Playing catchup

Due to general busy-ness and also a week off last week I'm well behind with the Learning 2.0 Programme.

A couple of weeks ago, Social Bookmarking and Tagging were covered. I have to admit that bookmarking is something that I've always thought a really useful idea, but don't use a lot in reality – and I find social bookmarking exactly the same. I tend to bookmark a few things which I use a lot, and everything else I either search for, or remember. I've defended the approach of social bookmarking elsewhere by highlighting the 'social' aspects – following what others bookmark, but in reality I don't tend to use this aspect either – I rely on blogs and twitter to surface interesting stuff for me (occaisionally people include lists of bookmarks in their RSS feed, and so I suppose I use them indirectly in these cases). Anyway, I have a delicious account at if you want to see what I've bookmarked. I've also got a Flickr Photostream at, but I don't use it at all, as I tend to share photos from my blog instead – of course, this lacks the social aspects, but I'm only really trying to share with my Friends and Family, so really not a big deal for me. However, I am a huge fan of Flickr, and use it extensively when putting together presentations, using CC Licensed images for illustrations (I'm meant to be doing this right now, but I'm writing this instead!)

Then while I was away Learning 2.0 covered online applications and web tools. I've used these a lot, and there is far too much to cover in a brief post (and I really need to get back to writing that presentation), however I'll just touch briefly on the areas listed:

1. Personalised homepages

I have an iGoogle page, but don't really use it. I tend to personalise my environment by using browser setup and PC settings to give me access to all my commonly used stuff. It isn't as portable, but I kind of have minimal needs, so seems to work OK for me.

2. Mobile phones

Until recently I wasn't a huge mobile phone user – then I got an iPhone… I know that I'm going to come across all Apple fanboy (and this is probably true to some extent), the iPhone is just amazing – I really don't think you can compare it to other phones (certainly not ones I've used) – I'm convinced that it (and devices like it) are going to change how we use mobile devices – it has certainly changed the way I use my mobile. If anyone from the Learning 2.0 programme wants to have a play, please come and find me, I love showing it off…

3. Web browsers

I'm a Firefox fan, and Firefox 3 is currently my browser of choice. I've toyed with Opera, but not really got on with it that well (although I do think Opera does some really interesting stuff, and the 'Quickdial' feature is great – although duplicated, not quite as well, by a Firefox plugin)

I've also played round with Flock, based on Firefox, and quite liked it, but in the end got irritated with long startup times.

Yesterday Google announced that they were entering the browser market with an Open Source browser called (at the moment at least) 'Chrome'. This should be available sometime today (2nd September 2008), and in the meantime you can read the comic (really). There are several aspects highlighted in the comic several of which are about developing a browser optimised to run web applications – such as GMail and Google Docs.

4. Google documents

I use this for personal stuff – especially as we don't currently have a copy of MS Word on our Mac at home – and generally find it good. I think the Spreadsheets are especially interesting in the integration they offer with some of Googles visulisation tools – e.g. Google Maps – this introduces a new element to spreadsheets for me…

5. Toolbars

I use the Google Toolbar and tend to avoid the others – you only really need one I think. I should mention the LibX toolbar though, which is aimed at library users – I'd like to get an Imperial version up and running, and if we did I would install that…

6. Widgets

So I guess I use these all over the place – this blog has several 'widgets' in the sidebars, I occaisionally use the Widgets on Apples 'Dashboard', and many, many, websites have widgets which I'll see when browsing. Hard to summarise really, as this is a bit like saying 'web pages', but there are some interesting questions for the library – should we develop 'widgets' to allow others to plug library services into their blogs and other web pages?

7. Mashups

Ok, I'm a bit of a geek, but Mashups are really the most exciting thing on the web at the moment for me. I love the way that more creative minds than mine take two or more disparate data sources or services and bring them together to produce something that is more than the sum of its parts. One person I follow who does a lot of 'mashup' work is Tony Hirst at OUseful – I admire the way he manages to think of these ideas, and implement them quickly.

But Mashups aren't just for techies – see the spreadsheet at (inspired by Tony Hirst). I've used completely standard Google Spreadsheet functionality to bring together information from an online Olympic Medals table and the CIA Worldfactbook to show on a map the highest number of medals per capita in the recent Olympics – nothing special perhaps, but shows what you can do.

For those looking to go a bit further, I'd also recommend playing around with Yahoo Pipes – a relatively easy way of getting into manipulating data online, and bringing together data from different sources.

One of my favourite mashups is TwitterVision – Twitter is a way of sharing your current 'status' (like Facebook status, but without the rest of Facebook hanging round it), and TwitterVision shows update statuses from around the world on a map – I'm not saying it is useful, but it is fascinating and curiously addictive

OK – I'd better wrap-up here as this is quite enough for one post really. Just finally, I mentioned in my last post that I would like to see more comments happening on the Learning 2.0 blogs. Well, I was really pleased to see that in the last few weeks some of the blogs have started to pickup comments from people outside the Learning 2.0 programme. I still remember the first time I got a comment from someone I didn't know, but really respected – what a thrill to realise that you are part of that conversation… also worth noting that this is without any particular effort (as far as I am aware) to promote these blogs – it is an indication of how easy it is to reach out on the web.

3 thoughts on “Playing catchup

  1. Hi Owen — I definitely recognise myself here too. A proponent of tags/bookmarks, but don’t really use them/create them myself, although I do use them as a discovery tool when inside a large blog or flickr, the latter especially. I am also considering getting rid of my iGoogle page and make my default the Google Reader instead, as blogs seemed to be all I had in my iGoogle page anyway. Home PC is set to BBC, and customised to give direct entry to kid content so my son can get his Cbeebies fix without my intervention.
    Envious of your iPhone, but would not be parted from my Nokia PDA and its qwerty keyboard for now. Means my texts are a bit wordy though 😉

  2. With iGoogle, as with other tools, it’s a case of what you use it for and how you build it. I’ve used it for a mix of RSS feeds (mostly via Google Reader), to do lists (various), news, weather, frequently used web sites etc. I absolutely love it as I can keep up to date with Owen’s blogs, tables of contents, etc. and other posts without having to leave my desk! It’s the ability to combine home, hobbies and work all in one that I like. I don’t have a compartmentalised life. Each to their own though.
    In terms of Apple vs Nokia. I have the Nokia with the QWERTY keyboard but also have an ipod touch and would go for an iphone any day.

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