odd-lot thoughts

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Augmented reality and what it might do

I just learned today (thanks to Robert Scoble's Scobelizer blog) about a concept called "augmented reality," and the work being done by the Vienna Institute of Technology on The Invisible Train game, and their Outdoor Collaborative Augmented Reality project.

What these projects show are ways to use PDAs with a video see-through display* (and some hidden computing power) to access additional information about objects in reality, just by aiming the PDA in that general direction.

The Invisible train uses a real model train track (just the track) to play a game where virtual trains running on that track have to be kept from colliding. The only way to see the trains is through PDA video. They call this a "magic lens" type of effect.

There are pictures and more information (but I want to know even more) on the TU** links above.

This just boggles my mind! When I read this, my mind raced in several directions at once.

For starters, the Outdoor project made me think back to when I first played Myst. I became immersed in that game, and the exploration that was possible just by clicking my mouse on every object I could find. At one point in the real world I was riding in a car and thinking, "I wish I could click on that house, or that sign, and have it tell me something."

Well, with the Outdoor project, you can do just that. I want it now!

Then I started thinking of ways to incorporate that in elearning & simulations. Now, that's the true power of elearning. Not boring page-turners, using "click to continue" and claiming it's interactivity, but true action mazes and simulations coming at you from the objects themselves, only in the PDAs of those enrolled in the course.

And that reminded me of a great website called "Free-range learning."

And then I started thinking about -- what if this were combined somehow with social networking efforts, like blogging, or IM, or Furl? Who needs a list of restaurant reviews in the paper, when you can aim your PDA at the restaurant and see what others have said? (Well, you'd still need reviews, if you were planning ahead and not just wandering down the street.) But still, there are big possibilities in there. More than I can think of offhand, that's for sure.

And then what you'd have is not the world-wide web, but the web-wide world.

I want that.

* Ok, I'm not entirely sure what that is. But I hope it's something I can get for my T3.
** Technische Universitaet Vienna (Vienna Institute of Technology). Don't worry, the site is in English.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The blogging conversation continues

As blogs become more popular and more prevalent, you get more conversations. Some are useful, some are just noise.

I spent some time this weekend clicking the "next blog" button on the upper-right, just to see what's out there. In the past, I've found a few good blogs that way, such as The City Birder. This time I didn't see one thing that interested me. And I found a few sites that depressed the hell out of me.

The sites that didn't interest me were either empty, or full of kid stuff -- what a day someone had in school, who likes who, who went out where, and the like. Sometimes that's fun to read, but I guess I wasn't in the mood this time. Kids wouldn't agree with me, of course.

The stuff that depressed me were what I call "link farms." Just a bunch of links and repetitive terms, obviously meant for search engines. There was one about bed-and-breakfasts, that was just a bunch of links to different sites. Each link had a paragraph of description, but the text was identical. Only the link changed -- b&bs in Georgia, b&bs in New York, etc.

That blog (hosted for free on Blogger) depressed me because it's just noise, no content. There's already too much noise. Ironic that Google (who owns Blogger) hosts for free a site designed to get around Googles algorithms.

I think as blogs become more common, the value of the connectors and mavens* will increase. People won't be able to explore as much, so what folks like Robert Scoble, or Amy Gahran, or Michael Feldstein say and who they link to, will be come more and more important.

As will services such as Technorati and Bloglines.

*See The Tipping Point for details on connectors and mavens.

Friday, September 24, 2004

More on Trackbacks

The distributed conversation continues. CNET News.com has started collecting trackback information. As yet, the results appear to be hidden, or at least, difficult to find. Still, this is a fascinating trend.

For a quick explanation on Trackback, check out this article: What the heck is Trackback? by Jason Kottke.

It's exciting to see the connections in the web grow deeper and wider. Trackbacks encourage exploration through cross-references. The reader who is willing to do a little work might find some other valuable resources. Or he or she might just be wasting time, jumping from one inane blog to another. It's like a big party -- you have to sample a lot of conversations to find a good one. Or you can start one and see where it leads and who joins in.

I got the news from a blog I regularly read, Micropersuasion. From the header of the blog: "Steve Rubel on how blogs and participatory journalism are impacting the practice of public relations."

He, in turn, got the news from a blog he reads, Photo Matt. Matt is Matthew Mullenweg, who is the founding developer of Wordpress, which is a popular blogging software.

Both of these blogs have insightful posts on weblog trends and their impact.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Fun with blogs -- trying "Trackback"

Following another tip (#6) from my new blog guru, Simon, I decided to try trackbacks. Trackbacks are automated ways of linking from one blog to another. If you look on a blog that has Trackbacks, try clicking on one and see what it looks like. You'll see a list of links to blogs which have referenced the specific post you're reading.

Why is this good? Because you have added a node to the distributed conversation. To me, that's what blogs are and why they fascinate me.

In non-instructional-designer/web-nerd-speak, you've added a link to the referenced blog, which is always good for increasing traffic to that site. And you get immediate gratification when you look at the trackback and see a link to your site.

The main problem is that Blogger doesn't support trackbacks. But with Simon's advice, I tried to use the manual trackback pinger. The URL he supplies didn't work however. So somehow I managed to find Simpletracks.

It's a easy-to-use web-based trackback form which allows you to create a trackback to another site. But I don't think you can use it to trackback to a Blogger site, since there is no trackback URL for a Blogger post.

Here's how the Simpletracks form works:
  1. Enter the trackback URL. This is the tricky part -- I did it incorrectly several times and got an unhelpful error message. A Trackback URL is not the same as the URL of the post. To get the trackback URL, you have to click on the trackback link of the post you want to reference. There you will see at the top of the page, "the trackback URL for this post is...." Copy that and paste it in.
  2. Enter your blog name, entry title, entry URL, and entry excerpt.
  3. Click "send ping."
  4. Now the cool part -- go back to the post you referenced, and click the trackback link. There, at the end of the list (until someone else comes along) is a link to your site, and a tantalizing excerpt.

Cheap thrills are the only kind I can afford. Luckily, I get a lot of mileage out of them. If it weren't for Blogger, I'd probably be doing something important right now. And what's the fun in that?

Truer words were never spoken

I learned of this post on blogging via an elearnspace post. Every word is a gem, but what hit me especially were these two points:
4. Prepare for the reality that the rest of the world may not share your high opinion of yourself and your site.

5. You know that movie where the guy built a baseball field and waited for some dead folks to turn up and play ball? Blogging's like that. Prepare to slog at putting up brilliantly crafted, accurate and to-the-point insights that will proceed to make no difference to anything at all.

I had to laugh, but it's so true. And not just about blogs, but about life. Thanks for the reality check, Simon! As a new blogger, I plan on reading this post very carefully. In fact, this is something not just to be read, but to be mined.