BookVideos.tv

Bookvideos_2I hope Simon & Schuster is patient with their BookVideos.tv initiative. It will probably take awhile to build up enough of a video repository to draw the large audiences they undoubtedly have in mind.  I think it's a great idea because it's yet another way for authors to communicate with readers and it lets them tell more of the story behind the book.

They recently released a widget, which lets you embed these author video feeds right into your blog or website.  Unfortunately for me (and every other Typepad customer using this particular blog template), it doesn't fit in the outer panes of my blog.  Did I tell you how much I love Typepad?...

Here's the widget embedded in a post, which is better than nothing, I suppose.


Humanizing Technologies, Inc.: A Local Tech Success

Hti_logoWhen you think of interesting technology companies it's easy to assume they're based out of one of the coasts.  There just don't seem to be too many hot ones sprouting up in the Midwest.  Humanizing Technologies, Inc., would be an exception to that rule.  I recently spent some time with their CEO and Chairman, George Witwer, CEO and Chairman.

George's company has three primary products: Lifepage, Concept Search and Widgets.  Lifepage is a tool that lets you grab pieces of webpages and create your own highly customized portal page.  Think of it like MyYahoo on steroids.  While the content on a MyYahoo page is limited by the elements Yahoo offers, Lifepage can feature pieces of any HTML page you choose, all dynamically updated.  Very cool.  I plan to set up my own Lifepage shortly and will report further on my experience in a bit.  In the mean time, I encourage you to watch a few of these short videos to see Lifepage in action.

Concept Search is an equally impressive tool.  In an effort to showcase the features of Concept Search, Humanizing Technologies has loaded up a database with all the U.S. Patent Office data from January 2006 through today.  Here are the results produced when I search for "Microsoft", for example.  The information on the right side of the screen looks much like what you'd get from other search engines, but it's the taxonomy info on the left side that makes Concept Search so useful.  I'm oversimplifying here, but the tool has enough language and terminology intelligence built in that it's able to parse the source documents and create the categories you see on the left, several of which can help you refine your search.  Wouldn't it be great if Google included a feature like this?

Finally, what makes the Humanizing Technologies Widget service so unique?  How about the fact that you can pull pieces of existing web pages and instantly create widgets for mobile devices in a snap?  For example, here's one we created in a minute or two, simply by grabbing a stock price feed off a Yahoo page.  I then added the URL to my Blackberry bookmarks and can use it on the go.  Again, this is just a user-selected portion of the Yahoo screen, not the entire page.

When I look at Humanizing Technologies products individually I'm very impressed with their functionality and ease-of-use.  I see all sorts of ways to integrate them into my daily solutions (e.g., replacing MyYahoo with Lifepage, using more widgets on my Blackberry, etc.)  Take a look at each of these services and I'll bet you'll find ways to utilize them as well.


Disney's Gadget Vision

Swiss_army_knifeI've been a fan of gadgets/widgets since before Yahoo bought Konfabulator.  I use them on my desktop and feature them on my blog.  I've posted before about how I feel these mini-apps will only become more important in the future, but this demo from the Mix conference really drives the point home.  If you were previously convinced that gadgets and widgets are silly little toys, take the time to watch that video and see what Disney is using them for.

My first reaction to this was, "cool...I'm glad to see some interesting things being done with gadgets beyond the same old CPU meter, memory gauge, etc."  My second reaction was, "what an interesting advertising/marketing vehicle."  Then again, what's the incentive for me to put your advertising-laced gadget on my desktop?

It's all about the content you're providing and the services you're offering, right?  After all, nobody wants to clutter up their desktop with a bunch of advertisements.  Disney's example was very content rich, offered dynamic updates via RSS and looks very inviting and entertaining.  Plus, there are only so many Firefox tabs I can possibly keep open at one time, so why not take advantage of that desktop surface area for more content options?  I love the approach and hope to see more gadgets like it on some of my hobbies and interests.

P.S. -- Don't overlook the direct-to-consumer and tracking capabilities of this sort of service.  At the end of the video they mention how they've built that sort of logic into the Disney gadget.  Thanks to the fact that it's so dynamic they can adjust the content, features, etc., based on the usage information they're tracking.  Very cool.

P.P.S. -- If you're in the content business (e.g., books, magazines, newspapers, video, etc.) and you don't already have a gadget strategy you better start working on one soon!  It's yet another way to distribute your content and reinforce brand awareness.


PicksPal

Pickspal

It's tournament time...  That's right.  It's the time when sports lovers go crazy filling out brackets and everybody else goes nuts declining pool invitations.  While waiting for a flight in the Orlando airport today I read this TechCrunch post about PicksPal, or what could safely be called "YABS" (yet another bracket site).

I know what you're thinking: The world doesn't need another bracket site.  This one's pretty cool though.  As TechCrunch notes, it's got a nice Web 2.0 feel and it lets you create a widget with your Final Four picks.  Unfortunately for me, and many other Typepad users out there, the widget isn't flexible enough to fit properly in my blog template.  So, I'm probably breaking every written (and unwritten) law of widgets: I'm putting the widget directly in this post.  I just hope this doesn't bring the entire Typepad system down...


LibraryThing Coverage

Librarything_2LibraryThing got some nice coverage in this NY Times article yesterday.  Although I use their tool (and include their widget on my blog), I'm not a paying customer.  I'm below the 200 titles ceiling for now, but am approaching that important threshold...  When I reach it, I'm highly likely to become a paying member.

If you're in the same boat, you ought to read this post by Eoin Purcell before you make a commitment. It's important to know in advance what you're signing up for.  All too often we click on an "I Agree to the Terms of this Agreement" button without reading all the fine print.  In this case, you need to know that the work you invest in cataloging your book collection could pay off for others, not you.

Do I think any less of LibraryThing because of this?  Nope.  When you think about it, isn't this the same thing that Amazon has been doing for years?!  Plenty of customers (myself included) spend time posting reviews and adding to the content that helps make Amazon such a useful site.  I'd like to think that my efforts are helping others find/avoid the various books that I've had the pleasure/displeasure to read, period.

Up to now, LibraryThing has provided me with a free resource to catalog and display (via the widget) all the books I've read over the past few years.  I'm kind of surprised LibraryThing hasn't tried to sell advertising or monetize the site (beyond the power-user subscription fees) before now.

Kudos to founder Tim Spalding for creating a free resource like this.  At some point he's going to convert this freeloading user into a paying customer.  I never would have tried LibraryThing if it weren't free initially.  As a result, I have no problem with him finding other ways to make some money off my collection.


Steve Rubel on WidgetSense

Rubel_2Steve Rubel muses about the next generation of widgets in this post.  He talks about the possibility of Google applying their contextual expertise in AdSense to a widget technology he calls "WidgetSense".  Great thinking.  Up to now I've looked at widgets as small footprint devices with a fixed purpose; using Steve's logic, that real estate could be used more dynamically, with meaning tied to the subject of the rest of the page/post.

Random House and HarperCollins recently released "search inside" widgets for portions of their lists.  Rather than having to drop one of these onto a blog/website for every title you review, why not just have a generic one that uses Steve's WidgetSense logic to know which cover and contents to display?  If the current post isn't about a particular book, the widget could still display a random one from the website/blog author's list, just like the LibraryThing widget does.


Check Out My Google News Bar!

Google2My thanks to Steve Rubel for hyping Google's News Bar widget in this post.  I just implemented my own with a few relevant search phrases (books, publishing, econtent, etc.)  Look in the left panel of my blog for the heading "Joe's Google News".  The widget displays the latest news on the first phrase in my list, "books", but you can click on any of the others ("publishing", "econtent", etc.) to have the widget switch to display the latest news on those phrases...all without ever having to leave the comfort of my blog!  Very cool.

Google has a code generation wizard for it here, so you can make your own news bar and drop it into your blog/website in about 2 minutes!


Criteo Autoroll Widget (Yes, Another Widget...)

CriteoOK, I fell for the e-mail solicitation on this one...  I got a message from a technical evangelist at Criteo and decided to try out their Autoroll widget.  Why?  Two reasons: Laziness and relevance.

I've always admired the various blogrolls others have created on their blogs.  I've thought about creating my own but figured it would be a headache to keep updating it with new and interesting links.  I enjoy posting regularly but I'm too lazy to build and maintain a good blogroll.  There, I admitted it.

I'd also want to make sure I'm linking to new, interesting and highly relevant blogs in a blogroll.  Criteo claims to display links to blogs that have an affinity to your blog.  I'd like to think it will produce relevant links much like Google's AdSense does on the advertising front.  Time will tell.  It apparently takes a few days for their engine to fully integrate your blog and provide relevant outbound links.  As an added bonus, my blog should start appearing in Autoroll links on other relevant blogs.  We'll see.  If I notice an increase in traffic I'll keep it; if not, well, I might need to make room for the next widget.

Speaking of which, I sometimes worry that I'm loading this thing up with so many widgets that I'll bring Typepad to its knees...and any longtime Typepad subscriber knows that wouldn't be too hard!  Seriously though, I realize these widgets rely on other systems and servers to load all the relevant data.  If you feel my blog's load time is becoming too long please let me know!


Widgetbox

WidgetboxI'm turning into a widget freak.  Although any decent user interface design expert would probably say it's a bad idea, I love tinkering with new widgets on my blog.  I figure they're always off to the left or right, out of the way of the main content panel, so what's the harm?

The latest widget to catch my eye: WidgetboxIt allows me to put a small footprint version of someone else's blog inside my own.  The Widgetbox folks call that a "blidget".  I call it a great idea.  If you scroll down a bit, you'll see Wiley colleague Jim Minatel's WROX blog in the left panel.  As he adds new posts to his blog they automatically appear in the blidget view of it in my blog.  Very cool.

I'm on the lookout for a few other publishing-related blidgets to add to my own blog.  If you've got one, let me know.  In the mean time, if you want to add mine to yours, you can find it here in the Widgetbox gallery.