Friday, 12 September 2008

The Media Centre hits Twitter

In a desperate (heh heh) attempt to stay current, I have created a Twitter account dedicated to the University of Sunderland's Media Centre. If you don't know what Twitter is then you can describe it as free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length (source: wikipedia).

Essentially, it's a publicly visible site that post messages similar like a mobile SMS, except anyone can see providing the y know the address. You can find the Media Centre's Twitter account by typing the URL into your browser: http://twitter.com/mediacentre

The idea is that I will pass the login/password details around the Media Centre staff so that we can keep students up to date with things specific to the building.

The kind of things we might post on Twitter will include:
  • notices for last minute room changes
  • cancellations of sessions (staff illness)
  • upcoming assessment hand-in dates
  • notifications of events (guest speakers)
  • important dates
This list isn't exhaustive by any means and is open to suggestions. If there are any students out there who want more specific things included then send me a message either here or via my normal work email address.

I think that it's a good idea if the person posting the 'tweet' (the message) identifies themselves with a either their initials or a short recognisable acronym. I've been posting as 'Rob' but I might just switch to 'RJ' in future as its shorter.

Students can access the updates anywhere they are online, via their laptops, web-enabled mobile phones and iPhones/iPod Touches, etc. Data costs may vary depending on how you access the site.

If you think this is a good/bad idea then get in touch. I'd like to hear your feedback.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Twitter + Digg = Twiggit

I've just been alerted to a new service which combines Twitter with Digg in an interesting way called Twiggit. Essentially, Twiggit allows you to update your Twitter feed with any story you have recently dug on Digg. Cosmetically, it looks pretty similar to Twitterfeed which updates your Twitter feed with posts from your RSS feed reader. Now I had a little difficulty in getting Twitterfeed to work at first as there seemed to be a mismatch between the two services (which is now fixed).

However, Twiggit didn't seem to have any of those problems - it was very easy to get started (you only need your Digg ID and then you provide Twiggit with your Twitter ID and login details). Once you are in you can customise the service to update either articles you have dug(g) (Digged?!) or just articles you have submitted to Digg. You can also get Twiggit to update frequently, from once every 5 minutes to just once per day. This is a bit of a Godsend in that if you are not a Twitter fiend who tweets every waking moment of the day, you can end up with a Twitter feed which is full of automated responses and seems pretty depersonalised. Twiggit gets around that by handing control over to you.

I'm more of a fan of del.ico.us than Digg but I'm interested to see how these two services combine. The convergence of social networking tools are on the increase...

Friday, 5 September 2008

Raptr: gaming social network site goes public

It would seem that Raptr, a new social networking site (SNS) dedicated to gaming, has gone live this week after raising $12 million in capital. The site first launched as a closed community in February 2008 whist testing was underway, but now it's free to join for all gamers. It looks like the move towards specialist niche SNS has taken a step forward with the addition of this gaming-focused portal. We've already got sites dedicated to music (Last.FM), photography (Flickr), and video (Youtube), so it makes sense to include a past time which is growing in popularity.

I picked up on details of the launch via the good people at Gamasutra, who are reporting that Raptr 'works with thousands of games across multiple platforms including PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Facebook, Flash, Wii, and PlayStation 3'. The site enables users to track their own gameplay as well as that of their friends in real time. You can share gaming identities and achievements, and exchange tastes and other activities via social networking services such as Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed. I've configured Raptr to work with my Twitter account but had a little trouble getting the Facebook application to work. You can also download and install a desktop client for computers, which works on the free Adobe Air platform.

Raptr was founded in 2007 by Xfire co-founder Dennis Fong. Xfire is a useful tool for enabling PC game players to send messages to each other even when a game is running. This has distinct advantages over using something like MSN Messenger which would force the game window to minimize to the Taskbar. It also enables you to see what games and which servers your friends were playing on in real time. Raptr looks to give the messaging service a community feel. You can follow the development of the site over at the Raptr blog.

You can find me there going under the under the 'robbo1337' moniker. I have yet to play any games since signing up for the service so my Raptr page is a little barren at the minute. I was also unable to import my Hotmail Live address book to add friends... I look like Billy-No-Mates over there. I almost give credence to the myth of the loner gamer.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Google announces new open source browser: Chrome

To quote Mark Pesce over on Twitter, "Jeeze. I go off-line (mostly) for 24 hours and Google announces a plot to take over the (online) world? WTF???"

Yes, today Google announces that it wants to take enter the browser market with what they are calling a "streamlined and simple" browser that promises to be "clean and fast. The official blog claims that the web has changed and so has the way we use
our browsers to interact with it, so a new tool is needed - built from ground up in the best open source traditions. Watch out Firefox, Flock, Opera, etc - it looks like they have already used Apple's WebKit and Mozilla's Firefox development tools to build Chrome.

It looks like the recent developments of the Google Gears (launched last May) project has played some part in this new development . Gears is an open source project that enables more powerful web applications, by adding new features to your web browser and enables offline work in online environments

One of the proposed benefits of the new browser is it's multithreaded approach to task management. We've all suffered at the hands of Javascript causing browsers to freeze - this is mainly because most browsers work process by process. Once Javascript is executed it's going to keep on going until it does what it needs to do, and the browser tends to be unable to do anything until it completes, hence the slowdown or freezing as the browser waits for the Javascript to complete. When this happens the entire browser locks up, and if you are tabbed browsing then you lose everything. Chrome aims to isolate these kind of processes so that if one tab fails you can still continue on with your others.

Of course, it will only be a Windows-only beta-release for now, with plenty more development to come but I am quite excited by this news, and not just for what it means in the world of computing, but for what it might mean about the future of mobile browsing. It's been a while since Google first talked about their (Linux-based) Android operating system for mobile telephones and I can't help feel that there may be the potential for some interesting developments just waiting to be announced in coming months.

I am currently using Google Desktop 5 (with its useful applications/gadgets/widgets) at the minute and I can see a day when I can we can synchronize those tools and data across more than computers (like we can do now), but across mobile devices. Imagine the benefits of being able to browse your home computer with your mobile phone whilst away to find that important .doc/.ppt/.xls file which you can then open up on Google Docs on your Android powered phone? Very promising. Functionality like that would have saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

You can see a Google produced web comic detailing the browser functionality here.

Update (20:43):
First impressions - well there's not much to see or do now that it's here. There's not much in the way of customization but this is just a matter of time. It won't be long before someone goes all Grease-monkey on it, or something similar. One thing worth noting is the Incognito mode which hides your browsing history - useful for public browsing. Now, can someone make it portable?