Updates from January, 2009 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Joe 18:03 on January 27, 2009 Permalink  

    How to be a free thinker 

    Instead of blogging about one of the subjects I had in mind, I use this space for just one thing: linking to the essay by Scott Berkun: How to be a free thinker.

    Just read it, think it over and be silent for a moment. Likely I’m wrong (read the essay) but I’m impressed!

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  • Joe 18:31 on January 26, 2009 Permalink  

    Your music timeline on Twones 

    twones timeline screenshotIt has been more than a year now since I got involved with Twones as one of the founding partners. Time to reveal a bit of what we have been cooking and what it may mean for music lovers and producers, mostly from a technical perspective.

    Twones is all about your music timeline, that is, tracking the music you listen to and being able to re-use this data in all ways imaginable.
    The service itself focuses on the social aspect of music, by allowing you to share your music listening with the world and follow in real time what your friends are listening to.

    From a technical perspective, the basis is being able to determine the metadata of the music you’re listening to, both online (websites) as well as offline (local music players like itunes, winamp, windows media…). This metadata is then sent to Twones and made available again in various formats. The music timeline on the web site is currently the most visible representation. But eventually you will be able to export your timeline again, through a dedicated API, in order to build your own mashups or just be able to archive it.

    When looking at the music timeline, Twones is much like a funnel, gathering music events from many places, processing them to make them available again in many contexts and applications.

    The good thing about the internet is still the enormous amount of solutions and open standards which are being developed and improved to suit real needs. So it is no surprise that an informal standard for representation of music playlists already exists for a couple of years: XSPF. This is an XML based format, open for extension with multiple alternative music sources in mind.

    Twones extends XSPF by adding a timestamp for the playback event, so the list has both meaning as a music timeline and as playlist for future playback.

    With this in place, the Twones funnel can be seen as a data acquisition component (which runs in your web browser), followed by a metadata normalizer and resolver, followed by a XSPF export facility. It is on top of these XSPF streams that many, many services can and will be built, allowing to re-use your music attention in ways we can not even imagine right now.

    To be continued…

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  • Joe 08:32 on January 25, 2009 Permalink
    Tags: gmail, , , security   

    Google apps secure connection 

    Update Feb 10: Google is listening to their critical users and takes their responsibility serious, it appears!

    Today I discovered that they did not only restore the “always use https” setting in gmail, but there is now a global switch on the Apps for your domain settings page as well. Ironically, the associated help page still tells you that this is a “premier edition only feature “.

    Now that is a big improvement, thank you Google!

    Domain settings: always use SSL

    Apps for your domain: DomainSettings: always use SSL

    (More …)

  • Joe 23:22 on January 24, 2009 Permalink
    Tags: business model, downturn, free, , Https   

    The end of free, also for Google? 

    Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBase
    Image via CrunchBase

    Just like with the downturn around year 2001, many formerly free web apps start charging for their services, and sometimes quite significant amounts. For instance, the first payed tier of Getsatisfaction costs now $49 per month, still significant for a start-up. Not to criticize GSFN, we love the service as we use it for Twones, but this is clearly becoming a trend.

    In times of economic downturn it is either getting paid or getting bust.

    More surprising is a silent change in the options for Google Apps when you sign up for a new account (new domain).

    A year ago, the free product allowed you to add 100 users (or emails), now 50.

    And the webmail product was almost like the free gmail product. Specifically, you should specify that connections always use SSL (secure https rather than standard http). This is now gone, you have to pay $50,- per user per year now to use secure connections.

    This surprises me, considered that there are urgent reports warning that you should use the https option for gmail, which attracts more and more black hat hackers due to its high popularity.

    Oh, and $50 is a bit much of a price tag for members of my family who just want to check their email every so often…

    Update: a bit of googling learns that I’m not the only one who noticed…

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  • Joe 21:26 on January 23, 2009 Permalink
    Tags: Address Book, Calendar, fruux, ICal, , sync   

    Fruux: sync addresses and calendars between macs 

    fruuxIf you want to keep your contacts and your calendar synchronized between macs, you had the only option to subscribe to mobile me. For me that was not really an option, as I don’t use any of the other services and then $99,- p/a is a bit hefty.

    But now there is Fruux, just a single preference pane addition, which keeps all of your addresses (Address Book) and calendars (iCal) and even your safari bookmarks in perfect sync. Best of all, it is in active development and there are some really nice features ahead, like online access to your data and “social sync”, whatever that may be (yes, I’m curious, maybe a replacement for Plaxo?).

    Your data is stored at the Fruux servers, securely transported using https (that’s what they claim). You still need to trust the Fruux team with your contacts and calendars.

    A quote:

    fruux is a lightweight and convenient system preference pane, that syncs your Address Book, Calendars, Tasks and Bookmarks between different Macs. fruux supports sync conflict resolution which will help you when you changed a record on more than one machine. fruux is currently localized in dutch, english, french, german, italian, spanish and romanian.

    Oh, and the app is free (as in beer) and still in beta (all warnings apply, but for me it just works as promised for over a week now). The Dutch localization has one mislabeled button (version 0.9), that’s just a minor issue I found.

    Highly recommended!

    Update: I sent the folks at Fruux more details about the Dutch localization issue and they corrected it right away, it will be fixed in the next release!

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  • Joe 18:11 on January 22, 2009 Permalink  

    Sorry del.icio.us, you’re loosing me! 

    Delicious (website)
    Image via Wikipedia

    Strange, how some popular services just not appear to work when becoming part of a new organization.

    We saw this recently with Jaiku coming to a halt after being bought by Google.

    Another example is del.icio.us (renamed to delicious.com in an attempt to make it seem less nerdy?). The first years after the acquisition by Yahoo not much happened, the lean and mean interface stayed the way it was and existing users could just go on using it the way it was, with their original account names, using login cookies that didn’t expire in ages. Over time, the web interface started to get a little bloated, still nothing to worry too much about.

    More recently, Yahoo decided to “merge accounts” into Yahoo accounts and use their single sign-on technology for authentication. That is where the trouble started.

    Over time, Yahoo’s sign-in system has been secured more and more, without doubt a good thing to protect your Yahoo mailbox. But serious overkill for the way users like me want to use del.iciou.us. That is: when I hit an interesting web page, I want to immediately bookmark it (using a bookmarklet), add a few tags (with ajax auto-completion goodness), hit the enter key and be done with that. And now I’m no longer able to use the bookmarklet that way, I always get that pesky Yahoo signin screen.

    Now I happen to have quiet a few Yahoo accounts because of all those merged services (upcoming.org, and flickr.com) and I simply can not remember which account was used for what service, let alone what password is the right one. To make matters worse, Yahoo now even refuses to send me a password reset link if I can’t tell them my secondary email address. Geezj, Idon’t know that, I have gazillions of those secondary addresses. I simply have to give up on those locked Yahoo accounts.

    What they should have done is the way LinkedIn works: use a persistent auth cookie for basic, read only access and only ask for your password again if you’re about to edit your profile or send a message to another user. This is well aligned with the involvement of the task at hand:

    • quick check of a user’s profile works with my persistent stored account details
    • editing my profile or actions involving other users ask me to prove that I am who I pretend (based on my password, oh well)

    Oh, and if I don’t remember my password, just help me to reset it w/o asking impossible questions.

    Back to del.icio.us, what are the alternatives?

    Currently I’m experimenting with Twine, which adds many more sharing and collaboration options. An alternative might be faviki.com, which suggests wikipedia topics for tags, creating real semantic meaning for these tags.

    Twine’s bookmarklet works nice and clean, while the Faviki bookmarklet needs some work; it occupies too much screen space and the wikipedia lookups (through DBPedia) take too long for a smooth experience.

    So, what is your alternative for del.icious? Please let me know in the comments!

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