Ever since the Microsoft Office Mix team announced that their PowerPoint 2013 add-in was now supporting closed captions, I’ve been wanting to try it out. I’m a very strong proponent of producing videos #WithCaptions and I thank the Office Mix Team wholeheartedly for acknowledging the importance of offering this courteous feature.
When I talked to Microsoft’s Preston Peine about his #OneNoteWithPreston series, he challenged me to go for it with his most recent Office Mix presentation “Class Notebooks with Shared Computers“. It so happens that Preston – through the Mix privacy settings – made the .PPTX source of his Office Mix presentation available for remixing, so I could just download that .PPTX file and open it in my own copy of PowerPoint 2013.
For those with little time on their hands, here’s the end result of my efforts:
Preston Peine’s Mix presentation:
Why closed captions?
There are multiple reasons to caption a video. I can think of these reasons:
- as a courtesy to the hearing-impaired
- to support non-native speakers
- to promote better comprehension and retention
- for SEO motives – captions are indexed by search engines
There’s an upcoming movement that promotes video captioning. It uses the #WithCaptions hashtag on social media. For more inspiration, watch the video in this recent Upworthy article Pretty Much a No-Brainer.
The remainder of this post contains notes about my first experiences creating closed captions for Office Mix. I followed the development team’s excellent instructions for closed captions on the Office Mix Uservoice Knowledge Base, basically boiling down to a few steps. If you want to follow along with the steps in this post, make sure you have performed these three:
- download a copy of the original .PPTX of an Office Mix and open it in PowerPoint 2013 + Office Mix
- upload the new Mix to the Office Mix website, enabling offline video creation and mobile viewing
- downloading an .MP4 video to produce closed captions using 3rd-party services
Office Mix Closed Captions Basics
If you haven’t read up about the new Office Mix closed-captions feature, I suggest you read up about it at these two links:
Deliver Compelling Presentations Using Office Mix Slide Notes and Closed Captioning (Office Mix Team for Microsoft Office Blogs, April 14, 2015)
Office Mix – How to Add Closed Captions (Office Mix Team on Uservoice forum, continually updated tutorial)
Using YouTube’s Subtitle Generator
To create the subtitles, I first uploaded the video version of my Office Mix to YouTube. Next, I opened the YouTube Video Manager onto the Subtitles and CC tab.
As you may know, YouTube provides automatic subtitles for videos in many languages, based on its speech recogntion technology. You can read more about this feature in YouTube Help – Automatic Captions.
The Automatic Captions feature of YouTube is the reason I first uploaded my video to YouTube. You don’t have to start from scratch, but can use the auto-generated captions provided by YouTube as your starting point.
Now, although YouTube does a fair job at speech recognition, the resulting subtitles still have to be checked and corrected manually – one by one. The YouTube caption editor is very easy to use, and probably couldn’t be made more efficient. Still, in my experience, correcting each of the captions remains a lot of work. It can help a great deal if you already have an accurate script available up front – in my case, I didn’t.
More about editing auto-captions here: YouTube Help – Edit Captions
A tiny hurdle is that YouTube doesn’t natively support the file format .TTML that is required by Office Mix, so I ended up exporting the subtitles intermediately in the .SRT format. See which subtitle formats are supported by YouTube, and why the .TTML subtitle format that is required by Office Mix isn’t one of them, in YouTube Help – Upload subtitles and closed captions
Converting subtitle file format .SRT to .TTML
The next hurdle was how to convert YouTube’s closed-captioning format .SRT to .TTML, the format required by Office Mix. I discovered that the free video captioning service Amara lets you add existing .SRT subtitle files to imported YouTube videos, and also lets you export those subtitles again in .DFXP format. The DFXP subtitle format turns out to be compatible with .TTML.
Two Amara help pages are relevant here:
Final step: adding the subtitles file to Office Mix Online
Office Mix Online requires the import file for your subtitles to have the .TTML file extension. Now that turned out easy enough: if you simply edit the file extension of the .DFXP file (downloaded from Amara) and rename it to .TTML, Office Mix Online will accept it.
Have you tried your hand at creating closed captions for Office Mix yet? How did you do it?
“Dynamic OPML Subscriptions in feed reader InoReader
let you automatically synchronize your RSS subscriptions
with web-based reading lists.” (1 / 6)
Introduction – from reading list to OPML
This is a long read. If you first want to get the gist of it, scan the paragraph headings and the pull quotes real quick. I hope you return here to find the golden nuggets.
People maintain categorized lists of web sites for many reasons. Combined with an RSS reader those reading lists let you keep track of news headlines and blog posts very efficiently. You may have come across reading lists in the sidebar of weblogs, where they are usually referred to as blogrolls, or just links.
If you export your list of favorite websites in the OPML file format, you can then share your reading list with other people. They can import the list into their preferred feed reader. There are quite a few ways anyone can create such an OPML file. This article provides links to various resources related to OPML, how to create OPML files and how to share them.
“OPML has become the de facto standard
for the convenient exchange of reading lists.” (2 / 6)
Reading lists – useful but easily grow stale
OPML files are incredibly useful: by selecting several OPML files curated by topic experts you can quickly construct a personal news center around topics of interest. Regrettably the mechanism of importing a reading list has one major disadvantage: as soon as you add a reading list, it has in fact become a stale copy of the original. Future changes to the original reading list will not automatically be reflected in your copy of that list. To prevent this, OPML files should be automatically synchronized.
The InoReader dynamic OPML solution
This is where the new InoReader Dynamic Subscriptions feature comes in: it allows you to create dynamic subscriptions from any web-based reading list. When the original source of the reading list is updated, so does the InoReader version.
The first step is to import the reading list using the OPML file’s web address. After that, InoReader automatically keeps your copy of the reading list synchronized with its original source.
As you can also see from Synchronization option in this screenshot, InoReader can synchronize all changes to the OPML file (new additions and removals), or just new additions.
“InoReader synchronizes all changes to the OPML file” (3 / 6)
If a change in the remote OPML is detected, that event will trigger a notification event to indicate that one or more feeds have been added or removed:
In my experience adding a subscription is a very fast process. It mostly depends on whether InoReader has imported the feeds at some time in the past. On import, the feed reader checks whether the OPML file and individual feeds are valid. It also checks how active a feed is. Use dashboard gadgets to display lists of inactive feeds and of failing feeds:
All InoReader users (Basic, Plus and Pro levels) have access to the new dynamic OPML feature. Refresh frequencies depend on the user level, from once a day for the Basic level to once every hour for the for-pay levels. OPML subscriptions can also be manually refreshed.
“The new dynamic OPML feature is available to all InoReader users” (4 / 6)
Using InoReader to publish reading lists by topic
Like many other RSS platforms and feed readers on the market, InoReader lets you publish OPML files. What makes the InoReader approach different, is that it allows you to make web-based OPML files available for individual feed folders.
“InoReader offers URLs for RSS, for Web view and for OPML
at the folder level” (5 / 6)
You can then share the public URLs with others. This screenshot shows my Note-taking feed folder. It contains 39 feeds. Three public views are available:
- RSS – Note-taking folder RSS feed
- Web view – Note-taking folder HTML Clip
- OPML – Note-taking folder OPML URL
The significance of supporting dynamic OPML
Many people invest their time and energy into building and maintaining reading lists on topics they are most passionate about. It’s sad to see some of these efforts abandoned. However, once the reading lists are published and dynamically synchronized on the web, their authors can now be sure that other people always have access to the most up-to-date version of their reading lists. They will be more likely to keep their lists current, and all reading list users benefit.
Alltop offers OPML for hundreds of topics
You can find OPML files in various places on the web, sometimes deeply tucked away. A large collection of OPML files categorized by keyword is freely available on Alltop.com.
To get started with Alltop’s OPML files, first select the desired topic of interest from their website. There is a convenient full-page overview of all Alltop topics. For the purpose of this article, let’s choose Filmmaking.
The base URL for the keyword ‘filmmaking’ on Alltop is http://filmmaking.alltop.com/, and the accompanying OPML file is at http://filmmaking.alltop.com/opml. Using this URL as a template, you can easily construct OPML files built from tons of relevant news sources. Alltop founder Guy Kawasaki explained the feature in 2009: How to Change the World: How to Use Alltop to Add Content to Your Website, Blog, and Feed Reader.
Different flavors of OPML
If you use Google to find OPML files, note that you may also stumble across OPML files that cannot be used with an RSS feed reader because they contain outlines of plain text, not references to RSS feeds and their home pages.
“FeedShare deserves to become part of the
OPML- and feed-sharing ecosystem” (6 / 6)
OPML exchange site FeedShare.net
Early 2014 FeedShare http://feedshare.net was launched, a promising web service that is dedicated to the exchange of RSS feeds and OPML files. Anyone can submit their categorized reading lists to this website. Browse for topics at http://feedshare.net/tags.
See the screenshot below. This is how I submitted the OPML file for the RSS News Radar project to FeedShare.net. Sharing your reading list with the world can’t get much simpler than this. There’s no sign-up required, just two fields to fill in – a title and an OPML source. As soon as you’ve submitted your reading list, you’ll be given a unique URL that allows you to customize the reading list details and attach topic tags to it.
Shortly after FeedShare launched in January 2014, tech blogger Louis Gray wrote this review: Feedshare.net Debuts for OPML, RSS Feed Swapping.
The FeedShare project is open-source. Original developer Arne @Holzenburg kindly invites you to join the effort and take the project to the next level. To turn it into an ecosystem for developers and users, FeedShare needs an API. Within the context of this article it is also relevant to note that once you’ve uploaded your OPML reading list to FeedShare.net, that copy itself does not magically get updated.
Create your own OPML file
If you have an InoReader account, then you can start creating topic reading lists straight away. Most other RSS readers offer an easy method to export all of your feed subscriptions in a single list. Some will host the OPML file for you through a direct URL, others do generate the output but don’t do the hosting for you. They require that you copy and paste the OPML output and save it to a file on your local hard drive. In that case you need to upload the local OPML file to a web-based file server, for example to OneDrive, DropBox, or Google Drive, so that the file becomes accessible online.
Make sure you enable sharing on your OPML file. Next, while you yourself are logged off from your feed reader, double check that the OPML file is indeed accessible through its web address and test it with your InoReader account.
Tumblr OPML and LiveJournal OPML
Tumblr lets you create an OPML file of your own subscriptions. Log on to your Tumblr account and visit the page https://www.tumblr.com/following
LiveJournal offers the same feature but with a rather significant twist: LiveJournal lets anyone create an OPML file from anyone else’s Friends List. You don’t need to be logged on. Just substitute the username in this URL: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/opml.bml?user=exampleusername.
OPML reading lists on the web (spreadsheet table)
Update June 9, 2014: You can now your own web-based OPML reading list to the new, public resource OPML Reading Lists on the Web. Note that the spreadsheet has multiple tabs. It is intended as a collaborative initiative. Please feel free to share the link and to retweet the Twitter announcement.
— Marjolein Hoekstra (@CleverClogs) June 9, 2014
OPML tools and resources
Another way to create an OPML file is by starting with a simple list of websites that offer RSS feeds and using a web service to convert that list to an OPML file. Here are some OPML conversion tools and resources that make that process a lot easier:
- FeedShow OPML generator to create an OPML from any list of web URLs, both from simple links and from RSS feeds.
- Spreadsheet -> OPML Generator to create an OPML file from a two-column Google SpreadSheet (feed name, feed URL). Created by Pamela Fox @PamelaFox
- Generating an OPML RSS bundle from a page of links using Google Spreadsheets, by Martin Hawksey @MHawksey
- Feed detection from blog URL lists, by Tony Hirst @PsycheMedia
- OPML Validator, by Dave Winer @DaveWiner
Once you’ve created your OPML file, make sure that it’s accessible through a web URL.
Create a custom search engine from any OPML file
Now that you know where to find OPML files and how to create and share your own, why not grasp the opportunity and put them to good use? A fine use case for OPML files is to build a Google Custom Search Engine on the fly. Try this TechMeme Leaderboard Search Engine, based on the Techmeme Leaderboard.
If you observe the URL in your browser address bar, you can easily see how to substitute your own OPML file. Creating a custom search engine is just that simple. A powerful aspect of Google Custom Search Engines is that they show search results from the entire archive of a website – not just the recent history from its RSS feed. Google Custom Search Engines can be refined in many ways. To learn more about these options, visit and explore the Google Custom Search Engine website.
On the history of dynamic OPML
Dynamic reading list support isn’t newly invented by InoReader. Full credit for the concept goes to two pioneers in RSS, notably Dave Winer, and the deceased RSS reader Blogbridge.
Dave Winer – pioneer in RSS and inventor of OPML
Over the last decade or so, Dave Winer has continually been pushing the concept and potential of synchronized reading lists. Added info (thanks @DaveWiner): 12 Years ago, he implemented the feature in web publishing product Radio Userland.
His most recent outlining project Fargo supports subscribing to web-based OPML files by inclusion. Read how this feature works in the blogpost “Subscribe” to OPML Lists in Fargo (May 22nd, 2014), as explained by fervent Fargo user Jeffrey @Kishner.
See also these two relevant posts by Winer from 2013:
Care to Share Your OPML? (April 2013)
2005: BlogBridge announces dynamic reading list support
By the end of 2005, a full-fledged version of dynamic reading lists was implemented in BlogBridge. Cross-platform, open-source and an info-junkie’s wet dream, Blogbridge unfortunately succumbed to the heavy pull of Google Reader’s gravitation.
Although as a product it is no longer available, the BlogBridge blog archive is still reminiscent of what it means to develop a top-notch, user-focused news aggregator and what hurdles the developers needed to overcome. See this post from November 2005, in which BlogBridge founder Pito Salas announced the upcoming reading lists feature in Reading Lists: Major new capability, coming soon.
To the next level of InoReader’s Dynamic OPML Subscriptions feature
Here is my wish list:
1. Right now, InoReader offers OPML files for individual folders and for a user’s entire subscription list. A logical in-between product would be to offer OPML files for bundles – a custom combination of several folders.
2. While in the InoReader user interface, people should be able to add new OPML subscription lists hosted on FeedShare.net. Similarly, they themselves should be able to publish their reading lists to FeedShare.net and make them publicly available there.
3. InoReader should add a recommendation system for subscription lists. Once the system understands what topics a user is interested in, it could recommend suggested reading lists.
InoReader is a fast and powerful web-based RSS service that has become increasingly popular over the past year. It has become my preferred feed reader in early 2014.
For InoReader, the frequent operations of sorting, tagging, renaming and organizing feeds and folders are frictionless actions. Productivity features such as in-context search, Active Search feeds and feed notification rules all work smoothly and fast. The collection of InoReader dashboard gadgets is growing by the week. The service has a strong focus on social features such as feed-item tagging, favoriting and commenting and of course integrates with dozens of web services. You can even configure your own custom Send To apps, or become the publisher of a channel that broadcasts among your InoReader peers.
Unique about InoReader is also that it provides public HTML / RSS / OPML output at the folder level. Lastly, I’ve personally experienced that the InoReader support team truly excels at dealing with support questions and feature requests. I’m honored and very grateful that the InoReader development team embraced my suggestion to implement Dynamic OPML Subscriptions.
In just a few steps musicians can benefit from applying QR codes to tag their printed sheet music. The QR codes enrich the score they are studying by linking it to relevant online information, such as recorded performances and background information. A smartphone capable of scanning QR codes is essential in this method.
In my spare time I very much like to study playing the piano. I particularly get passionate about specific challenging pieces from composers such as Schubert, Grieg and Chopin. Although my old piano teachers probably wouldn’t have approved, I usually start by locating online recordings of these favorite compositions. That way I get a feel of what they ideally should or could sound like straight from the beginning.
I have found QR codes to be a powerful and versatile instrument [!] to facilitate the process of familiarizing oneself with a musical piece. To start with a spoiler and to pique your interest, here’s a picture of what a piano score might look like with a QR code attached to it:
In this post I’d like to present a simple outline of what steps to take and what preparations are required to get you started. As you can see from the screenshot, I picked the romantic song Butterfly from Edvard Grieg’s 10-volume Lyric Pieces.
At some point you’ll notice that I link my QR code samples to recordings on YouTube. Once you understand the process, you can easily substitute any other service of your liking.
If you feel inclined to do so, please feel free to scan the QR code on the right to get a feel for the possibilities. Otherwise, hang in for a quick three-step tutorial:
The Three-step Process
- Get familiar with a QR code generator. My personal favorite is the web service Delivr.com. Besides being slick, simple and straightforward, there’s no need to sign-up to get started. If you do sign up, you can explore their advanced features and build sophisticated, mobile-friendly landing pages. The Delivr bookmarklet— a convenient button on your browser toolbar— turns the process of creating a QR code into a swift and painless effort.
- Install a QR reader on your smartphone if you haven’t got one already. I’m quite pleased with QuickMark. QR readers for a couple of well known smartphone brands are listed here: http://www.techrefined.com/help/
- Experiment with creating, printing and scanning QR codes until you feel familiar with the process. I print my labels by opening the PNG version in a separate browser tab, and then tweak my printer settings and the page set-up until I get it right. Pretty much any regular printer will do. I use a Dymo LabelWriter to print my labels, as this allows me to print QR code labels one by one at size 25 mm x 25 mm – just right for sheet music. Some smartphone QR readers require a larger size, depending on their camera resolution.
Let’s assume that you’ve created a QR code using Delivr.com. Here’s what the Delivr QR preview-and-share interface looks like:
Apart from creating a bare-bones QR code, Delivr.com also allows you to create full-fledged mobile landing pages. You do need to create an account with the service to access additional features, such as descriptions, hyperlinks, a comments section and social-media sharing links. Here’s a screenshot of what the Grieg Butterfly landing page looks like after someone scans my Grieg Butterfly QR code. The blue parts are hyperlinks:
Pretty cool, don’t you think?
Several types of users might benefit from using QR codes:
- Music schools, music conservatories, teachers and their students
- Professional and amateur musicians, singers, directors, composers
- Sheet music publishers and distributors of digital sheet music can offer their client base additional info. QR code tracking can be of interest to them. A QR code can also be useful from a copyright point of view.
Besides linking to a YouTube video, you could also consider any of the following music-related target pages. Maybe the following list inspires you to find your own sources. Where possible, I’ve linked to web pages and services related to Grieg’s Butterfly piece. Note that many web services now offer mobile-friendly interfaces to their sites, for example Mobile YouTube and Mobile Wikipedia.
- Spotify playlists, YouTube playlists, GrooveShark (also offers playlists), Blip.fm, last.fm
- other video sites: Google Video, Vimeo. Try video search engine Blinx (offers search-specific RSS feeds)
- downloadable MP3 or midi files. MP3 search engine: Music-Boom
- PDFs: International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), PianoStreet
- composer, performer homepage (Einar Steen-Nøkleberg), Facebook, Twitter
- biographies, discography, lyrics, interviews, news, reviews, concert tour schedules
- CD editions (Amazon, CD Universe)
- interpretative monographs (On Stage with Grieg) for technical analyses of classical compositions
- sheet music source web page, Scribd, electronic download sites, commercial websites, SheetMusicDirect, MusicRoom, FreeHandMusic (uses the Solero Music Viewer), MusicNotes and other digital music score resellers
- Wikipedia articles about the piece or artist, TV documentaries, DVDs, movies
- discussion forums (PianoWorld.com, Pianostreet.com), Q&A (Quora, Yahoo etc)
- instructional blog posts (by piano teacher Shirley Kirsten – link updated July 11th 2011), podcasts like Piano Podcast by Mario Ajero
Further Reading about QR Code Technology
I have found these resources to be quite helpful and interesting:
- 2D-code – a multi-author blog with news, reviews, tutorials, tool comparisons and many other useful bits (RSS)
- Real-World Hyperlinks – an introductory article about QR codes by Adrian Roselli
- QR Code Demystified – a 6-part (!) discussion of anything a web developer would want to know about QR codes, by Jason Brown
- QRDressCode – very cool Scoop.it! curated by QRboy Laurent Sanchez from the refreshing French QR code blog QRDressCode (RSS) Even if you don’t speak French, the images are a treat to the eye.
I hope this explanation inspires you to experiment with QR codes. Maybe you’d rather use a different QR code generator, or a different QR code scanner on your phone—it doesn’t matter because the mechanism of linking a real-world object to the online world remains the same. Do feel free to contribute your ideas in the comments section.
Twitter FreshLinks Bookmarklet
FreshLinks is a simple browser bookmarklet I created that you can use to get a quick understanding if a Twitter user has recently been sharing any useful links.
To install, drag or save this link to your browser bookmarks toolbar: FreshLinks
A text button labeled ‘FreshLinks’ should appear on your bookmarks toolbar. Now, first open someone’s Twitter user page, mine for example: @CleverClogs. To filter my updates and display just links that I’m sharing, click on the FreshLinks bookmarklet button.
As a bonus, the script excludes retweets and won’t show updates fed into the Twitter stream through TwitterFeed.
I’m obviously curious for your constructive feedback, please tweet it to the attention of @CleverClogs.
Last modified July 18th, 2009, 4:22 PM GMT +2
In Meet Nick Halstead the Founder of Tweetmeme from July 14th, Loic Le Meur publishes a five-minute video interview with TweetMeme founder Nick Halstead. One particular fragment of the interview strikes me with disbelief. My post here explains why I am less than amused.
At just after 4 minutes, Loic asks Nick:
“Where did you get the idea, for the first time?”
“We, err, we just looked at Twitter, we, the, err , a year ago we actually had a first pass of the website, and we kind of let it languish, and then we saw how big Twitter was getting in January and we took all the technology from the bit built in the company for the year before, and we just took all that and rebuilt it, really, you know, really quickly. “
Now, in contrast to the video, look at this compilation of several tweets from the very early days of TweetMeme’s inception, starting January 5th, 2008:
Many people know that the original idea for TweetMeme came from me. Almost immediately after I hinted at the creation of a TweetMeme service in January 2008, Nick Halstead picked up the idea, and contacted me over Twitter DM. He was enthused and kindly asked my permission to go ahead with the idea. Nick would register the tweetmeme.com domain name and would also claim the @TweetMeme account on Twitter. That evening, we had an intense Skype call and several subsequent chats about the direction of TweetMeme. We also discussed my future remuneration once the service would gain funding, though at that time it didn’t seem likely at all that this type of service would become highly popular. Nick kept me posted continually during the first development phase.
The TweetMeme Launch blog post from Jan 28, 2008 is unambiguous:
“This project has only possible because of help from a number of very talented people. So let me first thank Marjolein Hoekstra who first twittered about the concept and since then has been a constant sounding board for the project.”
Nick is correct. On just about every new feature launched since the day that TweetMeme started, I posted several tweets in a row, contacted A-list bloggers to see if they were interested, and over-all made sure people knew something very powerful was being built on top of the Twitter API. I provided Nick with very detailed and constructive feedback on how to improve TweetMeme.
In March of this year I helped Nick get Alltop founder Guy Kawasaki’s attention so that he would incorporate the TweetMeme blog feed on his Alltop Twitter category page.
Last April, ReadWriteWeb published Tweetmeme Live: See What’s Big on Twitter Right Now after RWW editors noticed a tweet from me about the new TweetMeme Live feature. The original credit footnote to the story was this:
When Nick Halstead urged me to have that credit footnote changed, I obliged immediately because I was made to believe he was going to get into serious trouble with his investors if they’d find out I was involved and might stake an IP claim. I was totally wiped out for days.
Let me summarize how I look at the situation: Nick and his team have pulled off a remarkable job building TweetMeme into a very solid, thriving company and though for obvious reasons I don’t tweet about TweetMeme much anymore, I still value and respect their work highly. However, in the video interview with Loic it seems Nick is denying my original inspiration and subsequent involvement in the development of TweetMeme completely.
My goal with this post is two-fold: to set the record straight about my exact role in the product and also to encourage Nick Halstead to openly come to terms about this. I propose we settle adequately and appropriately and then move on—as decent professionals would. Appropriate actions would comprise of a proper credit statement on the TweetMeme About page describing my role, and adequate recognition of my initiating role in public company statements. If a check arrives in the mail, I’ll happily cash it.
Do you think I’m being unreasonable here?
“Agglom’s basic function is that you can publish your current browser session to the web, requiring little more than a single click…. The saved session then becomes available in three formats: as a web page that displays the links, as a URL slideshow, and as an RSS feed.”
Every couple of weeks I scan Mozilla’s Firefox Add-on site for new additions. I’m especially attracted to the ones that affect browser tab behavior. Last week, while I was actually looking for a Firefox 3.0 compatible alternative to SessionSaver, a little gem popped up that I hadn’t come across before: Agglomerator. Contrary to many browser add-ons that I only keep enabled on my system for a few hours, I’m finding Agglomerator and accompanying service Agglom.com promising enough to stay.
Agglom’s basic function is that you can publish your current browser session to the web, requiring little more than a single mouse click. Shared links can be multi-media or just plain web pages. I created a simple one from Chris Brogan’s personal-branding posts. An even richer example of what Agglom is capable of doing is this Agglom set I found, with videos, photos, links and other resources about Olympic ‘pool shark’ Michael Phelps.
If you’d like to experience hands-on what Agglom can do for you, just read this paragraph. Start by signing up for an account on the Agglom service. Then, install the Agglomerator add-on and restart your browser. Now a new, modest toolbar button becomes available, labeled “Share session”.
Next, make sure you have a bunch of tabs open that you’d like to save as an organized set. Press the Agglom button to save any or all of the tabs you currently have open, then label this custom tab set with a title of your choosing, assign tags as you see fit and lastly publish the set as a private or public list. The saved session then becomes available in three formats: as a web page that displays the links, as a URL slideshow, and as an RSS feed.
Besides the ease with which you can publish collections of URLs, I am particularly impressed with how slideshows are implemented in Agglom. Any set you create on Agglom automatically has a slideshow attached to it that uses the original URLs. At the moment Agglom slideshows are not progressing automatically. From what I understand the Agglom developer is planning to add this feature, depending on user feedback. Here’s what the Agglom slideshow interface looks like:
Agglom sessions can be easily changed: you can change the sort order of the links by drag and drop, you can add new links and remove old ones, change their title and URL and adjust the privacy settings.
Public Agglom session links can be accessed through their URL by anyone—no Agglom account is required. Agglom users can leave comments on the lists that you share and even submit suggestions for improvements to the owner of any list. Here’s what an Agglom page looks like in edit mode, in this case for an Agglom set I created from David Tebbutt’s series of posts on how to handle the press, Media Skills 101:
Agglom is the prodigy brainchild of 23-yr old Enrico Foschi, an Italian web developer living in Bray, a town close to Dublin, Ireland. Enrico launched the first version of Agglom just over a month ago and has improved the service at an amazing pace since then. Here’s a 3-minute video from Agglom’s early days, in which Enrico explains what the service does:
Today Enrico launched Agglom Beta 3.1 with the blog post Agglom.com adds URL slideshows, RSS and easy link suggestion.
Realizing Agglom was only launched fairly recently, I am already much impressed by its current feature set. In the past few days Agglom developer Enrico displayed a remarkable flexibility in not just listening to and rephrasing the suggestions I made, but even more so by implementing the majority of the improvement ideas we generated together. Yet, there are a few aspects of Agglom that deserve attention:
- Unclutter the web site. Agglom offers lots of functionality. New users might be overwhelmed by the many links, icons and other pieces of information.
- Leave out the advertisement for the Agglomerator add-on when a user has already got that add-on installed.
- Replace the current list of bookmarking service in the sidebar by one generic link to a service like ShareThis.
There are several ways you can integrate the superior Twitter search engine Summize into Firefox or Flock, turning your browser into a very efficient Twitter research tool. In this post I discuss these three:
- adding the Summize search plug-in
- creating a Summize quick search command
- using the SmartSearch add-on to perform in-context queries
Summize Search Plug-in
Add Summize to your Firefox search bar by clicking on the “Install Search Plugin” link on the Summize home page:
The search plugin is available for use immediately after installing. To enter a Summize query, put cursor focus on the search bar with your mouse or press the Ctrl-K keyboard shortcut. Then type your query as usual and press Enter.
Summize Quick Searches
Besides performing searches from the search bar, Firefox also offers the browser address bar to execute search commands. It comes in handy if for some reason you’d rather not change search engines from your search bar. The functionality to search from the browser address bar is generally called Quick Search. In our case you would type in something like “s Obama”, press Enter and then, because of a keyword shortcut command that points to Summize, a query is run automatically to find tweets about Obama. The Quick Search command you can create by following the step-by-step instructions is also useful for in-context searching, which I describe in the section Summize Smart Searches.
The Summize Quick Search command is universal and only needs to be created once. Luckily, Firefox makes this creation process a piece of cake: right-click with your mouse in the Summize search input box on any Summize web page and select “Add a Keyword for this Search…” from the context menu.
Now you may try your newly created Quick Search command by carrying out a query from the address bar: Type “s [keywords]” without the double quotes and press Enter.
Summize Smart Searches
With a few simple steps you can perform a Summize search for any word on any web page displayed in Firefox. The steps to create the Summize Quick Search command that I described in the previous section are required to make this Smart Searching functionality work. First, install the SmartSearch Firefox add-on.
Note that the default, version 3.10, is meant to be used with Firefox 3 beta. Users of older versions of Firefox should install version 3.7, which you can find here: SmartSearch add-on for Firefox 2.
Restart your browser.
Next, open the SmartSearch Settings dialog box and put a check mark in the option Show “Search Web for …” item
Next right-click or select any word(s) that you want to search for on Summize, and select Search for [keyword] on…“, then select @Summize. The following screenshot shows a fun recursive search right from my WordPress editor window, looking for tweets about Summize:
This nifty SmartSearch in-context search functionality works immediately by right-clicking individual words, without the need to select a word with your mouse first. Alternatively select multiple consecutive words, right-click on the selection, and follow the same steps.
My compliments to Ben Goodger and Chris Povlrk for providing the excellent SmartSearch add-on, and of course to the Summize folks (@abdur, @gregpass, @ericcj, @jayvirdy), who in my opinion really created even more than the Google of Twitter. Chapeau bas!
I believe my first post on this WordPress blog attracted more comments already than any of my posts on my previous blog hosted with TypePad. Rather unoriginal, the first post defaulted to the title “Hello World” and it sparked an avalanche of reactions from a handful of people around the globe. I knew they were sent by just a few people because their identical IP addresses were shown in the Comments section in the WordPress Admin panel. So apparently these people run a Google search for “Hello World” blog posts and then submit their compliments in bulk about the well chosen theme and topic of my blog. Sure, I’ll get Akismet in place.
Once I’ve figured out how to successfully import my old posts here, I’ll probably transfer them so that I can terminate my contract with TypePad. I have been wanting to get rid of TypePad for so long but would rather not lose my content. TypePad doesn’t just host CleverClogs, but also AWesome, my first attempts at blogging ever about ActiveWords. I also ran a bunch of other experiments. It will take me a while to get up to speed with WordPress.
The pieces on my previous blog were usually quite lengthy and required lots of research and preparation. Sometimes I’d work on a post for a whole day. I’d like to use this new blog to practice writing shorter articles, so that the barrier to actually start writing becomes less high.
So, please animal with me while I get to know this bear 😉
As of today, users of the web-based instant messaging client Meebo can instantly open a live video conferencing session with each other, neatly integrated into the Meebo chat window.
From its launch in September 2005, Meebo has developed into a full-fledged multi-protocol chat client. In the very beginning it impressed heavy chat users a lot because of its Ajaxy look and feel and of course because it offered web-based access to the four leading IM networks from one interface. After that, the Meebo developers started their mission to adding numerous new features:
– Jabber support, allowing Gtalk users
– password encryption
– universal sign-on
– extensive localization
– public chat rooms
– iPhone app
– file transfer
– Firefox add-on
“Twype allows you to grab tweets from *any* Twitter account (there’s no
authentication) and lets you publish that stream as Skype mood
messages. Twype only works from Skype for Windows PCs.”
A new Skype add-on named Twype was just released by its developer Julian Bond. I’m very excited about it because it offers tremendous opportunities and because it fulfills a desire I’ve felt for years ever since I started using Skype. Let me explain what Twype does with a mix of screenshots and text: