April 1st, 2013 by bigjim
Reports of the death of the newspaper have been grossly exaggerated. Every time another article comes out talking of falling newspaper subscriptions, analysts rush to the fore to proclaim that the days of newsprint, editors-in-chief, and press passes have come to an end, and that the newspaper is no more!
They may be getting close on one hand, with the ever-looming end of newspapers as printed physical media. With iPads, Kindles, Nooks, Kobos, and a seemingly never-ending roster of Android tablets, the end of the paper component of the newspaper may finally be in sight.
However, as a format for delivering news, the newssheet seems to still have its place – in fact, it is becoming more common in the digital world. Not just on dedicated news sites like the NY Times or London Times – but on other sites that like to show an ‘infinite scroll’ of news in the old column format.
And now you can make your own internet newspaper, for consumption by the whole internet, by using a site like Paper.li. On this site, you create a free account by connecting it to your Facebook or Twitter account, and then you choose a name for your paper, as well as the frequency with which it should be updated. You then add topics and connections from around the internet and your social networks to create the sources for the ‘news’.
Paper.li then creates your very own, customised newspaper – complete with columns, sections, and the ability to subscribe. You can then share your creation, which updates live as stories change, with friends via a link that you can email or tweet. So, if you have ever been reading a newspaper and thinking to yourself that you could do a better job, now you can give it a try!
Posted in Cool tools, Link commentary | 1 Comment »
December 2nd, 2012 by bigjim
As Christmas approaches yet again, we will no doubt be hearing the Christmas story again ¬– not just at the pulpit in Mass on Christmas morning, mind you, as the priest reads the Gospel. Everywhere we look, there will be reminders of the reason for the season.
Now, we could turn this into a piece on how the actual reminders are diminishing, and how the reason for the season is not understood (or truly celebrated) by a growing number of people. But that’s not very geeky! So, instead, let’s focus on the ‘story’ aspect.
If Christ was born today, how would the scene in the manger play out? Would the Magi locate the manger via Google Maps on their smartphones using GPS? Would they ‘check-in’ on Foursquare or Facebook as they arrived with their gifts, which they bought on Amazon.com? Would the angels announce the arrival of the Messiah via tweets which the shepherds would pick up, all while Instagramming photos of the heavenly host for their Tumblr blogs?
Probably not. But, jokes aside, the increasing saturation of our digital lives with social media is changing a number of aspects of how we tell and share our stories. And at least one site – storify.com – is trying to ride that trend.
Storify allows you to catalogue, edit and arrange posts from various social networks centred on an event (often identified via a #hashtag). The resulting ‘story’ is a multimedia experience that captures what people were saying at the time, the photos they were sharing, and the sentiment or mood. Some recent examples include the visit of the Prince of Wales to New Zealand, and the solar eclipse.
So, why not make a “storify” about your Christmas experience this year, focusing on the Christ? Share it and see what happens when you do!
Posted in Cool tools, General musings | No Comments »
November 4th, 2012 by bigjim
Remember when you were a child and your parents taught you it was nice to share? Well, if the internet was a child, it obviously listened very, very well to its parents! Everything about the social media revolution is focused on sharing: your likes, your dislikes, what you’re doing, what you’d like to do, how your day was – whether on Twitter, Facebook or a myriad of other networks, we are increasingly being encouraged to share as much as we can, wherever we can.
One common theme of most of these networks today, however, is to keep things short and to the point. Twitter even enforces this with their 140 character limit. However, sometimes you might want to share something a bit more in-depth than a tweet or a status update, but you don’t want to establish a fully-fledged blog. This is where sites like Tumblr come into their own.
Tumblr is a “microblogging platform and social network” in one. It launched in 2007 and had 75,000 users within two weeks. It now has over 77 million blogs or “tumblogs” which are used to share everything from short quotes, to images, to videos, to long text posts – but the focus is on less words and more visuals.
In many ways, Tumblr foreshadowed a number of other internet trends. For example, people would often set up Tumblr accounts to post interesting and eclectic items that they found while browsing. The idea of thoughts and items ‘tumbling’ from your head straight onto the internet is common on other social networking platforms now, as is collecting items and images and resharing them – especially on sites like Pinterest.
But the real value in Tumblr comes from people being able to quickly establish very easily updatable sites on any manner of topics. Set one up today!
Posted in Cool tools, Link commentary, Technology overview | No Comments »
October 7th, 2012 by bigjim
Different people think differently about the value and uses of social media technologies: some see them as the new vehicle for communication online in the 21st century; others see them as tools to foment revolution and the overthrowing of dictators; still others see them as a barely interesting, relatively geeky oddity that does not really deserve too much thought at all.
Wherever you sit on this spectrum, the one thing that seems to be in general agreement now is that these social technologies aren’t leaving us anytime soon, so we may as well get used to it and adapt our lives and technology accordingly.
With this revelation, a number of companies have sprung up on the back of the increasing ubiquity of the major social networks, taking advantage of their size to increase their own adoption and success. In doing so, some of these properties have found news uses for social media technologies along the way. One such company/app is Flipboard.
Flipboard is a self-described “social magazine,” but is probably more accurately described as a social media-fuelled content aggregation and display application. In essence, the free app installs on iPads and other tablets and then asks for your Twitter, Facebook and other social network credentials. It then proceeds to look through all the links that are being shared by the people you follow on those networks, and then takes the popular stories/links and re-purposes them into a glossy magazine format on your tablet.
The result is that your social networks act as curators, and you are left with a consolidated, beautiful user experience by which you can browse through content from a myriad of sources. If you have an iPad or similar device, you should definitely download Flipboard today, and start making your social connections work for your reading pleasure!
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September 9th, 2012 by bigjim
Social media has been at the forefront of the so-called ‘democratisation’ of the internet. This can be seen in dramatic events such as the fall of foreign regimes like those affected by the “Arab Spring”, or in seemingly simple events like the rise of YouTube stars. Social media is also changing our idea of who are the influencers in this new information economy, and what it is that makes them influential.
In times gone by, the influencers in society were relatively easy to identify; you often had to exactly that when quizzed in Social Studies class! They were the world leaders and celebrities, the famous and the elite. However, as we spend more time online, what makes a strong reputation is starting to change. Far fewer people hide behind anonymous persona now (plenty still do, though). Instead, we have a world where people and companies compare the number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans they have, wielding these numbers as signs of great influence online.
But even those metrics have lost their shine, and are now being replaced with sites like Klout and PeerIndex. These sites analyse your presence online and provide you with a series of scores based on a number of factors beyond just the sheer numbers of followers. They look at how much your posts are read online, who shares your posts with their friends, the levels of ‘engagement’ your content garners, and a host of secret attributes which help them differentiate from each other.
Take some time to check out your clout and see if people are listening to what you’re saying online. If they are, it’s a good time to think about what you’re doing with your brand and reputation, and whether Christ’s message is featuring at all in what you say online.
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August 12th, 2012 by bigjim
One of the interesting aspects of the Internet has been the way that it has allowed pretty much every imaginable form of self-expression to find a niche online. Both long and short-form content seem to happily co-exist alongside video, audio, pictures, animations…the list goes on!
Part of the wonder of the internet is the serendipity of discovering something entirely new and interesting. But, in a world where increasing numbers of people just open their browser straight up at Google and start typing, how are you supposed to stumble upon new and interesting sites?
Well, one option is stumbleupon.com. This site allows users to go and create a profile and indicate what their interests are. They are then presented with the “Stumble bar” – a bar that appears at the top of your browser window with a button marked “Stumble”. Clicking on the button starts you “Stumbling” through the internet – a random website along the lines of one of your interest is displayed for you to discover.
As you stumble, you can rate the quality of the content found in terms of its fit for what you are looking for – something required for your first 20 stumbles. Stumbleupon then ‘learns’ what you like and tries to offer you more personalised content. It really is an interesting way to find new sites.
You can also enter any interest you like in the search bar and stumble across sites classified by that interest grouping. For example, three ‘Catholic’ stumbles we came across were an apologetics page from Colombia University, pray-as-you-go.org from the Jesuit Media Initiatives organisation, and the profile page of Pope Benedict XVI on the Vatican’s website.
Of course you can also share your discoveries on other social networks, so why not get out there and get stumbling and sharing good Catholic sites!
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May 20th, 2012 by bigjim
Another week, another social network. You could be forgiven for thinking that a new one appears with that kind of frequency. And while that may be a slight exaggeration, it is getting harder to distinguish the wheat from the MySpace…er…chaff.
In order to rise above the rest, some networks are attempting to take a very different approach. A good example of this is Path. Available for both iOS (iPhones) and Android, Path started in late 2010 as a way to “keep a personal journal or ‘Path’ of your life.” The app – and it is an app, with the only way point of access being via your phone – is a bit of an amalgamation of common social features seen in other networks: sharing photos, status/text updates, and connecting with friends.
It is that last feature that is a bit different though – unlike Twitter, where the limit number of on followers is non-existent, or on Facebook where it is in the thousands, on Path you can only add 150 people to your network.
Why would a social network put limitations on how social you can be? Their argument is that “we tend to have 5 best friends, 15 good friends, 50 close friends and family, and 150 total friends.” Read another way, the value of digital friendship isn’t high, given how common they can be. Path reminds you that true relationships are scarce and precious, and that you shouldn’t lose sight of that just because you’re now connected to a global online community.
Given that our Church started when Christ started to walk His path with 12 of his closest friends, the impact of building strong relationships with a special few can be huge! So, maybe it’s time to take another look at your social networks, and think about quality vs. quantity.
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October 9th, 2011 by fastmikey
The digital world we live in has brought the ability to produce content to the masses. Where previously, if you wanted to film a documentary or publish a book, you needed to have massive resources behind you, today with a video camera, some time and the use of services like YouTube, groups like Hearts Aflame (www.youtube.com/user/HeartsAflameTV) and Icon Media are able to produce professional quality videos to the masses, and self-publishing systems like CreateSpace (www.createspace.com) give you the ability to publish and market your masterpiece yourself without needing a fortune or the forces of a large company behind you.
However, while the ability to launch and deliver an independent project is more accessible than ever, it still, inevitably costs money to get most projects of the ground and to achieve the level of professionalism that would make it worthwhile. So, naturally, the internet has come to the party with a solution for this: Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com).
Kickstarter is a fantastic method for raising funds from a community. Essentially, it gives you the ability to create a project and a target amount of funds to raise, then Kickstarter will handle the heavy lifting for you – by processing the funds and managing the relationship with your funders, you can focus on getting the word out and getting on with your project rather than managing the funds and other back end stuff. And because you’re running through Kickstarter, you immediately get a larger audience by picking up anyone else who might be visiting the site – increasing the potential for achieving your funding goals. You even have the ability to incentivise your supporters by offering a tiered reward scheme for bigger donors.
Finally, if the worst happens, and you don’t quite get to your funding target, the beauty of Kickstarter is that it works on an all or nothing scheme – if you don’t reach the targeted fundraising goal, no money changes hands. Contributors aren’t charged for their donation until the target is reached.
So what are you waiting for – Kickstart your project today!
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May 22nd, 2011 by fastmikey
As we’ve spoken about before on Catholic Geek, Kiwis are well known for (historically at least) getting their sleeves rolled up and doing for themselves what most would just pay someone else for. While this has been a dying habit in the past decade or so, the internet has helped to trigger a bit of a renaissance in this noble profession.
Firstly, there’s designing your creation. Google Sketchup (sketchup.google.com) is a fantastic free modelling tool that’s perfect for designing plans for everything from a bedside table (my latest project) to full house models. With an interface that’s easy to get to grips with, it’s a great way to visualise your ideas and try different possibilities without having to get your hands dirty.
Once you have your design, if you’re a little short on the space, tools, or expertise, you might want to consider joining up to a local HackerSpace (hackerspaces.org). Contrary to the negative thoughts that the word hackers immediately conjure up, HackerSpaces are community-driven spaces for people to meet and work on projects in a collegial environment. Started in the US in the last decade, the movement has bloomed worldwide, and there’s even a number in New Zealand – and if there isn’t one local that suits you, the community gives you all the tools you might need to get your own space underway.
Finally, if you’re proud of your creation, keep in the spirit of the internet and share it with others. There’s a wide range of sites devoted to sharing instructions on how to build a variety of things – we’ve discussed sites like Instructables (www.instructables.com) and it’s ilk, but if you’re in to woodworking, a site with great plans and suggestions is ana-white.com – set up by a homemaker in Alaska who makes all her own furniture.
So, roll up your sleeves, (virtual or otherwise), and join the DIY renaissance!
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April 24th, 2011 by fastmikey
One of the best gifts that of our faith that we as Catholics can avail ourselves of is Confession. However this is also a gift that has become sorely underutilised by Catholics all around the world. With this in mind, a new app has been released for the ubiquitous iDevices, which aims to help make going to confession an easier experience.
Confession: A Roman Catholic App, is the first application released by a developer in Indiana. Designed to help with making confession, this is a powerful application that delivers a personal experience. Personalised to your vocation in life, it guides you through a custom examination of conscience, helping to probe what is important to your relationship with God. Packed with information, it helps those who have been absent from the confessional for a while who might be a little rusty with getting closer to God through the power of Absolution. This fantastic application is also available for Android devices too, so is worth checking out to see if it’s available for your smartphone. Owners of iDevices can go to http://bit.ly/Confess-iTunes, and if you have an Android, check out http://bit.ly/Confess-Android.
People short of a fancy techno-gizmo aren’t left empty handed by the internet – check out The Penance Project (www.thepenanceproject.org) for a downloadable Penance kit.
Have you spotted something you’d like a geeky perspective on? Let the Catholic Geeks know and we’ll include it in an upcoming post!
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