BarCamp Sydney #4 – Saturday, 15 November 2008

The (un)organisers of BarCamp Sydney have let me know that they are preparing for yet another festival of creativity to engage and excite the Australian tech and innovation community. Details below.

Date: 15 November 2008

Venue: UNSW Roundhouse

Time: 9:00AM-5:00PMpm (registration starts at 8:30AM)

Register: Do it yourself on the wiki

If you’ve never been to a BarCamp before, I highly recommend it. Make some time in your schedule. For those that have been before, I needn’t remind you how great BarCamp is. Take a look at my tag list below to see just how much of your life this might touch.

Hopefully, I’ll see you there. I’m not sure how my timetable is yet.

socialmedian focussed news (and another Web 2.0 good guy)

Here’s another good news tale of a social application that reached out to me to see if I would be interested in taking a look at their offering. that service is socialmedian. Their CEO, Jason Goldberg, reached out and asked if I could take a deeper look at the site as I had tweeted that I was struggling to get value. He offered to help, and we’ve been chatting since.

sm-logo-home-1.gifsocialmedian are a very new (they fully admit to being in alpha and are very feature incomplete) social news gathering service that aims to provide you with targeted news based on broad (or potentially very focussed) subject matter groups you create yourself or join after others have defined them. For example, I created the eGovernment and Government 2.0 group and have joined others including Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and Experience Design.

The service provides suggestions for news sources for your groups, allows you to add your own and provides a browser bookmarklet you can use to push stories to a particular group.

It’s early days yet, but it seems to be working pretty well as far as the core, news gathering functionality works. I’m hoping to work with Jason and the rest of the socialmedian crew on building out the social aspects of the site, as the way socialmedian works is ripe for rich sociality. In fact, socialmedian actively invite feature requests and seek to push new code live a few times a week. It’s very much development in the open.

Jason has given me a bunch of special invite codes that you can use to join socialmedian in you’re interested. Comment here to ask for one.

EDIT: Actually, let’s make it easy… Go to http://www.socialmedian.com/signup. Use the invite code acidlabs.

Have fun. Play. Give them feedback. Let me know how you go.

There are 50 instances of the code, so if you’re #51, sorry.

No ABC Playback for you!

EDIT – apparently not happening for everyone. But I do have confirmation it’s not just me.

ABC Online - Broken Playback Link

The Australian national broadcaster, ABC, has announced its new Playback service, which will be “Australia‚Äôs first internet TV service with full screen quality pictures [which] will launch following a beta test period.”

After the announcement, there was a fair biit of media coverage, and rightly so – it’s a mjaor announcement and something the ABC is doing well ahead of the commercial broadcasters. It’s high profile stuff, and there’s a link on the ABC home page to allow interested people, like me, to sign up tfor the beta.

Trouble is, it’s dead in the water as far as I can tell. The link has never worked, and despite emailing the ABC to let them know it’s broken, there’s been no response. Here’s what I get when I click the link:

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Page Not Found

ABC=teh FAIL.

I’m disappointed in Marc Andreessen

As someone who lauded Marc Andreessen’s decision to start blogging, I’ve got to follow up his decision to block comments with an expression of my disappointment. Marc, your decision sucks.

You didn’t think that someone as high profile as you wasn’t going to get a lot of traffic and a lot of comments?

Even if some of it is execrable pap, as a blogger you have a responsibility to let it through and to keep comments enabled – so long as they’re not not defamatory or plain offensive. Have a comment policy, for heaven’s sake! Only allow registered or previously approved commenters to get through without being filtered by you (which is my approach).

Marc, you need to grow some cojones on this issue and turn it all back on. If you want to blog, take responsibility for everything that comes with it.

Picking the Twitter/Pownce sweet spot

UPDATE: A few more thoughts added in.

I’ll have a more comprehensive functionality review up on Web Worker Daily in the next day or so, but I wanted to get some thoughts into the mix over the obvious Twitter vs. Pownce comparisons.

Over at I, Platform, Eric Rice looks to have decided that it’s a Twitter-killer, especially given Twitter’s sluggish release cycle and recent stability issues. So has Stan Schroeder at FranticIndusties.

I’m not convinced. Sure, Pownce offers some additional features over Twitter, but it feels underdone to me – almost as if the Megatechtronium folks decided that it was feature-complete enough to release into the wild and did so. Fair call – it’s a good app and ready for public testing from what I can see. Release early-release often, I say!

It also feels a little crowded with functionality to me, as if the team couldn’t say no to the ideas they came up with. Maybe they should have (re)read Getting Real before they started.

That said, there are some key features missing – in particular an open API and feeds are critical for Web 2.0 apps these days and they’re noticeably absent in Pownce.

As for the ads, so far they’re small and unobtrusive (I’ve only seen one, for Zooomr. I didn’t click.). I just don’t see people going for the Pro model, so there’s no ticket-clip happening there. Unless the ads are super compelling (is that possible?). I just don’t see the need to pay $20 to avoid ads. Also, I’m not going to send files to people via an IM/web tool, 100Mb capacity or not. It’s too slow.

A more “let’s be friends” view is offered by Pixelspread. At the moment, I’m more in this camp. I’m deeply invested personally in terms of contacts at Twitter and don’t relish the rebuilding I’d need to do if I jumped ship.

Also, Twitter has been a world more stable (at least for me) the past couple of weeks. I haven’t noticed any significant dead spots. YMMV.

If there was no Twitter, Pownce would be a compelling choice. But Twitter is there, and it has established a place in the market.

Ultimately, I really don’t see a need to choose between the two. Twitter is about those quick messages and Pownce seems targeted a little higher – somewhere between Twitter and lifestream blogging. There’s almost certainly a useful sweet spot there. I plan to persist with both and see where my travels take me. At the moment, I’m actually inclined to stick with Twitter for most of the sort of messaging both Pownce and Twitter do.

What are your thoughts? Twitter or Pownce? And is there as sweet spot in your social computing where both are useful?

Marc Andreessen on OS X, Web 2.0 (or not) and productivity

Not before time, Marc Andreessen has joined the blogging world. If there’s a guy who understands the Web and it’s interconnectedness with pretty much everything, it’s Marc. In his first few posts, he’s tossed up a couple of straw men, discussed his favorite OS X apps and thoroughly messed with the heads of the personal productivity set.

I’m particularly buzzed by both the productivity post (that I will be discussing on WWD in the next few days) and the “there is no Web 2.0” piece. Check them all out.

Nice one, Plazes

Plazes logoLocation/identity Web 2.0 startup Plazes relaunched their service this week with new interface and several new features. It’s looking really good and has lots of promise. I see mashup opportunities with services like Upcoming and Dopplr that have related location-based services.

There have been hiccups, however, not least of which was a buggy and essentially unusable OS X version of the Plazer, their desktop tool for communication with the site.

In a act of radical transparency and awesome awareness of keeping the customer base happy, Plazes have posted an unqualified apology on their blog:

It seems that a lot of people have issues with the new Mac Plazer. It looks like there was a really nasty bug that was hard to catch for us beforehand. Either way, there is no excuse for deploying this to the existing install base of all you Mac users out there.

Nice one, Plazes. Way to differentiate. I hope you get more users because of this.

23 – not a lonely number when it comes to social computing

One is the loneliest number. But one isn’t the number for social computing, 23 is!

My friend Matthew posted this morning about 23 Things. It’s a program being run by the California School Library Association to, in their own words:

…encourage all of us to experiment and learn about the new and emerging technologies that are reshaping the context of information on the Internet today. The CSLA 2.0 Team modified The Learning 2.0 program designed by Helene Blowers, Technology Director, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County and is loosely based upon Stephen Abram’s article, 43 Things I (or You) might want to do this year (Information Outlook – February 2006) and the website 43 Things. We also drew heavily from the jslibrarylearning2 program.

This strikes me as an excellent way to get people involved in using and adopting social computing practices in their work and “real” lives. I think I’ll introduce it to my current main client, The Department of Immigration and Citizenship. So, here’s to starting a meme – 23 Things and how I do it.

Lifelong learning – I barely have time to read and watch all the things I collect to build my knowledge. RSS feeds, books by the dozen, podcasts. My brain is full to overflowing!

Blogging – I blog here, and here, and here. It’s a great way to get your overcrowded brain less full of the things you can’t track. And it’s easy, just drop over to WordPress and sign up. ‘Nuf said!

Photos and Images – take a look at my Flickr photos, then start exploring. There is some amazing work here.

Using RSS – why go to all those sites every day when you can have the information from them aggregated in a single place? Google Reader is free, so sign up, and look for that little orange icon on every site you visit. Click and subscribe to the feed. No more wasting time! Don’t understand what I’m talking about? Look at this.

Play – If only I had the time to play more! The social computing world is so full of interesting things to explore, that there’s barely time. Take a look at some of the awesome mashups on ProgrammableWeb. There’s a start.

Tagging, Folksonomies & Technorati – Data wants to be free, and it wants you to define it your way. And to share those definitions – your tags. Join del.icio.us or ma.gnolia and start bookmarking and tagging. Let your friends know what you’re up to and that they should do the same. Here are my bookmarks at del.icio.us and ma.gnolia.

Wikis – I don’t contribute to Wikipedia as much as others, but I have been involved in a few efforts to get wikis up and running, and I use TiddlyWiki as a personal notebook of sorts.

Online Applications & Tools – Let’s see… Google, Upcoming, Dopplr, Tangler… plus many more.

Podcasts, Video & Downloadable Audio – I regularly consume about a dozen video or audio ‘casts. You can find thousands at the iTunes Store. There’s sure to be one that’s up your alley.

One thing to remember with all of this is that social computing is ultimately about people. People’s opinions of things. People’s likes and dislikes. And most of all, social computing allows us to connect and reconnect with people in a world where we are increasingly busy.

Interview: Tangler CEO, Martin Wells

I interviewed Tangler CEO, Martin Wells, for an upcoming post at Web Worker Daily (should be up some time in the next day or so). Martin had a lot of interesting things to say, so here’s the complete interview for your reading pleasure.

Martin’s a great guy. Very passionate about his product and his team, and it shows. The Tangler crew are working very hard to make the product different. Check it out.

On to the interview.

I’m speaking with Martin Wells, CEO of new Web 2.0 collaboration startup Tangler. Martin, Hi. Welcome to acidlabs!

Hey Steve. Thanks for the opportunity.

So, let’s get started. What was your motivation behind Tangler?

Tangler really started from the frustration of using web forums; we wanted to make it easier for people to engage in discussion about the things they care about. Forums are very accessible, but they tended to be clunky and hard to use. They also became silos that limited discussion to a single place. We wanted to set group discussion free – if it loves you it will come back! – by making it independent and ubiquitous. Talk about what you want, wherever you want.

How is Tangler different to other forum and real-time collaboration tools such as Google Groups, Skype and forums in various places?

From a feature standpoint Tangler blurs the lines between what you might think of as traditional instant messaging, chat, mailing lists and forums. We’re web-based and topically structured like a forum, but interaction is real-time, like instant messaging. We also support desktop notification, so you don’t need to stay in the browser to be part of the conversation. The result is just better web-based communication amongst groups of people.

Tangler is also a social system, so users can add each other as friends and keep track of what they’re talking about.

Tell us about some of the unique features of Tangler and how they work.

The mix of persistent, real-time, structured discussion is somewhat unique; though there have been plenty of attempts at innovating on persistent discussion already.

The real value though sits in Tangler’s approach to creating a network of discussion, accessible from everywhere – such as being embedded inside a website or blog. We want people to talk about things where they are, rather than where the discussion system happens to be. And we do that whilst still offering the power of a centralised discussion system through groups, tracking and a social structure. We’d like to call it “discussion 2.0”, but I think we’d have to take the e out of our name to really pull that off.

Who do you see being the target audience for Tangler, and why?

Tangler is a broad tool, and it’s open to anybody right now. If you have a group of people who you think would benefit from using a web-based discussion tool then jump in and create a group. You can also just browse around the existing network, there’s about 400 public groups to choose from so far.

One of our early focuses though is in helping other Web 2.0 companies use Tangler as a feedback system. Companies like Omnidrive, Particls and Cluztr have found it to be a powerful way of building a community around their products. They get a great tool for gathering feedback and interacting with their users, as well as the added benefit of an existing audience already testing other products. So far about 30 companies are using the system, with more joining each day.

Can you give us a sneak peek at some of the new features planned for Tangler?

We’re still in beta, so there’s lots to do. The big ones would be RSS, an open API and tagging. Support for embedding real-time discussion inside other web sites is also coming soon.

Martin, thanks for your time. Good luck to you and the Tangler Team!

If you’re interested in more coverage of Tangler, you should also check out Allen Stern’s video review at CenterNetworks.