Skype Adds Feature That Users Said Would Never Happen

This week marks a new beta version for Skype. I was very interested to see that they have included in this version a “typing indicator”. In other words as you type a message in a chat the other chat parties can see that you are composing a message. This might seem as if it isn’t a big deal, but it has been said and said again in the Skype forums that this would never happen.

The reason that this was supposedly never going to happen is that Microsoft owned the patient for the feature and that Skype would never infringe upon Microsoft’s rights. It would seem that this is not the case. From Skype:

“Ever since the Skype chat feature first came out, we have heard from people who have said that their very lives and the whole earthly existence depends on the chat having a “typing indicator”, and that they won’t be happy until they have it in Skype. 😉 So… the day has finally come. There is now a typing indicator in Skype chat. Hurrah and rejoice.”

Skype 3.1 Beta for Windows – SkypeFind and typing indicators

This is in fact a lesson for those that would claim to know the mind of Skype. In addition to that it gives me hope that they will eventually include the other much asked for feature; to be able to record. Again forum contributors claim that they will never include this because of the legal ramifications. I am not saying that they will include this feature but it sure does make me think that it is a possibility.

As a podcaster being able to record Skype natively would make Skype a killer app. The current methods of recording Skype, both software and hardware are flawed on many counts. The quality, reliability and the pain in the butt factor are overwhelming obstacles for a simple task. It would seem that Skype hold the key to reliable high quality recording. All the apps and hardware solutions are a hack for what is known and Skype themselves know so much more. So how about it Skype, maybe this version?

You can download the latest beta from Skype here.

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This Blog is Part of the Beta Group to Test Snap!

I have just learned that the Rooster’s Rail is part of the beta group of blogs on WordPress that is testing a plugin called Snap, which is short for Snap Preview Anywhere™. I am very very excited about being a part of this group. I saw Snap some time ago and liked the concept a lot. So much so that I have requested that it be implemented on The Global Geek Podcast Blog. Hopefully that is happening in the next couple of months. For those people that don’t know what Snap is you are probably asking, what the heck is The Rooster on about now?

Snap is a great feature that enables visitors to your site or blog mouse or hover over a link and have a preview pop up. Yeah it is just eye-candy really. But it does give you a bit of an idea if you want to go to a site or not, what it looks like. The images are high resolution so they look great. Or maybe you are just curious and don’t want to visit but just have a peek. Tops, this is great for that. In addition to that it is just plain cool!

Anyone can have Snap on their site by signing up and placing some code in their page. Us WordPressers don’t have the ability to put this type of code in our pages, especially since this is a script. Yet again the WordPress gurus have come through and are giving us feature after feature, and now we get Snap! Woot. This is definitely a place you want to be. I continue to be impressed and pleased to be a part of this community.

For those that absolutely dislike this feature, you can disable it. Doing this will disable Snap on any site not just the one you are looking at. You must refresh the page to not see them. The good thing is that it is not permanent. Disabling it works by using a cookie in your browser. So if you want the functionality of Snap back just delete your browser cookies.

This is a great feature for WordPress users and readers and I sure hope that they keep it. I like it and I think it is useful. Thanks Matt and crew another winner in my book and I am looking forward to seeing it utilized in my posts. Readers of this blog, I would love to know what you think and I will include your comments in my feedback to WordPress Admin. I would also be interested to know what other beta testers here thought about it.

Snap Preview Anywhere Screenshot

Skype 3.0 Out of Beta

SkypeSo Skype 3.0 is out of beta, I am yet to be impressed.

While the interface now looks a bit better and functionally easier for users to get Skype functional I was disappointed to start seeing bloat. The RAM that Skype now uses is up around 30 MB. The Skype client itself is taking 12 MB on it’s ow, the other 20 MB is an application called skypePM.exe. It is the Extras Manager. Damn if that ain’t bloat I don’t know what is. This is optional on the install. It may well explain why my computer now takes an aeon to load as well. I will be uninstalling and reinstalling with this feature out.

Then there is the recording issue. As regular readers would know I have been harping on about the ability to record Skype for ages. But since Skype is yet to build this ability in I have and used Hot Recorder, it worked beaut. Until Skype 3.0 showed up, it now successfully records silence. Sure the new Skype as the old Skype could be used with a plug-in, now “Extras” that are able to record. One hot tip; none of these applications are able to record Skype with anywhere near the quality required for podcasting. So what now Skype? It looks to me that Skype are going to rely on 3rd party applications to take up the slack in the recording department. A shame because Skype would produce the best one. These other applications are lacking the quality required.

The positives while there, are hard to find for me. The audio quality seems to have improved, so that is a good thing. The other thing that has improved that may or may not have to do with Skype is that file transfers seem faster. Nothing huge but they are no longer dismal. The integration of Skypecasts is a good one.

Speaking of Skypecasts, having them in the interface of Skype is great. I have never heard one before today. The fact that they are in the interface meant that they were easy to access and that the ones there were on then or starting soon. So I thought that I would pay one a visit. It was great fun and I was able to network with a few people and added them to my Skype contacts. I even meet up with another Australian podcaster! Small world.

The cast was a computer help one that offered people that had joined the opportunity to have their questions answered or a problem sorted. Which is a great idea and people seemed to take advantage of getting some real-time assistance with what they were trying to do. Far less formal than a podcast it offers a great forum.

I was surprised at the sound quality which was good. Although the quality of other participants was the limitation. Some “callers” I am sure were on dial-up, given how it sounded! But most people had reasonable connections. It was fun and I’ll be doing it again. The other thing is that you could easily listen to a Skypecast and do something else at the same time. Does that make me a lurker?

This is the extent of my experience with the new Skype. I hope that it improves and I feel a bit better about it in time.

So my mixed feelings on Skype continue. I sincerely hope that they keep their focus on call quality and just consider including a RECORD button for future releases (I would even pay for it). Some nice improvements. Regular users will find it a worthy upgrade, not much here for the person that has special requirements and the bloat is not necessary in my opinion. I certainly feel that this is the most corporate version to evolve so far. A sign of the times? Only that very thing will tell. But with over 7 million Skypers on-line as I write this who am I to argue?

NOTE: The Hot Recorder Homepage is broken and this product is no longer developed from my experience.

Skype 3.0 Release Screenshot

Scrybe the Holy Grail of Web Apps?

scrybe Logoscrybe has just released this “teaser” video for their service that is due for beta release this month. I am impressed. The video gives a walk through of scrybe and it’s features. What impressed me is that there appears to have been some research into the human mind and how to build a web application around our psychology. By that I mean that it appears to be logical and plays on what our brain focus on as far as context and focus. Indeed:

“Scrybe is not an incremental
improvement but a whole paradigm shift in the design of online organizers”.

The video is seven minutes but it is worth the watch (see video below). There is also an eleven minute version.

You know those big diaries or personal organizers that you can get with everything you want and need to plan your life in it? They have the daily, weekly, page views (depending on the model you get). They also feature “to do” lists and yearly planners along with stuff like world times listed. This on-line service is just that only it won’t cost you $100 bucks and weigh you down.

In many ways this is a service that will rival features that can be found in such applications as Google Notebook and Google Calendar. While these two services are related they are separate and not integrated with each other. Scrybe offers this integral relationship and more, I have yet to see a slick, simple yet feature rich application such as described here.

Month ViewThe calendar view is a zoomable interface that you can zoom to the year, month, week and day then out again while remaining in context. The action is smooth and seems to be intuitive. The Weekly views and I assume daily views allow you to click and type entries as well as a powerful drag and drop feature from the “task” list that appears on the right. This was an impressive move that when done placed the task within the time context that it was given in the task list. If you need to extend the time in the view just drag the bar down to the length of time required. This intuitiveness without assumption is excellent as some applications make assumptions based on the action not on the context of the item. Scrybe offers this contextual relevance which will be appreciated by the user.

The task list was also a nice feature in that there is a task list for the day with tasks that can be put off for another day flagged, great for the procrastinator. Lists are also event orientated so you can have multiple lists of tasks that are for one day but are itemised around the context of an event. For example. Today I might have to go to work and there may be a list of tasks for work. I might have a birthday to prepare for tomorrow with tasks that are needed to be done today. That means there are two task lists; one for the birthday and one for work, but they are represented together for the day. They can however be viewed separately within their event, work and birthday. I think this is a way of making sense of the clutter in our brains that we have to contend with everyday, but scrybe breaks this down into manageable components.

You can also import with cut and paste; lists and data from files on your local machine such as Word and Excel. The nice touch is that these items are placed in a task list with check boxes and with context. You can also add notes with a very simple interface with minimal formatting. Simple is good, you don’t want to add to your chaotic life with a “Word” type interface. But I would like to see colour added to the options or a highlighter with different colours. I would find that good for focusing my attention.

The meeting manager is an interesting feature where you can plan a meeting with global parties take into account if they are inTime Zones bed or not. Very intuitive feature that has a nice graphical interface. Currently I use The World Clock – Meeting planner for this. Which is what this is but it is offered in a very nice looking graphical interface and also integrated with the calendar and task list.

“Thought Streams”, nice term isn’t it? Refers to a feature that allows you to collect information in text and pictures for a project or research from the web and puts them into a “stream”. This is much like Google Notebook. The difference is that this data can be supplemented with documents off your own local machine. For example an Excel document with the budget details. The best thing and most attractive feature of this is the presentation of Thought Streamsthe data. It is presented to you with an absolutely stunning newspaper type format with a “mini” view at the bottom and it looks very professional. I am not sure if the average user could pull off what this looks like in the video but if they can then that will be exceptional.

One last feature that made my eyes light up and then smile was the “sync” function. Well it is not the sync that you might be thinking as I was. It “sync’s” with paper! Yup paper, with folding lines… not quite what I had in mind. But clever idea and it works as far as taking it with you. The other area that refers to syncing is the fact that you can use the service offline, make changes that re-sync once you reconnect. There was no mention in the video of how this is accomplished, especially since there are no downloads required, but it does have instructions as to how to do it (there is a difference).

Other features promised:

  • Seamless offline access – without any installations
  • Rich and fast like a desktop
  • Intuitive zoomable calendar views
  • Organize your thoughts with bookmarks, web snippets, images and files
  • To-do lists integrated with your calendar
  • Share and collaborate with friends and co-workers
  • Elegant, compact and handy print formats
  • Easily work across multiple timezones
  • Import and export from other apps easily

I will be interested to see what other features are in this bundle. I would be over-joyed if there were such things as RSS technology and shared documents and contributers.This is a good review for a product that I have not used, based on a video. It is because it is rare that a truly original and new idea comes about. The contextual relevance and intuitive interface make this an item to watch, especially if the video is a clue to what might be in store. Scrybe is offering some solutions to problems that plague other on-line applications in a visually stunning and easy to use way. If you are interested in trying out scrybe then hook up with the beta on their site and leave your details.

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Nice Feature Added to Skype 2.6 Beta

Skype LogoI was fairly damning of the new 2.6 beta for Skype. I was harsh because I did not think that anything was all that new, interesting, useful or innovative. But today I have learned of a new feature that is pretty cool.

They have added a bandwidth indicator. This is a great curiosity tool and just plain interesting. Despite what new users of Skype might think, Skype really does not consume that much bandwidth and this little feature shows you just how much it does use. Down the bottom of the call window there is an icon, hover over it and it will give you a read out of bandwidth in and out.

Skype bandwidth indicator

This feature was one requested by developers but for the rest of use it is useful and interesting. I guess it is like having a thermometer at home, it doesn’t really change what you wear but it is interesting and fun to have and compare. Same with this and geeks love this stuff and it appeals to us.

I am not sure if the feature accurately measures bandwidth in a video call but that would be good to know.

Cool feature Skype boys and girls but where is the record button? By the way you have to enable this feature in the advanced options to see it.

CREAMaid: Word of Mouth Marketing

CREAMaid LogoCREAMaid is a new site, cue beta tag here. Companies are starting to see the marketing power of bloggers and the weight that their recommendations or reviews have on readers. CREAMaid aims to capitalize on this and generates blogging “buzz” using the service. Bloggers are requested to blog about products and services,  if their post is accepted then they are paid a royalty. Smart marketing or cash for comment? You be the judge.

There is no registration process, bloggers are invited to participate with the click of the mouse. You are presented on the right hand page a selection of topics to blog on or the “Recently Updated” list. Listed is the topic or service, with a link to the widget. The royalty that will be payed and the number of remaining posts that will be accepted in that “campaign”.

How Does CREAMaid WorkClicking a topic opens up a flash generated widget that has all the details of what the marketer is requesting of the blogger. At this time there were only four topics listed, but the site is new so that is understandable. But there other ways to find topics that are listed on CREAMaid:

 

  • In the wild: finding a blog post that is talking about the conversation
  • Virally: on another bloggers post

The one that I looked at requested that the blogger visit their page, choose a product, write about it and include pictures. Reasonable enough request, especially since fulfilling the requirements and subsequent approval will get you $5. However, for a quick easy buck I think that it could encourage people to make blog posts that are not truthful. Such as saying that they actually purchased the product and proceed to writeParticipate in CREAMaid a glowing review; really knowing nothing about the product. However, the embedded code that the blogger puts in the post places the widget from CREAMaid on their post when published. So it is obvious to the reader that it is a paid comment. I think this may in many instances erode the creditability of the blogger, regardless of who they are. A comment that is made by a blogger is respected because it is an independent opinion not based on economic gain.

Once you have written your blog post, you return to the site and the widget and lift off some HTML code that you are required to embed in your post. Currently the supported services are all the usual suspects, WordPress.com included. But also: Blogger, TypePad, MySpace, Live Journal, Windows Live Spaces, Xanga Blog, AOL Journals and all user hosted blogs to name but a few. As well as embed the HTML you are required to submit an email address via which they will inform you if you have been selected.

CREAMaid RoyaltyAs soon as your post has been selected you are sent an email. The email includes a verification code and a link you can visit to collect your royalty payment via PayPal. You are payed directly as soon as you have done this.

There are a few rules (“promises”) that must be followed in the post that is to be submitted and the suggestion is that you will more than likely be payed for your post as every effort is made to accept all posts made, as long as you follow the rules. So almost a guarantee that you will be payed. The responsibility of the payment is that of the marketer, which CREAMaid kindly refer to as the “Conversation Starter”.

The business model in this instance seems sound in that CREAMaid charge for the PayPal service and for the beta period; no more than the cost of this service provision.

“During the beta period, CREAMaid will not take any fees except for the PayPal fee (5.6%, for receiving and sending the money) required for running the Service itself. However, we plan to change this policy after the beta period is over. “

Given that fact it leaves the opportunity open for them to actually charge “Conversation Starters” a percentage of the royality offered, not that it will mean less for the blogger but rather the marketer. At this point in time that is cheap marketing.

The service that this site offers is a well thought out process but it leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth as I feel it takes advantage of the community of bloggers that review products and services for free and because they want to. This service is already available to companies. If you have a good product, bloggers will talk about it and review it honestly.

This process has creditability right now, no one is payed and if they are they make a point of saying it in the post! They avoid their readers thinking that what they are saying is “just a payed comment from X company”. Creditability for the post = zero if they find out and you don’t tell them in addition to being trashed all over the blogosphere! I know from my own experience that there are companies, coders and developers out there that believe in their product and ask me to include it in the podcast for review. They believe in the process, one that is very much survival of the fittest application or product or book etc. If the product is rubbish it will die a natural death. But I agree there are those products out there that fail to gain traction and exposure that deserve to. Would I submit my service to CREAMaid? I think a good couple of days approaching willing bloggers and podcasters with good reputations will get you further.

I say this because I think the above statements reflect the feeling of most consumers and readers of blogs, once you submit your product or service to a marketing service that makes no secret of the fact that bloggers are payed to comment, the product itself looses credibility with the post.

CREAMaid looks slick, easy to use, simple and a low cost marketing alternative. The site is very well implemented and executed. However, in my opinion it will be very difficult to make a marketing engine work on payed comments because of consumer trust and creditability. Not only that this is a system that is already in place and works well, without any cash changing hands. Although I will admit that that is not a guarantee, I would argue that at this present time a rarity.

Riding the Line

Line Rider LogoI noticed that a few blogs were carrying this flash website as a story today and after about the 3rd one I thought “I” had better check it out. I am glad that I did. It is the absolute biggest time-waster that I have found to date. The “toy” as it is described is called “Line Rider
The reason it is the biggest time waster is that it is only a toy, in other words there is no point to it, there are no scores, there is no goal. Other than to draw a line that a toboggan then runs down and along. Ideally it does this without crashing!

The author of the game states that it was a project that he did for illistration class. The usual beta tag is attached and there has been a swell of suggestions for ways to improve the game. Inclusions for future versions include:

  • Eraser tool – would be very handy, you spend five minutes making what you think is a great track and make a bump in the wrong spot and you have to start again.
  • Line drawing tool – maybe but I think half the fun is getting it right. Maybe handy for the tricky bits you want to add.
  • Rider falls less easily – good, it doesn’t take many bumps for him to plough into the snow.
  • Physics engine mods – cool, adding some funky accelerate, decelerate functions. Jumps here we come.

I had some fun with this and a big warning: It is highly addictive. I stopped playing when I had wasted half an hour but ILine Rider This is bad... think you could waste a whole morning without trying.

I am really looking forward to the next version and I can see it having a cult following. Very cool and it just goes to prove that the best games or “toys” in life can be the simplest.

This is bad, face in the snow and all busted up is not a good look. No that is not blood, but it should be. This was a major stack and I am sure the little bastard reached terminal velocity. It was fun but.