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I got your favorites right here! December 31, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Bookmarking, social networks.

How do you save your favorites (bookmarks)? Do you save them locally on each of your computers (at work and at home and on your laptop)? If so, that out-dated method is a real pain to manage because your collection of favorite websites will be different on each computer. You will have some links on one computer and some on another. It is a nightmare and impossible to keep in sync and if something bad ever happens to that computer (not if, but when) then all those favorites are gone, along with anything else you forgot to back up.

Social Bookmarking Age

Fortunately, one of the hottest services on the web today is social bookmarking. These sites allow you to save your bookmarks online so you will have access to your favorite websites no matter what computer you are using. It also becomes a good backup in the event your computer crashes because your entire collection is stored safe and sound online.

The tough part is selecting which social bookmarking site to use! There are so many excellent choices available today that you will need to try several of them to see which one suites you best. Everyone surfs differently, so you will need to make your own decision. This will be a quick and dirty primer on the most popular social bookmarking sites avaible today.

Microsoft’s Live Favorites can save your favorites online. It has the best looking site and offers the ability to view your bookmarks as folders like in your Internet explorer or as labels (i.e. tags). You can import your bookmarks from your local computer or even from your delicious account. Best of all and unlike all the others, Live Favorites can automatically synchronize your local favorites with your online favorites! The bad news is that there is a ridiculously low 1000 favorite limit so it will not be a good solution for power users. It also needs to include more social networking features like the other services offer such as widgets and badges. Also needed are multiple levels of sharing. Right now it’s either private or public. We need to be able to share with individuals or groups. Important note: You will need to get the Live Favorites Toolbar to take full advantage of its features.

Google Bookmarks allows you to save bookmarks online like the rest but their new google toolbar offers many bookmark management options.

Yahoo Bookmarks is similar to google bookmarks in that its power really comes from using its toolbar. You can import all your favorites and start saving your bookmarks online.

Delcious is the most popular social bookmarking site. It allows you to do all of the standard things such as importing,exporting and it has a toolbar button that makes saving bookmarks to your online account very easy. It also excels when it comes to sharing your favorites with your friends or with the public. There are a ton of third party tools that work with delicious.

magnolia is similar to delicious. Prettier look and adds the ability to share links with a group instead of just individuals.

furl is different because it allows you to actually save the contents of any webpage to your account for future reference, not just the link to the page which can change and look radically different the next time you visit it.

spurl is another popular bookmarking site that does less than the others on this list.

FAVES (formerly BlueDot.us) is swiftly becoming one of the most popular social bookmarking services. Its biggest strength is the way that it allows you to share bookmarks with individuals instead of the ALL public or All private model that Delicious offers. It still doesn’t allow group sharing of bookmarks but it’s a step in the right direction.

Social Bookmarking Widgets, Gadgets and Button, oh my!

Most websites will provide a quick and easy method for saving their link to your social bookmarking service of choice. You can save bookmarks as well as RSS feeds.
Two of the most popular ones are:

ShareThis which will look like this allows you to save/share bookmarks to these services:

AddThis is another service that has widgets that can appear like any of these:

Addthis offers a greater variety of sites that you can save a link or RSS feed to:

Final Thoughts:

In this mobile age we live, we must be able to access our data and information wherever we go. Managing our favorites/bookmarks online makes perfect sense. We just need to pick the one that we feel most comfortable using and get into the habit of saving them online so we can get to our collection no matter where we are in the world. Also, we need to get into the habit of adding tags (keywords) for every link we save. This makes our collection more powerful when it comes to searching and sharing them.

American Web Star December 31, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Music, social networks.
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The Internet could become another path to stardom in the music industry and give American Idol a run for their money. The success of Kina Grannis AKA The Digg Girl has opened a lot of eyes and ears.

Here is her “Gotta Digg” music video that has perhaps launched her recording career.

The success of the Digg Girl has perhaps kicked open the floodgates for music artists who will try to land their bigg (heh heh) break via the Internet route. Expect a swarm of endless Kina-wanna-bes.

Also expect most of them to be dreadful and quite painful to experience. Still, it makes perfect sense that Social Media and Social Networking become a viable tool for getting exposure, for better or worse.

I cringe at what is lurking ahead…”Google This” by an Italian rap singer? “Where have you gone, Robert Scoble?” by cute geek girl wearing glasses and a pocket protector?

“SkypeHype” by a hip hop artist named BlingMastr?

Prepare yourselves, people. It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s all good.

Here is a previous post called YouTV that reviews the best way to record your own video and share it with the world online. There are more video and webcam recording services every day it seems.

Here are two other sites that can release the inner pop star in all of us:

kSolo is a free Karaoke service that makes it easy (perhaps TOO easy) for anyone to record their rendition of popular songs. Maybe a better name would’ve been TheButcherShop.com, heh heh.

Still, it looks like a lot of fun if you’re into this kind of thing or if you enjoy watching car wrecks.

The Sims Onstage offers more than just karaoke like ksolo. It has many different forms of expression such as Mashups, Poetry, storytelling, comedy, etc.

You don’t have to be into the Sims to contribute to this site but it sure adds to the experience if you are, I guess.

Midomi is strictly a karaoke site with many songs to choose from.

The Time of Your Life (Online) December 31, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Blogs, Social Aggregators, social networks.
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Circavie is a service that lets you create visual timelines of anything you want to document online. Each entry can include hyperlinks, images, text and even comments.

You can navigate the timelines via the arrows at the bottom of the screen or by clicking anywhere on the timeline and scrolling left to go back in time or forward for the future.

Example timeline: History of Blogging

Another example: Fred Lippert and Family

http://dandelife.com is well-known for its TimeLine feature that displays your stories and online activities chronological order. It looks something like this:

Dandelife does much more than Circavie because it can also serve as a social network aggregator and include your streams from other services like Twitter, Flickr, delicious and more.
You can view your friends’ network streams as well.Here are three screencasts that show more of Dandelife’s features: http://dandelife.com/demos

Family 2.0 December 30, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in family, social networks.
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Even your relatives aren’t safe from the social networking and web 2.0 fever that is spreading across the globe like wildfire. It makes sense when you think about it. Why wouldn’t we use social networking technologies to keep in touch with family members, document family history an dmanage hectic schedules to make life easier? We use it for friends, customers, vendors and even perfect strangers, why not with relatives?

After inspecting the following sites it became clear that each one brought something unique to the family table. While some offered far more features, they still lacked some critical features that the others included. It is perplexing that these sites don’t seem to be studying the competition much. It would make sense if they examined what everyone else was doing just to ensure that they themselves weren’t leaving some important feature or option out.

Here are the core components that a family social networking site should include: News, Family tree, address book, calendar with appointment notification (iCal compatible), list manager (to do lists, shopping lists, gift lists, recipes, etc.), blog/wiki for family history and stories, Photo Album, Live Chat and message board. Obviously, there are many more features available, but these should be the minium available for any family network site. Another critical element is the ability to have multiple logins for each family member with different access levels. Most of these sites only provide a single login and access level!
Here are some of the best sites and tools available for free today. See the Family Site Feature Comparison Matrix to compare all of these sites side by side. Note: The matrix is a work in progress that will be updated on a regular basis as sites and services change.

Famundo appears to offer the most features with their free version which is ad-supported as well as their premium $9.99/month version.
They actually offer their premium version for free to organizations such as schools, churches, etc. Here is Famundo’s comparison matrix between Famundo, Cozi and some others.

MyFamily is from the same folks from ancestry.com which gives it a strong advantage over all the others when it comes to geneology. This is important because it can exchange information with the massive ancestry database. Their new site has a lot to offer.

KinCafe has a much more pleasing interface than famundo but nowhere near the amount of features. Still, many will prefer the less is more offering here. It does offer a family tree maker online.

http://famiva.com offers some unique features the others do not such as their map tool that shows where everyone is located. They also have a family network diagram that shows how everyone links together in a different way than their family tree does. They also offer blogs where you can embed video and images.

FamilyCrossings has one of the best looking sites and easiest interfaces. Here is a Virtual Tour. They offer 6 core features with the free account and 15 features for the $10/month premium account.
The free features include: News, Photos, Calendar, Address Book, Live Chat and Gift Center. All in all a great site.

AirSet is a newcomer offering all of the standard features with a nice look and feel.

Cozi only has a meager set of features such as a calendar, shopping list maker and the ability to send text messages to family members.

Geni has a powerful and elegant family tree maker online. It includes photos of family members and contact information. It truly needs ability to connect, search and download from an ancestry database of some kind.

is the famous geneology site. Great place to research family tree information. Some searches and information are free, but most aren’t.

10th Anniversary of Blogging December 29, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Blogs, News.
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NPR has an excellent segment on the 10th Anniversary of the term Blog on their site. People were “blogging” more than ten years ago, but it just wasn’t called blogging back then. I called what I was documenting online a personal journal because I refused to call it a diary. 🙂 I remember using LiveJournal as far back as 1999. The times sure have changed, huh?

In honor of this milestone, I updated a popular image called the History of Blogging that has been floating around a while. It ended with twitter and I wanted to bring it more up to date and perhaps beyond a tad so I added the audio micro-blogging service Utterz and then the so-called video twitter, seesmic. So here it is.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Moo-ve over TinyURL, URL-finished! December 28, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Blogs, social networks.
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We all know about the valuable use of www.TinyUrl.com , especially on the 140-character limited Twitter platform.
Well, there’s a new sherif in town and its name is MooURL! You are probably wondering why would anyone even care which url shortening service they used? The answer is simply because MooURL offers more options. One is the bookmarklet tool that makes shortening a long URL even easier than ever with the click of a button. Second, you can actually create your own customized shortened URL. Here’s an example:

While this isn’t a lifechanging event or jaw-dropping new service, it will certainly save you time and improve your online experience much more than TinyURL ever would.

Microsoft Binder 2.0 December 19, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Collaboration.

No, Microsoft did not resurrect one of their most useful creations, Microsoft Binder. For whatever reason, they decided to kill this brilliant Microsoft Office 95 feature more than likely to put those skilled developers to work on the life-changing Microsoft BOB project (Remember that stinker?).

In any event, for those of you who never had the pleasure of using the Binder, what it did was allow you to “Package” several different types of documents into one bundle! Wow, what a concept! So, instead of today’s “standard” method of packaging related documents and files together in a folder located on a shared network drive or local My Document folder, Microsoft’s Binder let you “link” whatever you wanted in a package. Thus, you could keep Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations all together in the same single binder file. Don’t be misled, you still could work on each type of document within its own native application by just double-clicking the document within the binder. No muss, no fuss. Here’s a screenshot of what the Binder looked like:
To separate the documents, you simply used the unbind feature to save the files wherever you wanted:

ThinkFree or Die!
Why all this reminiscence over another blunder from Redmond? Well, ThinkFree has recently released the new millenium’s version of Microsoft Binder with their free online ThinkFree Portfolio ! Portfolio allows you to bundle different types of documents, spreadsheets and presentations into one package. Sound familiar? Oh, and here is the new twist…it’s all done online and you can share it with the public or individuals you select or just keep it private.
ThinkFree has been around for many years and offered a free online office suite alternative to Microsoft Office long before Google docs came around to steal their thunder.ThinkFree has has three apps that are compatible with Microsoft Office: ThinkFree Write, Calc and Show. Oh and it can save any document to the PDF format…did I mention for free?
ThinkFree Online allows you to store up to 1 GB of documents. They include a free ThinkFree office viewer for viewing their documents without needing Microsoft Office apps and for embedding documents within blogs and web apps.

ThinkFreeDocs is like Scribd in that you can upload and share any document online. You can actually use any ThinkFreeDoc you find in your ThinkFree Office or in your Portfolio.
Here is an example portfolio that I created called Champions of Sports. As you will notice, you can share the portfolio (and any ThinkFree document) with a URL link or embed the code in your blog or website.
ThinkFree continues to add new features and services, many of them premium pay packages. They have a Premium version of office that gives you more storage space online.
They also have a Desktop version that will run in offline mode like Microsoft Office, but ThinkFree will sync with your online office whenever you want. Their Portable edition allows you to run presentations from an IPod or U3 thumbdrive.
Final Thoughts: ThinkFree’s free online office applications and ThinkFreeDocs with Portfolio feature are vastly underrated and powerful tools and services.
I’ve used their products for many years and they continue to improve with each update and like fine wine get better with time. If nothing else, ThinkFree’s Portfolio will help fill the void that Microsoft created when they put their Binder out to pasteur.

Free DVD Player for Vista December 17, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Freeware, Video.
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Free DVD Player for Vista

Ever try playing a DVD on Vista and see this screen?



Well, if so then the answer is this free and legal AVS DVD player for Vista !




Inbox 2.0 December 16, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Email.
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Most of us have multpile email accounts, which means multiple logins IDs and passwords and website addresses or email clients. Add to the mix all of the internal messages we receive such as on FaceBook and MySpace, which includes wallposts, comments and bulletins and we’ve got a virtual tidal wave of messages coming at us continuously. It is the digital age’s version of a juggling act. There is no way possible to check each and every email and social network account for all messages and respond in a timely manner.

Fuser is trying to be the answer to this problem of message mania. Fuser will allow you to check multiple email accounts at the same time as well as all of the different types of messages that are sent from MySpace and FaceBook! Here is a list of everything it supports at this time. Note: It not only supports webmail accounts and social networks, but also your personal email accounts from your ISP and your work email such as from Microsoft Exchange.

How will this one universal email look? Here is my fuser account as an example:

Believe it or not, it isn’t as slow or confusing as you think it would be. Sure, it is a herculean task to tackle, but it appears to work well. Reading and replying is similar to other webmail systems so there’s no learning curve there. It actually does a better job handling all of the social networking messages and bullitens than those sites do themselves because you can treat those messages like regular email.

Final Thoughts: Fuser is unique and does a good job handling multiple accounts. I only used three webmail accounts and two social networking accounts for this test. I wonder how it would do if I added ALL of my email accounts. It has to bog down at some point, but for the average user I think it can do the trick. I think it will only get better with time too. Fuser can become a tool in our fight to control the avalanche of messages that come our way every day without an end in sight.

Hictu December 15, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Blogs, Video.
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Everyone is excited about Seesmic but it is going to be in private BETA for a long time before it is open to the public. In the mean time, why not try the original video twitter, Hictu ?

They launched a year ago in December 2006 and have not garnered much press or attention for some reason, but here is a good Mashable piece on Hictu.

Hictu lets you post short messages like Twitter (160 character limit vs the 140 limit for tweets) but here’s the twist, you can include a video message as well.

Here is the composition screen where you create your messages (text or video). Notice the option to send the message to your Twitter account.

Hictu also lets you create an online profile card with many of your different instant messenger contact information: Yahoo, MSN, GTalk, Skype and more. You can embed the card on any website too.

Final Thoughts: Until Seesmic does officially open its doors, we could give Hictu a shot. Here is an interesting post from Robert Scoble about Seesmic and Hictu. Checkout the comments where the people behind Hictu chime in with some interesting and valid comments regarding the love affair that Seesmic is having with the press and media and the unfair coverage that Hictu is receiving.