Our Latest Discovery

April 23, 2007  4:24 PM

Lifecasting: Streaming video netcasts of an individual’s life

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If you Google lifecasting, the odds are that you’ll find lifecasting.org at the top of your search results, a site dedicating to “lifecasting artists” who make 3D copies of living human bodies. The current new media hype around Justin.tv, a new always-on videoblog featuring Yale-grad Justin Kan, may just enter an alternate meaning for the term “lifecasting” into the lexicon.

We’ll make sure to add it to our glossary of ‘casts, to cover our bases.

JustinTVGuide, a blog dedicated to tracking the life and times of Justin.tv, describes Justin’s video experiment as “lifecasting,” for instance. Dandelife.com is doing as much as anyone to support this version of the term. In the info section of Dandelife, for instance. you’ll find a definition for lifecast. We prefer this, slightly amended vesion:

A lifecast is a publicly available streaming video netcast of an individual’s life.

Dandelife itself is a interesting discovery, tracking the progress of various “dandelives” in graphically-rich timelines shared online. Craig Mathias, by the way, thinks Justin.tv may be the future of wireless.

Regardless of what you think of Justin’s programming choices (his life, more or less, which may or may not be your cup of tea) the delivery method, Sprint’s 3G EV-DO wireless telephony network, is certainly worth noting. Given that 3G is a reality in many major metropolitan areas already, you may see many more “Justins” lifecasting around your neighborhood soon.

You’ll certainly see them on the blogosphere, as noted by Wired’s Epicenter blog. According to Adario Strange:

The bloom is officially off the rose of Justin.tv as technologists Chris Pirillo, Robert Scoble and Dave Winer have decided to join the lifecasting movement using Ustream.

Justin.tv screenshot

April 23, 2007  4:21 PM

Google Desktop: Never leave your homepage without it?

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To be fair, we discovered Google Desktop years ago. The recent introduction of Google Desktop for Mac, however, caught our attention and led us to revisit the application.


Desktop search itself is nothing new either, of course. Google Desktop has, in its Windows incarnation, been the subject of both security concerns and accusations of spyware.

In fact, recent patch vulnerabilities and a generalized need to lock or secure Google Desktop (read expert Matt Schwartz’s tips on how to tame Google Desktop, if you’re curious) have left enterprise and individual users somewhat cautious about inviting the desktop search engine (DSE) onto their hard drives.

We can’t whole-heartedly recommend it because of these concerns, though the end user experience of many of our geeky early-adopting friends has been positive.

Now, Mac users have the same choice, though as most will immediately protest, OS X’s fourth generation (10.4, aka Tiger) has long had such an engine already built-in, appropriately named Spotlight.

We’ll leave it to you to compare the two, though the Unoffical Apple Weblog (TUAW) has done if for you in this excellent review of Google Desktop for Mac that contrasts the feature sets of the two engines.

If you use other Google apps on your Mac, notably Gmail, Google Desktop may be worth your time. ArsTechnica‘s Jacqui Cheng offers a generally positive hands-on review of Google Desktop for Mac as well.

April 23, 2007  4:17 PM

GrandCentral: One phone number, for life

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GrandCentral may just be the next new way you use your phone. All of your phones — home landline, personal cellphone, office phone — are merged into one number you keep forever, tied to you instead of a phone or location.

This idea builds upon the number transferability legally mandated in the wireless markets, but Grandcentral takes the concept several steps further. After favorable reviews from CNET and the New York Times’ David Pogue, interest in the new service has skyrocketed. While there are many nifty features, perhaps the most elemental feature is the best: make sure you receive the calls you want and miss the calls you don’t. Simple, brilliant and, for the moment, free. You can keep up with the latest features and news on the GrandCentral blog.

Watch this video from DEMO to see a demonstration of how it works:

You can also listen to David Pogue’s podcast describing GrandCentral:

[Download the MP3] Finally, enjoy watching Pogue’s video about GrandCentral on NYTimes.com.

April 23, 2007  4:13 PM

AssignmentZero: Wired applies crowdsourcing to journalism

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Welcome to “pro-am journalism,” “an attempt to bring together professional writers and editors with citizen journalists to collaborate on reporting and writing about the rise of crowdsourcing on the Web. Inspired by the open source movement, the goal of Assignment Zero is to develop a working model of an open newsroom.” [Full Press Release]
AssigmentZero is bankrolled by Wired and led by Executive Director Jay Rosen, founder of NewAssignment.net and NYU journalism professor. If reporting in this proposed “open style” works, according to Rosen, it could “change journalism and expand what’s humanly possible with the instrument of a free press.” You can read Jay’s full essay on the subject here. The project has also partnered with citizen journalism site Newsvine with an eye to engaging that site’s users and involve them in selected assignments. “Essentially, we’re building a software platform for journalism 2.0 — open source and extensible – which we believe will bring new dimensions of creativity to news gathering.” said Evan Hansen, Editor in Chief, Wired News.

Jeff Howe, who we interviewed about crowdsourcing earlier this year, will be drawing from the project for his upcoming book on the subject. Make sure you check out our crowdsourcing podcast if you missed it the first time around.

April 23, 2007  4:03 PM

Juice Receiver: Discover, download, organize and subscribe to Internet audio on Windows, Mac and Linux

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Juice Receiver is an open source application written in Python and licensed under the GPL that allows you to save Internet audio (like, say, podcasts) onto your local hard drive to listen to at your leisure.
Sweet timeshifting and placeshifting goodness, free of DRM concerns.

Juice Receiver is available as a free download for Windows, Mac and Linux at sourceforge.net.

The application has been ported to more than 15 languages as of March 2007, supports multiple media players and is accessible to blind and disabled users. If you’re looking for a “fresh squeezed” alternative to iTunes, check out this app!

(Hat tip: Matt Cutts)

April 23, 2007  3:45 PM

Twitter: Microblogging mashed-up with moblogging and presence technology

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A new messaging service has gained some real traction in the blogosphere and offline among the “digerati,” though to be fair most of those coders, writers and futurists are rarely truly offline anymore. Just look at how often they are creating “tweets” with Twitter.
While Twitter was born as a side project within the offices of Odeo in March of 2006, it’s taken adoption by A-list bloggers like Robert Scoble and Steve Rubel to raise the profile — and usage — of the tool. Twitter allows members to effectively “lifestream,” constantly providing details, mundane and trivial as they may be, of their daily lives. One user, David Troy, created an extraordinary mashup Google Maps and Twitter, Twittervision, which tracks “tweets” in real-time on a global scale, moving from one post to the next.

Twitter, along with its founders, was recently profiled in the New York Times’ Business section, along with the service, in “From Many Tweets, One Loud Voice on the Internet.” Jason Pontin, the author of the article, described Twitter as :

“…a heady mixture of messaging; social networking of the sort associated with Web sites like MySpace; the terse, jittery personal revelations of “microblogging” found on services like Jaiku; and something called “presence,” shorthand for the idea that people should enjoy an “always on” virtual omnipresence. “

As Jason points out, Twitter is currently one of the fastest growing trends on the Internet. Adoption really took off after the 2007 South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Conference (SXSW) which was absolutely saturated with Twittering. And it’s not just bloggers and new media mavens — U.S. presidential candidate John Edwards is using Twitter as he moves around the country.

What is Twitter? It’s a simple service with an Ajax-y Web presence that allows users to share where they are, what they’re doing and how they can be contacted. You can post to Twitter using SMS, much like Blogger or other tools. The difference is that the platform then sends those posts to a group of subscribers (friends, clients, family) by phone alerts and to your channel on Twitter. Users can turn off mobile alerts if they like — an important feature, judging from the feedback that, for some, Twitter is rather addictive. The service is currently free, though interested parties should check with their mobile telephony providers regarding SMS charges, which are certain to rise with greater use.

Twitter is part of Obvious Corporation in San Francisco, California. For up-to-date info about Twitter, make sure to visit the Twitter blog.

Tweet, tweet!

April 23, 2007  3:24 PM

Democracy Player: An easier way to watch IPTV, video podcasts, .torrents and more

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Democracy Player is a free, open source IPTV platform. That may sound a bit vanilla, but Wired Magazine called it “the future of Net video.” Though the vlogosphere may still be in its infancy, the explosion of Internet video over the past two years has made it challenging for even the savviest netizens to keep abreast of new feeds and shows.

Using Democracy, a user can search within YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo Video and others video aggregators. Democracy also works as a BitTorrent client, so users can search, download and watch torrents from within the same interface. The application plays most video formats, including Quicktime, WMV, MPEG, AVI and XVID.
In fact, the Democracy platform’s engineers state that they have created a new approach to building a cross-platform application using open source technologies like Mozilla, XUL Runner, VLC and Python. The player runs on OS X, Windows XP/2000, Linux, Fedora, Ubuntu and Debian platforms.

The code for the Democracy platform is released under the GPL by the Participatory Culture Foundation , a 501c3 non-profit organization based in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Using the fluid GUI, you can subscribe to more than 1000 video RSS feeds using a built-in channel guide. Popular vlogs like Rocketboom, Ask a Ninja and Ze Frank sit next to lesser-known vloggers, geeky screencasts, MSM netcasts, independent warvloggers and YouTube auteurs. While both Google Reader and of course iTunes can be configured quite easily to subcribe to video Web feeds, Democracy has a number of alluring features.

For instance, the Democracy player supports full screen playback, including HD support for those lucky enough to have a PC hooked up to a HD screen, and has been translated into more than 40 languages. GetDemocracy.com, where Democracy is available for free download, has been translated into more than 18.

April 23, 2007  3:14 PM

The House That Gates Built: Satellite Photos of Bill’s House

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Have you been to 1835 73rd Ave NE, Medina, WA? If you didn’t recognize the address, that’s the location of the 48,000 square foot home of Melinda and Bill Gates. We’re still holding our breath for an invitation ourselves.

If by chance you haven’t visited the home of Microsoft‘s chairman yet, Amit Agarwal has posted a photo gallery of the Gates mansion, along with a number of links to virtual tours, facts and figures about this rather unique home.

If you haven’t already entered those coordinates, you can zoom into Google Maps or, as Bill would no doubt prefer, MSN Virtual Earth to see more yourself.

The house boasts such 21st century features as adaptive climate control, lighting and music that match the personal preferences of visitors as they move around the house, keyed to a microchip issued to each as they enter. We can’t help but wonder what would happen if a Brazilian and Norwegian entered a room at the same time. There are other features that are less “gee-whiz” but no less extraordinary, including wooden walls made from recycled heavy timber. In fact, Bill Gates funded the first heavy-timber-recycling sawmill in the world for the purpose.

Downsides? Even with energy savings gained from building into the hill, heating that much space and powering all of those screens and electronics is no walk in the park. A cool $1 million dollar annual property tax bill is a bit of a barrier to the light of wallet as well.

Still interested? Perhaps you should found your own software company!

April 23, 2007  3:06 PM

Yahoo Pipes: Create data mashups from Web feeds using a visual editor

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What is Pipes? According to Yahoo!:

Pipes is a free online service that lets you remix popular feed types and create data mashups using a visual editor. You can use Pipes to run your own web projects, or publish and share your own web services without ever having to write a line of code.

If you’re a particular flavor of Alpha geek, the concept of “pipes” is nothing new. In fact, naming this project “Pipes” was a deliberate nod to the Unix programmers that, over the years, have done extraordinarily clever things by connecting simple utilities together using pipes built on the command line.

So the concept of pipes has been out there for years — but creating a fluid, visual and (mostly) non-technical interface that enables non-coders to create mashups of sites like Craigslist and Google Maps may be. Tim O’Reilly certainly thinks so. He posted that Yahoo!’s new Pipes service is “a milestone in the history of the internet. It’s a service that generalizes the idea of the mashup, providing a drag and drop editor that allows you to connect internet data sources, process them, and redirect the output.”

Yahoo!’s Jeremy Zawodney believes that Pipes ” will unlock the data web.” Six Apart’s Anil Dash writes that Pipes “lets users with a relatively low degree of technological expertise combine structured sources of web data such as feeds.”

How user-friendly do you think it is? Try it out and let us know about your experiment in the comments.

April 23, 2007  3:02 PM

Google Notebook: Create shared living documents with your search results

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In the latest installment in our continuing exploration of “Google Office,” we submit Google Notebook as our latest discovery.

Google Operating System, a blog that unofficially tracks the latest and greatest Google announcements, posted recently about how to use Google Notebook to create shared “living documents,” similar to a wiki, that can be updated with information as you find it searching on Google.

Create a Notebook first and then as you find relevant results, click “Note this” and your link will be added to the page. You can make a notebook public or let your family, friend, coworkers or clients know that the document is available for browsing.

Take a brief tour of Google Notebook here before downloading, if you like. Google Notebook is also available as a Firefox extension.

Chrisn Sherman has posted a closer look at Google Notebook over at SearchEngineLand, comparing the feature-set to competitors like Furl, Yahoo’s MyWeb, Microsoft’s Live Toolbar and Ask’s MyStuff. Michael Arrington noted a number of similarities between Google Notebook and deli.cio.us in a post over at TechCrunch, including a number of screenshots of both products.

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