Monthly Archives: March 2009

Bookmarks for March 22nd through March 28th

Stuff I have bookmarked for March 22nd through March 28th:

EtherPad – cool collaboration tool!

EtherPad is a great tool for working with others on a document at the same time.

As the website states:

Other “real-time” editors like Google Docs work by broadcasting an updated copy of the document to everyone every 15 seconds. This creates a noticeable lag that gets in the way of collaboration. You start editing something, only to find 10 seconds later that someone else deleted it.

Etherpad updates every copy of the document every half second. This 30x increase in speed changes the experience completely. Your edits hardly ever clash with other users’. So you work confidently instead of tentatively.

Why doesn’t Google Docs update every half second like Etherpad does? Because it’s really, really hard. We’re fairly experienced programmers, and to make this work we had to solve problems that, as far as we know, no one had solved before.

It’s great – everyone involved has a different colour to highlight their contributions and it’s easy to move content around and decide what changes to keep and which to discard.

Well worth giving a go.

Social reporting at All Together Now

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, as a gang of folk from DIUS‘s engagement team (led ably by Steph) and I will be spending the day reporting from the All Together Now event in London.

Hosted by Channel 4, DIUS and BECTA, the event’s convener, Steve Moore says:

the focus of this event is not specifically about next media or future technology it is instead focused on what people – particularly young people – are doing now with the tools and platforms that exist NOW! In my view the scaffolding has come down. We are the tools to connect with millions of people, access to most of our accumulated knowledge with two clicks of a mouse and ability to give voice publicly to our thoughts and ideas without permission. The egalitarian ideals that drove the development of networked computing that helped foster the internet and helped created the Web have now been matched by an infrastructure of massively popular technologies. Altogether Now resolutely focuses on what people are doing with these new affordances, how they bringing themselves and their peers into experiments in what is possible and all of this is happening now. It is teenagers that are at forefront of these developments. It is students who are pioneering and making amazing stuff so this event is about watching, listening to what is happening out there right now. Participatory culture is alive, vibrant and it’s implications are at once profound and present.

It should be a great day. We are going to be videoing, photographing, twittering and blogging away like nobody’s business, and all the results will (wifi permitting) be published on the event’s social network as soon as we can.

All together now

You are of course welcome to join the network and add your stuff, or if you prefer working in your own space, just tag your content with atn09 and we’ll pick it up.

People like video

In an article on the BBC Technology News page, I read about how the British web-going public are really getting into online video:

British demand for online video sites has shot up over the past year, according to a new report.

Written by research firm Hitwise it found that UK internet traffic to video websites was up 40.7%.

YouTube is the most popular destination, followed by the BBC iPlayer and Google Video.

Which is rather interesting. I remember reading loads of blog posts – locations long forgotten, sadly – last year talking about how people couldn’t be bothered to sit and watch video, and that simple text based messages were the best way to engage an audience.

Using online video, however, is increasingly popular, and government is trying to make the most of this new channel. Downing Street has plenty of stuff going up on its YouTube channel, and DIUS’ channel has been around a while too, and was used to good effect recently as part of their Mature Students consultation.

For a list of all the (known) central government YouTubers, see Neil’s great list.

In fact, mentioning Neil at this point is rather pertinent, as his new department, BERR, have recently started a YouTube channel – BERRtube – featuring some really good content.

One such example is the collaboration between BERR and Yoosk, which saw Theo Paphitis questioning Lord Mandelson on issues raised by the public. Take this example, on the subject of bank bailouts:

What makes this video work well for me is that: it isn’t just a talking head, but an interaction between two people, both individuals are recognisable, it clearly isn’t a ‘normal’ government broadcast and it is nice and short.

Paul Canning has written a fair bit on online videos, especially their role in marketing and making them go ‘viral’. I’m not sure any of the government produced stuff is quite at the viral stage yet. But that is not to say that it isn’t of value, nor that by taking baby steps now, more exciting stuff won’t happen a little further down the line.

Bookmarks for March 15th through March 22nd

Stuff I have bookmarked for March 15th through March 22nd:

Social reporting kitbag

Last week I covered what online services are good for covering events online – what is rapidly becoming known as ‘social reporting’, thanks to David Wilcox’s evangelism.

It might also be useful to write a few notes about the physical kit need to successfully report an event online – which can be very, very simple to rather more complicated, depending on budget and how large your bag is.

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments!

1. Cameraphone

At the very least, this is all you need. A mobile phone that can take photos, and preferably video (hang your head in shame, Apple) and has at the very least email to send stuff is perfectly adequate for social reporting at a basic level.

Using something like Ning to publish social reporting media makes this easy, as it enables you to upload content to the site by just emailing it as an attachment to a special address. If your phone has wireless or 3G built into it, then this is made much easier than using the traditional network!

Using your mobile with other services can make things even easier – such as Qik.com for many phones other than the iPhone (unless you have been naughty and jail broken it…) which enables you to stream live video content to the web, which after ‘transmission’ becomes embeddable just like YouTube, Vimeo et al.

If you have an iPhone you can also use it to make audio podcast type interviews, using the excellent Audioboo service which I also covered last week. David used this at the recent World Entrepreneurs Summit to great effect, as written up by Paul Henderson.

The other advantage of using a phone is that most delegates will have one too – so it is easy to show them how to use it to create online content and get them involved in social reporting.

There are limits to using a phone for this stuff though – you wouldn’t want to live-blog too many events using predictive text, for example!

2. Netbook

The next stage up is to take a little laptop with you. This will help when blogging and will also enable you to perform some basic editing on the content you are producing, without having to lug a big laptop around with you.

I find my Macbook a bit cumbersome, to be honest, and my current favourite machine for this task is a Samsung NC10.

3. Camera

Most times, the quality of a picture taken on a phone is good enough for social reporting. However, you might like to take a dedicated camera along to take some higher quality snaps.

This could be a simple point and click digital camera, or a DSLR if you want even better quality images – it really does come down to budget and how much kit you want to lug around. I use a Nikon D40 which is a fairly basic DSLR but is lightweight and easy to use.

Obviously if you use a dedicated camera, you’ll need a computer to be able to upload your images.

4. Flips

Flips are little video cameras that were made for social reporting. Very, very easy to use, they are also cheap and small. It is probably fair to say that they are also less intimidating that traditional camcorders for recording interviews with delegates.

Flips are so easy to use (press the red button to start recording, press it again to stop and, er, that’s it) that you can also lend them to delegates and get them to interview each other, thus combining some digital enabling with the reporting!

Again, you will need a computer to upload your videos, but at least with a Flip, all the software you need is built in and ready to use.

5. Audio recorder

Mobile phones can be used as audio recorders, as mentioned above, but it might be the case that you want something a little better to record either audio interviews or perhaps to capture speeches and talks that are given at an event.

Dedicated audio recorders come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and prices. You need to make sure that the one you choose can pick up a good level of sound, and can exclude background noise. It might be best to choose one that can offer a lapel microphone or similar.

I have an M-Audio Microtrack II, though I rarely get the most out of it – perhaps I should read the manual. I have also heard good things about the Edirol R-09HR.

If you are recording audio using a dedicated device, you might need some half decent audio editing software on your computer – Audacity is a good option, or most Macs come with Garageband which is ok.

6. Camcorder

You might need something a little more professional than a Flip camera to record some video footage – perhaps if you are live streaming talks or speeches.

Things to look out for are having an external microphone socket – as audio quality is so important with online video; and it helps if the camera records to hard disk or a flash card, so you don’t have to spend ages converting the video before you upload it.

With this sort of video content, you might need some video editing software on your computer – which can get costly. iMovie on a Mac is probably all you need though, or on a PC Adobe Premiere Elements is reasonably priced.

7. Powerful laptop

If you are getting into video and audio editing, the likelihood is that your Netbook is going to struggle power-wise. Not only that, but you might need the Netbook for blogging at the same time that you are uploading video.

So it’s a good idea to have a more powerful laptop around to do the grunt work. You can leave it uploading, for instance, while you go away and do other stuff.

8. Other bits

There are a few other odds and sods which are vital to bring along to make sure everything goes smoothly:

  • Batteries – especially if you have a Flip or two knocking about
  • Extension lead – for when stuff needs charging up
  • Memory sticks and flash cards – so you can upload from one while creating more content on another
  • USB cables – to connect equipment to computers. I usually take two.
  • Card reader – many laptops these days have these built in, but Macbooks don’t, among others

Pukka: an answer to my prayers

I’m making quite a lot of use of the social bookmarking service Delicious at the moment. Luckily, it is mostly using my own account, but on one or two projects I am using specific accounts.

This can be a pain in the neck. I’ve installed the Delicious extension for Firefox which makes bookmarking a dream – but that only works with my usual account. Logging in and out all the time is a faff and not really an option.

What I have been doing recently is using different browsers for different accounts. It’s cumbersome and sometimes tricky to remember which browser works with which account!

However, I’ve now found the answer to my multiple delicious account problem prayers. It’s called Pukka.

pukkaPukka is a piece of software from some guys called Code Sorcery which makes it a breeze to manage all your accounts in one go.

Effectively, it is a client for Delicious. You load it up with the credentials for all your accounts, which you can then choose from a drop down menu when creating a bookmark.

There is also a bookmarklet which lets you call up the application straight from the browser and which fills in quite a few of the details of the page you are viewing for you.

It isn’t perfect – I can’t find an option to be able to post a bookmark to multiple accounts, for instance – but for roughly a tenner you can’t really go wrong.

Sadly for Windows and Linux users, it is Mac only.

A new collaborative community

Helen has launched a new community blogging project over at digtialengagement.org which aims to be:

a collaborative space for all those interested in digital engagement to share ideas and agree priorities for action around digital engagement

This is of a much wider scope than digital mentors, and has the potential to be a real hotbed of interesting and vital debate. Helen writes:

By digital engagement we mean the use of social technologies for social good. What do you think we should do on digitalengagment.org? In the immediate future, we want to use this site to create a digital manifesto, what more could we all do, and do together to get more people online and engage in the right tools for them to help them in their lives.

I’ve helped out by setting the blog up, and will be adding my thoughts on digital engagement in due course. The aim is for the site to be as inclusive as possible, so see how you can get involved.

We are going to have some interesting announcements coming up, including how we are going to try and get this conversation going en masse at the Digtial Inclusion Conference in April.