One of the last things you ever expect in life, is to witness a company made famous for its database software, getting involved in a social networking project for kids. But that’s just what Oracle has done, with its creation of Think.com.

 Oracle's Think.com

An online social networking and collaborative platform with a diverse range of applications, Think.com is a sheltered environment for primary and secondary students to get engaged in social activities and collaborative projects on a global scale. I say ‘sheltered environment’ because Think.com has enforced a stringent authentication process, which ensures that students are interacting within a controlled environment.

A school interested in using Think.com has to review Oracle’s Administrative guide before submitting an application, which, by the looks of it, is fairly thorough. It has more stipulated conditions than probably a tax return form, but you don’t expect anything less from a database giant. And I guess, it’s well worth the effort since after all, Think.com is free, and Internet safety is ensured for the kids.

From what I understand, Nanyang Girls’ High School has plans to use Think.com as part of their students’ learning journey. This is a step forward in embracing what is already the inevitable. Because believe it or not, your students are going to be using the Internet, if not in school, outside of it. So why not just let them use the Internet in school, in an environment where the teacher facilitates proper use of it?

A controlled environment does not have to be a boring one. Oracle has integrated the ThinkQuest library with Think.com, to encourage students to work in teams, competing intellectually to build their own learning environments. Teachers can set up activities to stimulate creativity, expose students to global cultures, encourage intellectual debates, etc. I remember reading somewhere that a poem was written in Think.com. No big deal right? But here’s why I mentioned it. Each line of that poem was contributed from a student from another part of the world. How’s that for ingenuity?

I wrote about ePortfolios and Helen Barrett in an earlier post. Here’s what she said about using Think.com to create electronic portfolios:

I am impressed by the ease of entering data. All URLs are automatically converted to weblinks that open in a new window. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying the information from various online portfolios, including my Mozilla portfolio, where I had the URLs on the page (not just links). I easily uploaded my only file artifacts (on the Portfolio-at-a-Glance page).This is the first tool that I have used that adds Interactivity to the portfolio (other than the blog tools). The software allows these forms of Interactivity:

  • Message Board – Invite people to post a message on a page
  • Ask Me – Answer questions (about anything)
  • Debate – Pick a topic and have a debate with others
  • Vote – Have an election or poll on a page
  • Brainstorm – Invite others to share their ideas on a page

I am very impressed with this interactivity, since it makes an electronic portfolio a socially-constructed document. The tool also allows the addition of “Stickies” that can be added by anyone and deleted by the page owner. The Stickie can be used for providing formative feedback as a portfolio and its artifacts are developed.There are also five types of “Media and More” that you can add to a page:

  • Pictures – Upload your favorite GIFs and JPEGs
  • List – Make a list of assignments or other things
  • Mini Pics – Add artwork to a page from the Mini Pics gallery
  • Multimedia – Upload Music, Movies and Animations
  • Files – Upload files from Word, Claris Works and other programs

To read her full post, click here.

Once students garner positive experiences in social networking and intellectual collaboration using Internet technologies, they’ll be the wiser when they step out into the real world. Yes, I am seriously convinced that the real world today constitutes the digital domain as well. Just ask fanatical users of MySpace (I’ve still got my reservations about Second Life though, when it comes to what’s real and what’s not, but more on that in another post).

Really, your school has no reason not to jump on the bandwagon, if it hasn’t already, leveraging Internet technologies to further students’ intellectual growth. Think.com has eradicated all possible excuses for not getting started. If your school has done the impossible and managed to squeeze out another excuse, post it here. I’m sure one of you intelligent readers will have something to say about it. Now, that’s collaboration.

Thought you should know that I’ve just posted a new blog entry about Podcasting, over at my other blog.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of podcasting, I strongly suggest you hop over for a read.

Though it might have a slight business slant to it, you’ll instantly grasp the power of podcasting and what it offers to educational professionals like you. There are so many possibilities for using podcasting in education, that it’s almost mind-blowing! You can be sure that I’ll be writing lots more on this subject here on ChalkTalk.

But right now, hop on over to Technopreneur and get geeky!

You know what a portfolio is. Artists usually maintain one or more. Astute investors maintain one or more. And for the rest of us, portfolios double as a glorified resume; documenting qualifications, skills, abilities and achievements, stuff that can make or break a job interview, or just send you spiraling down (or up, whichever way you look at it) an ego trip. 

But used in the context of education, portfolios can be a valuable assessment and learning tool, both, for educators and students alike. I’m sure your school or learning institution is already using portfolios for such a purpose. There are very few negative aspects to using portfolios as a lifelong learning experience. In fact, used intelligently, rather than just posing as an archives of sorts, portfolios make for a very authoritative reference for individual assessment. And with easy access to the Internet, portfolios have mutated into something even more alluring – webfolios, or what is more popularly known as electronic portfolios/ePortfolios. There is a distinction however, between ePortfolios and webfolios, as some academic researchers explain:

we make a distinction between hard-copy portfolios, e-portfolios, and ePortfolios. A hard-copy portfolio usually consists of paper artifacts in a binder. An e-portfolio resides on disk, CD-ROM, or similar physical transportable media and is not accessible from the Web. A ePortfolio resides on the Web and “is a tightly integrated collection of Web-based multimedia documents that [could include] curricular standards, course assignments, student artifacts in response to assignments, and reviewer feedback of students’ work.””

                   (Love, McKean, and Gathercoal, 2004)

“You may have heard of the term ePortfolios. There is a difference however, between eportfolios and ePortfolios. Since the mid-90s, the term eportfolio has been used to describe collections of student work at a Web site. Within the field of composition studies, the term “ePortfolio” has also been used. In this portal, we are using the current, general meaning of the term, which is a dynamic web site that interfaces with a database of student work artifacts. EPortfolios are static Web sites where functionality derives from HTML links. ePortfolio therefore, now refers to database-driven, dynamic web sites, not static, HTML-driven sites.”

                                   (Batson, 2002)

ePortfolios have unfurled a dizzying array of possibilities in education (please note that ePortfolios are not confined to higher education. Elizabeth A. Herbert has produced a book explaining the power of portfolios for assessing children’s learning). It has (though not single-handedly) broadened the learning landscape by empowering the use of portfolios for personal development, deep learning, presentations, future employment, assessment and accreditation. An ePortfolio becomes a digital identity for the owner. It acts as an extension to the owner’s experience and provides a platform for his or her own personal reflection. It adds the ability to form a connection with other learners and educators, sharing resources with similar minded learning communities, morphing into a collaboration tool, rather than just a rigid depository of artifacts.

Here are some features that an ePortfolio can embody:

·  Personal information

·  Education history

·  Personal stories

·  Personal commentary and reflections

·  Research information – such as documentation and references supporting specific research

·  Annotated bibliographies

·  Books lists

·  Coursework – assignment, projects

·  Instructor comments

·  Academic and professional achievements

·  Persistent web searches

·  Newsradars (custom filtered highly thematic news feeds)

·  OPML / reading lists (lists of RSS resources)

·  Timelines

·  Calendars

·  Timeplans

·  PowerPoint presentations

·  Digital photographs (annotated)

·  Video clips

·  Audio recordings – Podcasts

·  Goals, plans

·  Personal goals and objectives

·  Personal values and interests

·  Recommendation letters and references

(Source: Electronic Portfolios: What Are They?)

Such features seem too good to be true for just an ePortfolio, but it’s these very features that challenge students to develop creativity and think more critically as they develop their own ePortfolios. Because of the wide array of possibilities that ePortfolios offer to education, it becomes necessary to set a focus for its implementation. In a paper by Helen C. Barrett, she wrote:

Barton and Collins (1993) stated, “the first and most significant act of portfolio preparation is the decision of the purposes for the portfolio” (p. 203). What are your purposes in creating anelectronic portfolio? To support ongoing learning/professional development? To supportformative and summative assessment? To support marketing and employment? These are three major purposes for electronic portfolios… and they are all different and require different types of technology tools. A learning portfolio can be supported very nicely with a web log environment (“blogs”), whereas an assessment portfolio that ties artifacts to a set of standards, with feedback or validation, is best implemented through a relational database structure. A marketing or employment portfolio only needs an authoring environment that supports formatting and hyperlinking on a web-based server.”

Helen Barrett goes on to say:

Portfolios should support an environment of reflection and collaboration. It is a rare system that supports those multiple needs. That is why I often advocate for three interconnected systems: an archive of student work, an assessment management system to document achievement of standards, and an authoring environment where students can construct their own electronic portfolios and reflective, digital stories of learning (see earlier discussion about this balanced model). I believe the use of technology can be a motivating factor for portfolios, especially if we can make it engaging for the learners, and give them an opportunity to express their own voice in their portfolios.”

(Source:  Researching Electronic Portfolios and Learner Engagement)

By the way, if you’re serious about incorporating ePortfolios into your teaching methodologies, you can’t go wrong with Helen Barrett, a leading authority in this field. I strongly suggest reading her online publications to get intimately familiar with ePortfolios as a teaching aid.

Going back to what Helen Barrett mentioned (see above) about students constructing their own portfolios, I think, this deserves deeper consideration. If you were to examine your own institution’s methodology of managing portfolios, how many of them are actually done by students’ themselves? And do these portfolios include students’ needs, concerns and viewpoints? Yes, scaffolding experiences to induce reflection and assessing and forging accountability are all part of the deeper purpose of portfolios, but; this should not be at the expense of marginalizing opinions and concerns of students.

It makes better educational sense if ePortfolios are made more learner-centric, empowering students to play a deeper role in constructing their own portfolios, owning and forging their own digital identity as I alluded to earlier. By gaining control of building their self-knowledge, students will adopt a keen sense for personal reflection, something, which can only be evoked if students themselves have a hands-on approach in building their own ePortfolios. This may also pave the way for you to teach from a more, constructivist paradigm, a theory I subscribe to whole-heartedly.

Having said that, ePortfolios require a few crucial considerations. Considerations that your institution’s or school’s administration can only answer. After all, managing your students’ portfolios on the Web will require a budget. Concerns such as database management, server costs, long-term storage, who has control over the portfolios and vendor support, tend to raise a few eyebrows. So the next obvious question is, “Are ePortfolios really necessary for your institution right now?” While it’s true that ePortfolios support learning, it’s also true that ePortfolios are not the fulcrum on which learning balances. Your institution can do without it, without trivializing the substantial role ePortfolios can play.

Perhaps, that’s where open source can make its grand entrance. As a firm believer in open source software (this reduces the burden of budget constraints considerably), I cannot resist the opportunity to point you towards an exciting, albeit an awkwardly named tool called Elgg.

Elgg is all about a learner-centred, learner-controlled space in which you choose the connections, the resources and the communities you want to participate in,” says David Tosh, one of its creators.

A new Elgg user starts by creating a digital identity: announcing who they are, and what they are interested in. Then any content published by the user (such as a blog entry or uploaded file) can be assigned freely chosen keywords (a process known as tagging). The software then uses these tags to help to connect the user to other learners with similar interests.

In addition, a user can start a community, which other learners can then join. For example, a course leader could start a subject-based community to highlight potential reading materials to a group of learners. Elgg also includes the ability to publish a podcast and a way for users to subscribe to content elsewhere on the web.The learner-centric approach and social networking aspect of Elgg make it very different from more traditional virtual learning environments (VLEs), which are usually structured around courses, timetables and assessment. “Whereas Elgg is learner-centred, the VLE systems tend to be centred around the requirements of an institution,” says Werdmuller.

Elgg offers learners more autonomy but is not intended to replace the VLE. “We think of it as more of an enhancement,” says Tosh.

Elgg encourages students “to develop an online presence” and writing for and commenting on blogs “requires a style of writing that is reflective, clear and concise. It helps students to find and develop a particular type of public ‘voice’ as well as communication and presentational skills.”

(Source: The Guardian, March 7th 2006)

Maybe, just maybe, Elgg could be the solution to accelerate the adoption of ePortfolios in your school or institution. But because, this is too important a point to overlook, I want to re-iterate the importance of getting your students to take charge of their own portfolios. This may be difficult for students at a lower primary level to grasp, but nevertheless, it can be done by stimulating their interests via methods such as digital storytelling; just one more way towards stimulating creativity and arousing excitement in students using today’s emerging technology.

Digital storytelling probably deserves a post of its own, but, just to give you an idea of how easy it can be; visit Microsoft’s Photo Story 3 ( which is a free download), and create your own digital story. It’s like composition writing without the boredom. For ideas on implementation in your classroom, try this resource page. For the more serious-minded, you might want to purchase a truly insightful book on this subject, DigiTales: The Art of Telling Digital Stories, by Bernajean Porter.

As a parting note with regards to problems in implementation of ePortfolios in your institution, try heeding George Siemens’ suggestion:

In situations where full-scale implementation of eportfolios is not possible, instructors can begin to foster a culture of digital documentation by encouraging learners to practice blogging, developing simple websites, or storing their content online (in a content management system like Plone). Encouraging learners to develop an online identity in recently developed (or soon to be released) systems like Elgg can also be an effective introduction to the process.”

(Source: ePortfolios, December 16, 2004)

This final installation of How To Subscribe To A Blog (Part 2) will add a few minor details that you might find useful.

ADDING A RSS FEED IN BLOGLINES

Let’s start by taking you over to the newly acquired YouTube by Google. It’s a short tutorial on how to add a RSS feed in Bloglines. Yes, it’s different to the way I showed you in Part 1.

HOW TO READ YOUR WEB FEEDS IN BLOGLINES

Once you’ve a few RSS feeds added to your feed reader (for this tutorial, Bloglines is used as an example again), you’ll want to know how to read your web feeds. Click here for your tutorial.

SAVING A POST IN BLOGLINES

If you happen to like a blogpost that you’re reading on your feed reader, and would like to save that post in your feed reader, here’s how to do it in Bloglines. You should have a similar feature in your feed reader, if you’re not using Bloglines.

MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTIONS IN BLOGLINES

Get your feeds organized into folders. The fun in visiting your feed reader can fizzle out the moment you find your feeds piling up in all directions, and suddenly finding yourself spending more time finding your feeds, than reading them.

You can sort your feeds out at the stage of adding a feed itself, or after. Here’s how to do it after adding a feed, assuming many of you might have already added a feed without organizing them into folders:

  1. Click the feed you want to put into a folder.

  2. Now look at the right window pane of your Bloglines feed reader. Near the top-right hand corner, you’ll see something called ‘edit subscription’.

 Screenshot 1

  1. Click on ‘edit subscription’. You’ll see a pop-up like the one below. Look for the drop-down box with the title ‘Folder’.

 Screenshot 2

  1. Click on the drop-down box. Choose ‘New Folder’. A javascript prompt will ask you to type in the name you want, for your new folder. Type the name in and click ok.

 Screenshot 3

  1. Now click the ‘Update’ button at the bottom of your pop-up ‘edit subscription’ window and you’re done.

Up to this stage, you’re practically ready to add, organize and read blogs that you’ve subscribed to without worrying about anything else.

But if you’re the kind who gets a high from tinkering with added features, feel free to look all the way down the left pane of your Bloglines window.

 Screenshot 4

Click on each link to read and follow the instructions Bloglines gives. That is, if you so choose to use any of the added features. It’s there to make your Bloglines experience a little more pleasant.

Not to marginalize those who are not fond of Bloglines, allow me to take you to a great tutorial that guides users on subscribing to feeds, using other types of feed readers and browsers.

This should do it for subscribing to blogs. If you’re in doubt about anything that has been covered, feel free to post your comments or shoot me an e-mail.

 Related Posts

Well, I’ll be darned! I put out a post on October 6 about ‘A Peek Into The School Of The Future’ and postulated if Singapore could follow suit; and to my amusement – Singapore is. Channel NewsAsia broke the story on October 11, ‘Education Ministry to partner foreign institutions to develop Schools of the Future‘.

The similarities to Philadelphia’s school of the future is uncanny, but then again, it shouldn’t be of any surprise, considering Microsoft is one of MOE’s industry partners. I can’t lie to you. I would have loved, to have taken credit for seeding the idea (nothing wrong with the occasional ego stroking), but it’s quite obvious that MOE had already set its sights on such a move, way back, as maybe, last year. Express IT! IN2015, seems to indicate so. iN2015 is a blueprint to get Singaporeans technologically savvy in probably every aspect of their daily living. It’s a grand vision. But, impressive and exciting nonetheless. Even more consequential, is MOE’s master plan for IT in education. And going by the ideas that some students are proposing, it’s fairly obvious they’re more than ready to embrace technology in education. Take this as a barometer to gauge the level of excitement students place in technology.

If you’ve been having your doubts about using technology in education, I hope the above is proof enough of technology’s significance in Singapore’s future educational structure.  

Radio took 38 years to seduce an audience of 50 million Americans. Television took 13 years. But the Web has taken less than four years from the moment Netscape’s Mosaic browser was made available for free to attract the same number. That difference counts for something. The usage growth of the Internet throughout the world between the years 2000 and 2006, has been measured at 200.9 %. Asia witnessed a growth of 245.5%. In Singapore, with our population at around 3.6 million, about 2.4 million of us are Internet users (Source: Internet World Stats). More than half of Singapore’s population is wired to the Internet. It’s a figure I expect to see rising over the coming years. 

Let’s not kid ourselves though. The cost of living in such a technology-rich world, with information being exchanged at lightning quick pace, comes at a high price. And I don’t mean in monetary terms. I’m talking about our futures.

The simplistic plans that our forefathers laid out for their futures and for their generation, were and cannot be the same as the future for today’s generation and generations to come. A prime example is job security. A victim of today’s progress, job security, like our forefathers, has joined the annals of history. It’s not something that you should be preparing your students for. Our future is not about reacting to our past. The myth of job security should be shattered, because your students deserve to know what the future really holds for them – opportunity. And that’s what you should be preparing your students for.

A future with opportunities requires the ability to research, communicate and solve problems, skills that some of the age-old methods of learning, such as the 3 Rs, cannot support. You have to retool your classroom to support this new vision of opportunities and grasp the context of technology’s role in this. I mentioned in a previous post about the learning behaviour of kids today. It is vital you take this into consideration when retooling your classroom. To keep churning out stimulated, independent thinkers and learners, understanding their learning patterns is key towards achieving this.

Take a look at Japan. Her schools have been scrapping homework over the last decade. Why? Have Japanese schools discovered something that the rest of the world has not caught on yet? It’s a subject worthy of critical analysis and honourable debate. Lessening the load on homework could create a new path to self-discovery, mining more time for engaging your students rather than enraging them.

In an information-driven economy, information overload becomes a reality. How to manage information, feed information that matters to your students. maneuvering your students attention to focus on pertinent subject matter rather than mundane ones, becomes your responsibility. That means more is required out of you. And that’s one more reason why, you should embrace technology with open arms. It will guide you towards achieving this quickly and efficiently.

Dare I say, as an educational professional, you own the future, and you’re on your way towards helping your students do the same.

I’ve been told time and time again by my daddy, “not to make things harder than it already is.” That was during my hormonally-charged, incorrigible teenage years. Today, I find it difficult to ignore the significance of that statement.

I should not make things harder than it already is for you. You must be stretched for time. So if I’m able to help lighten your load a little, I’ll do it. I understand that some of you are still unfamiliar with the concept of syndication and subscribing to a blog. This post will walk you through the process, step-by-step.

If you’re ready to subscribe to a blog, I assume you’re already familiar with the term, RSS. If not, here’s a little refresher course for you.

Syndication, from an RSS point of view, is simply put, sending you the latest updates or changes from a website or blog. And how do you receive these updates? Through something called an aggregator or feed reader.

You’re going to need a feed reader if you’re going to subscribe to blogs. There are desktop feed readers, which you have to download to your Mac or PC, and the slightly more popular, web-based feed readers.

I shan’t go into detail about the features of each feed reader for obvious reasons, but I will point you to a resource that will (The feed readers reviewed there are only web-based).

For desktop-based feed readers, I would recommend the following:

·        FeedDemon – Windows based (it’s not free)

·        Pluck RSS Reader – Windows & Mac based (Free)

·        NetNewsWire – for Mac users. Integrates well with the Safari browser (it’s not free)

The choice of feed readers is entirely up to you. But for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to demonstrate with a feed reader of my choice, Bloglines (a FREE web-based reader). I will walk you through subscribing to a blog which, I believe to be worthy enough of sitting in your feed reader – ChalkTalk (talk about shameless!). Alright, let’s get started!

Creating Your Account With Bloglines

1.      Go to Bloglines.

2.      Click on Register.

 Screenshot 1

3.      Fill out the short form to create your account. Click Register and follow Bloglines’ directions. It will send you an e-mail to verify if it was truly you who signed up or your mischievous computer-literate cat.

 Screenshot 2

4.      Check your e-mail account now and click on the confirmation link which Bloglines had sent you. Congratulations, you’re now an official Bloglines account holder.

5.      You should now be looking at Bloglines’ recommendations of feeds, nudging you towards adding them to your new feed reader. If it’s relevant to your interest, then add them. If not, don’t clog up your reader with unnecessary feeds.

6.      If somehow, you’re not already logged into your account yet, you can do so now.

 Screenshot 3

Subscribing To A Blog With Your Bloglines Feed Reader

7.      Now let’s try subscribing to ChalkTalk.

8.      Upon logging in to Bloglines, you will see a page that looks like this.

 Screenshot 4

9.      Look at the left pane, with the three tabs. Notice that My Feeds is highlighted. You should also see a single default feed from Bloglines in your feed reader if you had not added any feeds yet.

 Screenshot 5

10.  Go to the ChalkTalk blog now.

11.  On the right, you will see a column showing Subscribe Here with four orange buttons.

 Screenshot 6

12.  Click the top most button which looks like the one below.

 Screenshot 7

13.  The next page you will see, is this.

 Screenshot 8

14.  On the right side of this page, you’ll see a box that says, Subscribe Now!

 Screenshot 9

15.  Look for the button that says SUBBLOGLINES and click on it.

 Screenshot 10

16.  It will now take you to your Bloglines feed reader with a page that looks like this.

 Screenshot 11

17.  Scroll all the way down to the bottom of that page and click the Subscribe button. For the moment, don’t worry about setting your Bloglines preferences. You can play around with that at your own leisure. But, I would suggest placing your feeds in folders; for organizational purposes.

 Screenshot 12

Voila! You’ve just completed a subscription process. You will find your feed on the left panel of your Bloglines’ My Feeds page.

Part 2 of How To Subscribe To A Blog to follow.

Related Posts

Education Atlas

Education Atlas®, the World’s most comprehensive guide to the best education sites on the Web. They’re sorted by Education Index/Subject and lifestage, so you can find exactly what you’re looking for quickly and easily. Whether you’re a mother looking for the best home schooling resources for your children, a high school graduate researching colleges, a teacher in need of new lesson ideas for your pupils, or a career professional seeking continuing education opportunities, with over 8000 indexed websites, you’re sure to find the resource your looking for at EducationAtlas.com.

It’s not often that I find myself mopping up the drool originated by news that somehow, manages to titillate my salivary glands.

But that was the case after reading Reuters article on the school of the future. Everything that I’d envisioned a school to be, has apparently been made possible in the form of a public high school in Philadelphia with the help from, guess who…Microsoft. Sweet.

Bill Gates On Oprah

I had a gut feeling Bill Gates was up to something when he was featured on Oprah, discussing the future of education in America.

And now this.

School Of The Future  

This is just the beginning for what I believe to be many more of such schools. Not just in the US, but across the globe.

Singapore could lead the way for Asia in this sector and I’m hoping it would; because contrary to popular reports, Bratt Pitt and Angelina Jolie are not the perfect couple. That whiff of flattery rightly belongs to technology and education.

 Memories of stained toilet seats and grimy kitchen cabinets come flooding back when I mention Ajax to friends.

 Ajax Cleaning Solutions

“I would have lost my sanity if it wasn’t for Ajax,” Sheila whimpered to my wife, struggling to hold back a tear. “No other cleaning solution worked for me. Ajax is all I think about when it’s time to clean.”

Goodness gracious, you’d think that there would be more to life than Ajax for some folks, but apparently not. At least not until it became the buzzword for today’s trendy Internet community. You see, the Ajax I tried telling my friends about, was about the hottest Web development technique right now. How hot is it? Well, let’s just say, it gets more buzz than Paris Hilton’s debut album (which I won’t even bother linking to).

Some pundits have attributed the Web’s Second Coming to the rising popularity of Ajax. Ajax type Web applications are blooming so fast all across the Internet that it has become far easier to sit through another moth-eaten episode of ‘Fear Factor( do I really need to know another recipe for a milkshake?) than trying to keep up with the latest Ajax app. Thank God for TechCrunch.

But isn’t such applications meant to make our lives a little more significant, you ask? Well, I don’t know about significant, but this new generation of Web apps are worth keeping a look out for. And one such app, is what may be termed as, personalized start pages or Ajax desktops. Does My Yahoo ring any bells? Let me explain.   

My Yahoo Homepage

You don’t hook up to the Internet today to send out an e-mail or two anymore. I’m sure of that. If you’re like most Internet users, you’re probably digesting dollops of information, sometimes frustrated by the fact that you can’t find what you’re looking for. It’s not because it’s not there, it’s just the niggling problems of having to sift through the digital ocean of content. Then comes the organization and management of files and content that litters your hard drive. That could explain why your PC keeps crashing. You may need to upgrade your hard drive to keep up with your burgeoning content, clear out the spam from your e-mail client, ensure your software are up-to-date with the latest patches, and to top it all off, your home PC suddenly forgets how to read your office files. Day in a life of an Internet user.   

But I am obliged to remind you, that on the Web, you’re boss. You dictate how to consume the content you prefer. A good example of this is iTunes. Hardly anyone visits iTunes to download an entire CD. It’s most likely a song they’d heard on radio and then downloading that particularly song from iTunes. It’s the same with blogs. No one has the time to read an entire blog of an inspired blogger. I’m sure you’re only prepared to allocate your time for a particular post, instead of an entire blog. It’s funny isn’t it; as the range of choices expands, the less attention it gets out of you. The economics of attention, you say?

But that’s where the Ajax desktop offers to help. Think your PC’s desktop, but its online and more efficient. Features of different Ajax desktops may vary, but Scott Vine does a fantastic job of detailing the most popular Ajax desktops that are attracting legions of fans ( I would recommend you hop on over there right now to see what’s on offer and come right back after)

Okay Kevin, Sounds Interesting, But Will It Really Get My Sanity Back?

Let me put it to you this way. Does having all your content and information packaged in one centralized location appeal to you? If it does, then yes. Think about it, dumping all your data in one place and having instant access to it from any location on earth with an Internet connection. I would sign up for that. It makes more sense if you are an avid traveler. You’ll enjoy an evolving platform, one which encourages add-ons for a more interactive user experience (not every Ajax desktop supports this though). You’re bound to witness more integration with Web 2.0 type applications from word processors to widgets, inevitably creating enhanced functionalities.

This process of choosing content that appeals to you and organizing it in one location is only a sample of what lies ahead in a shift towards microchunking (more on this in a future post).

Its early days yet though, in the world of Ajax desktops. Using one now could label you a pioneer. But I reckon once you’ve tried one, you’ll never look back.

Possibilities of using Ajax desktops for businesses? I don’t see why not and as I mentioned earlier, these personalized start pages have not hit the mainstream market as yet. Only time will tell how practical incorporating these start pages into your business model can be. But, with the proliferation of social networking sites like MySpace and judging by the popularity of Netvibes, a marriage of both models can fuse a profitable explosion. The BIG THREE (Windows Live, Google IG & My Yahoo) are already in the game. It’s obvious they’ve sniffed out a money pit.

Watch this space for updates.

I will be introducing a new category for this blog called, ‘Today’s Hot Steer’. It’s not what you think so don’t let your mind wander.

‘Today’s Hot Steer’ will bring you * insert your own powerful adjectives here * tips, resources and killer apps that I know will leave you either speechless or pleasantly satisfied. You may get the occasional ‘Ah-Ha’ moment and sometimes, the ‘So What?’, ‘What Should I Do With This’ and the ‘I’m Way Ahead Of You Kevin’ moments.

Many of these resources can be for your own personal use, for work or your business. Some resources may not be directly related to the subject matter of this blog, but because not clueing you in may affect my ability to stay guilt-free, I’m obliged to share great stuff with you. Indulge me, if you may.

Alright, let’s kick this category off with something you’re already familiar with: Open Source.

I’m sending you to a website which collates all Open Source applications that work on the Windows platform (I’m sorry Mac-ites, you might wanna sit this one out). You’ve just gotta to see it to believe it, so head on over to OSSwin Project.

If you’re a home user or a small business owner who cannot afford the time to browse through OSSwin Project’s comprehensive offerings, you might prefer MozOO and TheOpenCD. Both offer a free download of their CDs, comprising of quality Open Source tools that should suit your needs perfectly. They do offer a ‘Purchase’ option of the CD, but you might want to try that option only, if you’re averse to downloading anything.

These are Open Source tools that just about covers everything you need to have a fully functional PC at absolutely zero cost. If you possess more than one computer in your office or home, and are constrained by the legal bindings of your proprietary software, you now have possibilities.

It’s worth at least a thought.

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