Technology

Entries related to technology.

Podcamp WesternMass

Podcamp WesternMass is tomorrow and I've been following some of the discussions about ideas for different sessions. There has been a bit of talk about '101' sessions, introductions to various aspects of social media. I always worry about these sort of sessions, where there is an information based power imbalance; the person leading the session having lots of information, and many of the other participants mostly having questions. I know these sessions are important, but I prefer dialogues between equals, so I haven't stepped up to facilitate a session like this. If I did, I'd probably want to talk about broad based strategy issues. What is your goal or mission? What is your message? What is your audience? Perhaps a little bit of a discussion about metrics and all of it leading back to the ideas of intent and impact.

Intent and Impact are issues that I'm particularly focused on these days. What is your intent when you follow someone on social media? When you retweet them? When you post something of your own? What is your intent when you post or share a political comment or a cute picture? How does this fit into group dynamics and parallel processes between groups? How does it relate to Zeitgeist? I wonder how much other people are thinking about this or are interested in talking about this?

I'm also especially interested in some of the more geeky discussions. My good friend Joe Cascio is going to be talking about Bitcoin. I hope this will be a lively discussion, perhaps tying in other issues like alternative non-dollar based currencies, micropayments, point systems and other rewards, etc. I wonder if anyone else there is playing with Raspberry Pi. I could talk a little bit about that, but it probably wouldn't be a great discussion unless a few other geeky people gathered and we shared ideas and brainstormed about what could be done with Raspberry Pi.

Staying on the geeky thread, I'm interested in augmented reality. I was accepted into ProjectGlass, which means I may be getting a pair of Google Glasses soon. What will I be able to do with these? What else is out there for augmented reality? What else is out there for immersive glasses?

One of the things people talk a lot about with Google Glass is taking pictures and videos. We've seen Instagram take off. What else is happening or coming in digital photography and videography? Anyone playing with Vine? What about creating your own Instagram like filters with Photoshop or Gimp? Are their other video tools people should be looking at?

Here, I'm especially interested in mobile, and I wonder what else is coming in Mobile. What are some cool things people are doing with mobile that I'm missing? Are there tools to encourage creativity? Audio, pictures, video production and editing tools? HDR? Panoramas? 3D photography? New ways of looking at creativity? Anyone playing with SuperColider on Android? (I haven't had a lot of luck with it yet). How about Creatorverse? Ingress?

This gets me to what I think was the most valuable session for me from Podcamp last year. I think it was supposed to be about Evernote. I like Evernote. I'm kicking around Google Keep. I've used Onenote in the past, and I'm wondering if there are things that I can be doing with Onenote at work. I've also been interested in mobile audio note taking. "Note to self" spoken into the cellphone to launch an app that does speech to text note taking. Maybe there will be some discussion about these apps at Podcamp WesternMass.

However, only a couple people showed up at the Evernote session, so we sat around sharing ideas. I learned a lot about Evernote that day, and especially ideas about using IFTTT with Evernote. If you haven't checked out "If This Then That" ifttt.com and your a serious social media person, then you're really missing something.

I guess that gets to what I like best about Podcamps, going to sessions where you discover something unexpected, maybe even as the session goes off topic, and everyone gets engaged in the discussion. Because after all, engagement is a key goal in social media and it should be in Podcamp as well.

So, are you interested in any of these topics? Are there other topics your interested in? Let's build the discussion and momentum going into Podcamp WesternMass.

Creatorverse

I've been pretty swamped with life recently and haven't had as much time to play with technology as I would like. Being a geek, playing with technology is an important form of relaxation. On top of that, I'm very interested in constructivist forms of education.

My daughter, Fiona, loves playing games on her smartphone, and I've been trying to find good geeky, constructivist oriented games, and yesterday, I found one, by happenstance.

Every day, Amazon Appstore gives away certain premium apps for free. Mostly, they are games that I'm not all that interested in, but in some cases, they are pretty interesting. Yesterday, the app was Creatorverse. The title kind of caught my eye. The image for the app looked interesting, but what really caught my attention was that it was by Linden Labs. That's right, the folks who brought you Second Life have an app for Android phones. That was enough to get me to download it.

The interface wasn't intuitive and it took a little while for me to get going. Put simply, Creatorverse allows you to create images where the rules of physics applies to the objects. So far, I've only played with gravity. I create balls which fall, and bounce depending on their density. I've created slows that the balls can roll down. It is fun. Relaxing for a geek, and Fiona, who has been playing a lot of mindcraft recently found it interesting.

I'm glad I downloaded it. As I play with it more, I will figure out how I can share some of my creations. Until then, I'm going to try and catch up on my rest, and maybe relax a little, from time to time, playing with Creatorverse.

A Podcast Presentation Tool - @bufferapp and @Tweetchat

On March 30th, PodCamp Western Mass will take place. Already, people are brainstorming session ideas. I've written about PodCamps several times in the past. What is the Difference Between a Good Podcamp and a Great Podcamp? is the blog post that perhaps best captures my thoughts about PodCamps.

A good podcamp does not have people coming in to do presentations. Presentations are done by self professed experts trying to tell other people something important that they’ve learned. There are places for presentations, but I don’t think podcamps are one of them. Presentations reflect a major problem in so much of online media today. Everyone wants to talk, and no one wants to listen. A good podcamp is one where everyone goes to listen and learn.

With this, I thought I'd share my latest favorite presentation tool, a tool that should work well for Podcamp. I've used it for a couple presentations and I know a few other people are thinking of using this idea.

On the screen where the presentation is being projected, instead of projecting PowerPoint, I project a Tweetchat using a predefined hashtag. I set the update speed to 5 seconds to try and minimize Then, I load up my talking points in Buffer. I set Buffer so that it won't do any automatic updates until after the presentation is scheduled to be over.

Then, when I do the presentation, I bring up Buffer on my Android phone. It should work the same way for iPhones. My tweets are their waiting for me, and I can click on the option to send each tweet immediately to twitter as I get the the tweet in my presentation. Within five seconds, it shows up on the screen.

What is also nice about this, is that gives everyone else a chance to add their thoughts to the discussion on the presentation screen.

For those who believe that presentations should follow a 10-20-30 rule, ten slides, twenty minutes and thirty point font, buffer helps with this, if you are using the free version of buffer, you are limited to ten tweets. When I do important larger presentations, I upgrade my buffer account to the paid version.

The problems I run into are trying to see what else has been added to the discussion, responding to it, and dealing with some of the delay. However, it is a great way of doing presentations and a skill I'm working on enhancing.

So, anyone up for some Buffer/Tweetchat enabled presentation/discussions at Podcamp Western Mass?

I Get My News….

Today celebrates the tenth anniversary of the launching of Blog for America. Over the past ten years, I've followed a lot of different blogs and used various tools to do so. Back in 2005, I wrote about using Flock, del.icio.us and Bloglines. I used del.icio.us quite a bit, but over time started using Bloglines more. Both were shutdown and then resuscitated. Flock never really did much for me, but I did end up using Rockmelt quite a bit, including some limited RSS capabilities.

When Twitter came along, I started spending more time with Twitter, and my wife even made a shirt for me with the line, "I get my news on Twitter".

When Blogline shutdown, I moved most of my blog reading over to Google Reader. Now, it has been announced Google Reader is shutting down, and I need to figure out where I go next. A lot of people have been writing a lot of blog posts about the end of Google Reader and what to do next. These have varied from recommending Feedly, news blur, and The Old Reader. Others have spoken about using IFTTT and a 'read later' site. The option that seems like it comes closest for me is the revitalized Feedburner.

Things that are important to me are the ability to look at all unread blog posts, or unread blog posts on specific blogs. It is important to me to be able to have many feeds. Currently, I'm following around 500 different blogs. Bloglines does all of this fairly nicely. The one thing that I'll miss when I finally move off of Google Reader is the mobile abilities. I haven't been able to find a bloglines client for Android.

Another thing that I liked about Google Reader is that besides having a mobile client, you could also read your stories on Flipboard. Hopefully, there will be the ability to read feeds stored from Bloglines or other sites from Flipboard and other mobile apps as well.

Other sites have suggested using newer news services that select what they think I'll be interested in based on topics. So far, other than Google News, none of these have really been all that interesting to me.

All of that said, I have three months before I have to move off of Google Reader, and I wouldn't be surprised to see lot of new developments between now and then.

If any of you have recommendations for good RSS/Blog readers, let me know

Rethinking the Borg

Yesterday, I stumbled across an interesting article, A Brain-to-Brain Interface for Real-Time Sharing of Sensorimotor Information. It goes into detail about how a sensor was connected to one rat's brain, and the experiences were transmitted, over the internet, to another rat who learned from the experiences of the first rat.

My science fiction enthusiastic brain went wild thinking about the possibilities. While the starting point is with sensorimotor information, I wondered what else could be transmitted. While the starting point was rats, I wondered what could be done with humans, or even, interspecies communications. What would it be like to experience the sensorimotor feelings of a horse galloping? Could this information be stored and played at a later time, perhaps as an educational tool? Could I become a better pianist or guitarist by playing back sensorimotor recordings of great performers? Could this be added to albums, so I could not only listen to a great performance, but experience the sensory feelings of the performer during the performance?

And what about the use in dealing with conditions like Parkinson's disease or Essential Tremors: Could a researcher gain insight by playing back the sensorimotor recording of a person with these conditions? Could playing back the sensorimotor recordings of healthy people provide some sort of therapy for people with these conditions?

All of this, of course, is precursor to The Borg. What happens as people become more connected to a collective mind? The borg is portrayed negatively in terms of force assimilation, yet our society has always been based on collective experiences and action. The struggle between individual experience and collective experience is an age old struggle.

Last night, I went to see The Indigo Girls in concert in Northampton with my daughter who started her college career in Virginia. It was striking to think about the collective experience of young women around Northampton and how it compared with the collective experience of some of my daughter's classmates from the south. I wondered how many of my daughter's classmates sought to flee their southern collectives, not for more individuality, per se, but to join a collective that was more tolerant, more embracing of their individual experiences.

I remember, many years ago, gathering around a campfire, to sing songs. Singing around campfires is one of the earliest ways in which experiences were shared, in which the collective spread its common ideas. Yet even two decades ago, around the campfire, different modes of collective engagement were creeping in. Many of the songs we knew, we had learned on the radio, and not around previous campfires. The campfire itself, was most likely started using the remains of another way of sharing collective information, used newspapers. We shared our experiences from around the campfire when we returned to our homes and spoke with friends.

Last night, the individuals who had this shared experience had gained collective information other ways. They had listened to music online, perhaps sharing it online. The newspapers were largely replaced by sharing of news online. Perhaps the most striking change was the way the collective experience of the concert was shared. During the concert, people texted their friends. They called friends from their cellphones so their friends could listen in, or to leave a brief recording of the experience on their friends voicemail. Photographs and videos were taken, and I imagine, shared via social media.

As far as I know, no one had implements allowing them to have the same sensorimotor experiences as Amy Ray or Emily Saliers, yet this omission did not seem to lesson the very strong bond between the audience and the performers.

Progress marches onward and some day, perhaps, we will look back at how we have shared common experiences via pictures, sound recordings or the written word, as being as quaint as the gathering around the campfire many generations before. Yet we would do well to remember the words of John Donne, "No man is an island" and that each one of us should say, "For I am involved in mankind".

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