Another Google summer

I heart Google
Need I say more?

I love Google.  They’re not perfect, but they’re one of the best companies out there.  And, I’d note, though they pay careful attention to what people say about them and their products, it seems that their primary source of direction and innovation is their own expertise.  This may fly in the face of some basic tenets of design, but it’s working for Google.  Indeed, this summer looks to be another fascinating googletime.

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RIP Pageflakes?

Pageflakes is deadSome time in early November, Pageflakes went down, and it hasn’t come back yet. Pageflakes is a free web “start page” service. It let’s one aggregate a variety of web resources, especially dynamic feeds of information from other sites, onto single pages, by way of widgets. It also provided special functions that other similar services didn’t, like mini-blogs, message boards, and so on. I had come to depend on Pageflakes to present materials I found on the web, bringing together the sundry other tools I use to track useful information, including the blogroll in the sidebar of this page you’re reading now. Now I have to begin again.

UPDATE 28 Nov 2010: Pageflakes is back, sort of.  Today, I was able to load part of one of my pages.  A number of small images didn’t load – so you can’t really tell what you’re clicking on – and it was incredibly slow to load even the little it did.  But there seems to be some life in the old girl yet.
UPDATE 2 Dec 2010: I cannot yet get a full load of Pageflakes.  Sometimes some widgets load; other times I get a “service unavailable” message.  It seems like their servers are drowning – in what, I don’t know.
UPDATE 13 Dec 2010: Pageflakes appears up and running.  Loading pages is still (sometimes) an ordeal.  I can find no explanation or discussion about the service outage.  The Community area is loading poorly.
UPDATE 22 Mar 2011: It’s down again. It may have been for some time.
UPDATE 8 Apr 2011: It’s up again. Response time seems much faster. I wonder how long it will last this time.

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A case of superior interaction design

dropbox logo
Dropbox gives great interaction.

Dropbox is a free software app that provides a popular service: backing up and sharing files via the web.  It’s not the only such service provider, but it does seem to be taking the web by storm.  I believe it’s because it has a superior interaction design.

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Blogger gets new themes

Blogger icon
Blogger gets new themes and theme development features.

How does Google do it?  They keep producing all this great stuff!  This time, it’s new theming capabilities for their blog service, Blogger.  Yes, many people have become a little bored with the relatively stale themes that Blogger offers.  They’ve added several new, very fresh themes, and more functionality to tweak existent themes and create your own.

You can see one of these themes at my nascent productivity blog: Do Fast and Well.

The new stuff is currently only available via the “beta” blogger site: Blogger in Draft, which provides an illuminating write-up about the new features.  Besides the fresh look of the new themes, there’s a lot more flexibility in terms of matching colours of gadgets to the theme, varying the background images, and layout of columns and where gadgets appear.

Google ain’t perfect, but they’re sure getting close!

A New Wiki on the Scene

Foswiki is good!

One year after it’s inception, foswiki is setting itself up as a great wiki engine.

A wiki is a software platform that facilitates collaborative web content development. Invented in 1995 by Ward Cunningham, this approach to content development was brought to serious public attention by Wikipedia, an attempt to create a collaborative encyclopedia of knowledge. While Wikipedia may have its problems as an encyclopedia, the software that makes it work, a wiki engine called MediaWiki, has become one of the gold standards of open source software.

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Email, Social Media at Work, and The Next Big Thing

Where is it all going?
Where is it all going?

Recently, on CBC Spark, host Nora Young interviewed Luis Suarez about quitting email at work.  You can also see Suarez’s Web 2.0 Expo talk at Youtube.  It got me thinking about the role of software in our lives – especially in our work lives, and that regardless of how many new applications and systems are popping up, we’re still missing the Next Big Thing – maybe. Continue reading “Email, Social Media at Work, and The Next Big Thing”

Diigo V4 goes live

Diigo V4 is here!
Diigo V4 is here!

Diigo is a web-based bookmarking and annotation service.  I’ve written about it before.  It’s the service I prefer over all the other free and comparable services because it seems to have just the right mix of functionality and usability for me.

One thing I have complained about in the past was the look and feel of the site, which seemed clumsy, especially when compared to what I think is the most well-designed bookmarking service: Delicious.

Well, someone was listening to me, I guess, because Diigo just announced version 4 of their site.  And the key piece of the upgrade is a new and very much more polished look and feel.  Indeed, the layout of the page is quite similar to Delicious!  That’s okay by me; as far as I know, Delicious hasn’t protected its look and feel.  This is just Diigo’s recognition of a superior aspect of another product.

Of course there’s more to Diigo V4 than just the look and feel.  The other features are:

  • web page snapshots on demand;
  • improved search;
  • improved annotation features (important for Diigo as a collaboration tool);
  • a new, more streamlined way to share links and follow the links of individuals and groups;
  • highly expanded and refined group-based activities;
  • a new meta page structure for summarizing a user’s overall activities;
  • an iPhone app (pending Apple’s approval); and
  • a variety of other improvements.

You can read further details at the Diigo blog.

This is a good upgrade, besides providing a new and better service, it’s aggressive enough to indicate clearly that Diigo is interested in providing an excellent service, without totally re-inventing the service (which would have alienated some users).  Version 4 a brand new version, so there are probably a few bugs in it, but overall it’s A Good Thing.