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As promised some notes on the next session I attended at Google I/O was The Next Generation of Social is in a Hangout. Hopefully you are already familiar with Hangouts in Google+ (a place to video chat with up to 10 other people and/or stream to the masses as a Hangout On Air). As part of Hangouts there are collaborative applications you can use. Initially these have been focused around shared activities like watch YouTube clips with other people, or working on a Google Doc. What you might not know is for the last couple of months developers have had access to the Hangouts API which allows anyone to make their own custom Hangout applications. For example, using this API Google have been able to develop the Art Project Hangout (video embedded below), which lets you collaboratively explore works of fine art with other people.

So with a couple of lines of code (included below) I can embed an Etherpad shared notepad in a Google Hangout (without publishing a live version you’ll have to trust me that this works by watching this demo ;).

Etherpad embedded into Google+ Hangout

The code

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
  <Module>
    <ModulePrefs title="Etherpad Extension Example">
      <Require feature="rpc" /> 
    </ModulePrefs> 
       <Content type="html"><![CDATA[
        <html>
          <body> 
             <script src="https://hangoutsapi.talkgadget.google.com/hangouts/api/hangout.js?v=1.0" ></script>
             <p><iframe frameborder="no" scrolling="yes" src="http://beta.etherpad.org/p/mhawksey?showControls=true&showChat=true&showLineNumbers=true&useMonospaceFont=false" style="width:100%; height: 100%;"></iframe></p>
           </body>
         </html>
      ]]>
      </Content>
  </Module>

Notes on making this

Here are some things I noted when making this example.

  • A good starting point is Writing Gadget XML Apps. Including the hangout API script in your gadget is essential (and get the write one).

NOTE: For developer sandbox, use this instead of the above script:
<script src="//hangoutsapi.talkgadget.google.com/hangouts/_/api/hangout.js?v=1.1"></script>

It’s a gadget, but not a gadget

The example above is very rudimentary and doesn’t use any of the Hangout API for getting/setting data, detecting participants etc. and in this example all the collaborative gubbings is being handled by Etherpad. You might recognise the XML syntax being used in this example because it’s based on the Google Gadget framework with influences* from the OpenSocial specification.

*a Googler was asked in the session if existing OpenSocial gadgets could be used in Hangouts and the answer was no with the explanation along the lines of ‘Google iterate solutions so they took the best of OpenSocial and came up with something new, but they do hope to bridge the gap in the future’

Before you get carried away

It’s quite interesting that you can wrap almost any existing application (even existing widgets) and run them in a Hangout. For the education sector the huge limitation that I can see is that Hangouts are limited to 10 participants, which will work on small tutorial groups but nothing larger. Apparently, as picked up by Sharif Salah in the fireside chat after the session, this isn’t a technical constraint but Google don’t think you can socially manage a hangout with more than 10 people. So any aspirations of creating a Blackboard Collaborate/Adobe Connect/Big Blue Button style webinar system for larger classes will have to go on hold for now, maybe it’ll be something Google include when they get serious about Google+ for Enterprise.

There are a couple of alternatives if this sort of hackery interests you. For example as part of the JISC Distributed VLE (DVLE) Programme a number of projects looked at how widgets could be used to rapidly and efficiently incorporate more functionality into learning and information systems. You can read more about this in the Extending the learning environment briefing paper. It’s still work in progress but eventually you might be able to wonder over to EDUKAPP (a pilot web app store for the UK Higher Education sector – more background), grab some relevant widgets and make your own hangout. And if you want video you could use something like the Tokbox Open Tok API to get streaming video in a couple of minutes.

Scanning the horizon it is interesting to see the open source webinar platform Big Blue Button include an internal API on their roadmap which would make it easier to extend the functionality of the platform.

In summary, with a bit of XML you can easily make a Hangout app but be aware of the limitations with group size. Also there are other similar gadget/widget based solutions you might want to try. So can you see a place for custom Hangout apps in education?

Update: When I shared this post on Google+ it occurred to me that collaborative virtual microscopes like www.virtualmicroscope.co.uk/ might be useful as a hangout app. More interestingly it's been announced that there is now a Cameraman app which lets you hide certain participants from a hangout, but one presumes they can to interact with extensions/apps. To me this looks like the first step to having more than 10 people in one hangout, which might make it more appealing for educators
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Following the opening keynote the next session I attended at Google I/O was Google+ Platform Basics. This session was a great opportunity to meet Ade Oshineye (Google+ Developer Advocate based in London). From Ade’s profile:

co-author of O'Reilly's "Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the aspiring software craftsman" and you can find out more about that book here: http://www.oshineye.com/books.html

I'm also part of the small team behind http://developerexperience.org/ which is an attempt to see if we can successfully apply the techniques of user experience professionals to products and tools for developers. We call it Developer Experience or #devexp for short.

Having followed Joss Winn’s work highlighting developer craftsmanship it was great to have an opportunity to steal a couple of minutes with Ade, in particular, I was keen to make him aware of the work Mahendra Mahey (UKOLN) is doing around DevCSI and Dev8D (Ade appeared keen to come along to the next Dev8D).

Publisher buttons, schema.org and recommendations

Back to the session, Ade and his colleague Julie Farago went through the various publisher options for Google+. These included the share, +1 and badges people can add to their own site to make it easier to get your content into other people’s streams. This was something I’ve previously looked at before, but wasn’t particularly impressed partly because when doing a Google Search for these types on buttons I get directed to Google Webmasters: Add +1 to your pages to help your site stand out, which isn’t great. A better starting point is the Google+ Platform Plugins page, which uses Developer Experience principles for customisation and options [Something I’ve only recently got my head around is why Google have +1 and share buttons given that both also open the same comment box. The answer is share is “for content that users may want to share but not +1 (e.g. news or controversial content)”].

It was interesting to hear Ade mention that the people at Google had noticed a number of people were using a more traditional html/javascript popup instead of the entirely script powered version of the Google+ Share button, so they included the code for this version as well.

A recent development mentioned in the session was Google +1 Recommendations (emphasis mine):

Working on +1, we often hear people say they want to see more of what their friends recommend. Likewise, when we talk to site owners, they ask us to help them show more relevant content to their users. Today, we are rolling out a new feature of the +1 button in platform preview: when users hover over a +1 button, they will see recommendations for other great content on your site. … To keep these recommendations more relevant and on-topic, they will always refer to pages on the same domain or subdomain as the +1 button.

Google+ Recommendation

Because this new feature is limits recommendation to the same domain it’ll be interesting to see if this has any effect on internal site traffic and how relevant the suggestions are. Currently on the small sample I’ve tried it seems to be a mixture of the most popular (page with the most +1s) and the most popular within your circles … but I could be wrong.

The final thing from this session, which I wasn't expecting, was schema.org and rich snippets got a mention. Phil Barker (JISC CETIS) has written more on Will using schema.org metadata improve my Google rank?. My impression is schema/rich snippets won’t necessarily improve your search rank, but the added information in the search listing and Google+ stream might make it more attractive for someone to click on.

The next session I attended was The Next Generation of Social is in a Hangout which focused on the Hangout API. More details of this and hopefully a practical example to follow.

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Google I/O BadgeGoogle recently invited me to their annual conference in San Francisco I/O 2012. Given my expertise in Google products, which I hope I’m sharing successfully with the sector and the opportunity to bug Google Engineers first-hand, JISC CETIS have kindly covered my travel and accommodation. It’s the first vendor conference I’ve been to and it’s been a heady mix of new product announcements, x-games type shenanigans and product giveaways (since joining JISC CETIS I’ve been using my own equipment so you could argue that as there is now no need to buy me a phone, tablet and desktop (Chromebox) attending this event has been cost neutral ;s). In this first of a series of posts I’ll try and summaries some of the highlights of the sessions I attend, and potential impact for the education sector.

Keynote Day 1

There wasn’t a lot here that is directly applicable to education but here’s my take on what was presented. The main focus was on Google’s mobile operating system (Android), their social networking offering (Google+) and two technological punts Google Glass and Nexus Q.

Android

So Android is still on the march increasing in handset activations. The market Google has the advantage over Apple is in emerging powerhouses like Brazil and India where growth is the highest. Given that in these countries putting up phones masts is easier than laying cable this is the way the internet is being delivered to the masses which means Google is in an ideal place to capture vast amounts of usage data.

Under the hood Android is getting slicker with improved user interface processing. Accessibility appears to be getting more attention with more voice/gesture control. Android has had voice input for a while but this has always required a data connection. The latest version of Android now also enables this offline.

Google NowAnother announcement around Android was Google Now. These are user and situation specific information cards that appear in your notifications area of your mobile. Based on activity data like search terms, travel patterns Google can display relevant information. The example given was if Bob has an appointment across town, Google Now will notify you when best to leave based on your travel preferences. So if you usually take the bus it’ll work out how long it’ll take to walk to the bus stop, the time of the next bus and likely travel time based on current traffic conditions. It’s a little unnerving that Google potentially knows all of this information and I wonder if for the next generation there is going to be a new privacy norm where you expect to pay for service by paying in personal data.

Will Google Now help students get to class on time? … I don’t know, the scale on ‘intelligence’ did remind me of a scenario used in Terry Mayes Groundhog day paper (2007):

"It is early morning in late summer, nearing the end of the third teaching semester at the Murdoch Institute for Psychological Studies at the University of Western Scotland.  Jason, a student at the Institute, though at this moment still in bed in his girl friend's flat in Brighton, voice-activates his personal learning station and yawns as Hal, his intelligent Web agent, bids him good morning.  "How did you get on last night then, Jason?" "Never mind that, Hal, just tell me what I should be doing this morning".  "Well, you have a video-conference arranged with this week's HoD, then you will be interviewed about your dreams by the school recruiting team, then I've scheduled you for a virtual reality tutorial with your statistics tutor in Tokyo.  After that I think you should look at some data I've taken off the Web overnight for your virtual lab report this week." Jason, saying nothing, points at an icon projected on the bedroom wall.  A face appears.  "Hello, Jason".  "Hi Eliza, I was just wondering if you've located that intelligent tutoring software on interviewing skills yet..." "Yes, but Jason, I think I should tell you that your personal grade for peer tutoring has gone down again..."

Mayes goes on to argue why this particular model is not beneficial to the student as they are being micromanaged and not a self-regulated learner. Maybe the answer is the trust of Mayes’ paper, technology always promises, but never really delivers.

One last thing to say is as far as I know most of the features mentioned are only available in the latest version of Android 4.1. One of the issues Google has is in OS lag, manufactures developing devices for older versions of Android or not upgrading existing handsets to the new OS.

Google+ Events

The main announcement around Google+ was Events. Google+ Events, partially leaked before the conference, is a way to manage social events using Google+. The web interface lets you create and send invites to your friends (even those not on Google+). Not much new there, but what Google have also added is the ability for participants to contribute photos they take during the event by enabling ‘Party Mode’ in there mobile Google+ app. Photos taken when in this mode are then all collected in a single events page, comments and +1’s being used to pull out some highlights. One thought was this could be used as a method for students to capture photo evidence while on placement or a way to collate images from field trips.

Something not mentioned in the keynote but picked up by Sarah Horrigan on Learning Technologies Team blog at the University of Sheffield is the ability to schedule Hangouts. This could be potentially useful if you are planning on using Google Hangouts for small online tutorials (I also attended a session on Google+ as a platform – more educational ideas for Hangouts will be included in that post).

Google Glass and Nexus Q

The opening keynote also contained two hardware punts into the technological future. Google Glass is an augmented reality head-mounted display Google are developing and delegates were treated to a live demonstration which included some skydivers landing on the conference venue roof, all streamed through their Google Glasses in a Hangout. US citizen attending the conference were also given to pre-purchase their own Glass for an eye popping $1500, delivery early next year. Wearable tech has been around for a long time. I’m guessing just as Apple made smartphones and tablets the must have device, Google want to do something similar with Glass. The final announcement was the Nexus Q, a ball you plug your speakers and TV into and control with your other Android devices playing content from YouTube or purchased from the Google Play store.

It’s hard to see an educational slant on either of these, Glass comes close but as it isn’t available/very expensive I won’t dwell as I’ve many more posts to write (if you want to watch the keynote here’s a recording).

If you’d like me to expand on any of the points in this post leave a comment or get in touch.

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Here's some posts which have caught my attention this month:

Automatically generated from my Diigo Starred Items.
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Last couple of days I’ve been at IWMW12 hosted this year at University of Edinburgh. I’ve already posted Data Visualisation Plenary/Workshop Resources which has my slides from the plenary. I was teaming up with Tony Hirst (OU) and have included his slides to the page.

Because of living 'almost locally' and other family commitments I missed out on most of the social events, instead I got drunk on data working into the early hours to find what stories I could uncover from the #IWMW12 stream. In this post I’ll show you what I’ve come up with and some of the highlights in trying to turn raw data into something interesting/meaningful (or pointless if you prefer). Interestingly a lot of what I cover here uses the same techniques used in my recent The story data tells us about #CitizenRelay guest post, so I’ve got an emerging templated workflow emerging which I can deploy at events which makes me wonder if I should be getting organisers pay my travel/accommodation as an event data amplifier?

UK University Twitter Account Community

On day one Brian Kelly mentioned some work by Craig Russell to collate a table of UK University Social Media accounts which featured in a guest post on Brian’s blog titled Further Evidence of Use of Social Networks in the UK Higher Education Sector. You can get the data Craig has compiled from a Google Spreadsheet. Looking at this two things immediately sprung to mind. First that the document could be made more ‘glanceable’ just using some simple conditional formatting, and second there was a nice list of Twitter accounts to do something with.

image

Here’s a link to my modified version Craig’s spreadsheet. It uses the importRange formula to pull the data in so it creates a live link to the source document. For the conditional formatting I looked for text containing ‘http’ turning the cell text and background green. The HTML view of this is a lot cleaner looking.

On  the Twitter Accounts sheet extract the account screen names by pulling everything after the last ‘/’ and remove most of the blank rows using a unique formula.

Putting this list into the free MS Excel add-in NodeXL and using the Import > From Twitter List Network lets you get data on which of these accounts follow each other. I played around with visualising the network in NodeXL but found it easier in the end to put the data into Gephi getting the image below. These ‘hairballs’ have limited value and you’re best having a play with the interactive version, which is an export of Gephi visualised using the gexf-js tool by Raphaël Velt (De-hairballing is something Clement Levallois (‏@seinecle) and he kindly sent me a post to a new tool he’s creating called Gaze).

UK HEI Twitter Accounts

The #IWMW12 Twitter Archive Two More Ways

TimelineAs part of #iwmw12 I was collecting an archive of tweets which already gives you the TAGSExplorer view. I also use the Topsy API and Google Spreadsheet to extract tweets which is then passed into Timeline by Vérité which gives you a nice sense of the event. [If anyone else would like to make their own twitter media timeline there is a template in this post  (it is easy as make a copy of the template, enter your search terms and publish the sheet).]

Searchable archive

Searchable archiveNew way number one is a filterable/searchable archive of IWMW12 tweets. Using the Google Visualisation API I can create a custom interface to the Google Spreadsheet of tweets. This solution uses some out-of-the-box functionality including table paging, string filtering and pattern formatting. Using the pattern formatter was the biggest achievement as it allows you to insert Twitter Web Intents functionality (so if you click to reply to a tweet it pulls up Twitter’s reply box.

I also processed the archive using R to get a term frequency to make a d3 based wordcloud (I’ve started looking at how this can be put into a more general tool. Here’s my current draft which you should be able to point any TAGS spreadsheet at (this version also includes a Chart Range Filter letting you view a time range). I definitely need to write more about how this was done!)

Filter by time

Mappable archive

One of the last things I did was to filter the twitter archive for tweets with geo-location. Using the Spreadsheet Mapper 3.0 template I was able to dynamically pull the data to generate a time stamped KML file. The timestamps are ignored when you view in Google Maps, but if you download the kml file it can be played in Google Earth (you’ll have to adjust the playback control to separate the playback heads – I tried doing this in the code but the documentation is awful!)

Google Earth playback

Or if you have the Google Earth browser plugin a web version of IWMW12 geo-tweets is here (also embeded below):

So there you go … or as said by Sharon Steeples

Originally posted on CitizenRelay

Telling stories with data is a growing area for journalism and there is already a strong community around Data Driven Journalism (DDJ). I’m not journalist, by day I’m a Learning Technology Advisor for JISC CETIS, but my role does allow me to explore how data can be used within education. Often this interest spills into the evenings where I ‘play’ with data and ways to visualise the hidden stories. Here are a couple of ways I’ve been playing with data from the CitizenRelay:

A time

One of the first things I did was produce a Timeline of the CitizenRelay videos and images shared on Twitter. This uses the Topsy web service to find appropriate tweets which are stored in this Google Spreadsheet template which are then displayed in the Timeline by Vérité tool (an open source tool for displaying media in a timeline). The result is a nice way to navigate material shared as part of CitizenRelay and an indication of the amount of media shared by people.

 Timeline of the CitizenRelay videos and images shared on Twitter

A time and place

As part of the CitizenRelay Audioboo was used to record and share interviews. For a data wrangler like myself Audioboo is a nice service to work with because they provide a way to extract data from their service in a readable format. One of the undocumented options is to extract all the clips with a certain tag in a format which includes data about where the clip was recorded. Furthermore this format is readable for other services so with a couple of clicks with we can get a Google Map of CitizenRelay Boos which you can click on and find the audio clips.

 Google Map of CitizenRelay Boos

One experiment I tried which didn’t entirely work out the way I wanted was to add date/time to the Audioboo data and also embed the audio player. This datafile (generated using this modified Google Spreadsheet template) can be played in Google Earth allowing to see where Boos were created, when they were created with a timeslider animation and directly playback the clips. This experiment was partially successful because I would prefer the embedded player worked  without having to download Google Earth.

 Google Earth of CitizenRelay Boos

A look at who #CitizenRelay reporters were

So far we have mainly focused on the content but lets now look at the many eyes and ears of the CitizenRelay who helped share and create stories on Twitter.

CitizenRelay Many eyes

The image shows the profile pictures of over 600 people who used the #CitizenRelay tag on Twitter so far this year. This image was generated using a free add-in for Microsoft Excel called NodeXL, read more about getting started with NodeXL. What that image doesn’t show you is how interconnected this community is. Using another free tool called Gephi and with the right data we can plot the relationships in this twitter community, who is friends with who (read more about getting started with Gephi). In the image below pictures of people are replaced with circles and friendships are depicted by drawing a line between circles.

CitizenRelay Community

There are almost 7,000 relationships shown in the image so it can be a bit overwhelming to digest. Using Gephi it is possible to interactively explorer individual relationships. For, example the image below shows the people I’m friends with who used the #CitizenRelay tag.

CitizenRelay Sub-community

A look at what #CitizenRelay reporters said

Using the same technique for plotting relationships it’s also possible to do something similar with what people said using the #CitizenRelay tag. By plotting tweets that mention or reply to other people we get:

citizenrelay-conversation

This image is evidence that #CitizenRelay wasn’t just a broadcast, but a community of people sharing their stories. Visualising Twitter conversations is one of my interests and I’ve developed this interactive tool which lets you explore the #CitizenRelay tweets.

CitizenRelay Interactive Archive

So there you go some examples of what you can do with free tools and a bit of data, I’m sure there are many more stories to be found in CitizenRelay.

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On Tuesday 19th June I’ll be presenting at the Institutional Web Manager Workshop (IWMW) in Edinburgh … twice! Tony Hirst and I are continuing our tour, which started at the JISC CETIS Conference 2012, before hitting the stage at GEUG12. For IWMW12 we are doing a plenary and workshop around data visualisation (the plenary being a taster for our masterclass workshop). I’ll be using this post as a holder for all the session resources.

Update: I've also added Tony Hirst's (OU) slides. Tony went on first to introduce some broad data visualisation themes before I went into a specific case study.

The draft slides for my part of the plenary are embedded below and available from Slideshare and Google Presentation (the slides are designed for use with pptPlex, but hopefully they still make sense). For the session I’m going to use the OER Visualisation Project to illustrate the processes required to get a useful dataset and how the same data can be visualised in a number of ways depending on audience and purpose. Update: I should have said the session should be streamed live, details will appear on IWMW site.

Update: As a small aside I've come up with a modified version of Craig Russell's UK Universities Social Media table as mentioned in Further Evidence of Use of Social Networks in the UK Higher Education Sector guest post on UKWebFocus (something more 'glanceable'). Using the Twitter account list as a starting point I've looked at how University accounts follow each other and come up with this (click on the image for an interactive version).

If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.

Today I’m presenting at Google Apps for EDU European User Group meeting (GEUG12) at the University of Portsmouth. I’m doing the session with Tony Hirst (@psychemedia) on Creative Solutions with Google Products which is deigned to show people some of the ways we use Google products. Current slides for the session are below and along with the other parallel session should be streamed using Google Hangouts, so follow GEUG12 or #GEUG12 on Google+ (We’re on at 12:10).

Recording of the session now available (unfortunately beginning is missing – didn’t hit the record button, oops):

Slides:


Creative Solutions with Google Products

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Sheila MacNeill recently shared Some thoughts on web analytics using our work on analytics in which she mentioned a tool I developed which allows us to quickly get social share and page view counts for out blog, category or project feeds. The solution was a quick add-on to Using Google Spreadsheets to combine Twitter and Google Analytics data to find your top content distributors, recycling some other bits of code I had lying around (mostly from Introducing a RSS social engagement tracker in Google Apps Script #dev8d, which has never really worked). The reworking is much simpler and more reliable so if you would like to extract social counts from your own (or other people’s) RSS feeds here’s:

*** RSS Feed Social Share Counter ***

If you are using this with your Google Analytics account you’ll need to authenticate access, otherwise you can just enter a RSS feed in cell B5 and see what you get back.

Social Counts/Page Views for OOH-ER

Limitations/usage notes

As JISC CETIS uses WordPress for it’s blogs it’s easy to get feeds for particular projects. For example I can get a RSS feed for the OER Visualisation Project using http://mashe.hawksey.info/category/ooh-er/feed/. The spreadsheet is using the importFeed formula you’re limited to 20 items. Usually this is enough for us as most project feeds fairly go over that.  How meaningful are the numbers? At the end of the day page views probably have the most weight (tweets are cheap ;), I do find social counts useful as a way to find posts worth further investigation to find out who said what when – further work is required though to turn that data into actionable decisions.

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Reader Stats: From your 353 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 4,721 items, clicked 68 items, starred 9 items, and emailed 55 items.I’ve been a long time user of Google Reader. It’s been an up and down relationship even going through a trial separation, but I always come back. One of the things I’ve struggled with is a workflow that allows me to share and file interesting posts on the mobile version of Google Reader. I’ve previously experimented with custom Yahoo Pipes and services like ifttt.com but find these don’t give me the flexibility in editing tweet text or tags used to bookmark links. The slides below highlight the problem, if I want to personalise how a post is saved/shared you have to navigate out of Google Reader and then you are on reliant on share features of the source post or apps available on your phone.

Send email from Google Reader MobileHere’s my solution. As Google Reader mobile has an email option it’s possible to push posts to different services without navigating away and still let you have control over what is saved/tweeted. Initially I considered using existing services which let you create your own workflows by sending stuff to a dedicated email, example services which let you do this that I already use are Evernote and ifttt.com. Instead as there have been a number of Google Apps Script Gmail productivity solutions like Drew Csillag’s (sounds like cheese-log ;) Calorie Counting with Google Apps Script I thought I’d give that technique a go.

So I’ve come up with this:

*** GmailProductivitySheet v1.0 Spreadsheet ***

This solution uses the old Gmail trick of adding +whateveryouwant to your email address to allow you to do custom filtering. For example, if I email m.hawksey+twitter[at]gmail.com the message still ends up in my inbox but it makes it easy for me to setup a filter rule. So using Google Apps Script I can search my Gmail inbox for messages from me with +twitter, +delicious or +diigo and then using oAuth or basic authentication pass links/messages through those service’s API’s, I hope you agree Google Apps Script at it’s finest.

Setup/Usage

Here’s a video to help you with setup and usage (recorded in a Google Hangout On Air – still experimenting to get the best quality)

In summary, if I want to tweet something then I email the link to mygmailaccount[email protected], to save a bookmark either mygmailaccount[email protected] or mygmailaccount[email protected], or any combination of the three by sending the message to the email address.

Google Reader Productivity Flow

BTW if you are worried I’m wasting JISC CETIS time to make this fear not as this was an out of hours project. I also feel slightly annoyed with myself for spending so much time taking what was a functional solution (couple of hours work) and trying to make it more user-friendly for re-use particularly as the payback is minimal. Ho-hum.