Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Qik! Grab a video camera

The first time my friend showed me her new video capability with the iPhone 3GS, I was immediately jealous. No more still photos for her Facebook page -- she can take real videos with sound and everything! Suddenly my single-frame images didn't seem so cool.

But that was before I met Qik.

Qik turns my iPhone -- and a lot of other compatible phones -- into an instant video camera. Better yet, I can post my videos immediately to Facebook or Twitter a link to the live feed and let my friends watch my videos in real time. Take that, video-enabled friend!

Of course now I just need to find something interesting enough to video. Documenting my next rock climbing excursion would be perfect, but that takes two hands, so now all I have to do is figure out to hold the camera and climb at the same time. There is that big roll of duct tape in the garage ...

OK, so my idea still needs some work. But if you're looking for a fast easy way to turn your smart phone into a video cam and you have enough free hands, look no further than Qik.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Secret Formula for Search

Has it happened to you yet?

Have you typed in a Google search and found yourself staring at that new little results box with entries that change every few seconds? Has it enhanced your search experience or driven you crazy?

The real-time search box doesn't come up for every search on Google, and even though Twitter has reportedly inked a $25 million deal with Microsoft and Google (for $15 million and $10 million respectively) that pays Twitter for access to its real-time results, I haven't yet seen the box on Bing. At least I still feel like I understand the search results there.

In a world where technology seems to change almost daily, I guess it's just best to embrace change. But for me, the new information on Google still creates more questions than it answers. Here are just a few of them:

What algorithms determine what shows up in the real time results?
It's not like consumers ever controlled algorithms in traditional search results, but the immediacy of the results you get seem to make it more important to understand how they get there in the first place -- that's if you ever want to actually find useful information in real time. In other words, would I get less search "garbage" if I look for certain phrases or exclude certain terms?

Why don't real-time results show on Bing?
Do you have to search differently to get the results on Bing? Is there now more reason to use one search engine over the other depending on what kind of info you're looking for?

What if you get an awesome link in your results, only to click away and come back to find it's disappeared?
Maybe this is why I'm reluctant to get hooked on real-time results. Maybe I'm afraid I'll find a nugget of useful information among all the results flowing in only to lose it in the great sea of blog and micro-blogging results.

As I ponder these and other questions, I just came across a post that assures me I'm not the only one still trying to figure this all out. According to Search Engine Land, Brittany Murphy's death is the first big test for Google's real time search results. As sad as her death is, I'm glad it's not a major world crisis that's leaving everybody scrambling how to figure out how to use this latest technology tool.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Do the social media merge

Do you ever click on the little Twitter definitions located right below your profile pic? I did today, and I got introduced to Brizzly, a cute little app (who doesn't love a a cartoon bear in a Twitter suit!) that combines Facebook and Twitter so you can toggle back and forth between the two.

Besides reducing your open windows by at least one, Brizzly has some other cool features that make it worth checking out. For one, you see entire URLs in your Twitter posts, rather than the shortened ones people use to stay below the 140 character limit. This is cool because it gives you a little better idea what you're clicking on and if indeed you really want to go there.

Photos and videos are viewable inline on Brizzly too, so there's no need to jump to another Twitpic window, etc. If you're like me and like to keep you open tabs down to a reasonable number, this is bound to be a feature you'll like.

One last cool Brizzly feature -- it has a direct message box that shows both parties IMs just like regular texting. I guess this means you can close your IM window too, as long as the person you want to text also happens to be on Brizzly ...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Real Time is a Real Drag

This is only my second post, but I'm going out on a limb anyway.

I hate Google's new real-time results.

There, I said it. I feel so much better now. I know my opinion probably puts me in the know-nothing category for a lot of social media aficionados, but I don't care. It was already hard enough to find what you wanted in search results -- now you have to wade through Twitter posts too? How is this improving my search experience?

Take my search today for LL Zamenhof. I was curious about today's Google doodle, so I checked it out, and it happens to be the birthday of Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto, an international language.

I clicked on a few links to get more information, just as I usually would when doing a search. But then, approximately 5 results down, the Twitter posts started flooding in. A lot of them just had #google and a link to Google's explanation of their doodle (guess I'm not the only one who found the father of Esperanto to be a somewhat obscure reference). The posts that didn't have the hashtag didn't really have anything important to add, but they just keep coming in. And I kept looking at them, thinking "I'm going to get some enlightening piece of information from some random Twitter post." Finally, I realized I would probably be staring a long time and moved on to something more productive.

I'm trying to think of instances where these immediate results would be useful, and I guess if there were an emergency of some kind like an earthquake or a school shooting the up-to-the-minute results would be welcome. But then again, since you can never be sure of the source of the information or its accuracy, maybe these posts would just add to the confusion.

In one of his posts last week, big-time blogger Pete Cashmore made a huge deal about this latest development in real-time web searches. So again, I know I must be the odd woman out in not thinking this is the greatest thing since the iPhone. But until I find myself in the midst of a panic situation where I welcome even the smallest slice of info from a random stranger, I'm greeting this new Google functionality with lukewarm enthusiasm.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Growing Pains

"If you never push yourself, you're not growing. You're not learning anything new."

This sage advice came from my good friend who was trying to coax me up a wall of concrete dotted with minuscule hand and foot holds. We were rock climbing -- a sport I've recently taken up, and I was trying a new route for the fist time. I listened to her advice and managed to make it up on the wall, which was a feat in itself since it started at an incline, and almost halfway up before my shaking arms got the best of me. Next time, I told myself, I'll make it all the way.

I remembered her advice again today when I decided to make my first blog post.

I've blogged before, but only because I needed to vent my political viewpoint. Now I'm blogging to prove I have something to say about social media. Two very different animals. The blogosphere is literally overflowing with posts about Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook. What can I contribute? What can I possibly add to the conversation?

How will I know if I don't reach for that next hand hold and try?

I recently completed my master's certificate in online marketing through the University of San Francisco. And I've been working on the Internet in one capacity or another for more than 10 years. So I have a good foundation upon which to launch this new endeavor. But new things can be intimidating. Daunting, even. Just like those big concrete walls I've been gradually learning to conquer.

Here's to mastering the nex route, err, post.