Got Social?

A little “dry” humor.

My mom sent this to me. She used to send me EVERYTHING. We had a little chat about this. :-) She’s gotten really good at sending me the best of what she gets. I’m proud of mom – respectful of the computer but not afraid to try new things (like Facebook). I’ve edited it a bit to make it….um….shall we say….a bit more politically correct.

A man, desperate for water, was plodding through the Afghanistan desert when he saw something far off in the distance. Hoping to find water, he hurried toward the object, only to find a small stand selling ties.

The man asked, ‘Do you have water?

The shop owner replied, ‘I have no water. Would you like to buy a tie? They are only $5.

The man shouted, ‘Idiot! I do not need an over-priced tie. I need water! I should kill you, but I must find water first!

OK,’ said the shop owner, ‘it does not matter that you do not want to buy a tie and that you hate me. I will show you that I am bigger than that. If you continue over that hill to the east for about two miles, you will find a lovely restaurant. It has all the ice cold water you need.’

Muttering, the man staggered away over the hill. Several hours later he staggered back, almost dead.

Your @#$% brother won’t let me in without a tie!

SnapSession: EtherPad

What you see below is what my final document looked like in EtherPad.

*****

Ok – so I’m testing this program called Etherpad. I just put out a note to my social networks, lets see if anyone shows up.

I started out as “unnamed me”, which I easily changed to AJ. Folks will have to be asked to change their status to their real names. Under my name, in the “Connected Users” area, it also shows my IP address and what browser and version I am using. At this point I can also pick the color I want my additions to be seen in. There are eight colors, so I guess only eight people can edit at one time.

You can invite people to share and change this document with you. The statement that appears when you first open EtherPad, read:

Welcome to EtherPad!

As you edit this text area, anyone else viewing this same page will
see your changes in real time. You can see their edits in real time
also.

To share this pad, just send them the URL:

http://etherpad.com/j6KHsKDDTu

So the URL is there to use. Or, to the right, you can enter someone’s email address and invite them directly. The URL also appears at the top of this specific web page and also in the URL window.

As for the sign up, well – there was none. I went to etherpad.com and click one button and got right here. It was quite simple

There is a chat function. Like the other four areas in the right hand window, there is a right/down arrow you can use to hide that area. The chat indicates who said what and the time. This would be very good for collaborators to talk to each other. The chat does not get saved as part of the document.

Below the chat is a window called “Saved Revisions”. This shows each revision, when it was saved, it gives you the option to view that revision and even to restore it the way a wiki would let you roll back to a previous version. I wonder if any guest can save and/or restore a revision?

The next window down is called Options. Here you can determine if you want to highlight who typed what, wrap long lines (both of which are checked off by default), show line numbers, use full window width, or highlight JavaScript syntax. The show line numbers is nice if you are working with others because it makes it very clear which line one might be talking about. The only negative is it is not really showing the line as much as the paragraph.

In the upper right hand corner is an icon that, when clicked, will allow you to make the current window full screen inside the web browser. There is also a “hide” option, so you can hide all of these option windows. This would allow the document being worked on to be the only thing seen in the full browser window.

The last window is an area when you can send Feedback directly to the Etherpad team. I like this – they make it easy to hear from their users.

This application first came to my attention because it has been used by people in Second Life. One of the major complaints from education types, regarding SL, is that there is no way to collaborate on a document in SL. One could post the URL from this Etherpad document into SL (HTML on a prim) and give the URL to the others in SL who can then edit the document together and see it on the prim in SL.

I have been one of those people calling for collaborative documents in SL. To me, EtherPad is a very cool application, but I’m not clear why SL users would use it IN SL, when they could just share it in the browser window without having to have it imported and refreshed in SL. That said, I can see that it fills a need for some.

This would be a great tool for a class, or group, that wanted to work on a document together. Google documents can also be used for the same thing and those documents can be exported into a variety of formats, something I don’t see here.

While I was working on this Margaret popped in and agreed to help me test this. She wrote the text below, which I saw her adding to the document in real time (which was kind of cool!) With Google docs, you have to wait for the refresh or save before others see the changes, whereas with EtherPad, the additions are in real time. In fact, I am writing this at the same time she is adding her text below, and both are working quite well. So this seems to be one advantage over Google Docs.

“This is a multi-user test to check the advantages of EtherPad vs. Google docs. I have never used Google docs but this is a good tool. Nice and simple. You just have to remember to save every so often to get the most recent version saved. The only disadvantage I see is that unless people are working on different sections of a document it could get complicated. Thoughts and statements might get duplicated. For me it would be difficult to type and look what someone else is doing at the same time to prevent duplication. Other than that for beginners it is a easy tool to use. Another advantage is that you do not have to worry about uploading in SL. You can edit and change things as needed. Especially, for big events where you can put real-time status. Everyone can look at one screen vs. opening local chat and sending IM’s.That is all I can say on EtherPad.”

*****

In order to get the text here I had to copy and paste everything, not a real big deal. The real big plus is that, even after everyone leaves the document on EtherPad, it still remains – so you can go back to it at any time. This means a a group can work on a document from week to week. Also, something you can do in Google Docs, but a cool feature nonetheless.

I can see excellent classroom uses for applications like this. I’m still not 100% clear why this is as good or better than using Google Docs, except for the real real-time nature of seeing what people are typing. If that’s the only thing, the ability to export from Google Docs into a word, pdf, etc.., is far better for me.

Have you used EtherPad? If so, why do you think its better than Google Docs?

Tick Removal – is this true?

Ok, mythbusters, someone sent this to me and I’m looking for my sleuths out there to confirm or bust this as a myth. Have at it!

How To Remove a Tick

Bet it would work on dogs too.

Spring is here and the ticks will soon be showing in herds. Here is a good way to get them off you, your children, or your pets.

Give it a try. Please forward to anyone with children… or hunters or dogs, or anyone who even steps outside in summer!!

A School Nurse has written the info below — good enough to share — And it really works!!I had a pediatrician tell me that she believes it is the best way to remove a tick. This is great, because it works in those places where it’s sometimes difficult to get to with tweezers: between toes, in the middle of a head full of dark hair, etc.

Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds (15-20), the tick will come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away.

This technique has worked every time I’ve used it (and that was frequently), and it’s much less traumatic for the patient and easier for me. Unless someone is allergic to soap, I can’t see that this would be damaging in any way.

I even had my doctor’s wife call me for advice because she had one stuck to her back and she couldn’t reach it with tweezers. She used this method and immediately called me back to say, “It worked!”

How do you manage your Twitter stream?

A short while back I found I had some trouble seeing Tweets from people I wanted to follow regularly (hourly or daily) because they were getting caught up in with the Tweets from people and organizations I was interested in, but might want to read at my convenience.

I asked others how many was too many and those who responded all agreed that the number was about 200. I went through and unfollowed some I was following who were not following back. I also went through and unfollowed some who were putting out content that just wasn’t resonating for me.

As time has progressed I find myself getting follow notices from a lot of people and I feel bad not following them back. I feel as if I have become a Twitter snob and, to me, this in some ways defeats the purpose.

So I talked to some folks who have a LOT more followers than I do – thousands – and I asked how they do it. Nearly all said they do miss Tweets from time to time. Nearly all said that they focus on the @ replies because they know that if someone REALLY wants to get their attention, they will @ them. All said they use an application to help.

Having asked around a wide group of people, TweetDeck seems to be the app of choice. I was just about ready to committee to TweetDeck hook, line, and sinker, until I wanted to have the same set up in my office as I have at home. I didn’t want to have to go through and set everything up from scratch in both places but there was no clear way I saw to do it.

So, what did I do, I popped a note out onto Ping.fm asking how to do it and in a matter of minutes I got a response. For those of you interested, the details are here http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2009/04/migrate-tweetdeck-settings-to-another-pc/

Note some important information in the first comment about how to find the file on a PC. It was fairly intuitive on the Mac. Also as an FYI – my home computer is a Mac and the computer I’m using at work at the moment is a PC.

So, instead of just dismissing all the people who followed me since I cut my followers down to under 200, I saved the email notifications in a file and I now plan to go back and see who is still following me and I will follow them back. I say I’m going to go back and see who is still following me because I learned this neat trick some people use to get their Follower count up. Step 1, follow someone (an act that generates an email to that person that says you are following them. Step 2, hope that person sees said email and follows you back. Step 3, wait a few days or a week and then unfollow that person, which that person would never know about because no notice is sent for an unfollow.

Even with TweetDeck, though, I’ll still have to figure out how to deal with all the many posts that come in and how to process them. So I ask you, how to YOU deal with it? Post your response in comments below.

SnapSession: Web based chat rooms

I’m not sure how many of you know about the web site http://www.go2web20.net but its a great site to visit to find out what is going on in the world of Web 2.0 applications. Its also a great place to go to find solutions to problems. I recently had a faculty member who was putting together a hybrid class and everything was working out except she wanted a place where she could interact with the students real time, without much difficulty, downloads, etc…I popped on to go2web20.net and found those two room, showed her how to find them herself, and she was off happy as a clam.

I decided to go back and kick the tires on both of them when I had a chance, and now I have the chance. I’d like to start by thanking all the folks who popped in to help test the chat rooms. I put notices out to my social networks vie Ping.fm and we got quite a few takers (thanks everyone!)

The two programs are http://www.chatmaker.com and http://www.tinychat.com. I’ll start off with Chat Maker because everyone agreed they liked TinyChat the best.

When you first get to the web page for Chatmaker the thing I liked about it (over TinyChat) was that you get to pick the name of the room, so you could customize the URL for whatever the reason is you are meeting. Unfortunately, for me, that is where the preferences overTinyChat end.

When I first got into the room my name was listed as “Laura”. This was easy enough to change, I just clicked on LAURA and changed it to my own name. I dropped a note to Ping.fm (which notifies all my social networks) that I had opened the room and a flood of “guests###” started showing up. Big dislike #1, you can sign in without selecting a name to sign in as. I asked all of the guests to identify themselves, but only a few did. We never did find out who the other people were or even how they found out about the room.

When you type a URL into the chat room, Chatmaker does not automatically change it to a hyperlink. You can enter the HTML for a URL, and it will show up as a hyperlink then, but that seemed to be the only HTML it accepted (thanks toMilos for checking that)

The other VERY noticeable difference between Chatmaker and TinyChat is that Chatmaker had a banner with adds on the top. This was very distracting and could. potentially, become embarrassing depending on what ads show up.

Since I’ve been spending more time saying what one did not have that the other did, perhaps it might be best just to move on to TinyChat.

TinyChat, like ChatMaker, is a no-frills chat room. It is very basic and VERY easy to set up. You point your web browser to http://www.tinychat.com and when the page opens you click CREATE ROOM. At this point it tells you your chat room is ready and gives you a URL. It also gives you an opportunity to notify Twitter,Facebook, and Myspace. Be forewarned, although I did not do this via the TinyChat integration, someone I know did and said it kept posting to his Twitter account while he was signed in and he found that a bit annoying. I posted the URL to Ping.fm, which notified all my social networks, so that did not happen to me.

At the bottom of that page is says “Ok, I’m ready to join my chat” and when you click on that, it asks you what nickname you want to use (it also gives you another chance to authenticate via Twitter, see warning above). To me, here is one of the major pluses over Chatmaker – at this point, it forces the guest to enter some type of name here and so you don’t get the huge backup of numbered “guests”. Yes, it is true, you have no way of knowing is “Jane” is really “Jane”, just because that is what she wrote in the name field. That said, it is far better to have achat room full of individually named people, no matter what names they have chosen, than to have a room full of “guest3894″, “guest934″, etc….

Once you enter your nickname and click GO, you are now in the chat room. In the main window is a list of those chatting and/or those entering/leaving the room. For example…

(13:49) ** Lucas joined the room
(13:49) Lucas: Much cleaner…
(13:49) ** mczart joined the room
(13:50) ** Milos joined the room
(13:50) AJ: hi everyone
(13:50) AJ: yeah – I like this one better
(13:50) AJ: no add
(13:50) Milos: http://www.tinychat.com/1ero6p
(13:50) mczart: I’m back
(13:50) AJ: http://www-sorry-afk.com
(13:50) AJ: and does html
(13:50) AJ: good

All the way to the right of the screen is a list of the “active users” with how many are signed in at the top. To the left of the users name is a symbol, most often the flag of the country the person is in. This information must be pulled from the IP address the guest is connecting through, since I hadn’t given the application any more information than my name. Those who have Twitter accounts, and came in via Twitter, have the Twitter “T” as their symbol. Those were the only two icons we saw, country flag and the Twitter “T”.

As you can see, the chat is time stamped, so you can see exactly when someone entered and exited and also how long the session was. There is an option at the very bottom of the web page window that allows you to turn this off.

Next to the “hide timestamps” click is a “download log” click. This did not work for us. All it did was download a ‘txt file which was empty. What I used the /txt file for was to copy/paste the chat it – so, in essence, I DID use that file for the log, albeit it did not work the way it was advertised.

Also at the bottom of the window is a way to share the chat room with the three social networks previously mentioned. I did test this, at least with Twitter and Facebook. Although I have a MySpace page, I really have no friends there so I didn’t test it out. With Twitter is posted a note saying “join me…..blah blah blah” and give a URL for the chatroom. For Facebook it used the colorful chat bubble logo they use, so it was interesting and potentially attractive to others in your network – an attention getter.

I did experience “chat lag” once or twice, which I didn’t see in ChatMaker. This could very well have been because I tested TinyChat MUCH longer than ChatMaker, so it may just not have happened during the ChatMaker test. It was not a very long delay, a few seconds, and it only happened two or three times, but if there is a conversation flow going on, a chat delayed for 3 seconds can move a comment out of the flow. Suffice it to say I did not really see this as a problem and it could easily have been a network thing instead of an application thing.

Unlike ChatMaker, there are NO ADS in TinyChat and that is one of the other big things I liked better. The ads in ChatMaker were distracting, visually, and could potentially be embarrassing depending on the content of the ad. The flip to this is that ChatMaker is generating revenue, we don’t know how TinyChat is generating revenue to keep the rooms open” and free”, so that might be a concern moving forward.

TinyChat converted the url to a hyperlink on its own, but it does not accept any HTML code. Chatmaker did accept a few HTML codes but it didn’t make the link automatically and I think that is much more important since even the average user could enter a URL from time to time but many morepeople would not know how to do that using HTML code.

At one point I had clicked on another tab to go answer an email and when someone entered my TinyChat room and posted something, the tab for that began to blink and let me know how many chats had been posted. So I was able to effectively multitask without having to babysit the chat room. This is particularly useful if one were to use this for office hours or some other reason where you would not need to be “in” the room at all times.

Lastly, it is possible to do private chats by clicking on the persons name from the active users list. It is not possible to chat with more than one privately at a time and you need to click that persons name again to switch out of private chat to get back to the main chat room. That persons name will appear in the start of your chat box, which is how you know you are private chatting, and the chat line is highlighted in the main chat window to let you know the whole room did not see it.

(13:53) AJ: and being able to pick the name of your room
(13:53) AJ: but the URL on this one is shorter
(13:53) enza ? AJ: are you seeing this private chat?
(13:53) mczart: both don’t show a contact for help with tech issues such as the download
(13:54) AJ ? enza: yeah, been playing with it a bit already. Effective
(13:54) mczart: unless it is meant not to have one
(13:54) AJ: free web 2.0 stuff often does not

It was a bit confusing at first but useful once I knew how it worked. I did not see an FAQ or Help section anyplace, so there would have been no way of knowing about this functionality.

Overall, TinyChat is a very good, lightweight chat room utility with many applications. If one is looking for an easy free tool to use, as long as this one is available, and another one does not come along, I can’t see why anyone would use ChatMaker over TinyChat.

More soon.

SnapSession: MeGlobe

I ran across a web based chat tool called MeGlobe (http://www.meglobe.com) that claimed to be a type of universal translator. I tell it what my native language is and then I can talk to almost anyone, almost anywhere in the world. I wanted to kick these wheels a bit so I put out a note asking if anyone in my network spoke a language other than English fluently.

Dr. Gina Miele, a faculty member in our Italian department here at MSU, agreed to create an account and indicate her native language as Italian.

The user interface was a bit confusing at first. After a few minutes both Gina and I figured out how to add each other on our friends list. I send along my first IM but it did not pop up automatically for her. She had to click on my name in order to see the IM.

The translations were not particularly good, and I’ll get to that in a second. I’d rather focus on what I saw as one of the really good things. The program allows you to edit the responses that are provided. If Gina and I were only IMing, and she didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Italian, this would have been no use. However, since Gina speaks both languages and we were on the phone with each other that the same time, it was possible for us to correct the translation.

I like the fact that the translation can be updated. It useful in the case we set up above. Otherwise, this is a hybrid between an IM client and a translation program life Babblefish, it’s almost like Babblechat.

The first time we fixed the translation and tested the same phrase, it worked. The second time we tried that, it didn’t work – it gave us the same wrong translation it had given us before. In fact, one time, I spelled a word wrong and when the translation came back, it came back with the word misspelled. So, like Wikipedia, where people can update information and it does not necessarily have to be totally accurate, the same is true here. So now we’re looking at Babblechatapedia. Our big question from this was, are these changes and updates universal or only to our conversation. So, in other words, if Gina wrote Ciao, Bella, and I decided to tell the system that this meant “Your breathe smells”, and we corrected it enough times, would others see it?

From what Gina was telling me, the translation used the wrong “person” many times is very formal and often mistranslated word that can have multiple meanings (like “live” as in what city as opposed to “live” as in, “live it up”). It also didn’t get colloquialism at all, but that is to be expected.

All in all, it translated with a good accuracy about 7% of our IMs (no including repeats) and with understandable accuracy about 15%. Now, there is a caveat. The English to Italian translation was not horrific. As Gina said “someone in Italy could understand the translation. They might chuckle at the word choices, poor sentence structure and incorrect grammar, but they would understand.” The Italian to English translation was bad, and sometime so bad that it was unintelligible.

Not wanting to end on a sour note, Gina and I both agreed that this is a great step forward, albeit it has a long way to go. This is working toward becoming a very useful tool and when the accuracy gets better, I’d love to test it with one of our language courses.

As a final note, they have a really cool clock on the top of the page with a drop down menu that has lots of cities around the world. So you can pick a city and the clock will change to show you what time it is in that city. Not only with the time change, but the clock is white during the daylight house and black during the nighttime hours. Great touch. Keep up the good work, MeGlobe, a work in progress but a good start.