Friday, September 12, 2008

Weekend Assignment #233: (Virtual) New Toys

If your online experience over the last few weeks has been anything like mine, you may find the new Weekend Assignment a timely one. If not, just fake it!

Weekend Assignment #233: The online world is constantly evolving, to the point where I'm surprised I'm not reading about Web 3.0 by now. Google's service Blogger is just one example of an online resource that's been rolling out new features and gadgets recently. Are there any new online toys, gadgets, widgets or gizmos that you've found particularly useful or entertaining?

Extra Credit: Are there any new online features, gadgets, etc. that you've been disappointed with?

As for me, I've been trying out a number of things lately, most of them related to either Google or Firefox. On the Google front, I've fiddled extensively with their photo organizing and sharing program Picasa, added widgets to iGoogle, and tried out some of the new "Gadgets" for Blogger. For Firefox, I went wild several days ago and installed a number of third party add-ons.

Picasa, as far as I can tell, is basically two programs, an online and an offline one. The offline one, Picasa2, is good for finding out what folders full of photos you have, sorted in various ways to help you get it all organized. From there you can upload to the online service, Picasa Web Albums. If you have a blog on Blogger and have uploaded photos to it, you already have at least one web album, which can be made public if you so choose. Or you can make an album from scratch, copying or uploading photos to it and giving it a name and description. Like this!

Someday I'll be able to take better butterfly pix.

I realize that other people already use Photobucket and Flickr and such, but it's nice to know this one is available, too, and already somewhat integrated with Blogger and Google. It's free, up to a point, but if you upload a massive, massive number of photos, you will need to pay for extra storage. I've been uploading about five photos a night to Blogger for years, and I'm only using 192MB (18%) of my 1024MB of storage.
There's also a more oddball photo sharing service, as I mentioned last night. Twitter, as you probably know, is a sort of mass distribution instant messaging service. Until now, you've basically only been able to enter 140 characters into your "Tweet," including any links. But now there's a sort of spinoff service, TwitPic. You upload a photo, and the link to it goes into your tweet, along with any additional text up to the usual 140 characters. You end up with a photo page (or a series of them really), and your photo has its 15 seconds of stardom on a feed that shows the most recent uploads, appearing and disappearing over a map of where the photos were taken. Neat!

The new Blogger gadgets I haven't fully explored yet. I see there's now an RSS feed thingy, and a "Followers" thing and some other cool-looking stuff. But so far, I haven't been able to figure out how to follow a blog that doesn't have that gadget on its sidebar. (Never mind. It's on the Blogger Dashboard, at the bottom.)

I'm afraid the Firefox add-ons I've tried so far mostly fit into that extra credit question. There's something called BlogRovR, which claims to tell you about the posts you're interested it from the blogs you subscribe to with it. Umm, no. So far, it mostly only wants to tell me about Round Robin entries, and I can't find a way to tell it to look for anything else. There's also something called Yoono, which notifies you of new AIM and Twitter activity, and lets you make little comment notes about web page you're viewing, and supposedly recommends other sites like it. This last bit only seems to work for major sites such as or the BBC's Doctor Who site, but it does pick up a few suggestions for Whatever readers. For the Outpost, nada. Well, I didn't really expect anything, but it would be more useful if Yoono actually looked for blogs with similar tags or something. And there's something called Minimap, which I downloaded but haven;t played with yet.

Your turn! Have you come across any online innovations lately that seemed worth trying out? Were they any good? Write about them in your journal or blog, preferably with a link back to this entry, and then come back here and link to your entry in the comments below. I'll be back in a week to share what we've all found. Have fun!



barrettmanor said...

Here's an entry. Such as it is.

Florinda said...

Some of my toys aren't all that new, but they're still fun.

Mike said...

Here are my online gadgets, which may not be all that exciting.