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Boston.com has published an amazing series of photos of the key development milestones of NASA's new toy: the Ares I-X Rocket. It started small, was tested in pieces, then assembled and "grow'd up to go up!" .

Launch of the Ares I-X - The Big Picture - Boston.com

  • Star Wars Yoga

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    Fittest Fighting Force in the Galaxy: Yoga Jedis >>>

    yoga.jpg

    LOL. The online yoga instruction site YogaToday.com is offering a Star Wars-themed yoga session this week. The video promises to illustrate the "galactic connection" between asanas and Star Wars. No costumes, alas, but I do believe those are Leia-buns on the head of yoga instructor "Princess Neesha Zollinger," at left. (thanks, Paul Sixta)


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Pumpkin Patch time of year again. This year's hay-ride was part of a birthday party at the farm that include a small goat pen, invisible pony rides, and an enormous harvest-sized chocolate sheet cake. Oh, and warm apple cider. And picking pumpkins, running through corn rows, and big grins.

  • The Origins of All 30 NBA Team Names

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    Etymology of NBA team names revealed >>>

    The Hornets were supposed to be the Spirit, while the Grizzlies were almost named the Mounties. Why is a team in Los Angeles nicknamed the Lakers, and what’s a team called the Jazz doing in Utah? As the NBA season tips off tonight, here’s the story behind the nicknames of all 30 teams.

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  • Apple Tablet Will Restore Comic Books To Former Glory [Apple Tablet]

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    Comix, er, um, what adults call 'graphic novels', to get re-invigorating Apple-a-day treatment >>>

    "What is it in France they say? 'America contributed three things to culture: jazz, musical comedy and comic books.'" You can already buy two on iTunes. And if things pan out, you'll be get the third on the Apple tablet.

    Over the last few weeks I've been talking to people within the comics industry to try to sniff out Apple's plans, including Neal Adams, developer of an upcoming motion Astonishing X-Men comic on iTunes, who also told me the French saying. Everyone in Adams' line of work is buzzing about the tablet and what it can do for their masterpieces.

    It's an easy presumption for comic book fans. The Sun Times' Andy Inhatko is betting that LongBox, a digital distribution platform for comic books, will make an appearance on Apple's upcoming tablet. More than just an appearance, really:

    I'm pretty sure that Apple is entering into a formal alliance with LongBox. When I asked [LongBox CEO Rantz] Hoseley about what kind of partnerships the company is forming, he spoke vaguely of what was taking up most of his time at the moment: a lengthy and complicated agreement with a seriously large company operating in the media space.

    One problem: Several sources I spoke to over the last couple of weeks, including top-level executives at giants like Marvel and DC, have said they've not heard a whisper from Apple—despite a nearly desperate hope that Apple would come a-courtin'. One executive said to me, when I mentioned the possibility of putting his comic books on the Apple tablet, "If you've heard anything from Apple, please tell them I'm ready to do it."

    That means that LongBox may be the only distribution option for comic books at the tablet's launch, through some sort of dedicated LongBox app. And if LongBox's distribution plan for the Apple tablet is just an app, why would they need to do any negotiations with Apple? Launch the LongBox app, sell the content, and go. No Apple nod necessary.

    We know that Apple has been reaching out to select publishers. It was Andy Inhatko who passed on the rumor about "trucks loaded with books" earlier this year. It all fits with the moves we already know Apple is making in its outreach to magazine and newspaper publishers. For Apple, the tablet is about cleaning up; with the addition of books, newspaper, magazines and comic books, there isn't a single vector of mass media that Apple won't be able to distribute through iTunes. With the success of the App Store—a success I think even Apple wasn't expecting to such a degree — they're even a major distributor of software and games.

    Oh right, there's also music and video.

    Marvel content, especially, seems like a given. Disney bought Pixar, putting Steve Jobs on the Disney board. Then Disney buys Marvel. Marvel has already dabbled in publishing content through iTunes, with a new "motion comic" version of The Astonishing X-Men hitting iTunes on October 28th.

    I spoke to Inhatko on my tiny Apple tablet last week about his story. He's increasingly persuaded that Apple is content to let print publishers distribute their content through apps, not through the iTunes store itself.

    He may very well be right, at least at the tablet's launch, especially given Apple's reticence to even acknowledge the tablet's existence, let alone provide publishers with detailed, unified specifications for an "iRead" format. But it also strikes me as an inelegant solution at best, especially considering iTunes 9's iTunes LP format is an HTML- and JavaScript-based 720p format that would work just wonderfully for a digital magazine and comics format.

    Could just be wishful thinking on my part—I'd rather manage subscriptions through iTunes like podcasts, rather than individual apps—but either way it's a win for Apple, who will happily get their cut no matter what system of digital print distribution ultimately takes off. If you have any leads on comic book tablet activity, by all means, send us a tip.

    There is one shocker I discovered in my discussions with Marvel folk: It's been confirmed to me that Hulk is stronger than Thor. Chew on that one for a while — at least until you can buy Hulk vs. Thor on iTunes. Excelsior!

    Joel Johnson has a blog, but your best bet may be to follow him on Twitter @joeljohnson.


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  • Microsoft Opening Outlook's PST Format

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    After 14 years of using OUTLOOK PSTs exclusively myself, a little data portability is a welcome gift >>>

    protosage writes to tell us that Microsoft Interoperability is working towards opening up Outlook's .pst format under their Open Specification Promise. This should "allow anyone to implement the .pst file format on any platform and in any tool, without concerns about patents, and without the need to contact Microsoft in any way." "In order to facilitate interoperability and enable customers and vendors to access the data in .pst files on a variety of platforms, we will be releasing documentation for the .pst file format. This will allow developers to read, create, and interoperate with the data in .pst files in server and client scenarios using the programming language and platform of their choice. The technical documentation will detail how the data is stored, along with guidance for accessing that data from other software applications. It also will highlight the structure of the .pst file, provide details like how to navigate the folder hierarchy, and explain how to access the individual data objects and properties."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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  • CRASH Writer Haggis Ditches Scientology, His Scathing Letter

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    Enlightenment, perhaps not spiritual, finally found >>>

    Hollywood Reporter - Paul Haggis, the Oscar-winning writer-director whose credits include Crash, Million Dollar Baby and Letters From Iwo Jima, has left the 'church.' His letter is a big step amongst celebrity Scientologists....

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  • University Makes Twitter a Required Class for Journalism Students

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    Because after all, writing click-worthy 'tweets' is really just like writing effective headlines >>>

    twitter-classWorried that too many tweets are mere pointless babble? So is Australia’s Griffith University, who recently made Twitter education part of the mandatory courseload for journalism students.

    According to a senior lecturer at the University, “Some students’ tweets are not as in depth as you might like.” The solution? Make Twitter writing practice a compulsory part of the course curriculum for would-be journalists.

    University officials cited increasing demand from employers for new hires well-versed in social media, and Twitter’s importance in global events like the Iran elections earlier this year.

    While we perhaps would have given up a prized appendage to have anything as cool as a Twitter course available back when we were in school during the Pleistocene Era, the Griffith U students’ reactions have been mixed. Some students had no idea what Twitter even was (sort of proving the point of needed education for future journalists!), and a few outspoken J-schoolers who felt the class was “a waste of time.” Clearly kids these days don’t know how good they have it.

    What’s your take: should Twitter fluency be required for future journalists? Or is it impractical to expect students to inject “more depth” into their tweets?

    [Via PSFK]


    Reviews: Twitter

    Tags: education, journalism, twitter

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  • How to Convince Colleagues to Collaborate Online

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    Good advice for getting team-mates online >>>

    Picture 1Last week, I met a new client who accepts that she needs to use the web much more effectively than she does now. Over the coming months, she’s planning to build her personal brand online, with the help of various promotions experts. Right now? “I just don’t have time for it,” she says. And when we discussed our next meeting, her suggested venue was her house — which is at least two hours’ travel time from mine.

    The size of the job simply doesn’t warrant me traveling for four hours for a meeting. But my client’s professional services firm operates its business very much on a face-to-face basis, and both of us would prefer to meet like this, rather than simply talking over the phone. Other than meeting halfway, we could try videoconferencing. But how will I convince someone I’ve just met, who obviously isn’t particularly comfortable operating in the online sphere, to use videoconferencing technology?

    I’ve often experienced resistance to technology among people who, whether they like it or not, work online. I’m sure you have, too — recent research has shown that collaborative technology hasn’t had as broad an impact in workplaces as we might like. As we know, overcoming such resistance can be a challenge, especially when we don’t know the person particularly well.

    However, there are strong arguments you can use to convince people to give collaborative technology a try. None of these arguments, on its own, is likely to get someone over the line, though — usually they need to be combined to be effective.

    Cost

    My client is on a tight budget, so she won’t want to pay me to travel for four hours to meet with her. This could be a strong motivator for her to try a technology like using a webcam. By the same token, I expect she won’t want to pay for any technological solution, so I’ll need to suggest free solutions to this problem.

    Cost is often a strong motivator for my freelance clients, but can be less important when you’re working within an organization. When I suggested to a remote colleague in a large corporate that instead of calling each other ten times a day we should just use IM, she had no motivation at all to do so: she wasn’t paying for the calls she made, so cost was not a motivator for her.

    Convenience

    One benefit of using multiple contact methods is that you can communicate with someone at virtually any time. Forget the old leave-a-voicemail-and-follow-it-up-with-an-email syndrome; you can do so much more than that. You can tweet or text your client or colleague a link or reminder; send them a quick message via IM; email them the minutes from your last meeting; call them using a free VoIP service.

    How can you communicate the benefits of convenience to your colleague? Think of a specific case in your recent history with this individual where technology would have smoothed or sped up the process, or made a real difference to the work flow. Explain this to your colleague, and make clear the difference that your preferred piece of technology could have made to the situation.

    Workplace Pressure

    If enough people within an organization are using a particular application, piece of software, or technology, it can be difficult for others to maintain their resistance.

    For clients who manage their own operations, or are solo operators, there can be less pressure internally to adopt collaborative technology. However, as in the case of my client, who runs her own face-to-face business and feels no such pressure, but is looking to expand her reach online, the pressure of external competition and the potential for missed opportunities may be a strong motivator.

    Knowing that my client is looking to develop an online presence, I could suggest trialling video chats via Skype as a way to become more comfortable in the online space. Since she’ll be operating internationally soon, I could present the chance to skill up now as an opportunity to get ahead — it’ll make it much easier for her to communicate with key contacts in the near future.

    Productivity Benefits

    Studies have shown that collaborative technology pays off. That’s good, but it’s not likely to convince an individual who’s just trying to do their job with a minimum of hassle that they should change, or even augment, the way they operate.

    Quoting statistics may not convince my client to climb aboard the collaborative technology bandwagon, but illustrating the realities of our situation may. The four hours I’ll need to travel, in total, to meet my client will not be productive time — that’s why she won’t want to pay me for it. If I travel to meet her, the meeting will effectively take up an entire day. For a client on a tight deadline, this is an enormous waste of time as well as money.

    One the other hand, if we made a video call at nine in the morning, I could action the outcomes of the meeting on the same day. This would likely put me at least a half — if not a whole — day ahead of the face-to-face meeting scenario. I have the feeling this is going to be a very strong motivator for my client.

    Support

    Though it may surprise some of us, many people are still scared of technology. It takes a long time to set up, may not work properly, takes up valuable space on their computers, is yet another thing they have to learn,  means they have to carry more stuff around, leaves them with no free time — the list of arguments against using technology is almost limitless.

    Worse still is the fact that most people don’t want to admit that we’re scared of the prospect of having to learn something new, to adopt it and make it part of our daily operations.

    Offering support to colleagues as an encouragement for them to try a new technology may make all the difference to your professional relationship, as well as your productivity. If I were to discuss the prospect of setting up video calling with my client, I’d send her links to the service and help information, ask her to call me if she had any problems with the setup, and suggest we had a trial run video call a week ahead of time.

    Personalization

    As I said, my client operates her business almost entirely in person. Many people who are unfamiliar with technology feel that online communication is somehow less personal than face-to-face conversations. Whether or not this is true, the fact is that the more opportunities you create for people to communicate with you, and for yourself to communicate with others, the stronger your relationships with those people will be.

    People will often communicate via chat in a far less formal, more personal way than they would in an email. The great thing about reading tweets that your contact has directed specifically at other individuals is that they give you an insight into other facets of that contact. If I really want to establish empathy and rapport with someone, I’ll call them rather than emailing or IMing. Each technology has its place, and I use as many as I can to get a clearer picture of the people I work, and are friends, with. This, in turn, helps us work more effectively together.

    These are the arguments I usually use to convince a colleague to give collaborative technology a try. Ultimately, though, the success of my efforts will depend on how well I understand their situation, and their reasons for not wanting to try an alternative to the status quo.

    What arguments have you used to convince clients and colleagues to communicate with you online?



    What was the big news that happened in your sector in Q3? Catch up with GigaOM Pro's, "Quarterly Wrap-ups."

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  • Spurning the "false god of coffee"

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    Interesting self-experiment into coffee consumption and concentration >>>

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    Robin Barooah gradually weaned himself off coffee and found that his concentration actually improved. He explains how he did it and what he discovered on the Quantified Self blog, which covers news about self-testing and self-monitoring.

    As part of a separate experiment, I have been keeping track of the amount of time I spend working on projects.  I work in 25 minute intervals which I time with a coffee timer, and I mark an X in a paper journal for each interval that I successfully complete.  If I get distracted, I don't mark the X, and if I can't concentrate, I abandon it and don't mark an X rather than sitting out the timer.  I've been doing this since the end of June, so I tabulated the data and created a graph of my hours of concentration per day, and overlaid a bar showing when I drank my last coffee.

    Causality is a complex issue. Obviously this is an n=1 experiment and I am intentionally doing other things that may well be improving my concentration, but one thing is very clear; the amount of time I spend concentrating has not deteriorated since I quit coffee, so I can easily reject the hypothesis "I need coffee to help me concentrate."

    The false god of coffee


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