Archive for category Innovation

The Humble Table of Contents & Hypermedia Navigation

A favourite topic of mine for blogging about is on tools and techniques to help personal productivity or group collaboration.  So you may wonder why mention the “Table of Contents”?

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Well since Quintus Valerius Soranus was credited with a little-recognized literary innovation: Pliny the Elder says he was the first writer to provide a table of contents to help readers navigate a long work.  The Table of Contents has been an invaluably useful tool to assist in content navigation since that introduction.  And remains an expected item to appear in any rendition of literary content whether physical or digital print form.

The advent of computer software and the Internet have brought adaptions, and automation.   Such as dynamically created TOCs in Microsoft Word or in Wikis such as Wikipedia’s (TOC info).

The core principle being the use of hypertext and hyperlinks (reference points) to form the navigation structure and format, so presenting the user with a method of navigation through the document contents.

With the advent of collaborative, content management systems, like Jive and Microsoft SharePoint,  while it is possible to render a TOC within an individual document, to navigate it’s own headings and sub-headings.

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What I find is actually lacking is an automated or dynamic inventory of the content of space, e.g. the actual records or documents that exist within that same.   At this point in time I’m not aware of either existing in the named example of content management systems I’ve given above.  I would be interested to hear of system that supports such a service.

I do create these myself, as a way of recording a breadcrumb trail, to be a record for my own use, and feel it does serve in ease my own navigation around self-service content libraries or document repositories.

It serves me well to store contextual material around such artefacts and I have benefitted from productivity gains by easily finding the article and context around is origin or purpose for storage, long after it has passed from my activity memory.

These manual document TOCs are part of Personal Knowledge Management kit bag.

Here’s an example I call “Key Links”

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I was slow to realise that Evernote has a “note link” functionality, and again these can be constructed and utilised as a manner to navigate and move between notes.

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See this help note “How to use note links to connect between notes” to understand how to create and set these up.

As it says:

One of the coolest things you can do with Note Links is create a Table of Contents for a set of notes inside of a notebook. This is particularly useful if you are sharing a notebook with other individuals.

And the Evernote Blog article:

Quick Tip: How to Use Note Links

Here is a youtube describing the functionality.

Evernote Note Links

My recommendation is always add a link back to the TOC document you have created, so you have the ability to go and return via hyperlinks with equal ease, there is no point linking somewhere and ending up stranded.

Like this:

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Do you use TOCs in this manner, in Evernote or elsewhere? 

Have you found an automation tool to do this?

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When Google Replies– Voice Activated Search

Google has had voice enabled search services on multiple devices (mobile, desktop, laptop, tablet) for a while (see >> “search by text, voice, image”).

However, at the recent Google I/O (2013) they announced a “conversational” search experience which has been extended to the browser and desktop experience.

This means Google search responds to an audio search request with an audible answer.

Voice search starts with a click on the microphone icon in the search bar.

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giving the “Speak now” prompt

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and then the “Listening…” prompt

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it captures into text the voice request spoken…

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The search result returned show all the usual feature giving and provides an audible voiceover of the summary text from Wikipedia (where possible).

It also often says “Here is some information about [request]”.

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Often the request is not picked up or understood correctly and the following appears:

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Interestingly, the voice accent and gender are different for different Google domains.

e.g. (google.com – female voice with an American accent, google.co.uk – male voice with an English accent)

At the moment I find it a little flaky and error prone but I presume it will continue to improve as more people engage verbally with Google.

Have you started making use of this service?

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R.I.P. or R’n’R (Rip and Replace)– to those free services?

Last week Google made the announcement that their Google Reader (RSS feed Reader) service would be shutting it’s doors in July of this year.

Closed4Business

Like Curious Mitch points out here Google Reader  is not the only service in recent times to close its doors to consumers, particularly those that have grown up used to using ‘free’ or ‘freemium’ model services from various web enabled services.

In fact like Mitch I’ve blogged about a couple of service closures in recent times:

And also would add these services, which have recently shut their doors  :

While I agree with Mitch about the need to assess your service portfolio and understand the risk/impact of closure of any service you may be consuming. Obviously the ‘free to use’ services would be presumed to be more vulnerable, it doesn’t mean those services you may be paying for are not at risk from a failing business model or an aggressive move from a competitor to acquire it. Remember what Nokia did with Dopplr or Google to Jaiku… (the list goes on and on).

Alan makes the clear point in this post about Google’s right to decide to shutdown Reader (or any other service) not relevant to its business strategy | needs.

Sure there may be pain in the disconnection and lose of services rendered by that service.  But the thing to do is to “Be Prepared” to move on, switch services, try an alternative or something different.  One door closing, is may be the opportunity for a new door to open.    Make sure you have a way to liberate your data – and try and find services that support transition and transfer as easy as possible.   Something that is a little more effort, but does build resilience of a kind is to spread your needs across a set of similar services. (e.g blog at Tumblr and WordPress)

So R.I.P and R n’R (rip and replace) go hand in hand in the developing world of internet services.

But this may be only phase or transition as these internet services evolve from start-up status, into established service provider and more technology infrastructure and utility service providers.  Dion put a good post up on the acquisition spree of major enterprise vendors as they move into these service space.  Perhaps these service discontinuation scenarios will become a less frequent issue in the future. When data movement is more easily transferable, and a common set of services is available more stable service providers. However, that may be conjecture… so remember – Change happens!

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AWS – Storage Lifecycle Management

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Again, while I don’t claim expertise on the “cloud computing” phenomena let alone storage, it is an area that fascinates me for delivering technology and service based innovation.   Especially considering all the data proliferation era that is often spoken about in statistical superlatives (e.g. article from Forbes).

In particular I have considerable admiration for Amazon and their AWS business aspect, and I’m not alone in this respect – as this article points out.

I recently wrote a post about the Amazon Glacier storage service.  This is a follow up post.

AWS has recently brought out announcements on AWS S3 integration with AWS Glacier  and about enhancements to their AWS Storage Gateway with Gateway Cached Volumes.

Now the concepts around Information Lifecycle Management, and Digital Asset Management and the use of Hierarchical storage management or the related Automated Tiered Storage are not new, and there is a lot of traditional technology around to deliver or cover some of those aspects.

Tiered storage is a data storage environment consisting of two or more kinds of storage delineated by differences in at least one of these four attributes: price, performance, capacity and function.

Any significant difference in one or more of the four defining attributes can be sufficient to justify a separate storage tier.

Automated Tiered Storage is the automated progression or demotion of data across different tiers (types) of storage devices and media. This movement of data is automatic to the different types of disk according to performance and capacity requirements.

Beiges Buchbinderleinen (Sold)

So where does AWS come into this?  Here’s how I see it:

AWS_SLM

same with recently updated iconography from: AWS Simple Icons

AWS_SLM2

I think with the combination of AWS Storage Gateway, AWS S3 and AWS Glacier  Amazon has pretty much got a wrap on this.  This storage service combo gives cloud based hierarchical storage management, that has a gateway entry point into the traditional enterprise data center, rule based storage policies, an api as well as market leading price point.   I think the CIO will soon find this an appealing combination, easing his/her cost concerns around storage of data and record archives necessary for compliance to various financial and legal stipulations.

Is that not an awesome combination!

Do you think they’re on to something?

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Manchester Hackathon – 16/17 November @MadLab Manchester

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It’s great to see Open Data initiatives taking place in Manchester.

For the first time ever, the City of Manchester invites you to dig underneath its digital skin.FutureEverything, Open Data Manchester and Manchester City Councilare looking for experts and innovators to hack, code, programme and experiment with the city’s sets of open data to build new applications and develop future services.

Utilising the open data sets from DataGM made available by Manchester City Council and public sector partners, participants are welcome to produce anything they wish – develop applications to help people find their way around, stay safe, discover new experiences and everything and anything in between. All data is released under the Open Government Licence.

Taking place at MadLab in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter on Saturday 17th November, the Manchester Hackathon is set to be an intense, productive and exciting collaboration between the brightest minds in software development and data processing. Entries from both teams and individuals are welcome, and there are cash prizes to be won for the best product at the end of the session.

When :

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 6:30 PM – Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 7:00 PM (GMT)

Where :

MadLab

36 – 40 Edge Street
The Northern Quarter
M4 1HN Manchester
United Kingdom

For more details see here:
www.futureeverything.org
| www.opendatamanchester.org.uk | @FuturEverything | #futr |

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Gist – going off in a nearly new direction

I previously wrote about Rich Contact Management Services which mentioned services such as Gist (now part of RIM|Blackberry).

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They recently released the news that they’ve “decided to shutdown the stand-alone Gist service.

This makes a lot sense, from looking at the need to further integrate the myriad of social and contact based services we all rely upon and then really embed those services into the underlying platform.

While Blackberry continues to have well publicised issues the Gist team have got a strong remit and goal to deliver:

    • Since our acquisition we built the BlackBerry Playbook Contacts app and more recently, our team has been tasked with creating the native address book/contact manager for the next generation platform, BlackBerry 10.
    • In addition to our core focus on the Contacts app, we have been given expanded responsibility for everything social at RIM including BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook and Twitter apps and instant messaging as well as much of the identity platform, location services and user analytics features.

It’s good to see them acknowledge other players in this space – see their support page

I’ve tried Nimble, and will take a look at some of the others on list.

I wish the Gist team luck in delivering this goal of pulling much more together and integrating services the across the SOLOMO (SOcial-LOcal-MObile) |rich contact management space.

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Other sources of SOLOMO material:

Do you think SOLOMO (SOcial-LOcal-MObile) is a growing space for application services? 

Do you think this is a sensible move for Blackberry and Gist?

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Rich Contact Management Services

I’ve been interested in the services developed by providers such as Gist (now part of RIM|Blackberry), Rapportive (now part of Linkedin) and Xobni.

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These work across multiple PIM (email | phone | contacts) and social networking services to bring together a rich and comprehensive profile of your contacts.

Typical service features include:

  • Rich contact profiles
    • Picture | Avatar
    • PIM contact details
    • Latest updates on connected networks
    • Latest relationship history
    • Shared networks and frequent contacts
    • Autosuggest of contacts in mail creation
  • Contact sync services across devices and between contact management stores (address books)
  • Gadget | Extension services to incorporate further services

Since I’ve been using a Blackberry 9300 Curve I’ve been able to use both the Gist and Xobni applications for Blackberry, in addition to the integration I already have with Gmail. (the images above give some idea of the Blackberry mobile UI to these services).

I particularly like the integration with Gmail as this screen shot and youtube shows.

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Xobni Smartr

There is also very strong integration with Outlook from both Gist and Xobni. (Gist – did also have a Lotus Notes plugin too – see here – but it is now withdrawn)

As these systems bring together a single cloud store of contacts, available through multiple form factors and mobile devices.  I see stronger pull for these services in an Enterprise or business context.   For example in sales, where finding that contact, understanding the relationship history, recent updates etc. could create better lead generation or decision making in pursuing an opportunity.   Which is probably why Rapportive are now part of Linkedin.

I am a little surprised there isn’t more integration and support in the enterprise, these type of products could definitely help overcome some of disconnect and lack contact to enterprise expertise and resources that remote workers experience.

Does a unified and integrated view of your key contacts appeal to you?

Are you using these products?

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Jive Anywhere – a social browser extension from Jivesoftware

Jive released a browser extension today : “Jive Anywhere” (article via Techcrunch) also see “Jive Anywhere: socializing the web.”

In the print screen examples below you can see how the extension expands out from any browser tab to show the discussion and content in your community related to that page.

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This print screen shows the expanded discussion thread taking place.

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When it’s not required it can be easily tucked away onto the right hand scroll bar, like so.

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I have to agree with other commentators like Alan Lepofsky who write :

“I don’t say this often, but Jive Anywhere has the potential to be one of those rare “game changing” technologies with respect to the way people work.”

In his article “Jives Latest Release Takes Integration To 11

I think of this tool in the following way:

In the world of the hunter|gatherer, the foraging for knowledge by the information worker, this is now a must have tool!  Jive Anywhere brings the community to bear and support that virtual roamer, and allow them to return the goods into the heart of community – the people and context that matter in an instant.  At its best reducing the time to action and response, but in simple terms helping people stay in touch and up to date.

This pervasive availability of connectedness into your core community, to garner and share knowledge in this way is a real step change.  Especially with the support of context “cartridges” for particular sites or service providers. (e.g. Salesforce.com)

I liken this to the evolution of browsers that brought social network connectivity into each tab, via  the extension apps and underlying API integration of from the social network.  Also this mimics the advantage that blackberry had when it brought email, voice and texting into a single mobile device.  In some way Jive are jumping ahead of their competition with this browser extension release.

There are a couple of things I would like to see evolve in this extension:

  • multi-community support – in the same way that some twitter extensions support multiple twitter, it would be useful to use the tools for different communities and contexts.
  • better support of SSO | Identity federation – I don’t see it supporting common enterprise security configurations in its current state.
  • mobile browser | app support –  many people will browse the web on smart phones or tablets, and they will need this extension in those devices contexts as well.

Download and Install Jive Anywhere from >> here 

What do you think?  Have you tried this yet?

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Some thoughts on the latest G+ User Interface

Last week Google made a significant refresh of the user interface to their G+ social network system.

Google+ – UI update Introduction

 

 

There were obviously much comment made on the likes and dis-likes of the revised interface.

I see it as a positive improvement and also a stepping stone on to further service integration and UI tweaks.

The reason I see it as a “stepping stone” move, is the number of comments the perceived unused quantities of “white space” that have been placed into this iteration of the UI.

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      I like the vertical left navigation menu that Google has introduced.

   What I’d like to see the options is

Like this:

G  More-3

So you can see | view Gmail in the same interface window (browser tab) as G+.

So perhaps the “whitespace” section could be preview of the GMail inbox | Google Docs,  or by using the GMail |Google Docs icon from the vertical menu you would use those services inside the G+ wrapper.

I would even suggest Gmail could deliver message notification inside the G+ stream, while still being able to filter into the inbox, the time | activity stream of G+ and Gmail message can occupy the same flow.

For example Photos are already well integrated into the G+ interface – so I don’t particularly see why others can’t be.

In fact both these  Photos lead to the same place.

Universal Menu – Photos G+ Menu – Photos
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So Google is duplicating its menu system across its “common” menu system and in G+  vertical menu.  I would expect to see convergence in this area.

I don’t like having to switch tabs to use these other Google services or that clicking on links would open in new tabs.

This is what Facebook gets right – all their services happen in a single browser tab.  Whether it is messages, notifications, other services all operate within a single browser tab.

I hope & think Google will come around to this way of delivering its services too.

What do you think?

Do you prefer multiple tabs or single tab for multiple services?

Would seeing Gmail messages appearing inside G+ appeal to you?

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A couple of services of note that I miss…

As Google Chrome browser user, the extension set is very important to me.   In fact the browser is no longer a single function application (it hasn’t been like this for a long time).  Most browsers are equivalents of a smart phone on the laptop or desktop computer,  the browser is a services platform – extensions, plugins, add-ons (whatever the word chosen) – these are all apps – just like in the Apple App store.

So when the Apture Highlights extension was no longer available due to acquisition from Google (which isn’t a bad thing) –  I didn’t realise how much I would miss it’s functionality.  I frequently find myself highlighting text and pressing right click to bring up additional context | meaning.  FastestChrome is a good all round extension that does bring some context | definition| search capability around text highlighting – but nothing as good as Apture  (as this video shows)

Apture Highlights Extension Demo

Some background articles on Apture via TechCrunch:

I am excited about the Apture integration with Google Chrome  – in fact I’m impatient about the functionality returning soon!

The 2nd service that is no more is Notify.me  which – “allows users to create a list of RSS feeds they’d like to monitor for a set of specific keywords. Whenever one of these keywords appears in a story, Notify.me can alert them through SMS, Email, instant message, or through a desktop application.”  (Notify.me Offers Instant Updates On Your Favourite Topics Across The Web)

Here is an old demo video : http://vimeo.com/1943541

Unfortunately, there was no sustainable business model (Notify.me closing shop oct 4th).  So as a consumer looking for (and used to getting) free services, it comes as no surprise to see things close down, in the rapidly moving world of the web, change is ever present!

However, at least there were a couple of replacement services suggested.

“If you don’t use chrome or want a more broad replacement. Take a look at iftttIf-This-Than-That” it is closer to a Notify.me replacement offering quite a bit a new interesting functionality.”

In fact I’ve really enjoyed using ifttt and find it more than adequate replacement service.

Here’s a good introductory video on ifttt

ifttt Tutorial

How have you adapted your add-ons or extension set in your browser?

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