Category Archives: software

Digital Neighborhoods – Guiding design

Second LifeDigital neighborhoods seem like a powerful tool for discussing technology and its impact on users (students, staff, researchers, etc) and the concept adds interesting new requirements to projects. Getting a good understanding of your users’ digital neighborhoods can guide design and deployment of new technologies and help predict impacts on the users themselves. Understanding how they move in their neighborhood, where they travel frequently and what places are stable over time, provides insight into the key places you should try to place application.
I came upon Jeff Swain via Twitter which led me to his blog-post about his digital neighborhood. I was wandering in my digital neighborhood and into the surrounding areas when I found his link. Jeff talks about reading David Weinberger’s Small Pieces Loosely Joined. To quote Jeff’s post:

As Weinberger points out space on the web doesn’t work that way. Distance is measured in hyperlinks and proximity is created by interest. In other words, each of us gets to create own own space on the web. Your own neighborhood, if you will, filled with the places you find interesting…. So this got me to thinking, What does my digital neighborhood look like? What seemingly disparate places are loosely joined (pun intended) just because I happen to be interested in them?

Jeff then goes on to do an analysis of his digital neighborhood.

As I read Jeff’s piece, I began to think about the value of understanding digital neighborhoods. If we understood our incoming students’ digital neighborhoods, it would give us a better understanding of how to reach them, what their interests are and places that we should think about pushing content into. One example that we have in place is in Facebook. We now have an emergency notification group and system in place in Facebook. Our leadership can push out notices via Facebook, into the user’s neighborhood.

Another example is our increasing use of RSS feeds for various applications and calendar feeds. This lets users pick up the content and move it to their own neighborhood. I have a calendar feed for our corporate calendar system integrated into my Google homepage. I can check my work calendar while checking personal email, local news and recording my workouts. The fact that my calendar appears among my personal tools means I track changes to my calendar much more closely when I’m at home doing my personal things. In some ways, Google’s custom homepage is like strip-mall with a few anchor stores (Mail, Calendar, Google Apps) and a lot of empty store fronts that you can fill with your own shops.

The value of these virtual malls, is that users can aggregate enough of their own personal content and applications that it makes it worth the trip. Every time you go on the web, you have thousands of possible places you could visit. Yet, you visit a select few. If we continue with the physical store/neighborhood metaphor: Every time you go shopping, you could go to any store in town but you go to a select neighborhood (like our State Street) because of the variety of interesting shops or to a given store because of the shop has some unique value (low price, selection, the one thing you can only find at their store). A similar thing happens when we deploy applications. Users are expected to visit that application because of the unique value it brings. When we bring up applications that are separated from their current digital neighborhood, it is like building your store in a new mall well out of town. The users have to have some reason to visit. The value has to be higher than an application built in their neighborhood or built such that it can easily be included.

This suggests to me at least, that we need to think about our users’ current digital neighborhoods and how we can integrate our new applications and services into those neighborhoods. RSS feeds are a low risk and fairly simple way to move content into their neighborhoods. Facebook groups and applications could reach into the students’ world. Portlet type applications that can be put into existing enterprise portals or into sites like Google’s homepage allow richer interaction. Finally, if if has to stand on its own, it better have unique value that makes it worth the trip.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Old meets new – You can follow the New York Times on Twitter

I just discovered that there are several twitter feeds for the New York Times. These feeds include a main New York Times feed at

http://twitter.com/nytimes

along with several specific feeds:

You can find most of them by going to the main URL and look at the “following” list on the lower right hand corner. You can then follow the NYT stories as they are published in each section in twitter. Pretty cool.

This continues with the general trend of “the content I want, where I want it, how I want it, when I want it”. The great mash-up continues.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Running Leopard – another easy upgrade

I’m now running Leopard on my MacBook Pro at work and on my G5 dual 2Ghz desktop at home. So far, everything has been glitch-less. I did have to set up my work printers again but that was it.

Certain things are much faster: loading the java based weather maps from Weather.gov at significantly faster, mail is very fast to build my mailboxes even those with over 3K messages.

The new Spaces feature is pretty cool. I’m just getting used to how to work with spaces in the best way.

I need to upgrade my external drive then I’ll try out Time Machine.

So far, all is good.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Kinkless Getting Things Done

I’ve been working with the Kinkless Getting Things Done (GTD) system. For more info about GTD, see my GTD Tag and/or read David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done…”
Kinkless Getting Things Done (kGTD) is a system for organizing and trapping tasks using Applescripts and Omni Outliner Professional 3.6 (or better).  You create a project and add tasks for the project.  I’m using the term “project” very loosely.  In the sense of this article and kGTD, a project is a collection of tasks.  Tasks are activities that you can complete in one session.  For me, that means less than 20 minutes.   You assign a context for each task.  A context is a realm of completing work (like email, posting, errand, home, phone, etc).

The kGTD system then syncs the projects and gathers all of the tasks by context.  It also sorts tasks by due date and archives tasks.  This is the best task management / efficiency tool I’ve ever used and I have tried several (dozen) I would guess.

To really get a sense of the system, watch the Kinkless GTD Video.

I have knitted this together with Subversion to give me a more ubiquitous task management system.  I sync my file to a Subversion repository on my dreamhost account.  Subversion is a code management tool.  You check out files, edit then and check them back in.  I check out my kGTD file edit it and check it back in.  I can check it out at home or work.  This lets me keep a log of tasks that I can edit from any of my computers.

Check out the links below, watch the movie, read Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders entries and see if this will work for you.

Links that relate to this post…

Collaboration Channels – I don’t want to think about protocols

Burton Group talks about the distinction between Channels and Workspaces in Collaboration. Channels are routes where information flows. Workspaces are areas where collaborators gather. Examples of Workspaces are Wikis, shared document repositories, group calendar software.

Channels are things like email, chat, VoIP, video conferencing and telephony. The problem with Channels is that we have to be protocol centric. We have to think – I want to communicate with Keith. Let see if the Chat protocol will work (e.g. is he on-line in chat?) if not I’ll send an email but maybe I’ll call too. I want to be person centric: I want to communicate with Keith.

In my ideal scenario, I would select Keith as a contact and I would then see communication options TEXT, VOICE, VIDEO. I could then select that I want to do VOICE. I would pick up my headset and my computer would establish a connection. On Keith’s end, he would choose to have VOICE channeled to Skype or iChatAV or to his cell phone or home phone number. He might even have a priority list (if Skype is running, use Skype otherwise send to Cell Phone). He might send VOICE directly to an MP3 (to voicemail) that he can listen to later.

On the TEXT side, I would select TEXT and either be connected to IM or asked to form an email depending on KEITH’s availability setting in IM.

The IM logs should flow into a repository that is similar to my (if not the same as my) email repository.

There are times when I would like to pick the protocol, when I would send and email even though Keith is on IM.

On the receiver end, I would need better presence management. I would need a unified presence control – a central place where I could manage the flow of information into my channels. I would have to swap managing protocols for managing presence.

Google School Rankings

A graduate student at Stanford – Mike Tung – put together a suite of scripts and tools to generate College rankings based on Google searches. He didn’t want to pay for the USNews’ Annual America’s Best Colleges report. Though his work is quite technical, I imagine that it will be simplified into a web app that any student can use at any point in time. “What are the College rankings now?” click…

Continue reading