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September 30 2011

22:31

Get In Shape The Social Way With Fitocracy [Get Your Beta Invite Here!]

It’s not every day that I’m introduced to a new web service by the awesome xkcd web-comic. So when they featured Fitocracy a while back, my curiosity was indeed piqued. Fitocracy is a website that turns exercise into a social game by having you track your workouts and then giving you various achievements for your track record. It’s free, but it’s invite-only at this point.

Luckily for you guys, I’ve scored us some invite codes, which are hidden away further on down the post. So let’s check out this Fitocracy thing, starting with their own product tour!

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Since Fitocracy is social, you get the oh-so familiar “news stream”, as seen on Twitter, Facebook, and just about any other social platform. Only here, the news stream is all about fitness, and includes plenty of strangers discussing fitness.

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Yes, the news stream is full of people you don’t know, but Fitocracy wants you to follow some of them, just to get the hang of things. Okay, I think I’ll follow wats8976 above.

Next, Fitocracy points out my personal scoreboard:

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And now I get to post my very first status update, telling the world what I’m up to. As could be expected, the concept of circles or groups is built into Fitocracy, so you can select who will get your update right when you post it:

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Next, the tour switches you over to your Profile tag, and shows your own activity (of which there is none, at the moment):

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And there’s also a stats view, full of zeroes at the moment:

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When you start your way in Fitocracy, you’ll first be a member of the New Fitocracy Member group. You apparently need to get all the way to level 7 before you get to leave that group:

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Since Fitocracy is built to let strangers meet each other, you get to “tag” yourself with physical activities you like:

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Yes, I like walking for fitness. Next, the tour takes you to the Track page, where you can start logging your physical activity.

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Similar to RunKeeper, Fitocracy also has some suggestions showing you what you can do, in case you don’t have any ideas:

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The bar to the left contains tabs both individual exercises and complete routines. The “Routines” tab is empty at first, but the Exercises one is chock-full of exercises, and has a great live-search feature:

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Each exercise comes with a complete description text description showing how to do it:

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Now, let’s log my short bike ride to work.

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Once you log your workout, you get a very satisfying “coach clipboard” showing how many points you’ve earned:

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I assure you, this really is very satisfying.

Now, about those routines. Routines are a bunch of exercises which you usually do together. Think of them like recipes in a food-log application: Rather than log each individual ingredient in your favorite meal every time you have it, you just enter the recipe once and then log the whole meal.

Quests

To keep things interesting, you can start on a “quest”. A quest is a cute name for a fitness challenge. Here are some of the ones which are available when you’re just starting out:

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You don’t exactly “enroll” on a quest. You just keep logging your activities, and as you do great feats, you will be awarded with quest completions:

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But Does It Work?

In the xkcd comic’s alt text, Randall (xkcd’s creator) says:

I felt so clever when I found a way to game the Fitocracy system by incorporating a set of easy but high-scoring activities into my regular schedule. Took me a bit to realize I’d been tricked into setting up a daily exercise routine.

That’s a lovely way to put it. I couldn’t say if Fitocracy “works” because it’s obviously a very personal thing. Not everyone will stick to an exercise routine, no matter how social you make things.  Also, Fitocracy isn’t the only game in town. There are lots of other sites that try to get you into shape. But I can definitely see how Fitocracy can become a habit.

Oh, and about those invites I promised?  Here they are! Enjoy!  But remember to come back and tell us what you think of the site.


19:01

Conference Tag Your Contacts With CardCloud [Android & iPhone]

cardcloud for androidIf you’re the sort of business person who’s always out and about meeting new contacts and networking at conferences, you’ve no doubt given and received your fair share of business cards over the years. Maybe you’ve even tried a few online business card services or applications for your mobile. What you probably noticed is that most services haven’t offered a lot to you that can’t be beaten by paper business cards. Until now, that is.

CardCloud, previously known as MyNameIsE, has drastically altered the world of online business contacts by providing a service anyone can make use of with any new contact they meet. Also, they’ve made it possible to write notes on your card and keep track of where you met someone. With all that up its sleeve, you can’t help but love CardCloud.

What Is CardCloud?

cardcloud for android

CardCloud is an online business card application designed for sharing your card and collecting contact details for your business contacts. It allows users to list social networking sites as well as websites and other contact details, making it great for today’s Internet users. Most importantly, it’s available as an app for your mobile phone, so you can share and collect contact information while you’re at conferences and otherwise on the go.

Get the CardCloud Android application, iPhone application or simply visit m.cardcloud.com on any phone to access.

cardcloud app

Getting Started With CardCloud

Get started with the web application immediately, signing up with either your email address or LinkedIn authentication. Add your favourite social networking profiles, websites, photos, logos and other contact details until it looks right to you. Your public card is the primary card associated with you on CardCloud, but you may add other cards for different purposes if you wish.

In your settings you can change the appearance of the public card using personalised wallpaper. You can also use this area to set your public card to be private.

Set the URL for your public profile so that people can find you. If you prefer, you can redirect a personal domain directly to this public card.

Sharing Card Details

Using your mobile device and CardCloud, you can easily email a beautifully formatted, .vcf compliant business card to any email address or beam the card to anyone in the vicinity.

cardcloud app

Anyone who has received a card via CardCloud can save the contact directly to their phone’s address book.

Extra Information

CardCloud has introduced event integration so that users sharing CardCloud cards can tag them with the event details, making it easier to recall later how you know someone.

cardcloud app

Event organisers can get their event officially listed with CardCloud. However, even if the event isn’t listed, users can easily tag the card with their current location.

cardcloud review

CardCloud also lets users add notes to the business card, just as you would when writing on the back of a card if you wanted to jog someone’s memory later on.

cardcloud review

Similar Services

Other services for mobile and online contact details exist, including Retaggr, Card.ly, About.me, Bump, and many other ways to create a virtual business card. None of them are quite as easy to use as CardCloud, nor do they have location and event integration.

cardcloud for android

Which online business card service do you use? Why? Or do you prefer to stick to printed cards?


18:01

10 Handy Alternatives If You Are Tired Of The Usual Lorem Ipsum Filler Texts

lorem ipsumI really wasn’t aware that Lorem Ipsum dated back to the 16th century and used by typesetters, It’s not very surprising that the term comes from Latin. It took a colleague’s article – What Is Lorem Ipsum & Where Did It Come From? – to make me aware of the surprising facts behind what has become known as ‘dummy text’.

Web designers probably have a kitty of Lorem Ipsum tools saved close by that’s useful for their web development work. Lorem Ipsum generators come in various forms; some of them allow customizing the dummy text generation with variable font widths, font faces, and other design elements. But there’s just so much you can take of the mock content. After a while your own brain goes to sleep in a dummy mode.

So, if you feel like chucking away the pseudo-Latin mumbo-jumbo and replacing it with some other nonsense text, here are a few options for you to consider.

Fillerati

lorem ipsum

Fillerati is perhaps the coolest and most stylish of the alternative Lorem Ipsum filler texts. Coded with HTML5, it’s also educational to a degree because it pulls text from classical works of literature (Helman Melville, Jack London, Jules Verne’s and Lewis Carroll to name a few). Google Translation APIs are used to convert the English text into multiple languages. You can apply markup tags and use a smooth slider to change the number of paragraphs on display. You can click the center circle to copy the filler text to the clipboard.

Fillerama

lorem ipsum text

Star Wars can have a bit of fun on the side with this filler text generator. Filler text is freely borrowed from TV shows like Dexter, Futurama, The Simpsons, and Star Wars among others. You can set the number of paragraphs, put in a few lists, and format with headers. You can copy the HTML on the left pane and use it to design your web site or blog (see Directory mention).

Adhesion Text

lorem ipsum text

Type in your characters, set a few rules, and the dummy text generator spouts out sentences taking your characters and the language you selected from a dropdown. You can insert characters in English, French, German, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, and Dutch. You can also use Latin, Cyrillic, Greek and even Arabic characters (see Directory mention).

Gangsta Lorem Ipsum

lorem ipsum text

This filler text generator takes a bit of a wild route by generating text in rap style. You might like it if you are a fan of rapper Snoop Dog. You won’t be able to make any sense of it, which pretty much makes it as good as Latin for most of us (see Directory mention).

Fuck Lorem Ipsum

lorem ipsum translation

This alternative to Lorem Ipsum has been definitely created by its haters, if you go by the name and the tag line. This is another of those little apps which takes its filler text from TV comedy, dramas, kids show, and other scripts. You can markup the text with paragraph, break, and hypertext tags (see Directory mention).

Bacon Ipsum

lorem ipsum translation

Generate ‘meaty’ Lorem Ipsum text that has more than a handful of meat (bacon) related words. This filler text generator is definitely not for the vegetarians.

Blind Text Generator

lorem ipsum translation

Here you have a dummy text generator with a variety of filler options, from normal English to Kafka. Advanced options include customizable font styles, letter spacing, text decorations, and alignment options. You can wrap the code around all your HTML designing needs.

Malevole

Set the number of paragraphs and click on generate. This handy and simple dummy text generator helps you do away with traditional Lorem Ipsum text and instead use text from classical English literature.

Multilingual Lorem Ipsum Generator

I wanted to try out Esperanto as a filler text, and I found it here which gives you quite a few multilingual ways of trying out your placeholder text. You can of course go for the traditional Lorem Ipsum text or choose from other languages (including Japanese and Chinese).

Duck Island

lorem ipsum

An alternate Lorem Ipsum generator that gives you filler text inspired from The Matrix? You can try it out here. Then, you have a few more options ranging from classical Latin to Techno Babble. The screenshot shows the output after your select The Matrix option.

Searching for alternatives to Lorem Ipsum generators might seem like much ado about nothing. But as a web designer or anyone who uses filler text day-in and day-out, the sight of the same stuff could start to get on your nerves and eyes. That’s where these interesting and varied options come in.

Which of these stand a chance of being your favorite? Or do you use a text generator that’s not on this list? Let us know.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


16:00

The 10 Most Interesting Facebook Fan Pages

facebook fan pagesEven though Facebook is gradually making progress as far as allowing some flexibility with what people can post on their wall, for the most part Facebook is still very limiting. While this is good, because it prevents Facebook from becoming just another graphical train wreck like MySpace became, it can also make it a little boring at times.

This is especially true when it comes to Facebook fan pages. When it comes to the fan page for a major company, the challenge is to make the Facebook page reflect the professionalism, and more importantly the brand, of the company itself.

Here at MUO, we love Fan Pages – especially our own! We’ve also written a lot about fan pages, like Nancy’s list of the 10 most controversial, and Steve’s article on how to create a welcome tab for your own Facebook fan page.

Browsing through the list of current Facebook fan pages, it becomes apparent pretty fast, which companies have paid for high-quality social networking experts. While the vast majority are just as drab and boring as most individual Facebook walls, there are a few companies that have really put the time and effort into producing awesome Facebook Fan pages.

Interesting Facebook Fan Pages

The following are 10 of my favorite Facebook fan pages. These aren’t particularly my favorite companies, but they are fan pages that have clearly been developed with the fans in mind.

Coca-Cola

The first page I noticed was Coke’s fan page. Coke is the one Facebook fan page I discovered that has to have more features available on the left nav bar than any other fan page on Facebook.
facebook fan pages
Scroll down the page and along the left bar you’ll find things like the “Ahh-Giver” app where you can send a friend a “pick-me-up”, downloads available exclusively to Facebook fans, and all kinds of fun marketing apps and activities.

SpongeBob Squarepants

When my kids were little, they absolutely loved SpongeBob Squarepants. This meant that most of the time when we were all sitting in front of the TV, we were all watching SpongeBob. I have to confess that it didn’t take very long for me to become a fan of the stupidly hilarious sort of humor that you’ll find on the show. If you’re a fan – you can visit the SpongeBob Squarepants Facebook fan page.
facebook community pages
When you become a fan by “liking” the page, you get access to exclusive SpongeBob content, a Ustream page with content, access to the Twitter Tales episodes, and my favorite – a “Spongebob Mood” app where you can post your mood using SpongeBob’s goofy poses.

M&M Fan Page

Do you like Chocolate that doesn’t melt in your hands…well then mosey on over to the M&M’s fan page where you can send your friends a message on Facebook using personalized virtual M&M’s.
facebook community pages
You’ll also find exclusive offers for FB fans, videos of the ads with the M&M animated characters, and different promotions from time to time. If you are a fan of chocolate, you can’t really go wrong by liking this page.

Subway Fan Page

Like I said above, I don’t particularly like fast food, but Subway is really fast food of a whole different flavor (pun intended). My favorite part of the Subway fan page is “The Flavorizer”, where you build your own sandwich creation, and then get it featured right on the official fan page.
facebook community pages

Mountain Dew Green Label

I think one of the coolest Facebook fan areas I’ve ever seen has to be Mountain Dew. The main Facebook page  isn’t really a whole lot different than fan pages of other companies, but you really hit the magic when you click on the “Green Label” link.
facebook public pages
Green Label is where Mountain Dew features music and videos from new, emerging artists. It’s a small community within the Facebook social network where music lovers gather to appreciate cool, new music.

Xbox 360 Gears of War

If you’re into gaming more than music, then you’ll want to head on over to the XBOX 360 fan page. There, you’ll meet other gamers and you can get news on the latest games. Best of all, XBOX 360 offers Facebook fans awesome online games, like the Gears of War 3 FB app.
facebook public pages

Spartacus Fan Page

Or combine games and movies, and head over to the very cool Spartacus Facebook fan page, where you can play Spartacus the online Facebook game.

Don’t forget to visit Take Up Arms to see the trailer, Fan Fare to check out apps, downloads and Spartacus products.

Lovin’ McDonald’s

Now, I’m not exactly a fan of fast food, but you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. The social networking experts over at McDonald’s obviously know their stuff. When you visit the McDonald’s fan page, you can find a sweet deal if you type your zip into the Local app. Or play games at the “Latest” link, or download free burger posters if you’re a major burger fan.
facebook public pages

Tron Takes the Prize

In my opinion, one of the coolest and most well-designed Facebook fan pages is by far the Tron fan page. Aside from the really cool Facebook Tron app, you can also click on “TRONiverse” to see one of the most creative and cool-looking interactive, animated displays of what Facebook fans are saying about Tron on Facebook.

Facebook Resources Page

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fan page for Facebook itself. There, not only will you be able to find the latest Facebook news and videos, but you’ll also discover one of the most valuable Facebook resources – the Facebook Resources page.
facebook fan pages
If you ever have a question about security on Facebook, how to place an ad on Facebook or anything else, this is the first page you should check out. You’ll find everything here.

So, those are my top 10 pics for the most well-designed and useful Facebook fan pages. Do you have any of your own favorites? What products and companies do you often check out on the world’s most popular social network? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credit: fstockfoto


September 29 2011

21:31

Top 10 Lists Of Everything By Everyone

Are you always looking for great top 10 lists to help you decide what to pay attention to? If you got stuck babysitting unexpectedly, would your first instinct be to search for a list of the top 10 best kids movies so you can hire a movie for the evening? Or are you more of a list-maker yourself? Are you the sort of person who creates these lists on the off-chance it might help someone else or prompt a few more list-makers to make their own lists for you to peruse.

Top10 is basically all that and more. List-makers create lists on any topic they like, inspiring other list-makers to submit their top 10 items on the same topic. Lists can be browsed individually or collectively in order to get an overall top 10 on that topic. This means it’s good news for list-makers and list-seekers. Plus, it means you can use Top10 to generate useful lists for yourself or others to use.

Signing Up With Top 10

Joining Top10 can be done in seconds by authenticating with Facebook or Twitter. Or if you prefer, you can sign up with an email address and link the account to Facebook and Twitter later.

Making Top 10 Lists

Starting your own Top 10 list is incredibly easy. There’s a button at the top of any page in Top10. As you type your proposed list name, Top10 will search to see if there are any similarly-named lists you might like to collaborate with. If you pick one of the proposed names, your list will be used to collaborate with other people’s lists to make a group list.

Add items by typing the name and clicking on suggested items as they arise. If your item isn’t there you’ll be able to add it yourself. You’ll also get to add a website and thumbnail for the item.

When you’re out of item ideas for the list, click on “I’m done” and your list will be saved for later. You don’t need to make it to 10 items. Later, you can add more items, move items up and down or remove items as you wish.

You can view “The Top 10” as compiled by all contributors by clicking on the tab.

Browsing Top 10 Lists On Top10

There’s a search function at the top of every page in Top10, allowing you to view any top 10 list that’s been made so far. With all lists, it’s possible to view the compiled top 10 or the individual contributing lists.

Ideas For Using Top10

If you’re looking to do an informal poll to find the top 10 items on a topic, Top10 could be a great way to compile the suggestions easily. Unlike most polling software, users are prompted with previously listed items when they start typing an item. This means you’re less likely to end up with multiple versions of the same answer.

For instance, you might start a list for the top 10 restaurants in your town. To begin with you’d create your own list, then you’d invite your friends to submit their responses. You may also get some interest from other restaurant-lovers in your town, but you’ll undoubtedly end up with a great list of places to eat out soon.

If you have written a book for a specific niche, maybe you could write a list of top 10 books in that niche. Other people may contribute their own lists down the track and have their interest in your book piqued when they view the compiled list.

Other Listing Services

Top10 is by no means the first site to provide easy listing facilities online. Other notable examples include: Listography, plenty of movie listing applications, Twitter lists in Listorious, collaborative to-do lists such as Reddynote, and easy ways to make grocery lists. Despite all the many options, Top10 is just so versatile, easy to use and so much fun!

Tell us what you love about Top10 – How does it compare with other listing services you love? What sorts of lists will you create and why?


18:01

8 Crazy & Insane Quotes I Found On Twitter

This week, I wanted to try something a little different. We’ve often covered a number of weird and strange things on the Internet, like Kaly’s article on crazy Valentine message generators. And yes, sometimes we like to poke fun at people, like Tina’s great article on 15 funny Yahoo answers.

Some of you may know that I’ve been rather active in an alternative community that most people out there may consider rather “odd” – to say the least. There was a hint of this in my article on how to research weird science claims. Like many other “normal” folks that wade into the dark waters of the paranormal, I do like to consider myself rational, somewhat skeptical but also open minded. During the half-decade, the one thing I’ve come to realize is that there are a lot of very insane people in the world. I don’t mean to be facetious, but I’ve noticed there are many people in the world that have chosen to believe in certain things that you and I would consider completely strange, irrational, and downright crazy.

8 Crazy & Insane Twitter Quotes

I went out searching on Twitter for some of the most “out-there” folks that I know of, in order to show you just what can happen to a person that decides to take a walk a little too far down the rabbit hole.

Alfred Webre

The first choice was very easy. For those of you that know about Alfred Webre, then you’ve probably heard about Exopolitics and the fringe community of folks that believe the existence of aliens visiting Earth is a foregone conclusion. They believe we need to start a political outreach program to co-exist with them.

Alfred is one of the primary leaders, and following his Twitter page, you’ll be treated to regular updates of alien cooperation.

A few select quotes from Alfred’s Twitter stream:

“NASA Whistleblower: Alien Moon Cities Exist”

“ET Council: War with grey-Draco reptilian ETs is won, no false flag ET invasion”

“Russian cosmonaut Popovich: ETs warn Cataclysms will unify human consciousness”

Seriously…you can’t make this stuff up.

Project Camelot

Next up is an organization called “Project Camelot”, founded by Kerry Cassidy and Bill Ryan. They teamed up to promote various Ufology and paranormal hoaxes, all under the guise of supporting “whistleblowers”. As you can see from the Project Camelot Twitter stream and website, “whistleblowers” consist of just about anyone that claims they have former top secret clearances.

A few choice morsels from the Camelot Twitter stream:

“CamelotForum.com:: Alien Intervention in US Debt Deal”

“CamelotForum.com:: Extraterrestrial salvation from the Doom?”

Steven Greer

Steven Greer is probably the most most misunderstood man throughout Ufology. There are a lot of people who believe he is simply undertaking an effort to promote the disclosure of what the government knows about UFOs.

In reality, Greer actually believes that there are multiple species of aliens already making contact, and at his website, CSETI.org, he offers you the chance to attend one of his “ambassador” trainings where he’ll teach you how to make contact with aliens for a small “training fee” of only $2,500.

Greer has tweeted:

“Ambassador to the Universe Training/Expedition – March 6 – 12 [...] Space is still available!”

“Suppression attempts are hindering efforts to bring free energy to the world.”

Gary Bekkum

So, beyond the world of aliens and UFOs, you’ll also find some pretty odd folks in the fields of parapsychology and psychic research as well. One guy in particular posts infuriatingly conclusive claims about things for which there is zero evidence. His name is Gary Bekkum, and his shtick is making claims that various psychic predictions have come true.

Bekkum has tweeted:

“New 9/11 Specific Credible Threat, Unconfirmed, Was Foreseen By Psychic Spy”

“9/11 predicted by 1986 psychic spies? Air attack on NYC and Washington, collapse of buildings in future newspapers..”

Um…yeah. So anyway…

Al Gore

Moving on to a guy we all know – the one and only Al Gore. Al Gore issuing crazy tweets? Well, it wasn’t always that way, until he became completely obsessed with global warming caused by humans. Now it’s all you hear about from his stream.

Gore’s Tweets:

“Wall Street Journal gets it wrong on climate again.”

“The Great Lakes are in danger”

“Ice could be melting faster than we thought”

Doesn’t the guy have a day job?

Richard Dolan

Richard Dolan is a self-proclaimed “historian of Ufology”. In reality, he is yet another Ufology author distributing the New Age belief that the world is on the cusp of being greeted by aliens the moment we achieve an elevated state of enlightenment.

Odd Dolan Tweets:

“I created a new video: The UFO Cover-Up in 10 Minutes. Enjoy!”

“About to fly to Las Vegas for the 7th annual Crash Retrieval Conference.”

Jack Sarfatti

Jack Sarfatti. What can I say about this guy? If you’ve heard of quantum physics and cosmology, then it’s possible that you’ve heard of this fringe physicist that dabbles in the realm of UFOs, parapsychology, and other mystical topics. If you’re looking for some pretty out-of-this-world tweets, the Sarfatti stream won’t let you down.

A few select Sarfatti Twitter morsels:

“Freaked out driver tail-gated by UFO”

“New Footage: Bigfoot Sighting in Adirondacks, NY”

Bigfoot, UFOs, and the physics behind alien craft…gotta love it.

Michael Salla

Once again, I’ve decided to save the best (or worst) for last. Michael Salla is also a leader in the Exopolitics movement. The difference with Salla is that he doesn’t even try to hide his outrageous beliefs – he just dishes out the crazy tweets like it’s going out of style.

My favorite crazy Salla quotes:

“Did Comet Elenin disintegrate or reveal alien energy shield?”

“New videos reveal celestials helping humanity with extraterrestrial technology”

“National Geographic promotes alien invasion scenario. Are we being prepared for a false flag alien invasion?”

During your own explorations of Twitter, did you discover any strange and odd beliefs and tweets? Share some of your own examples in the comments section below, as we walk through the dark underworld of Twitter’s alternative communities.


September 27 2011

21:31

How To Set Up A Group Tumblr Blog

group tumblr blogYou’ve no doubt heard about Tumblr before or during its incredible growth over the last year. Maybe you’ve tried using it – maybe not. But take it from the many millions of people who have – Tumblr is fun and generally really easy to get started with.

These are also some of the many reasons why Tumblr might be ideal for your group blogging platform. But some people just don’t realise how easy it is to create a group blog using Tumblr. So we’ll help you to get started with a few simple step-by-step instructions.

When looking for a blogging platform for group blogging, simplicity and style will usually come into the equation somewhat. But Tumblr now offers another great opportunity – a huge potential audience. Using some advanced Tumblr tips to ensure your posts get seen by multiple eyeballs, you’ll usually be able to get readers for your Tumblr blog pretty quickly.

1. Start Your Own Personal Tumblr

Tumblr is set up in such a way that the primary Tumblr blog you run is essentially your personal identity on Tumblr and your username. Each person who you wish to contribute to the group Tumblr blog should first register for their own personal Tumblr, including yourself. Collect all of their email login details so you can invite them to the group blog later.

2. Create The Group Tumblr

While you’re logged in as yourself, create a new Tumblr blog. There are two good reasons for this:

  • You will find it easy to manage your Tumblr blogs if they’re co-ordinated with the same login details.
  • You can’t add group members to a blog which is the primary Tumblr blog for an account.

To actually create the blog, navigate to the “My Blogs” list icon in the navigation links of your Tumblr Dashboard. At the bottom of your list of blogs, you’ll see a link to “Create a New Blog“.

group tumblr blog

As you choose the blog name, you may also choose to password protect the blog. This could be useful for families or other small groups who do not want to share content publicly.

3. Add Members To Your Blog

From the dashboard list of your blogs, choose the blog you wish to use as a group blog. This gets you into an administration page for that blog only.

On the right hand side you’ll see several links to Settings, Posts etc. Click on Members.

roup tumblr account

Each member needs to be invited individually using the same email address they used to create their own Tumblr account.

group tumblr blog

Any user can be promoted to an admin if you wish to give them rights to change the blog design. All regular members of the blog will have permission to post to the blog.

Note that if all members of the Tumblr blog leave, including yourself, the blog will be deleted.

4. Allowing Submissions

Another way of managing posts to a group Tumblr blog is to merely allow submissions of posts. This is perfect if you have built a following of people who are likely to see content online that might suit your Tumblr’s goal. For instance, a recipe Tumblr might be happy to accept submissions of new recipes which can then be approved by the members of the blog. A company blog, on the other hand, is less likely to appreciate input from the public.

There are so many great things you can do with a Tumblr blog. Here’s some of MakeUseOf’s best guides on Tumblr:

How do you use Tumblr? How do you think it rates compared to WordPress?


19:01

10 Unique Live Webcam Feeds To Watch Around The World

webcams live onlineBig Brother’s eyes are everywhere thanks to remote cameras and related intrusive technologies. You can spot them at street corners and hanging from metallic arms on almost every building these days. Webcams are robotic eyes capturing our lives in frames. Thankfully, it’s not a Truman Show just yet.

Remote webcams peeping into your lives may make you go all choleric, but when they point at some fascinating places around the world, they can make you gawk.  Real-time webcam feeds that capture unique events (or non-events) always prick our interest because there’s something in our psyche that makes us want to be voyeurs.

So, here are ten remote webcam feeds from around the world that may make you switch off your TV for a while.

Times Square Cam

webcams live online

EarthCam is a network of real-time remote webcam feeds from around the world. We will be featuring a few more from this site, but for now check out the camera angles on view that capture Times Square. A few of the webcam captures are in HD. Unfortunately, the best one on view wouldn’t run on my browser because of lack of broadband speed. Maybe, inspired by the screen above you can try it out on yours. It should make for great viewing in Christmas Eve.

AuroMAX LIve

free webcams

Put down the Aurora Borealis as a must-see sight in your wish list if you have one. Most of us won’t be able to make the journey to the northern latitudes in this lifetime. So, the live feed from the AuroraMAX Observatory could the best alternative solution. The live feed starts after dusk and it updates every ten seconds. You need to have Apple QuickTime to view the feed in your browser. You can also catch the previous auroras by checking out the saved camera feeds in the archives.

South Pole Webcam

free webcams

One of the remotest of the remote webcams also brings you the spectacular sight of Aurora Australis or Southern Lights. The camera is now disabled because of extreme temperatures on the South Pole, but if it’s anything like the accompanying video, then this is a definite must-see. The webcam feed is part of the United States Antarctic Program. Live images will commence from November onwards.

David’s Ghost Cams

free webcams

For both ghost-spotters and Ghostbusters, this could be a dress rehearsal for the real thing. These are 7 live webcams set up in a 100+ year old Victorian house attempting to capture evidence of a haunting. All this while I thought you couldn’t capture a real ghost on film. Guess I was wrong as there are some exclamations in the comments as watchers report some ‘sightings’. Try to spot your own ghost – you will need oodles of patience – as camera run 24 x 7 and 365 days a year.

Ground Zero

live webcams

We return to EarthCam and New York with this webcam looking over Ground Zero. You can see the construction progress for the towers and catch a few sights like the Tribute in Lights. The camera pans around to capture the Manhattan skyline.

The Panama Canal

live webcams

The remote webcam feed on the Panama Canal is a bit erratic at times as the frame rate is slow, but you can still make out the hustle and bustle at the lock gates (Miraflores & Gatun Locks). It’s actually more fun when a ship enters the canal.

Bonaire Marine Park

live webcams

This is an underwater remote camera which brings you images from the marine park located in the Caribbean. You can select your refresh rate (lowest being 2 seconds) and watch a real-time feed of marine life. This camera is located at a depth of 15 meters on the drop off at the dive site called “Something Special”.

London 2012

You can catch the almost real time update on how London is faring with the preparations for the 2012 Olympics. It’s not a frame by frame feedback, but the constantly updated webcam feed is close enough to real-time. Also, check out the time-lapse video to see the Olympic village is coming up.

Niagara Falls

You can hear the wondrous roar of the falls even before the webcam feed buffers and runs. The remote webcam is located high above Niagara Falls in the Fallsview District and is pointed directly towards the massive Horseshoe Falls on the Ontario, on the Canada side.

Abbey Road

webcams live online

Abbey Road is probably the second most famous British street address after 10 Downing Street. This iconic address will forever be connected to the Beatles. If you are a fan, you will appreciate it because the group recorded most of their songs from here. This still functioning and still famous studio is a permanent tourist fixture. So is the 24 x 7 live webcam feed.

The following remote webcam feeds help me become a virtual tourist for a few minutes. I can ‘drop in’ anytime and satisfy my curiosity. These webcam feeds are definitely not all…as today you have camera everywhere giving us a glimpses of life in every corner of the world. Browse our previous two posts on some cool locations covered by remote webcams –

5 Boring Webcams To Watch If You Have No Life
The Best Free Web Cams To Watch When You’re Bored

You don’t have to watch them when you are bored. They can be fun and interesting just like that. Do you agree? Which is your favorite remote webcam location?

Image Credit: Shutterstock


18:01

Improve Your English & Learn New Words With Vocabulary.com

learn vocabulary wordsWhen communicating online, your vocabulary and the quality of your writing are a key part of the first (and second) impression you make. It’s important to be able to communicate clearly and come across as an intelligent human being, whether you’re just posting a quick tweet, applying for a freelance (or full-time) job, or even using a dating website.

Free website Vocabulary.com says it can help you improve your vocabulary by figuring out which words you don’t know, and then teaching you only those (without spending time on stuff you already know).

learn vocabulary words

The first thing you’ll see on the site is a multiple-choice test aimed to assess your current vocabulary. Here’s what happens once you click one of the answers for a question:

learn vocabulary words online

That’s just the first question. Now let’s see what happens when you pick a wrong answer:

learn vocabulary words online

And let’s get the second one wrong, too:

learn vocabulary words online

And now let’s be totally dumb and get even the third shot wrong:

vocabulary words

Okay, that doesn’t leave many options. Let’s pick the last one remaining:

vocabulary words

You’re a genius!“…..uh, right. False flattery aside, the site now provides you with a complete definition for the correct word, including a nice derivation (word origin). You can see it to the right of the main interface in the screenshot above. It comes from the dictionary integrated into the website, which we’ll get to in a moment. Once you’re done reading, click the “Next Question” button to continue the assessment.

There are also other types of questions:

vocabulary words

As you can see, the question above doesn’t make you complete a sentence, but just pick the correct definition for a word.

Once you finish the first round, the site suggests you log in, either using Facebook or by creating a new account on the site itself:

image

Since I don’t have a Facebook account, I created an account on the site itself.

Some of the answers to the test can be a bit weird, because they use synonyms. Here’s an example for a particularly odd one:

image

While I agree “luxuriant” doesn’t mean “enhanced”, it certainly doesn’t mean “riotous” under any normal definition of the word. Sure, there is a definition that says “growing in extreme abundance“, but that’s a very rare definition of the word. So effectively, the game is asking you to define one rare word with another rare word, and they don’t exactly match in shades of meaning. Fortunately, most of the definitions do make sense.

Since we’re already speaking of definitions, now would be a good time to look at the integrated dictionary. Let’s look up the applicable definition for riotous:

image

Some of the definitions in the dictionary are very short. Personally, I prefer more comprehensive definitions, but these snappy and short definitions might help some people memorize the words better. There’s also an interesting usage meter and examples:

image

So you can see related words from the same family (not synonyms, though – those are shown under each definition), along with their frequency. Note that the meter isn’t perfect: In the screenshot above, “Riotous” appears twice for some reason.

Also, not all definitions are so short. Here’s an absolutely brilliant definition for “toady”, including a memorable word history:

image

I think that’s just fantastic, and many of the difficult words do have such in-depth definitions, which are written in a fun, easy-to-understand style.

Once you continue with the challenge a bit more, you’ll get to check out your progress:

image

There are also achievements you can unlock:

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As you continue answering questions, pretty soon you start getting “review” questions with words you’ve already seen (and gave wrong answers for):

learn vocabulary words

As you can see, each review question is worth only 75 points, as opposed to 100 points for an “assessment” question (containing a word the game hasn’t asked you about yet).

That’s pretty much all there is to it. The site provides you with a lovely opportunity to learn new words, both by looking up words you already know you want to learn (in the dictionary) and by randomly stumbling upon new words in the questions.  The only thing I would improve is the quality of some of the questions – I feel they could sometimes stand a bit more depth. Still, I feel it really manages to make learning into a game.

Image Credit: Shutterstock


16:01

Get Fast Access To Your Favorite Music With Grooveshark Lite

groovesharkGrooveshark is an international music search and streaming service. Founded in 2007 by three University of Florida students, it has come a long way. Today, Grooveshark counts over 35 million registered users worldwide and around 110 million streamed songs per month. Grooveshark Lite was the original name of the online player, which has since been shortened to simply Grooveshark.

Grooveshark grants access to users worldwide. You can search its vast archive and listen to songs without having to register. Signing up is recommended however, if you would like to mark favorites, create playlists, upload songs, or share music with people in your social network.

The Basic Interface

When you first visit Grooveshark, you will see the basic interface pictured in the screenshot below. It contains a search field in the middle and pointers to what you can do around the site, for example become a member or tune into one of the many radio stations.

grooveshark

Search For Music

As mentioned above, you can search and listen to music without being registered. Simply enter your query into the search field and enjoy the music. Per default, all results are shown, whether your search term matches songs, artists, or albums. Results are sorted by relevance. In the left-hand pane all matches, e.g. artist, album, or playlist matches, will be listed for quick access.

grooveshark downloader

You can sort results by song, artist, album, or popularity. Or you can switch to the respective view and see a list of the matching results in that category.

grooveshark downloader

Play Music

When you click the ‘Add to Now Playing‘ button to the left of an item in your results list, that song will be added to your ‘Now Playing‘ queue. You can toggle the queue via the ‘three squares with an arrow underneath’ button in the bottom right.

grooveshark downloader

You can drag and drop songs in the queue to a different position, remove them, or click to play them. The player also allows you to shuffle or loop songs and to cross-fade between them.

Clicking directly on a song title will open a page where you can comment on the song and see fans and related material.

Music Recommendations

If you are interested in finding similar music, try turning on the radio after queuing up a few of your favorite songs. This will launch a music recommendation service similar to Last.FM or Pandora. Alternatively, you can load a station, i.e. a specific genre. With the radio feature turned on you can refine the station playlist by liking or disliking songs in the queue.

grooveshark music

Connect

Since we last covered Grooveshark, the service has integrated social login with Facebook and Google, meaning that if you are a member with either of these, you don’t have to set up a separate account with Grooveshark. Once you are logged in, you can add songs to various sections, for example you can generally collect the songs under My Music, add them to your Favorites, or create playlists.

grooveshark music

Share

There are several ways in which you can share your Grooveshark music. First of all you can share single songs via your social networks, through a widget, or by copying the URL.

grooveshark music

Likewise, you can share your playlists or favorites, and you can create an embeddable widget from the songs presently in your queue.

grooveshark

Conclusion

Grooveshark is a great way to quickly access your favorite music or browse for new songs. A simple social login or registration allows you to save your favorites, create playlists, and share your music with friends. If you would like to see the ads dropped or access advanced features, such as the visualizer, video mode, or power hour mode, you can upgrade your account to Grooveshark Plus or Grooveshark Anywhere for a monthly fee.

Want to make the most of Grooveshark? Also have a look at these articles:

Do you have Grooveshark playlists you are proud of or favorite songs? Please share them with us and post your links below.


01:30

3 Easy-to-Use Online Color-Blindness Simulators

color blindness simulator“Color blindness” is defined as the inability to see certain colors the way most human beings do.

If you are interested to clearly understand how people with different color blindness conditions see colors, check out this simple tool and click through the color vision modes. More about color blindness forms and color contrasts can be found here.

It is impossible to quickly and clearly explain what color blindness feels like and how color blind people may perceive your website, but luckily it is possible to see it with your own eyes.

Here are a few very easy color blindness simulators to visualize color blindness for you.

See Websites as a Color-Blind Person

Colorblind Web Page Filter is an easy to use (yet sometimes slow) web-based tool that lets you browse the web to see it as if you were color blind.

Just give it your URL, choose the “coverage filter” (the filters are explained in much detail here) and click “Fetch and Filter!”.

Once the page is fetched through the filter, you will be able to see how a colorblind perceives the colors on it. You can click through the conditions to generate a new preview for each color blindness type.

Here’s how a user with the “normal” (usual) eyesight sees a page:

color blindness simulator

Here’s how a color-blind person sees the same page (according to the simulator):

color blindness simulator website

If your page meets requirements and is found as color-blind-friendly, you can grab the page filter badge.

Another possible option for color-blindness simulating is Chrometric which is a free Adobe AIR application.

See Images as a Color-Blind Person

Apart from using the color-blindness simulator web browser above, try checking out either of the tools below that allow you to quickly preview any uploaded images using different color-blindness filters. It might be a good idea to use the below tools to:

  • Preview any image you have created (like a logo you are going to brand your business with or an infographic you were thinking of publishing);
  • Create a screenshot of your website home (or any landing) page and run it through the tools (this will make the web page test much quicker than with the web browser).

1. Colour Blindness Simulator: Just upload your image, choose the condition and run the test.

The tool will display both the image versions: for normal and for color-blind condition:

color blindness simulator website

There will also be a lot of details on each condition below the result.

Limitations: You will have to make sure that your image is no larger than 100 KB, is 1000 x 1000 pixels or smaller and comes in jpeg in RGB format.

2. Coblis — Color Blindness Simulator: This one works similarly to the above one. There will be no side-by-side comparison with the initial image though. However this tool gives more freedom allowing you to quickly click through various color-blindness conditions and preview the resulting images:

color blindness simulator

Warning: Judging from the comments to the tool, it seems to be a bit inaccurate in processing some filters but the whole concept is quite clear.

Are there any other similar easy-to-use and easy-to-understand tools to help make your websites and designs more color-blind friendly? Please share them in the comments!

Further reading on making your (or your relatives’) life easier if you suffer various visual disabilities:

Image Credit: John Machan (Fotopedia)


00:30

3 Types Of Reddit Commenters That Drive Me Nuts

reddit commentsBased on some of my past articles, you may already know that I hail from the online community of Reddit (and so do a couple of my fellow writers). However, as with any online community, there are certain types of users that absolutely drive me nuts. But do I actually do anything about it? Not really.

With that in mind, I typically try to be kind, and furthermore, I try to remember this wise adage that a good friend once told me – “Don’t feed the trolls.” Basically, it’s always a good option to take the high road. However, it’s fine to occasionally vent off-site, right?

So, here’s taking a look at three types of Reddit commenters that drive me up the wall.

Irrelevant Commenters

reddit comments

I don’t understand it, but every once in a while, a commenter will pop up out of the blue with something that only halfway relates to the Reddit post. I’m not quite sure, but this is a character that I dub the “Irrelevant Commenter”.

The Irrelevant Commenter shows up in the strangest of places, and sometimes, he’ll even venture away from Reddit onto other sites, leaving his comments that have virtually nothing to do with the link. Strangely enough, when someone responds to his totally irrelevant comment, he seems to disappear without even an explanation of his actions. But no matter where he is, he always leaves a comment that barely has anything to do with the subject that is being discussed.

You may actually link to this article that you are reading right now on Reddit, and you may even earn sweet karma for it! However, if the Irrelevant Commenter shows up, he will leave something like, “I just love MakeUseOf – particularly that American writer J. Lockhart. He looks so good in that tie!”

As you can tell, the comment is somewhat connected to the link. Unfortunately though, it provides zilch when it comes to constructively contributing to the conversation. Despite my distaste for the Irrelevant Commenter, I find him just a little more forgivable than the other two.

Grammar Nazis

mean reddit

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m a writer, and yes, I know quite a bit about grammar, proper spelling, and the various other twists and turns that the English language likes to take. I’m certainly not perfect with every single thing that I put on the page (to my editors, I apologize), but I’d like to think that I have passed the stage of being a novice when it comes to writing.

However, with that in mind, even I don’t have a problem with the occasional grammatical error on a Reddit post. The purpose of the site is to share information and ideas with other people – not be online masterpieces of literature. Despite my fear of the English language’s eventual demise, I can usually let it slide when it comes to Reddit (and yes, even Facebook).

Unfortunately though, for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. The action in this case is my flippant attitude towards grammar on Reddit, and the reaction is the guy that likes to pick through even the most important of posts and point out the minor grammar errors that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand. That being said, Grammar Nazis are simply not my favorite Redditors. We’ve got better things to worry about, my friends.

Repost Hall Monitors

mean reddit

The Internet is full of recycled information, so what ends up on your monitor is typically going to end up on another person’s months from now. Heck, it’s even more likely that whatever is currently on your monitor was on someone else’s before even that. People come and go on Reddit, and it’s a given that users are going to repost stuff that they have just discovered.

There are quite a few folks who tend to complain whenever there’s a repost on Reddit, and for some reason, I don’t have an earthly clue as to why. Part of my curiosity stems from this question – are they on Reddit that much so that they know each and every time a link is reposted? C’mon.

Sure, you can check to see if a link has already been submitted using the site’s search function before posting. However, when the last time that same link was posted months ago, it might be okay to bring it back. Beyond that, even the creators of Reddit ask the users not complain about the reposts through the Reddiquette – the law of the land for all things Reddit.

The irony of the matter is that those who are complaining are the ones that are actually in violation of the website’s usage policies. Some of them complain that the “original posters aren’t getting the karma that they deserve”. I say that the Repost Hall Monitors are probably worrying more about the karma than the original poster.

reddit comments

(By the way, you may have noticed that the Reddiquette also says not to complain about complaints about reposts. Good thing we’re not on Reddit, right?)

Conclusion

These are just a few of my pet peeves about Reddit users, and I’m definitely not trying to get all “holier than thou” on you with the three mentioned. However, some people tend to take the site just a little too seriously. That’s all it is, though – a website.

What are some of your pet peeves about Reddit? What other sites have users that drive you nuts?


September 26 2011

23:30

How To Access SkyDrive From Your iPhone

access skydrive from iphoneWhile the whole line of Windows Live products seems to have received a growing positive response, even more so with the revamp in looks and features, Windows Live services still seem a bit under hyped. One such service, Windows Live SkyDrive, is (according to this author) highly underrated.

SkyDrive offers about 5 times more free storage than other popular online storage services (e.g. Dropbox and Box), and allows for easy photo album and file sharing. Perhaps the best part yet is that you can create and edit documents on the cloud with Office Web Apps, and even upload Office documents to SkyDrive from Windows Explorer via WebDAV.

SkyDrive doesn’t just serve as an online storage and sharing site. If you own a smartphone or Wi-fi enabled device, you could skip transferring files via USB cable and retrieve them from SkyDrive. Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn’t released as of yet, official SkyDrive apps for either Android or iOS. There are, however, unofficial apps, such as the free Sorami for Android (which I’ve tried and works well) and the $4.99 iSMEStorage for iOS [iTunes link].

Here we’ll take a look at the mobile site that serves up Windows Live SkyDrive on Safari and any other browser on the iPhone.

Navigating The Mobile Windows Live Site

On your mobile browser, type live.com in the URL bar and hit Go. The site seems mostly optimized for the Hotmail service, so you’ll be directed to your Hotmail inbox at first. Tap the Menu option on the top right of the screen so you can see links for SkyDrive, among other Windows Live services.
access skydrive from iphone
Once you tap on SkyDrive, you’ll see all of your content, sorted by folders.
skydrive iphone app
If you tap on any folders, you’ll be directed to a thumbnail view of that folder, much like you would expect.
skydrive iphone app
If you long hold on any image you have in a SkyDrive folder, Safari doesn’t seem to be able to capture the image for saving. I had to try in a separate browser (Atomic Lite) to save the image.
skydrive iphone app
For other types of files, including OneNote files, the mobile SkyDrive site compresses the files and provides zip files for download, most likely because there’s no mobile OneNote file viewer. Here’s a screenshot of my “Main” OneNote notebook.
skydrive iphone
For actual Office documents, you can easily view them on the mobile site, as well as download the original files, see thumbnails, navigate to a page in a multi-page document, see the text only, and more.
skydrive iphone
For other types of files, such as PDF, Safari Mobile will display the file, but you can also launch another app to display the same file.
access skydrive from iphone
That’s about all the features you’ll see in the mobile site. In my testing, loading skydrive.live.com gave me blank pages at least half a dozen times so if you end up experiencing the same thing, just try later or go back to live.com.

While I need to admit that it’d be a lot nicer if there were official apps on Android and iOS to access SkyDrive, right now the mobile site for SkyDrive serves its purpose. Still, let’s hope this article gets read and considered by Microsoft developers so we can actually use SkyDrive more seamlessly on our mobile phones with downloadable apps.

Do you wish Microsoft would come out with official apps for SkyDrive? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: eponas-deeway, Asher


16:00

14 Most Popular YouTube Pranks You Can Play On Your Friends

youtube pranksDon’t you just love playing pranks on other people? I sure do, as long as I know that it won’t result in the other person(s) wanting to kill me. Keeping things funny helps build connections with friends (please, be sensible about what’s over the top), maintains a less-serious atmosphere, and simply makes everyone laugh. After all, we all know that laughter is the best medicine out there.

Today I’ve found 5 YouTube videos that contain a total of 14 pranks that you could play on your friends. These videos were among the top videos on search results when using different keywords, so they are indeed popular.

Office Pranks

Everyone loves a good office prank, right? Well here are five of them to help you come up with some ideas. Personally, I like the YouTube prank with the car, and the scary image popping up on the woman’s monitor while she was slacking. It’s a great way to poke some fun at them while reminding them that they need to go back to work. As for the other pranks in this video, I’ll just let you watch them.

The Hand-in-Warm-Water Prank

If you haven’t yet heard of the hand in warm water prank, you’ve definitely been missing out on some YouTube goodness. While the validity of this type of prank is still disputed, that doesn’t stop more videos from appearing. This video isn’t an amateur video but instead somewhat professionally made in terms of YouTube videos, but you should still understand the jist of the joke, aside from the pants side-story. Simply put, it is believed that if you fill a bowl with warm water (not hot, not cold) and place a sleeping person’s hand into the water-filled bowl, that person will then being to urinate themselves. Personally, I doubt that it really works, but it’s fun to watch and you could always try it out yourself and then tell the whole world the truth.

Scary Login Sound

For some reason, I like this one a lot despite it’s simplicity. Maybe because of how unsuspecting the person is, but I still like it. To sum it up, while someone else is logged into their computer but are actually someplace else, you go into their settings and change the login sound to something much more frightening than the default. Then save, turn up the volume wherever you can, and log out. Now just wait until your prey returns to their computer, and wha la!

Random Public Pranks

In this video, 6 total pranks that people do in public are presented. I do have to admit that some of them are quite nasty, and I highly recommend that you don’t do that for simple reasons of hygiene. I actually don’t have much to say about this video except to “watch and learn”, I suppose. Oh, and do pay attention to the person making all the comments, for he does make things a lot funnier than the video itself.

Win $500,000!

youtube pranks

Remember when I said that you can play any of these pranks on your friends? Well, I lied. Unless you have some pretty awesome connections, I highly doubt you’ll be able to pull this one off, but if you can, then congratulations! Even if you can’t, you can still laugh over what did happen in the video, and maybe you can adjust some of the ideas in this prank to make one of your own. I’m sure your creative side will make you proud.

As always, there are much more pranks out there on YouTube that may just not be that popular but still funny to you and your friends. Just keep searching until you find the perfect one. If you need something anyone can do, here’s my favorite that I did during April Fool’s Day many years ago:

If your kitchen sink has one of those extra hoses that you can pull out and more efficiently wash dishes with, then simply put a rubber band around it so that the handle is pressed in. Then, whenever someone comes to use the sink, instead of water coming from the faucet onto the dishes, it’ll be sprayed directly towards the person you’re tricking out. I’m absolutely sure they’ll be happy with a wet shirt or face.

For more ideas, you can also check out our long list of articles, all about pranks!

What’s your favorite YouTube prank? What do you like most about it? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Shutterstock


September 23 2011

19:01

Rentlord: Making Rental Agreements Easy For The Landlord & Tenant [Currently UK Only]

rental agreements contractsIf you’ve ever been a private landlord before, you’ll know that it can be a nightmare of paperwork and advertising. Plus, whenever a tenant leaves you’re stuck dealing with it all over again. Wouldn’t it be great if an online service would make it easier for you? Well, they have.

Rentlord is a new, free online service designed primarily to make the lives of landlords easier. Rentlord makes it easy to instantly list your home as available on several of the biggest property rental websites, then to negotiate the paperwork step by step with your new tenants. Once your details are in the system, advertising your property to millions of people is as simple as flicking a switch. That’s bound to make your tenant search better.

rental agreements contracts

Rentlord For Landlords

Advertising your house for rent is simple using Rentlord. You describe the house in basic terms, showing how many rooms and bathrooms are available and giving an exact postcode so that a Google Maps reference can be shown. When required, the house is then listed in some of the biggest UK property rental sites free of charge. All you need to do is flick a switch to say that it’s on the market.

Check out their introductory video.

rental agreements

Rentlord has worked with lawyers to write contracts that landlords can use safely, with records being stored in the Rentlord system so they can’t be misplaced or damaged. This makes it easy to start the tenancy agreement with your new tenant, but also to manage it down the track. Both parties have access to their contract records if necessary.

rental agreements

Rentlord For Tenants

As well as making it easy to start a tenancy with the landlord, Rentlord makes things extremely easy for tenants from then on. They offer an easy way to pay rent, connect utilities, pay bills and even split bills with other tenants. All the big UK utilities are easy to pay directly from the Rentlord site, and payments can be made for bills or to other tenants using PayPal. Email reminders can be sent to you and other tenants so that you never miss your rent or bill due dates again.

rental agreements

If there’s problems with the house, Rentlord makes it easy to contact your landlord and to hire contractors to fix things.

rental lease agreements

Rentlord For Sharehousing

If you’re renting a house and need to find a new person to share with, you can advertise for your new tenant via Rentlord. The advert will be seen on all the associated rental websites, then you can draw up your tenancy contract using pre-prepared forms on Rentlord. Rentlord keeps track of everything for you and makes everything as easy as possible for you.

rental lease agreements

Limitations Of Rentlord

Rentlord is currently limited to the UK only, but will soon expand to the US. Other users can sign up, but they’ll need to enter a UK postcode before they can make use of any of the services. Properties are only advertised in UK rental websites, so it’s clear as to why landlords would be limited to the UK. This is a little sad though, since the sharehousing facilities could potentially be useful to people worldwide, without needing to be in the UK.

rental lease agreements

Branching out into other countries would also involve Rentlord providing rental advertising and legal advice for these new markets. Each new country will certainly be a big step.

More Housing Services

There really aren’t any competing services to Rentlord. This one-stop portal for landlords and tenants is so far completely unique. There are some other great housing tools for landlords and tenants out there though:

rental agreements contracts

Would you use a service like Rentlord as a landlord or tenant? Why or why not?

Image Credit : Jameson42


September 22 2011

22:31

Create A Free Personal Wiki For Your Notes With TiddlySpace

personal wikiOur story starts with something called TiddlyWiki. In a nutshell, TiddlyWiki is a single-file wiki, which makes heavy use of JavaScript. You can download it to your own computer, Dropbox or USB stick, and use it to maintain notes about anything. That’s lovely, but it’s not exactly a website in the common sense of the word. In sweeps Osmosoft, BT’s open-source research arm. Osmosoft took TiddlyWiki and added server-side functionality and other bells and whistles, ending up with something they call TiddlySpace.

TiddlySpace lets you create, share, link and organize notes online. It’s a personal wiki, but with some interesting twists.

personal wiki

Okay, that’s a bit busy, at least at first glance. Let’s take a closer look at that Getting Started note, and see what can be easily configured:

personal online wiki

Anything you want to change about your mini-site, you can change by editing special topics. A topic is called a “tiddler”, which is kind of like a Wiki page. It’s not called a “page” because the entire Wiki is one single page. For example, let’s change the site’s name by editing the appropriate tiddler:

personal online wiki

Now that I’ve edited and saved the tiddler, the site title is instantly updated:

personal online wiki

To create a new tiddler (note, topic) on your fledgling site, simply click the new tiddler button:

personal online wiki free

Now you can just start writing your content, and save it once you’re done:

personal online wiki free

The end result looks like this:

personal online wiki free

The formatting is done using simple Wiki syntax, so to create a bulleted list, I only needed to start each line with an asterisk. You can also easily create links to other topics, of course (and you shouldn’t take my note too seriously!).

Tiddlers are divided into categories, and you can navigate between them using the menu on the right. There’s a special kind of tiddlers called “Shadows”, which contain configuration information. The SiteTitle tiddler we’ve edited before is a good example for a Shadow tiddler. There are quite a few of these, and some of them don’t even look like wiki pages.

For example, here’s the Advanced Options tiddler:

image

You don’t necessarily have to share every note you make with the world; each note has a menu with several options, one of which being “make private”, which makes it so only you can read that note:

image

Each TiddlyWiki hosted by TiddlySpace is called a “space” (big surprise there, I know). Each space contains quite a few configuration options, but what’s most interesting is that you can enable a wide variety of plugins for added functionality.

Here’s a quick peek into the extensive list of plugins:

image

That’s just the beginning, and there’s definitely a learning curve here. Some plugins are not even documented with a single comment (such as TiddlySpaceCSRF – what is that supposed to mean?), but others are quite clear (and dare I say, cool) such as the ImageMacro plugin, which lets you add SVG images into your “space”.

TiddlySpace In The Wild

This is all a bit theoretical, I admit. Fortunately, TiddlySpace created a featured spaces page, showing a bit of what can be done with this interesting tool. Just two examples: TiddlyPocketBook shows how TiddlySpace can be used to create a slick cheat sheet:

image

The other example is called colmbritton, and shows a funky homepage, with lots of social tools in the sidebar:

personal wiki

Bottom Line

Is TiddlySpace for everyone? Certainly not. But if you’re looking for an innovative, low-overhead way to get your content out there and let your voice be heard, you really should take it for a spin.

Let us know if you use TiddlySpace or another wiki app.  What do you like about it and why?


21:31

Serendip Exploration: A Brand New Music Service Using Twitter & YouTube [Invites]

Do you want to find a new way to listen to music your friends like? Are you sick of signing up for cool new services and finding you have to wait several years before enough of your friends join to make it useful? How much do you think you’d love a service which integrated Twitter with YouTube music? Quite a lot?

So, if you’re on Twitter already and want to give a brand new music service a try, you should check out Serendip. It’s your own personal Twitter soundtrack – and it rocks. The mix of tunes are as eclectic as the people you follow, but it will certainly prove to be interesting. Serendip finds the YouTube music links your friends have shared and plays them in one long playlist for you. It’s really quite ingenious and makes for some great music exploration.

Start Out With Serendip

MakeUseOf has secured an invite code for you all, so you can join the Serendip beta ahead of the queue by using this link.

Once you’ve followed the link, simply authenticate Serendip with your Twitter account. Nothing will be posted to your Twitter account until you say you want it to. You can always change things to auto-post the things you do in your settings.

Listening To Serendip

Serendip will start automatically, finding the relevant music on YouTube and playing you the YouTube clip. You’ll see the tracks in the playlist and you have the use of basic skip, pause and repeat buttons to control the music you hear.

If you love what you hear, you can give props to great DJs and even air tracks yourself from within Serendip by clicking the air button and then tweeting the track details with a link.

If you want to listen to a certain artist or track, you can search for it in the search bar. From here you can also air it for everyone to hear.

Within minutes of listening to Serendip I had found several new artists to get excited about. Serendip is truly an ingenious way of exploring new music.

Following Your Twitter Friends On Serendip

Your friends don’t need to be using Serendip. Serendip gets your playlist rolling by checking the links your friends have shared on Twitter. If your friends use services like Blip.fm or Bandcamp and occasionally tweet what they’re listening to, these links will appear in your Serendip playlist. So, this means there should be plenty of music in the average user’s playlist to begin with.

It also means that all you need to do to improve the Serendip experience for your friends is to occasionally tweet a link to a great song.

You might find that your friends, albeit awesome on Twitter, just don’t have fantastic music taste. Serendip makes it easy for you to mute or completely remove these people on Serendip so that you no longer hear the music they share.

Finding New DJs To Listen To

The best way to find more DJs you might like to listen to is to just get listening. When you hear a song you like, check out the “Also Aired By” section and check out the profile of those DJs. If you like what you see, then add them to your DJ list.

Improvements

Serendip is in Beta so they’re really keen to hear your suggestions for improvements. I’ve already suggested an integrated Last.fm scrobbler. What else can you suggest to them? Use their feedback service for best results.

More Music Services

You’re obviously a reader with a thing for great music, so you’ll probably also appreciate these other services too:

You can never have too many ways to find new great music, but Serendip is a fun way to do so. What else do you use to explore new tunes?


19:01

If This Then That: Connect & Automate Any Two Of Your Web Apps

automate web applicationConnect any two of your favorite web apps in creative ways. A sort of “digital duct tape” according to Linden Tibbets, the app’s creator, If This Then That (ifttt) lets you find new uses for web apps you’re already using by making it easy for you to combine them. The vision is to make the digital world, where programs exist in isolation, more like the physical world, where we combine things to make other things all the time.

“When a 12 year old wants a lightsaber,” says Tibbets, “[he] cuts the handle off an old broom and shoves a bike grip on the other end.” Similarly, with iftt, “you can take two things in the digital world and combine them in ways the original creators never imagined.”

What kinds of combinations are possible? Any RSS feed can be automatically tweeted. New results for searches on Craigslist can be emailed or SMS’d to you. You can be notified by text message when certain people email you. Your tweets can be automatically added to a Google calendar, giving you a timeline of your life. Basically, any action on the web can be assigned a reaction in order to automate a web application. It’s the one ring you need to bind all your isolated web apps.

A Simple Sentence

So how does this all work? Basically you pick two things: a trigger and a resulting action. For example, check out this sequence:

automate web application

This setup automatically tweets any item I share in Google Reader, along with my comments. The trigger is me sharing something on Google Reader, and the action is a tweet linking to the shared article. Once I’ve set this up with ifttt I can expect anything I share to automatically be tweeted.

That’s the idea here – automation. It all starts with a simple sentence:

automate web apps

To get started, click the word “this.” You’ll be asked to choose the program you want to use for the trigger:

automate web apps

There’s a lot to choose from. For example, we could pick the weather app and make the action a prediction for rain tomorrow:

automate web apps

With our trigger selected, we can pick an action. For example, we could set ifttt to call us with the weather update:

web automation

With the “this” and the “that” set, we now have a complete command:

web automation

Every time tomorrow’s forecast calls for rain I’ll get a phone call telling me so.

This is one of thousands of combinations, of course. I could get an SMS, email or Facebook message instead of a phone call; I could even have the news saved to my Dropbox. All of these items are called channels, and are easy to add to the service.

Explore this and you’ll find thousands of possibilities. I can get a phone call when a certain person mentions me on Facebook, or when an item I want on Craigslist is on sale. I can automatically send everything I tweet to Facebook, and vice-versa. I can set up a hotel-style wakeup call.

I could think of many more examples, but you really need to play with this tool yourself to appreciate all it can do.

Enable Channels

Head to the Channels section of the service and you’ll see a collection of apps:

web automation

Color apps are already activated; black and white ones need some attention from you. Click them to activate. You’ll probably need to give ifttt permission to access your various services, which can take a while. Don’t worry, it’s more than worth it.

Browsing Other Recipes

Like this in principle, but aren’t sure what sort of commands you’d create? You can browse other people’s commands. They are called recipes, and can really get your creative juices flowing:

automate web application

Explore the recipes for a while and you’ll get a solid idea of what’s possible with this tool.

Supported Tools

As of September 2011, the following channels are supported:

I sincerely hope more are on the way, particularly Remember The Milk.

Conclusion

Ready to get started? Just head to ifttt.com and register for an account. This is that rare web app that’s so amazingly useful I find myself stunned it didn’t already exist. The ability to make web apps interact with each other directly is just one more reason the operating system just doesn’t matter anymore.

What cool recipes did you come up with? Share them in the comments below, along with your thoughts about ifttt.


00:31

4 Reasons I Won’t Leave When Twitter Adds Adverts

twitter adds adsTwitter is a massive website. In fact, according to Alexa rankings, it is in the top ten websites on the entire Internet. Obviously, that means Twitter gets a lot of eyeballs, and when something gets those kind of views, advertisers go crazy. I mean, what company wouldn’t want to have an advert right in the middle of Twitter for all those millions of daily users to see?

The dark side of this is that a lot of Twitter users might feel exploited when Twitter adds ads. For years they have used a clean, advert-free Twitter, and the thought of adverts being slathered all over the place might turn some users off, and maybe even make them leave the site completely. Obviously, this could cause a catastrophic chain of events because Twitter is built around lots of users interacting with each other. If there are less users on the site, then it will be a lot less fun to use, which will in turn cause more users to leave, and the circle will continue.

I will not be one of those users who leaves and I hope my reasons will convince you all to stay as well.

Twitter Is Just Too Much Fun

Adverts can be a little annoying, but I do not think they are worth giving up on a product that is as fun as Twitter just because someone is trying to sell me a product. When I watch TV someone is trying to sell me a myriad of products during the commercials every 15 minutes, but watching TV is fun, so I put up with adverts because I enjoy whatever show I am watching.

The same can be said for Twitter; I enjoy using Twitter, in spite of some of the negative things I have said about it in the past, and a few adverts in my face are not enough to make me leave. I enjoy being able to quickly communicate with all of my friends in one place. I also am a giant attention whore, so a service like Twitter where I can share whatever I want when I want is tailor-made for me.

Twitter Adds Ads = More Money For Twitter = More Improvements

A website that generates the amount of traffic that Twitter does can charge an astronomical amount of money for advert space on their site, and with this money Twitter can re-invest and bring further improvements to the service.

twitter adds ads

Twitter has come a long way since it started. They have added features like their own photo sharing service, galleries on users pages, lists and trending topics. Honestly, the list of features that Twitter has added since the beginning is massive. All of these major additions were done with Twitter having almost no income other than investors, so just imagine the kind of improvements we could see if Twitter was supported with a steady income from advert revenue.

Twitter Basically Has Adverts Already

Twitter is such a great tool for self promotion that they basically have adverts all over the site already. Of course, these are not adverts from Twitter themselves but from the users on Twitter. So many people use Twitter to promote their blog, website or product that it sometimes seems like a giant advert fest.

twitter adding ads

Of course, you can choose if you want to follow people who use Twitter for self promotion or not, but I think almost everyone on Twitter follows at least one account that is a persistent self promoter. I think it only stands to reason that Twitter should profit from people who want to direct their promotion in a more directed and meaningful way.

Adverts Are Not Hard To Ignore

Depending on the type of adverts Twitter decides to add there are plenty of easy ways to ignore them. If the adverts are on the Twitter site then the super simple solution is to use an ad-blocker. I refuse to use an ad-blocker, but if the adverts are that annoying, you can choose to block them.

twitter adds ads

Now the issue will come if Twitter decides to plug adverts in your timeline as if they were a tweet. I don’t think ad blockers would be able to handle this. So the question is this – is it really that hard to just ignore an advert when it comes across the screen? I don’t think so. As I said before, I refuse to use an ad-blocker, but I also never read or click on the adverts I do come across. This is because they are easy to ignore, and Twitter will be no different. Your mind will look for the content it wants to see and block out the rest.

Conclusion

In a perfect world nothing would have adverts and everything would be free. However, we live in the real world. The fact is, you either have to pay for things, or you have to be advertised to. We have been spoiled by a free advert-less Twitter all along, but I think we all need to realize that can’t last forever, and we have to think of all the good things Twitter offers and will continue to offer long after a few adverts come on the site.

Let us know your opinion in the comments below.  Will you stop using Twitter if they decide to introduce adverts?  Or do you not care about it one bit?  In what form do you think these adverts would take?


September 21 2011

17:01

Supplement Your Online Bookmarking Sites With Pistashio & Pleeq

online bookmarking sitesWith so much content coming through the Internet, there can hardly ever be enough tools and ways to bookmark and save bits and pieces of online information . While there already exists a few excellent online solutions for bookmarking, including Delicious, SpringPad, and Diigo, two newer sites, Pistashio and Pleeq offer a few unique approaches, although neither is fully featured enough for heavy users of bookmarking sites. But let’s see how they could be used to supplement your existing bookmarking sites.

Image Bookmarking

Pleeq does one simple thing – it allows you to capture and save images you find on the Internet. It’s similar to photo sharing sites, like Flickr, but it’s only for images you want to save from websites you visit.

When you come across an image you want, you click the Pleeq bookmarklet – available for all major browsers – and from there Pleeq will automatically select (using a yellow frame) the image on the page. But here’s where it gets a little tricky. Pleeq selects only the main images on the site. It won’t allow you to select ad images or even thumbnail images–at least that’s my experience when I tried it.

online bookmarking sites

Pleeq will also not allow you to freely put frames around any part of a webpage you want. Also if there are several main images on a page, it will select them all.

To add a selected image to your account, you simply click on it. From there you will be taken to your account where you can enter tags for the image.

online bookmarking sites review

Tags are the only way you can categorize and manage images on your account. All your images appear on your photo stream, with your tags listed under “Your Trends” in the left column of the page. As you might expect, you can explore, view, and “Pleeq” (add) images from other Pleeq users to your own image stream, as well as share photos on Twitter and Facebook.

online bookmarking sites review

There’s not much else to Pleeq. It might be most useful to graphic and interior designers, photographers, or anyone who just wants to quickly save found images to an online account.

Pistashio

Pistashio is a web and mobile application that is similar to SpringPad. When you open an account, you can use the Pistashio browser bookmarklet to “stash” bookmarks to your account. What Pistashio does a little differently though is provide you with four categories (Eat and Drink, Watch, Read, Listen, See & Do) to manage content.

online bookmarking sites review

So of course if you come across a video you want to watch later, you would stash it under “Watch.” Your selected content (URL) gets added to your account, with the option for you to “View This Item” on your Pistashio page.

bookmarking sites

The “Add Another” button that is part of the pop-up bookmarklet is not for adding another webpage. It’s for adding the current page to another Pistashio category.

Processing and adding web content to your account is simple enough, but the drawback is that you can’t customize the folders for the type of content you want to save. The developers of Pistashio have decided that for you.

bookmarking sites

You also can’t tag items you add to your account, which means the five categories are the only way to manage your “stuff.” This might be okay at first, but when your account starts overflowing with links and titles, you might have a hard time locating specific items.

online bookmarking sites

Pistashio does give you a few other options that might be helpful, including the ability to star items as your “favorite,” as well as mark an item as “Completed.” This means Pistashio can be used as a sort of task manager for things you need to get done on the net. The web application also includes a feature for reminders, as well sharing items on your social networks.

Both Pistashio and Pleeq could use more features, and no doubt others will be added if the sites catch on. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful for either Internet users who don’t already use a bookmark web application or service, or could use them to supplement their existing solutions.

Let us know what you think of them or if a better solution exists.

Image Source: Shutterstock


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