Showing posts with label web. Show all posts
Showing posts with label web. Show all posts

14 February 2010

The TED Conference - Microsoft's mapping

Microsoft seems to be making great strides with online mapping and the integration of such things as user imagery and even live video. Fascinating to see how they're tying it all together in a most remarkable way.

Blaise Aguera y Arcas demonstrates some of this stuff at the TED conference.

09 December 2009

Linked Data - queryable, extensive, public data

Tim Berners-Lee has done it again. This time it's not about hyperlinked text but about queryable data. In many ways this can be seen as the public domain, social software equivalent of Stephen Wolfram's proprietary system, WolframAlpha.

It's not hard to see that open will win out over proprietary once again.

Take a look at ReadWriteWeb's post on this topic. It's an excellent roundup. They recommend starting with Tim Berners-Lees's breathless presentation at TED, so do I. I've embedded it below for convenience. Then take a look at the DBpedia website to see how you can use the material for yourself. An online paper presents the technical aspects.

17 October 2009

Testing Google Wave

I had an invitation from Google to join their Wave preview, and very nice it is too. I invited the limited number of friends I'm allowed and started waving with them, Google Waveand we did a lot of the instant messaging things that I imagine most people will begin with.

But then I wondered how Wave would work in 'email' mode. The text that follows is copied straight from the Google Wave interface and pasted here. It explains some interesting thoughts that came to me as I wrote my first extended item in Wave.

Note: The 'wave address' in the footer won't work with Wave. It's just represented as an email address. I have no idea how Google will arrange mail to wave connections. But I'm confident that Google has already thought this through, at least in principle.


Using Wave like email - 9:25 am

Hi everyone,

This is my first attempt at using Wave in an email-like fashion. So far we've done quite a bit of instant-message-style waving, but I have a sense that the email approach will feel very different.

Thinking about it all while making the morning cuppa for me and Donna I could see that 'email' would be different (some of my best ideas pop into my head in embryo form at the kitchen sink or weeding the garden or emptying the cat's litter tray).

For one thing it answers a question we'd already pondered. Why have Google given us @googlewave.com addresses, why not use @gmail? Well, I think the answer may simply be that if Wave did have IMAP, SMTP and POP extensions, the new addresses would allow outsiders to email us and the mail would appear in our inboxes as a blip (albeit a large one like the one I'm typing now). And we could send a long blip to a non-Wave address and have it delivered via the SMTP extension. This makes a lot of sense to me. I hope they enable it quite soon, it would make it possible for a user to move entirely from email to Wave.

What other thoughts occur to you guys about the email 'mode'. I think the entire approach of wave is very clever, that a single system can be used in so many different ways. A real breakthrough. And it is probably going to be one of those disruptive innovations that we'll all take for granted in the end. A real brainwave on Google's part to make it both open and extensible and to offer their own client and server code free to everyone to run on their own hardware as well.

One other observation. When I created this wave I just closed the box that lets you select contacts for the wave. So I'm alone in this blip as I type it. When it's finished I'll drag in the contacts I want to send it to. That makes it feel even more email-like.

And I used the first blip as the title with this large, second one as the body. It works well like this.

What do you guys think?

Chris

PS - For fun I cut and pasted my email footer below. Then I added my wave address and made my mail address into a link. It seems so 'normal' like that. And anyone could add a wave address to a real email footer so wavers could click it. Excellent.

PPS - I just found a typo and fixed it - and then added this PPS. You can't do THAT in email!

'Personally I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.' - Winston Churchill (http://quote.scilla.org.uk)

Chris Jefferies (St Neots, UK)
Wave: chris.jefferies@googlewave.com
E-mail: chris@scilla.org.uk
Web: http://chris.scilla.org.uk/

26 June 2009

Friendfeed as a personal hub

Spyros Heniadis, writing on his blog about Facebook and Twitter, makes some very good points as he compares and contrasts the value these two giants have for him. FriendfeedHe finds Facebook less than totally appealing, and he finds Twitter much more useful that it might appear at first sight. (And Twitter's raging success must have some basis other than sheer fadness.)

I agree with Spyros, I have a lot of friends (real ones almost entirely) on Facebook but I don't spend nearly enough time there to keep up with all the stuff they post. And the Facebook applications mostly drive me mad with their inane and persistent in-your-faceness. I always click the 'Ignore this request' button with a slightly guilty feeling of having 'jilted' someone I care about.

And I agree with his remarks about Twitter too. It took me a long, long time to understand it, but now that I do I'm beginning to appreciate it. I also use Friendfeed - a lot. If you want to see how, just visit my stream.

You'll notice it contains posts from Twitter, Delicious, Moblog and many more. All of them are added automatically whenever I post to those sites. And when I write an item on my blog Friendfeed picks that up and adds it for me too along with all those other sources. And I can fill in my 'status' on Friendfeed just as I would on Facebook or Twitter. All the output from Friendfeed can appear in Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else I like without me lifting a finger or striking a key. I love it!

It's well worth a try. Like Twitter it's really simple and very easy to use.

20 June 2009

Speaks for itself...

A video from Iran - poetic, moving, heart rending, quiet, powerful...

16 June 2009

Eyewitness report from Tehran

This is an eyewitness account of the events in Tehran on 15th June 2009. It was posted on Facebook, Street protest in Tehranwhere you can read the original version.

In case you can't see the Facebook copy, here it is in full...


I left my home in Tajrish along with my family at 3 p.m. We went down Valiast Street which is the main northern-southern avenue in Tehran and entered the Evin Exp'way which leads to Enghelab Street. We knew that people are supposed to gather in Enghelab Sq. (Revolution Sq.) at 4 and march toward Azadi Sq. (Freedom Sq.). From Gisha Bridge onwards, we saw people walking down. Cars were blowing their horns and people were showing victory sign. We went to Navvab Street and parked our car at the end of the street. Then we took a taxi to bring us back to the Enghelab Street. On our way, near Jomhouri Sq. (Republic Sq.), I saw a group of about 20 militia with long beards and batons on motorbikes. My hand was out of the car window with a little green ribbon (the sign of reformists) around my finger. One of the militia told me to throw that ribbon away. I showed him a finger. All of a sudden, about 15 people attacked me inside the car. They beat me with their batons and wanted to pull me out. My wife and my daughter who were sitting in the back seat cried and hold me tight. I also hold myself tight on the chair. They wanted to shatter the car windows. The driver went out and explained that he is a taxi and we are his passengers and he has no fault. After about 5 minutes,they left. My elbow hurts severely. Then, a young man from their group came and kissed my elbow! I told him: You know, I don't hate you. I am like you with the only difference that I know more and you are ignorant. He apologized and left.

We joined the crowd in Enghelab Street.

Read carefully:

What I saw today was the most elegant scene I had ever witnessed in my life. The huge number of people were marching hand in hand in full peace. Silence. Silence was everywhere. There was no slogan. No violence. Hands were up in victory sign with green ribbons. People carried placards which read: Silence. Old and young, man and woman of all social groups were marching cheerfully. This was a magnificent show of solidarity. Enghelab Street which is the widest avenue in Tehran was full of people.

I was told that the march has begun in Ferdowsi Sq. and the end of the march was now in Imam Hossein Sq. to the further east of Tehran while on the other end people had already gathered in Azadi Sq. The length of this street is about 6 kilometers. The estimate is about 2 million people. On the way, we passed a police department and a militia (Baseej) base. In both places, the doors were closed and we could see fully-armed riot police and militia watching the people from behind the fences. Near Sharif University of Technology where the students had chased away Ahmadinejad a few days ago, Mirhossein Mousavi (the reformist elect president) and Karrubi (the other reformist candidate spoke to people for a few minutes which was received by cries of praise and applause. I felt proud to find myself among such a huge number of passionate people who were showing the most reasonable act of protest. Frankly, I didn't expect such a political maturity from emotional Iranians who easily get excited. My family and I had put stickers on our mouths to represent the suppression. Placards that people carried were different; from poems by the national poet Ahmad Shamlu to light-hearted slogans against Ahmadinejad. Examples include: " To slaughter us/ why did you need to invite us / to such an elegant party" (Poem by Shamlu). " Hello! Hello! 999? / Our votes were stolen" or " The Miracle of the Third Millenium: 2 x 2 = 24 millions" (alluding to the claim by Government that Ahmadinejad obtained 24 million votes) , "Where is my vote?" , " Give me back my vote" and many other.

We arrived in Azadi Square where the entire square was full of population. It is said that around 500,000 people can be accommodated in this huge square and it was full. Suddenly we saw smoke from Jenah Freeway and heard the gunshot. People were scared at first but then went forward. I just heard the gunshots but my sister who had been on the scene at that part told me later that she saw 4 militia came out from a house and shot a girl. Then they shot a young boy in his eye and the bullet came out of his ear. She said that 4 people were shot. At least one person dead has been confirmed. People arrested one of the Baseeji militia but the three others ran away when they ran out of bullet. At around 8 we went back on foot. On the way back people were still in the street and were chanting Allah Akbar (God is Great).

I was coming home at around 2 a.m. In parkway, I saw about ten buses full of armed riot police parked on the side of the street. Then I saw scattered militia in civil clothes with clubs in hand patroling the empty streets. In Tajrish Square, I saw a very young boy (around 16) with a club who was looking at the cars to see if he can find something to attack. I don't know how and under what teachings can young boys change into militia.

I came home. Tomorrow, people will gather again in Valiasr Square for another peaceful march toward the IRIB building which controls all the media and which spreads filthy lies. The day before Yesterday, Ahmadinejad had hold his victory ceremony. Government buses had transported all his supporters from nearby cities. There was full coverage of that ceremony where fruit juice and cake was plenty. A maximum of 100,000 had gathered to hear his speech. These included all the militia and the soldiers and all supporters he could gather by the use of free TV publicity. Today, at least 2 million came only relying on word of mouth while reformists have no newspaper, no radio, no TV. All their internet sites are filtered as well as social networks such as facebook. Text messaging and mobile communication was also cut off during the demonstration. Since yesterday, the Iranian TV was announcing that there is no license for any gathering and riot police will severely punish anybody who may demonstrates. Ahmadinejad called the opposition as a bunch of insignificant dirt who try to make the taste of victory bitter to the nation. He also called the western leaders as a bunch of "filthy homosexuals". All these disgusting remarks was today answered by that largest demonstration ever. Older people compared the demonstration of today with the Ashura Demonstration of 1979 which marks the downfall of the Shah regime and even said that it outnumbered that event.

The militia burnt a house themselves to find the excuse to commit violence. People neutralized their tactic to a large degree by their solidarity, their wisdom and their denial to enage in any violent act.

I feel sad for the loss of those young girls and boys. It is said that they also killed 3 students last night in their attack at Tehran University residence halls. I heard that a number of professors of Sharif University and AmirKabir University (Tehran Polytechnic) have resigned.

Democracy is a long way ahead. I may not be alive to see that day. With eyes full of tear in these early hours of Tuesday 16th June 2009, I glorify the courage and bravery of those martyrs and I hope that their blood will make every one of us more committed to freedom, to democracy and to human rights.

Viva Freedom, Viva Democracy, Viva Iran

15 June 2009

A free vote?

Here are the crowds in Tehran, protesting about the election results. Crowds in Tehran protesting about the electionThis picture was posted on Twitter just a few minutes ago.

Read the latest news from Tehran as it develops on Twitter. Some of the streams of tweets are coming from people on the streets in Tehran, posted from mobile phones (this guy deserves a medal but is probably in line for something much harsher). Others are comments from others not involved in the protest. And then there are also comments, good wishes, prayers, and thoughts from people world wide.

There are more photos online, and the major news channels have reports, for example the BBC. It'll be all over tomorrow's front pages for sure.

Live news reporting is one of the things that Twitter does best.

05 May 2009

Are you an edgling?

Stowe Boyd is a computing/internet/techie guru. He's the kind of guy who tweets from conference sessions every few seconds Stowe Boydand he's almost always worth following. He has his ear firmly on society's sounding board, and he picks up and comments on the most subtle of vibrations.

Back in 2006 he wrote a blog post highlighting the way that influence in modern society is moving from 'centroids' to 'edglings'. You might like to consider which term best describes you.


What he wrote about industry, government, and society is equally true for the church. It's uncanny. We think 'house church' is unrelated to developments in society generally, but it's just part of a much wider trend. House church folks are 'edglings' par excellence.

Stowe Boyd - Stowe is what Wolfgang Simson would rightly call a prophet. He may or may not be a believer, but he is a man who sees core issues. He recognises the difference between the day-to-day view of the majority and unborn megatrends that are bubbling beneath the surface. He knows they will burst out soon and surprise everybody. How does a prophet know these things? Prophets don't know in some mysterious way, they are sensitive to tiny vibrations that others miss, subtleties of heart, mind, spirit. When they speak of these things they often go unheard, they are commonly rejected as fools, interfering busybodies, or enemies of the state.

Here are some quotes from Stowe's 2006 post, see how they mesh with the recent growth of house churches worldwide.

Personally, I favor the term Edgling because I want to move away from media metaphors, and use economic or sociological ones. This is not about who is "producing content" and who is "consuming" it: which is the basic paradigm of media thinking. Instead, it is about control moving from the central, large, mass-market organizations -- which includes media companies, but also other large organizations, like government, religious organizations, and so on -- out to the individuals -- we, the people -- at the edge.

As power moves from the center to the edge the "Centroids" -- those that hold with the centralized power of an industrial era -- will scream about all the negatives that they perceive in the out-of-control future that threatens the basis of their worldview. But the Edglings will find it liberating to get out of the stranglehold on information, communication, and the marketplace that centralized organizations attempt to impose.

Centroid or edgling? - Does that ring any bells? Take a look at Stowe's list of characteristics...

CentroidsEdglings
Work and PoliticsTop-down, authoritarianBottom-up, egalitarian
Point-of-ViewObjective, ImpartialSubjective, Partial
BelongingHierarchiesNetworks
FamilyNuclearPost-nuclear networks
Political scopeNationalismRegionalism
MediaMainstreamParticipative
CultureMonoculturalMulticultural
EnvironmentExploitative, UnsustainableRestorative, Sustainable
SpiritualityCentralized, Dogmatic, Outside of NatureDecentralized, Enigmatic, Nature based


George Barna - You might like to compare this with George Barna's comments in his book 'Revolution'. Here's an extract from p 13-14...

I want to show you what our research has uncovered regarding a growing sub-nation of people, already well over 20 million strong, who are what we call Revolutionaries ... They have no use for churches that play religious games ... worship services that drone on without the presence of God ... ministries that compromise ... people in ministry ... who seek popularity ... man-made monuments ... accredited degrees.

There's a fresh wind blowing through the church as also through society. People sense that it's time to move on, to change the rules, to move from organisations with centralised authority to organic groups at the periphery, where the edglings are living and meeting in a fresh, new way.

It's no longer about organisations, it's about an organism that is alive and can reproduce in a natural way.

28 April 2009

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha is about to hit the streets (or at any rate, a computer screen near you). The Wolfram Alpha query screenCreated by Stephen Wolfram and his company, Wolfram Research, it will look superficially like a search engine but is fundamentally different in nature.

Like a search engine it comes with a text entry box where you can type in a query, like a search engine it goes away and thinks and then spits out results on a webpage. But what goes on behind the scenes and the nature of the returned webpage couldn't be more different.


Wolfram Alpha depends on two earlier developments from the same stable. Mathematica is software that enables mathematical manipulations to be entered, processed, and displayed on a computer, while NKS (which stands for 'A New Kind of Science') is an alternative to the normal tools used by scientists to model the way the universe works.

Using both of these innovative tools, Wolfram Alpha takes a free text query, decides what the user wants to know, looks up the relevant information in its enormous collection, processes the information to create an answer to the original query, and builds a webpage on the fly to display the response. The webpage may include text, images, graphs and charts etc. The end result is a tailored report that might have been written by an expert. Indeed, in many ways Wolfram Alpha is an expert!

Steven Wolfram is an extraordinary person. He is, frankly, a genius - one of a handful of truly great minds in our own time. He looks at things in new ways and comes up with fresh insights, testing them, proving them, and then publishing them. Here, in his own words, is how he's spent his life so far.

Major periods in my work have been:

• 1974-1980: particle physics and cosmology

• 1979-1981: developing SMP computer algebra system

• 1981-1986: cellular automata etc.

• 1986-1991: intensive Mathematica development

• 1991-2001: writing the book, 'A New Kind of Science'

(Wolfram Research, Inc. was founded in 1987; Mathematica 1.0 was released June 23, 1988; the company and successive versions of Mathematica continue to be major parts of my life.)


You can see right away that he is not a man in a hurry. He is not afraid to spend five years or more on a single project. Learn more about his background and work from Wikipedia.

Not everyone agrees with Wolfram's work on NKS, a range of reactions are included in the Wikipedia article on the book.

In the end, 'wait and see' may be the best advice for both Wolfram Alpha and NKS. As far as Alpha is concerned, we'll all get a chance to try it and draw our own conclusions when it's released. Hopefully that will be next month (May 2009).

Meanwhile you can watch video of Stephen Wolfram demonstrating the new technology at Harvard on 28th April.

For news about the new tool, take a look at the Wolfram Alpha Blog which will be updated regularly with further announcements and background information.

20 February 2009

Multi-authored blog, anyone?

I'd like to be part of a larger Christian blog. Some of the most widely read and effective technical blogs put out five or more posts daily. Editing a blog postBut individual bloggers post daily or less, often much less. Here on The Scilla Blog I'm doing well to manage a post every week, recently the rate is down to barely once a month. In some cases, multi-authored blogs might be the answer.

Why are blogs with frequent posts more widely read?

Quantity or quality? - OK, it's not all about quantity. The best blogs are those that combine good quality material on interesting topics with multiple posts daily. One of the places this is done to good effect is in the area of electronics, computing, and technical stuff.

Take a look at the blogs listed below. Even if you're not interested in the topics, take a quick look and get a feel for the quality and sheer quantity of the items.
Clearly, this is much more effort than one writer can produce.

Most of the really successful blogs are run by companies or societies. Possibly a very enthusiastic full-time writer might make a brave attempt, but most of us have day jobs, families, education, as well as homes and gardens to care for. To populate a blog with, say, five posts each and every day would need 35 people each posting once a week.

A shared blog - So what I'm asking is twofold. First, can any of my readers recommend a good, multi-authored Christian blog that I could join. And secondly, if nothing suitable already exists, is there anyone out there that would like to share in setting one up?

I'm looking for a blog that focuses on wholesome, interesting comment covering world news concerning the Church, teaching items, reports on meetings and conferences and so forth. I'd prefer it to be open to all points of view but failing that, primarily supportive of house church, organic church, simple church (whatever you call it). But above all it absolutely must be honouring to Christ and giving him the glory in everything.

I've tried hunting for something of this sort online, but I've drawn a blank so far. There's a website called blogs4God that seemed a good place to start, but it doesn't quite hit the spot. Am I too fussy?

Why The Scilla Blog? - When I started The Scilla Blog I intended to post material that would be of interest to a wide audience, I just wanted to post about all my interests. I hoped that someone interested in astronomy might discover that archaeology is fascinating too, that a photographer might find a new insight into Christianity, that local people might find out more about the internet. But now I'm feeling the need to be part of something much more focused, something that I know I can't do on my own.

I don't plan to stop posting to Scilla, but I'd like to be posting elsewhere too - but not on my own. Most of all I'm looking for a place where I can post when I'm inspired to do so even if that means three times in two days and then not at all for an entire month.

28 November 2008

Look, no connection!

You are in a remote African village, in the middle of Antarctica, on a small Scottish island miles from the nearest town. You have no mains power, no internet connection, no phone connection - not even mobile coverage. SolarNetOne serverYou need to provide full internet and Wi-Fi services to hundreds of people.

How can it be done? Read on!


One solution is SolarNetOne, designed and built specifically for the purpose.

It uses a solar panel and battery system to provide a reliable long-term source of energy, and a low-power server using a satellite connection to access the internet. Internet cafe service is based on a client server system as this reduces the power requirements, and Wi-Fi coverage over a two mile radius is included so anyone with their own computing system and power supply can connect to the internet very simply.

SolarNetOne really is a complete solution.

Zee M kane writes...
SolarNetOne is a collaborative effort spanning several continents, organizations, and technical disciplines. The goal of the effort is to develop a feasible, sustainable solution to bring the internet to places that have no connectivity, no phone service and no electricity.

Developed by Florida based GNUveau, the system is a solar-powered Internet “hub” (running Ubuntu GNU/Linux). The terminals includes access to web browsing, email, voip, office, multimedia, software development and web development tools as well as 15,000 other applications. Wifi coverage spans a 2-mile radius, with no fuel costs, no polluting emissions and a long lifespan of up to 20 years with proper maintenance. The entire system, in fact, operates on about the same amount of power as a 100-watt light bulb, GNUveau says.

It's not the most elegant approach in terms of appearance, but much more significantly it's robust and readily maintainable and consumes only 100 W of power. The entire system can be delivered in a single small van (if there are adequate roads). The small bulk means delivery by small aircraft or boat would also be possible.

The guy behind all this is Scott Johnson. Well done Scott, you get my vote! This is real, practical help to people who need it. Katsina State University in Nigeria is already benefitting. Hopefully many more installations will follow.

For more information take a look at the following resources.

12 September 2008

Too many social networks!

There are too many social networking sites out there, each one different, many with interesting content.

Each one requires me to enter my profile details again, has a different menu structure, unique facilities, and specialist functions. We need something better.


Let me explain. For a while now I've been a member of Facebook (which I like and use regularly) and MySpace (which I don't like and rarely visit now). I'm also a member of various mailing lists and several specialist social networking sites, mostly to do with church.

For each one of these systems I have to enter my profile details all over again, but in a slightly different way. I have to learn a new and different way of working, a new set of menus and functions.

I was prompted to post this blog item when a friend emailed me details of a community building tool (Oikos) and asked me what I think about it.

There's a real problem here - it will be resolved eventually for sure, but meanwhile it will make life harder and harder for us all. The problem is that there are so many of these systems and the number is increasing dramatically all the time. There are even sites that offer 'roll your own' facilities (like Ning, and Oikos). I need more systems like I need a hole in the head!

What do we really need? - We need one system that lets us put in our user profile once, and then party with as many subgroups as we choose. In my case that might be a general organic church group, a local area christian group involving believers from every background and opinion, an astronomy group, a techie web software group, a history group, a group for my workmates, a photography group, and perhaps half a dozen others.

Facebook can do that already. And in a different way, so can Ning. We'll come back to Facebook and Ning later.

I predict that in the short term groups will proliferate, and they'll proliferate until people become heartily fed up with accessing so many. From then on a few will grow larger and larger at the expense of the smaller ones. The few are already growing in size, but we're still in the proliferation stage with new social networking sites coming on line daily - perhaps thousands of them daily, certainly hundreds.

One approach might be an agreed system for syndicating profiles around different systems. That would certainly help, but the navigation and feel of the systems would still be different and we'd have to learn our way around each one. There is at least one standard out there already and some systems are supporting it.

So - back to Facebook and Ning. Both systems offer a solution but they do it in very different ways.

The Facebook model - here we see an overall system that lets you join, select friends, and also select groups.

In practice most users will have a circle of friends composed of work colleagues, family, college friends, large or small geographical groups (my town, my state, my street - whatever), and people who share a common interest.

Many users will join groups on specific interests (I'm a member of several local groups, church groups, astronomy groups and so forth). These will include some Facebook friends but also many Facebook 'strangers'. The shared interest will normally be enough to keep the group buzz going, the conversations and shared resources will always be of interest providing they remain on topic.

All the groups work in the same way, use the same navigation, and have the same sort of arrangement on the page. As a user I can navigate very easily from a group to a friend's page, to my messages, to a group on another topic, all pretty much seamlessly and without having to login to a different website or learn a new style of operation. Joining a new group is not a big deal.

This is good!

The Ning model - Here the emphasis is on the groups, not on the friends. Using Ning, you or I can roll our own social networking site and invite interested parties to join up. We can run our own 'Facebook'.

At first sight this merely makes the proliferation of online social networks even more severe, it's easier than ever to create a new one!

But Ning has a real advantage here, if you sign up to several Ning-based systems your personal profile is shared between them. What's more, they all work in the same way. They may look a little different (colour, graphics, and to some extent layout), but they all share structure, navigation, and features. Ning sites are like Lego models, they look different but they're made of the same kind of parts. If you know how Lego works you'll have no problem recognising a Lego construction, using it, or altering it.

This is good too!

Ning or Facebook? - Which is best? In the end they're pretty similar. Ning is Facebook groups. Facebook groups are Ning social networks. If Ning added a feature to let you choose and interact with specific people outside the social networks it would be just like Facebook. And if Facebook allowed you to access a group as a separate website it would be just like Ning.

The two systems emphasise slightly different aspects but could so easily grow to be much more alike. One underlying difference is that you don't need to be a Ning member to join a Ning-built social network. Anyone with internet access can join in. But not everyone is on Facebook, not everyone wants to join Facebook. So a Facebook group is inaccessible to a whole section of the internet community. From an individual's perspective this may not appear to be a problem, but for someone planning to build a social network it may be a serious issue.

Which of the two will win out? It's much too early to say. Both have grown very fast indeed and show no sign of stopping. Both make it easy to set up a social space for a specific purpose. There are plenty of other systems and organisations out there, Yahoo, Google, or Microsoft in particular could muscle in on the act very quickly if they chose to stake a claim.

What does the future hold? - Here's my best guess.
  • In the short term, more proliferation but with continuing market share going to Facebook and to a lesser degree Ning. Facebook has, I think, more mass-market appeal than Ning.
  • In three years time expect to see more and more of the small players fall by the wayside, while Facebook, Ning, and one or more of Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft clean up.
  • Long term, expect two or three dominant players to emerge. One will take 75% to 95% of the share, one or two others will fight over the rest.
  • Expect the unexpected. There might be a major corporate takeover or two. One of the smaller players might come out with something innovative and grow from less than 1% share to become the major force in this space.
  • A major open source contribution is likely. This has happened in other areas of computing with Linux, Apache, Open Office, MediaWiki, and the GIMP.

There will be a shakeout, that much is certain. It will make life easier for everyone but at the same time restrict our choices. We've seen the same process with operating systems, word processors, spreadsheets, web browsers and more. History repeats itself. The end result is always one major player and a small number of niche alternatives.

29 August 2008

Making the most of blogs

It's really good to know you're here, reading the Scilla Blog - thanks for dropping by. The Technorati logo and menuMaybe you read many blogs, maybe you read only a few or even just this one. But however many you read, there are useful ways of coping more effectively with the 'blogosphere' - the rich world of blogging. It's a very rich world - if you know how to mine it for gold.

Today we'll take a look at finding specific information using a tool called Technorati. Surfing around from blog to blog at random is interesting for a while, but suppose you want to check out what bloggers are writing about fire ants, or your home town, or a famous author, or a place you intend to visit on holiday? Many of you will use Technorati and other tools already, but if not - read on.

Technorati is a website providing search functions tailored specifically for blogs. It's easy to use and it's very flexible. As an example, check this search result for posts on organic church. There are several things to note about this.

The search looks complicated ("house church" OR "organic church") NOT China NOT Chinese NOT cell. It's not as hard as it appears, we'll unravel it in a moment but for now notice that it's made up of several search terms joined together. Now look at the results, hopefully all of them will be about house church. Each item is a blog post. They come from many different blogs, and are posted by a host of different people. They're presented with the latest posts at the top.

You can scroll down and read any that catch your eye.

Understanding the search - Lets look at this search in more detail. We'll start at the beginning.

"house church" - This is in double quotes which simply tells Technorati to treat it as a phrase, not two separate words. If we searched for house church we'd find all the posts that mentioned 'house' and all those that mentioned 'church', try it in Technorati and see for yourself! "organic church" works the same way, we're looking for the phrase, not the separate words.

OR - This is an operator, when Technorati sees it is acts on it in a particular way. OR finds blog posts that contain either this or that, in our example posts will be included if they contain the phrase 'house church' or the phrase 'organic church' (or both). I've added brackets to make it clear this part of the search belongs together, both for our benefit and for Technorati's.

NOT China - This tells Technorati to leave out any hits containing the word 'China'. Why are we doing this? It's because, in China, 'house church' doesn't mean church in a home, it mainly refers to churches that are not government approved. We've done the same with 'Chinese' and 'cell' as these terms remove some more posts we didn't want to include.

Creating a search - The next step is to understand how to create our own search. Maybe we want to know about Siamese cats in California. Who's posted about that recently?

Try a search for 'cat' - over 340 000 hits when I tried it.

Now search for "Siamese cat". - just 900 or so results this time. That's better.

And finally, try a search for "Siamese cat" AND California - now we're only seeing 29 hits.

You should be getting the idea now. Decide what you want to read about and build yourself a search to find relevant blogs. Happy reading!

Read more on searching Technorati from About.com.

08 October 2004

A handy Bible tool (KN)

Q - When you want to look up a Bible passage and you don't have a Bible with you, what do you do?The Bible Gateway website

A - Find an internet connection and browse to the Bible Gateway!


There you will find the entire Bible in a number of versions. You can display a verse or a whole chapter just by entering the details in a search box. Easy!

But you can do so much more than that with this well-designed tool...

If you've already used the Bible Gateway you'll know exactly what I mean, but if you're a newbie to this clever website - read on.

Keyword lookup - A second search box is provided for looking up words, type in 'fish bread' for example and click 'Search' and up pop those gospel passages about the feeding of the thousands, along with several other verses containing the same two words.

Changing versions - Once you've found the passage you need in one translation, you can read it straight away in another. It's easy to look at the same passage again and again in different versions; and there are lots to choose from.

Sometimes it helps to search in the King James Version (perhaps you remember that version of the verses you need), then, having found it, swap to a modern translation to read it.

If you've already used the Bible Gateway you'll know exactly what I mean, but if you're a newbie to this clever website - read on.

Audio versions - There are also audio versions in a variety of languages. This gives a different kind of experience and may be helpful.

Other materials - There are some study guides here too. Not as comprehensive or easy to use as some of the Bible software available on CD or traditional print, but very useful when nothing else is to hand (when you're travelling away from home, perhaps).

Foreign languages - There are versions of the Bible here in all kinds of languages. So whether you are from Albania or Vietnam you will be able to read and search online in your native tongue.

This mini review should be enough to get you started. Visit the Bible gateway website and hunt around to see what other features are available. And watch out for the new, improved version coming soon.

Happy reading, and happy searching! Why not bookmark the website now? - There are also audio versions in a variety of languages. This gives a different kind of experience and may be helpful.

01 October 2004

Meetings in Eaton Ford (KN)


Every three weeks or so we meet to praise and worship our Creator and King, to enjoy being with one another in his presence, and to listen carefully to whatever he chooses to show us.

These have been truly wonderful times. We're not making any attempt to expand because we feel (so far at least) that he wants to work in our lives first. But we welcome anyone who would like to join us, whether for just a single meeting, or more regularly.

If you live near St Neots in the UK and would like to meet with us, visit our web page and get in touch.

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