HowDo’s maker-oriented micro-guides can now be embedded on the web

Gigaom

The DIY micro-guide platform HowDo, which we last covered back in October last year, has just launched on the web. It was previously only available on iOS(s aapl).

HowDo is an intriguing little startup. Based in Berlin, the company’s platform offers a very simple way to create instructional storyboards: you just take a series of photos with your phone, make a slideshow out of them with a voiceover, and post the result. It’s very much geared towards the maker movement although, as I noted last year, the same mechanism could also plausibly find an application in citizen journalism.

And now it’s on the web too. You can’t create HowDo guides on the desktop — that’s still an iOS app-only task — but you can now embed them in blogs or websites, or search through profiles from the browser. It was previously possible to view HowDo guides on the web…

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The Monthly Marmot – May

Marmot, Spanish Pyrenees

This marmot is from Spain, high in the Pyrenees (2011)

In the spirit of Mimi, our mascot, we will present to you a photo gallery of marmots from around the world (well, the ones we’ve met and photographed so far). Stay tuned for more marmot mugs monthly!

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Ergonomics and mobile devices

There has been a ton of articles recently on the demise of the personal computer. Sales have plateaued or even declined over the past year:

I get it. People are adopting much more portable devices for personal, educational and business use, and desktops may be shared devices in future workplaces. Some do not need the full functionality of a desktop, and smartphones and tablets work perfectly fine for them. And developing economies may skip the personal computing route entirely in favour of mobile technology, even though there are connectivity constraints.

For me, my desktop is where I get the majority of my work done, less for the technology but more for the ergonomics. I find it puzzling that, with the time and money spent on ergonomic assessments, all that knowledge is instantly forgotten as soon as people adopt tablets and smartphones. And there are repetitive motion injuries from these devices from improper or excessive use:

Granted, my nifty new Samsung phone has the best voice recognition going, so I do a lot of quick emails and tweets to get around excessive typing on a non-ergo device. But having an oversized screen at eye level, an ergonomic mouse and split keyboard is just so much more comfortable that trying to get any serious work done on my iPad or Note.

I can easily see a shifting in the marketplace, so that certain activities are done on devices that are more suitable for that specific activity. But for the reports and heavy-duty writing that I do, I need my desktop (a laptop, one with a docking station, would be okay, though I would rarely un-dock it). I am concerned about the trend towards iPad use in the elementary classroom, not from the instructional perspective but from the ergonomic … especially if they are getting rid of desktops and not providing appropriate ergonomic accessories for the kids.

Am I going to hang onto my desktop? You betcha. Will I probably have to get ergonomic accessories for my iPad and smartphone? Maybe, but only if I start spending a ton of time on them.

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Cloud storage is great — but be careful what you put there

I could never understand why large publicly traded companies would allow themselves to be vulnerable to competitive intelligence breaches by using public cloud computing enterprise-wide …. This seems much more reasonable. But at what cost?

Gigaom

Marco Arment — creator of Instapaper, co-founder of Tumblr and internet-famous software developer — has a knack for sharing unique and thoughtful insights on technology. Take, for example, public cloud–based storage services, such as Dropbox. Marco makes some salient points worth repeating here for users who may not be fully aware of the ramifications of storing sensitive data off-premise.

Arment says:

“Anything that is really sensitive or extremely valuable or needs to be kept very secret, I wouldn’t store on anybody else’s servers. That, to me, seems ridiculous unless I held the encryption keys like with the online backup service that I use.”

Public cloud-based locker services hold the keys to encrypt and decrypt your data on their servers. Why? It’s important to remember they are used as a collaboration tool. To offer public file sharing features, they need to decrypt data stored on their servers. In addition, employee…

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Start-ups need market intelligence badly

Some questions you should be asking yourself if you are thinking of launching a new company:

  • Do you have a good handle of who your primary target market is? What about your secondary target market(s)? How specific are the demographics / psychographics for these markets?
  • If you could close your eyes and describe your perfect customer, could you do it? How detailed could you make this profile? Is the profile based on any actual data at all or is it a gut feel?
  • Do you have information of how they like to communicate? Do they prefer phone / face-to-face / email / social media? Does it depend on the nature of the interaction?
  • What are the current industry trends? Is the industry as a whole on an upswing?
  • Are you an early adopter or innovator in the field or are you adding to an already established product category?
  • What is your specific market segment?
  • Do you know who your competitors / major players in the market segment are? Do you have data on what their market share is — and what you want to capture within a year? two years? five years? Do you know their strengths and weaknesses? And what has been in the press about them over the past year?
  • Is your industry heavily regulated? Do you know what the regulations are that you will need to deal with in the short- and long- term?
  • Are you planning on exporting or importing your product? Do you need a local manufacturers’ representative to get into the marketplace? Do you know where / how to find one?
  • Do you need to know what is going on in an international market that you have never done business in before? Are there cultural difference that you need to investigate?
  • Is this giving you a massive headache?

If the answer to the last question is yes …. Infotrova (and other AIIP member companies) is especially trained to help you find crucial business information that gives you the necessary information your company needs to succeed. With access to a wide variety of for-pay electronic databases and expertise in mining hard-to-search free internet resources, Infotrova (and companies like it) will find you the best information available, and will package it in an easy-to-reuse format to aid in your decision making.

And, once you have your business information needs under control,  you’ll have time to do the things you actually like to do, like product development. Maybe even get some sleep. Imagine that!

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ScraperWiki lets anyone scrape Twitter data without coding

This is so exciting that I have to pass this along … Will play with it tonight!

Gigaom

The Obama administration’s open data mandate announced on Thursday was made all the better by the unveiling of the new ScraperWiki service on Friday. If you’re not familiar with ScraperWiki, it’s a web-scraping service that has been around for a while but has primarily focused on users with some coding chops or data journalists willing to pay to have someone scrape data sets for them. Its new service, though, currently in beta, also makes it possible for anyone to scrape Twitter to create a custom data set without having to write a single line of code.

Taken alone, ScraperWiki isn’t that big of a deal, but it’s part of a huge revolution that has been called the democratization of data. More data is becoming available all the time — whether from the government, corportations or even our own lives — only it’s not of much use unless you’re…

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What open data support should public libraries provide?

With the increase in open data forums at the municipal level, people are getting involved in the open data movement from a variety of backgrounds. Developers, government administrators, educators, journalists and citizens interested in transparency are all coming together to speak about manipulating data at a grass-roots level.

So, when this movement becomes more widespread, I can see people coming into the public library for assistance of a) how to locate municipal data sets and b) how to compare with provincial, federal and international open data and c) how to input all this in easy-to-use software. Business, local associations and non-profits, and activists will be interested in learning how to effectively mine this data. Jacqueline van Dyk, Director of Libraries and Literacy for the British Columbia Ministry of Education stated last year: “Open information and open data hold obvious alignment for librarians and other information management professionals, such as records managers and archivists. Libraries are philosophically aligned with basic principles of open access, free access to publicly paid-for information, and connecting people with the information they need to live as an informed citizenry.”

This is already  happening at the academic level with the institution of various Data Research Centers in university libraries (limited to the university community, of course. See University of Guelph for a great example). I am curious in regards to what is going on in public libraries right now to prepare for patron demand.

There are a few really interesting examples. Edmonton PL has a webpage that lists key local open data sites as well as upcoming hackathons and a twitter feed. The Province of BC held a conference last year to help train public librarians in this developing area.

And then there are the libraries that are leading by example and putting their own data online for analysis. Early days still, but there are some examples. Vancouver PL  has some circulation statistics uploaded so far, going back to 2003.  Location of branches with GPS coordinates (last updated in 2009) are also on the City of Vancouver open catalogue. and the City of Windsor open catalogue (this location data seems to be the easiest point of entry for libraries).  Edmonton also lists some of its circulation stats on their overall open data site. Even .xml files for RSS feeds can be considered open data, and the Ottawa PL has made them available.

Other libraries and/or governments worldwide can be models for Canadian adoption:

So we are in the early adopter stage with this idea. But the future can be really exciting! What are your thoughts?

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