Web 2.0 goodies

Ah, the web as a platform. I love it; so much good stuff to play with. First up, I’ll have to say something that I didn’t expect I’d be saying, and that’s that Microsoft have actually trumped Google on useability for something, at least for the average user. Windows Live Local is much nicer to use than Google Earth, has better resolution pictures (and angled views also), and doesn’t require any software to be installed on your local machine. Brilliant, and lots of fun. You can actually see my bike on the pavement out front of The Hall of Mirrors (my humble abode). In G.E.’s defence, I’m not sure that there as many mash-ups involving Live Local, and that Floodmaps hack I found on Worldchanging a while back was a sure fire winner.

Next up is a real revolution for productivity – the Thinkfree office suite. Thinkfree offers its users the ability to upload, create, edit and share MS Office compatible documents (word-processing, spreadsheets and Powerpoint-style presentations), all through a web browser with no software installation necessary. Why is this a good thing? Well, the sharing options allow for collaborative editing without the use of an intranet or any tedious emailing of files – especially useful for group projects where the contributors are geographically separated.

But the real bonus is the fact that you don’t need to tie yourself to a software package, with all the attendant costs and licences. Ideal for small businesses who can’t afford to lash out for MS Office (and aren’t willing to use a dodgy copy). Like any start-up with sense, they’re aiming to create a community (by way of the file sharing), there’s a points system that can earn you more storage space and extra features (which can also be paid for), and they’ve made it blogger-friendly, too – you can enter your details into your account, and publish to your blog with one click. Good stuff. I must take it for a road-test sometime soon.

Another new one I spotted today at David Louis Edelman’s blog is called LibraryThing, which is a way to catalogue all the books you own online in a linked community. You can rate and review books, see who else owns the same items, check out other users’ new additions, and so on. I’ll report ion this one more thoroughly when I’ve given it a proper test.
And lastly, I’ll re-plug a few tools I use already, and that most serious bloggers are already on top of. These may be of some interest to readers who aren’t quite so far down the web rabbit-hole yet, because it’s amazing how quickly you start to realise the benefits of them.

I am a big fan of Newsgator, a web-based news aggregator. What is it for? Well, say you read a bunch of sites like this one every day, and a few news sites too. Rather than go to each site individually to check for new posts or articles, Newsgator will collect them all on one web-page for you via the magic of RSS. Don’t know what RSS is? Well, if you use Firefox, it’s how your live bookmarks work – but a more complete explanation can be found here. RSS makes finding fresh data easy and convenient, especially with something like Newsgator (although other products are available, and I believe Thunderbird can handle RSS as well).

Last, but most definitely not the least, is the mighty del.icio.us. Del.icio.us is a social bookmarking site. Think of it as being kind of like your favourites folder in your browser, but rather than being stored on your machine they are stored on a remote server in your user account – so you can get at your bookmarks from any internet-connected computer.

But that’s not all! You can ‘tag’ the links you save, to make them searchable. Tags are like keywords. Say (God forbid) you found some fascinating article about a nefarious plan to smash every bone in Wayne Rooney’s other foot (OK, letting my fantasy world intrude into the blog again, sorry). You might tag it ‘football’, ‘Rooney’, ‘foot’ and ‘conspiracy’. This means that is anyone searches on del.icio.us for any of those keywords, your linked URL will be in the list. The more people who have stored a URL, the higher in the list it will appear. All in all, a great way of storing URLs you like, and finding new ones recommended by other people. Plus there’s more hacks and bolt-ons for del.icio.us than you shake a USB cable at – one of them automatically creates my ‘Daily Links’ posts for me, right here at VCTB. Bonus…anything that saves me time is good.

So, some good stuff to play around with, if you aren’t already. Any regular readers got any more recommendations? The comments field awaits your input…

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