E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez


Plazes – Location Awareness Meets Social Software at Your Service

(Migrated weblog post from LSR)

Through a work colleague of mine I have been checking out lately one interesting free offering that gives a true new meaning to the expression Location Awareness. It is called Plazes and if you are into social / groupware software then you must take a look into it because it puts together some really interesting concepts. First interesting option is that Plazes uses the local network you are connected to as your location reference. Then you can share that location with other folks you may know or get to know about some other people and expand on your virtual network, not only from locations next to yours but all over the place.

At the same time that it puts together that location awareness option it has got a lovely integration with already existing tools like Skype, Flickr, Google Maps and Multimap. So as you can see there are multiple layers you can use in order to stay connected with other folks.

It will even allow you to find out if there may be other folks closer to you based on your location, so you can find Plazes within 2, 5, 25 or 50 KMs., which is ideal if you are new to a particular place and would like to meet up some other people. And before you do that you may get a chance to find out some more about them with Plazes. I guess here in Spain it will still have to pick up a bit because if you perform a search over there it would only come up with a handful of people and not very close to my location, to say the least.

Finally, one other key interesting factor that could make Plazes pretty popular in a very short time is the fact that it allows you to discover Plazes on your own. This means that if you are a regular traveller you get to discover different places that you can add to your profile. Or, even better, you can perform searches looking for specific places based on the Kind of Plaze query. Say, for instance, you are travelling to the UK and would want to find out if there are any WiFi zones available free of charge, then you can get Plazes to fire up a search, look for the criteria and right away you find out that there are six different locations that match that criteria (Just checked).

Overall, I like it quite a lot. It is certainly a very innovative way of putting together all sorts of different social networking tools along with the location awareness feature, that not many offerings have got at the moment. And all that as a free offering. Really nice ! There are some more options and features to explore but you will get to see those in the elsua template over the next few days. For the time being go and get your Plaze and hope to see you there !

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StumbleUpon – Meeting New People while You Are Surfing the Web

(Migrated weblog post from LSR)

“StumbleUpon is a web discovery service which integrates peer-to-peer and social networking principles with one-click blogging. The Toolbar system automates the collection, distribution and review of web content within an intuitive social framework, providing users with a browsing experience which resembles “channel-surfing” the web”

That is the Wikipedia definition of StumbleUpon and while going through it I just cannot help agreeing with it all the way through. I have used it in the past a couple of years ago and way back then I loved the experience a great deal. However, just recently, the last couple of weeks I have rediscovered it again and I even like it more than ever before.

It has evolved so much over the last couple of years that what I used before and what has become nowadays are two completely different worlds. And I am glad I have found it again ! I shouldn’t have left it in the first place, I know, but I guess it is better to come back to it later than never, right? Anyway, the principle behind StumbleUpon is rather basic: a web browsing tool that allows you to share and discover other interesting web sites with other people according to your user profile and preferences that you may have previously defined.

Then with that common ground put in place the rest is just basically diving into the community of StumbleUpon members and get to meet some other folks who may have similar interests because they are sharing some of those web sites with you. So the social software component from this application is rather strong since through it you can meet and collaborate with other people in a seamless way. That is why you can join different interest groups and grow your relationship with other members from there. Indeed, very powerful.

You can also use the Add to friends feature that would allow you to add other people to your list of friends and therefore continue building your virtual network of contacts from there. Another great way to put to the test the social software component from StumbleUpon is the possibility of rating web sites you get to see, so you can rate them positively or negatively and therefore find some more on the same subject or not coming across with web sites on a similar subject, respectively. It will be up to you to rate those sites but here is a quick definition of what each of the ratings does:

I like it! – I’m interested in this site – show me more like this. Also pass this on to friends and peers with similar interests.

Not-for-me – I’m not interested in this site – I don’t want to see this site or others like it. If it looks like spam also click Not-for-me.”

So this way you always get constant feedback that you can use to tailor your web surfing experience and just bump into the web sites that meet your interests and your friends’ and forget about the rest.

There is a whole lot more to learn about StumbleUpon but I am just going to leave it up to you to check the About web link. However, one other good thing that I wanted to mention is that apart from working with IE, it also works like a charm with FireFox (Which is what I am currently using in my work machine along with Opera).

Caveats ? Well, up until now and as far as I am concerned the only caveat that I have found is that it does not seem to be working with Opera. It does not support it yet. But I am hoping that will change some day soon. We shall see. For the time being it is now time to go and StumbleUpon ! So have fun !

Oh, by the way, I nearly forgot. Lately, one of the many interesting uses that I have found about this particular application is the fact that I am consistently using it in order to find some more interesting Weblogs to follow upon, since this application has got the possibility of tailoring and improving the web sites sent out to you as I get to see more and more interesting weblogs the ones I am keeping an eye on are just coming through with just a simple click. Something that with other weblog offerings is much more troublesome. So if you are looking for worth while reading weblogs you may as well try StumbleUpon and start gathering some more !

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The Great Flickr Tools Collection

(Migrated weblog post from LSR)

Not long ago I shared a superb weblog post from Quick Online Tips about Absolutely Del.icio.us – Complete Tool Collection and I found it so interesting that I have been browsing around and subscribed to their feed already for a couple of days. They have got tons of great stuff that would be of general interest for most folks keen on learning some more about Technology stuff and so forth.

But there was one other particular weblog post that I found quite entertaining, since it is going to give me something to play with this weekend and it is this one: The Great Flickr Tools Collection. Indeed, a weblog post that covers all the different tools available for one of my favourite web offerings out there: Flickr. And wow ! Are there lots of tools and options out there or what ? If you check it out you will find some of the most popular Flickr tools already available like the ‘Send to Flickr’ Bookmarklet, the Flickr Organizr or the “Send To Flickr” Windows XP Explorer Wizard.

All of those and a whole bunch more are official tools from Flickr. However, the interesting part of the weblog post is the following section since it just lists a number of different tools created by Flickr users as opposed to the official tools. So that is where you will find Flidget (That I am currently using with Konfabulator), Geobloggers (I may weblog about it some time in the near future), a FireFox extension (Flickrfox), the Flickr badge plugin for WordPress (Although it is not currently used in Blogsome) and the list goes on and on and on.

I cannot wait for the weekend to get started, really. Having been a Flick fan all along I just cannot help thinking that this weekend I will be spending some time going through each of the different tools and see which ones I would want to keep and work further with them. Once I am done with that filtering of these tools I may be sharing how it all went and what my experience has been so far. So stay tuned for some more ! But for the time being go and check out The Great Flickr Tools Collection as I am sure there will be something for you out there.

Have a good one !

Oh, before I finish the weblog post… Did you get a chance to look into some of the pictures I have been sharing in my Flickr account this week? I hope you did because otherwise you may have been missing pictures like these three:

Of my favourite of the week:

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Absolutely Del.icio.us – Complete Tool Collection

(Migrated weblog post from LSR)

Anybody who has been showing a growing interest in social software, like groupware, social bookmarking or social networking tools, for instance, would probably already know by now about one of the most popular social bookmarking tools out there: del.icio.us.

Del.icio.us is one of those services that allows you to store your favourite bookmarks on the web so, regardless where you are or what computer you are using, you always have got quick access to your favourite links. And even more when you can also search and look for other people’s bookmarks. This social bookmarking tool has been around for quite some time and although my bookmarks are only starting to grow as we speak I still love the service for what it does: storing and sharing with others your favourite links.

What you may not know is that there seems to be out there a huge collection of Del.icio.us hacks that you could use to improve your own Del.icio.us experience. And over at Quick Online Tips they seem to have been doing an incredible piece of work. And if you do not believe me check out Absolutely Del.icio.us – Complete Tool Collection where you can find one of the most extensive listing of Del.icio.us hacks that you can find out there on the Web.

I am sure that there will be something in that weblog post for everyone. It would just be a matter of time and a little effort to just go through it and see which ones you would want to make use of. I am already in the process of choosing my favourites and although I am already using some of them that I have found elsewhere it is great to see what other interesting things you can get done with your own bookmarks. So go and have a look and see which one would be your favourite hack. I am sure there would be more than one but since we have got to start somewhere we might as well get going right away and dig in further. This promises to be some really good fun !

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Social Networking and Video4Skype

(Migrated weblog post from LSR)

WOW ! I just couldn’t help posting another weblog entry about the latest, and awesome, plugin for Skype called Video4Skype and which I talked about yesterday. So far today I have been trying it out with a couple of friends and work colleagues and I am very much impressed not only for the quality of the image but also because of the ease of use, set up and configuration steps that need to take place in order to get it working. Literally, in less than 10 seconds after install it is all up and running. Fantastic !

For somebody like me who has always been very passionate about social networking and social software the new plugin from Skype may be the beginning of a new era where IM chats, VoIP and videoconferencing come together under a single platform that allows folks to decide which medium they would like to use to communicate depending on the level of trust they may have developed in between the different parties. So, for instance, somebody who may just be getting started to know some other person (an acquaintance, or a work colleague) may prefer to use IM chat and start the chat that way and build up from there.

However, somebody who may have had already a number of different contacts with a particular individual and feel that there is already some trust in place may venture into starting an VoIP chat and let the voice come through. And now with Video4Skype people who have got a much more comfortable level of trust, like in family, friends or close work colleagues, things can be taken into another level by allowing people to see each other at the same time that they may be having an IM chat, or exchanging files or even on an VoIP chat.

As I said, what Video4Skype enables now in Skype is the possiblity of people to break the space and timezone barriers and get closer to one another, not only to get in touch with your family or your friends but also for your day to day job, where you can now put a face to that person behind all those e-mails, phone calls or IM chats. Just fantastic !

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Skype – Free Internet Telephony That Just Works

(Migrated weblog post from LSR)

How many times have you heard that sentence before ? I am sure quite a few and if that is the case you probably are, by now, one of the above 109 million people who are using Skype worldwide in order to get in touch with family, friends or work colleagues. I am sure that most of us are using one, or multiple, IM clients to just keep in touch with folks. Be it MSN, AIM, ICQ, Yahoo!, Jabber, whatever, we are mostly forced to use different IM clients in order to start chatting with one another.

And since I got tired a little bit of just using multiple IM clients or integrated IM clients like Trillian, GAIM, Miranda, etc. etc. to keep in touch with people I have decided to step over to Skype and give it a go. And ever since I have done that, a few months back now, I have been a very happy Skype user. So much so that I have managed to convert most of my friends, family members and some work colleagues into using this application.

And they all love it ! As much as I do, not only because of its ease of use, or how easy it is to set up and get it running but also because of the huge amount of $$$ they save, instead of just picking up the phone and making that phone call. Maybe at a later time I will weblog about my overall experience on Skype. However, the reason why I wanted to create this weblog entry today was basically because of a problem I have encountered quite often when trying to convert people into using Skype.

Installation and setup normally works really well and very smooth, but as soon as people start searching for me and start a conversation they can hear me very well with plenty of good quality but whenever they talk they would come to me with some very low sound, as if they were thousands of miles away. Well, after searching on the Skype Forums apparently this is a well known problem that has been documented already.

There are a couple of different instructions that people would need to carry out:

  • First, go to Skype and click on Tools > Options > Sound Devices and untick the option Enable Automating Sound Device Adjusment Settings. Then click on Save.

    After having done that people would need to follow this second set of instructions:

  • First make sure you select “Show Hidden Files” under folder options. Then go to C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Skype\SkypeUSERNAME\ and locate the file config.xml.

    Right click on it and go to Send To… and open it up with Notepad (or your default editor). Once the document is open people will be able to find a whole bunch of different entries. Just scroll down till you locate a similar entry to the following one:

    “< MicVolume >255< / MicVolume >
    255 is max volume /// 0 AND 255 = 0 = low”

    (Notice the spaces on the first line).

    After you have found that entry make sure that there is a value there which does not match 255 but something else rather smaller. My setting, for instance, is setup on 31. After that save the changes, restart Skype, and the problem will be gone. You will be able to hear and be heard with the same quality as ever before. So from now on whenever I convert one other friend, family member or work colleague I can just refer them to this weblog entry and they can follow the instructions from here. And then they say that weblogging is not powerful, huh ? Well, this tip will prove them wrong.

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