Apture makes killer plug-in for web sites and blogs

While viewing my Plurk timeline (oh, you haven’t see plurk yet) this evening I found a link to an interesting blog post. Not only did I enjoy learning about the new open source Twitter client called identi.ca from my Plurk friend Bwana, I also couldn’t help but notice his very useful site plug-in that let me see definitions of words in Wikipedia.

Four months ago I went searching for just such a WordPress plug-in so that I could add custom and general definitions to my small business marketing site LocalNa8ion. After finding little of value in the WordPress plug-in arena I ended up using the tried and true HTML acronym tag. How does the acronym tag work in HTML? The acronym tag places …… under the tagged word, and when you mouse over the word your mouse cursor turns into a question mark with a pointer – a universal computer symbol for help. The acronym tag is particularly useful to site visitors when you’re knee deep in technical and industry terms that you would otherwise have to stop and write about just to gain understanding for less expert readers. Rather than putting everyone through a long written description the acronym tag has allowed me to speak to experts and newbies alike in less time. Yes, this is a bastardized use of the acronym tag. I’m bad bad bad. Technically, the acronym tag should just be used for acronyms and nothing else, but hey, it gets the job done for real people in the real world.

So Apture can address this need for me on Local Na8ion. But it does SO VERY MUCH MORE. In fact, I haven’t been this excited about a plug-in since I started using WordPress in 2004 and found out there were things called plug-ins.

Tools like Apture could change the web – radically.

See for yourself on the short video below and be sure to experience Apture. Subscribe to Apture’s blog while you’re at it.

check out my tumblr

Tumblr

I’ve got a weblog or two (or 6) and I’ve been wanting to aggregate all my blog posts in one place and put them under my main url julians.name which I don’t use at present (only blog.julians.name).  I also want to include my other postings from identity tools like Twitter and Flickr. This is Lifestreaming. 

There’s a lifestreaming plugin and other LS resources for WordPress (like these here featured on krynsky.com) but I like the idea of using something off-the-shelf that’s easy to setup and maintain. At present the available WP plugins for lifestreaming are anything but. Enter tumblelogs as a possible solution.

I started a tumblelog on https://julians.tumblr.com yesterday. What’s a tumblelog you ask?

“To make a simple analogy: If blogs are journals, tumblelogs are scrapbooks.

You can also look at tumblelogs as slightly more structured blogs that make it easier, faster, and more fun to post and share stuff you find or create.”

That’s what leading tumblelog service tumblr has to say on the topic.  In the past year I’ve been hearing about tumblelogs and they’ve always been presented to me as something akin to microblogging like Twitter (and similar to how tumblr themselves presents them). That’s good but I already microblog on Twitter and there you have the benefit of being part of a community and conversation.  On the down side Twitter doesn’t capture video, pics and other media well like tumblr can.

Yesterday via Twitter Steve Rubel of Micropersuasion presented Tumblelogs as a great lifestreaming solution. Now tumblelogs don’t seem redundant to my efforts on Twitter and elsewhere. SO I’ve plugged in to give tumblr a try. On this topic it seems to me like Jaiku gets you most of the tools that tumblr would have from a lifestreaming perspective with the addition of friends/community.

One thing I really like about tumblr is that you can use your own url for no additional charge – that’s good stuff and I may use one that is hanging around, like jinfinite8.com, since that’s the ID I use on all my online tools and communities.

Stay tuned and check out my tumblelog for an all-in-one place to see what’s happening in life – mine that is.

Got ya spammers – captcha!

Hi Friends, family and guests.

If you’re commenting on my blog you’ll notice a new addition that looks like this.

Captcha

It prevents very annoying site spam. The downside is that it also can be annoying for people like you to fill out who are just trying to leave a comment! But hold on, there’s an upside for you!

I thought you’d like to know that your perseverance in filling out my captcha will also help with the accurate digitization of history. You see, those words you type in my captcha I’m using to fight comment spam are words that have been scanned from real books by an optical character recognition tool. People are digitizing books for easy access in online form. Carnegie Mellon University is behind this (thank you).

Picture 1
The problem as you may know is that OCR doesn’t bloody work! Too many mistakes, especially in older, harder to read books. That’s where we come in. The words you type in reCaptcha will be used to correct the OCR work of books that Carnegie Mellon is performing. Brilliant!

More here. Don’t forget that you can get reCaptcha for your site.

[tags]captcha, comment spam, spam tools[/tags]

Using Cingular BlackJack with a Mac to connect to 3G HSDPA network

Not long ago I replaced my wireless Windows Mobile phone (a Cingular 8125) with the latest Windows SMARTphone offering from Cingular – the Samsung BlackJack. The Windows Mobile SMARTphone OS has faired pretty well for me in other phones I’ve owned like the Cingular SMT-5600 and the Cingular 8125 (both are manufactured by UTC). I’d recommend both of these devices but neither of them offered the thin and light form factor of the BlackJack, it’s great looks, or more importantly, it’s ability to connect to Cingular’s latest 3G high-speed wireless network – HSDPA.

Due to the high connection speeds offered by HSDPA, browsing the Internet on the BlackJack is now practical. With all my previous wireless devices using a browser was relegated to an act of desperation when NO internet connection was available and I needed some critical information off the net while on the road. Of course, given that I’m primarily a Mac user (coming up on 2 years with my PowerBook G4) you would question why I would invest in another Windows phone device. Especially with rumors of an Apple iPhone around the corner. The answer to that is that there are no other good options RIGHT NOW. Further, who is to say if Apple will 1) really release an iPhone soon and 2) if it will be on Cingular. The Palm Treo that does have good Mac connectivity is known as one of the worst phones for sound quality. It isn’t offered in a 3G HSDPA version on Cingular either. I have friends who own Treo’s and it is really hard to have a phone conversation with them due to the horrible RF reception that the Treo’s have.

The first thin and light 3G phone with Windows Mobile to come out on Cingular was the Samsung BlackJack. So far, with the exception of its poor battery life and the lack of an industry standard connection port for USB and audio, it is a great device. The other major shortcoming isn’t one that I can blame on Samsung. Which is to say that connecting any kind of windows device to a Mac is almost impossible. There are hacks, and there are hacks – no support is offered. While that hasn’t changed, I was very surprised to find a working hack to connect a BlackJack via the HSDPA network to my Mac. When I found the article over on tuaw.com with a link to detailed on instructions over on Mobility Today I didn’t expect them to actually work on a PowerPC based Mac G4. Background: There are lots of windows hacks that work perfectly on the new Intel Mac’s since they share the same processor as a regular PC, but not the old PowerPC based G4’s. I struggled for a few minutes with the instructions offered on both sites but both were very helpful overall. Mainly, I didn’t know how to install the phone scripts on my Mac and neither article mentioned how to do that. Fortunately, there were readme instructions that came with the phone scripts and that got me over the hump. It would have also been nice if either of the articles clarified that this hack works for PowerPC based G4’s which is one of the reasons I’m linking this post to the original articles.

Only my zeal for untethered high speed wireless access got me to invest the time to try it out. The whole process took me no more than 15 minutes. My first connection to the network didn’t work, but when I tried it again, it worked like a charm. I also experienced slow speeds when I first connected even though I’m sitting in the same spot right now. After a short time though, my pages started to pop with a speed that made me start to forget I wasn’t on my 6mbps cable connection. I fired up my favorite bandwidth speed tester on speakeasy.net and ran the test. The results are shown in all their glory below: 1154 kbps down and 308 kbps up. Pretty amazing. You could say that I’m hooked on wireless HSDPA, my BlackJack, and my Mac. I’ve used my ftp client on the connection to upload the photo in this article and I’m posting this on WordPress all while using my connection. I’ve also had no problems with accessing e-mail or other web based applications. Now, when I’m on my long park visits with John and Julia and I’ve got something that I really have to do online I can whip my phone out along with my usb cable and get my work done. Soon, when Apple releases their next major OS, it should have the Bluetooth profiles needed to also connect my BlackJack via the built in Bluetooth so it will be a truly untethered experience. Until then, I can handle a small cable for the benefits that 3G wireless speeds offer me.

p.s. The best thing about the hack is that the modem scripts are made for a BlackBerry. BlackBerry is now suing Samsung for using the name BlackJack. Gotta love the irony.

Bandwidth tester results for Cingular HSDPA using BlackJack connnected to Mac PowerBook G4
[tags]Cingular BlackJack, Apple, Mac, PowerBook G4, HSPDA, Cingular, Connect BlackJack to Mac[/tags]

Scrybe online organizer

Scrybe

Scrybeâ„¢ is a groundbreaking online organizer that caters to today´s lifestyle in a cohesive and intuitive way.” -Scrybe home page.

The much anticipated Scrybe online personal organizer has launched their beta today. I’m writing about it here for two reasons. First, who isn’t interested in ways to be more productive? As far as tools go, the quality of the axe you swing does make a difference, even if the skill of the operator is more important. Second, it’s a great example of how you might use savvy online marketing techniques to promote your effort (be it a recruitment campaign, local, national, or even international, hello world, launch) as Scrybe is going for.

Scrybe made all the cool watcher lists due to a knock-your-socks-off video that they circulated on video sharing sites like YouTube. The video has been described as a savvy use of modern online marketing. Take a look at their home page and all the ‘A list’ blogger testimonials and it’s pretty obvious that Scrybe made the blogging digerati a key part of their social media marketing plan as well. Call it what you want: guerrilla marketing, word-of-mouth-marketing, buzz marketing, social media marketing, social media optimization. Whatever! I’m calling it a great example of how to make a ton of people aware of your stuff so that they’ll want to someday buy your stuff when you’ve got a budget of…well, pretty much nothing. Judge for yourself.

Remember folks, this is only the launch of Scrybe’s beta – not the final product. If you’ve watched the video, you’ll get an idea of how their use of the latest web technologies (like Ajax) are used to create what would appear to be, highly functional and useful tools.

Useful tools eh?

AchillesOK, here are a couple that make my list. Offline sync, once the Achilles’ heel of web based programs, is handled with aplomb, as are paper output modes designed to appeal to the luddite or PDA Hipster in all of us. And it all looks easy to use – dare I say it – even enjoyable to use.

So here’s the thing. I’m always on the hunt for better ways to organize my life (I use David Allen’s framework). Yes, sometimes my lust for new tools even outweighs my desire for productivity itself. But, never for long, and I’m quick to apply a .22 to the head of any self described productivity tool if it gets in my way. For now, I’ve signed up to be part of the beta with about four different e-mails in hopes of getting in on the action. So far, I haven’t heard a peep from Scrybe. I imagine this blog post might help. At least it will if Scrybe is as up on their social media marketing as they appear to be. Because if they are, they’re monitoring the blog buzz on their launch right now and they’ll see this. So, what are you waiting for Scrybe? I can’t write my review until you give me the keys.

[tags]iScrybe, iScrybe.com, Organizer, Calendar, PIM, Personal Information Manager, Life Hacks, GTD, Getting things done, Time Management, To-do Lists, PowerLists, ThoughtPad, Social Media Optimization, Social Media Marketing, Interactive Marketing[/tags]


Digg!

Newsvine: Julian and Shannon sitting in the Greenhouse, k-i-s-s-i…

Shannon and I recently started using Newsvine.Newsvine We’ve lurked there since it went live earlier this year but now we’re taking the time to get involved.

If you’re the type that likes to listen, here you go.

Gabcast! Julians.name #2

Newsvine is a news website where users, or citizen reporters, contribute blog like posts or more traditional news stories to the Newsvine site and community. Notice that I said community – this is not a typical passive experience news site. Like Digg.com, users vote and comment on stories. The amount of votes and comments a story receives determines the overall visibility of your story. Highly popular stories make the front page – other stories never see the light of day. The user generated content is built around a complete, and non-programmed feed from the Associated Press news service. The sheer number of AP stories is really staggering – we’re used to content programmers at media outlets whittling this content down to bite-size morsels for us. I believe Newsvine also features ESPN content.

As you can imagine, the fact that you have full access to the AP wire is both a good and bad thing, but it’s clear that the purpose of the AP content is to give people fodder to have conversations around. That’s the real point of Newsvine. The action is in the conversation that takes place between the readers and author, and reader to reader. You participate in Newsvine by reading, commenting, voting on stories, and writing your own stories. You can also ‘seed’ Newsvine by publishing story excerpts from interesting web sites and stories that you read elsewhere on the net. For example, you’re reading your local online newspaper and there is an interesting story on rising crime rates. By putting a piece of that story on Newsvine others will then come to know about the story, and just like AP, or user generated stories, people ‘on the vine’ can vote your story ‘up the vine,’ and comment.

One thing that makes Newsvine so fun to use is the tools they give users to interact. There are many taken from different successful communication, web, or social media sites. You can make friends, chat, e-mail, create watch lists, and more. What’s really different though are the tools that let you track your interactions and contributions. For example, it’s really easy to return to Newsvine and check on how people reacted to a comment you made on a story. You can track authors, stories, comments, geographic regions, the list goes on. It all brings you closer to the news and the people who are writing it and reacting to it. I’m not even a big news consumer and there’s something about this service that is addictive.

The Internet marketer in Shannon and me is also fascinated by the triggers that cause people to react to content. I wrote a humorous comment on someone’s story last night and I had more votes (by far) on my comment than all the other comments. This was especially interesting to me because NO ONE in the conversation thread, the author or readers, acknowledged my comment. When you read the comments they were very much interacting and talking with each other – but not to me. Because of the Newsvine voting functionality, I learned that readers liked what I wrote, but I also found out that what I wrote did not induce a conversation. This is pretty powerful stuff for a blogger or marketer to learn, given that a major goal of both fields is to connect ideas and people and create a relationship that is relevant, engaging, and interactive.

Did I mention that it’s also just fun being part of the community? I’m enjoying the exercise of writing stories more in the voice of a reporter, vs. a blogger. The wider scope of the audience requires you to explain things in more general terms, which contrasts with a blog where you can assume readers have some interest and expertise in your subject matter to begin with. Except for general purpose blogs like Julians.name that’s aren’t about anything at all (apologies to Seinfeld).

Shannon and I are excited by the opportunity to expose a new audience to our blogs while also connecting with writers and people we might not otherwise find in the blogosphere. We have already seen some lift in traffic on our blogs from the stories we’ve posted on the vine. That was true even before we made it out of the Greenhouse which is impressive given the Greenhouse’s limited audience (more on the Greenhouse in a minute). It’s also yet another venue to increase our expertise in the emerging field of social media optimization (a useful term coined recently by Rohit Bhargava). BTW: Shan has published a couple of pieces on social media optimization, (SMO) on our online recruitment marketing blog EXCELER8ion. I originally used the term social network marketing (you’d never know I was a marketer) but fortunately Rohit’s term saved me from the most unfortunate use of the acronym SNM… Anyway, to wrap your head around SMO, think search engine optimization (SEO) type practices applied to social media like blogs, forums, wikis, Newsvine, RSS, MySpace, Flickr, etc. You can also check out the new wikipedia definition for a just-so description of SMO

Which is a perfect segue to explain our post title and the picture below. And you thought I’d never get to it. When you first start using Newsvine your stories don’t automatically appear everywhere on the vine. There’s a proving ground where you have to contribute stories, vote, comment, and otherwise interact with fellow users. People find new users by going to the Greenhouse (there’s a link on the left side navigation of the Newsvine web site). If they like your content, which includes anything you’ve written or ‘seeded’ from another news site, they vote for you. This voting, combined with all the other aspects of interaction (commenting, voting, etc.), eventually get you out of the Greenhouse and into the general community. The GreenhouseWhy didn’t they just call it the dog house? The message is clear, the more you interact and use ALL of the Newsvine features, the faster you climb the Greenhouse leaderboard and the quicker you get out. Not a bad way to teach people how to use the tools either. People on the top of the page are the closest to graduating to the general community. You’ll be shocked to learn that Shannon took this as our latest venue to compete. I started out way ahead of Shannon but within a day she was nipping at my heals in the Greenhouse, despite my head start. Very early this morning, while Shannon was sleeping, I staggered (careened even) down the halls of the vine, voting, seeding, commenting and even posting to see if I could push myself out of the Greenhouse. But, try as I might, I couldn’t get into the number one position – never mind out onto the vine. Not only that, while Shannon was sleeping, my voting for her stories inched her up a couple of spots (I’m taking full credit) so that we were right next to each other – with me on top, just as it should be. 😉 I took the screen shot shown above because I didn’t know how long it would stay that way. Good thing, because this morning when I logged in, you couldn’t find either of us in the Greenhouse. I guess this means that we’re bona fide members of the community now. It feels a little like graduating from Kindergarten and moving into grade school, sad, terrifying, and exciting all at the same time.

There’s even a revenue model thrown in for you budding authors out there. As Newsvine grows their advertiser base (something they’re still struggling with at present) you get compensated for the traffic you receive from the stories you publish on your column. I’m sure this won’t amount to much for most Newsvine contributors but you can expect some authors to make some real cash (the author receives 90% of the money from the ads that show up on their stories in their column – Newsvine gets 10%). Speaking of columns, here is Shannon’s.

Want to see Newsvine’s 60 second tour? Sure, now I tell you! Hey, you came here to read me didn’t you?

P.S. The CEO of Newsvine, Mike Davidson, has a good blog that you should check out if you’re interested in all this stuff.

P.P.S. Hey Shannon, the race is now on to increase our Vinacity. See you at the finish line.

Update Two things. First, it would be quite ironic, but now that we’re no longer in the Greenhouse, we don’t appear to be anywhere. Even areas where there wouldn’t appear to be ANY competition for our stories. Perhaps all our commenting, publishing, and voting DID get us in the dog house? Only time, and an even greater scouring of Newsvine help, will tell. Next, I had a thought for a feature. Just as we can vote on stories and comments, wouldn’t it be great if we could vote on specific written passages of a story? What a tremendous help it would be to the author to understand how their piece was received, was relevant, or which parts packed the most punch? It would be similarly useful to all Newsvine readers to see what parts of a story were considered to be of the highest import, or quality. It could work much like the Seed feature. The user would highlight the text that they wanted to vote on, or promote, and then hit a ratings or voting button. You could also place a visual indicator in the stories to show hot spots of the story. I’d call this feature ‘passages.’ There you go Mike, your next cool Newsvine feature.

Update September 5, 2006
The day after I wrote my last update my stories started making it out on the vine. Seems like it was probably just a database refresh ‘thang.’ Not only that, but I’m a ‘Featured Writer’ on the home page today and I’m also featured on the sports section.

My first Podcast using Gabcast

I want to give a shout out to Ronald Lewis, who I found via way of Newsvine, for introducing me to Gabcast. Here’s Ronald’s Gabcast channel if you want to have a listen. This is my fist podcast using their service and so far, so good. I had no trouble setting up a channel, posting this podcast using their phone podcasting tool or publishing it on my blog. I’m interested to try their conference calling feature to see how reliable it is. Given that it’s a paid service, and I won’t have to use my phone’s three-way calling feature to conduct interviews as I’ve done with Odeo, I suspect it will be more reliable to use. The conference call service gives you 30 free minutes to try it, after which it is paid, which seems like a fair shake Gabcast’s part.

Gabcast! Julians.name #1