Smashing Magazine have put together a splendid and pretty much definitive guide to how Google’s Page Rank works. It is full of links to more information. Essential reading.
Using social media is exciting but what about learning how to program your very own web applications?
How about those 10 year olds who read about using IM (instant messaging) and rejecting email as bring for ‘oldies’? Could it be possible for those same 10 year olds to be writing their very own instant messaging application?
A while ago I sent around the Try Ruby! interactive tutorial to my team to introduce them to the basics of Ruby. Most of us had grown up around Commodore 64s and had learnt the very basics (using BASIC and perhaps machine code a little later) when we were youngsters and the Ruby tutorial had a lot of that kind of playful unbreakable (but hackable) vibe to it.
Now there is a lovely little downloadable package called Hackety Hack put together by a sensible person with a little time on their hands, which takes this idea further and is a combined programming environment and web browser.
The seven part introductory tutorial nails the very things that youngsters want to learn to do, and do quickly – automating the downloading of MP3s and YouTube videos, building a blog, even your own instant messaging/chat tool – all quickly and logically.
The lovely thing about this is that whilst building these applications – which actually do work out in the ‘real’ world – you are also learning the basics of Ruby.
Now to start using this in classes in one of our media labs . . .
reCaptcha is a nifty project that uses the now familiar ‘Captcha’ web form spam prevention technique to help fix OCR problems in global digitisation projects.
Currently this great example of socially responsible crowdsourcing is helping fix digitisation errors and inconsistencies in books scanned for the Internet Archive – books that will be reproduced in the developing world through projects like the Million Book Project.
If you are considering (or already use) a Captcha tool on your website or blog you might consider swapping over to reCaptcha so that your users, when submitting comments, aren’t just keeping your site free of spam but they are also helping fix digitisation for others.
There are downloadable plugins for WordPress, mediaWiki, PHPbb, as well as a general PHP class, and a range of APIs to choose from for easy implementation in projects.
Here’s the project blurb –
About 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.
To archive human knowledge and to make information more accessible to the world, multiple projects are currently digitizing physical books that were written before the computer age. The book pages are being photographically scanned, and then, to make them searchable, transformed into text using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR). The transformation into text is useful because scanning a book produces images, which are difficult to store on small devices, expensive to download, and cannot be searched. The problem is that OCR is not perfect.
reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.
But if a computer can’t read such a CAPTCHA, how does the system know the correct answer to the puzzle? Here’s how: Each new word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is given to a user in conjunction with another word for which the answer is already known. The user is then asked to read both words. If they solve the one for which the answer is known, the system assumes their answer is correct for the new one. The system then gives the new image to a number of other people to determine, with higher confidence, whether the original answer was correct.
Smashing Magazine’s 30 Scripts For Galleries, Slideshows and Lightboxes is, like most of their ’round ups’ an impressive selection of image display scripts.
If you’ve been trawling the net yourself trying to find the right set of gallery scripts for a project then drop by Smashing.
I’d highly recommend subscribing to their RSS feed as Smashing Magazine has become a bit of a clearinghouse for everything web design and web developmment related – regularly rounding up the ‘best of’ WordPress templates, plugins, CSS tutorials, AJAX niceties and more.
From the abstract –
This research explores the bridging of technological resources with user-centered design for the purpose of making online cultural learning more accessible and usable by diverse audiences. Two surveys were designed to reveal the perceived and real barriers inherent in accessible multimedia design within the museum community. Technical museum staff and external multimedia developers were surveyed to determine the extent of institutional policies for multimedia accessibility, familiarity with access standards and legislation, and how responsibility for accessibility is negotiated between the museum and developers. Three case studies provide specific examples of how these barriers to accessibility are being addressed by museums and the developers who create their multimedia applications.
Over at the site promoting the Powerhouse Museum’s digital media learning labs (SoundHouse VectorLab) we’ve started a weekly ‘tip of the week’ series written by the Vector Lab boss Mike Jones.
The ‘tip of the week‘ series covers everything from simple Photoshop tasks to how-to do tricky video editing tricks with Premiere and Vegas.
And, of course, we’re using WordPress for their microsite.
Feel free to leave any specific technical questions you’;d like answered in forthcoming tips of the week in the comments either here or on the SoundHouse VectorLab site.
The Tagometer is a simple widget to enable visitors to your site to ‘del.icio.us it’ as well as showing the number of people who have tagged your site and the most popular tags for it. As many commentators have said, this is long overdue and perhaps shows a renewed effort on Yahoo’s behalf to put some more work into del.icio.us.