the perfect forum for collaborating and sharing … even into the evening hours.  This teacher took a real chance moving so much of what they were doing into the wiki world.  Rainy days makes connectivity a challenge but she pulled it off.  Kudos have to be given for recognizing and supporting activities that are just good for kids.

And what a wonderful group of kids.

I hope that they have a great summer but I’ll bet that they’ll continue to work on their efforts by sharing their summer fun.  I’ll bet that their wiki continues to grow with pictures and stories of their experiences and summer jobs!

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links for 2009-06-23

The Top 10 Worst Internet Proposed Laws in the U.S.

I stumbled across this online presentation this morning.  It’s worth a look because it’s an indication of what can happen when legislation overtakes your daily browsing and the way many folks do business and handle much of their lifestyle.

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Image via Wikipedia

I think the most disturbing one for me is the very last one which imposes taxes on downloads.  In an environmentally conscious day and age, shouldn’t we be offering incentives to forego the packing that comes with traditional distribution methods?

The Top 10 Worst Internet Proposed Laws in the U.S.

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links for 2009-06-22

On Being Fickle

In one of my current presentations, I describe myself as being a fickle software user.  There was a time when you bought every piece of software you used and had great product loyalty.  Then came the days of shareware where you’d put out software and people would license it from you after a period of experimentation with the software.  I actually dabbled in this area a few years ago.  Those of you who remember getting connected via Bulletin Board software like Wildcat! and PCBoard may fondly remember “Doors”.  I had a suite of these that were released as shareware – you may recall Bay Street Bulls, Yahtzee, Card Guppies, Dice Guppies, and there were a few more that I can’t even recall the name of any more.  I even gave the source code to Card Guppies to a developer who made some changes to make it run on another product.

The nice thing about this distribution method was that it honoured the home developer who wanted to see a product through to the end.  Of course, now we see the logical followup in open source and free software permeating the online world.

No where does it have greater prominence these days than at the Apple Store and the applications that are available for the iPod and iPhone.

Because of this, I have become increasingly fickle.  Weather has finally given an indication that summer might indeed be coming – and with that is quality time on the patio.  There was a time when you’d have to be inside the house tethered to a computer to be connected.

Image via Wikipedia

Not any more.  Now, you can sit comfortably at the patio table and just browse with the iPod and see what’s up.  When you’re tired of up, then you can head off to the Apple Store and bring some applications down.  As I was browsing through my iPod yesterday, I realize that I’ve collected quite a number of Twitter applications.  I’m seeing:

Good grief.  How much Twitter stuff can one person have?

In reality, lots.  While the basic premise of Twitter is 140 characters, it’s what these developers do in their approach and interpretation that is so exciting… and makes me fickle.  It’s a great time to be a software consumer.

Twittelator not only captured my imagination but, with all of the functionality that it provides, it is the paid application that I turn to most often.  However, each and every one of the others are amazing pieces of programming as well.

You can’t help but be fickle.  I just have to keep reminding myself that my iPod also plays music.

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links for 2009-06-21

Developing Strategies

I had an interesting conversation last week with a friend who was complaining about her netbook computer.  She had made the purchase to ease the stress of carrying around a laptop computer.  Part of the complaints involved:

  • no DVD-ROM drive;
  • no room on the screen to do serious browsing;
  • couldn’t have a browser and Microsoft Word open at the same time;
  • with only one USB port, it wasn’t possible to have both mouse and external keyboard connected at the same time;
  • the keyboard was too small;
  • never liked trackpads;
  • and the list continued…

I’m too polite but I must admit that I was ready to nod off early in the list of complaints.  All that I could do at the end was ask “Why did you buy a Netbook in the first place?”

She had been assured by the salesperson that she could do all of the above easily.

I knew the store where she bought the machine and all that I can say is that salespeople on commission can sometimes really cause problems.  Yes, you could do all of the above, but let’s detail and price it all out to get the real cost of doing what the end user wants.  Let’s actually weigh all these peripheral devices to see if the goal of being lighter is going to be truly met!

In the beginning, there were desktops.  They were great and designed with all the ergonomics in hand and ports so that you can connect everything that you need.  Then, someone got the bright idea of portable computing and designed just that.  Various combinations of portables allowed you to take it to the road.

In my humble opinion, that’s when the wheels started to wobble.  How many people with laptops and notebook computers use them as such these days?  Walk by any office where people are made “portable” and you’ll see keyboards, mouses, monitors, extension arms, scanners, printers, and virtually anything that you can connect to a regular desktop.  I wish that I had the copyright on port replicators.  Now, you’ll even find docking stations that bring all of this together for ease (provided it all works).  It’s a sales person’s dream.  Instead of selling a desktop at a fraction of the cost, let’s sell all this other stuff at appropriately marked up prices for commission.

Enter today’s Netbook.  It’s designed to be what the original laptop / notebook was.  Light, portable and just an appliance to take on the road with you.  Except for all the ports that will let you connect all of the various peripherals again.  Sigh.  I think that it’s important to size up just what the device is and understand the limitations before you even make the original purchase.

You’re working with a machine designed to be light and portable.

  • You have a processor (often the N270) designed to consume power wisely – how many applications do you think you can run efficiently?
  • You have a screen that’s 800×480 or 1024×600 or 1024×576 and not 1024×768 or larger – turn off all those toolbars in your browser so that you can read the webpage!
  • Battery life is important – just how bright does that screen need to be?
  • It’s designed to be light – do you really need to carry an external DVD drive?
  • Learn how to use the keyboard.  More importantly, test it out before you buy the machine.  Yes, it will be smaller but companies are doing an amazing job of maximizing them for functionality;
  • Learn how to use the trackpad.  This is an area where developers are adding huge gains in functionality for the end user.  It’s worth the time to learn.

The common sense list continues.

Ubuntu Login
Image by Paul Watson via Flickr

Operating systems need to be considered as well.  If you’re running Windows, keep in mind that current versions are not specifically designed for these machines.  There is a compromise all around – Windows 7 may be the answer that you’re waiting for.  In the meantime, there are versions of Linux that run beautifully.  I

n particular, there is the Ubuntu Netbook Remix.  Unlike a big corporation that needs to create a business case for application development, Linux developers love to rally for a cause and making their OS work is just such a cause.  You can’t beat the quick loading which is also a concern for being portable.  I especially like the various desktops to host applications rather than keeping them in the same window.  Hopefully Windows 7 addresses that for those who want to use a Windows product.  The early preview looks very promising.

You also need to consider desktop sizes.  Take a good look at the applications and consider that they were typically developed for desktop computers where there’s all kind of real estate.  Turn off extra toolbars; look for icons or text only rather than both; look for resizable everything.  Staying connected on Twitter has made me evaluate products again.  I’ve switched to Spaz – it runs in its own desktop – small avatar – maximize the window.  By using a little strategy, I can see 15 tweets instead of three.

The other major change in strategic thinking is one of taking things to the web.  Traditional computing relies on local storage; applications on the hard drive; grab a CD for new software; and so on.  To be effective, you need to let this go and truly embrace a new suite of functionality that web applications offer.

It can be done.  Netbooks can live up to the promise but a little strategic thinking is required.  For you Netbook users, what sort of strategies have you adopted?

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links for 2009-06-20