Sam Davyson

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Web 2.0 Buttons

23/02/06 - 21.01

Web 2.0 start ups all seem to have one thing in common design-wise. They all use non-pressable buttons. These are images that you can click to death but never push in. There are a few places that you can still pick up HTML buttons or other custom buttons that do react to being pushed, but the services that I use seem to be dominated by this button flatness.

(Clockwise from bottom: cocomment, riya, mabber, ma.gnolia, ma.gnolia).

February 23rd, 2006 - 9.01 PM | No Comments »

Riddles

16/02/06 - 12.28

Mysteriously addictive. This is one of many web riddles. Enjoy.

Track my progress on ma.gnolia, at the time of writing Level 8 is bugging me. Live updates in the sidebar of course.

February 16th, 2006 - 12.28 PM | 1 Comment »

coComment

14/02/06 - 20.43

coComment is another organisational tool. This one helps to organise your comments on blogs. When you think about it this is a space where some more organisation would really come in. At the moment there is no way (other than some seriously manic bookmarking) to keep track of your comments on other peoples blogs. You have to manually remember where you have left some words and check back for other peoples thoughts. coComment changes this. It provides a monitoring system for your comments across the web.

It works via a Bookmarklet system like everything else. You need to drag a button to your bookmarks toolbar in Firefox (or Links toolbar in IE, or anywhere in Opera). As you may be aware I don’t normally have the bookmarks toolbar showing and I prefer to bookmark the link and set a keyword (in this case “c”) which I can use for the bookmarklet. However when trying out this service I thought I better give the bookmarks toolbar a go as the bookmarklet is a pretty important part of the service. The idea is that you hit the button just before you submit a comment to a blog. Then you get something that looks like the screenshot.

Comment SubmissionThe key thing in the screenshot is that little box at the bottom. To let you know that the submission of your comment to coComment has been successful you get a little box appearing on the screen with your screenname in it (sgd) and a tick. Then you can send the comment to the original blog site by pressing the standard “Submit Comment” button. That is it. Now you can log on to coComment.com at any time in the future and find a record of that comment. On coComment you get a link back to the blog and you can see your comment,you can also see subsequent comments. But they only show up if the person making the comment used coComment at the time. Which should soon be everyone anyway.

Another word of warning is that it doesn’t work with every blog. They are increasing the number of types that it works with every day, and it now works with all mainstream blogging programs but not some of the more obscure ones. It doesn’t for instance work with Google Blogoscoped (my review). This is what I saw when I tried. But the end result is the comment didn’t make coComment.com. coComment does however work with Flickr. Which is just great. During the writing of this review I have already had someone reply to one of my comments on a popular blog. It really is a great way to keep track of things. Certainly a favourite.

Update // I have added my comments feed to the sidebar of the blog. It only shows up on the front page so not to make some of the post pages too long. It shows my comments and comments related to me.

February 14th, 2006 - 8.43 PM | No Comments »

3bubbles: Chat On Your Blog

14/02/06 - 09.31

3Bubbles Chat

A chat window! Looks a lot like what I used to see on the gaming websites in the chat channels. Except of course this is the obligatory AJAX. Not a Java Plugin or anything. Pure JavaScript. This is the product of the new startup 3bubbles who are bringing chat to the blogosphere. For many people, unfortunately, the next question is why? Why would you want instant chat on a blog? What is wrong with the system of comments? Why do you want to keep people from different timezones seperate? Lots of hard questions. But using 3bubbles yesterday on the 3bubbles blog we were able to ask them. And get answers. I think the fact that this app was useful shows that it certainly does carry some potential even if at this stage it is not immediately clear what that potential is.

I mean blogs are popular things. This company is suggesting that placing a chat service at the bottom of posts will allow the creation of a dialogue, a two way conversation, between bloggers and readers. And I suppose they are right. Leaving comments on your own posts is not really ideal if you want to respond to comments made to your post. A chat interface might work better. But, blogs are popular, they are not however popular enough to support live chat. Most aren’t anyway. Certainly not for each post. So 3bubbles is available generally for a whole blog. Although I still doubt more than a few blogs will have enough readers to keep it going.

Much of the reaction in the blogosphere seems to be on this note. Zoli Erdos collects together some headlines, which sum up the story. People seem to just be thinking that this is one step too far. And although the technology is cool and the chat is reasonably smooth. Not quite as smooth as Gmail Chat, but it does support significantly more users at once. On Mashable, Pete Cashmore points out that a lack of permalink structure makes chat much less useful that blog comments. How is this whole thing going to be archived? Is it going to be archived? I don’t think I have heard the official word on this yet. From the conversation on the 3bubbles blog I think that the blog owner will certainly get a full transcript but whether this is published automatically to the web to become searchable is another thing.

As for making money, well the screenshot you see at the top of this post is missing the money making feature. It is going to be ad supported, and they will somehow (in a currently undecided way) be built into the interface. Overally I reckon that 3bubbles does have a future. On the busiest blogs it will prove useful for quick discussions especially when discussing some new hype. But in general I think comments still rule the feedback on blogs zone. And especially with the possibility of this tool… Review Soon.

February 14th, 2006 - 9.31 AM | 2 Comments »

Gmail Chat

14/02/06 - 07.57

Gmail's Chat LogoI have written before about the Webmail Wars. If you have followed the story so far you’ll know that like a lot of people I am an ex-Hotmail user, and now that I use Gmail for all my emails. Back in September when there was a lot of buzz about the new services to compete with Gmail I asked:

Perhaps the more interesting question is: What will Gmail do? And possibly most importantly when?

And I’d say that with the release of Gmail Chat, we sort of have an answer. Gmail are going to continue to improve the service that they offer. Put simply Gmail Chat is a web based IM system built on AJAX technology (i.e. built to be smooth) and integrated with the Jabber Network, and of course the Google Talk client. It means that if I want to email someone who is at that time checking their Gmail account or is connected to the Jabber Network then we can talk via instant messenger. There is no download required. And it only offers very limited functionality when compared with a desktop client, or quite a bit of functionality when compared with any other current web based messenger.

Gmail ChatTo accomodate it into the Gmail interface was obviously a tricky task. But I think that it has been done quite well. They added a “Quick Contacts” box down the side of every screen which acts as your control panel for chatting. You can choose whether people appear in this box using controls in the main Contacts list. And depending on their privacy settings you may need to “Invite them to Chat” before you can get talking. When invited you get a little box within your Quick Contacts box to ask you whether you want who ever has invited you to be able to seen when you are online. You can set some privacy defaults in the Chat tab of the Settings screen. You can see in this screenshot that you can change your status to something custom, you can appear busy, or you can sign out of Chat altogether even if you want to keep checking you emails.

There is also an option to view Gmail without chat, which I think is an important thing to consider, this feature does run the risk of feeling gimmicky and not for everyone. So what is the chat actually like itself? Well firstly big points for the Gmail team by not making the interface (by default anyway) a load of pop ups. Instead the chat window becomes anchored to the bottom of the browser window. This means that it displays over your Inbox, Trash, Spam (or whatever you are looking at). This helps to give a real desktop feel, and the windows are collapsable to the base of the window. They initially appear blue but they flash bright orange as an alert when someone sends you a message (and you don’t have your cursor in the reply box). This sending of a message also triggers their name to flash orange in Quick Contacts. Again a desktop feel. The chat windows line up from right to left. And I have managed to get a maximum at any one time of four. I am not sure if more is possible, it is hard enough to get four people online ready to chat! Read the rest of this entry »

February 14th, 2006 - 7.57 AM | No Comments »

Ma.gnolia

13/02/06 - 15.32

Ma.gnolia LogoMa.gnolia is the new bookmarking service that promises to make bookmarking more social, more fun. Their tagline is “Found is the New Search”. Bold hey? Certainly sounds so. But it is just bookmarking right? Like the del.icio.us we all know and use. So what is Ma.gnolia’s big pull? Well apart from the cooler interface than del.icio.us, on the social side of things, Ma.gnolia seems much better equipped. It has groups of people sharing bookmarks. It has personal profiles. And it has everything syndicated onto your land page when you sign in. Neat.

First things first though. You’ve got 6582 bookmarks (yeah, you’re a heavy surfer) saved and tagged up in del.icio.us. That is a hell of a load of bookmarks. Far too many to even think about manually moving them across. Here Ma.gnolia works well. There is an import function. And it allows you to upload all of your bookmarks from a xml file that you can pull from del.icio.us (or various other services). Once they are uploaded Ma.gnolia gets them processed so you don’t lose any of your tags, comments or links. Great. It even offers you a little box to put in a tag that you would like to apply to all of your imported bookmarks. Like “imported” or “frombefore”. I am not really 100% sure why you would want to do this, but I did it anyway. As you might imagine it is now my far the biggest tag in my collection.

Now I have got my bookmarks in I see that there is a link to edit my profile. Here I can enter personal detais for public show, choose an avatar (or upload one) and update my email receiving settings. Now a navigate over to my bookmarks again. Using the tabs (actually text links, but they serve as tabs) along the top of the interface. This gives me the page with bookmarks from me, from my contacts, and from my groups. This is largely identical to what Flickr does with photos on your main page. I can focus onto just my bookmarks by clicking “View All”. To the right is still some syndicated content along with a box to search through my bookmarks with and another box to allow me to add to my bookmarks. In the list of bookmarks itself there are more differences from del.icio.us. There are icons under each of the titles for the bookmarks to allow you to quickly do a few things. You can make a bookmark private (or not), send it to someone, or send it to a group. There is also a set of stars to allow for an instant rating out of 5 to be given. This is neat and useful. Rather like the stars in Gmail, but this obviously allows for more detail in your dishing out of importance.

Ma.gnolia // Bookmarks

[ View this screenshot in large. ] Read the rest of this entry »

February 13th, 2006 - 3.32 PM | 2 Comments »

Top Games Online

13/02/06 - 08.12

Yeti from YetiSports.org

Need I say more! The best site for neat, well-made games with a lovable character involved in each game is YetiSports.org. Hands down. Every time. I thought it on March 22nd 2005, and I thought it in a review in late August 2005. It is simply the best. My favourite game is the 8th in the series, “The World Tour”. It is called Jungle Swing and has the yeti swinging from the trees in attempt to reach the top of the jungle canopy. Where are the penguins in this adventure? Only hours of practice will answer that.

Apart from YetiSports there is the classic Slime Games which (when complemented with YetiSports) show quite clearly that good design is simply not required for ejoyable gameplay. Slime Games are proud of their crude nature. And great fun. Although now their are loads of variations (almost 100 I think), the classic game is One Slime with its 5 levels for 1 player against computer controlled Slimes. I simplu can’t make it past level 4.

On a completely different note. A very different style of game is Fastr. As the name might give away this is a Flickr game. In it you are asked to guess the common tag for a series of photos pulled from Flickr against other people online (and the clock). It is quite fun until the same tags keep coming round. New rounds of the game run every five minutes.

February 13th, 2006 - 8.12 AM | No Comments »

Internet Explorer 7

13/02/06 - 07.40

As everyone knows a preview was released of Internet Explorer Beta 2 a few weeks ago. Since then every man and his dog has been writing what they think. Mostly on blogs, but also in news articles, forums, people talked about what they thought. About the wacky new layout. About the final, overdue introduction of tabs. Most people soon hit on the real question though.

Anyway, in a slightly different approach instead of blogging about it. I make a Flickr Photoset about it. It includes the screenshots from my one session with Internet Explorer 7, and my thoughts in each case. See the set page.

February 13th, 2006 - 7.40 AM | 1 Comment »

Finishing Touches

12/02/06 - 15.11

Blog HeaderRight. I moved to this brand new blogging format only just a little earlier this week. I have implemented a few themes, and I have now found one that has stuck. I have tried out a few plugins. And now I have a few implemented that work well. I have imported a lot of posts from Blogger. And I have modernised some of these to suit the new software. To make the display nicely. To make them part of the categories. To tag them up. I havent done all the posts. But I have done a fair few of them. And the first few pages of the blog now look very nice.

Now all that the blog is waiting for is more posts, and those are coming up.

February 12th, 2006 - 3.11 PM | No Comments »

Tags & Categories

12/02/06 - 13.14

At the moment I have tags silently working in the background of the blog to help to get my posts aggregated on Technorati, and similar services. You can view the tag page for any tag that you think I’d have by simply adding ?tag=tagword to the end of the URL. For instance here are all my posts about Firefox. For multiple tags just add a plus sign. So here are all my posts about firefox and ie. But tagging is done manually by me. You can still find posts that I havent tagged up properly using the search function.
I used to have tags more prominently on the site. This is what the old page used to read:

Over organisation. What a concept.

You would have thought with two different classification systems this blog might come close. And I suppose it does come close. So why are there two systems? How do they work?

Firstly the tags are keywords that I label each post with when I write it. I use quite a few per post. And I don’t think twice about making as new tag that I will probably never reuse. I just make them on the fly. So there are loads of them. The main interface for the tags is the cloud shown in the sidebar. Its main use is for me to see at a glance what most of my blog is about. As you can see it does this well. The tags come via an external plugin.
Categories however are more carefully thought out. I don’t normally make new ones. They all represent strands of the content that I produce for this blog. They are listed in a column in the side bar. And they are also listed at the top of each post with the text “Filed Under”. The categories are built into WordPress.

I would say, two systems and still disorganised.

My, you must be bored if you are reading right down to here.

February 12th, 2006 - 1.14 PM | No Comments »