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SAW A GOOD IDEA

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The many faces of a social network

  
  
  
  
  

To the chagrin of many users, Facebook has given itself yet another facelift.  The latest changes include a Top Stories feature, a real-time chat and comment tool and a revamped album view. 

Top Stories is an enhanced version of Facebook’s tailored news feed, which now features blue tabs, indicating which stories have occurred since the user’s last login.  The new ticker tool shows real-time updates in a small corner on the upper right side of the homepage.  When the chat box is opened, the ticker attaches itself at the top. (Please note: this feature does not appear active on my account at publishing time).  Among the other changes are a Friends lists (‘Circles,’ anyone?) and subscribe buttons.  The full details of the new settings and tools are posted to Facebook’s FAQ page.

While many of us are still adjusting to the new features, even bigger plans are underway for a complete renovation— one that will make past nips and snips seem inconsequential.  As Mashable’s Ben Parr reports, “The Facebook you know and (don’t) love will be forever transformed.”

Before this social czar becomes unrecognizable, here’s a stroll down memory lane of previous (and often equally infuriating) changes.  If you’re still longing for the simple Facebook of yesteryear, The Social Network briefly showcases several past versions.

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2004: Fresh, streamlined an innovative.  It was a time when college students were asking their distant friends, “Has your school signed up for the Facebook?”

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2006: The homepage gets its first major overhaul with news feed. Facebook groups with names like, “Bring the Old Facebook Back!” crop up. This was also the year the floodgates opened to the public, not just students.

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2008: Perhaps taking a page from Google’s Gmail, the social network adds a chat feature.  If you’re like me, you haven’t been signed in since then.

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2010: What had started as an intimate webpage now feels like an overcrowded party.  Privacy concerns soar while the The Social Network paints a less-than-flattering picture of founder Mark Zuckerberg.

2012: Facebook takes over the Internet?  Everyone jumps ship to Google+?  Share your thoughts in our comments section.

 

Nicole Duncan

Offline is back on

  
  
  
  
  

gmaillab unpluggedSomewhere along the way to smartphone ubiquity and tablet trendiness, offline became an unsavory word.  Not as repugnant as dial-up or spam, but certainly not magnanimous like 3G.  Social networks, web searches and general connectivity became more important than offline activities like word processing and Minesweep.  The short-lived popularity of netbooks is a testament to the notion that if you’re not connected, you might as well turn your [insert device] off.

But what if you’re in a cafe that has no wireless?  What if your Aunt Elsie’s house is out of range of your 3G network?  Unless you had the foresight to download your work beforehand, such situations serve as flashbacks to pre-2008 computing.  The only difference is that now your choice of activities is even more limited as offline has been left to the wayside by many digital innovators.  

One of the tech behemoths that started this shift was Google: It introduced free programs like Gmail and Google Docs much to the chagrin of software developers.  This May the company released its own netbook, the Chromebook, which seemed to solidify its commitment to the online occult.  

You can imagine my surprise when I learned that Google was rolling out an offline version of Gmail.  The application, which can be downloaded through the Chrome Web Store, is similar to its tablet version in appearance and functionality.  As a dumbphone user who loves frequenting wifi-free cafes with my laptop, the ability to read, respond and sort through old e-mails without a connection is a major boon.  Traditional mail servers like Outlook, Thunderbird and Apple Mail have worked offline for years, but their mobility limitations, screwy settings and bland appearance kept them from reaching Gmail rock star status.

Google announced that it plans to extend this capability to Google Calendars and Docs as well— the latter of which will prove tricky given its collaborative nature.  And if the search-engine-turned-tech-giant decrees “offline” to be an option for the 3G world, others may soon follow in its path.

Nicole Duncan

The Networks are Watching

  
  
  
  
  

Cbs_logo_240_001In Minority Report, Tom Cruise walked into a Gap, had his eyes scanned, and an automated voice asked him how his newly purchased khakis fit.  In a future set Washington, DC, Big Brother is definitely watching.  In our times, and depending on which conspiracy theorist you chose to believe, he’s getting close.  So when I caught wind of CBS’s new way of putting shows in front of potential viewers, I put down down my copy of 1984 and took notice.

Simply walk through Grand Central Station in New York City armed with a bluetooth enabled PDA or phone, and you’ll be beamed with video clips of 5 of the network’s primetime shows.  Of course, you have to "choose" to accept the 30 second videos. 
The technology is already being used in Europe. Viacom Outdoor has a permanent network of Bluetooth-enabled poster sites on the London Undergound and tube users can download content on to their mobiles using Bluetooth devices housed inside the interactive posters.

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