Information in the Personal Cloud (Part 4)

Continuing on in this series of posts, I’ve now been considering the option of securely sharing content from any of your computers to any other. In addition you can share content to other people. This gets away from the idea of mounting the content on additional NAS; though you might want to use the two approaches in conjunction.

For this I’ve been looking at GBridge (PC only). GBridge uses GTalk, so you must have signed up for a Google Account. With GBridge you can access all your own computers using ‘SecureShare’. You can also use this to share with friends or colleagues. You can use the ‘AutoSync’ function to transfer large files and synchronize folders; ‘EasyBackup’ to auto backup important folders. In addition you can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to allow you to access your desktop remotely or, when given consent and both using GBridge, access someone elses desktop (perhaps to remotely resolve a problem).

Importantly GBridge has Google Apps support, so it can be installed as an additional App to a Google Apps setup and all your users instantly have a free VPN and access to all this additional functionality. For a university some of this functionality might be being provided using other, expensive software. In this setting, GBridge could allow for easier on and off campus working, greater collaborative working, easier (and cheaper) remote help, and secure ‘video chat’ functionality.

See GBridge in action thanks to this Britec09 YouTube video:

Web 3.0 on Vimeo

Very interesting Vimeo hosted video about the future of the web; what we need to do and where it needs to go. I really understood this one.

Content isn’t king after all; context is.

We need to capture the meaning and relationship of data. And current searches aren’t efficient and they don’t scale up. At the moment when you do a search you have to do most of the work. You have to consider the criteria. If the search returns results you weren’t wanting, you have to redefine your parameters. Tim Berners-Lee says,

That’s not a search. You’re parachuting in and crossing your fingers hoping to land on something interesting.

Tim Berners-Lee

With all the information that’s out there, if it isn’t indexed in an accessible form it might as well not be out there.

Chris Dixon, CEO

Before long every item will have a page on the web. Right now every tweet is a page on the web. How do you filter?

Anyway, watch Kate Ray’s video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Multiphysics simulation – Physics engine

I’ve seen a fair bit of discussion relating to the Lagoa Technology Inc.’s video since it was posted three days ago, mostly relating to how we are going to see advances in gaming technology as a result. But it occurs to me that the potential of such a high definition physics engine for teaching principles of Physics or modelling in a Physics, Material Sciences or Engineering research environment is substantial.

You can see the action of granular material, deformation of structures, elasticity, and more. Anyway, take a look at the video:

The programmer, Thiago Costa, is obviously very talented. He also created this smoke simulation.

Socialwok via Google Apps

I’m currently looking into the Apps available from the Marketplace for a Google Apps for Education installation. One area of particular interest is social collaboration. If, for example, you are running a dedicated social collaboration enterprise solution that is good but expensive, is there a viable cheaper alternative through Google Apps?

Well, I think there is a serious contender and it’s called Socialwok.

Some people call Socialwok – Facebook for business on Google Apps

If you think about it, Google Apps is a loose collection of Apps. Socialwok does an amazing job of tying this collection together and enables you to see all the activity across the Apps, be that Calendar, Google Docs, Activities, etc. Content can be kept private to a company/university/school, with restricted access to specific groups via the ‘feeds’ arrangement within Socialwok. However, it’s also possible to publish to Socialwok while simultaneously publishing out to Google Buzz, Twitter, and Facebook; a time saver and potentially great publicity mechanism. Also external collaborators can be granted access to a specific Socialwok feed, something that I know is required.

The personnel at Socialwok are technically very impressive and rather astute business-wise, which is always a plus point when considering longevity in today’s world of technological winners and those that fall along the wayside. I think this video by Robert Scobles (Scobleizer) from Google I/O 2010 Conference in which he asks Is Socialwok the best of the collaborative enterprise social services? demonstrates both these aspects.

Another innovation with Socialwok is the integration with Seesmic to create a desktop facility (read the Seesmic blog post) to monitor and contribute to your ‘corporate business activities’, or ‘course studies’ in an educational setting, alongside maintaining your PLN of contacts via Twitter and Facebook. This is bringing Google Apps to the Desktop in a full featured client, with real-time social search and relevance ranking functionality. This integration is a point of pure business genius, and is highly significant, which I have to applaud.

My interest is in educational uses. When it comes to appealing to students and encouraging them to work with social collaboration media, the fact that the environment has a ‘look & feel’ of something they are already used to has distinct advantages.

Of course you might need to hammer home the differences in the philosophy underlying each. Something I wrote previously on the subject:

[Facebook/MySpace/etc] is out there, it’s open, just do what you do in there. The [university/college/school] collaboration environment is something different; it’s not trying to be [Facebook/MySpace/etc], and it’s certainly not trying to compete with [Facebook/MySpace/etc]. Our collaboration environment is more akin to a professional environment you might see within companies when you’ve graduated [uni/college/school], or a social network relating to a particular area of professional interest (an international science social network for example).

The [uni/college/school] has provided our environment as a secure place, where you can work through your ideas, collaborate with others, develop an understanding of how to participate in a professional manner, with the assurance that your work is secure and that your ideas remain just that belonging to you and the [uni/college/school]. The loss of your Intellectual Property is a consideration if you use openly available tools and environments hosted elsewhere. Put more simply, if you put your work or your ideas somewhere on the web, you might just have given those ideas away (the chances are you won’t have checked the small print).

By developing the additional skills that using such a tool can enable, you can demonstrate to future employers your ability to work professionally within a collaborative environment.

There are probably particular benefits to using the environment for researchers, with respect to Intellectual Property and the ability to work and share with external colleagues, partners and collaborators from anywhere in the world.

I’m rather interested by Socialwok and I need to investigate more fully its potential for educational use with colleagues.

Swype for Android

It’s not often that you encounter something that significantly changes the way you do things in such a subtle fashion. I’ve signed up for the Beta of Swype for Android. Registration will probably only be open for a few days; demand is high.

So what is Swype? Well it’s a new means of inputting text into an Android device (at least for starters). I’ve a feeling this is going to be on so many devices in the future. I’m sure there’s a complex algorithm under the bonnet, but this is so quick and easy to use it’s going to make a significant different to the way I’ll be able to work into the future. For example, I’m thinking of creating a mobile blog for jotting down quick thoughts throughout the day, and Swype will make that practical and possible. It’s so easy to get started with using as well.

The special thing about Swype is the way you just slide your finger or thumb across the keypad and spell out the word, increasing the input rate significantly from the customary double thumb approach preferred by many. So much so that the texting world record has recently been set using Swype.

This video of a presentation by the CEO (perhaps a bit long but you don’t need to watch it all) demonstrates things better.

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There’s a set of Swype tips videos on Youtube. This one shows you a trick to type even faster:

Link to the best, don’t recreate the same old stuff

I followed a link on a tweet today to Jeff Jarvis’ blog post and I’m so glad I did.

Sometimes you come across some work that strikes a chord with your own work or beliefs. This was one of those moments. In his TEDxNYED video Jeff talks about using the best resources that are available and simply linking to them, instead of reproducing them. It does mean reassessing what education is, what format it takes, after all if you can access some of the best lectures in the world online, for free, (as I wrote about here and here) what is the value of sitting through someone else delivering the same topic without any interaction?

I remember something I wrote in the Social Media Co-Lab forums:

Posted on: Fri, 11/14/2008 – 07:29 Following on from Free

I think we should be tapping into what others are providing without having to repackage the material into the ‘corporate identity’ of an institution. Doing so simple seems a waste of time and effort, and doesn’t necessarily reward (not financially speaking; more citing and recognition) the original author. If we are working towards a vast educational community approach to resources, I feel we should be finding (and passing on) the best examples of material already produced, and not necessarily recreating them.

For example, I was recently passed a link to a site where someone was creating screencasts of how to use various software. The individual had won an award for this site. Fair enough, what he’s created is a good resource now, all very uniform. But it doesn’t really align with my own philosophy. Why not just create a wiki linking to the best you can find of other people’s screencasts of how to use software? It may look more different and dirty but I’d say possibly it gets learners thinking about a few things: they see that not everything useful has to come from a recognised, uniform resource; they as learners can go out and find material and they need to evaluate its credibility; they themselves can produce material to share; they can be part of the bigger community (for example, by editing the wiki linking to all these resources).

Which received a response from Will Richardson (yes that Will Richardson):

Posted on: Fri, 11/14/2008 – 12:49 Rolling Your Own as Opposed to Rolling Others

(Or something like that…)

Just picking up on what Mark said above in terms of choosing between making yet another how to screencast or collecting the best of what’s out there and spending time reading and thinking rather than creating, I agree. I like the effects he cites in terms of

“they see that not everything useful has to come from a recognised, uniform resource; they as learners can go out and find material and they need to evaluate its credibility; they themselves can produce material to share; they can be part of the bigger community (for example, by editing the wiki linking to all these resources).”

Not that it totally relates here, but a while back on my blog I posted about the need to take photos of beautiful places we visit when we can gets tons of photos of those places already on Flickr with a CC license that would let us remix and reuse them. Now I know that I want pictures of my kids while they are actually snorkling in the Barrier Reef, etc. but I wonder sometimes why some have so much trouble with using what is already out there instead of re-creating it in yet another way.

It’s Friday, and I’m tired, so I hope that made some sense. Yes, we want our students to be creators and connectors, but we also don’t want them reinventing the wheel either.

Well, here’s Jeff’s video for you to watch yourself (watchout for the language).

Social Media Co-Lab was created by Howard Rheingold

Social Network Privacy Settings

I came across Matt McKeon’s interesting article ‘The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook‘ today. It has an infographic for changes in privacy policy over time.

This tied in nicely with a video on Teacher TV that I’d watched the evening before, where school children at two different schools had the issue of online privacy when using social networking sites highlighted to them.