YouTube for the Intellectual Set

7 January 08

BigThinkNot to say that YouTube’s immense user-base isn’t intellectual, but the content uploaded to and popularized on YouTube has a decidedly light-weight feel. YouTube is more about entertainment than anything else – you know, viral videos featuring skateboarding bulldogs and South Park spoofs.

A new site, Big Think, aims to serve a different niche on the online video world. From the site:

“Our task is to move the discussion away from talking heads and talking points, and give it back to you. That is Big Think’s mission. In practice, this means that our information is truly interactive. When you log onto our site, you can access hundreds of hours of direct, unfiltered interviews with todays leading thinkers, movers and shakers. You can search them by question or by topic, and, best of all, respond in kind. Upload a video in which you take on Senator Ted Kennedy’s views on immigration; post a slideshow of your trip to China that supports David Dollar’s assertion that pollution in China is a major threat; or answer with plain old fashioned text. You can respond to the interviewee, respond to a responder or heck, throw your own question or idea into the ring.

Big Think is yours. We are what you think.”

The site features video clips of numerous “experts” (Richard Branson, Paul Krugman) responding to specific questions. Most of the videos are interviews, where the interviewer is kept out of the final video itself so that the clip looks more like a commentary than an interview. The site aims to become a discussion forum, where users can post questions, ideas, and responses focused on all things “intellectual” – politics, religion, business, law, healthcare. Log on, and check out some of the clips when you have a minute. Apart from being interesting, the whole idea that the existing clips are meant to spark discussion is really exciting. How might you respond? For more, check out this New York Times article on how Big Think got started.

Wikipedia – Google Smackdown

3 January 08

wikia_searchHot on the heels of Google’s announcement of Knol, Wikipedia founder Jim Wales announced a January 7, 2008 launch date for Wikia Search, a search engine project that will rely on community members to filter, rank, and tag search results.

Basically, Wales hopes Wikia Search will grow to eventually challenge established search giants like Google and Yahoo! by offering internet users a service that is more transparent. While Google and Yahoo! and other search engines rely on top-secret algorithms and ‘bots to catalog the untamed wilderness that is the Internet, Wikia Search will clearly show users the methods by which search results have generated.

Currently, Wikia Search is in an invite-only testing phase. Learn more at Wikia Search and The Washington Post.

Reporting Live from… Wherever You Want

21 December 07

“Qik enables you to share moments of your life with your friends, family and the world – directly from your cell phone! Keep the world in the know, share a laugh, tell engaging stories. Just point your cell phone and stream video live to your friends on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc OR use your cell phone like a camcorder and stream hours and hours of video without worrying about storage on your cell phone.”

The service, currently available only with Nokia N- and E-Series phones, is yet another example of new-media creeping into old-media territory. Blogs challenge traditional print media in that anyone can post anything whenever they want, making real-time news and updates possible. Qik is a direct competitor to television in that anyone can stream live video to the web in real time, giving just about anyone with the right cell phone the power to “report” on something as its happening.

Currently, the site is in alpha and it’s invitation-only. Learn more at Qik.

Wiki Google-pedia

21 December 07

Google Knol

Google made headlines last week with its announcement of Knol, a soon-to-be-launched Wikipedia competitor. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Knol is only open to a select test group right now, as it is still in the early development phase.
  • Knol differs from Wikipedia in that it is designed to highlight authors and experts. Google believes that “knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content.”
  • “A Knol (unit of knowledge) on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. Google will not serve as an editor in any way. All editorial responsibilities will rest with the authors.”
  • Knol’s other big differentiator is that it will provide potential authors with an incentive to contribute in the form of ad revenue. Authors will have the option of integrating contextual ads (served up by Google’s AdSense, of course). Any revenue generated from a particular page will be shared with the author (similar to how click-revenue on Google’s Blogger product is shared with the blog owners).
  • Knol will include some of the best aspects of social media in that the platform is designed to foster discussion, collaboration, and cross-referencing. Anyone will be allowed to contribute to a knol, though attribution will be required for participation.

Some are already predicting that Knol will be the definitive Wikipedia killer. Others criticize Google’s decision to enter the content-publication space as being monopolistic. It’s hard to say at this point, since the public only has a few screenshots to view, but we’re eager to see what happens when Knol launches for the public. All quotes are from the Google Blog, where you can go for more information on Knol.

Social, but Exclusive

13 December 07

Diamond Lounge, which launched this month, is a new social networking site that’s a little less open that Facebook or Myspace. And by “a little less open” we mean there’s an application process, and the acceptance rate as of launch was about 1.4%. (For comparison’s sake, Harvard’s undergraduate acceptance rate is about 10%). Accepted members pay a $60/₤30/€45 monthly fee to be part of this network.

The club is modeled after real-world exclusive clubs such as Studio 54, The Viper Rooms, and Bungalow 8. What’s particularly interesting about Diamond Lounge is that the site offers two separate social spaces – one for business, and one for social interactions, allowing members to present themselves differently in each space. Members will also have access to private social and business events so they can interact with one another in the real world as well.

Learn more (or submit an application) at Diamond Lounge.

Save Yourself a Mint

13 December 07 is a web-based money management tool that is both automatic, and completely free. The site, which first launched in September of this year, allows users to track most of their financial transactions in one place. An account is easy to set up, and Mint assures users that it’s backed by the same security measures as online banks.

“Mint connects to over 3,500 US financial institutions. Your account information is updated each night. Mint automatically categorizes all your purchases, showing you how much you spend on gas, groceries, parking, rent, restaurants, DVD rentals and more, with amazing precision. An advanced alerting system highlights any unusual activity, low balances, unwanted fees and charges, and upcoming bills so you’re in constant contact with your money – effortlessly.”

This is just one of many examples of how traditionally paid, desktop-based software is being challenged by free, web-based competition. In our new open, free, web-friendly world, what are you doing to stay ahead of the competition? Learn more at Mint.


7 December 07

NASA recently unveiled its new website, which has been specifically designed to better appeal to the 18-25 year old (read: Facebook) demographic.

The striking new website feels decidedly less governmental than before, featuring blogs, widgets, and video feeds, among other new ways for users to manipulate and interact with NASA’s content. Users will also be pleased to find Digg integration (letting them call out certain clippings to the Digg community), podcasts, NASA TV, and RSS feeds galore. Also of note is the new MyNASA feature, which lets users create an account to which they can save their favorite bits of news and video to a playlist.

This new website, which launched the first weekend in December, is NASA’s first major web redesign since 2003. The agency has, in our estimate, done an excellent job of presenting in a variety of platforms to appeal to a variety of audiences, especially given the strict restrictions it faced as a government agency. To learn more, visit NASA.

PDF 2.0?

4 December 07

Yahoo has joined forces with Adobe to revolutionize the way we interact with PDF documents. Publishers will now be able to integrate ads within their PDF documents. All you need to do is upload your PDFs and monitor your account on Yahoo’s ad-serving system. Publishers, Yahoo and Adobe share revenue on every

The ads will be linked with the content of the document and will appear on the side of the page. Good news for fatigued customers? The ads won’t appear if you print the PDFs. Currently in Beta, large publishers like Wired, Pearson’s Education, Meredith Corporation and Reed Elsevier are participating in the program. Read more about the partnership here.

Artificial A.I.

3 December 07

Amazon Mechanical Turk is a new site that helps organizations get human help for small tasks that are done better by humans than by computers. Though computers, codes, and programs can perform many tasks better, faster, and more effectively than human beings, there are some tasks that still require human intelligence. Mechanical Turk is a marketplace, of sorts, that connects those that need human help with those willing to give it.

For developers and organizations, Mechanical Turk solves the problem of building applications that have not worked well due to a lack of human intelligence. Users – the “Mechanical Turks” in the equation – earn money for each HIT (Human Intelligence Task) they complete. For example, a HIT might be “find the object that every pronoun refers to” in a specific text. For every pronoun identified, the user would get $0.01. Users can work as long as they want, whenever they want.
Visit Amazon Mechanical Turk to learn more about the concept (and learn what’s behind the unusual name).


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