Thing Extra: Improving UMW’s Outreach Through the Internet

June 15, 2010

We had an in-class assignment where we had to think about what make our university stand out and how we can emphasize these distinctive features on the internet. Here are ten things my group came up with. (We had question 2 on the worksheet)

1.)Upload images of the campus to the web

2.)Upload a video tour of the campus

3.)Create podcast sample lectures from our most notable professors

4.)Create an easier portal to the club blogs

5.)Create a forum or comment area where students can freely make comment about the university

6.)Create a blog (or microblog) where new events are updated and shown to the public

7.)Point and click virtual map of the campus

8.)Submit our University webpage to Digg.com or some other social awareness site or social bookmarking site

9.)Create a virtual UMW in a virtual world like second life

10.)Create a wiki that professors can edit and add pages about any course they are offering or any projects they are working on

-Andrew Henson & Erin Wuepper

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Thing Final: Image Sharing

June 14, 2010

Today we have the last thing for this course. That thing is image sharing. I have used image hosting sites in the past. I have used Photobucket and Flickr which are given in the class blog. I have also used ImageShack and TinyPic which don’t require an account to upload images (though it is easier to find you pictures again with one). I don’t have much to say on this topic, so I guess I will just examine the differences between different image sharing sites.
Photobucket was the first image sharing site I ever used and the one I use most often. You can search for an image by keyword without having an account, but you can’t upload your own images without one. Once you upload an image, you can edit the picture. The site gives you some editing tools such as fix red eye, crop, resize and rotate. You can add effects, text, animations and layers. It is sort of like a mini Photoshop. It also has an EZ Collage button which allows you to create a collage with any of the images uploaded to your account.
Score: 9/10
-Need to create account +Extensive editing +EZ Collage + Group Albums –Doesn’t seem to have “favorites”
Flickr also requires a login, but it is the same as your yahoo account login. I haven’t used Flickr in a long time, so it took me a few tries to remember our family login. Flickr is set up more like a social networking site than Photobucket. It has groups, contacts, sets, galleries, archives and favorites. They also have image editing, but they lose points by just redirecting you to Picknik’s  image editor. The free editing abilities are a lot less extensive than Photobucket’s. You can rotate, crop, fix red eye and sharpen it, but not much else. To get more editing abilities you have to buy an upgrade to Picknik Premium.
Score: 7/10
-Need Yahoo account +Social Networking Abilities +Favorites -Lame borrowed image editor
The last image sharing site I decided to review is Picasa. I haven’t used Picasa myself. The first time I heard of it was when the Google search engine just recently allowed for you to use your own backgrounds from Picasa. This isn’t surprising as Picasa seems to be owned by Google. Unfortunately, I can’t try it out because it required me to download some software and I am currently using the university’s computers. Apparently you download the software and it allows you to upload your images to the internet. Looking at its editing features, it has more abilities that Flickr’s free services, but not as much as Photobucket. Because your album is on your desktop, there are a lot of ways to organize and hide images.
Score: 8/10
-Must download software +Pretty good image editor -Doesn’t seem to have groups + Favorites +Good organization abilities

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Thing }14{ : Awareness Tools

June 10, 2010

Today’s topic is about awareness tools. I honestly have never had a problem with adapting to technological change. It only took me a few seconds to figure out the new e-mail system when we shifted from the old EagleLink mail to WindowsLive. It only took me a few hours to dump Internet Explorer, decide I hated Firefox and adapt to the incredible shiny Google Chrome browser. I recently got rid of my old 15 inch laptop that ran Windows XP and bought a media laptop with a 17 inch screen and Windows 7. I have also never gotten a headache when switching between the ever expanding set of game consoles sitting in the corner of the family room.
When it comes to the internet I have a few websites that I regularly visit. I usually find new sites by recommendation from people on the forums I visit. I don’t really see the relevance of awareness tools for me, but let’s look at them anyway. Typing in awareness tools into Google didn’t really give me the results I needed, so I decided to look at some of the sites provided on the class blog.
The first I looked at was Slashdot. I used to read Slashdot when I first discovered the internet in middle school. It looks a lot different from what I remember. I looked for a page with a short summary of what the site is about. This page would usually be on a FAQ page, but their FAQ page is rather daunting and unhelpful in that arena. I guess I don’t need one, since it is quite obviously a site where users submit technology related news stories and other users comment on them.
I talked very briefly about Google News in Thing (11).
Fark is a site that I have heard about, but never visited myself. Their FAQ  page was a little more helpful than Slashdot’s. The first mini-paragraph tells you what the site is about, “The first thing you should know is that Fark.com isn’t a Weblog. Fark.com, the Web site, is a news aggregator and an edited social networking news site. Every day Fark receives 2,000 or so news submissions from its readership, from which we hand-pick the funny and weird notable news — and not-news — of the day.”
I actually think that I might visit Fark again, because it seems like a pretty humorous and cool site, but I don’t know if I am ready to change my opinion on awareness tools.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Thing }13{ : Forums

June 9, 2010

Today’s topic is forums. This is another topic that I am pretty familiar with. The time I don’t spend on the internet watching streaming videos and reading web comics, are mostly devoted to reading and occasionally posting on forums. In the past I have been both a moderator and an administrator on several forums. The forums I was once a part of are long dead by now, but they were fun when they were active. I used to participate in many forums dedicated to play-by-post role-playing. If you don’t know what that is, Wikipedia has a great article on it. One of these play-by-post forums I was particularly proud of lasted about two years and I was one of the two gamemasters running the site.

This was back when I still knew html, but we really didn’t need it thanks to the free forum hosting sites ProBoards and InvisionFree. ProBoards was useful, because it was very simple, had many pre-created themes and you could change your display name at will (which is useful when you are role-playing). InvisionFree was a little harder to get started and didn’t have a flexible display name function, but it allowed more customization of your display picture.

Outside of geeky creative writing experiments, I have also been on several fan forums. Almost all web comics I have read have had their very own forum. Moderation can be as harsh as suspending users for typing in all lowercase letters to no moderation at all. I like open forums with very little moderation, but still present to get rid of the adbots and phishing scams.

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Thing (12): Cloud Computing

June 8, 2010

Today’s class talked about cloud computing. I hadn’t really heard this term before, but it seems to be a technology that I use a lot. In class we had to edit a Google document by adding screenshots to the text. The hardest part of that exorcise was getting my “Print Screen” button to work, but otherwise it was very straightforward. Like with the previous topic, I don’t see Google Docs being immediately useful to me, but it may be good to know about for the future. To be honest, I don’t fully understand what cloud computing is, even after reading the Wikipedia article on it. From what I get of it, cloud computing is a system where one rents space on someone else’s server, so they do not need to host and maintain what they upload to that server themselves. Something like Google Docs allows multiple users (if invited) to edit a single document in a similar way that you edit a wiki.

There is also something called the “7th International Cloud Expo” that will be held November 1-4 in Santa Clara, California. It seems like a fairly big deal for something I never heard about. Their site is pretty amazing looking. This is what they have to say about the expo from their homepage: “No one can take full advantage of cloud computing without first becoming familiar with the latest issues and trends, which is why the organizing principle of the 7th International Cloud Expo on November 1-4, 2010, is to ensure – through an intensive four-day schedule of keynotes, general and breakout sessions, and our bustling Expo Floor – that attending delegates leave the Santa Clara Convention Center with abundant resources, ideas and examples they can apply immediately to leveraging the Cloud, helping them to maximize performance, minimize cost and improve the scalability of their Enterprise IT endeavors.”

I also found a “Cloud Computing for Dummies” book, so if I get really curious about what exactly cloud computing is, I can always go to the library.

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Thing (11): RSS

June 7, 2010

Today’s topic is RSS feeds. I already knew about these, because the little subscribe icon appears on every other site I visit and a good portion of the Google Chrome extension library have something to do with making Google Reader prettier and easier to use. I have never actually subscribed to an RSS feed myself, because there are only three sites that I check regularly for updates and they all update by the end of the week. Most of the stuff I read and watch on the internet is part of a series that is already finished and no longer updating, but I see the appeal of RSS feeds to those who mainly use the internet for new and constantly updating information and entertainment. Since I don’t use feeds myself, I mostly ignored the little icons that appear on some sites. I decided to look around to see what sites allow you to subscribe to an RSS feed.
News feeds:
This page from Google News finds new articles from news blogs and categorizes them into different RSS feeds. It has feeds for top stories, U.S. news, world news, business, sci/tech, entertainment, sports, health, and “spotlight”.
Blog feeds:
Blog-Search seems to be a directory site for blogs. It has a page where all the blogs in its directory that support RSS feeds are listed in categories similar to the Google News page above, but it has a lot more categories to choose from.
Video feeds:
YouTube offers a lot of feeds to subscribe to. You can subscribe to a specific user or a tag word. It also has feeds for recently added videos, recently featured, top favorites, top rated, most viewed, most discussed, the YouTube blog and many others.
Looking around, there are very few sites (that actually update their content) that do not offer a subscription to an RSS feed. I still don’t feel the need for me personally to use it, but it is nice to know what tools are out there.Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

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Thing Project: Google Flu Trends

June 3, 2010

When I was writing my research paper about how the internet has affected the health industry, I originally wanted to briefly write about the cool little Google gadget, Google Flu Trends, but couldn’t find a good way to bring it up. Google Flu Trends was launched sometime in November 2008. It didn’t get a lot of attention, but I found it very interesting when it first came out.

So, what is it? Well, Google already keeps track of what terms people search for the most. That is why, when you start typing into a Google search bar, that a little dropdown appears with suggestions about how to fill the rest. Google Flu Trends specifically keeps track of search terms related to the flu and where those searches are coming from.

From Google Flu Trends’ “How does it work?” page: “We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries are added together. We compared our query counts with traditional flu surveillance systems and found that many search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in different countries and regions around the world. Our results have been published in the journal Nature.”’

Google Flu Trends’ FAQ page explains more in detail how the site works. Nature’s article on Google Flu Trends also offers a little more information.

Over the past two years since its launch, Google Flu Trends has received conflicting reports from News blogs that say the site is just as good, not as good, or sometimes-but-not-always as good as the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) surveillance data:

Scientific American – “Google Flu Trends” Found to Be Nearly on Par with CDC Surveillance Data

(http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=google-flu-trends-on-par-with-cdc-data)

UPI (United Press International) – Google Flu Trends not as accurate as CDC

(http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2010/05/18/Google-Flu-Trends-not-as-accurate-as-CDC/UPI-32921274222186/)

The Wall Street Journal – Google Flu Trends Good At Suggesting, Not Pinpointing, Flu Cases

(http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2010/05/17/google-flu-trends-good-at-suggesting-not-pinpointing-flu-cases/)

EmaxHealth – Google Flu Trends Not Accurate, Still Good Tool

(http://www.emaxhealth.com/1506/google-flu-trends-not-accurate-still-good-public-health-tool.html)

All of these reports were posted May 17, 2010. I am willing to believe they were all reporting on the same study, but the headlines seem to contradict one another.

What seems to be the general consensus is that Google Flu trends isn’t quite as accurate as the CDC, but it is less expensive and easier to get your hands on. If you are just someone who is curious about the chances of your neighbor making you sick the next time you greet them, I recommend checking out this useful site.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Thing 00111001: Video

June 2, 2010

Today’s topic is videos! This is the second biggest thing I use my internet for. I have uploaded my own video to YouTube in the past (for a class project), but I have no idea what I called it or what my username was at the time. I have watched videos from almost all of the video hosting/searching sites listed on the class blog (Blinx, Video Google, Hulu and YouTube) as well as other sites such as SideReel (video searching), Video MySpace (video hosting), MegaVideo (video hosting) and many others. Some of it was perfectly legal original content and some of it… wasn’t.

One great thing about video uploading and sharing is that you can find great original content that will probably never make it to the TV. One of my favorite sites for that is www.thatguywiththeglasses.com/ which contains many different weekly-to-monthly “shows”  one of the most popular being “The Nostalgia Critic” who does weekly, snarky reviews of old movies. Another is redvsblue.com which has “Red vs. Blue” a long-running comedy series using pre-recorded audio dubbed over video footage from the game series Halo.

On the not-so-legal side, I was able to find a full-length movie for a class on the Chinese video hosting site, Youku (with Chinese subtitles!) . I am sure it is possible to find any episode of any show online somewhere, even if you can only find it on a site hosted by another country.

I have also used the internet to watch Japanese cartoons (anime) that have not been dubbed and licensed in the US. (This time with English subtitles!) Fansubbing communities can be found all around the web and no one seems to care until the material they work with becomes licensed. Even then, it seems like an impossible battle trying to take down all the (now illegal) videos. YouTube is pretty good at taking down illegal content, but with so many video streaming players and upload sites, there is no way to get rid of them all.

I am not sure where I stand on that issue. I could take the side off the companies who are potentially losing viewers because of the internet, but then I would be a hypocrite. With how easy it is to upload and share content over the web, maybe it is about time to start thinking about other ways to make money off of videos that takes in to account that those who wish to, can now find the material for free.

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Thing Otto: Podcasting

June 1, 2010

Today’s topic is podcasting. I don’t know a whole lot about it, because I personally don’t listen to them too often. I feel uncomfortable listening to people talk without having anything to look at. I have trouble talking on the phone for similar reasons. I have seen podcasts on some of the sites I regularly visited, so I am not totally in the dark about what they are. I decided to google around see if I could find more information.

I found a site called Podcasting News  which  is set up like a regular news blog, but features news about podcasting and other vaguely related news (such as iPad and iPhone news).  Looking at their side bar, they have separated the podcasting news from the other news and further separated it into news dealing with “Audio Podcasting”, “Corporate Podcasts”, “Educational Podcasts”, “How to Podcast”, “Making Money with Podcasts”, “Mobile Podcasting”, “News Podcasts”, “Podcast Directory Sites”, “Podcast Distribution”, “Podcast Hosting”, “Podcast Quickies”, “Podcasting Events”, “Podcasting Hardware”, “Podcasting Law”, “Podcasting Networks”, “Podcasting Research”, “Podcasting Services”, “Podcasting Software” and (finally) “Podcasting Statistics”… whew!

Podcasting Tools shows you how to podcast, what software you can use for podcasting, the history of podcasting, the uses of podcasting, what podcasting actually IS and a lot more. Some of the site just links to other pages on the web, but it seems very useful and I would probably go there if I wanted to create my own podcast.

Typing “podcast” into google books gave me 1,127 results despite the fact that the term is less than six years old. Most of the book results were manuals on how to podcast, but I also found books like Career Building Through Podcasting.

Searching on Google Scholar gave me many more results, especially about the uses of podcasting for lectures and academics in general. One good example is this article by Peter Ractham and Xuesong Zhang called, “Podcasting in Academia: A New Knowledge Management Paradigm within Academic Settings”.

Not that I ever doubted its uses, but it seems that podcasting can be a very useful tool for the distribution of information. I still prefer video however.

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

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Thing Sette: Virtual Worlds

May 28, 2010

Today we explored virtual worlds in class. To be specific we played with the virtual world “Second Life” . To start out, I had to choose a name for myself. I decided to make my first name Blob, because… well… why not? I had to choose a last name from a list, so I chose Gloom and became officially Blob Gloom. I then had to choose from a set of avatars that can be changed in the game proper. I played with my avatar for around 20 minutes turning various parts of my body invisible and matching male torsos with female legs and whatnot, but I eventually settled with a relatively normal female avatar with a combination of clothing from different avatar pallets. When I was done playing with that, walking through walls and learning how to fly, I went to the various libraries and islands given in the hands-on activity. They were cool looking and showed off all the features the site offered, but mostly I was distracted at how odd the world looked as it loaded the island and people piece-by-piece. I think Second Life has its uses and certain types of people may enjoy this type of environment, but I am just not one of those people. I don’t particularly enjoy social interaction all that much and it seems to me that Second Life is just one giant game of pretend, but with more loading and polygon people. I have a certain respect for MMORPGs even if I don’t play them myself and I can respect the uses for Second Life even if I don’t fully understand the appeal.

I went to Google Scholar to see exactly what professionals use Second life for. I found an article called “Second Life: an overview of the potential of 3-D virtual worlds in medical and health education” that talks about some of the libraries I visited in the hands-on activity. I didn’t read all of the article, but apparently “HealthInfo Island” was entirely funded by a $40,000 grant from the US National Library of Medicine (NLM)/Greater Midwest Region of the National Network to provide consumer health information services in Second Life. Obviously someone thought this project would be beneficial.

There are a few other papers on virtual worlds and Second Life in particular. This article states that virtual worlds like Second life could be beneficial for research in the “social, behavioral, and economic sciences, as well as in human-centered computer science”. This article is about how museums and museum-like activities in Second Life have evolved and how they compare to similar activities in real life. I suppose there really are benefits to virtual worlds like Second Life even if I myself don’t particularly enjoy them.

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