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Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Dan Gillmor on Socialtext

Dan Gillmor on Socialtext in today's print edition of the Mercury News:

Social software: The smaller the group, the more immediate value in the relationship. That's one notion behind an emerging phenomenon called ``social software,'' products that help groups work with each other more effectively.

At the annual PC Forum conference in suburban Phoenix this week, we got a glimpse of what Clay Shirky, an acute observer of the technology scene, called the latest in ``lightweight, bottom-up and Internet-enabled'' tools. I've had an early look at several such products, several of which I'll highlight here. Look for more in my weblog in coming weeks and months.

``Socialtext'' ( is all about a Web you can write on as well as read. It expands on technologies that have been around for some time, and lets people work from browsers to collaborate in remarkably efficient ways. The key is simplicity.

Among the base technologies are online chat and something called a Wiki, an extremely lightweight but writeable Web page. Once you're inside the Wiki, you can edit any page yourself, using tools that make it simple to create new links and annotations. It sounds like potential anarchy, and it could turn into a mess without limitations on who can participate in a given group. But I've participated in several of these conversations/collaborations lately, and I can attest to their potential effectiveness.

SocialText isn't the only such idea around, and the tools are still rough-edged. But it illustrates one way toward a goal we all crave -- to share our ideas, organize ourselves and generally make better use of this vastly collaborative new space that combines the real and virtual worlds.

``Meetup'' ( is a brilliant idea -- using online technology to get people together and coordinate a real-world meeting, not the virtual kind. Yes, in person.

People organize everything online first, including voting on where to meet in some cases. Check out the Web site for the variety of meetings.

Using the Net to be truly social. I love it.

11:01:36 AM    comment []

Fotonotes: Every Picture Can Tell a StoryAn amazing tool for adding metadata to media in an easy to use way...

Greg Elin has been working for a while on a new kind of photo-related application. At PC Forum he showed me the latest beta, and I'm ready to say that this is one very cool piece of work.

It's called Fotonotes. Basically, it's a tool for annotating JPEG pictures inside the pictures themselves. Here's an example.

I took the above picture at last month's Demo conference. Left to right are Dan Bricklin, Les Vadasz and Mitch Kapor.

Now, here's a view of the picture after editing it in Fotonotes and rolling my mouse pointer over Dan's face:

I created the same "meta-content" with Vadasz and Kapor, and could have annotated other parts of the photo. Although I only put their names in the picture (the text is stored literally as part of the JPEG), I could have written long passages about each of them, information that would pop up.

Now, this doesn't work inside all browsers yet, as it obviously should. Elin says some browsers do support it, and he's working on others.

He adds, in an e-mail, that the screen shots I posted are using "the cross-platform, downloadable Java application. The web-based version allows all browsers to view stories online, but adding of new stories via the browser is not yet supported by all browsers."

This expands possibilities for user-generated Web content. Weblogs have been about text, with pictures added. What if someone posts a picture of this kind, where various parts of the picture can tell a variety of stories? Or what if we can link, transparently, an audio stream? This could get interesting, fast. [Dan Gillmor's eJournal]

10:34:33 AM    comment []

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