Anyone who is involved with technology for their subsistence has to spend a lot of time on the Internet to keep up with the pace of change in that area. Added to this there are always additional areas of knowledge required by the individual assignment regarding idiosyncrasies of the industry, business and software requirements. We at Paladin Consultants, LLC either need a ready store of information on hand, or the ability to acquire specific esoteric information quickly to enhance our value to the project at hand.
My every working day, for instance, begins with scanning 50-100 blog sites for new developments. Of course, it would be impossible to read that many articles and still get productive work accomplished, so I have developed a set techniques to store, mark and schedule the absorption of this material.
Delicious, of course is a key component to my strategy. Most of the interesting and productive information I file with keywords on Delicious, where I can refer back to them as needed. But some content requires more careful and contemporaneous attention, and other content sometimes attracts my immediate interest. It is unwieldy to open these items in a new tab because the opening of too many tabs bogs Firefox, my favorite browser, down. Several years ago some folks created a Firefox add-on to address exactly this issue. The ‘Taboo’ add-on would save the site url and the image of its web page into a data file, which could be stored and recalled at a more convenient time. I made heavy use for that add-on in the few years it was available.
As Firefox put out newer and newer versions, the authors of the product found that they could not, or were disinterested in upgrading the product to keep up with the changes demanded by Mozilla.
But we at Paladin found the technology so useful that we forked the old ‘Taboo’ add-on for Firefox product, gave it a serious upgrade, and changed the structure that it would be easier to keep up with the frequent Firefox revisions to their browser product. We named the add-on ‘TABULOUS‘.
TABULOUS is simple and easy to use. The user interacts with the add-on through two buttons that he places on the browser tool bar on installation. The first button allows the user to save the current tab (or all tabs) into the active TABULOUS data file. This will free up the current tab for use by the user as he continues his browsing. As the current tab is saved, the toolbar button changes to remind you that it has been saved. The second button displays the thumbnail images of the saved sites in the TABULOUS data file and allow the user to choose the sites for viewing. In the ‘Viewing’ mode, there are several choices of display: by calendar, details, and in a Grid format. There is also a Tools menu in display mode which expands the power of the add-on to another dimension.
The Tools menu allows you to name save your TABULOUS file (Export). Here’s the powerful feature. Now you can export collections of sites in separate files, and import them as needed. This is an excellent way to do research on any subject: get a clean new TABULOUS file, and to through a bunch of Google pages on the subject that you are researching. Mark the interesting ones in your new TABULOUS file, and quickly move onto the next site. When you think you have a large enough population of sites marked (I try for 4-5 dozen to start), go back and cull the TABULOUS inventory, cutting and pasting salient information from the sites you have saved. This is a very powerful feature.
All in all, we have found this technique and tool to be VERY helpful and productive to our business, and to the effort of acquisition and sharing of knowledge. And, being strong believers in the principle of communal knowledge, offer this very helpful add-on to the internet community.
The process of blogging involves basically the cogent and organized statement and expression of better ideas communicated in a way that others can understand. Today, the market is saturated with innovative and clever software which will greatly assist the writers and planners of this world in producing thoughtful content efficiently. In our business, we always start with an organized examination and reformulation of the business process and rules of our clients.
In order to be successful, several inhibitions to this process needs to be examined understood and remedied. The first is the very idea of how to collect ideas and sub ideas. In my experience, ideas come from many locations and at many times. One of the issues and perhaps the most important of all is designing a process that one can capture those ideas. Because one never knows when one is going to have an idea or receive the revelation it’s important to have a method to capture these ideas as they occur. I use an iPhone or iPad as the technology that hooks all those together.
As a web-based receiver and recorder of that information, Evernote, a free internet based site which will allow you to save and record your ideas in an organized fashion, is my choice. These methods give only a rough outline and a way to collect and produce an organized listing of these idea fragments. These later must be combined in collated and edited into an intelligible skein of thought process. Because it’s not uncommon to have thoughts on different subjects they’re not in a logical flow but seemingly random it’s also convenient to have different subjects in one’s electronic notebook I find Evernote is very good for this as well.
One can with a little practice and experience have a notebook that is arranged by different subjects and when one has some thoughts one can go to the subject page that’s appropriate for those thoughts to help organize the content. Evernote also has a web clipping application which will enable you to save web articles to Evernote.
Lastly, I use a product called SnagIt to capture and edit screen images to be inserted into my articles. Very convenient.
After a short period of time the notebook, if you attempt to keep it somewhat organized, will be filled with a logical progression of ideas thoughts and subjects which although composed of different times are organized well enough to conceive a pretty frequent blog articles which may or may not be part of a single uber-subject.
I’ve also discovered that if you carry your iPhone with you at all times it’s not difficult to come up with an organized thought pattern, punctuate those thoughts occasionally with photos that you can take on your iPhone and then transfer to a document and process before it’s published
As I have frequently noticed in my business, it is the process and the assimilation and institutionalization if you will of that process that is the key factor to success in promulgating any idea or idea system.
Another reason why this is a good set of habits to develop is that in my experience one rarely knows at the outset of an idea the limits to which that idea will grow, it’s fecundity, usefulness or how it will nurture itself and grow. To reach its full flower and idea needs to be considered from many different angles and examined and considered. And aged like a good cheese in order to assess where the idea will go and how it will grow.
In my view, this is the most difficult part of writing a blog: the organized collection and assembly of a coherent collection of thought and ideas. But using my technique of an electronic web-based notebook, and the dictation and photo power of the iPhone, I believe dramatically improves and makes easier this process. I use DropBox (the free version) which allows me to transfer applicable photos from my phone to my desktop computer, or for a single picture I can just email it to myself.
I conceived the idea of the series of articles about 10 days ago, and now have easily enough material for about 12 blog articles on this general subject (improvements in technology and its contribution to the process of blogging and the processing and promulgation of ideas).
I estimate (I did not keep a log) that since this idea occurred to me, I have spent about a total of an hour formulating the outline and dictating idea fragments and partial text for about a dozen blog articles. Transferring all the content to a Word document took about 5 minutes, and rewriting and editing the content for this article took about 10 minutes. Because the recording and outline of the articles occurred in ‘private time’ snippets while walking to the train, or driving I do not count that time. So it works out that it will take about 3 hours to create 12 thoughtful blog articles with the help of my new process, and a little technology.
An important trait of a sophisticated software designer is his ability to recognize abstract tasks and requirements in the assignment in which he is engaged. In this way the software consultant is able to learn and bring value from his past experience and create rand use reusable code. It also forces the software designer to think analytically using critical reasoning, and employment of abstract imagination to bring value to the client in the project. This exercise requires listening and asking probative questions to arrive at and discern abstract analogies to solutions arrived at in his previous engagements. Read the rest of this entry »
Summary: This article is one more in a series explaining and advocating for web2.0 technology, and how that technology is helpful in interacting meaningfully with customers and clients over the web. This article is the latest in a series of essays about the various facets of web2.0 technology, including Programming Web Content with Web2.0 and XML: A Key Powerful Software Technology to Grow Your Business and Engage Your Customers. As professional designers and providers of web services we know that our clients have a much higher and better quality of response from sites which strive to offer a better caliber of interaction with their customers. Web2.0 is an essential technology and component of that effort.
There are several distinct types of mashups – consumer and enterprise. Enterprise mashups usually occur over secure networks, and are processed on a server, while consumer mashups are more forgiving, and accomplished on the users’ desktops. Web-based mashups usually use the clients web-browser to do the combining and reformatting of data. The various data streams must be sent to the client device as individual data streams so that they can be processed. Server-based mashups will do the analysis and reformatting of the data on the server side and send the data to the client as a single data stream.
Early mashups were created manually by programmers. As with many programming break-throughs, they were first done by enthusiastic programmers just to see if it could be done. As mashups became more popular, there arose a market for tools to simplify and speed up the creation of mashups. Software companies responded by creating tools that allow designers to construct mashups in a visual environment. All the potential components of a mashup are presented in this visual environment and can be connected to create the desired mashup. While mashup editors have made the process of creating mashups much simpler, they have not done a lot to create new ways of accessing the data to be combined. Mashup Enablers address this problem by adding new types of data that can be added to a mashup. A mashup enabler is defined as “the service and tool providers that make mashups possible”.
Here’s a mashup created using Yahoo pipes. Yahoo pipes is a graphic interface which allows querying, filtering, sorting manipulating and formatting output from sources across the internet. This particular one taps several RSS feeds using technology from Yahoo and Delicious. The combines them into a single feed which is sorted by dates so that the most recent articles appear at the head of the list. If left to its own devices, the pipe would return hundreds of thousands of articles! But for our purposes, we limited it to the 15 most current articles.
(add references to other Paladin articles above)
However, with the advent of readily available high speed processing on the desktop and high speed communications, this mashup technology is beginning now to come into its own. Web pages that before were static and ‘dusty’ and were outmoded before they were published are now beginning to give way to dynamic conversations between the provider and user. Mashups are one way of delivering custom tailored content to a hungry consumer with an ever shortening attention span and an ever expanding demand for information.
For the business owner, it is also a boon. Here is an excellent way to provide up to the minute content which can be tailored to the needs and desires of an interested customer – kind of like an MIRV missile (multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicle). This is very powerful magic from a marketing and business development point of view. And even more exciting is that after the relatively small initial setup cost, the business owner can have his website updated and fresh, targeted to any individual customer or prospect by piggybacking on the technology of someone else!
Here’s a mashup using Flickr.com and Flickriver.com. Flickr is the repository of data containing the photographs, and Flickriver provides the technology that produces a randomly ordered list of up to 500 separate images from a pool of Flickr files. The list is different every day, so this blog article will show a different crop of images every day -automatically!
No, this is not plagiarism. It is perfectly legal and respectable. The providing companies expose their API (application programming interface) to the public exactly for that reason: they are anxious for other sites to share their technology because it establishes themselves as an industry standard, and makes it more likely that they will get a larger share of the business generated by the downstream customers .
If you feel that your company might benefit from such an enhancement to your web site and marketing program, please feel free to contact us. Additionally, we welcome comments on our articles in the space provided below.
Summary:XML technology enables a host of new web techniques which enable B2B applications, RSS web feeds, and AJAX client side interactive web experiences. Collectively, these modern web techniques provide a more rewarding user experience and promote a closer engagement with the customer. XML and its related languages and envelopes will likely continue to be exploited to even greater effect in the web communication between buyers and sellers, vendors and clients. This article is intended to describe the functionality of that technology, and to suggest ways that users might be able to employ techniques enables by XML to grow their business and better engage and serve their customers. Paladin Consultants, LLC has in depth experience in the construction and implementation of this and similar techniques. Read the rest of this entry »
Summary: As a prominent professional developer of custom software, database products, and provider of I T consulting services and web products and services in the NY NJ metropolitan area, we have been keen and interested observers of Microsoft’s performance and products that they have developed over the past 20 years. In our opinion, Microsoft is losing the battle for market share of the software that is the lingua franca of the Internet. In our opinion, this results from their design of products they make to produce reliance on other Microsoft products. We believe that this feature is a result of Microsoft corporate culture, and not of any altruistic motive on their part. The Internet, in contrast, is steadfastly committed to open standards to accommodate a vast variety of approches to community. Neither of these attitudes seems like to change. In our opinion, this disconnect will continue to work to the detriment of Microsoft. Read the rest of this entry »
Summary: This article is about using database and software to model and extract meaningful information from your business. Many companies miss opportunities in communicating with their clients, and gathering valuable information from their business that can importantly advance the prospects of their business in a very cost effective manner. The adoption of enlightened information technology using database technology and custom software in a business levels the playing field, and enables smaller companies to neutralize advantages enjoyed by their larger and more established competitors. Read the rest of this entry »
A week or so ago, I wrote an article about mining research/marketing information in a new way from Twitter,. That site, Listimonkey, will monitor lists for you, and watch for key words. When it finds your designated key words in your list, it’ll send you an email, designating the tweeter and the tweet, until you tell it to stop.
Shortly after my article was published, I got a tweet, from Eugene Mandel, who invited me to discuss the whole concept of data mining on Twitter. That tweet led to a very collegial telephone conversation between us, in which we exchanged ideas which will provide the basis for this article.
Eugene is a very engaging young entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, who has been involved with a number of startups. His current plans integrate very nicely with my concept of Twitter data mining. My prediction is that his newest venture, mustexist.com, is destined to become an important tool for Twitter users. He recently started the company with his pal and co-founder, Alex Sherstinsky, a Ph.D. from MIT. These guys are very serious players.
Mustexist’s current product is called list tags. It allows one to take a twitter name, and creates a ‘cloud’ of lists in which that Twitter name appears, roughly signifying the importance of keywords in that person’s list audience by the size of the type in the cloud.
Here’s a copy of Glenn Beck’s tag cloud. I shrunk it down to accommodate the page size, and its contextual importance in this article. Beck is on some 3800 lists. Politics, News, and political head the parade, but further down the list are lists named things like ‘nutcase’, and other less desirable things to be associated with. Mandel goes through the Twitter API, and finds all the lists on which Glenn Beck is mentioned. Then, he queries those lists and finds the most popular keywords in their title. Then he ranks those keywords by their frequency of appearance in Beck’s universe of lists, and performs a simple statistical conversion to interpolate the list keyword frequency to the type size in the cloud.
Pretty neat trick, eh?
But there’s more: list_tags enumerates some of the lists on which the Twitter member appears. Here’s a picture of the TopLists for “Politics” in which Glenn Beck appears. Now think, for a moment how valuable this information can be. Many of these “top” lists contain 400–500 members. These are lists for the top topic which have the largest number of members – regardless of whether or not the subject appears on those lists. That’s valuable information for marketers, or for researchers and even job seekers. But more than that– everyone who is maintaining such a list is someone who has enough interest in your subject to go to the trouble of maintaining a list of people who he/she considers are the leaders in the field. And if that’s not enough, the lists editors is another valuable source of fertile relationships to cultivate.
The second. longer list is a list of which Glenn is a member. So, in the case of a celebrity, it will not be unlikely that the same names will be on both lists. I’ll not reproduce the Lists for ‘politics’ because it is too long – and because in appearance it strongly resembles in format the ‘Top List’.
So the stage is set now with a resource now to empower Twitter users with access to many lists. A little resourcefulness will enable you to harvest those lists, and, by extension, to knowledge of all of their membership. This will give you first hand access to communicating with the most well-regarded people in any given field! And with the LIstimonkey resource, you can monitor the conversations of those experts for keywords. With a little software jiggering and less than an hour’s effort, using our Glenn Beck example, we could identify, harvest and communicate with thousands of political junkies.
Mandel, however, is talking about taking Mustexist to a whole other level. Using the database he has assembled for the list-tag project, he is planning to offer in the near future an interactive, iterative way of ‘surfing’ the tweetstream of these lists, in much the same was that Google lets you surf for articles. He made the analogy of a newspaper in our conversation. Each newspaper has several sections: sport, business, local, etc. If you accept the proposition that a list’s tweetstream is like a newspaper, then it would be very productive to skim through the newspaper, looking only for articles that interested you. You could skip the car ads, and dating club ads, and focus on baseball, or international news.
Similarly, over a period of time, a list’s tweetstream will have a lot of chaff: someone’s opinion of last night’s American Idol, inclement weather, mother-in-law coming for a visit… But what if you could adopt a list, or amalgam of similar interest lists? What if you could in real time and on an ad hoc basis query the stream for stuff like: climategate? cap and trade? world health organization? BTU content of coal? And how powerful would it be if you could pursue your line of inquiry immediately, based on feedback you got from the previous question?
I think that MustExist is on the verge of somthing quite important that will add a new dimension of empowerment to the serious Twitter user. There are currently some 23 million Twitter users, 75% of which are either classified as ‘addicts’ or ‘regulars’. That’s a reliable 18 million pairs of eyeballs scanning and interacting with Twitter several times a week – sometimes several times a day. Any tool that can reliably and easily segment relevant portions of that population and then address them is bound to be very successful.
Please add your comments. It is helpful to hear the opinions of our readers!