Mapping Tools with Unique Features

UPDATE: The embedded VidMap was showing an error when trying to display the video. I’m looking into it, but I’ve given a link to the page where you can see the example.

Many sites now allow for quickly building your own maps and their feature sets are fairly predictable. With that in mind, I want showcase several unique features I’ve run across in mapping tools.

VidMap has journalistic potential. The site lets you sync video with a map, showing the aerial course of the video’s content. For example, I added¬†this video of a trip along the Phoenix light rail and then clicked its course out on the map. When finished the video plays while a marker moves along the train’s route. This example is a bit mundane, but this would be excellent for displaying the movement of a roaming protest or showing the blocks of a neighborhood in a related story.

UMapper offers several distinctive features and one of them lets you make games out of your maps. It’s similar in style to the classic Geosense and its derivatives like Globetrotter XL. This would be useful for either helping the user master locations or saying something about the relationship distance plays in a story (as distance is part of scoring). This video gives an overview:

As well, UMapper recently made it possible to create maps with Twitter results. This adds thumbnails of tweeters to a map which show the corresponding tweet if clicked. Tweet results are drawn from Twitter automatically, so the map builder doensn’t have any input in filtering results. It’s also worth noting that tweeter location can be an inexact science as only a small selection of users enable GeoTagging and results from the Location field can be all over the place. However, there may still be potential uses for building a map where tweets alongside annotated map notes creates something interesting.

Micello is an application that shows maps of indoor environments. It’s relegated to just the iPhone for the moment, but this an extremely useful and untapped mapping realm. While the Micello feature set doesn’t mention shared maps at the moment, many stories happen within buildings and the potential to easily annotate floor plans with story details is an interesting one. For now, the content is primarily retail, but I’m enthusiastic about the potential.

What other interesting mapping tool features have you run across?

Digital Storytelling Advice from Public Radio Enthusiasts

Before terms like podcasting and citizen media were common, several sites and public radio storytellers were already on top of helping non-professionals tell their stories. The sites I want to list here offer great examples of what amateurs can do with a recording device and a bit of encouragement.

Transom.org is produced by Atlantic Public Media and is a site for welcoming newbs into the world of public radio. In 2003, it was the first website to win a Peabody award and did so by offering great examples of audio storytelling and solid instruction on how to produce such stories.

HearingVoices.com is a series featuring the best of public radio. It hosts its own “Learn Radio” list with great links related to both storytelling and production.

SoundPortraits.org hosts a great Interview Checklist by David Isay. Its beauty is in its brevity and would make a great pre-game rundown before interviews until you get the hang of it.

The Teen Reporter’s Handbook at RadioDiaries.org is another great reference for getting started in audio. As well, Radio Diaries itself is a commendable project replete with good examples of citizen storytelling. The goal of the project is to find folks whose voices are rarely heard and get a recording device in their hands to begin a personal diary. Hosted documentaries include the voices of prisoners, unique teens and carnival retirees.

If you’re still hungry for digital storytelling links, McLellan Wyatt’s list will keep you busy for weeks.

Finally, check out Ira Glass on Storytelling. He gives an excellent breakdown between merely reporting and telling a story people want to hear:

Project: Report Offers Helpful How-To Videos

YouTube Project: Report is holding its second contest for aspiring journalists, offering $10,000 grants to five winners. Partnered with the Pulitzer Center, the contest asks journalism newcomers to film a day in the life of a compelling person. Because of this newbie focus, the YouTube page offers several videos with basic, but solid production advice for amateurs. You’ll find videos on camera basics and lighting tips, but this one on reporting composition gives an idea of what they offer:

WordPress for Android

Keeping in spirit, I’m producing this post on my G1, using the app described.

The new WordPress app for Android has been released and it’s quite nice. While blogging from a phone still feels a bit limited, this app is a good option for blogging away from a machine.

The application integrates with self-hosted blogs and features tabs for managing comments, posts and pages. The screen for writing posts integrates with Android’s image gallery. (Here, it becomes an even greater travesty that Android doesn’t provide an easy way to take screenshots.) Once written, posts can be published or uploaded as drafts.

Also nice is the comment alert feature, allowing the user to get updates when new comments show up. If you require comment approval for new posters, this can free you from your machine and frequent dashboard refreshes.

In all, it’s nice to see this app taken seriously with bases well-covered in its initial version.

How to Set Up Your Own Paywall with drop.io

Update: Drop.io’s technology was acquired by Facebook in October 2010 and the site was discontinued as it was. I’ll be hunting for site’s that offer a similar approach to easily upload content on the fly and charge users for access to it. If you run across anything on your own, please send it our way.

drop.io logoWith the discussion over the New York Times’ paywall plans this week, I thought it would be interesting to explore how an individual could set up her own paywall. This isn’t to make a call either way on whether a paywall is good or bad business, but individual experiments in this area could yield interesting results.

While there are multiple ways to host and charge for content online, drop.io offers a fairly simple option. Drop.io is a collaborative, file-sharing service that becomes interesting when you add its privacy options and real-time nature. In addition to file-sharing, drop.io offers the user a feature (appropriately named Paywall) to charge for uploaded content.

Many kinds of media creators can find benefit in a streamlined system for charging for files. Drop.io offers several use cases, which include the independent journalist who wants to charge for monthly access to an insider news service and the photographer who wants to sell high-resolution versions of his images. To this, I also see usefulness to the data journalist who wants to fund her document digging and visualization time by charging for curated data sets. As well, this could be an option for quickly selling that newsworthy photo you caught at the right place at the right time.

Drop.io has a thorough and well-done how-to on their site, but I’ll give the steps in broad strokes here:

  1. Create a new drop on drop.io’s homepage. You have the option to add a file in this step and you’ll have to create an admin password.
  2. Access Paywall and follow the setup instructions. This is done by appending your drop’s URL with “/admin/paywall/”.
  3. Setup your Amazon Payments Business Account. Drop.io will take you to Amazon to set up a new account or you can use an existing one. One thing to note is that your Amazon Payments name will be visible to buyers. So, keep this in mind if there is a desire for anonymity/pseudonymity.
  4. Finish by entering your Amazon Payments info and agreeing to terms.

It’s important to note that each site will take a cut from transactions. Drop.io takes 1% and Amazon takes 1-3% and some change based on payment method. As well, free accounts on drop.io go up to 100mb, but it’s $20/month to upgrade to 10gb.

All in all, I believe the simplicity of this approach allows for fast experimentation in terms of the kind of content an individual can sell.  For example, PaidContent.org began as a one-man trade newsletter by Rafat Ali. As well, the system could fit into the 1000 True Fans model being adopted by entrepreneurial media creators. This is ripe for creativity.

PearlTrees: Social Bookmarking in Tree Form

Pearltrees logoPearltrees is a web-based social bookmarking application with a unique visual approach. Compared to other sites in the same vein (Delicious, Xmarks), Pearltrees offers a unique visual approach.

Pearltrees dashboard

Bookmarked sites are represented by circular thumbnails called “pearls.” These can then be dragged around and arranged into a branching hierarchy or “tree.” Pearls can be added while browsing via a Firefox plugin or a bookmarklet. Browsing a tree and placing pearls runs smoothly and it’s an enjoyable experience.

Things get interesting as my pearls begin to co-inside with others’ pearls. A pearl will flash blue when another user adds the same link and orange when a pearl receives a new comment. In time, one gets a visual impression of bookmarks popularity and attention. As another links to my pearls, tracing back through their trees offers new discoveries and taxonomies I wouldn’t have arrived at on my own. This is not an experience exclusive to PearlTrees, but I believe the representation offers something different.

Pearltrees Discussion Continue reading PearlTrees: Social Bookmarking in Tree Form

How to Publish Quickly if You Don’t Want to Publish Regularly

Update: I’ve adjusted the title and the intro here to clarify quick, one-time publishing versus just quick publishing (something not exclusive to the collection below).

There may be times when you need to publish something fast and you only want to publish once. Rather than start up a whole new blog, you may want to check out the following tools:

If you have text and images, I’ve found three good sites for immediate publishing. They all do basically the same task. After submitting your content, you’re given a published page with a link for sharing. All three involve this two-step process, but vary slightly in features and community offerings.

CopyTaste features a rich text editor that allows for embedding images and video. Of similar sites, this is most notable difference. Pages can be shared and rated by the community or they can be made private. CopyTaste also offers a plugin for Internet Explorer, which allows the user to make a page out of any copied text.

copytaste

Dinkypage bills itself as your place for “disposable” web pages. However, this refers to the investment involved rather than the page’s longevity (pages don’t come with a deletion date). Dinkypage’s nice feature is the ability to edit the URL. A user can choose what come’s after http://dinkypage.com/. One drawback is that images and video cannot be embedded and must be linked from another source.

Dinkypage

PasteHTML is by far the most stripped down of the three. One can enter HTML or text and that’s about it. It’s the simple option if you’d rather not interact with a GUI.

PasteHTML

File2.ws is excellent if you have a file you’d like publish. The content of the uploaded files is published on a new page and is accompanied by a download link. Text files and PDFs will display their content, while MP3s and video will feature a player. It supports a full range of file types.

file2

Moomeo is an interesting option if you’d like to publish an email,. Sending an email to Moomeo’s address will publish that email to a unique page. Community commentary is an interesting feature and the ability to publish without ever visiting the page is also nice.

Moomeothumb

How to Optimize Your Self-Hosted WordPress Blog for Mobile

WP Touch1

Update: Rich Gubby wrote to pitch his Wapple Architect Mobile plugin for WP. I’ve tested it and believe it’s another good option. Thoughts on Wapple are appended below. I’ve also updated the theme names for clarity.

WordPress is activating two new themes for mobile phones, one for smart phones and the other for standard mobile browsers. These will be displayed automatically for visitors based on the phone. However, this upgrade only applies to WordPress.com users at the moment. What if you self-host your WordPress blog?

No worries. Upgrading your self-hosted WordPress blog is rather painless and involves just two plugins, one of which I blogged about previously. These two plugins are the same that WordPress has modified for WordPress.com users.

1. Download the following plugins:

WordPress Mobile Edition by CrowdFavorite
WPtouch iPhone Theme by BraveNewCode

2. Upload and Activate WordPress Mobile Edition

For WordPress Mobile Edition, you’ll need to drop one file in your plugin folder and a folder in your themes folder. The creators explain this here.

MobileOptimize4Once uploaded, activate WordPress Mobile Edition on the plugins screen in your dashboard. This will add a link called “Mobile” to your Settings section. Click “Mobile” to access the settings. In here, you will see two lists. The first is for traditional mobile browsers and the second is for smart phones. Delete the list of smart phones as we’re going to let WP Touch handle those. Click “Save Settings.”

3. Upload and Activate WP Touch

For WP Touch, you just have to drop the WP Touch folder in your plugins folder.

Once uploaded, activate WP Touch on the plugins screen in your dashboard. This will add a link called “WP Touch” to your Settings section. There are a lot of adjustments you can make here, but the plugin will be working immediately. I go into more detail on the WP Touch settings in a previous post.

4. Test

Now, jump on your phone and take the site for a test drive. If you don’t have access to a smart phone or a non-smart phone, I’ve found a couple online tests. They aren’t perfect, but will give you a basic preview:
-Smart phone test
-Non-smart phone test

Update:

Another Option:

If you’re comfortable editing CSS, Wapple Architect Mobile is another option worth checking out. The options are rather robust and allow for a high degree of customization. The biggest pro may be the fact that one plugin takes care of both smart and non-smart phones.

WappleScreenIn my previous post about WP Touch, I mention that it does give your blog an application feel. If you prefer a more customized look, Wapple offers that. Updating your mobile theme with a unique header is done via dashboard. However, color and typography options must be managed by editing a style sheet. The style sheet is well-commented, but may be a steeper entry point for novices.

You can find the plugin here. You’ll also need to register for an API key for activation here.

If you visit Mediactive via mobile, let me know if you run into any conflicts. I’ll update with surprises we find.

Two Tools for Archiving Web Pages

I’ve found two decent tools for archiving pages from the Web. Page archival can be very useful in at least two cases:

1. You want to backup a page of your own content and you want to preserve it as is. Dan discussed the need for this in When Others Delete Your Past. While a personal backup is best, the following tools may come in handy when you don’t have access to a website’s backup system.
2. You want to capture a page that may change soon. For example, a public official says something controversial on her campaign site and takes the page down after complaints.

Diigo – Diigo is designed around Internet research and does many interesting things. One can save and tag pages, highlight text, annotate and send the page off to collaborators. The most interesting new thing Diigo does is save a “snapshot” of a page. What Diigo calls a screenshot though is a cached version of the page. This means the user can still search and highlight the text involved. I tested flash videos embedded in pages and found these preserved in the cached version of the page as well.

PositivePress by Iterasi – Positive Press may be priced high for those only interested in page archival, but it’s an impressive product worth mentioning. The archival tool is a one-button approach and also saves pages as a searchable, cached copy of the original.

Moomeo: Whistleblowers Have a New Friend

Moomeo is an interesting option for whistleblowers. An email that seems important can be sent to post@moomeo.com and it will be promptly turned into a web page of its own. The sender receives a link to the page via email. Visitors to the page can comment and share the email through facebook, Twitter and a handful of other social media venues.

Moomeo_example

Moomeo is also a way to create a fast, one-page site based on an email. It’s something worth keeping in the toolbox when setting up a new blog is too slow for a more urgent message.