Got Social?

SnapSession – Screenr

I asked via my social networks for a Web 2.0 app that was new and useful. A friends recommended I check out http://www.screenr.com. It allows you to capture your screen, in a video format, for up to 5 minutes, and then post it to Twitter.

It is so simple there is very little to blog about when it comes to how to record things. There is NO set up, there is NO account to create, well, at least not when you first start. Here, I”ll let my recording speak for itself.

http://screenr.com/4l8

So, this product gets an A for ease of start up use and recording. What happens after the video is record, well, that is another issue. I tried to indicate I wanted to save the file but not tweet it right away. that didn’t work. It still asked me to sign in using my Twitterusername and password, which I am always hesitant to do. After going back and then saying, ok , I’ll sign in, the next steps were very very confusing. I don’t know, maybe it was just me – but I’ve done a great number of theseSnapSessions and what to do after the recording was completed REALLY confused me. In the end, Screenr just wanted me to authenticate with my Twitter information, it did not post it to Twitter, which was my original request anyway.

Obviously, I finally got it figured out (hence being able to post it above), but this part of the process gets a C-, or maybe even a D+. Over all grade here would be a B- I think.

The other sucky thing, a 5 minute video, too over 8 minutes to upload to their site.

All said and done, I’m sure I’ll use Screene again. Once uploaded, its there for me to refer to by URL or embed. Unfortunately, this is YET ANOTHER embedable application that will not work in WordPress. This really sucks because this would be like the 3rd application intended for embedding that would not work.

I can see a real use, I just hope they can make the “check out” process a little easier for folks to understand. Again, like I said, maybe I just took a dopey pill today.

SnapSession – Doodle

I have been using Doodle to schedule meetings with people for a while now and was very surprised I’d never done a SnapSession on it. For the 15 minute test period (since I was already familiar with the Event function), I tested the Choice function and the Doodle FaceBook application.

The one thing that strikes me about this application is its simplicity and ease of use. You have the default options, which serve the most basic needs, and then there are advanced options for more granular results. Best of all, there is no account to sign up for – so no user name and password to have to remember.

The difference between an Event and Choice is that a Choice lets you choose between a variety of items – for instance,”What should we have at the party?” or “Which movie should we go see?” This is good for getting consensus on things. The Event is geared specially for a place in time, meaning, a meeting or function. So if you have 10 people and 15 potential meeting times, Event would be your choice. If you have the same number of people but you are trying to decide where to go for dinner, Choice would be the option. I can see Choice being very useful in the classroom.

Both functionality, as well as the Facebook app, work pretty much the same way. Select if you want an Event or a Choice. The next screen asks you to provide a title and description respondents will see. You then provide your name and an email address, which is option but I strongly recommend including it. Every time someone completes an entry, the application will email you and let you know. This is so much more convenient than checking back all the time.

This is where the two choices are different. For Event, you will now select the DATES you want to include. Once you click on a date, it turns green showing it is now active. Click NEXT and you will now be able to enter the times on those day for people to choose from. If you don’t have enough columns for your times,click the ADD FURTHER TIME SLOTS. If you want each date to have the same times, you can click COPY AND PASTE FIRST ROW and all your dates will have the same times as the first date.

You can click finish here or go to OPTIONS. This is where you can get really granular with your needs. The option I like the most here is for a “if need be” response, instead of just the yes/no option. When planning meeting times, this has been an essential option for me. Click Finish, and you are done. If you included your email address, you’ll get one email with theparticipants link and one for the administration. Never give out the admin link

Step 2 for Choice gives you rows to list your choices. The options button works pretty much the same as described above. Once done, click Finish and the results are also the same as described above.

The Facebook application does mostly the same thing, except it places the poll in Facebook for you. The thing I did not like about this was that I needed to type individuals names to add them to the poll. It would have been far more convenient to have an invite window come up with all my friends and let me select who I want to invite, the way they do with events.

All said and done, I love this web based application and recommend it.

SnapSession – Zotero

As many of you many already know, I’m beginning my doctoral studies in the Educational Communication and Technology program at New York University. The last time I was in an academic classroom as a student was 2003 and many of the technologies we take for granted today were not around. For instance, during my last semester of my masters program there was no Facebook, flickr, YouTube, Twitter, and Google was just a search engine (not even a verb!).

In fact, as a graduate student, I’d never heard of EndNote, perhaps it was around, perhaps not. Now, I know a lot of faculty around here has asked for Endnote and have even purchased it for themselves. Zotero (http://www.zotero.com) may change all of that. Having never used Endnote, I can’t speak to its operation, but those I know who have used Endnote told me I have to check our Zotero. So check out Zotero I did.

The people who recommended Zotero to me told me they stopped using Endnote once they found Zotero and can’t think of a reason to go back. In fact, they can think of several reasons not it.

According to their web page,“Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself.”

Ok – so what does this mean right away? First off, it means you have to use Firefox. What this also means is that you can be a Mac, Windows, or Linux user, as long as you use Firefox. It also means that it doesn’t matter if you work on a PC in the office and a Mac in the studio, if you have a Zotero account, its cross platform.

Basically, when Zotero sees that you are looking at content that is academic, it will, at the click of a button, import all the necessary information for the citation. If you want it to import something, you can still indicate that and fill in any information that Zotero might have missed.

Once something is stored within Zotero, it become searchable. Entires can be personalize, with your own notes, or with tags, which are all searchable. You can even attached screen shots or other attachments, like a PDF, which are ALSO searchable.

Now, here is what I think make Zotero better than Endnote – Zotero will follow you where ever you have access to the Internet. Lets say you take your computer to the library and you are working from there, you have Zotero. How about at the Starbucks, yup – you’ve got Zotero. How about if you go to the library ans use one of THEIR computers? Well, you can sign into the Zotero web page and access anything you’ve stored in “my library” in your account.

Here is the list of things Zotero does, according to their web site:

* Automatically capture citations
* Remotely back up and sync your library
* Store PDFs, images, and web pages
* Cite from within Word and OpenOffice
* Take rich-text notes in any language
* Wide variety of import/export options
* Free, open source, and extensible
* Collaborate with group libraries
* Organize with collections and tags
* Access your library from anywhere
* Automatically grab metadata for PDFs
* Use thousands of bibliographic styles
* Instantly search your PDFs and notes
* Advanced search and data mining tools
* Interface available in over 30 languages

No more needing to remember how to format something (although it is still important to check to be sure it is correct). I was “brought up” in MLA, but now have to switch to APA, and for several of the journals I submit to, they want APA. Now, I no longer need to try and remember what to do on which one.

Do you use Zotero? If so, what do you think? Do you like it better than EndNote? If so, why. If not, why not? If you need to make use of citations, are you willing to try Zotero? If so, would you be willing to come back here and add your thoughts into COMMENTS?

SnapSession: Dropbox

I recently put out a note to my social network asking if anyone knew of a photo sharing service I could use where the photos would be private. When you upload photos to Flickr, even if you mark them as private, the web crawlers can (will) still find them and then your private picture end up on Google Images.

Suzie Medders, over at Clemson, suggested I try Dropbox. Quick glance, I liked what I saw, so I decided to do a SnapSession on it.

It really could not be easier and the product does exactly what it says its going to do, at least as I can tell. You download an application to your computer (it is an .exe file for PCs and .dmg for Mac – it also runs on Linux) and this puts a dropbox folder either in your Documents folder, or you can tell the program where you want it (I choose my desktop). I downloaded Dropbox to both my PC and Mac, sitting side-by-side, so I could compare as I went.

The install was simple but I did make one mistake. When going through the process it asks you to provide a name for the account, which is not a name for the entire process, just for the computer you are on. Even though they provided the example “Joe’s Laptop”, I wasn’t sure, so I called my office computer “My Stuff”. When I did the install on my Mac laptop, I realized it was asking the same thing and that the name was for the local machine. I went back and tried to rename my office PC but could not find out to do so. Perhaps I’ll find it later on.

I uploaded a file I carry around on my flash drive. It magically appeared on my Powerbook right away. Wonderful. I’ve thought about what might happen if I lost that flash drive or if it got damaged. I do back it up regularly but use it all day long, it has my most active documents on it (one’s I work on at home and in the office). Losing even a few hours work could be time consuming, annoying, and potentially costly. This has now solved that problem. Well, for all files but one. I won’t put my financial budget excel sheet up there. I know they say it is private, but I’m just not that trusting. Remember, putting something on the network means its always there, pretty much, forever. It means that if Dropbox has its servers audited by law officials or the government, they can have access to anything they want. So if this is really something super secret you never ever want anyone else to ever see, don’t put it up on a network anything!

I loaded a file up into my “public” folder, which makes things public by default and when you right (control) click on it, you get the URL. Here is the document I put up there. http://files.getdropbox.com/u/1450981/mj-google.gif

There is also a folder for photos, which I didn’t have time to test in my designated 15 minute test period for these SnapSessions, but I will get to that on my own.

You can connect as many computers as you want, as long as you have the sign in (so I can do my work computer, laptop, the netbook I’ll be getting for school, home desktop, and even the computer I use when I’m at my mom’s!). You can share folders with others (didn’t get to test that either). If you working in a public space, you can even access the entire set up via a web site (once you sign in). And all this happens in relative real time.

The only glitch I ran into was I found a file that was the same as another file but with the word “conflict” and the name of my office computer in the file. It turns out that if two computers are accessing a file at the same time, the one that saves first wins and the second on is called the “conflict”. The help/FAQ told me why right away. I found this help/FAQ pretty easy to read and reliable.

The sign up was easy. They give you 2GB of storage space for free (and have paid accounts if you want/need more space). The product seems to perform exactly as it says its going to. In my book, this is a win. I’m interested in hearing what others think, especially those who might have been customers for a while – Dropbox has been around since 2007.

SnapSession: Prezi – Part II

As I mentioned in my last SnapSession on Prezi, there was just too much for me to cover in one session but this is a really interesting tool so I decided to break from tradition and dedicate two SnapSessions to it.

There is not much more I can say about how to make Prezi work. It reminds me of the old joke:
A young man with a violin case is wandering down a street in New York City when he stops an older couple to ask for directions. “Excuse me”, the young man says, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall”. The older gentleman turns to him and says “Practice, Practice Practice”.

Before showing you my lame-o attempt at this, there are many other really good prezi presentations you can find from their main web page, http://www.prezi.com. One I can direct you to is a draft of something my pal Sarah Robbins put together titled “What is Web 2.0” – http://prezi.com/3692/

I wanted to take this next SnapSession to see how much more I could do after my first attempt. Turns out I got most of the basics down – adding text, creating shapes to put the text into, adding arrows, making text bigger and smaller, and then setting up the “time line” for the presentation to follow. Here is my first attempt: http://prezi.com/92110/

I do plan to spend some time with this and learn some of the tricks. Contrary to what the tutorial and web page may say, the user interface was not intuitive for me. Perhaps it’s just me.

If you’ve done a prezi, why not link it in the comments section below, I’d like to see it. I’d also like to your thoughts on the product if you’ve used it. Actually, even if you’ve only just seen one (like mine or Sarah’s above), I’d love to hear what you think about it.

SnapSession: Otherinbox.com

Not long ago a colleague at Montclair State University suggested I check out this interesting online app called OtherInBox. The basics of how it works is that you sign up for an account and create a username. The username becomes your “domain” of sorts, meaning it’s what comes after the @ in the email address.

You can then put anything you want before the @ and the email will come to you via the web site.
Why use this, you ask? How many times have you been asked to put an email address into a web site, or been in a store and asked for one? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to make an email address up on the fly? Well, now you can.

Of course, when I created my account, I used my trademark sorryafk, so my account with Otherinbox is @sorryafk.otherinbox.com. Now, let’s say I am online shopping at Bob’s Tech Stop. I don’t want to get email from Bob for the rest of my life due to this one item I bought. I also don’t want to give Bob my work email account. So I give Bob bobstechstop@sorryafk.otherinbox.com.

When the email comes in to Otherinbox it generates a folder called bobstechstop. Each morning I get an email from Otherinbox letting me know what new mail came in that day (header info only). Once I delete the email from the bobstechstop folder, the email and the folder disappear (if it was the only email in that folder). Next time Bob sends me his junk email, it goes right in that folder.

Now, let’s say Bob is a bad boy, and sells his email list. Now, I’m getting email from Cheap Mortgage Company, but it is coming into the bobstechstop folder. Not only do I know the Bob sold my email address, but Cheap Mortgage Company doesn’t have my mail email address, and Otherinbox has an option to block incoming mail – so I can block Bob and any other future junk mail companies he sells his email list to (and now I know not to do business in the future with Bob).

There are two things I had a very serious problem with when testing out Otherinbox: support and merging my Gmail.

Let me start off by saying that the folks at Otherinbox saw a mention I made in my Twitter stream and they wrote back to me almost immediately with a welcome. We exchanged Tweets a few times and I was happy that they monitored the tweet stream and responded. At one point they suggested I try their help function, which I was more than happy to do. I did not see the issue I was having listed so I tried to enter a “report” when I found out that their help function was handled by another company. Well, I don’t want to have to sign up for two accounts to get help from only one. I can understand why they might want to outsource the operation, but that should be transparent to me, the end user. As a side note, the problem I was having is not resolved and, given that I won’t subscribe to the second service, it might not be. It’s a problem I only experience on the Mac, and not on the PC, so I’ll do my work on OIB at work.

The other problem I experienced was when I allowed OIB to synch up with my Gmail. I’m on several listserves and when all that information was imported into OIB, it sorted all the email by SENDER and not by the list address. So I now have, literally, hundreds of folders that I have to go through one by one in order to get them out of OIB. When I first signed up to have the Gmail synched with OIB, I thought I was designating which emails to synch. Apparently I misread or misunderstood and have now found myself with far more work on my hands than I first wanted. I have to go through each of these folders, one at a time, and delete the email. There is a functionality it looks like they are going to employ at some point, which will take into account listserves, but that is apparently not working yet. If you are on Gmail, and have a lot of emails, I recommend you do not synch it with OIB.

Even though it seems as if I’m not happy with OIB, it is really the help and Gmail thing that is discouraging. I really like the idea of being able to make up and email address on the fly and have used it several times already. I plan to keep my account with Otherinbox and use it solely for this on-the-fly email generation service. Hopefully the good folks at OIB will get the other stuff sorted out over time.

SnapSession: Prezi

SnapSession: Prezi.com

For this SnapSession I decided to review an online presentation tool I’ve heard many people talk about. The product is called Prezi and can be found at http://www.prezi.com. When I first got to the main page I started by clicking on the big “What is Prezi?” link in the middle of the page. The result was impressive, a zooming slide show instead of standard slides and then completed with an animated video. If this product can help me to do THAT, this is a game changer.

Some of you reading this may be saying “Boy, Kelton, you are way behind the curve on this one.” I know a few folks who have been using Prezi for a while, and even one or two who were using it during the beta. Although I am all about emerging technology, when it comes to theseSnapSessions , I don’t like to review something that is right out of the gate as it takes some time for products to settle down and get bugs worked out. In theory, the applications I write up in theSnapSession might be used by a faculty member in a classroom and I wouldn’t want someone to use something that still had major problems.

After the Prezi presentation on Prezi I looked around the main web page and immediately notices a link called “See our pricing and plans”. Uh-oh. I thought Prezi was free. I figured they must have started charging once they came out of beta. As it turns out, there are two paid plans and one free basic plan. I wanted to poke around a bit more before signing up for an account.

They have a link called “Try the Editor Yourself”, so I did. It started another demo, which I could fiddle around with, but I wanted to see what this tool does on my own so I decided to jump right in and sign up for an account. One important note, whichPrezi is good enough to put in several places to be sure users know – even though you can download your prezi and use it offline, all prezi’s in the free viewer are public.

After signing up I got the email verifying I’m a real person and not a sp*mbot. I clicked the link and got started. I was able to do a few things on my own, but nothing nearly as polished (or even attractive) as the demo. I got frustrated because there were things that were not intuitive and there was nomouse over notes on what the buttons do. Each button is labeled clearly, and the way they designed the edit menu is really cool.

Clearly the tool has more to it than I could figure out on my own, so I decided to go through the tutorial. The tutorial does an excellent job of not only giving an overview of the product but they USE the product to give an overview of how it works, which is really quite effective. The tutorial is short enough to be effective and complete enough to fill in the gaps for me. Frustrated no more, I went back to myPrezi with only a few minutes left before my self-imposed trial time ran out.

This product does not completely pass the 15-minute test for SnapSessions. In other words, I was able to get the basics in the 15 minutes I allocate for each SnapSession trial, but not to the point where I was comfortable enough to create something I’d use in a presentation. That said, I think this product is a good one, and important enough to spend more time with. So I will dedicated the nextSnapSession to taking my “prezi” to the next level.

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?

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.