“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:
“If you want to inform yourself of the basic principles of attention profiling or need to explain the concept to others then please read on. Feel free to add your clarifications, your
conclusions and your constructive criticism to this deliberately non-geek conversation.”
In recent months quite a few bloggers covered the growing adoption of APML, a proposed standard for attention profiling. Those about to give up reading here already, please don’t. I personally found most of these posts delving in rather deep. If you want to inform yourself of the basic principles of attention profiling or need to explain the concept to others then please read on. With today’s post I’d like to make an attempt at writing a layman’s article answering exactly these three questions:
- What is attention profiling and what are the benefits?
- What tools and services already support or endorse attention profiling?
- Where could you go next?
As usual, this post concludes with a news radar.
I encourage you to participate in this deliberately non-geek conversation about
attention profiling, either by posting a comment or by writing a blog
post of your own. Feel free to add your clarifications, your
conclusions and your concerns.
Ever since I started developing Grazr RSS applications, I’ve been wondering if it were possible to integrate other services intothe Grazr widget. Today I’m presenting you with my most advanced project to date: Podcasting Professionals. This news radar demonstrates that Grazr RSS applications can be enhanced with the functionality of other, quite useful services. For this particular Grazr I
picked ZapTXT, Particls and BlogRovR. In this post I’ll discuss the
value they each add to this particular news radar.
A full-page version of the Podcasting Professionals news radar is hosted on the PODHANDLE servers. To give you an idea here’s the reduced-size version:
Ashod Apakian, the extremely talented developer behind Wigiwigi, just made an extremely easily accessible, multi-party video conference room service available that website owners can embed on their pages: it’s called Viper Room and its quality is very impressive, to say the least.
The base functionality of Viper Room is to let you see the live webcam streams of up to four people in a video-conferencing room.
Note that Viper Room does video only: to also hear the people in the room, you’ll have to set up a multi-party voice conference, for example using Skype. The rationale behind this deliberate decision is that voice-conferencing is already handled well by other services. It’s really the video conferencing part that is was missing.
Update: On June 19th audio was added to Viper Room: click-and-hold the loudspeaker icon in the top-right corner of the Viper Room panel and you’ll be able to speak. Keep the mouse button pressed down even while listening to your room mates to have a lively conversation.
So here’s Viper Room, offering very quick access to a shared video conferencings room—no sign-up required. Just go to the Viper Room website and you’re good to go. For those interested: Viper Room is based on Adobe Flash.
Viper Room basicallly comes in two versions:
There’s a generic version hosted on the Viper Room website, which lets you create a conferencing room on the fly with any room ID you desire: just make up any name, type it in and press Enter . The room exists for as long as there are people in the room. I’ve been using this version over the past couple of days with several of my friends on the web and everybody was amazed at the quality.
Then, just a few minutes ago, Ashod pinged me to tell me that he’s made another fully customized version available, with a fixed room ID determined by the website owner and that can be embedded on any website. I inserted the HTML object code here in this blog post, just to demonstrate how easy it is to make this work:
(HTML code removed because it generated a problematic error message on the MeBeam website)
Now imagine how this could work to communicate with visitors of your website: you could invite them into a live multi-person demonstration of your service. You could do the voice part by phone, by VoIP, or by any other service.
I’m also thinking this could be very cool for communication among larger teams: misunderstandings are much more easily captured from facial expressions than through typed chat or even voice.
Please use the comments for ideas how this very practical solution can be put to good use. Ashod welcomes constructive feedback very much. He promised me he’d raise the number of slots in a room to 8 (and up to a maximum of 32) as soon as the first inevitable glitches have been ironed out. Expect kick, ban and other administrative controls as well.
For those who want a disposable Viper Room of their own:
<object width="660px" height="520px" id="vroom" align="middle"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always" ></param><param name="quality" value="high" ></param><param name="scale" value="exactfit" ></param><param name="movie" value="http://www.mebeam.com/uploads/Main/mebeam.swf"></param><param name="flashvars" value="room=cleverclogs&bordercolor=0xd0e0f0&backcolor=0xf3f6ff&menubordercolor=0xaaccff&menutextbgcolor=0xd0e0ff&menutextfgcolor=0x6060c0" ></param><embed src="http://www.mebeam.com/uploads/Main/mebeam.swf" flashvars="room=cleverclogs&bordercolor=0xd0e0f0&backcolor=0xf3f6ff&menubordercolor=0xaaccff&menutextbgcolor=0xd0e0ff&menutextfgcolor=0x6060c0" quality="high" scale="exactfit" width="660px" height="520px" name="vroom" align="middle" allowScriptAccess="always" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer"></embed></object>
Given the positive response this post is receiving, I’m including a button for the digg that someone submitted:
Particls is entering public beta today. If you haven’t come across the name before: the product first started under the name Touchstone about a year ago, and then last April when it went private beta to a larger audience of testers, a much desired and appropriate name change was carried out.
Read on if any of these catchwords appeal to you:
- information overload
- personal relevance
- attention profile
- keyword monitoring
- importance-correlated disruption
I’d like to point out two remarks in today’s announcement on the Particls Blog that I definitely consider highlights: firstly it is now confirmed that a Particls version for OS X is in the pipeline. Secondly, bloggers and web site owners can share their Particls setup with a custom sidebar badge, such as this one:
Particls for OS X coming
The upcoming OS X version of Particls now officially being mentioned in a communique issued by Faraday Media is a real milestone. Ever since I got acquainted with the two creative minds behind Particls, Chris Saad and Ashley Angell, in February 2006—and also when I briefly met with Chris in person in San Francisco last December—the sensitive topic of Mac lovers feeling heavily neglected was frequently brought up.
"Ping me as soon as they make an OS X version available!", has probably been the most often heard reply from the tech journalists on my contact list when I would approach them with a brief but substantial update about Particls.
Ok, that said, what I haven’t managed to get hold of from the developers yet is an estimate release date for the OS X version, but I trust they’ll attract sufficient additional funding soon to make the first prototype available within a year from now. Until then Particls runs fine under Parallels Desktop for Mac.
Getting the download
Particls is now freely available for download from the Particls Download page. I suggest you get acquainted fast, because I’ll be shifting to fourth gear shortly.
I figured that a couple of other tech news sites would likely do a perfect job offering an introduction to the core functionality of Particls (see Track Your Favorite Topics … on Digital Inspiration from a few days ago, glance through my Particls news radar for a live-updated list of reviews, or refer to the Particls FAQ), so I decided in this post I might as well focus primarily on the publisher aspects of the product. Please follow me to the Particls inTouch introductory page while I describe the technical, practical aspects of this new Particls partner program.
Particls inTouch installer packages
Particls inTouch lets you share your own customized version of the full Particls installer package on your website. There are two flavors of inTouch, a basic one that generates an installer from a single feed or from a set of feeds (OPML), and an advanced one targeted at publishers obviously offering more granular control. I’ll describe both here.
inTouch Basic is the most simple way to offer your readers a Particls installer package: just type the web address of the website you’d like to track and copy the code from the box on your screen.
inTouch Basic also lets you enter the URL of a single RSS feed or from a set of RSS feeds, a so-called remotely hosted OPML file. Most online RSS aggregators allow you to create an OPML file and they’ll host it for you. The advantage of this is that any changes you make to your list of subscriptions is immediately reflected in the OPML file. Remotely hosted OPML files are often referred to as Reading Lists. If you are looking for high-quality OPML files around a certain topic, then browse the BlogBridge Topic Experts Guides. This library of OPML files offers tons of feeds on topics such as marketing, politics, online education and science & technology.
Here’s my inTouch Basic badge that simply tracks CleverClogs posts using Particls:
inTouch Partner offers publishers full control: after signing up for an account, they can choose which feeds to include with the package, which keywords to look out for, which ones to avoid, and they have the option to change the look and feel of all of the Particls screen elements, such as the logo and text color on the ticker and on the pop-ups. A personalized set-up file is generated and then hosted on the Particls servers so that your readers can download and install it. The inTouch user account allows Particls Partners to modify their settings later on.
My CleverClogs installer package, should you want to try it, is located at
and the underlying web address points to
Creating a Particls inTouch Installer Package
To have Particls host an installer package on its server, a user account needs to be created through the Partnership Sign-up form.
After signing up, a rather straightforward edit form opens that lets you enter the details to create the package:
Just for the fun of it, I added a CleverClogs logo to my ticker bar by changing the following options in the Settings and Skins. I then followed the instructions to upload the Particls skin file to their server:
This is what my Particls ticker looks like now:
Creating your own branded version of Particls
I had no difficulties creating my own Particls badge. In fact, you could use any badge image as long as you make it point to the web address at which Particls stores the installer package.
In short, these are the steps once more:
- Read the overview page of the Particls inTouch Partner program
- Sign up for the service at the inTouch Admin Console
- Create your custom installer package
- Get the code for your badge
- Insert the badge code into your blog
Ideas to improve Particls
It’s obvious I like Particls as it is very much already. Still, there are a couple of things I’d like the developers to pay attention to (!):
- Commit to releasing the OS X version and communicate about it
- Allow the Particls client to regularly poll a remote OPML and adjust the feed list accordingly
- Make it easier to quickly find back items that just scrolled off the screen
- Increase the font size of the ticker items
- Display the source of individual feed items in the alerts if not identical to the feed source (especially important for "River of News" feeds)
- Allow changing the URLs of feeds in the "Manage my feeds" panel
Particls News Radar
I’ve collected a couple of feeds related to Particls. Please feel free to use the comments section to suggest another feed.
Grazr widgets are popping up everwhere on the sidebars of people’s blogs, usually performing the task of a little browser displaying one or more feeds relating to the author’s interests. Creating such a Grazr is pretty straightforward: visit the Grazr Create a Widget page and provide the first box in the wizard with one of these types of URLs:
- an RSS feed, try it now: CleverClogs Incoming Links, on Grazr
- an OPML file with several feeds, try it: Marjolein’s Writings, the OPML, on Grazr
- a website with feed auto-discovery enabled, try: all feeds provided by CleverClogs, on Grazr
Assuming you clicked on the link in the third option, the Grazr configuration screen will look like this:
Do you see box 1, where I put the URL for my website? Because the source code of my website contains links to RSS feeds and to OPML files, Grazr is capable of detecting those and displaying them in a list. You can easily substitute your own blog URL there or use the URL of a feed or of an OPML file.
Default themes and views
As you can see, I’ve applied sateen_black, one of the many cool themes that were introduced by Grazr recently. Of course you can pick your own theme from the list. Maybe you’ve also noticed that all my Grazr widgets are based on the 3-pane view and that I prefer to display the address bar, revealing the URL of the feed or OPML I am showing. Although these choices are all directly available from the Grazr wizard interface, they are not the default settings. If you like my new settings too, then please feel free to adopt them by dragging this URL to your bookmarks toolbar: default Grazr widget configuration settings.
Grabbing the Grazr code
Embedding the Grazr on your web page is now just a matter of grabbing the piece of HTML that the Grazr wizard generates, displayed in the box with the green background, and inserting that piece of code into your blog.
CleverClogs Grazr template
If this all seems a piece of cake to you, then feel free to have a preview of what’s up in my next post: download the template that I have been using myself to create more advanced RSS applications, such as the Power 150 Kitchensink for Todd And, the Yahoo! Pipes News Radar for MasterNewMedia.org and the Grazr News Radar for Grazr.com. The template is a plain text file, located here: CleverClogs Grazr Template. If you study this file closely, you’ll see that you could create your own application by substituting several parameters inside the file. A few weeks ago James Corbett told me he successfully created his Irish Twittersphere Search Engine based on my template.
Summary of the next tutorial
A few weeks ago GrazrScript was pretty much a mystery to me. It took me a whole week to build Todd’s Power 150 Grazr application. Using this fairly new template, I can now create a full-fledged Grazr application in about one hour, including the option to offer feeds based on custom keyword searches across all feeds in an OPML.
In the next tutorial I’ll tell you for which third-party RSS services you need to sign up, which parameters you could change and give you some insider’s tips to get you started fast.
As I just talked about this post to Mike Kowalchik, head developer with Grazr.com, he told me the stunning news that most likely today Grazr.com is going to release a new version of GrazrScript that allows the use of procedural code. Here’s the link to the official announcement: GrazrScript v1.2 Beta.
Needless to say I’m very excited to be able to squeeze this bit of news in, just before my own post goes live. Obviously I’ll need some time to figure it all out myself—not a programmer anymore—but I’ll definitely devote one of the posts in this new Grazr Tutorial series to it. I’m also sure several of my diehard programming friends will take the new Grazr to its extremes in the mean time. Here’s Tom Morris’ description of the GrazrScript potential: New Grazr Launch (March 19th, 2007).
And you, my readers, will you please let me know if indeed this first part of this post is correctly called a tutorial for beginners?
Some coverage in the blogosphere on GrazrScript:
“As far as I know OnePipe is the first solution to offer generic, on-the-fly feed filtering based on URL parameterization.”
OnePipe is a browser bookmarklet I created to filter any feed by topic. It’s simple to use: install the bookmarklet, navigate to any website whose feed you’d like to filter and click the OnePipe button. You’ll be prompted to enter any topic or word after which OnePipe will generate a custom feed that only contains those items that match your keywords. The exciting part about OnePipe is that it can be used over and over again.
Welcome, Lifehacker visitors. I’m very proud and grateful for Wendy Boswell’s announcement that OnePipe is now Download of the Day.
Before I explain the technical details let me illustrate OnePipe with a snapshot:
A typical use case: let’s assume I am visiting the FeedBurner blog Burning Questions. For the moment I’m really only interested in blog posts about their Headline Animator service. In fact, I would like to generate a feed based on just that custom keyword “Headline Animator“. With the OnePipe bookmarklet in place, I can just click the OnePipe button on my browser bookmarks toolbar, type in my topic. Next, a hyperlink pointing to the custom feed appears in a tiny rectangular pop-up in the top-left corner of the page. For convenience’s sake the hyperlinks that OnePipe produces automatically open the filtered feeds in a Grazr window.
Why the name OnePipe?
After processing the desired keyword, OnePipe calls upon the URL parameterization capabilities of Yahoo! Pipes to generate the feed. Look closely at the full URL processed by Grazr: there are really only a couple of parameters:
- a URL pointing to the Pipe I created (direct link: OnePipe : The CleverClogs Generic Feed Filter)
- the “_render=rss” suffix to force the output to RSS
- a query parameter
- the URL of the feed that is being filtered.
What this means is that you could substitute any feed, alter the query and parse those with one and the same Pipe—hence the name OnePipe. If you’re curious what OnePipe does behind the scenes, then please feel free to take a peek, then clone and tweak it. Here’s the link that takes you directly to the source of OnePipe : The CleverClogs Generic Feed Filter.
Grabbing your feed
OnePipe feeds are just feeds as any other. With the bookmarklet I offer an easy way to view feeds created with OnePipe. Of course you can use any other tool too: to subscribe to your newly created feed in
your feed reader, grab the entire URL off the Grazr address bar. Select the URL,
copy it to the clipboard and paste it into the dialog box that your feed
reader provides for new subscriptions. Let me know if you have any issues with this.
Where to take your feed
Apart from subscribing to a OnePipe feed in your feed reader, you could also consider the following possibilites. Start out by creating a filtered channel of highly relevant posts about a certain topic, about a person, or about an event.
- Receive a system tray alert or a sticky desktop message when a new feed item matches your filter, or display your channel as a running ticker on your system. To enable this, subscribe to your OnePipe feed in Touchstone.
- Have all Twitter posts from your “With Friends” page that mention @yourname, forwarded as SMS messages to your cell phone using Rasasa or ZapTXT. Just sign in to your account with any of these services, fill in the URL of your OnePipe feed and set your preferences.
- Receive the items in your OnePipe feed as instant-messaging notifications through your preferred IM system: for Skype there’s Anothr and, since fairly recent times, ZapTXT. For the other main IM systems, consider Rasasa (all systems) and Feed Crier (AIM and Jabber).
- Forward the items in your OnePipe feed to your email inbox, for example using FeedBlitz, R|Mail or Zookoda.
- Use your OnePipe feed as a building block to create a topic radar. To merge your OnePipe feed with other feeds, consider using newsmastering services such as mySyndicaat, Feed Digest and Feed Blendr.
- There are literally hundreds of RSS Tool Vendors—yes I track them myself. Excellent resources where RSS tools are discussed in depth are John Tropea’s Library clips, who’s not just thorough and smart, but always points to other relevant tools in the same category, and 3Spot’s incredibly comprehensive RSS Tools page.
As you may have noticed, OnePipe is capable of detecting all of the feeds offered on any web page you visit. You may know that the mechanism of recognizing feeds is usually referred to as feed auto-discovery. Most blog publishing services offer this capability automatically and you should be able to use the bookmarklet with most blogs and sites offering RSS feeds. The bookmarklet component of OnePipe is mostly an adaptation of the OPML Auto-Discovery bookmarklet that I published a couple of months ago.
The concept behind OnePipe
For me the exciting part about OnePipe is not so much the bookmarklet itself, but the generic feed filtering mechanism that I built for it using Yahoo! Pipes. Feed manipulation is an essential part of newsmastering, the techniques used to build feeds matching a particular topic, person or event. As far as I know OnePipe is the first solution to offer on-the-fly feed filtering based on URL parameterization. With other feed filtering services the source feed and sometimes the search query get obfuscated, hindering direct finetuning of the settings.
Room for improvement
These are some ideas I have to make OnePipe better:
- offer tag, category, author and title search capabilities (already in progress in Pipes)
- integrate with John Forsythe’s Feed Preview add-on for Firefox
- general debugging and fine-tuning
I’m very curious for your feedback on OnePipe. Moreover, if you’ve been able to successfully use OnePipe for a particular purpose, then please share your experience. David Tebbutt provided me with lots of useful input in this project. Thanks!
Mike Kowalchik understands this is a proof of concept and there maybe some wrinkles to iron out. Indeed, Mike. It seems Pipes only searches through excerpts of feed items, and not the full feed.
Mike Gotta calls OnePipe innovative on his blog and suggests you give it a try. Thanks Mike!
James Corbett (through IM) points out that OnePipe could be especially useful to filter the noise from one’s Twitter Friends’ stream. He requested a Yahoo! Pipe that lets you create a feed that lists items that do not match certain keywords. Ok, James, here’s the AllButPipe bookmarklet, and the link to the Pipe that fuels it: AllButPipe : The CleverClogs “Exclude This” Feed Filter
Seems I’ve got another fan down under! Better Communications blogger Lee Hopkins gives a fine example of how he might use OnePipe to track “Second Life” posts from Neville Hobson‘s blog. Lee is making a serious study of Second Life for his PhD, so I can fully imagine how OnePipe comes in handy there.
On his blog Knowledge Jolt with Jack, Jack Vinson calls OnePipe a “Cool Tool”.
I’m happy to see my German colleague and friend Siegfried Hirsch, who maintains a blog entirely focusing on RSS technology in German, also covered OnePipe. His story is here: OnePipe – Filtern von RSS-Feeds auf Knopfdruck
The story has been on TechMeme for a while now.
If you’d like to digg this post, then feel free to click this button:
And as usual, a Grazr to let you track mentions of OnePipe:
The FeedBurner View of the Feed Market report 2007 was released today, much to the delight of many industry analysts closely following the movements of RSS tool vendors. These analysts had been waiting for the report long enough: since the previous installment of the report, in November 2005, RSS marketing has become a much more serious business.
The illustrated report that FeedBurner made public today has a focus on web-based aggregators, which means that we can expect separate blog posts with FeedBurner’s take on the role of desktop readers, widgets and e-mail-based headline viewers. As a whole, FeedBurner is capable of differentiating over 3,000 different user agents.
Since its first Market Report for 2005 in the blog post Feed For Thought, FeedBurner’s various RSS services have gained tremendous popularity: according to information handed to me last week by Rick Klau, Vice-President of Publisher Services, FeedBurner currently handles these immense numbers:
- 340,000 feed publishers, who publish
- 600,000 feeds, resulting in
- 300 million feed requests every day
As explained in the FeedBurner report, these absolute numbers of subscriptions per se are not an ideal instrument to assess an individual aggregator’s market share, firstly because each of these vendors uses specific methods to report feed data. See the various kinds of metric that each vendor delivers in the table. Another issue is that the action of subscribing to a feed alone doesn’t guarantee that the feed items actually get read. Last week, when FeedBurner was finally able to incorporate realistic subscriber numbers for Google Reader and Google Personalized Homepage, the default feed sets included by many aggregators were the main cause that a lot of FeedBurner publishers reported subscriber increases much higher than the average of 59%.
Introducing "Audience Engagement"
A more realistic view of the web-aggregator market is obtained by embracing what FeedBurner calls Audience Engagement—"people reading feeds and people clicking on feeds". It turns out that from all clicks measured coming from web-based aggregators, those from My Yahoo!, Google and Bloglines represent 95% of the traffic.
A few bloggers have taken an in-depth, demographic-breakdown perspective on their FeedBurner pie charts this week:
- Google Reader | FeedBurner Stats Show Significant Market Share – Google Reader Now #1? by Andy Beard, 2007-02-17
- Google: World’s #1 Feed Reader by Jeremy Wright on Ensight, 2007-02-17
Read the conversations with each of these posts. One commenter named Franky writes: "… if Scoble links to you today you’ll see a huge shift in your feedburner
stats, because many Scoble subscribers will visit your blog from within
Google Reader, but only for today and the following days the number
will go down again."
Representatives from FeedBurner closely track mentions of their service and never seem to grow tired to explain their calculation methods. I’m sure there will be a very animated conversation on FeedBurner’s own blog too. Update: of course there is, particularly about the part i just quoted.
Here’s a live Grazr that lets you track the 100 most recent mentions of the FeedBurner Feed Market report:
Include the code snippet into your blog and you’ll see the familiar Digg icon, including the number of current Diggs, right next to the content on your page. Full customization details are available on the Digg Tools page. Before I found out about this Digg tool, I used Bitty browser to achieve almost the same result. Read on to learn how useful Bitty is when combined with anchored urls.
A couple of weeks ago my CNET rant was promoted on Digg for a couple of hours, mostly thanks to the impression I seem to have made on one particular digger named chrisek (have I thanked you enough?) It was really fun to see the counter go up each time I refreshed the page. One particular extension for Firefox by Jaap Haitsma, called Reload Every, which lets you set a refresh frequency for Firefox tabs, came in very handy in this situation. Still, keeping the news to myself didn’t seem the right thing to do, so I did some quick thinking.
It made sense to me to update my blog post and see if I could boost its popularity on Digg even more. I couldn’t find a suitable solution on the steadily growing TypePad Widget Gallery and I had explored the Digg Tools page for clues months ago already without much success, so I figured there was no way I could show the live Digg button unless I’d be prepared to migrate my entire blog just to be able to use the Digg plugin for WordPress.
I did some quick thinking and found a pretty acceptable solution by using "the browser in a browser" Bitty, displaying just the top-left part of the page:
I was reasonably satisfied with this outcome, but still wanted the image to be cleaner, smaller. Then I wrote to Scott Matthews, the Bitty developer, and asked if he could think of some way to have the Bitty scroll down the page, so that just only the Digg button would be visible inside the Bitty view port. Scott replied almost instantly: "Have you considered using one of the # anchor tags?"
I looked at the source of the Digg page for my blog post, discovered that there was an anchor id named "header-secondary", and added the id as an #anchor to the url used in the Bitty code. This was the result:
I promise I won’t overdo it with these Digg buttons. I’ll only display one if someone else diggs any of my posts.
The discovery about Bitty is quite cool I think, especially when you have control over the HTML source of the page that you are displaying, or when there are useful anchors available already.