Archive for December, 2008

Open Source Software

Posted: December 30, 2008 in software
Tags: , , , ,


open_source_communismWith the release of Open Office 3.0 recently, I thought I’d write a short piece on Open Source Software (OSS) – any software application for which the source code is available for anyone to modify.  It is sometimes labelled as free software, but open source is actually a design approach that enables anyone to access and modify the code.  There are various software distribution licenses affiliated with OSS such as the set of Creative Commons licenses among many others.  Linux is the pioneer application that drove the OSS movement onto the mainstream agenda.

A couple of different OSS programs that I’ve used and would recommend checking out:

  • Mozilla Firefox – an excellent alternative to IE (although Google Chrome is pretty sweet as well!)
  • Mozilla Thunderbird – a great email program
  • Open Office – a wordprocessing suite alternative to MS Office
  • GIMP – a graphics editor program (I actually prefer Photoshop, but GIMP is free!)
  • Filezilla – an FTP client for file sharing

A quick note on some of the pros & cons of open source software.

Some Pros:

  • OSS is free, which is good;
  • For some applications there is a robust community of developers out there who can quickly respond to problems or issues, and test applications for a broad range of different problems;
  • For some applications you can purchase services from support companies (the code is free, the service costs) dedicated to a product;
  • If you are technically saavy you can modify an application to meet your own specific needs – or you can hire someone to modify an app – either of which can be more cost effective than building an application from scratch.

Some Cons:

  • Free is not free, as there are always support costs, training, learning, etc that could be large within an organization changing from the historic use of a proprietary product (ie the cost of switching from Windows to Linux would involve some pretty major training costs alone);
  • Infrastructure and tech support costs could also be large;
  • For some applications reliability could be an issue – especially if the core developer group is small, and members stop working on the project;
  • Apparently when you choose OSS you support communism, which appears akin to supporting the devil (at least according to some perspectives).

Next step is to look into the connection between open source and social media (future post!).

I was flipping through twitter this morning, and was surprised by the lack of new year’s resolutions circulating (not that I make them – for some reason I feel that I shouldn’t need to be forced into resolutions just because of the start of a new year… that if I needed to make some radical change in life that I’d have the gusto to do it whenever the need arose).  Instead I have an ongoing “life experiences” list of certain things I want to try in the coming months & years 🙂

My twittering led me to an interesting blog post called Social Networking with Yourself by Richard Skaare.  Richard describes an experience of ‘coming across himself’ in his LinkedIn list, and viewing his profile from the perspective of someone else.


I remember hearing and reading many cautions over the years about how you portray yourself online.  What you say in forums, on newsgroups (hopefully those university antics have been erased by now?!?), on Facebook, etc stays out there, for any/everyone to see.  Could be a frightful experience if you say the wrong thing!

So here’s a new year’s resolution idea for those of you who make them (and not silly life experience lists)… search the web for yourself.  Setup a netvibes page (private if you’re worried about the aggregated results!) to bring in all the buzz about you & monitor you as a brand, and try to see yourself through someone else’s eyes – what would they think of you?  Check yourself out on facebook, myspace, linkedin, etc, and think of what a complete stranger would think of you from the information you’ve shared on the web.

Hopefully something nice! 🙂

OC Transpo Social Media Mashup

Posted: December 18, 2008 in Uncategorized

I’ve been monitoring the OC Transpo bus strike in Ottawa since it began last Wed Dec 10th; and have been looking for ways to aggregate my various search channels.  Thanks to @NLC_Molly for the reference to the Reputation Monitoring blog post by Randy Woods, I discovered the real value of netvibes (which I had heard of before, but never really took it for a spin).


Netvibes has tools to allow you to aggregate your own social media channels – sharing your facebook profile, youtube videos, flickr photos, etc, in one place.  It also allows you to create a mashup of feeds and searches across the web; and with the right mix of search sources you can create a pretty good survey on the latest blogs, tweets, discussions, news posts, videos and photos being shared on a particular topic.  One shortcoming is the lack of RSS feeds from Facebook walls or discussions… hopefully something coming soon?!?

Check out my netvibes page monitoring the OC Transpo Stike


Any suggestions for other channels or feeds to add to the mix?

I’ve been following social media updates on the OC Transpo transit strike (see previous post) through a variety of social media channels.  Thought I’d share my search approach here, and ask if anyone has suggestions for other channels to follow or tools to use.

Facebook – searching for groups, events, and pages; following discussion topics & wall posts

Twitter to find relevant keyword tweets

socialmedialandscapeBlogs using keywords and sorted by date to get the most recent posts

Google Alerts – keyword alerts setup to send updates immediately

Youtube – daily keyword search for any new videos & discussions

Flickr – daily keyword search for any new photos & discussions

News Media Discussion forums – website discussions on local news sources (Ottawa Citizen; CBC Ottawa; National Post; etc)

I’ve had a quick look at MySpace & Ning but didn’t see anything relevant.

  1. Are there other social media sites that I should be searching?
  2. Are there any good tools that would help make it easier to follow a variety of social media sources?

Today is the first day of the transit strike in Ottawa – hopefully it’ll be a short one! I thought I’d do a scan to see where the issue is being discussed in social media circles, and the types of web 2.0 tools being employed to help people deal with the impact (carpooling mostly), and to connect and discuss the issue.


Search for “Ottawa Transit” and “OC Transpo” on brings up many posts by people commenting on the strike, including some useful tips such as “b/c of transit strike, on-street, unmetered parking is unlimited in 1, 2, and 3 hour spots. At meters you still have to pay.”; links to news twitter feeds from @cbcnews @macleans (the Magazine) @timesnews @nationalpost

Map Mashups
Traffic Camera/Google Maps mashup

FaceBook Groups


Search on for blog posts:

  • OC Transpo Strike | as of Dec 11 – 25 posts
  • Ottawa Transit Strike | Dec 11 – 92 posts
  • Ottawa Transit | Dec 11 – 1219 posts
  • OC Transpo | Dec 11 – 276 posts

A search on Technorati and Google Blog Search results in quite a few different bloggers commenting on the strike – certainly a lot of negative sentiment towards OC Transpo:


The CTV Interview with OCTranspo Union leader
Not a lot of other strike related videos – lots of OC Transpo videos both from riders, and from OCTranspo
Compilation of bus videos

Media Website Discussion Spaces

CTV News Story closed their discussion space after 168 comments in just a few hours.
CBC News coverage with 208 comments as of 11AM Wed

Google Trends


Do you have any other examples that you’ve come across to share?

Does Location Still Matter?

Posted: December 1, 2008 in web 2.0
Tags: , , ,

norayoungBack in May 08 I had the good fortune of attending the Mesh Conference in Toronto.  One of the sessions was facilitated by Nora Young, host of CBC Radio’s Spark program, interviewing Bill Buxton, a user interface design specialist.  The session addressed the question “Does (Physical) Location Matter” in our modern time with an increasing number of ways for people to connect with each other and socialize online.

I’ve been thinking about this question from time-to-time for the past few months, and it actually relates to my M.A. thesis on how the Internet influences an individual’s perception of reality.  Computer mediated communication (CMC) can and does affect how people perceive the world, and an individual’s understanding of the world around them.

Location is becoming less significant as the immersive nature of CMC increases.  With the ability to interact using text, audio and video in a seamlessly integrated way the depth of interactions is certainly richer than in the past.  The ease with which people can connect, whether through YouTube, Flickr, blogs or other socially rich web environments, increases both the number of people participating, and the cross-demography of online participants.

Conversely however, people are still flying around the world to do business, spend time together and interact face-to-face.  The kind of sensory engagement that happens in-person is not replicated online – the ability to touch, smell, and taste things around us; and in-person three-dimensional and movable audio and visual environments, far surpass the replication of the real world through the Internet.

virtual-reality-8So does the future of the Internet involve greater sensory engagement, with smell, touch, taste, and 3-D movable sights and sounds?  There is a lot of great research advances happening out there in these kind of directions, and certainly in order for CMC to replace the need for F2F interactions a full sensory replication will need to evolve.

I’ll elaborate a lot on some of these topics in future blog posts… anyone care to chime in in the interim?