Category: Communications (page 1 of 2)

A Few Alternatives to Google Reader

Twitter lit up on March 13th when Google announced it was shutting down Google Reader on July 1st. Google Reader was launched in 2005 but apparently over the years usage has declined. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout.

After looking at a few alternatives over the last couple days I’ve decided that even if Google decides not to pull the plug, I may stick with an alternative. This is primarily since many of the alternatives provide more of a magazine-style presentation of the content when compared to Google Reader’s headline display.

feedly (

This has become a popular alternative. The feedly team has been working on a project called Normandy which is a feedly clone of the Google Reader API. When Google Reader shuts down, the goal is for feedly to  seamlessly transition to the Normandy on the back end. So Google Reader users that are using feedly will have any wasy transition.

Bloglines (

Ironically, when Google Reader started up Bloglines was an early causality. However, the service is back with new ownership and offers a similar Google-like summary of headlines as well as a usable mobile experience.

The Old Reader (

This basically is Google Reader. The interface is familiar and one can login with your Google account to import feeds.  The downside is that social integration is only through Facebook. Currently, there are also no apps.

Digg Reader (

Digg just launched it’s new RSS reader service. Its beta is currently in invitation only. It features like a built-in Instapaper button and full-on Digg thumbs-up, thumbs-down integration.


 -Eric Schnell

TechTips: BuckeyeBox: New Cloud-based Storage

BuckeyeBox is a cloud-based service provides a simple, secure way to store and share files and folders online that is now available to OSU faculty and staff. It will be available to students  in early 2013.

Similar to Dropbox and other online tools, Buckeye Box consolidates your content in a single location, accessible from anywhere, on any device. You can create files and folders, share them using a direct link, invite colleagues and classmates to collaborate, and continue to revise and review your content. Though similar in appearance to services such as DropBox, BuckeyeBox integrates OSU systems and security. The service will be available to faculty and staff on Saturday and will be opened to students in January.

BuckeyeBox is designed as a collaboration tool appropriate for personal files and institutional information classified as public or internal.  It is not for any institutional data classified as “protected,” “restricted,” or “critical.” As such, Protected Health Information (PHI) should never be stored on BuckeyeBox. See Data Classifications and appropriate data for BuckeyeBox at OSU.

Main features

  • View files of many types, including images and audio/video; for a full list, see Box support’s What file extension types can be viewed by Box’s Content Preview?
  • Access content through all major web browsers (i.e., Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari) and through mobile devices running iOS, Android, and BlackBerry
  • Access through Microsoft Office applications (Windows only)
  • Share files and folders while controlling the level of access others have, with a range of permissions from view-only to full editing and collaboration rights
  • Comment on files
  • Create simple workflows using assigned tasks
  • Sync files between your desktop and other devices, and access them even when offline

Getting Started / How to Find Help


-Eric Schnell

TechTips: Near Field Communication

Anyone that has gone into a retail store recently has likely seen a Mastercard “PayPass” pad at the checkout station. Using a credit card with a special built in chip, the customer makes contact with the pad with the card rather than swiping it. NFCThe technology behind the tap-to-pay devices is call near field communication.

Near field communication (NFC) is a technology allows enabled devices to communicate with other devices by establishing radio communication, by either touching them or bringing them into close proximity of one another. This is done through the use of NFC chips, or tags, which can be custom-encoded or may use the specifications provided by the NFC Forum, an industry association charged with promoting the technology and setting key standards. The tags can securely store personal data such as debit and credit card information, loyalty program data, PINs and networking contacts, among other information. NFC typically tags contain data and are typically read-only but may be rewriteable.

Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are similar to NFC since all three allow wireless communication and data exchange between digital devices. However,  the significant difference with NFC is that it utilizes electromagnetic radio fields while Bluetooth and Wi-Fi utilize radio waves. NFC builds upon Radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems by allowing two-way communication and works in the same 13.56 MHz radio frequency spectrum. Unlike RFID, both the NFC device and the tag can initiate the communication.

One application of NFC technology already on the market is the Google Wallet, a mobile payment system that allows its users to store debit cards, credit cards, loyalty cards, and gift cards among other things, as well as redeeming sales promotions on their mobile phone. BMW is working to allow car owners to use their key NFC  key FOBs to store downloaded event tickets or check out of a hotel. Hospitals can use NFC to monitor patients at their homes. Students cab use their NFC enabled phones to get into their dorm rooms. A fun application of the technology is the Karotz Bunny.

There are many interesting possibilities for this technology:

– Touch a mobile device over display at a local museum or at an exhibit to access more information and multimedia content
– Touch a device at a display or a poster to create an interactive experience
– Could replace the pairing step of establishing Bluetooth connections or the configuration of Wi-Fi networks

As with other such technologies there are concerns aabout privacy and security. Adopters will want to know that all of their vital information is encrypted and that that viruses can’t be passed by NFC.

TechTips: RockMelt: The Social Web Browser

rockmelt logoIf you are a heavy Facebook and Twitter user, you might want to hunt for an invite and try the RockMelt web browser. RockMelt works like any other browser with one big difference: it integrates Facebook and Twitter.

In short, one can use the browser to browse web sites AND keep up-to-date with your friends without opening Facebook or Twitter.

When RockMelt is opened it immediately connects to Facebook. Along the sides of the main browser window are two sidebar ribbons with icons; one on the left showing friends, one on the right displaying  favorite social sites.  In addition to social networking sites, the browser can directly access RSS feeds. When RockMelt  is minimized, update notifications persist on the lower right hand side of  the monitor.

The browser also has built-in support for Facebook chat so one can initiate a chat session from within the browser.  Another handy feature is  that all  settings, notes, preferences, and bookmarks aer saved online so that can be synced between devices. This means one can log into the RockMelt browser on any computer and everything saved on another computer is available. One can also share web site links directly to Facebook or Twitter by a simple drag and drop.

The browser has the same look and feel as Google Chrome since it is built on the same platform (Apple’s WebKit). This also means that all Google Chrome extensions are available to RockMelt  users. The browser is available for Mac and Windows.

The RockMelt effort is backed by Netscape developer Marc Andreessen. The browser went “live” on November 8, 2010.

Eric Schnell   

TechTips: Read It Later With Instapaper

How many times a day do you come across articles or interesting items online that you don’t have time to read at that moment?

The most common method of saving such content is to create browser bookmarks. However, over time browser bookmark lists can become very long and unorganized.  Another common approach to saving content is to drag shortcuts to the desktop. Again, over time the desktop can become loaded with shortcuts.  Another challenge is that if you happen make use of several web browsers, or computers, the content saved one one is not available on another. In the end, what was once interesting content eventually gets lost in the clutter.

instapaper logo

One solution to addressing this problem is Instapaper, a “simple tool to save web pages for reading later.” This service allows one to save content accessed on one browser or device for later reading on a different browser or device.

After creating an Instapaper account, the user installs a browser ‘bookmarklet.’  When content is being view, one clicks on the Read Later  bookmarklet button. A “Saved!” message will briefly appear in the corner of the page as a link to the content is save on the users’ account.

All saved content is saved and accessed from the Instapaper site or app. An RSS feed is also available for all the items that have been saved allowing the content to be accessed from any RSS reader.

Some additional features:

  • If you use folders, each folder has a bookmarklet to save pages directly into it under the Folder Tools section in the sidebar.
  • Provides Kindle-compatible files containing the text versions of your saved pages that can be transferred via USB.
  • The bookmarklet also works on Apple mobile devices: just add it to your bookmarks in Safari, and it will be synchronized to the bookmarks folder. Many Apple applications make use of their API to provide support for sending pages directly to Instapaper.
  • Other Instapaper users can subscribe to a folder of your Starred items if they know your username.

As with many cloud-based services, Instapaper has no outside funding or corporate backing. So, although the service is free, it is ad-supported.

Eric Schnell   

TechTips: OSU Branded Doodle

Anyone that has had to schedule a meeting with participants across campus departments, or at other institutions, knows how challenging it can be. One emails out a list of possible times and sorts the replies looking for a common time. The process is repeated if no time can be agreed upon.

Well, this has been simplified for members of the Ohio State Community by a new scheduling tool called OSUDoodle.

Account users use this tool to establish a “poll” of preferred meeting times, which are presented in a tabular display of possible time slots. The meeting coordinator then invites participants and enable them to vote transparently and democratically for the best available date and time to meet.

Alternatively, Doodle can also be used to help a large group make a choice among activities or social events.

OSUDoodle is free to the university community. Only users with e-mail addresses ending in,,,, and may initiate new OSUDoodle polls within this OSU branded service.

For more information on this service, contact: Ted Hattemer.

Eric Schnell  

TechTips: foursquare

Foursquare is an location-based social networking service (some call it a game) that is a combination a Facebook status, a Twitter update, and a Yelp restaurant review.  Users “checkin” at different locations,  unlock badges, post “to-dos” and “tips” for different locations. The goal of the service is to help users find new ways to explore a city by “discovering new places, doing new things and meeting new people.”

Users checkin to foursquare from their mobile devices using a text message or from an iPhone or Droid application. There is also a web form and the FoursquareX desktop application for (mac) laptop users.

Users can also can see other foursquare users that have checked into the same physical location, or that are in close vicinity.  The application is able to identify a user’s current location using a variety of methods including GPS and WiFi mappings.

For example, one can see those that have checked into Ohio State’s Thompson Library,  the Science and Engineering Library, or even Adriatico’s Pizza.

Upon checkin, one may leave a short tip about the location or about services offered at that location. For example:

foursqaure tip

Checkins can be pushed to Facebook or Twitter accounts, or, only be communicated to other foursquare users. Alternatively, one can also checkin but elect not to share the location. Such checkins appear as [off the grid]. One can also get a direct message from Twitter when a friend checks in.

The possible uses for foursquare in libraries could include:

–  Incentives for those checking into the library. The Mayor could be given reserved seating or priority access to group study rooms.

– Library events could include check-with prizes for the first person who checks in or includes a ‘shout.’ 

– Someone checking in, and identifying themselves to staff, could be given $X amount of free printouts/copies.

There are other similar services that help friends find each other like BrightKite and Google Latitude. However, there is currently more excitement around foursquare since it incorporates elements of gaming and social competition.

Here are a couple of tips for new foursquare users:

– Don’t push all your checkins to Facebook or Twitter. This can quickly annoy your friends, or make them feel like they are stalking you

– Do selective posting to Facebook or Twitter and make sure to include a ‘shout.’

– Turn off the option to push an update Facebook or Twitter when you are elevated to mayor or earn a badge.


Foursquare, Libraries, and Librarians
Foursquare in Libraries: Social Media Incentives for Engaged Patrons
Location based services and Libraries – Tweets & Foursquare
Fourquare and Libraries – Anything There?

Eric Schnell 

TechTips: Google Wave

The folks at Google released 100,000 invites today to preview their new model of Web-based communication and collaboration, called Google Wave.

Since it has been in private beta, one has to rely upon others to explain what Wave is. It has been describedas much of a real-time chat room as a platform for editing documents collaboratively. It can also be used as a Wiki, to replace email and IM within an organization, or just to organize a pub crawl.”

A “wave” is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more. Each Wave consists of a threaded forum combined with a wiki, IM, and email that are then combined into a single interface.

In Google Wave, one can create a Wave and the add others to it. Everyone can insert content or edit in the Wave.  Since each Wave is updated in real time, others can see content as it is being created. The service can be used for quick messages and persistent content — it allows for both collaboration and communication.

A playback feature allows one to watch a Wave as it evolved, providing access to edits, who made them, and in what context. A locally hosted Wave server can interact with other Wave servers, but will also have the option of keeping their content private or limited to specific users.

Check out Wave in this 10-min abridged video of this hour presentation:


If you are one of the lucky ones to get an invite early on, please make sure to comment on your experience.

Eric Schnell 

TechTips: Augmented Reality

In the movie The Terminator, the viewer is taken frequently to the Terminator’s point-of view.
We know this is Terminator’s POV because there is image digitization and the people he is chasing are more luminous than objects in the foreground and background, which suggests infra-red. In the margins of the view we see columns of characters, including numbers and acronyms. The data changes so rapidly that it leaves no doubt that we are seeing the world as the Terminator sees it.

Science fiction? Well, parts of the Terminator’s POV are no longer scifi.

Augmented reality (AR) is the application of computer-generated imagery embedded into live-video streams as a way to expand information as it relates to the real-world. Through the use of AR technology, information about a user’s surrounding environment, and the objects within it, are stored and then retrieved as an information layer on top of a live real world view.

Since one really need to see it in action to understand it:


[youtube] [/youtube]

As far as using AR technology in libraries, Ken Fujiuchi proposes possible uses:

“When someone finds a book in the library catalog, they can have the option to snap a QR code or unique image of the book, which will first store the information about the book. Then the user can first be directed to a specific section of the library, and once they are in the right section they can use a mobile device to scan the book spines to start being guided towards the book they are looking for.”

Helene Blowers paints this scenario:

“When I shift my thinking about AR apps to the physical library space I see our whole collection opening up before our eyeballs. Imagine the ability to walk down an aisle and see the reviews and popularity of an entire shelf titles just by pointing the camera lens on your phone at the spines (or outfacing covers).”

Here are some other possible uses for AR, with the assumption every information source and service is networked:

– Scan a building to find out if study rooms are available
– Scan a building to identify hours of service, or which librarians are on duty. Touch screen to contact (text, IM, etc.)
– Scan a bank of public terminals to identify which ones are open
– 3-D images of special collection artifacts are viewable from a QR code or bib record.
– Physical exhibits can provide 3-D images of supplemental materials

Do you have any ideas?


Educause: 7 things you should know about Augmented Reality
How Stuff Works: Augmented Reality

Eric Schnell

TechTips: Managing Multiple Twitter Streams

A growing number of university organizations are now managing an online presence on Twitter. In a complex organization like OSU’s library system, there could be accounts for news and events, accounts for any number of special collections, and accounts for projects and initiatives.

The larger the organization the greater the likelihood that several people will be responsible for managing the content stream. Having multiple accounts being managed by multiple individuals can get quite complicated.

One tool that can help with organizational management of multiple Twitter streams is called CoTweet. I have been using it for about a week and it has already saved me a great deal of time managing my three accounts.  I just added a co-worker to one of the accounts so they can help manage the stream as they play with Twitter.

Features of CoTweet include:

  • Web-based.  CoTweet is browser-based. There’s nothing to install.
  • Support for Multiple accounts. Twitter clients like TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop already offer support for multiple accounts. Such support is essential for larger organizations managing several profiles.
  • Support for Multiple users. Allows multiple users to Tweet from an account. Also allows individual @replies to be redirected to a team member for followup, who get an email alert that they have an assignment.
  • Delayed Publication of Updates. Specific updates can be set to be published at a predetermined time.
  • Conversation threads. Tracks conversations between your team and any individual over time. Allows one to see which Tweets have been @replied to in order to prevent repeating or contradict an earlier @reply.
  • Cotags. Short signatures (e.g. ^ES) that allow a content manager to identify themselves as being responsible for publishing a message.
  • Keyword search. Can create persistent searches for specific keywords.


Eric Schnell   

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