Google Local Guides and I

Google Local Guides and I are mutually beneficial. I love to go up to the mountains and document their beauty and Google Local Guides needs images and reviews. I have been sharing images with Google Services for several years but it Google Local Guides is relatively recent. When I was added to the program they had already included several of my contributions.

One Hundred Thousand views
One Hundred Thousand views

The images that you see below are from Via Ferrata and hikes in Switzerland. They show the Leman, the Alps, the Jura and other peaks and valleys. In Summer I am among them every single weekend. Recently I have started to document these trips as 360 photographs which I then share with this service.

My goal is to contribute at least 140 more images because I want to get a terabyte of storage for my pictures, to use as an online backup. As I use an android phone it logs the locations that I have been to and when I get home or to a computer I can review my location history and write a short review of the places as well as add images. This is an easy and intuitive process.

The perks that I am currently entitled to are:
Get noticed with your Local Guides badge in Google Maps.
Connect with other Local Guides in our exclusive Google+ Community.
Lead the conversation by moderating Local Guides community channels.
Receive invites to Google-hosted events in select cities.

For now the community travels internationally but it is principally United States cities that are active with Barcelona, Edinburgh, London, Madrid, Paris and Sydney providing the international side of things.

Some would say that Local Guides will challenge other services offering the same features but as Local Guides offer one terabyte of storage for images I am motivated to contribute a further 140 photographs and reviews as the opportunities come up.


The Demise of Google reader

Google Reader was a great tool because it made gathering and sharing content from specific sources intuitive and easy. It provided us with one place from which to do most things. Today Google have announced that they are pulling the plug on Google reader.

In my eyes Google reader had become obsolete four years ago. That’s when I moved to services like Feedly, zite and others. Each of these services was more interesting because it took our feeds but used algorithms to make relevant content discovery faster and more intuitive.

Feedly was fun for a while but eventually I stopped using it in favour of zite. Zite was excellent until they decided to downgrade the user experience to a pinterest like interface. I don’t want the kindergarten treatment when searching for information. I want headers, I want a line or two of content and I want to have a lot of information displayed in a small space. Zite fell out of the useful apps category and was deleted from the ipad and iphone as a result.

The next project I’m looking at is Scoopinion. They have a plugin which tracks which news sources you visit and which articles you read. Based on your browising habits it recommends future articles. So far it estimates that I have spent 22hrs reading news over the past month or two with over 980 articles. By this logic it should be good at recommending stories that I would enjoy but it is too tabloid at the moment. This is probably due to the relatively small user base as this is a new project by developers in Finland.

I love content aggregators that study my habits and give recommendations based on this. It makes the surfing experience more enjoyable. You also don’t suffer from RSS burn out.

Instant translation with Google Chrome

One of the best features of google chrome at the moment is it’s instant translation function. The idea is simple. You surf to a page, it automaticaly detects the language and then presents the content in a language you understand.

With such a feature the advantage is that it opens up a whole new batch of knowledge and information. Surf to a Polish page about Kabanos, a Polish/eastern European speciality and the content is instantly available in English.

As a second example if you’re in Switzerland and surf to a swiss page the content may originaly be presented in English but the software will translate it. As a result there is no longer the need to hunt for that language switching part of the page.

The big picture insinuates that whatever the language you speak you will be able to read the content in many more pictures. As a result language will become transparent.

Google Latitude and Automatic stalking for only your closest friends

logo of google latitude Google latitude is the perfect tool for anyone that works and has a life where logging into locations would be an unsightly thing to do. By that I mean that you can’t arrive at work and log into the location. It gives colleagues the impression you are not serious about your work.

Now take this same situation in a social context. You go hiking and the people around you are not necessarily as passionate about technology. They’re walking around with paper maps after all.

That’s where Google latitude comes into it’s own. Location is tracked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week every single day that your device is on.

Why am I doing this? Am I not mad? Do I not have this location information to hide, and no shame? Well of course I have things to hide and shame but with this network only your closest friends can see where you are. And they only know your current location, not your previous locations.

That’s where the service differs from foursquare, gowalla, yelp and all the others. Your location history is private. Only you have access to it.

Then why use it in the first place? Well that’s simple. It’s a lifelog that’s not broadcast. You can keep track of how much time you’ve spent at home, at work and out socialising. Once a week I get to find out whether I was at work for more than fifty hours, whether I was at home for too many hours. More importantly i get to see whether I should not be a little more active in going out, from a personal life point of view. That’s where I’m lacking at the moment. Google latitude’s dashboard will help change that.

Now, how could it improve? First of all automatic location check in. If I’m by starbucks in Geneva airport log me in if I’m seeing that network more than ten minutes. If I’m at the apple store for that amount of time log me in there. If I’m at a bar and I lose signal in that region due to poor network coverage then assume I’m in that bar.

By being automatic and private location information could be quite a bit more interesting. More to the point that data is being collected anyway by mobile operators so why not take advantage of this?

I believe this to be the future of mobile geo-location. With more android phones out there and more devices capable of multitasking this could easily become the norm.

Podcasts on the Android

For three days now I have been listening to podcasts on the Nexus one using Listen. It is a podcast app that allows you to subscribe to and download podcasts from the comfort of the mobile device.

What I like about this app is the ease with which you can select which podcasts to listen to. If you want to listen to This week in tech for example just type the name of the podcast and it will find those feeds, allow you to subscribe or manually select which podcasts to listen to.

Another aspect of the search feature which I like is the search for keywords function. It displays a number of podcasts according to the keyword.

As an example I typed hike to see which podcasts would be suggested. I found some trailcast podcasts and so downloaded a podcast. It works well. If you enjoy the podcast then you can subscribe to and download the podcasts.

The settings tab has an interesting set of options. You can tell it to download new apps when possible, select whether you want the downloads to occur when you are using wifi or over the air using the data plan. You can set how many podcasts you want to store on the device at any one time.

One of the best features for me is that when you have a few hours to listen to podcasts rather than work by podcast subscription this software allows you to listen to podcasts in queue order. What this means is that I may be listening to This week in tech, then this week in google before moving on to the BBC history podcast and finishing with a trail cast podcast. With this system you do not need to interrupt what you are doing to get to the next podcast.

The benefit of a podcast client that is within the phone is that you can select what to listen to whilst on the move. As a benefit of this you are less likely to download hundreds of podcasts you end up never listening to.

The last feature is that it is synched with Google Reader. This means that you can see those subscriptions from any google reader application. It is stored in the cloud so should work across multiple devices.

This is the future of podcasting, and media consumption. It takes advantage of the power that modern devices can sync from anywherwe at anytime, that your habits and tastes may change and that you actualise it from any machine, computer, or mobile.

Buzz buzz buzz

Google thinks it’s a bee. That’s why they have the new service google buzz. I spent some time looking at it and it makes me think of jaiku, friendfeed and other services all combined into one. It’s threaded conversations and status messages based on geo-tagged conversation triggers.

It has a good interface with google reader and of course the question which I cannot answer yet is what does the full version have to offer that will enhance the user’s experience

Yet another reason to love Google Latitude

Yesterday I met a friend in geneva. The one that uses Google Latitude. I used my mobile phone to see where he was and just using cell towers I got a pretty good fix on where he was, within just a few hundred meters.

When I called him to get a more accurate fix, i.e. for him to input the address as his latitude position using the power of Google maps, latitude and 3g it took just a minute to find the actual address.

For this reason I love google latitude. When you’ve got technologically savvy users it makes being geo-loced twenty four hours a day extremely useful.

Google Latitude

Google latitude is an interesting app available at least on Nokia phones that allows you to see where your friends are according to their mobile phone. At the moment it’s limited just to your gmail friends but expand to include more.

What makes this application interesting in the near future is that as more of the early adopting friends of yours install this app you’ll see which city they’re in quite easily. If the friends are in a public space then you can get more accurate directions.

It’s an interesting application.

Google Chrome – a quick look.

It’s not often that you see me seated at a PC running windows but when Google Chrome was released that’s the OS of choice. I had to test it and so far there are a few features I find of interest.

These featres are seen when looking at the Google Chrome most visited page. Here you can see the 9 most often visited sites as thumbnails. Drag those thumbnails up to the bar above and you’ve got bookmarks for quick access at a later time. This window also displays the search and recent bookmarks tab. So far so good.

As with firefox there is site guessing text that appears for suggested URL’s and for those you may have visited. Type in your username and password and you’ve got the option to save the password once you’re logged in. Very useful for those of us spending our time on a minimum of ten websites a day.

With the tabbing feature I was able to open at least fourty tabs at a time with one minor problem. There was no manner of telling which site was on which tab. As a result they may need to think about creating a list view of tabs, or even implement what we saw in versions of operat ten years ago, the option to resize tabs within the browser. It may be of value.

In the search and URL bar there’s the star, click on it and you can bookmark a page, add the title you want. The usual shortcut keys do the same thing.

Click on the page tab at the right of the search bar and you’ve got one option of particular interest. “Create Application shortuct”. Select this option and you’re given thre options, Desktop, Start Menu and Quicklaunch bar. There, now you’ve got the app as a shortcut link, great for getting straight to the web application you want in one quick move. That may be for twitter, your blog, twitter or any other website you find of interest.

The final feature is the task manager. It allows you to see which websites are open and how many resources they’re using. The three collumns are Memory, CPU and network. It allows you to understand which page is slowing down your system, or if you open several tabs at once which tab has finished loading.

Overall it’s an interesting product and it’s dissapointing that I had to test it on an older windows machine rather than my laptop but so far my opinion of the browser is not that bad. I’d like to see a tab counter implemented as well as a thumbnail view of all the currently opened tabs for quick selection of the site or page I want to see.