Monthly Archives: August 2007

Surfing Socially

I just spent some time using Browzmi this morning. I learned about it randomly last night from an ad in facebook. Its not often that an advertisement points me to something cool. If you haven’t heard about it, it is sort of a browser within your browser. Which in itself is not all that amazing. But, they are starting to add some interesting features. You can tag, like, dislike, and comment about sites. You can also establish a network of friends and chat with them within Browzmi. So, it seems to be aspiring to be a replacement for Digg, del.icio.us, facebook, googletalk, etc. all rolled into one site. The user interface is pretty good. My most immediate wishes were for the ability to have more than one website open at once (something like tabbed browsing) and the ability to move the chat windows around or at least minimize them. Travis Parsons from the Browzmi team chatted with me which was cool. But the chat itself was obscuring my ability to scroll in the website that I was viewing! I might just be used to google talk, but it would be cool if browzmi chats could be saved. I think integration with other web services like del.icio.us would encourage people to start using browzmi. At least the ability to import/export tags. I’m looking forward to seeing how this thing scales up. Currently accounts are by invitation only. Let me know if you want an invitation.

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At least it won’t be too annoying

Starting tomorrow, YouTube will include advertising within videos. My initial reaction to this news was one of much dismay. I generally find advertising to be intolerable. I rarely watch tv largely because I hate to sit through commercials. Most tv shows would barely be worth sitting through without the commercials. Similarly, I generally get annoyed watching music videos on sites like Rhapsody because they show the same annoying commercials before every video. This is especially frustrating because I pay to use Rhapsody to listen to music.

However, as I read more about YouTube’s new plan my dismay was slightly reduced. The ads will not be short videos that play before the video that the user chooses to watch. They will be banner type ads that show up during the video. They will last for 15 seconds and only take up 20% of the video player. If YouTube feels like it must include advertisements within videos, I think this is so much better than “pre-roll” ads. It still kind of sucks though.

[By the way, I discovered this news through a tweet made by Jeremiah Owyang.]

Staying up to date without getting overwhelmed

My attitude about reading feeds tends to cycle. Occasionally, I go on a rampage and subscribe to a ton of feeds in Google Reader. Then for the next few days or weeks, I spend a lot of time trying to keep up with all of the feeds that I have subscribed to. Finally, I eventually start to feel overwhelmed and I stop following the feeds that I am subscribed to all together. This time around I have decided that I want to find some way to avoid through this cycle again. The realization that I came to today is that I subscribe to feeds for at least three reasons. Some feeds I subscribe to because I happen to read an article on a blog or website that was probably linked to from another blog and I feel like I would like to read an occasional article in the future. Other feeds I subscribe to to keep up with news that is important to me. These feeds include those from major news sites like the New York Times or my friends’ blogs. The third category of feed that I subscribe to are those from research journals and conferences that are related to my work (e.g. Nature, Science, Cell… biology related resources seem to be more organized online than those relating to machine learning/computer science ironically). These are, in some ways, the most important feeds to keep up with because maintaining an awareness of what researchers are working on in certain scientific fields is crucial to my work.

So, given this realization, I have just gone through all my feed subscriptions and given each of them one of three labels. One label is for feeds that I want to read occasionally when I have a few moments to spare. Placing feeds in this category will significantly reduce the stressfulness of keeping up with my feed subscriptions because I am effectively stating that I don’t care if I miss most of the articles that get posted to these feeds. The second label is for feeds that I want to try to keep up with so that I can stay current with news about my friends and the world. If I miss a post here and there it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I want to try not to miss too many. The third label is for feeds relating to my work that I want to really try to at least read the title of every post.

We will see how this scheme goes. How do you manage your feed subscriptions?

The Young Black Northerner vs. The Elderly Southerner

Early in Barack Obama‘s “The Audacity of Hope” Obama mentions an encounter that he had with Zell Miller. Despite the fact that they are both Democrats, the contrast between these two individuals is fascinating. As Obama puts it, “the elderly Southerner on his way out, the young black Northerner on his way in.” However, one might not think to even compare these two individuals had they not adopted opposing roles during the 2004 presidential election. Barack Obama and Zell Miller had been the keynote speakers at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, respectively. I had not been aware of this at the time, but now it seems to me that that was a momentous situation (not to mention a very pertinent situation to examine given the current build-up to the 2008 presidential election). Watch the videos of the speeches (Zell Miller wrote that Obama’s speech was one of the best he’d ever heard) and read some of my thoughts after the jump.

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Google Reader Offline Great For Long Flights

I’m sitting on a plane right now. So, unfortunately I’m not able to type this post directly into my wordpress blog. This fact brings to mind a couple thoughts. One thought, which I have every time I fly, is that flying would be so much more enjoyable if I had internet access. I’ve thought for a while that this technology must not be too far off. I’ve been flying JetBlue a lot for the past year and if everyone on the plane can have their own satellite TV, giving everyone internet access must be pretty doable (although certainly there would be a few extra details to take care of). And… lo and behold, I just read and Engadget post about Lufthansa’s plans to provide in-flight broadband by 2008.

At this point, you might have a couple questions for me. What was your second thought? And, wait a minute, how did you just read an Engadget post while on a plane? I’m glad you asked! Just before taking this trip I noticed that Google Reader added an ‘offline’ feature. Given that I had just gotten back into reading blogs and a six hour plane flight is a great time to slog through some feeds, today was a perfect opportunity to try this new feature out.

I’m pretty fascinated by the idea of taking web applications offline and I’m happy to see Google experimenting with this idea. I’m not sure exactly when Google released this feature. It must have been fairly recently because I just watched a video in which Robert Scoble complained about the fact that he wasn’t able to use Google Reader offline. I wonder if the timing of Google Reader’s offline feature was purely a coincidence, or if Scoble’s remark had something to do with it. Scoble is definitely a Google Reader power user.

I’m looking forward to being able to use more and more web applications while in the air, however that becomes possible.