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Posted by Admin On28th February 2006

Edge AggregatorsPete Cashmore has written an article on the variety of Edge Aggregators on the web today. The majority of these focus on product reviews, not surprisingly as many blogs are nothing more than product reviews from the author. Edgeio seems to have the majority of the buzz at the moment, thanks to it’s release yesterday, and has already spawned a competitor (BlogBuy.com).

I’m interested in seeing where edge aggregators head in the future. I would love to see some more powerful (and useful for me, personally) applications, such as the ones I described in my article “I Only Need One Website.”

Posted by Admin On27th February 2006

EdgeioEdgeio has officially launched and it’s looking great! I wrote a small article on Edgeio and the premise behind it on Feb 12.

Edgeio aggregates classifieds published on blogs, via a “listing” tag, which makes it very simple for the poster. After using the website I was a bit turned off (as a potential buyer), simply by the “business” of the site. I can’t quite determine if this is simply me trying to get used to something new or a relevant perception of the site’s design – only more use can determine that outcome. Buyers can limit listing geographically via a slider, which is an absolutely amazing feature.

Edgeio features a few tools to combat sploggers but I am curious, as is Craig Newmark of Craigslist, whether this will be enough. Om Malik had an interesting thought and suggested Edgeio partner with Akismet to filter out splogs – I couldn’t think of a better solution myself.

Posted by Admin On26th February 2006

PageFlakesPageFlakes is a personalized home page, much like Netvibes (which I wrote about on 23 JAN). PageFlakes features many of the standard “widgets” (which they call flakes), such as RSS Feeds, Weather, Search, etc.

What really makes PageFlakes stand out from the crowd is it’s “tabbed window.” PageFlakes allows you to setup a number of pages with which to setup flakes on. For example, you could have one named RSS, in which you placed all of your RSS Feeds; another named Work, in which you placed To-Do Lists and Notes. You get the point.

PageFlakes also has a strong developer community backing it, allowing anyone to create their very own flake to add increased functionality to the service. Many of the flakes that are available to use were in fact developed by community developers.

Some of these flakes are very powerful. I especially liked the Address Book, a feature I am begging the Netvibes developers for, as well as the To-Do List which allows you to enter due dates and receive on-screen and email reminders when these items are due.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Admin On26th February 2006

MySpaceAm I the only one who had no idea MySpace had anything to do with music, much less independent bands, until all of the recent news they’ve been receiving. MySpace is being touted as this gigantic innovator within Web 2.0, yet it’s nothing more than Friendster (albeit with more members).

MySpace didn’t become popular because they featured bands no one had ever heard of, they became popular because it allowed 15-24 year olds to hook up easily.

I’m not faulting MySpace – they took the best of Friendster, Hot or Not, and every other social networking website in existence, mixed it all together and gave member’s their own customizable page – goldmine! Unfortunately, I’ve grown tired of all the big media acting surprised when a 16 year old girl finds out her 20 year old “boyfriend” is really a 50 year old child molester.

Dear Big Media: That’s what MySpace is for.

Posted by Admin On23rd February 2006

MabberMany of you have already read Nik’s preview of Mabber over at TechCrunch (if not, go do so now). Mabber is a web-based instant messaging client, with it’s own Jabber network, and mobile phone support. At first it seems as if it’s everything Meebo wishes it could be, unfortunately I intend to be the bearer of bad news.

Registration was easy, I simply used an invite I received from TechCrunch (I have 10, post a comment asking for one if you’d like). Once I registered I created a username and password and then proceeded to enter my login information for any IM networks I used (AIM, Yahoo, and MSN). This is where the hiccups started to occur.

I got connected to the MSN Messenger network easily enough and moved along to AIM, entered my information, then alt-tabbed out of the window while I waited on the AJAX to do it’s asynchronous magic. Unfortunately, mabber threw a bit to much magic dust my way and I returned to 104 (yes, one hundred and four) Internet Explorer windows opened (the little popups, about 150px by 400px). After closing all instances of IE, which deeply upsets me – I hate closing Netvibes – I decided to give it another shot.

Mabber ScreenAfter returning to Mabber all seemed well with both my MSN and AIM connections, so I decided to give Yahoo a shot. After adding in my Yahoo informaton Mabber refused to connect to the Yahoo network. A quick glance over their blog and forums returned no excuse for this (other than the mandatory web 2.0 “beta” tag), and warranted yet another minus.

I finally gave up on trying to connect to Yahoo and went to give my buddy list a quick glance over. At first all seemed well (although none of my 116 contacts were online – quite unbelievable), until I noticed only my MSN contacts were listed! My AIM contacts were nowhere to be found. A delete and readdition of my AIM and Yahoo accounts, didn’t help matters much either.

On top of the application simply not working, response times were horrifically slow. On numerous occassions I thought I had lost connection to my network until the “Google.com Shift+F5″ test corrected me.

Beyond technical issues, I simply don’t think Mabber is smart business-wise. Meebo already has a strong following within this niche, first of all. Secondly, instant messaging target audience is teenagers, a majority of which don’t own a cellphone that could run Mabber’s application anyways. Even if they could pay the high dollar for a phone to run the application, why would they not simply pay another $6 per month and get unlimited free text messages?

All in all, Mabber’s a good idea, but Meebo does it better. Mabber Mobile? A horrible idea that will only be used by Silicon Valley nerds until the next big thing comes to mobile messaging, and honeestly – based on Mabber’s performance on my PC, I wouldn’t trust installing it on my cell phone. I like my cell phone to work.

Posted by Admin On23rd February 2006

Google PagesIt amazes me no one has stated the obvious, when it comes to Google Pages, yet so I’ll go ahead and say it. Google Pages is not a new service, it’s a feature beta – for Blogger, namely.

Why would Google have any interest in competing in a market as heavily populated as web hosting, without the ability to do so properly, and with a shoddy service as Google Pages now is. Everyone, including Nik Cubrilovic, Pete Cashmore, Mark, and GrayWolf, have touted how incomplete this service feels.

Quote me on this: Google Pages is a beta test for an AJAX-based Blogger template editor in the grand scheme of things, they’ve simply chosen to beta test it as a website designing tool to make sure the basics are working accordingly – and of course, to control more of the world’s information on their servers.

Posted by Admin On20th February 2006

BlogBurstA few days ago I wrote about Pluck launching BlogBurst, an aggregator of sorts that provides blogger’s content to big name print media for use in their publications.

After receiving an invitation to join I went ahead and proceeded with activating my account, not really knowing what to expect on the backend of the BlogBurst website. Despite a few vague errors (which are to be expected, it is still in beta), I was impressed with how intuitive the interface is. Clearly defined “status” images informed me exactly of what I needed to complete.

BlogBurst Status Icons

Once I completed my Personal Profile I went through a simple blog verification process, simply confirming that I owned Betaflow. There are various methods of claiming ownership, but the simplest is as simple as entering your administration username and password. If you don’t feel comfortable entering this information you can add a small javascript to your blog template and then request that BlogBurst verify this script exists.

BlogBurst: ReportsIn the future, BlogBurst will offer detailed reports of exactly how they are helping your content spread to the far reaches of media. Reports will track your presence on any publisher partner’s site including all headline views, post views, and referrals back to your blog.

BlogBurst also hints at a revenue model for the future, possibly charging bloggers a nominal fee for providing this service, although they have decided to waive this fee throughout the entirety of 2006 (and don’t mention it anywhere but in the FAQ).

For the time being, it’s an interesting service that has been well designed from an end user’s standpoint, but only time will tell if it proves worthwhile in increasing traffic (and ultimately revenue) here at Betaflow and whether it will be worth paying a fee for their service in the coming years.

Posted by Admin On19th February 2006

Andrew has been hard at work getting two more Ajax Workshops up at AjaxLessons.com.

Tabbed ContentAjax Workshop 2 focuses on building tabbed content, a user interface design that is even featured within Yahoo’s UI Design Patterns. This method of displaying content is great when you are limited on space and Ajax allows you to eliminate a page refresh – a good idea in this case.

Ajax Workshop 3 runs through the process of creating a drag and drop shopping cart using the Script.aculo.us library. This is example is often displayed within library demos, although I have yet to see many people take an active approach in incorporating it into their websites. This is definitely a topic I will be discussing in the future.

Posted by Admin On19th February 2006

BlogburstPluck has launched Blogburst, a “middle-man” between bloggers and mainstream print media. The Blogburst editing team takes content from pre-approved bloggers and provides it to publishers for republication. Unfortunately, bloggers do not earn any sort of revenue from this service, although the content you provide will include a byline and link back to the blog. This byline seems adequate to me, the inbound traffic you can receive from being features within a major publication is a definite plus.

Currently, Blogburst has a few top publishers waiting for content, including the SF Chronicle, Washington Post, and Houston Chronicle.

Blogburst is currently “invite-only,” although you can submit your information and the Blogburst editors will look over your content and contact you. The submission process was easy, thanks to automatic feed detection, and you simply need to provide a little background info on yourself and your blog.

Posted by Admin On19th February 2006

TechnoratiOne of the things I wanted to accomplish with the Betaflow redesign was a better way to manage my Technorati tags. Previously I had been using a combination of plugins that, albeit worked, didn’t work the way I wanted them to.

For this redesign I set aside a portion of each post dedicated to Technorati Tags (see the bottom of the post, “Tags:”). This article will discuss a small piece of code I have added to my index.php to support the addition of Technorati tags via the custom fields portion of each post.

Once you have determined an area on screen for your Technorati Tags you need to first initiate a check to determine if the current post has any tags associated with it. For Betaflow I am using a custom field named “tags,” but you can use whatever you want. WordPress has made it easy to check custom fields with the get_post_meta function, so we use it to check for a tags field and if one does not exist echo “N/A.”

<?php
if (get_post_meta($post->ID, 'tags', true)) {
} else {
echo "N/A";
}
?>

The get_post_meta() function simply asks for a post ID, the name of the field, and a boolean as to whether you want the value returned as a string (true) or array (false).

Now that we’re determining which posts have Technorati Tags, all we have to do is display those tags for each post. We do so by adding the following portion of code:

<?php
if (get_post_meta($post->ID, 'tags', true)) {
echo get_post_meta($post->ID, 'tags', true);
} else {
echo "N/A";
}
?>

Simple, but not really effective (since Technorati looks for the rel=”tag” statement within anchor tags). We need to explode our string of comma-delimited tags, add in the anchor tags for each, and then put it all back together and echo it back out.

Since our field (named “tags”) is a comma delimited list, we can explode that string by the characters “, ” (a comma, then a space). This will create an array with nothing but our tags as each value. Then, we need to iterate through each value and add the opening anchor tag before the value and a closing anchor tag after the value. We’re also going to put a “, ” (a commaa, then a space) after each closing anchor tag, for aesthetics.

Finally, we’ll need to echo that new string back out to the page so our visitors (and more importantly Technorati’s spider) see those tags. Here’s the final bit of code, to complete the whole process:

<?php
if (get_post_meta($post->ID, 'tags', true)) {
$tags_field = get_post_meta($post->ID, 'tags', true);
$tags = explode(", ", $tags_field);
foreach ($tags as $tag) {
$tag_link .= "<a href=\"http://www.technorati.com/tag/" . $tag . "\" rel=\"tag\">" . $tag . "</a>, ";
}
echo substr($tag_link, 0, strlen($tag_link) - 2);
} else {
echo "N/A";
}
?>

You might be asking why our echo is using the substr() function. This is because we are adding a “, ” (a comma, then a space) after every field of our exploded array – including the last one. We need to pop the last two characters off of the end of our string for aesthetic appeal, otherwise we’ll be looking at a list that looks like this: tag, tag2, tag3,

This is very simple to add to your very own WordPress blog and allows for more control over how your Technorati Tags are displayed on page than many of the plugins that have been released thus far. If you have any questions, comments, or ways to optimize this code a bit – feel free to leave a comment.