by jajamoo

Today’s “Thing” was about Image Sharing. The internet obviously has countless images to look at but Image Sharing websites have come along to help us organize the many images and help us search for the images we want to see. One of the best image searches to use is Google Images. This portion of the Google Search Engine helps you search (very specifically, if desired) for images. The excellent Google search engine’s considerable abilities are put to use here to find the perfect image for your school project, job presentation, or dektop wallpaper.

A website dedicated completely to images is Flickr, a website which not only lets you search for images, but allows you to create an online profile and account, which then allows you to upload your own photos, join like-minded people ,who may share your taste in certain types of images, in communities. The great thing about Flickr is that it lets you edit the photos you uploaded there and then, on the spot! So, instead of having to use photo editing software (which can be hard to use or expensive to buy and own), you can quickly do some simple photo editing right there on the website, such as eliminating the “redeye” effect and cropping (which entails cutting out portions of a photo).

Lastly, the really cool thing about Flickr is the whole idea of the Commons, which (like the farming and animal husbandry concept of having a communal grazing land owned by no single individual or institution) is a common pool of photos which people on the internet can freely use without worrying about copyrights, trademarks, or other issues of intellectual property. For example, if you do a search for “cat” in the Commons search engine, many pictures come up (some of which are irrelevant to my search, which was searching for the cuddly, domesticated feline). After clicking on the thumbnail of a picture in the search, you are taken to the picture, under which you will find information, including whether there are any known copyright restrictions. This picture, which I found, said that there were no known copyright restrictions, meaning I could safely post this picture onto my blog without worrying about my using of another’s picture without proper citation or credit. Here is the picture I picked:

Today’s “Thing” was Awareness Tools. No, it’s not digital caffeine to keep your computer running when it’s low on juice or anything like that. Awareness Tools are web sites that gather content that you might be interested in and further filtering the content to make the content you see as specific as possible.  This is similar to an RSS feed, except these websites are the actual collectors and filters for websites, whereas you had to subscribe to an RSS feed subscription on other websites, provided they had one.  I found that this technology, much like other “Things” we have studied over the summer this year, is a great way to organize and sift through the Internet, which can be an astoundingly big and (sometimes) overwhelming place to wander.

But, as Tolkien said, “Not all those who wander are lost,” and with some of the websites we learned about, we can have the tools required to not feel so lost in large wonderland we call in the Internet. Two of my favorite sites are Digg, a web site which sorts other web sites primarily according to “diggs,” which are like thumbs up or thumbs down. If something gets a positive digg, it starts to accumulate the diggs. With enough of these virtual thumbs up, more people get to see the highly popular website. This is great for breaking news or even silly Internet memes. My other favorite is Google News, Google’s news sorting web site. I like this one because it lets me see what news is the most popular or recent.

Forums are the online equivalents of London’s Speaker’s Corner — here’s a Wikipedia article on the modern outdoor public forum in London referred to as Speaker’s Corner.. Anyone and everyone can and does have a say and I believe it is this quality which makes the format of the forum so effectively democratic. Oh, perhaps in my excitement over forums, I haven’t explained what a forum is. A forum is basically a message board on the internet which lets you post text or pictures (some even let you embed videos and other multimedia) as a message with a time stamp. People can then respond to your message with their own message, which is then posted beneath your own on the website.

There are a few forums which I frequent, many of which are dangerous places to be if you are new to the internet and its unique colloquialisms, culture, and memes. Dangerous in the sense that there are countless “trolls” out there on the millions of forums on the internet: people who say offensive or hurtful things to others simply to get a reaction out of them, not to make a point about something. That caveat aside, my favorite forums are the following:

These are the Something Awful forums, an old group of internet users and trolls who have been posting on these forums since the mid to late 1990s. These forums run the gamut from serious political and scholarly discussions to purely asinine, nonsensical forums that may have to do with Sarah Jessica Parker‘s foot-like face or some other useless and mundane subject. Beware of trolls, for these forums are full of them.

These are the Gamespot forums. These forums deal with all things having to do with gaming: from the PS3 console to the PC gaming format, these forums are a great place for speculation about future video games, advice, and general internet misbehavior and shenanigans. Again, trolls lurk and post here constantly, so beware of them, as all they would want from any innocent internet bystander is for him or her to lose his or her cool and make a scene.

Today’s “Thing” was about Cloud computing. “Cloud” in this context stands for a collaborative effort which is saved on the internet, instead of locally on your or someone else’s hard drive. This innovation seems very small but it has significant consequences. For example, the way that people collaborate has changed very much. Now, instead of emailing several copies to the members on a hypothetical team working on some hypothetical project, all of the members could be working on the same project simultaneously while saving their work in the cloud. Now, instead of the members having to compare their own copies, the people working on said project can see the project change in real time, as it is changed.

I personally found this innovation very helpful and I believe that it can be applied to many things, not just businesses (as the Common Craft video showed us, an example of how cloud computing can help a business stay organized and prosper). I think that eventually, schools should teach kids how to effectively use cloud computing in collaborative efforts in education. This way, even if all members of a school project can’t be together in a physical location, they can still collaborate in real-time to create school projects. An excellent illustration of this was the email that our professor Dr. Ackermann sent us, which contained a link that led to an already published chapter of a textbook for our class to edit on Google Documents. I was the one who added the Figure 9.7, the screen shot after the search for “virunga rwanda.”

In addition, here is a link to a survey that I myself created on Google Docs. I am sharing a link because the file would not embed properly.

Today’s “Thing” was about RSS feeds. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and it truly lives up to its claim that it is really simple. Dr. Ackermann said it best on his blog when he said that it’s basically “TiVo for your computer.” What you need first is an RSS Reader to receive the “feeds” (or real-time updates, as they are posted). Some pretty well known feeds include Google Reader, Bloglines, and MyYahoo!. These are online applications that use the RSS format to receive the information that is relevant to you. For example, Bloglines will scour the internet for updates and new post on blogs that interest you. You name the blog and Bloglines will check the RSS for any such updates that come up as they are posted.

I personally found the idea of RSS to be quite useful, especially for a subject that is always changing: the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Unfortunately for all the sides involved, there is always some sort of crucial change in the politics or military conflict in the area. Of course, these changes are an excellent way to illustrate the usefulness of RSS and its ability to track down and show you the portion of the internet that is relevant to your particular interests. As stories are updated in real time, I am in effect able to see the Middle East conflict in its most up-to-date form, aside from actually being there myself. Thankfully, I don’t have to be there personally and an RSS can do all the investigative work for me. Here is a short list of RSS feeds to which I myself subscribe.

–          This is an RSS feed from the Guardian’s Israel portion of the website. It updates frequently changing stories on the politics and conflicts in Israel.

–          Here is an RSS feed about PC Games from Gamespot, a huge gaming website which follows the news concerning all things gaming!

–          Here is an RSS feed from Wired.com’s website that updates me about the latest in technology that the Wired people review.

Friday’s topic was concerning social bookmarking and tagging. I found the introductory portion of this topic the most interesting. Our professor, Dr. Ackermann, talked about the inherent human need to order and classify things. I was most intrigued about what he had to say about the taxonomy (or classification systems) of the biological sciences and medical sciences. This introduction was a great place to start because it helped our class understand the concept of social bookmarking and tagging in its most basic and conceptual sense.

He later moved on to such websites as Delicious, a site that lets you, the internet user, “tag” certain websites using keywords that you define and helps you identify web sites based on the words that would best help you remember said tagged website. Tags are keywords that, when typed in, lets you find the website which is associated to a tag or multiple tags. This was a very interesting site to examine, as it let you tag the websites inside Delicious, not the arbitrary tagging of someone else on the internet. A similar website that we examined in the “Hands-On Activities” portion of the lesson was Connotea, a website which was similar to Delicious in that it let you organize websites according to tags and then further divide the websites into groups. Diigo is a website which has followers (much like the followers on Twitter) that can see how you have tagged certain websites and web pages. Today’s lesson, while not the one with the most bells and whistles, helped me realize a way to organize the mess of websites and information that make up the Internet (or at least, the part of the mess that I am interested in).



by jajamoo

No, not this kind of pirate. Not exactly. What I’m referring to is software piracy (specifically) on the Internet, where it has flourished and has recently become a thorn in the side of software developers everywhere. Firstly, let’s define the concept of software piracy. It is more technically referred to as “copyright infringement of software,” which boils down to using a piece of software without properly compensating the creator of said software (The Economist, Piracy: Look for the Silver Lining, (July 19th-25th, 2008 ed., pp. 23). This software can be anything: music, video games, movies, or operating systems such as Windows.

“Warez” sites (a shorthand internet slang for software) were among the first places to find unlicensed software (when you pay for a piece of software, you don’t actually own it, you just have “license” to use, according to the software developer’s EULA, or End User License Agreement). These first thirty or so underground websites were the source of all unlicensed music, movies, and video games on the internet. You can read more about them here, in this archived Wired.com article about the infamous early leak of the video game Half-Life 2 and the shadier side of the internet. Of course, these sites have become very common and while many are just scams which cause you to download a virus or Trojan Horse program, some are very sophisticated and are extremely hard to even access, let alone take down.

What we are most familiar with recently is the advent of “P2P,” or peer-to-peer programs. P2P programs are “is any distributed network architecture composed of participants that make a portion of their resources (such as processing power, disk storage or network bandwidth) directly available to other network participants, without the need for central coordination instances (such as servers or stable hosts)” (Rüdiger Schollmeier, A Definition of Peer-to-Peer Networking for the Classification of Peer-to-Peer Architectures and Applications, Proceedings of the First International Conference on Peer-to-Peer Computing, IEEE (2002)). In other words, unlike the warez sites which held the unlicensed programs in a centrally located place (such as a rented server or some guy’s hard drive in Sweden), the illegal exchange of software is done directly between those who are part of the sharing program’s network of users (you guys remember Kazaa and Limewire, right?). So, this meant that cracking down the users of unlicensed software was  is logistically very difficult and very hard to take legal action against those who get caught (the legalese concerning P2P sharing is murky at best). However, the authorities are catching up with perpetrators who would facilitate P2P sharing. Recently, programs such as µTorrent, a new, even more decentralized P2P sharing program, has proliferated and so have programs which facilitate the search of unlicensed software. Piratebay.org is just such one site and as you can read here in this other Wired.com article, the four Swedish men who were responsible for the creation of Piratebay were given jail time and ordered to pay over $3 million to various entertainment companies. Clearly, Piratebay got too big for its own shoes and brought the attention of the Man down on itself. An ominous warning to all the software pirates out there, or just a blip in the inevitable march towards complete free-flow of information on the Internet? I imagine it is up to us to decide.



by jajamoo

Today’s topic was podcasts, an inevitable topic to study for this course, as Podcasts have come to be a mainstay on the Internet. I find podcasts to  be the modern day equivalent to radio or television in their days of peak popularity. It’s really easy to find podcasts (via iTunes — http://www.itunes.com, Apple’s multimedia hub for all things entertainment; or PodcastAlley  http://www.podcastalley.com, a search engine you can use to look for various podcasts.) For class, we had to listen to some podcasts based on small businesses through Podcast Pickle (http://www.podcastpickle.com), another podcast search engine. Although the actual subject of small businesses was boring to me, I was able to find numerous podcasts concerning small businesses and listened to some of them.

Podcasts that I enjoy are the ones about the things I love (obviously). For example, any of the podcasts on the Hot Spot (http://www.gamespot.com/pages/features/hotspot/index.php), Gamespot’s podcasts about anything and everything gaming related, are an absolute joy to listen to: they are well thought out, have cogent, coherent arguments (if any) and well structured (in terms of organization, layout and time).

My other favorite podcast is the one on Dorkshelf (http://www.dorkshelf.com), a site about all things “geeky”: comics, video games, and movies. My personal friend Will Perkins is both in charge of the website and regularly speaks in the podcasts. Although these podcasts can run well over one hour long, it is personally a pleasure to hear my friend Will and crew sit around the microphone, blasting or lauding their favorite games, movies, or comic books.