Faculty

Twitter – An Introduction

It seems that you can’t go anywhere without hearing about Twitter anymore. Thanks to Ashton Kutcher, CNN, and Oprah, Twitter is no longer something just for geeks and bloggers. So what exactly is Twitter? According to the Twitter website:

“Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

While it has expanded beyond this, the definition is still useful. You use Twitter to tell people what you are doing in 140 characters or less. Another way to describe Twitter and even its competitors is “Micro-Blogging”. Micro-Blogging is a great way to update interested people when you don’t have time to sit down and write a full blog. This could lead one to ask what a blog is, but if you are reading this, you probably already know.

What Can I Do With Twitter?

Twitter can be used for a variety of things. I use it to update my Facebook and other social networking status messages. I type the entry once, and each site I belong to gets the update. Some sites, especially Facebook required a bit of engineering to pull off, but nothing too difficult. Twitter can update people when you have entered a new blog post. Combined with an RSS feed, Twitter can share things for you automatically.

Where is Twitter Going?

One thing Twitter users can do is to join causes of various sorts. I recently participated in a Twitter campaign to save a television show I liked. By adding what is called a hash tag to the end of my posts, and in this case even changing my Twitter background, I joined the cause. A hash tag, simply, is a pound sign (#) with a brief topic following. People interested in the recent Sandra Day O’Connor lecture at the Pepperdine University School of Law could follow the event by searching Twitter for #peplaw. By using Twitter’s search feature, you can often assume that a topic will have already been discussed, and simply search for it with the # in front.

What Do I Call My Posts?

Twitter being an unusual name, one hears all kinds of versions of what a post is called. Some say it is twittering, some say tweeting. Some have even called them twits. The general consensus is to call a post a tweet. Multiple posts would be tweets.

Is Twitter the Only Choice?

While Twitter certainly has name recognition, there are a number of other products out there. One company is working on a business-centered Twitter tool. Others are more direct competitors. I use another site as a tool to combine my multiple Twitter accounts. As I find new products I will be posting about them.

While this has not been an exhaustive introduction, it should provide a general idea of what Twitter is about. Twitter’s website is found at www.twitter.com. The Pepperdine University School of Law hash tag is #peplaw. If you want to follow me on Twitter, search for jaredp_peplaw.

Until next time, happy tweeting.

Better Network Storage Debut

It’s summertime here at Pepperdine School of Law and a technology professional’s heart turns to major projects to improve education and infrastructure. This week we’re beginning to promote our new system for storing and sharing files. Xythos is the product, but you will come to know it as https://storage.pepperdine.edu. This is the web front door for a better way to store files.

The following is a quick tutorial on setting this up as a more familiar virtual disk drive on your local computer:

Your needs may be fully served by installing Xythos as a drive. This will look just like your current network drive. But now you can save files to it and access those files anywhere in the world, not just on campus! It’s what you already have, only better.

But next week, I’d like to share with you a couple of new ways to use your network storage that you hadn’t considered; helping you collaborate and keeping your data safe.

What’s Next?

There are some habitual failures in my chosen profession caused by the intermingling of idealistic futurism and pragmatic business models and well as often hostile interaction between visionaries and those fearing change. The failure I’m speaking of is the inability to clearly and meaningfully involve our clients in the release of new products into their lives.

The hype-machine coming from professionals glamored by a new innovative product or from businesses needing to answer to their shareholders on matter of profit are forced into an arms race of noise that influences our clients to retreat rather than engage.

The first of two announcements this week comes from Microsoft. Bing is their latest answer to Google’s dominance in the web search market. They’ve put a great deal of thought and considerable technical expertise into improving users’ search experience in a way that is evolutionary without being bound by other projects (like Wolfram Alpha or more pedestrian attempts like About.com.

The real genius will be Microsoft’s ability to shape the answers to questions users ask. I don’t mean this in any sort of malicious sense. I mean that like the Yellow Pages, they can enable and facilitate economic activity via their approach to user experience. I’m all for the local coffee shop being in Bing, so when I search in an unfamiliar place, I don’t have to settle for the ubiquitous Starbucks.

Google’s announcement of their new Wave platform came later in the week. Built on open, media-rich standard HTML5 and designed to put into the hands of users a synthesis of communication currently only available in a diverse set of competing closed-development products, Google Wave is a standard for developing products and a new communications protocol for those products.

Microsoft’s offering of Bing is inwardly focused. Google’s Wave is outwardly focused. Microsoft is launching a product that is superior to their current search product, but they do so to drive more traffic past their advertisers. This is an innovation in their advertising model; not so much an innovation in web search.

Information is only meaningful in context. That’s why most people I know these days when they come across a word or concept they don’t understand google “wiki” to see if wikipedia or other smaller wiki projects have articles that could uncover the mystery.

Google Wave is about enriching context. Bing is about channeling information into a specific context. This doesn’t make Bing bad, but it illustrates why Wave is to be evaluated on a completely different scale.

No doubt Google has already considered a number of ways to monetize Wave, but they are hoping to develop a new platform for interactivity, not the redirection of it. They are seeking to innovate what we do and how we do it, expanding user experience to occupy a greater share of what our computers are capable of, but not presently enabled for our use.

The hype-machines are troublesome because they create noise. To the average non-professional computer user not only do these two announcements drown each other out, but a dozen or more non-trivial announcements from other companies chattered away in the background as well. What’s my advice to you? Even with something with the potential of Google Wave, avoid the hype. Be patient and wait for the potential to be realized into something that actually affects your lives.

I believe Google Wave will have a significant impact on distance education, virtual office hours, academic social networking, scholarly collaboration and even administration and departmental management. Perhaps not as great as email itself, but then email is part of the evolution required to develop Wave. When real products with real applications arrive in the coming months, I’ll share them.

Until then, don’t worry about the hype, even mine.

Web Apps and Google Chrome

For the readers out there that aren’t aware of it, Web Applications (Web Apps) are entering the mainstream in a major way. One can find scores of apps that do a variety of different fun – or even useful things. Take, for instance, Google’s Chrome browser. Chrome allows you to make your own web app as simply as adding a bookmark. What would one do with a Chrome App? A number of things.

One way I use my Chrome Web App is with Dictionary.com. I am a frequent visitor of Dictionary.com. When I learned what Chrome could do, it was one of the first Apps I made. What Chrome does is create a modified browser window that sits on your desktop. You get to see the web content but the traditional menu bar and navigation buttons are missing. See the image as an example.

When I need to look up a word, I just click the icon I saved to my desktop, and am instantly on the Dictionary.com page. I look up my word and simply close the app, just as I would close Microsoft Word when I am done with it. This is extremely useful to me, and Dictionary.com isn’t my only Chrome App. The load speeds are superior to a similar desktop application, and I can take it with my wherever I go, without worrying about licensing and user privileges.

I use Chrome to make a variety of apps, from Dictionary.com to HootSuite (Twitter) and Facebook. Give it a shot and see how it suits you.

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