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All aTwitter about Wave: Ten Disruptive New Web Services
Technology is continually developing and is being used in creative new ways to make our research easier, more reliable, and more easily shared. As genealogists, we need to be aware of technologies which may impact our research in the future, and we need to help develop the application of these technologies responsibly and in compliance with research standards and good research practices. Here are ten new services which may change the way we do research or the way we record or share our research results.
QR or Quick Response Codes The icon/code shown here at left takes you to the mobile version of Wikipedia (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki). Shown below is a giant QR code. When one points their cell phone to the giant overhead code, the phone calls up the web site which is embedded in the code. The QR codes contains more information than a simple 2D barcode and can be read by a cell phone.
So, how would this apply to family history? The answer is yet to be created, but there is potential. How about a QR code on a headstone which calls up a website about the person buried there? How about a QR code in a society’s newsletter which takes one to the society web page? Why not a QR code in a book which takes you to a page with more information on that ancestor? How about a QR code in a source citation which takes you to the source?
Cloud Computing is well established and growing in both acceptance and use. What makes it worthy of note here is the need for users to understand the concept and begin to adjust to the change that results from its adoption. The basic concept is that both hardware and software exist on the Internet rather than on a specific computer. The advantage to the user is not having to install or purchase a specific software because it runs on the web. Also, the data one is working on can be stored on the web, allowing for collaboration.
Image by Sam Johnston using Omingroup Omnigraffle and inkscape (includes computer.svg by Sasa Stefanovic)
This will come to be more and more common. It can change how we do things. Computers will be different. The cost of hardware and software will change. Operating Systems may be able to be in the cloud (Google Chrome OS is a cloud Operating System). In the past, users have worked on their data on their local computer. The smart ones have also made backups on the web, thus having an extra preservation copy.
What does the future hold? I envision a world where the working data is on the Internet, and a backup of the data is stored on a local device, such as an external hard drive.
I picked this application to represent the trend to anywhere, anytime access to your PC. ReMobo runs on any computer (PC, MAC, Windows, Linux…) and allows any two internet computers to become a network. This is like VPN (Virtual Private Network), but without the high overhead, installation, and other complications of VPN. Essentially, you can go to a library or other place where you can connect to the Internet and then contact your home computer (if it’s on and connected to the Internet). You can access your files on your PC and even run programs which are on your PC but NOT on the computer where you are at.
The promise of this service is that you can run any program you have on your home computer on any computer, anywhere. The leads to our thinking about things differently, and behaving differently—which is why it’s a disruptive service. Check it out at www.remobo.com.
Google Chrome & Chromium OS
Google Chrome is a computer operating system (like Windows or Linux). Chrome is the version owned by Google and Chromium is the public version sponsored by Google, but open source. The disruptive part is that it is an operating system which run “in the cloud” rather than on your computer. Your computer only needs to connect to the Internet, and then the programs run on the servers that support the Internet rather than on your computer (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Chrome_OS).
The promise of Chrome is that computers will require less memory, will run faster, will boot up almost instantaneously, and will not require you to have software. All the software will be resident on the Internet. The challenge is that software is not always free. How does a developer make money from software that runs on the Internet? The options are by
- relying on donations from satisfied users, or
- charging to access the application (program) on the Internet, or
- getting revenue from advertisers who place ads in the margin of the application.
At present, Google Chrome is a web browser. Plans are to develop the underlying operating system, but the first release will only have media players, thus limiting its use. Nonetheless, it is the leading edge of a likely future shift from software on a computer to software in the cloud.
Google Wave is a new Internet communications platform which combines conversation and documents into one tool, Wikipedia describes it as a personal communication and collaboration tool. It is a web-based service, computing platform, and communications protocol designed to merge e-mail, instant messaging, wikis, and social networking. It has a strong collaborative and real-time focus supported by extensions that can provide, for example, spelling/grammar checking and automated translation between 40 languages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_wave).
The basic idea is to make the same content available across all formats—and update in all formats and tools when revised in any. Google Wave allows collaborative editing. Instead of saving a document and letting people edit it one at a time, everyone looks at the same “document” at the same time and can edit collaboratively at the same time. Picture a meeting (physical or virtual). The group decides to make a list of some sort. As one person adds item 1, another is adding item 2, and a third is editing what the first person wrote on item 1 even before they come to the end of the sentence. Sounds a bit chaotic, but it has potential to facilitate virtual meetings as well as significantly shorten the time for collaborative authoring and editing.
Wave can combine blogs, emails, web pages, forum posts, and other communications into one “wave.” If the author of the original content (e-mail, blog, forum post, webpage) fixes a link or adds something to the original content, or someone leaves a comment, the wave is automatically changed at the same time. If someone leaves a comment on the wave, it is added to the e-mail, web page, or blog--even in the original senders “outbox.” It no longer matters what form or format the original communication was--content is what matters and is preserved.
It opens news ways to aggregate – you can automatically gather tweets on a subject into a wave (they called it a twave). Google wants developers to think of Wave as a possible enhancement to an existing workflow within an enterprise. The example used was a bug tracker used by software developers to identify and assign bugs. Bugs could be organized in waves; participants post the new bug to a global wave, then the team leader can assign bug tasks to individual team members within the wave, and developers can comment on their proposed task solution or fix for a particular bug as they are tackled and cleared, all in the same wave.
Catch the Wave by signing up for a free account at http://wave.google.com.
Google Buzz is the expansion of Google Wave into the Social network space with an email interface. It is a public threaded conversation stream. This format has significant advantages over Twitter’s disjointed @reply conversations and hashtag-based threads, as well as Facebook’s often high privacy walls.
Essentially, Buzz uses a blend of web 2.0 functionality with a 1.0 system. It blends workforce conversations between younger and older generations as well as techies with the technologically challenged. Crossing the streams may enable better communications. Twitter updates, blog posts, and other related content that have an RSS feed can be connected to individual Buzz accounts. It can be used to gather group comments and reach a consensus of interest or opinion. It has the potential to make an email interface into a mini crowdsourcing tool.
Sign up for and start using Google Buzz at http://buzz.google.com.
New Twitter Applications
Twitter is transitioning from primarily social interaction to information sharing. But others contend that it isn’t transforming, just increasing its reach by adding information sharing without losing social interaction. Twitter continues to be a global darling, receiving constant media attention. Is it any wonder that new Twitter applications keep coming? Here’s a few of the latest:
- TweetPrivate – send your tweets, but they are held as private. Later you can mark them for public release or store them as your personal diary. www.tweetprivate.com.
- Packrati.us – Integrates Twitter with delicious. Anytime you tweet a URL, it adds it to Delicious and adds your hashtags as delicious tags for your shared bookmarks. http://www.packrati.us.
- Twit2Tel – this application gives you a free voice mail account based on your Twitter account, then allows you to place a phone call any Twitter user without even knowing their phone number. It works for free phone calls to Twitter users in over 200 countries. www.twit2tel.com.
- Twittamentary – Film documentary about Twitter. See www.twittamentary.com.
Still don’t get Twitter? Check out http://www.twittamentary.com/stories/crowd-sourcing-ideas-twitterville-book-shelisrael.
This is a Google application which represents a number of services which allow for collaborative editing of documents. Google Docs is not a new service, but continues to improve. The basic idea of Google Docs and other competing services is that people all around the world can work on the same file together. The beauty of Google Docs is that many people can be editing the same document at the same time. I’ve used this in my work, and found it to lead to quicker, better project results. However, I have often wished that Google spreadsheets had the same capabilities as Excel. There are things that are just a lot harder to do in Google spreadsheets, and a few things that you can’t do at all, such as create linked sheets within a workbook. OffiSync expands the capabilities of Google Docs by allowing users to access the documents stored on Google Docs using Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Excel. This gives full capabilities of the more robust office suite. There are still bugs to work out, but the ability to use your choice of word processor, spreadsheet software, and presentation software will make online collaboration even more successful. I predict that once the bugs are worked out, most work documents will be compiled collaboratively on the Internet. Check it out at www.offisync.com.
With the increase in social networks and the use of these networks, it is inevitable that tools to improve and manage our social networking emerge. One such new service is HootSuite. This service manages your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Ping.fm accounts from one log in. You can move profiles, friend lists, etc. between and track your friends’ across these social networks. It works from your computer or from either iPhone or Android, maintains impressive statistics, and creates a visual display to avoid having to log in to each of these networks one at a time. It’s an interesting idea. I’m sure that with the swift growth of social neworking, both the number of networks HootSuite can handle and the enhancements it offers will grow. It even has agreements with content providers, including Disney, Fox, Dell Computers, National Geographic and even the NBA. Check it out at www.hootsuite.com.
Hulu is not exactly new, but it is disruptive. Hulu organizes and offers video for viewing. With the introduction of Hulu desktop, it’s also an application as well as a web service. It’s similar to YouTube, but has more professional, commercial videos. It offers many regularly broadcast TV shows, movies, and the like. You can watch all the episodes of Dancing with The Stars, SuperNanny, The Office, and many other series. There are many recent as well as old movies. What gives Hulu an advantage over your television is that you can watch what you want when you want it. While you can do that with a DVR and a television, you still have to set it to record in advance of the air time. With Hulu, you can watch anything, anytime. One of the challenges has been finding a way to earn money so they can pay royalties for the material they make available, but this is done through commercials (far fewer than traditional television).
What does this have to do with genealogy? The day is coming when videos, tutorials, and the like will be available online. RootsTelevision.com is a step in the right direction, but the genealogical community could learn a lot from www.Hulu.com.