Monday, August 20, 2007

Thing 23 - In Summary

I won't lie.

I haven't found this program particularly enlightening or useful. Most of the services shown have been ones I've already known about or don't have any particular interest in. Much of it appears to be just riding the recent "we are Internet 2.0, so we're so awesome" bandwagon. I must be getting old - I like things the old way. Simple, uncluttered.

I'm also hampered in my appreciation of some of these things because I know other ways to do them. I've run and managed my own web space for quite a long time, so the benefits of blogger are generally wasted on me. I went through a phase of signing up for all the cool things I saw on the internet... the spam in my old HoTMaiL account is testament to that. When I see a new site, either within this program or without... one of the first metrics that pops in my head is "wow, this is silly. I could have made this"... which is a first step down the road of dismissal.

Regardless, it isn't the tools, or the presentation that makes these sorts of sites useful - its the content. Some of the ones that I mistreated and maligned may very well be excellent resources - for people looking for other content than I am or who want to digest it in a different way than I find convenient. I personally don't have any issue with my current methods of finding and consuming information, but if some of these newfangled sites are useful to you young whipersnappers, then I hope they stick around.

As long as they are open and allow the general world in to access what content they have I have no issue with them. If I have to jump through hoops to access something - unless I know for *sure* its there and it is what I want - then it might as well not exist at all. Asking me to create an account and specify any personal information *at all* is a big hurdle for me: the candy in the van had better be delicious.

Thing 22 - Audio Books

My reservations vs podcasts are also true via audio books. I'm never going to find time to listen to them - and if I did, I'd rather read them instead. I've glanced around in the provided links, but really haven't found anything that interested me.

If anything, I am less interested in Audio books than podcasts. An audio book, by definition, implies that there might be a hard copy somewhere. If I saw anything interesting in here, I'd pursue the hard copy instead.

Thing 21 - Podcasts

I've used podcasts before. They can be nice - I've had then set up in iTunes to go to my iPod. Unfortunately - I don't have a morning/evening commute, which is the 'desperate to listen to something' period for me, so I never end up listening to them.

I've added the link for one to Feedburner, which strikes me as hilarious - Podcasting without the Pod. Re-adding the tether, having to sit at your computer to listen to something that by design was meant to be something that you could take with you... like a radio station that would automatically appear in your mobile music device overnight.

If I'm going to have to sit at my computer - unless the contents of the audio are musical, dramatic, or otherwise enhanced by remaining audio - I don't want to hear about it, I want to read about it.

I can read faster than I can be talked at. I can fast forward, jump back at will. Rereading is an option, as is skipping entire sections. When dealing with an audio file, you are locked into a presentation. You have to be an amazing speaker in order to hold my attention in a podcast, unless I'm a captive audience already (driving, for instance).

Thing - 20 - Youtube

Ok. That was crude, but hilarious.

I like Youtube. So much of our culture is televised these days - having a searchable archive (even if the archive only lasts long enough for the Copyright Gestapo to have it closed back down) of things that you missed is an invaluable service to anyone who is trying to keep track of pop culture. There is simply *too much* programming on the hundreds and hundreds of channels these days for anyone to hope to catch it all, so the ability for somebody to send you the highlights of something important that was missed is wonderful. Look at all the politicians, for instance, that have been outed as being inconsistent liars due the Youtube's of the world. Of course, this is all the not-copyright-legal use.

Legally, Youtube allows you to shoot a video of you picking your nose and post it online. Yawn. Very little of the user-created content is actually useful - with the possible exceptions of the people that use the 'video reply' feature to respond with something meaningful.

The unintentional (wink wink) clipping service that Youtube etc provide are a beautiful example of copyright circumvention that directly benefits the people. The companies can complain about their rights all they want - but copyright was established in the first place to serve the common good.

If the copyright owners of the world ever manage to stamp out Youtube and its ilk, that will be a sad day for our shared culture.

Thing - 19 - Awards sites

I looked down the list, and eventually picked Google Maps. Not to be boring, but because I wanted, for a change, to write something that wouldn't sound like bitter grousing.

Frankly, most "Web 2.0" stuff is crap. In fact, a lot of these 2.0 things don't really feel next generation. It seems as if the 2.0 buzzword has flowed in reverse, subsuming *any website at all* that has interactive capabilities, ignoring the original 2.0 critera - which was that web apps were becoming as interactive as desktop apps.

Google Maps is one of the progenitors of the entire line, and one of the extreme few that gets it right. Without throwing away the traditional metaphor of the web page (links still work as you expect, there aren't mysterious and inscrutable drag+drop mechanics behind the javascript). Pages can still be bookmarked, printed, resized. You don't have to log in and become yet another dot in their "We have X,000,000 users" marketting spiel. You just go there, can explore the map with great ease, get your information and get out. They don't attempt to become another community to grab and control your attention for 15 minutes out of every day. They just get you your information ASAP and let you get out.

Google Maps is one of the very few things that I've seen so far on any of these 23 thigns that I can say would actually legitimately save me time and frustration.

A lot of these 2.0 people need to go back to the school of web design.. their sites are irritating and difficult to navigate. I'm a bad customer, because I know how things *can* be: sensibly arranged and uncluttered. When I see a site that doesn't have those attributes, I bail. I don't want to spend 30 minutes clicking around in an ugly tag cloud. No, I don't want to receive your email updates. Or yours. Or yours. I almost don't want to receive any email... ever again.

Google Maps can afford to be so good - not because of who they are, but because of the information they have behind them. The majority of the other services we've looked at rely on user-made content - their entire 'Meat' is user made in a lot of cases. That means they have to bootstrap up and tie users in so that they hang around and contribute instead of wandering by and leaving nothing behind - otherwise they never grow and never get new users. Since Web 2.0 is such an attempted-moneymaker for so many people, they pull all their marketing tricks in an attempt to grab and hold you.

In summary - I love Google Maps. They don't try to own you.

Thing 18 - Google Docs

Its a word processor... on the Internet! Kind of a basic one. I don't see the big deal. They don't *make* computers that don't come with rudimentary word processors. Dont' have Word! start->run->write.exe... problem solved.

Plus, as a bonus, you get to keep custody of your document. Hooray!

17 - add a link

I added on this page : : as specified. Not sure what else to say, I've posted on Wiki's before.

I will say... I hate the WYSIWYG edit bar that this wiki uses. I find it more complicated than necessary. Writing things just like you are inside MS Word is an affront to the idea of how the wikis were originally set up.

There was a simple code that you could use in Wiki text ( I don't know what you call it) that makes it trivial to maintain formatting consistency even when used by many people. Stuff like...


That would have been turned into a horizontal line. _Underline_ gets underlined. For a bulleted list:

- blah
- blah
- blah

... and the Wiki software does the hard lifting of putting the html in for you.

On web pages, having every single element styled differently, as tends to happen when people have that freedom, just turns things into a mess. The linked page above shows the first signs of it... every single library organization listed is in its own color, style and font. Its quite ugly.