As some of you perhaps, I suffer from the online squirrel syndrome. I live across too many platforms, try to hold onto too many bits of content and am way too lazy to tag and keep track of them in a consistent manner. This relates to both content such as videos and reads I save on a host of platforms and ends in trying to dig out messages or event details from the gaps between my Facebook, gmail, and the like. Greplin might just make all of that go away.
Greplin is a startup that indexes most of your social streams and makes them all searchable from a single search box. They seem to have tapped into an (un)obvious gap in the search market and as a result the 5 guys behind Greplin have already scored $4m in a round of funding from Sequoia. If it works, Greplin really will shoot an ever-expanding user problem so many of us face online. While I’m definitely excited about the concept, I’m still ever so slightly nervous about handing over and having indexed all of my emails, Google Reader, FB items, etc, but from my brief look online it seems like I’m one of the very very few concerned about that side of the startup.
This is one of the nicest social innovation projects I’ve seen over the last months. Good Gym works by combining runners and the isolated elderly and satisfying needs on both ends by combining them in an unexpected way. Runners volunteer to run and visit an elderly person once a week while the elderly get a friendly knock on their door from time to time.
This is brilliant, I think. I”ve tried running on more and predominantly less consistent levels over the last couple of years, but I always give up for one single reason – it’s possibly the most boring sport I’ve ever tried. I never mind running provided I have a reason to run and the Good Gym reason seems like a good bet. The dynamics behind it are great – not only does it work on the ‘do good’ motivation, but also via making people pledge to not only the person they’re visiting but the entire organisation and its community.
This is easily one of the most stimulating decks on the social aspect of the web I’ve ever seen. You might be put off by the 216 slides it contains, but it really is worth the read. Written by Paul Adams, a UX designer at Google.
Umair Haque has published a manifesto calling for a new (though in some aspects already existing) range of business, financial, political and social organisation. I’m going to discuss a bit of it and add my own bits of opinion. You might want to read it before going on.
As said within the manifesto, the ‘generation’ word does not refer to the age range but rather to the mindset of those who are willing to participate or are already participating in this movement. The manifesto is a nice piece of political writing that can lead to a change, but that change has to be fed with actionable ideas for solutions in all ranges of social and commercial activity that it touches. I can see how policy can be implemented on a local or state level, but when we look at what goes on in some developing countries it seems like it might be a good idea to try and figure out how an implementation of the system’s correction can be taken to a global level. I’m not arguing for a global government, no no, but rather for a way of enforcing a system of corporate control around the globe. Setting the right standards at home is a great start, but it might just not be enough.
I think you can’t expect the big corporations to have values when it comes to social issues and the environment. The primary purpose for corporations is to make money and as such the only way to deal with them is by enforcing a system that creates carrots through tax breaks and sticks through greater tax schemes. It should not be possible for Western corporations to avoid this by creating huge outsourcing posts in developing countries. Corporations need to be monitored as far as their environmental and social responsibility and taxed fairly according to how much of an effort they make in those spheres.
I am neither a policital writer nor a liberalist ranter, but I want to continue this conversation and see what ideas might be out there. Feel free to shoot this idea or drip your own, both will be appreciated.
[Image courtesy of Andre Jordan]
Monica Rankin is a professor at University of Texas who incorporated Twitter into her classes. With 90 students in her usual class, the discussion usually takes place just amongst a few students. Now, with the use of Twitter, the number of participants has risen to almost half of all students. Some students use Tweetdeck and others post by SMS. Their posts are then projected live in the front of the class for discussion. The posts also serve as material for post-class discussion and revision.
Now, with my undying scepticism for Twitter (apart from its information spread advantages), I just wonder why this is so different to the classes simply having an online dimension to them via discussion forums, email and online studying materials. Is it that so few classes have an online dimension or has Twitter really made a difference through its popularity in the students’ age group? Also, provided their posts are unprotected, will most students not feel a bit intimidated to post things in the public?
The only other possible criticism might be the fact that tweets are limited to 140 characters, which might make it hard to convey academic thought, but I think the limit actually works to its advantage. Considering the attention span of a regular student who has to listen to a professor, take notes, think and then read projected tweets, it might make perfect sense to make them short and clear. All in all, I’m excited to see new media entering the usually lagging-behind world of academia. To progress with ideas we need to find the right carriers of information and communication and if Twitter makes a positive contribution, then more power to it.
Search has been evolving for a good while, but in the last few months it seems to be moving at an even quicker pace. Things started hyper-budding at Google last year with its November introduction of SearchWiki, an added feature that allows ratings, comments and editing of personal search results. Since then Google has also started getting clever with data: the use of rich snippets allows Google to come up with extra information that falls into a search’s context. Another upcoming Googleism is Google Squared, a feature meant to appear in labs soon. Much like Wolfram Alpha, it’s meant to be a fact- rather than a site-search engine and ‘automatically fetch and organize facts from across the Internet.’ To go even further, Search Options (shown at the beginning of the post) and a new search engine Bing from Microsoft allow to divide search results into several categories ranging from timelines to whether a search item is user-generated or regular media.
Apart from the increasingly semantic features of Google search there are also really interesting social trends emerging through clever-headed digital start-ups. Glue is a semantic browser extension that adds several interesting new features that enable a social dimension to sites such as Amazon or Imdb through using services such as Facebook Connect and Twitter. The idea is really interesting and this could prove to be a very useful service, but as with many social services, unless it gains more momentum on the number of members, i.e. providing me and you with ‘friends’, it lacks its primary ‘social’ value. Another service on the social side of search is Aardvark, which ‘helps people find what they want online by asking others who know the subject matter best—and who are likely to weigh in with a helpful response.’
[Via ReadWriteWeb and Business Week]
I can’t remember the last time I stayed in a hotel. I’m not a fan of handing money over to hotel corporations for a lot of reasons, though most of my reasons aren’t actually the fault of hotels themselves – I just happen to prefer the alternative places to stay when I go traveling. I have been a proud member of Couchsurfing and Hospitality Club networks for years now and have had so many positive experiences through them that I rarely feel the inspiration to go back to the old ways of staying places.
The thing that stirred my attention recently is Airbed & Breakfast, a social network of people willing to share their homes for money in return. Prices are usually cheaper than those of hotels and as with Couchsurfing you get a chance to connect with locals that can keep you company or at least direct you to sites and events you may never find through guide books. You can rent a room, an entire place or simply stay on someone’s couch. In the US prices per night start at around 20 dollars and go as high as you wish – an average room will be around 80 dollars. You can view pictures of places and owners and also see the exact location on a Google map. Users are also reviewed by people who stay with them, which can build some credit of trust between members.
The old question is whether you’ll be comfortable to stay at a stranger’s house or host one yourself – in principle there is no way to track the new users, but it so far seems like the site is creating a strong community of users that track one another. I’ve dealt with these questions myself before traveling to different countries via Couchsurfing and hosting travelers at my home last year, but after years of using the network I don’t have a single bad experience in my records.