The black bar wasn’t really so awful. But Google apparently is still in the throes of its massive remodel and unification of services, and has announced plans to ditch the black bar in favor of a nested services arrangement under the Google logo itself. Services are linked in a drop-down menu that pops out when you click on the Google logo, showing links to services such as search, Gmail, +, Maps and News.
The bar is split into three regions – the Logo and drop-down menu on left, the familiar search box in the middle and a share box and Google+ notifications on the right side, which are visible on any Google page.
Google believes the redesign makes navigation and sharing “super simple.” I would argue that frequent changes to the set up actually make matters a bit more complicated, at least in the short run.
If the new set up hasn’t yet been rolled out to you, you can check it out in the video below. Hope you like the new digs.
Browsing is more fun with friends. That is the concept behind Channel.me. This browser based tool will allow you to visit a website, open a channel to invite a friend and review and collaborate with each other. Start at Channel.me’s site and enter the desired URL. You can then send your Channel invitation by Facebook, email or phone. You will be notified when your friend connects to the channel. You will see the same page and even each other’s mouse movements. Use the chat box to the right of the screen to talk about the site or anything you might want to discuss. Or add notes to specific spots on the page to spur discussion.
Clearly a single purpose tool, but one that fills an interesting niche. You and your colleagues can search together on Google at the same time, or discuss web-based content. Nice one to add to the tool box.
Content creation, sharing and consumption is what the Web is about. But, no doubt about it, the process can get a bit weary-making. To that end, there are tools out there that help speed up the sharing process and others that filter and hone information for easier consumption. Tools like curated.by and Keepstream allow you to pull information out of the gushing onslaught to show the thread or “story.” Tools like Amplify allow you to cull bits of information from around the Web – literally clipped sections from Web pages – and share them via personal stream within the Amplify environment or across the Web via widgets.
Amplify is onto something with its “clip the important part” leanings. Another offering that leverages this same concept, while meeting the needs of both content sharers and consumers, is brand new tool Snip.ly. Snip.ly has a site on which people share “snips” of the Web and bookmarklets and extensions to make the process of snipping and sharing as easy as possible. The idea behind the tool is that people see information flowing past in their Twitter and Facebook streams but opt not to explore simply because reading and processing the articles and media behind the links is too energy-intensive. Instead of sharing a link to the full article or media, Snip.ly allows you to clip the most important piece (in your evaluation) and share just that piece via URL. If a viewer clicks on the link, you are taken to the snip and, if the viewer is interested in finding out more, he or she can click within the snip to go to the full content. The snip becomes the gateway or filter – allowing users to expend less energy getting more information about the information on the other side.
Via Snip.ly’s bookmarklet, you can cull information from pages by simply highlighting the text and selecting your sharing medium, Facebook or Twitter, in the bookmarklet’s window. Like Amplify, you can include your own editorial comment on why the content is cool. When your readers click through to the target article or page, your snip remains visible over the page.
This is interesting, for sure, for the individual user as well as their ultimate target audience. But the big picture is even cooler – Snip.ly will host these snips that ostensibly represent the coolest stuff out there in the minds of Webizens. Go directly to Snip.ly’s site to browse the stuff that caught others’ eyes. If content discovery is your passion, use the “shuffle” feature to get a random sampling of snips. If all goes according to Snip.ly’s Hoyle, it could become a ranking resource of the Best of the Web. Depending upon the filters and search functionality Snip.ly employs, it could become a decent resource in its own right.
I am happy to see that there has been lots of interest in my posts here lately in the Studio. Warms my heart to know that people are reading and [hopefully] enjoying tech tips I find during my archeological digs in the dusty corners of the Internet. I thought it might be useful to highlight the many ways you can find / read / share the material I post here. So many, in fact, that you can customize your Studio experience to your preferred hang outs.
The first choice, of course, is to simply visit my blog page on a daily basis. While I don’t usually post on the weekends (there have been some exceptions), most weekdays you can find something new here. Visiting the page is cool, because I have fitted out the blog with some extra material in the widgets and blog bar – you can get my Mobile App Of The Day reviews in the sidebar, as well as shares on Lazyfeed and Friendfeed and links to some of my other web profiles via my Retaggr card – I tend to spread my sharing out over many services, so that no one particular place has everything.
But, understandably, not everyone wants to have to manually visit a blog page every time they want to get the news. So, another option is, of course, to subscribe to Advocate’s Studio’s RSS feed and dump it into your feed reader of choice. I use several myself, including Google Reader, Feedly, Flud and Pulse for iPad, River of News, Reeder, etc. Some people like to get their feeds in the iGoogle home page. Usually, from within your reader app, you can star, share and comment, so it is a decent place to drop your tech news if you want to keep it all in one place.
Some people eschew old school RSS readers for the real-time fun of Twitter. All of Advocate’s Studio’s blog posts are published twice a day in my Twitter profile, which oddly enough is called @advocatesstudio. This is definitely a good place to get my tech news, as I feed this blog, Mobile App Of The Day and all of my Google Reader shares into this stream. Sometimes I throw some fun stuff in there, like pictures and thin attempts at humor. If you message me or @reply, I always respond, unless you are a stalker or a spammer (yes, Virginia, there are stalkers and spammers on the ‘nets).
If you like to hang out on Facebook (and who doesn’t?), there are a few different ways to consume my content. If you are interested in the biz and only the biz, I recommend that you “like” my business page AdvantageAdvocates. Here I send my blog posts, my mobile app reviews and Google Reader shares (the stuff I love but just don’t have time to write about) and there is a ton of great information in that feed, if I do say so myself. I would love to get more dialog going on there, so if you like to chat, please consider “liking” the page and comment away!
If you don’t want to “like” but you would prefer only to read my blog posts in Facebook’s news stream, you can always subscribe to Advocate’s Studio via the Networked Blogs application in Facebook. You can see the subscriptions in my sidebar here – click on the link to follow the blog and it will take you to the application, where you can subscribe and even rate the blog. Or you can simply click this link to get to my Networked Blogs profile on Facebook and see both Advocate’s Studio and my art blog Star Toe Studio, as well as some of the blogs that I follow.
Finally, you can always send a friend request to my Facebook personal profile here.
If you would rather hang with a smaller crew, you can always subscribe to my feed on Friendfeed. This has long been a favorite place for me. It also represents the widest mix of shares, as most of my social feeds feed into it and I post a lot of non-biz related stuff there.
If you want something completely different, I am trying out some new sharing locations, where I am not automatically feeding in the blog content, but working harder to collect and share unique stuff. One of those locations is Amplify and you can access that profile by clicking here.
One of the great strengths of the Web is the ability to choose your method of media consumption. There are nearly unlimited options for getting the same content precisely where you want to see it. Whether its Facebook, Twitter, your reader app or some other locale, consider subscribing, liking, “friending”, following or otherwise staying in touch by whatever means suits you best. And definitely say hello!
… that is the question. Or, maybe, your question is “what is Amplify?” I did a short piece on Amplify (link here), but wanted to revisit this really great service after experiencing it in greater depth.
Amplify (link here) is yet another social sharing, clipping and commenting site. But it is definitely more than the sum of its parts. Sure, you can pull in your content from feeds across the Web (manually, it appears for the time being). Sure you can follow others, view the stream of content generated by your follows, comment on their content and even “recommend” it. Or you can start conversations around your own shared content. Sure, you can create public and private groups within the site. Sure, you can post an update directly on the site (without a 140 character limit), and even distribute your posts from within Amplify back out across the Web. Sure, you can clip specific content (or entire URLs) with a handy web clipper that works as an extension to Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and IE, and even via a clever bookmarklet on your iPhone, iPad or Android phone. Sure, it has an inbox like Facebook. Sure it gives you view stats on your Amps. Sure you can edit clips or posts in a blog editor that looks suspiciously like WordPress (because it’s built on WordPress, silly). Wait a minute. You can do all that with one service?
Yes, you can. The number one guiding principal behind Amplify is the desire to spark meaningful conversation on the Web. How many times have you heard it said that you simply cannot converse on Twitter? Or that you are concerned about what you say on Facebook? There are sites that are better or worse for encouraging engagement, but Amplify seems to have put all the right parts in the right places to reach this goal. It shares a lot with Tumblr or Posterous – services that facilitate short-form blogging via sharing. It even allows posting by email, a feature Posterous made famous. You can personalize your clipping page with backgrounds and custom sidebars, like the two more popular short form blog sites.
Amplify also shares functionality with the ClipMarks extension – not surprising, since the two services share the same brain trust! Simply click on the extension button when you find yourself on a share-worthy page, decide whether to share the entire URL or portions of the page and click on the images, videos or text you want to share. Finally, it has a lot in common with social bookmarking sites, Delicious and Diigo, in that both encourage users to share their finds with others users of the service, offering an Amplify-er the opportunity to become a thought leader via clever and relevant Web sharing.
How to get started? Simply log on with your Twitter or Facebook account and you are up and running. Select the other service you want mirrored for auto-posting, install the pertinent browser extension for clipping, check out some featured users or use Amplify’s user-finder to connect with Twitter and Facebook friends who are also on Amplify. Once you get a decent group of follows, you will start to see some pretty interesting content flowing through your stream – jump in and start “recommending” posts that you like and even commenting below posts with your two cents. Amplify incorporates some pretty slick details, such as integrating Twitter conventions like @ replying and RT’s, making the experience even more comfortable for new timers.
I am not thrilled that the “post to” boxes default to checked – I prefer to under-, rather than over-share out to my various sites. I still believe in posting different information to different audiences. You can do that with Amplify too, but it will require some forethought and manual selection.
How good is Amplify at encouraging conversation and opening the eyes to something new? Check out the conversation generated (link here) when super-user Svartling clipped one of my blog posts, Curating Tweets: Can It Be Done, and shared it on Amplify. As Svartling expounds on my post, you can indeed use Amplify to curate tweets (or, as added in the comments, you can also use favstar.fm). Svartling pointed out that the Amplify bookmarklet is specially designed to pull and format tweets – you can manually select the best tweets with the bookmarklet and create a tweet stream on Amplify. So, I did.
First, I pulled up a choice tweet:
As you can see, I clicked on the Amplify bookmarklet to access the pulldown menu. For this tweet, I picked “share this URL.” Back at Amplify, I added my two cents and posted. This is how the tweet looked in the general Amplify stream:
Amplify makes it look really nice, gives it a Twitter label, automatically adds some tags, and includes further sharing options for readers. While most people wouldn’t use Amplify solely for the purpose of curating Tweets, it is certainly a decent option for saving, sharing, and archiving the information you find useful on Twitter.
Check Amplify out – it might fit your use profile and offer you a better means of trolling the Web and sharing your spoils. While the vid below is a bit dated, you can get a short explanation by Amplify co-creator Eric Skiff with the “how to”. And visit my Amplog (a/k/a clog) at this link. Happy clipping!
It’s true. I love apps. Even apps that don’t work on my own system. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps that run on my iPhone 4 and iPad. And I never miss an opportunity to check out a new one. I am particularly fond of apps that take iOS4 functionality in a whole new direction or create a new method of interacting with these crazy smart phones. As I have often said, “It’s all about the apps.”
Now I am an “apps VIP”. Well, an Appsfire VIP to be precise. I have written about Appsfire before (link here). It is a fantastic way to learn about and share new apps. Appsfire leverages the knowledge of the crowd with its sharing tools and website loaded with goodies. It features apps VIPs – people who make it their business to delve into App Store offerings and share interesting new tools in their on-line endeavors.
After writing about Appsfire here in the Studio, they kindly invited me to submit my “app mix” and join the VIP group. So I did. And they did. You can check out my mix and the mixes of other VIP’s here. The direct link to my apps is here. You can “like” and share my app mix – if you have any questions about any of the apps, give me a shout in the comments here and I will be happy to let you know my thoughts.
Appsfire also has a couple of apps of their own that make discovering and sharing new applications easy and fun. Appsfire comes in a fully iOS4-friendly iPhone version (link here) that adds much of the functionality of the web page interface right onto your phone. You can even compare apps with a friend via bluetooth and use the personal recommendation system to learn about new apps.
Also, check out their iPad app – Appstream – an “app”solutely fascinating scrolling stream of hundreds of apps that you can click on learn more about. The cool animated wall displays apps in real time:
Appsfire is simply the best way to learn about and share your passion for iPhone and iPad apps on the web or on your iDevice. They even keep you notified when paid apps go free. Check out their website at the jump above. And, if you get totally crazy about apps like me, maybe you can become an App VIP too.
See you on Appsfire!
Nary a week goes by that the Web isn’t buzzing with some new violation of privacy inflicted upon users of some social hangout. Just yesterday, I was helping a friend delve deep into the Facebook privacy settings to turn off all Places sharing options and to say it was a complicated process would be an understatement. I am of several minds about these privacy concerns, and they mostly range from “you can’t trust the big guys to keep individual interests at the forefront of the user experience” and “where there’s money, there’s deception” to “the sites are free, what do you expect?” and “can’t you simply use some common sense in what you are posting?”
When all is said and done, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to haunt locales that place a greater emphasis on privacy. Like defaulting privacy settings to fully private unless and until voluntarily opened up by the user.
One such site I found this morning, via Jason Kincaid at Techcrunch, is oddly named The Fridge. With a familiar interface bearing similarity to Facebook, but offering the ability to limit your sharing to specific groups of friends, The Fridge seems a nice balance between sharing and keeping.
How does The Fridge accomplish this? Not with hidden, obfuscated, and perhaps deliberately arcane setting controls buried several layers of button-clicks deep. Instead, The Fridge limits sharing by organizing social circles by groups. In other words, users form private groups, invite like-minded friends to join and then encourage group members to share content and view content created by others within the group. Sounds ideal for an event, a club, or a common purpose.
Form the group by supplying your email, providing a group name and sending a special private link to potential group members. And that’s it. As creator, you can disable that private link or remove members from the group. Otherwise, simply plant your group seed and watch it grow outside the scope of the wider social circle you may belong to on other sites. And even outside the scope of other groups on The Fridge site – all groups are kept completely independent of other groups.
There are member profiles, news feeds and the ability to post text or media. It is most similar to Yahoo Groups and Ning, both sites that allow you to create a version of your own social net. While it may not be for everyone, The Fridge sounds like a great option for segregating a particular networking activity within a more private and protected setting. At the very least, you could head to The Fridge for a midnight snack.
Have you heard of / used Scribd? It’s a popular, social document publishing and sharing website that permits users to load, search or embed documents into websites. It also serves as a popular browsing and reading spot, with 50 million monthly users and 50,000 daily document uploads.
I caught a press release today (link here) advising that Scribd is now offering premium printing options, allowing consumers to print business material, books, magazines and tens of millions of other written works and illustrations using print-on-demand services from HP’s MagCloud, Blurb and Mimeo. From the release:
users can now choose to print commercial-quality, four-color hard and soft cover works with no minimum requirements or upfront costs — and directly from the convenience of their home or office. Printed and bound copies are shipped directly to the consumer from the selected partner. Because of the breadth of available content on the site, Scribd will offer print options based on document types and other criteria: HP’s MagCloud offers self-publishers the ability to print in a magazine format; Blurb makes it easy to print affordable, professional-quality books; and Mimeo provides overnight document printing.
Scribd is clearly moving away from its original tag-line as the YouTube for documents and now looks more like a publishing facilitator for those who need cheaper, alternative methods for getting their publications to the masses. Case in point: their new mobile publishing solution, whereby users can send Scribd content to their mobile device (iPhone, Android, Kindle, and just about any other mobile format you can think of) with two clicks. The sent information consists of a link back to the original PDF. Read more about the mobile initiative here. Actual mobile applications with place holding and local storage features are in the pipeline.
In a time when people are fearing the demise of the ink and paper version of books, Scribd’s new service appears somewhat anachronistic. But, when you consider their stated desire is to bring to users the ability to consume and share publications on or in any imaginable platform, offering old-fashioned paper books makes a modicum of sense. Got to give them some credit for being thorough. By the way, its pronounced “scribduh”, with emphasis on the “scrib” part. Just in case you were wondering.
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- Scribd adds dead-tree printing to its e-book services (venturebeat.com)
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In the not-too-distant past, Facebook tweaked its interface to encourage the liking and sharing of content within and without its ecosystem. Ever wondered how much sharing traffic Facebook sees and sends? Check out these stats published by Facebook, reported at Inside Facebook (link here).
In a word, content sharing is up. Way up. Hits and views for business pages are way up as well. There are lots of numbers listed in the post, but here are some key figures pertaining to sharing and pages:
Facebook reported 1 billion items shared a week in July, 2 billion shared a week in September, then a big jump to 3.5 billion in December, and another big jump to 5 billion a week as of earlier this month.
There are now more than 3 million active Pages on Facebook, nearly double the 1.6 million it reported in December. While it didn’t previously disclose the same Pages stats, Facebook began doing so that month; compared against the latest update, they show new pattersn. Pages that Facebook defines as local businesses went from 700,000 actives to 1.5 million. In other words, local businesses comprised half of the overall increase in active Pages over the last couple of months. Facebook separately says that the average user becomes a fan of 4 pages every month, double the December average.
It appears that Facebook is rapidly positioning itself as a news source / reader in and of itself, with heavy emphasis on activity around business pages. Is this a good thing for the site originally designed to connect college students for fun and laughs? Only time will tell.