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March 2008

10 posts from February 2008

There's still time to join the DataPortability.org video conversation/promotion effort!

dataportability.jpgThere's still time to join the DataPortability.org video promotion effort - the deadline has been extended now to March 31st!

Now you may be saying to yourself: "WHAT video promotion?" Well, if you haven't been following the work of the DataPortability.org project, earlier this month they launched a video conversation/promotion effort where they are asking people to record a video answer 5 questions:

  • What does DataPortability mean to you?
  • How do you imagine DataPortability might change the way you use the web?
  • How would you explain the value of DataPortability to Vendors - those that store the data.
  • How would you explain the value of DataPortability to Users - those that create and own the data.
  • Ideally, what would you like to see from the DataPortability Project in the next 12 months? 24 months?

The original deadine was today, February 20th, but, as previously mentioned, it's now been extended to March 31st. People are asked to upload a video to any of the video sharing sites with the tag "dataportabilityandme". Some results on YouTube are visible with the tag "dataportabilityandme" and also "dataportablity". Others are appearing on blip.tv, seesmic and also on private blogs. Here's one that I particularly enjoyed:

What do you want in the way of data portability on the Internet? Why don't you join the conversation?

P.S. And yes, I will be doing so soon...

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What's the best handheld video camera for creating video podcasts?

Okay all you video podcasters out there, what in your opinion is the best handheld video camera out there for creating video podcasts?

Here's the deal. I'm heading down to Orlando next week where we will be doing a number of presentations in front of customers. I want to record those presentations in video form and put them up on Voxeo's blogs, YouTube, maybe blip.tv, etc. I'm also going to several conferences in March where my intent is to create some more video podcasts.

Right now the videos I've put online have come either from my trusty Canon SD1000 "point-and-shoot" camera or from the webcam in my MacBook Pro. Those have been fine for short videos. In fact, I've been quite impressed with the quality that you can get from such tools. But now I'm looking to record longer presentations. Some might be an hour or more. Sure, I can probably do that with my Canon SD1000, but I think I'm getting out of the range of what's realistic to do with camera.

Unfortunately I haven't really paid any attention to the video camera market lately and a simple glance at the Sunday newspaper flyers tells me that there are a zillion choices out there. Here's what I think I want in terms of a camera:

  • SMALL - I travel to conferences and having been burned too many times I never check luggage and always travel with carry-ons. So the camera, power adapters, etc., need to be small for travel.
  • TRIPOD MOUNT - I'm recording hour-long presentations. It's gotta work with a tripod.
  • LONG RECORDING TIME - I might be recording 8 hours of presentations and I really do not want to be having to stop and transfer files over to my laptop.
  • EASY TRANSFER TO COMPUTER (MAC) - I want to be easily able to transfer the video files over to my MacBook Pro. (Where I'll probably simply edit them in iMovie and then post them.)
  • GOOD BATTERY LIFE - Next week in Orlando I'll have power but in March at conferences I'll be roaming around. I don't want to have to be constantly swapping batteries - but I also do want the ability to swap batteries if I need to do so.
  • ERASABLE MEDIA - I don't want to be needing to carry around blank tapes or anything like that. The new range of cameras that shoot to hard drives or SD cards seem intriguing because I can just copy over to the PC, erase it and start recording again.
  • INEXPENSIVE - Oh, and by the way, I don't want to spend a fortune on such a camera.

Two desirable attributes of a camera would be:

  • SEPARATE AUDIO INPUT - When I'm recording a session where the audio is also being captured through microphones, I want to take an audio feed from the mixer and feed it directly into the camera.
  • ABILITY TO ACT AS A WEBCAM - Perhaps I'm stretching too far on this one (or getting away from "inexpensive") but it would be very cool if the camera could also be configured to be a USB (or Firewire) webcam for my MacBook Pro. Say that I'm at a conference and want to do live video streaming from my MBP. Obviously I can use the MBP's built-in webcam, but if I also have this new video camera, it would be great to use it as the video input for the MBP. (Bonus points if I could do both recording in the camera and simultaneously streaming to the MBP... but that may be too far of a stretch.)

Any advice, comments, opinions, recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Anything I left off my list that I should consider? (Thanks in advance)

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Mozilla team rolls out Firefox 3.0 beta 3...

firefox3beta.jpgGiven my recent post about my issues with Firefox, I was delighted to learn this morning (via a note I saw in Twitter) that Firefox 3 Beta 3 now available for download! Naturally, I've gone ahead and downloaded it. Already I like the new visual look on my Mac... we'll see how well it works as I continue to use it. I'll have to see how it does, too, as I go off on some research work with a zillion browser windows open.

I obviously haven't had time to review it yet, but other people have started to post reviews. Here's some of the ones I found useful:

I'm looking forward to seeing how well it works in the days ahead.

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Chris Brogan's free eBook on "Social Media Starting Points"

chrisbrogansebook.jpgChris Brogan yesterday released a free eBook "Social Media and Social Networking Starting Points" that does a nice job outlining what you need to think about as you look at starting to use social media and social networking for business communication. It's a well-done piece. As I commented, the only additional item I thought should be included was a comment policy, but that's mostly due to my recent experiences with the need for one! However, I'd still definitely recommend this eBook to people... it's great that Chris is putting together material like this.

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Google's orkut to launch application platform based on OpenSocial

orkut - login.jpgDoes anyone still use Orkut?

Obviously some people do and the first visit to my page in eons showed me that a couple of people I know had actually been by there recently. But in the grand "battle" between Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, etc., orkut doesn't seem to get much mention these days. I know that I joined orkut back in 2004 when it launched and you had to have an invite to get in. But a year or so later I had basically left it behind (except that my account is still there and now and then does get friend requests).

So I was a bit surprised to encounter over on Official Google Blog the post "orkut going more social" that contains this text:

"Starting this month, we're enabling developers to make their social applications available to orkut users. We'll start ramping up to more than 50 million people over the next few weeks.

To prepare for this growth, we're now accepting social applications. For a while now, developers have been able to write, test, and play with applications on orkut. Later this month, however, we're going to start rolling them out to orkut users. OpenSocial developers can submit their completed applications (deadline: Feb. 15).

To help developers ready their applications, we're offering engineering support and training. We've scheduled orkut hackathons on Feb. 14-15 from 10 am-6 pm at the Googleplex in Mountain View and via videoconference in New York. For more information or to RSVP, please email hackathon.rsvp@gmail.com. If you can't attend, we hope to see you in the OpenSocial forums or on chat (irc://irc.freenode.net/opensocial)."

The post obviously has more information and the relevant links.

That Google is doing this is no surprise given their backing of the OpenSocial initiative. It is interesting to see the note about "ramping up to more than 50 million people". Is that the current number of active orkut users? If the Wikipedia entry is accurate (that states 67 million users in August 2007) that would certainly be plausible.

Regardless, it is great to see another social network indicating that they will have working support of OpenSocial apps soon. The more there are, the more incentive it is for app developers to develop for OpenSocial.

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My ongoing challenge with Firefox jacking my CPU to near 100%

firefoxcpuusage.jpg"Houston, we have a problem!" As readers of my Twitter stream know from my occasional comments there, I've been having ongoing issues for quite a long while with Firefox jacking the CPU on my MacBook Pro to near 100%. It was so bad with Firefox 2 that the I jumped on the beta for Firefox 3 (and then upgraded to the current FF 3.0 beta 2). While performance has been better, it still quite frequently jacks the CPU usage to the sky. I've taken to running "Menu Meters" all the time (and it's truly a great little app!) and as you can see from the image to the right, at least one of my CPUs is jacked to near 100%. That image was taken shortly before I started writing this blog post.

firefoxcpuusage2.jpg Here's another one taken right now as I'm in the middle of writing this entry. In both cases the CPU usage is way too high. The fan on the MacBook Pro also kicks into high gear and the whole unit does start to get quite hot (which, on one level, is okay on these cold Vermont days :-).

Now the obvious question I can hear someone asking is "How do you know it's Firefox? I mean, you run all sorts of other apps on your system - why are you picking on the fox?" Well, outside the fact that: a) using Firefox is slow as molasses; and b) the Mac's Activity Monitor shows me that Firefox is the app causing trouble...cpuusagewoff2-1.jpg there's also the fact that if I go up to the Apple menu, choose "Force Quit..." and then kill off Firefox, both CPUs move back down to a nice even level as shown to the right (nice drop in the time chart, eh?).cpuusagewoff.jpg Over time the levels drop down even further to where they seem to sit in a normal 10-20% range while I'm doing email, writing like this, using IM, etc.

Firefoxusage.jpgNow I fully and freely admit that:

I am probably to blame for part of this!
Given the way that I use Firefox. As the screen image to the right shows (click for a larger version), it's pretty routine that I have a zillion Firefox browser windows open, each of them with then some number of tabs open... sometimes 1 or 2 tabs, but more often then not 5, 10, 15 or more tabs. (I like tabbed browsing!) One time I counted 52 windows open and couldn't even begin to count the number of tabs.

So why do I have so many windows and tabs open? Largely it's the way I work. A large part of what I do is research emerging technologies and that involves heavy web usage. I'll go down one line of investigation opening up a bunch of tabs, then I might spawn another window and go off in a different direction. Because I'm working on several different projects simultaneously, I'll have different windows open for different threads.

Part of my work also involves blogging, so I have windows open to various different blog pages at times. I do most of my writing in MarsEdit, but I need sometimes to manage other settings, work with plugins, etc. I administer our blog server, so I'm dealing with comment spam and other fun issues like that.

Add to this the links that I see in my Twitter stream... or that I open up from RSS feeds. Many of these I simply read and close... or bookmark on del.icio.us or pass along to a colleague. Others I keep open because I want to research the topics further. Then there are windows for social networks like Facebook, etc.

So yes, I admit that I push Firefox heavily. As a friend remarked in response to my problem:

"Doctor, it hurts when I hit my head against a wall!"
Yes, if I just read and dismissed windows and kept only a few open, maybe I wouldn't have this problem. Or if I just closed down my browser every night with all windows shut, maybe Firefox would behave better. Maybe. And perhaps that will be my 2008 resolution....

The other obvious question is why I continue to use Firefox and don't just use Safari. In part it's because I've been a long-time fan of Firefox since it's early beginnings, I'm comfortable with it, and I like all the plugins.

Probably the main reason, though, is that it saves session information! If I have to kill off Firefox, or if the system crashes, or Firefox crashes, when it comes back I have all the windows and tabs that I was just working with. (Admittedly probably one of those windows/tabs may be the problem!) When I first got my MacBook Pro back in October I started off using Safari. One day I was a couple of hours into researching a particular topic and... POOF!... Safari crashed... and took all my research with me. I was not a happy camper. Now, yes, I could get some of the links back through Safari's history, but I had them in various windows and tabs because the pages went together. That can't be easily reconstructed.

I haven't had the time to figure out what exactly causes Firefox to spike. It will be going along perfectly fine and then I'll open some web page that causes it to jack the CPUs up. Unfortunately I haven't noticed precisely what it is... I have a sneaking suspicion it has something to do with Flash and the "rich content" now appearing on so many pages. One of these days maybe I'll make the time to slowly kill off individual windows and see what does it.

In the meantime, I'll probably just grin and bear it hoping that maybe another beta of Firefox 3 will make this work better! ;-) (And maybe I'll work on reforming my browser usage habits.)

Right now, though, I need to go kill off a few windows...

P.S. How many browser windows do you have open?

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ReadWriteWeb outlines 10 common objections to social media and how you can overcome them

readwriteweb-1.jpgOver on the ReadWriteWeb, Marshall Kirkpatrick recently outlined his view on the "Ten Common Objections to Social Media Adoption and How You Can Respond". It's a well-done piece that takes on these objections:
1. I suffer from information overload already.
2. So much of what's discussed online is meaningless. These forms of communication are shallow and make us dumber. We have real work to do!
3. I don't have the time to contribute and moderate, it looks like it takes a lot of time and energy.
4. Our customers don't use this stuff, the learning curve limits its usefulness to geeks.
5. Communicators [bloggers, tweeters] are so fickle, better to stay unengaged than risk random brand damage. We don't want hostile comments left about us on any forum we've legitimized.
6. Traditional media and audiences are still bigger, we'll do new stuff when they do.
7. Upper management won't support it/dedicate resources for it.
8. These startups can't offer meaningful security, they may not even be around in a year - I'll wait until Google or our enterprise software vendor starts offering this kind of functionality.
9. There are so many tools that are similar, I can't tell where to invest my time so I don't use any of it at all.
10. That stuff's fine for sexy brands, but we sell [insert boring B2B brand] and are known for stability more than chasing the flavor-of-the-month. We're doing just fine with the tools we've got, thanks.

As to the answers about how to respond, you'll have to read the article. :-)

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LinkedIn launches new research platform for financial markets

Over on O'Reilly Radar Tim O'Reilly writes in "LinkedIn Announces New Research Platform" about LinkedIn's new "LinkedIn Research Network" to provide primary research to financial markets:

"The big difference is that GLG has crafted a stable of hand-picked experts, while LinkedIn will be data mining its database of millions of users to find potential experts. This is significant because hedge funds and other financial firms get little advantage if they are all taking to the same people, even if those people are the top experts in the field. Competitive advantage, referred to in financial markets as alpha, only comes when you have information that others do not. <text snipped>

Because of its Web 2.0-scale pool of connected individuals, LinkedIn hopes to provide insight from unexpected sources. He also pointed out that the social network helps you to evaluate people promoting themselves as experts: Let's say you're considering an investment in a mining concern in China. You see someone who claims to be an expert. Then you see that he's connected on LinkedIn to the CEOs of the top three zinc producers and has in his network 80% of other people you've identified as experts."

It's an intriguing move to me to see another way that LinkedIn might perhaps monetize it's massive database of people and connections. The launch of this LinkedIn Research Network is apparently a few months out and one will assume that we LinkedIn members will hear more about it (and whether we can opt in or out)... but to me it's another interesting experiment... and if it helps LinkedIn continue to be financially viable and continue to offer their service for free to all of us, so much the better.

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Want to learn about Twitter? Here's a 4-part series and a screencast

239F0ED3-565A-4A5B-8B96-F77D463A8AB2.jpgAs readers know, I'm a fan of Twitter and continue to use it on a daily basis (if you use it, you can follow me if you like). Lately there seem to be quite a large number of articles coming out in the same vein as my own, i.e. "here's how Twitter is useful." I thought, though, I would highlight a couple of those articles that I found particularly useful. First, Jennifer Laycock over at Search Engine Guide has written a four part (so far) series titled "From Twits to Tweeple, Why I Embraced Twitter and You Should Too":
  • Part One steps you through creating an account, editing your profile and getting started. She's done a nice job with screenshots to illustrate the steps.
  • Part Two covers adding friends, twitter commands and lingo and what all the "@" messages are all about.
  • Part Three talks about engaging in conversations on Twitter and also the fun aspect of how Twitter can help you meet up with people in real life.
  • Part Four explains tinyurls, talks about how tweets can drive traffic to your website and also about "retweets".

All in all a nicely done series. She concludes part 4 with an indication that further installments will be forthcoming. Nice to see these kind of tutorials out there.

Second, Dave Delaney published today a screencast tutorial about Twitter (using Jing to record it). Dave covers some of the same kind of introductory material but in a screencast/video form. Again, a nice introduction.

If you're wondering what all this Twitter fuss is about, these resources may help you get started. (And if you do join, feel free to follow me.)

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MySpace enters the "application platform wars" against Facebook

MySpace Developer Platform.jpgSo today MySpace squares off against Facebook with the release of the MySpace Developer Platform. One of the key features of the "MDP" is that it is supporting the OpenSocial initiative and has a lengthy page explaining the interaction between MySpace an OpenSocial. They also provide some nice tutorials starting with (of course!) a "Hello World" and then getting right into creating an OpenSocial application.

It's intriguing to me that MySpace is not launching this with any existing high profile apps. It's really just providing a box of parts and saying... "here, have fun, go nuts!"

In fact, serious application deployment is being put on hold for a one-month period while developers try out the platform. Apps are limited to being installed by 10 users during this one-month development period, which, as other sites are mentioning, has the effect of "leveling the playing field" and giving all developers, large and small, a chance to work with the platform before it goes "live" and mass deployment of applications to MySpace's hundreds of millions of users can begin.

It will indeed be very interesting to see what developers actually do with all of those parts and what applications emerge. We'll have a clearer picture in a month, eh?

More coverage on the announcement that I found useful:

(Now, the question for me personally is this... will this be enough incentive for me to actually pay attention to my long-neglected MySpace profile? Hmmmm.... )

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