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September 2007
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November 2007

October 2007

InsideView of Shelfari

My bookshelf

ALTHOUGH I RARELY respond to invitations to join widget-based communities that revolve around objects instead of people, I started an account on Shelfari because it relates to a social networking experiment and then violated a second operating principle by failing to scroll down on an "invite friends" screen before hitting the "send" button. It turns out that the Shelfari invitation system is spring-loaded to automatically send invitations to people located in your address book if you permit Shelfari to access your Yahoo!, MSN, or Google Mail accounts. So you might guess what happened next. Shelfari started sending invitations to many people who are stored inside of my Yahoo! address book. These are legacy addresses, some gathered from the early 90s. One hour after I pressed the button, Shelfari invited two dead people, one prisoner (he should probably read books but his warden is reading his mail), the CNN news desk, four European editors--and potentially a boatload of others who I hope I never meet. Their names are in my address book since my Yahoo! account is an amalgamation of a filofax, ACT! database, Notes record set, Exchange mail records, as well as contact data shoveled into Yahoo from a minimum of 20 different phones I have used, owned, borrowed or tested. I would never send a bulk mail from my Yahoo! account. I would have never had a bulk mail sent under my signature so this embarrassment means I have loads of work ahead as I may have to go around and apologise to hundreds of people. I hope that is not the case.

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When Copy Goes Walking

IN 2007, THE AVERAGE number of visitors to the pages of InsideView have decreased from 1005 per day to 1003 per day (measured since 2003) while the number of syndicated visitors to the blog have increased from below 630 to above 740 on most days. Although there are several reasons for this occurrence (e.g.,  my blogging has decreased markedly and I've unfinished tasks related to changing the URL of the blog), some of the readers who might have arrived here in search of information about technical fixes now go to more prominent locations featuring the same content. That is, the potential viewers are finding my content in other places. This is not an unusual occurrence because once a mainstream article runs on some gadget, the copycats follow. If I offer a deeper explanation to a gadget reviewed by a glossy magazine, I expect my explanation to be lifted and reused somewhere else. It comes with the territory, although it's not very ethical.

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Hallowed Socialising

Google on Halloween

UPDATED 1 NOV 07: You should stop work and watch Kyle Ford's video about OpenSocial. Assuming this technology catches hold, we are observing a seismic event on the internet.

AND TO CELEBRATE GHOSTS in the tubes, today Google will let people peer deeply into the scary realms of OpenSocial networking. The announcement rumbled across the tubes of the internet around the time a small earthquake pulsated under the Googleplex, possibly because the revelation of Google's involvement in the technological side of social networking is part vapourware (the scale of Google's ambitions have not been successfully tried before), part embargo-busting (several tech bloggers were told that their coverage of OpenSocial MakaMaka was embargoed until early November). The press coverage dovetailed nicely into Euan Semple's related OpenBroadcast theme at the BBC.

OpenSocial (URL won't be live until early November) helps Google increase everyone's use of the web by hooking into established social networks such as Ning, Linked In, SixApart, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster and Orkut. OpenSocial makes easy work of creating a web presence for a machine (like a bus carrying a Nokia Series 60 phone while traveling on Irish roads). OpenSocial means people have another touchpoint to begin searching and that means another space on the web to place Google advertisements. OpenSocial means the appearance of my iGoogle page will change, possibly with the inclusion of an embedded social graph, similar to the details revelead by my Flickr DNA. I believe OpenSocial will make it easier for someone to clone themselves electronically, which is certain to rile some social networking purists. Adam Nash, senior product director for LinkedIn, offers a use case for OpenSocial APIs where the Conference Calendar grabs the industry information from a LinkedIn profile, associates relevant conferences and lists people from other social networks who will attend. This alone would save me countless minutes normally spent scouring hallways.

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First Touch

TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING to help a nearly blind student engage with his third level college lectures, I played with an iPod Touch to see if it would aid someone who wanted to review lesson materials stored online. It wins in one respect by rendering web pages crisply and in an astonishingly clear fashion. However, the size of the fonts will not expand as high as with a dedicated screen zoomer. Nonetheless, its screen presentation deserves full marks. Assuming the student will lose more eyesight as the academic year continues, it's important to be able to play audio files and the iTouch does this but you need to work your way around a touch-based user interface. I don't think this will prove viable for a nearly-blind student because the industry recommends devices with large, tactile buttons. A sighted student would be well-served by the iPod Touch's capability to play audio files. And its wi-fi networking makes quick work of connecting up to an internet collection point where the lecture notes would await immediate download. Better still, students can download a raft of creative multimedia notes directly through iTunes or by subscribing to educasts at

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Facebook Spam

WE ARE GIVING Facebook a one-year flight test, imposing membership in Facebook as part of two modules in the creative multimedia degree programme at Tipperary Institute. By April, several dozen essays will reflect on the experience of being inside the Facebook ecosystem. Some students are not impressed with this academic requirement "because it's stupid". When asked to explain their perspective, they reveal a facet of Facebook that has bubbled up inside some focus groups: some students find Facebook applications very annoying and consider them to be the equivalent of spam.

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K800i Taser Phone

YOU CAN CARRY a taser aboard an aircraft if you have a SonyEricsson K800i cameraphone in your pocket. The K800i's Xenon Flash circuit pumps out nearly 300 volts and that's enough to reach out and jolt someone but not incapacitate them. Creating a K800i taser is quick and easy for anyone used to DIY electronic kits. You open the phone, snip a few wires and connect them to the xenon flash circuit. This means that whenever you activate the flash camera mode, you send 300v across the taser probes on the back of the camera. This taser burst stings worse than a flu shot but it is not lethal. So before you dump your K800i into the recycle bin, consider its second life as a taser cameraphone.

Previously -- "Build your own stun gun"


Photoshopped Beauty

AP Photo of Georgia HorsleyCONCERNED FOR BEAUTIES like Georgia Horsley (at left in AP photo promoting St. George's Day), the size 4 Miss England who has been told to "fatten up" by alert Miss World minders, I wonder if authorities have considered applying Photoshop techniques to contestants as a final revision to their appearances on screen and in the newspapers. With freely available tools like Pixenate, it's relatively straightforward to convert a rail into a pumpkin. Horsley (20), who carries herself with the aplomb of Kiera Knightly, does not think she is too thin. She told the Today show this morning, "I'm happy with the way I am. I probably would have been more hurt if they told me to lose weight, I think."

Speaking from my perspective as an international critic of form and fashion, I believe the average Brit woman is taken from the voluptuous, womanly and curvy side of the chart, the place where Geri Halliwell and Melanie Chisholm (see them on screen like 3.1m people) carved out their niches. Kiera's stick-thin figure has actually been adjusted by photoshoppers to enhance her body aesthetic in several film posters. The 5-foot-8 Horsley is up to the challenge, thinking "I could maybe put a bit of weight on ... it might give me those curves." She has until the end of November to fill out and a strategy as well. "I'm going to eat, you know, healthy fats such as nuts and avocado, oily fish, things like that." You can find those comfort food groups inside my fridge.

Associated Press -- "Miss England told to fatten up" with photo from AP.

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Sousveillance From the Keyboard Outwards

A FEW MONTHS AGO, while walking the streets of Copenhagen, a friend rang to ask if I “had found Wagamama yet”. Not only did he know where to find the best noodles in Denmark, he also knew I was close by the restaurant. That’s because I was carrying a Series 60 third edition Nokia phone with a Jaiku add-on. Months later, Google bought Jaiku and now whenever I use my Nokia phone, Google can log my steps. For some people, Google is their best friend, helping them keep track of their teenagers. For others, Google is getting to be more like Big Brother.

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Booking with a Travel Agent

WE HAVE A SWEETHEART of a travel agent who has figured out how to get us across the Atlantic and back for hundreds of euro cheaper than the online fares. We're paying more than economy class but less than business class and we're getting to sit up front. As has pointed out when we visited San Diego, you can book coach tickets under codes like YUPP, QUPP, or Z, which award ticketholders automatic upgrades to first class. The YUPP category is normally used by a low-cost carrier in a particular market. If your travel agent can see the category screen when booking  your flights, you could benefit from going YUPP because the opportunities for upgrade happen as a matter of course.