It's Not Who You Know …

… it’s who they know and where they share! I followed a link on Lifehacker (via Boing Boing blog) today (link here) that showed me just what Google knows and uses when it provides those search results from your social circle on the bottom of the search results page. I only snipped a section of my page, showing the overall figures for my social circle, but what is really interesting is how Google then breaks down social links under the names of all my contacts. So, if I want to go to Joe Blow’s Slideshare, I can peruse my list and click the link to go directly to that sharing source. I also get a list of contacts showing how I am connected to that particular contact with links directly to the contact venue. When I scrolled down further, I saw the secondary network that is publicly connected to my network – people my contacts are connected to, extending the social circle even further.

Here is the top portion of my page:

It is a fascinating collection of information and a touch scary. But, better the devil you know …

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Curatr: Making Curated Education Fun

Hot on the heels of Bill Gate’s pronouncement that, in five years, the best education will come from the web (link here), I stumbled onto this e-learning tool called Curatr (link here). Seems not only will the web afford the best education, it will afford the most fun, engaging and social education, if Curatr has any say in the matter.

Curatr is a social learning platform that is designed with three goals in mind: connection; engagement; and, curation. Combining a visually-pleasing interface, gaming theory and social elements with a “museum” metaphor, Curatr hopes to push educational endeavors by tapping into peoples’ basic pleasure triggers. Instead of a bland list or web page look, Curatr uses “nodes” to encourage click-through behavior. The nodes, which represent learning objects, remind me of the look of social sharing site Pearltrees:

Nodes are rated and positioned in the hierarchy based on reliability. Rating and positioning is based on popularity, relevancy, and fit with other learning objects within the museum.

A Curatr product can be themed to a learning institution’s look. Users and objects are added to make the learning relevant to the institution. Classes are known as “museums” in Curatr, where the scope can be as broad or narrow as the institution decides. The Museum’s leader is called the Curatr, and he or she offers the most information in his or her gallery. Each user within a museum also has a “gallery” in which the user can curate his or her content, or learning objects  – either new or repurposed from other users.

Users can also create collections, exhibitions and the more linear guides, all promoting the subject matter of the museum. Users are also encouraged to interact and share through implementation of gaming theory within the Curatr product, with experience points and badges, because as developer Ben Betts says, people love awards.

Switch from learning object view to peer view to see the users or learners within a particular Museum. You can see the biggest contributors and locate friends, as well as identify who the knowledge experts are.

Curatr content is kept fresh with real-time updates. There are alerts for changes and actions taken in connection with a particular user’s information. Real-time means that there will always be something to see, so users are encouraged to regularly interact with the content. The Curatr site is accessible from Android and Apple-powered mobile devices, including the soon-to-be-top-dawg in the edu-world, iPad. This, of course, is a big plus – learning is no longer limited by time and location constraints, but can happen anywhere, at any time. Interestingly, Curatr is Flash-based, so you need Android 2.2 or higher. Obviously, Curatr has come up with an iOS-friendly version to get around the Flash issue.

Why am I spending so much time investigating a new learning platform like this on a legal blog? Because I am visualizing how a law school or continuing Legal Ed classroom could shine with such a product. We are well past the days of passive lectures – just imagine how much richer and engaging the content presented by such a novel learning approach. I know there is some wishful thinking on my part going on here, but I would be far more interested in the “living” subject matter of a 1L course presented within the context of Curatr, than presented within the context of a two hour, post-lunch, one-sided lecture.

Here is a vid quick overview of the platform in action:

Want more? Check out Mr. Betts’ explanation of what makes Curatr special in the vid below. And maybe you will see Curatr in action soon at an institution of learning near you.

Jot This Down: Springpad

Still looking for the perfect note taking tool? Have you tried Springpad (link here)?

Back a few months ago, I featured visual web snipping tool Zootool (link here) here in the Studio. In the comments to that post (since lost during my change over to Disqus), Jeff Janer of Springpad urged me to try their competing product. I immediately looked into it and, while I haven’t made a complete switch, I can see some very compelling reasons why this app has a privileged place in the somewhat overcrowded field of electronic notebooks and organizers.

First of all, Springpad is free. Second of all, it is web-based, but also is accessible from your Apple or Android-powered phone. You can access it from pretty much anywhere. Of course, you can make text notes. But you can also add events (syncs with Google Calendar), photos, voice notes, products by barcode or image, businesses, events, recipes — pretty much anything you can snip, copy, type, say, snap and paste. Of course, it syncs immediately across your devices / platforms. You can even email information to Springpad and the app will stow it away in the proper receptacle for you.

You can set up alerts to be sent to you via email or SMS. Anything you might want to know about can be arranged to alert you, whether it is an event or a price drop on a product you are interested in buying. And for the buying alerts, Springpad is working with some retailers and you might even get a Springpad-only coupon for the desired item.

With the web clipper button in your browser, if you can find it, you can clip it. The tool will suggest different categories or filters, so that the information gets appropriately slotted. But what makes Springpad special here is that the clipper is smart. It uses semantic technology to figure out what you are clipping and, therefore, interested in and makes related suggestions. Same goes for adding content via the mobile apps. Clip a movie and get local movie times. Clip a recipe and get prompted to add a shopping list. If Evernote is a filing cabinet, Springpad is a virtual assistant presenting added info you may not have thought of or were going to do next yourself. And this is where Springpad shines – it does some of the “thinking” for you. Springpad does more than simply hold your vast collection of information only accessible via rudimentary organization or search. Springpad is the perfect tool for people who want to get organized but can’t handle the process or can’t be bothered to set up their own organizational system.

I like the OneNote-like aspect of creating notebooks with tabbed pages. Springpad notebooks also offer templates, or apps as they call them in Springpad-land.  The apps help you actually accomplish goals with the information you save. You can add a wine notebook (sponsored by social wunderkind Gary Vee), a meal planner, a movie tracker, a travel checklist, a blog post planner, even a cleaning supply inventory. Again, Springpad works in conjunction with other “experts”, so, for example, the meal planner template or app results in a recipe list created with the help of Epicurious and Allrecipes.

In many ways, Springpad obviates the need for several separate apps. Springpad can: save notes a la Evernote; save bookmarks a la Delicious; save tasks a la Remember The Milk; and, create grocery checklists a la Grocery IQ. So, put a checkmark in Springpad’s plus column next to its ability to simplify and shorten your retinue of day to day applications necessary for staying on top of your game.

While I am not sure of the particular utility of this feature, you can integrate your Springpad information with your social networks. In other words, if you clipped something particularly interesting to a demographic broader than yourself, you can put your saved info into your Facebook or Twitter stream and “alert the media” so to speak. You also can tap the community built right into Springpad itself – yet another on-line venue to get social over information sharing.

Check out the quick overview of Springpad here, and see if you like its outline:

Springpad has been busy. It recently released an Android app and now, to my great joy, it has released a shiny new iPad app! There are lots of enhancements in the iPad and new iPhone app – hit the jump (link here) to read more on the details.

There is always some bad news, isn’t there? If you use Windows Mobile, Blackberry or Palm’s WebOS, you are out of luck. But with the rapid development Springpad has been pouring into its product over the past several months, I fully anticipate seeing an option on all viable platforms in the near future.