CommonCraft: Blogs in Plain English

I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Lee LeFever at NorthernVoice last year, and he has since taken his endeavors with online communities to new levels along with his wife, Sachi. They’ve been producing a series of videos to help explain technologies of today’s internet for those who like simple explanations in plain english, such as wikis, social networking, and social bookmarking.

In the video below, CommonCraft looks to help explain what blogs are in plain english, helping those who have little to no knowledge about the medium. It’s a good watch for those who have a simple, basic idea about what blogs are, and the topic is a good one to follow my recent post about blogging as a medium in general.

Real world uses of Ustream, and it’s not for just being geeky

I’ve been aware of the whole Ustream phenomenon for a time now, and there have been a few opportunities to get my mug into the action with some of the live streams of the Canucks Outsider that Dave put on, with the help of Roland. Outside of that and what Chris Pirillo does with the service, I haven’t given much thought about Ustream’s capabilities or uses. At least, I know that I can use it, but what would I use it for? (Do you really wanna watch me read my RSS feeds, do some geeky web-programming-podcasting-blogging stuff, and drink coffee?)

Robert Scoble dropped by Ustream’s offices and did one of his patented interviews with the people behind the scenes. After watching it, it opened my eyes to what they are doing, how it works, and, more importantly, what the real world can use Ustream for.

The bulk of what I’m getting at comes towards the end of the interview. Since Ustream is embeddable nearly anywhere you can dropped the code, there are a variety of uses for this. With a webcam(that has a good audio source) and a decent internet connection, you can stream anything you want, live and for free. It’s that simple, and many computers are built with this capability off the shelf. You just have to set it up with Ustream and broadcast what the camera sees.

City council meetings could be open to the public with no need for local access cable channels. Company meetings can get posted on internal, corporate sites that only employees can see. Or maybe you have those events that you want to get out to the public and wish that the local news station would give you more coverage than just a fifteen second mention on the six o’clock news? Now you can bypass that worry and broadcast what you want to the world, but still invite the “media” in case they want to come down. The options are endless.

It makes more sense to me now. Ustream is looking to expand what they are doing by upping their services in a variety of ways. I’m certainly looking at them with a different perspective.

Generation gaps in blogging

The simple matter of fact is that some people get blogging and others don’t. When you start point the finger at generation gaps, that gets even more sticky.

This comes in reference to a series of posts that Arpit Jacob wrote about in this post.

Check this post here by the so called usability Guru Jakob Nielsen on his website (I refuse to call it a blog, if you can’t comment then its not a blog) were he is typically saying blogging sucks. Lately he’s either been out of touch or he is getting too old. My dad can’t understand what a blog is or why I spend so much time after coming back home from work even though I am tired. My mom once saw my Orkut profile and she asked me if it was my Website. I think Jakob Nielsen belongs to the same generation. Sure he was once a respected usability guru. But if he writes any more silly articles like the one above I might have to label him an old Grandpa. [clazh]

I can say first hand that some of this is true. It’s tough for some people to grasp on to new techniques or methods while holding on to the roots that have been instilled via education and experience. Even though one person can stand to gain so much with the world literally at their doorstep, there is hesitation to step out of what is known. You can only spend so much time learning new things as well, but here is where folks like us, in the trenches, come in to help out.

Blogging gets a bad rap because it being so equated to spilling our personal guts out onto the Internet. While some of that is true for some, it’s far from that for others. It’s a presentation of what you want out there, professional, personal, hobbies, sports related, cat related, etc. It’s whatever you want it to be.

Still, helping anyone see the light in all the tools that are out there is tough. I’m fortunate to have a family that understands some of this, but there are some days that you want to pull your hair out when it comes to others, especially when it’s a fresh college graduate who equates blogging to email. Eh… What can you do?

ShowClix launches into Canada

I was contacted the other day about ShowClix. Basically, it’s a one stop shop for finding shows in your area, or at least that is the intention. I’ve often thought about the concept and how hard it would be to possibly list every show that you possibly could in a city, especially in Vancouver. The truth is that you can’t, but after registering on their site, there are a few shows that caught my attention that I hadn’t known about. Obviously, this means the site is doing the job it’s intending to do.

ShowClix I still feel like the interface is a bit wet behind the ears, but you are able to search with a little ease. However, they don’t stop at listing shows. If you are putting on a show, you can sell tickets through their site. I don’t know the details involved, but apparently it’s free. Purchasers are basically put on a guest list that they have bought spots on. That’s a neat concept, and that puts you in control of the door to confirm people’s identity as they enter the venue. It’s your own, little Ticketmaster.

Everyone is free to add shows as well, and this will be helpful in creating an all encompassing list of shows to see, no matter how big or small. Once again, a daunting task, but if you can bust down the social barriers that bring the mainstream and the underground together, then I’m all for it. At least, if I am understanding this right, you can list a show for your garage band in your uncle’s basement right next to the dudes playing a stadium show on the same night. And dude, I’d totally love to hang out with you on your uncle’s basement rather than get back row seats at GM Place.

It’s a unique take on mashing up Web 2.0 with live music, concert venues, and social networking. There are even ways to list the shows you plan on checking out on your blog, opening up a way to see what your fellow blogger friends who are also registered on the site will be checking out. Then you can chastise them for their musical tastes even more.

True that the listings in Vancouver are a little weak, but they have launched in Canada as of a week or so ago. Checking around other cities, there is quite a bit. Even better, they offer RSS feeds so you can subscribe and keep up to date on new concert listings as they are added for you particular city.

Check out ShowClix for yourself if you are the concert going type. I know that I never get to see enough.

Wikis in Plain English

As if they were paying attention, CommonCraft has produced another video to help explain the world of Web 2.0. I often link to Wikipedia in my posts, but there might not be a lot of people who know how it works. Better yet, there are some out there who don’t know that you can apply the same functionality that they use on that site, called Wikis (creative, huh?), to nearly any site that you want to.

Curious to learn more? Watch this video.

RSS in Plain English

I am in the midst of a relaunch of, a small business back in my home state of Iowa. We are taking it into new directions, many of which they have never witnessed or knew about before I got my hands on the site. I’ve also been muttering the words “Drupal” and “RSS” quite a bit, not to mention “search engine optimization” and “content management system”.

The Drupal part is something they are grasping well, and it is so nice to have a CMS in which nearly everyone at the business can have a helping hand in building the site with. The learning curve is getting easier everyday, and I’m discovering what it’s like to teach Drupal to new eyes, especially those who are still on the outside of what Web 2.0 really is.

The RSS part is another story. When I pointed this video out to them, they came back to me with a much better understanding of what I was trying to teach them. Plus, it’s hard to convey my daily interactivity with this stuff on a regular basis.

Still wondering what RSS is? Watch this video by the folks at CommonCraft.

Talking to Boris about my adventures, I’ll try to convey more about the creation of on a Drupal platform. If anyone wanted to help me out with some design input, I’m all ears. At this time, we’re much more focused on content.

Locked and loaded for NorthernVoice 2007

After some careful planning and budgeting, Rebecca and I have both signed ourselves up for NorthernVoice 2007. It should be a whirlwind of a weekend since the following Sunday is our one year anniversary. If that seems to be a geeky way to spend the first part of the weekend after being married for a year, then you’re probably right, and we like it that way.

Northern Voice is a two-day, non-profit personal blogging conference that’s being held at the UBC main campus on February 23-24, 2007.

This is the 3rd annual incarnation of this event, see the 2006 and 2005 websites for previous information.

Blogging, podcasting, social media, new media, web 2.0, and so on. Yes, there will be lots of ideas about all those things being tossed around, not to mention plenty of laptops on laps action.

We had a snafu in our planning, not realizing that Friday held quite the goings-on with the whole Moose Camp deal. In our heads, we thought that was taking place in the evening on Friday, so we opted to have Rebecca take the following Monday off in anticipation of our celebratory weekend. Looks like I’ll be checking things out for that Friday on my own, but she’ll make her way down for any activities later on that night. We’ll both be sneaking around on Saturday.

Looking forward to meeting more new people in the sphere of all things new media, plus catch a few neat sessions(view the schedule). Even Dave is leading a session on podcasting, so I’ve got to go heckle him check that out.

I’ll probably check in here during the event, and the recording gear always travels with me. It’s just a matter of not getting too into soaking up information to remember to grab some audio cuts. Have to see how things go. For me this is really good timing because the wonderful (I’m throwing that in there in case anyone at CIC is watching) Canadian government recently approved my PR application. I’ll be able to work in a matter of weeks now. 🙂

Podcasting reaching its limits

When I first caught word of this post at Digital Podcast, it made me stop to think. Has podcasting reached its limit? I have to agree with Scott Bourne at Podcasting Tricks. No way, Jose.

I’ve been a proponent of the medium since I first heard of it. The potential hit me at that same moment, but I think it’s fair to say that the concept hasn’t been taken to the height of where it can deemed successful or impactual.

Then, I read this over at BoingBoing. It appears that Odeo is up for sale. Instead of just pulling the plug, they thought they would see if someone would want to buy the site. My use and knowledge of their service is limited, but it’s essentially an online podcatcher. If you don’t have an iPod or the ability to download gigs of podcasts onto your computer, you can use their service to keep track of all of your favorites and listen to them from the web, no eating up of your hard drive space required.

This makes me think a little bit more about this idea of podcasting reaching its limits. Remember the dot-com bubble[wiki] of the 90’s? I see podcasting to be a lot like that. There is the surge that is still going on, but a true grasp of the potential hasn’t been seen yet. The whole thing might have to completely tank before it gets better.

For those of us who bask in glowing warm glow of new media and Web 2.0, we get it. For some of us, this is old news. However, I always think back to my friends and family who don’t drink this stuff like water as I do. Are they listening? Are they watching? Are they downloading? How accessible is this stuff, regardless if they know what podcasting is or isn’t?

In the early 20th century, TV went through many trials before it was settled on how everything would work on the technical side. From there, the growth of broadcast signals trickled out across the world, and even the broadcast day went from a few hours to the around the clock monotony that we have today. There was no switch and suddenly we had the Honeymooners[wiki]. It took time to grow, and podcasting faces the same task.

Pluggd is fixing the meta issue with podcasting

Wired published an article about Pluggd, a company that is developing new technology to search the internet, and we’re not just talking about text anymore.

Pluggd has found a way to index podcasts, talk shows and other spoken-word content. The company’s service then allows users to search the audio files for specific words.

You can try Pluggd’s word-searching demo yourself right now. Enter your search term and you’ll see mentions of your word highlighted in various colors — heatmap-style — on a timeline of the show. The redder “hot spot” areas represent denser clusters of your search term, and clicking on one will cause the player to jump straight to the discussion about your desired topic.

Rather than just reading a transcript of a conversation, you can search for a term and hear it spoken in context by the original speaker in seconds. The ramifications for podcasting and more traditional spoken-audio formats are significant, and that’s just for starters. [wired]

If they get this right, the podcasting medium stands to take a huge boost. Take a look at the demo. It gives a nice preview of the service that they are working on. I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor a little bit.

Additionally, Digg did a design overhaul to their site plus some other goodies. They’ve added support for podcasting. That basically means that the same way that you can Digg a news story or blog post, you can Digg a single episode to share with others. I’m not too sure how it works from the podcasters end, but please feel free to Digg any of the RadioZoom or The Crazy Canucks episodes. 🙂

Here comes more YouTubes

Seth Godin pointed out that there might be more than one YouTubes in the world, especially after NBC Universal launched their own form of video sharing. Instead of it being user generated content, this stuff is actually coming from the corporate folks themselves.

DotComedy is full of various clips of NBC programming, but I believe there are clips from other networks as well. For the most part, it operates a lot like YouTube. There is an embed function that is not working yet, and the “coming soon” doesn’t give much of a time line for when that will be operational. Still, it creates some competition for fans of YouTube, as long as the content is fresh.

Just looking around the site on my first time through, a Late Night with Conan O’Brian clip of “Satellite TV”, and this Double Dragon short was highly enlightening. Lord knows I wasted time on that game in my youth.