Trying out Google plus one (updated)

I’ve just had a go at installing the new Google like plus one button on this blog. It’s available in US English only and you have to opt in to the experiment in order to get it to work properly.

There are some handy instructions available on google on adding the button – it involves some Javascript in the header and a plus one tag <g:plusone></g:plusone> to render the button.

 

Not entirely sure how useful this is – particularly if it’s just related to Google Buzz which picks up my twitter feed anyway.

It seems very similar to Facebook like, but lacking the massively popular social network to back it up.

Update:

Now the plus one button has a massively popular social network (10 million users by July 2011) to back it up – the launch of Google Plus integrates with the button. For anyone not yet on plus one, in 10 seconds it:

  • Has an activity stream just like facebook.
  • Allows you to organise contacts using a neat drag and drop interface into ‘circles’ e.g. friends, family, colleagues which is much easier to use than facebook’s privacy settings.
  • Allows you to share content with each circle differently e.g. hello friends here are my drunken photos from last night, hello colleagues here is my presentation for today’s meeting, again facebook sort of allows this but it’s horribly complicated to set up.
  • Has a group video conference feature.
  • lacks group or organisation/company pages – although this feature is coming soon.

The sharing content bit is where the plus one button comes in. Initial testing indicates that it helps with discovery of new pages into google, but has no effect on their page ranking.

Pete’s ultimate list of top 10 infographics in the world ever

Right, here’s a list of 10 11 infographics* (in no particular order) that have caught my attention for one reason or another, which I’ve put together to help kick off a bit of discussion about how we can use them at work.  Click on the image to get a bigger version. Leave suggestions of others in the comments.

*I’ve been fairly liberal in my definition of an infographic. Generally a picture that depicts some sort of data.

1. XKCD online communities map

This infographic compares the relative sizes of all the various social media sites, based on their user size and influence. By using a geographic context “Sea of Opinions” “Gulf of China” and “Plains of awkwardly public family interactions” the author is able to convey opinion alongside facts. By comparing things like spoken language, email and SMS it also gives a very effective idea of the bigness of social media.
Also goes to show that an effective infographic can be a simple line drawing.

XKCD online communities map
XKCD online communities map

XKCD also did a radiation chart where you can compare the dose of radiation you get from standing next Fukushima nuclear plant to having a chest X-ray.

2. The History of Digg (and others)

There are lots and lots of vertical skyscraper infographics – they tend to tell a story in the style of a timeline which you scroll through vertically, which makes sense as most web users have the ability to scroll up and down rather than side to side. They usually contain a narrative story illustrated with various facts and figures.

This one from online schools charts the history of the online news site Digg.

History of Digg
History of Digg

See also the history of Rick Rolling which includes the factoid that Pete Waterman only earned $15 in royalties from 150 million views of “Never gonna give you up”.

3. Left versus right wing

This is a big and hugely complicated graphic which manages to convey a lot of information without looking overly messy. By tradition most internet users tend to skim read rather than digest every bit of information you give them, so this design combines headline facts with symmetry to provide an easy way to compare and contrast the ideological differences between left and right.

Information is beautiful - Left / Right wing graphic
Information is beautiful - Left / Right wing graphic

Lots more infographics available at Information is Beautiful or buy the book.

4. Greenpeace EfficienCity

An animated infographic from Greenpeace, which allows you to explore a perfect energy efficient town. Also check out their Rainbow Warrior website which features 3d graphics that wouldn’t look out of place on the bridge of the starship enterprise.

EfficienCity
Efficient city, efficiency, EfficienCity

5. #UKsnow

#UKsnow was a clever twitter / google maps mashup which generated an interactive map using location-tagged tweets about snow and it’s intensity. Suffered from accuracy issues and in some way more interesting about where twitter users are clustered who find snow a novelty.

#uksnow map
It doesn't snow in May

Also check our Ushahidi for SMS based crowdmaps about more serious issues.

6. How big are things?

An oldie but a goldie. How Big Are things is the original site that allows you to compare the size of a 747 to a blue whale, or a neutron star to central Manhattan. Has spawned many copies that use the same idea.

How Big Are things?
Compare a blue whale to a 747

8. 87billion.com

Visualising very large numbers often poses a challenge. 87 billion dollars is such a vast number that it’s difficult to comprehend.

900 million dollars
About the size of a house

Honourable mention: any site that compares something to the size of Wales / Belgium.

9. Wordle

Used a lot by (lazy) bloggers analysing speeches, this infographic site generates graphics that size words by frequency given a piece of text.

Wordle of this blog post
Wordle of this blog post

View more or make your own at www.wordle.net

10. The Babel Fish

Babel fish graphic by Rod Lord
Proves you exist so therefore you don't.

Infographics aren’t anything new, they’ve been around since Da Vinci started doodling illustrative ideas for aeroplanes in his notebooks. In 1977 The Babel Fish (and other) graphics from the Hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy predicted a futuristic computerised device which contained almost every bit of information you could possibly imagine wanting to know.

The original hand drawn faux computer graphics were created by Rod Lord.

11. How Banks Cause Hunger

Food speculation gone crazy from the World Development Movement

How banks cause hunger infographic
Can bankers get any worse?

Update(s):

My avatar’s now in a water pistol duel

Right, this is slightly bizarre. My @kimondo avatar picture, which has already been blasted into orbit on the space shuttle, is now starring in a series of youtube water pistol shootouts.

It seemed to make sense at the time. Thanks to @firebox for the feature. Here’s hoping for some freebies.

Saving lives with cheap, effective vaccines.

Right – here’s a quick plug for a project I’m working on at the moment:

We all take for granted the vaccines we had when we were little (I actually managed to embarrass my GP father by making a bit of a fuss, but in my defence I was only 3 and needles sugarlumps were scary). Yet around the world millions of children miss out on simple, cheap vaccines that would prevent horrible illnesses and death.

Vaccines are regarded as a very cost effective way of controlling childhood diseases – prevention being much cheaper than cure. Now, for the very first time, there are two new vaccines that will help stop pneumonia and diarrhoea – 2 of the biggest killers of children under 5 around the world.

However, it’s one thing having these vaccines available; it’s another getting them safely to the places where they are needed. In a few weeks world leaders are meeting to decide how much they will pledge to support the roll out of these vaccines in developing countries. The money required is equal to a tiny percentage of global budgets, yet during a global recession aid budgets are often easy targets for cuts.

Please sign the petition today it takes about 10 seconds, and no it won’t hurt one little bit.

Surfing with a Kindle: web mode, article mode and publishing for blogs compared

I recently did a bit of impulse gadget buying recently by getting hold one of the new third generation Kindles. Although the apple slate is very tempting, with an ipad 3g costing £589 I couldn’t quite justify the outlay, and as an avid book reader who has a habit of setting up numerous book groups the Kindle’s £149 price tag hits the sweet spot of a gadget I can buy and still pay the rent.

After playing around with the Kindle for a week I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a brilliant ebook reader. The screen is uncannily like paper (even if it is grey paper rather than white). The black flash when refreshing isn’t as annoying as I thought it would be, and I don’t miss having a touchscreen, although sometimes the buttons feel a bit clunky. It’s a simple, if not super-fast machine to use. In some ways it reminds me of the minimalist word-processing applications that are available; by removing distractions like fonts, formatting, and that bloody paperclip, you can get on with the task of concentrating on your writing, or in this case reading.

What’s of particular interest is the bundled web browser software. With the 3g Kindle bundling in free web access you can surf wherever, whenever – even globally.  Amazon do downplay this feature, labelling it as experimental and sticking it in a menu away from the homepage, and it is a bit slow to put it mildly. The following is my previous post viewed on a Kindle in web mode:

Kimondo.co.uk viewed on a Kindle
Surfing the web, early 1990s style

But for a free ‘extra’ it’s not bad. Sites render properly and you can either choose the slow click and zoom option as above, or read a site in article mode:

Screenshot of kimondo.co.uk viewed in article mode on a Kindle
Surfing the web, early 1900s style

Article mode plays to the strengths of the Kindle as a ereader by removing a lot of the formatting and displaying text at a comfortable size. Amazon also offers a web blog subscription service where (for a fee) you can subscribe to a blog which has already been formatted neatly for the device – offering a way for Amazon to cover the costs of 3g and authors to make money. This service is only available with a US bank account so for the time being here’s a generated preview of publishing for blogs mode:

Screenshot of Kindle publishing for blogs preview
Surfing the web, 1890s style

There’s not much between article mode and publishing for blogs mode, although the latter may be the price we have to pay for free universal 3g access.

What’s also interesting about this is that it opens up the mobile web for a new generation of people who perhaps would have never considered it before.  Of the 68% of the people in the world with a phone, 17% have a smartphone of which 2% are iPhones –  yet mobile web design and optimisation is usually aimed at the these devices. I know personally several people who own a smartphone, but I also know many more who don’t own one and have no interest in getting one. Moreover, a Kindle doesn’t require that you own a computer at all; it’s a completely self reliant machine – thus opening up the web to previously unconnected people. Only time will tell if ereaders challenge mobile phones as kings of the mobile web.

NB you can take a screenshot on a Kindle with shift-alt-G, although Minesweeper is more fun with shift-alt-M.

Don’t retweet this to get the #newtwitter

Well it seems the new twitter is finally hitting the UK with the #newtwitter hashtag topping the trending charts, although it seems that many are falling for the “follow me / retweet me” to get access to new twitter, which sadly doesn’t work. Anyone who claims to be able to unlock the new twitter for you is a big fat liar.

Image of the new twitter page
All change here

The new layout features a 50/50 split between the twitter stream and trending, lists and suggestion columns – which should suit the more popular widescreen monitor formats. Search is more prominently sitting at the top of the page, and lists and searches are included in dropdown menus. Clicking on a tweet operates a slide out page with more information on that tweet or user.

The new layout seems to have messed up a lot of custom backgrounds although these are a bit of an ugly hack which attempt to shoehorn more contact information onto a twitter page.

In terms of new features – twitter have now launched shortcuts to a lot of the common twitter functions:

Image of twitter short cuts
Just like a twitter client

Hitting a key brings up a lightbox style popup window with the appropriate function.

Favourite tweets also have a bit more prominence as well, which is a feature I’ve hardly bothered with.

The overall feel is that twitter.com includes more of the features of the many twitter clients that are available – which in itself is perhaps a reaction to the laissez-faire attitude twitter has to it’s service: build too good an API and no-one will visit your website anymore.

Trying out the *new* digg

Digg isn’t the website it once was, and I must admit I generally turn to twitter now for the latest news from the rumour mills before it hits the official news sites. Despite it’s drop in traffic and influence Digg still commands a large (although male-student-dominated) audience. There’s now a ‘new digg’ with a simpler interface which harks back to the original feel of the site.

Digg screenshot
All change here

One of the interesting features is the ability to import feeds directly – so perhaps digg will become what it intended to be – a democratic way of voting for news that’s interesting. Or it might just remain “top 10 hot pictures of Christina Hendricks / 10 Star Wars characters you’d forgotten about/ top 100 1990’s video games”.

There’s a lovely infographic with a potted history of Digg available from Online Schools.

If you’d like an invite to New Digg I have a few spare – give me a shout on twitter @kimondo

My validation code is below, it activates this blog feed in Digg (although I’m not expecting the Digg effect any time soon)

<!–1f7e876ed8f9445d9c92e3a69c06179a–>

How to use @anywhere to brand your tweets…

I’ve been having a play with twitter’s @anywhere service that allows you to add twitter functionality to any website.

There are functions that turn @usernames into links automatically, but interestingly it’s also possible to edit the ‘sent via’ bit of text that appears next to your tweet.

For example the shamelessly self publicising:

Add branding to a tweet
I stuck with a boring name for this one

The via Kimondo (Pete Taylor) bit links to whatever site you set up when you register your app, which makes for some handy self publicity. I’m fairly sure that setting the app name to ‘buy some teeth whitening stuff here’ would infringe on Twitter’s terms of service, but I’m surprised no-ones tried it yet.

There’s a handy step by step guide on how to create your own @anywhere box here and you can see my attempt here. You can already get wordpress plugins that dovetail the functionality into your site.

You can follow me @kimondo to see the tweet.

Important things launched on April 1st

Just a round up of some of the fantastic new things that have been featured today, on the first of April:

Google Animal Translate

Introducing Translate for Animals (beta): Bridging the gap between animals and humans

Google have now updated their real time translation software with an android app (sorry iPhone fans!) that provides animal translations. So now you can answer the question as to what Mr Dog/Caesar is actually talking about.

get the app here from google

DIY Carbon Freezing Kit

Yes I know you love me dear, but why can’t I move my arms and why am I now someone’s favourite wall decoration?

Now you can cryogenically freeze yourself for 5-30 years. Yes, really! Making a complete Han Solo of yourself has never been easier. Or possible.

Make a Han Solo out of yourself
Make a Han Solo out of yourself

full details available here (via firebox.com)

Textp

Help save youtube bandwidth by selecting textp rather than video. For every person who selects TEXTp and keeps it on while they watch a video, they save YouTube $1 a second, resulting in potentially billions of dollars of savings (not to mention the environmental benefit of saving server load).

TEXTp is the result of months of intense transcoding efforts by our engineers, who toiled for weeks to ensure that a large chunk of videos on the platform could be reduced to their most basic elements. By replacing the images in the video with a series of letters and numbers, the videos are far less taxing on our system — and have the added benefit of promoting literacy!

see the above in all it’s textp glory on the Youtube website

A week of social media fails…

Social media:  a potentially exciting new way for businesses and organisations to have conversations with their stakeholders; a way of developing a campaign or a brand with a personal touch, or potentially a way to really stick their foot in it and magnify criticism to epic levels.

Killer KitKats

This week saw two interesting social media ‘fails’. First we had Nestlé’s reaction to a greenpeace video about their use of palm oil in KitKat.  The increasing use of Palm oil has resulted in devastating destruction of rainforests and peatlands to create vast monoculture plantations. It’s a classic ecowarriors versus evil-corporation style campaign which is gaining a lot of support. Greenpeace’s opening shot is here:

I must admit, it’s a quite horrible shock advert in the usual Greenpeace style – Nestlé’s response was to get the video taken down from YouTube citing infringement of their trademarked logo.  Almost since the beginning of YouTube what usually happens when a video is taken offline,  a copy will be almost immediately uploaded again;  and Greenpeace of course used this response to generate support for their campaign, and even made the original available for supporters to upload using their own accounts.

The effect was immediate with tweets and facebook updates being bound around mentioning Nestlé’s censorship tactics – a suitably rebellious message which is popular for users of social media to repeat and pass on.

This is a classic example of the ‘Streisand effect ‘ in which an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information from the public domain has the unintended consequence of generating more publicity than if it had just been left online.

Nestlé didn’t stop there however: inevitably as their Facebook page became the source of comments and questions about their use of Palm oil, Nestlé instead responded angrily to the use of their logo as an avatar image, again resulting in yet another deluge of tweets and status updates.

The end result was Greenpeace claiming the upper hand, and Nestlé looking out of step with the campaigners and their customers.

#CashGordon – whose fail?

The other social media ‘fail’ of the past week has been the Conservative website launched to promote the message that Gordon Brown is supported by money for the Unite Union – currently supporting a strike by British Airways workers that has divided opinion. Interestingly the CashGordon  site features an unmoderated twitter stream repeating every tweet with the #cashgordon hashtag. It’s a particularly old school concept which dates from when twitter was a relatively new phenomenon, and having anyone tweet about your site was quite exciting.

The more left wing tweeters have jumped on this hashtag with a stream of abuse – many of which are too rude to put here, but which include things like:

@fusi_loving the EPIC FAIL that is #cashgordon – they cant even get a twitter feed right, what are they gonna do with the economy? lol. #toryfail

and

@lordbonkers Write something rude about the Tories, mark it#cashgordon and they post it on their own campaign site for youhttp://cash-gordon.com/

and the rather damming:

@psbook New post –> Tory ‘Cash Gordon’ campaign designed by US anti-healthcare lobbyist http://is.gd/aSFIF #cashgordon

Interestingly however the very presence of the website, and the numerous comments on the #cashgordon hashtag has had the unintended consequence of bringing the whole campaign to the attention of a much wider audience (at time of writing #cashgordon is trending in the top ten of the UK) which itself is being claimed as a success.

Update: I’ll see if I can tally up the tweets to see who can claim victory on this one

Another Update: nope, quite clear epic fail

Anatomy of a hashtag #cashgordon
Epic fail