Category Archives: Websites and Web Apps

Microsoft Makes a Movie

If you’re into techy stuff, you’ve probably heard about the new Microsoft Office 2010. In that case, I’m not talking to you as much as I am to the layman who clicked here searching for how to use microsoft word (sorry, SEO humor). Microsoft Office 2010 will be coming out in Q1 of 2010 and will feature some things that, sadly enough, actually have me interested. One of the coolest ones is the free online versions of Office 2010. The set of programs (Word, Powerpoint, and others) makes it pretty competitive with other free web-based applications like 280 Slides.

But that’s not what this post is about. Instead, I’m focusing on the marketing campaign for the software. The team at Traffik (the ad agency for this campaign, according to Coloribus) chose to treat the product not as a product, but as a movie. The commercial is instead a trailer, and familiar items like Clippy (IMAGE) become characters. Without including any spoilers (see what I did there?), the video and other links are below. Of course, this is a fake trailer. There are no plans to release a Microsoft Office 2010 movie. However, real or not, the concept is still pretty interesting to see, especially when they get to the font jokes and puns.

Microsoft Office 2010: The Movie ad on YouTube

Official Site, including the video and “behind-the-scenes” footage (Requires Microsoft Silverlight. Otherwise, view the mobile version)

Coloribus Info

Advertisements

280 Slides: Free slideshow production and sharing

Maybe this is more common amongst us students than in “the adult world”, where Microsoft Office is the standard, but I’ve noticed that a lot of my classmates at high school don’t own the programs they need to have in order to do certain projects as effectively as possible. And that’s odd, as my school is part of a pretty high-end suburb. While the majority of us have our own computers, not many have the office suites that teachers expect. Some kids have turned in 12-page papers they typed on Notepad and printed in the school library. A classmate of mine had a 15-page report marked late because even though he did it, he tried to print it in school. The problem was that he put it together and saved in the Microsoft Works format, but our school uses Office. The file was completely unreadable. This same problem has applied itself to all kinds of digital assignments. Videos, art projects, and slideshows have all been plagued by the issue of file compatibility. The tool  I’ll be talking about tries to fix that problem for slideshows by putting everything in the cloud.

Still in beta, 280 Slides (280slides.com) is essentially a stripped-down, simple version of PowerPoint. While that may sound negative, it’s actually one of the site’s greatest features. It means that you don’t have to navigate through complex drop-down menus to insert an element. Using the app is incredibly simple. The makers essentially took a look at the features included in PowerPoint and Keynote, analyzed them, and decided to scrap the ones you don’t use in order to make a program your grandmother can use. You can add all sorts of stuff in less than 3 clicks.

I’ve made a sample slideshow I created in a few minutes for this post. It goes over a few of the biggest features and benefits, sometime through examples. Check it out here. Keep in mind that I made this slideshow in a few minutes about a month ago, so I may have missed some features. In fact, a few may have changed since that time. Regardless, I hope it gives you a decent look at what can be done with this easy-to-use program.

—–

BONUS: Though I’ve mentioned some of these before, the services here are all based on the same idea of being able to do complex work online and offline with free tools.

Aviary is more or less an online version of the Adobe Creative Suite line of products, including Photoshop and Illustrator.

Evernote, which I talked about in the previous post (the link is 2 paragraphs up), allows you to create text documents, upload pictures, and so on.

OpenOffice.org is an open-source (think Wikipedia applied to software), downloadable office suite with products similar to the ones you’ll find in Microsoft Office. All of the programs work very well and can be saved in a format that is easily read by Microsoft’s programs

If you’re feeling in a stick-it-to-the-man mood and want to find more free programs that let you do things you’d usually pay hundreds for, check out Kompozer, Jahshaka, Blender, The GIMP, InkScape, Renoise, and Audacity. They’re all for website, video, image, and audio production and editing, and they all work pretty well. There are paid versions of a few of them, and a few are open-source, too.

As always, if you have any feedback or suggestions, let me know in the comments.

The Hoekstra Meme

A Quick Note: I’m experimenting with switching to su.pr for URL shortening and tracking. I’ve been a fan of Stumbleupon for a while, and using this seems like an interesting option. Just as before with tr.im, don’t worry. I take this seriously, and I will not knowingly link to a site that may harm your computer or is not what I have stated it to be.

Sorry for the lack of posts. I was away from my computer for the first few days of the “hiatus,” but I ended up getting lazy for a few weeks. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but it doesn’t look like too many people noticed the break, as my view count is still relatively healthy. Either way, I hope there haven’t been any problems because of this, and I apologize if there have been.

Anyway, this is an interesting idea that I’m sharing today. Some of you may know of Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra. He’s a Republican member of the US House of Representative. Politics aside, here’s the funny bit. Hoekstra decided to make a Twitter account so he could “stay connected with his constituents” or something like that. Basically, he shares the same stuff everybody else shares, but he keeps it politically correct. Except for this. In the middle of last month (June), Hoekstra posted the following to his account:

Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House.
8:56 AM Jun 17th from TwitterBerry

The exaggerated comparison was hilarious if you think about it. Plenty of people apparently thought it was, and at least one of them made hoekstraisameme.com. It’s a bit similar to Failblog.org or FML in that there is a relatively concrete definition of the meme–taking an everyday occurrence and complain, inflating it by comparing it to something ridiculously different, but with one thing in common. In case that didn’t make sense, here’s an example. I’ve been away from my blog for a while. Now I know how Kuhlmeier must have felt. (It’s a freedom of the press reference. Of course, the ones on the official site are generally much more entertaining than this one.) That being said, traffic on the site seems to be a bit slow. Hopefully it will pick up, as this is a great concept. Again, to help the makers out, check it out at hoekstraisameme.com.

BONUS: As Hoekstra’s whole fiasco started with twitter, I thought I’d share this video. Whether you use Twitter or not, I’m guessing you know enough about it to laugh at this video. Dan Gurewitch from College Humor made a video called “Real Life Twitter.” The concept is simple enough that most people have wondered about it, but the execution is great in this video. He takes to the streets of New York, yelling things that you would normally just tweet. The majority of his “tweets” are pretty good, but a few stand out. Watch it here, and follow him for real at twitter.com/dangurewitch

List of Blogs 6/18/2009: Author Blogs

Because a major function of this blog is to share content, I’ve decided to make this list of blogs that I’ve found useful, entertaining, or otherwise interesting. If this takes off, I’ll make more in the future. Today, though, my theme is a list of blogs by authors. In addition to videos of their presentations at the TED conference, I’ve included links to their most recent posts. You can easily see the rest of their posts by clicking around once you’re there.

The Four-Hour Blog/The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss (author of The Four-Hour Workweek) fans will like this. This is his blog. Stuffed with how-to guides, “life hacks,” and more, I’ve never been disappointed in the year or so that I’ve been reading it.

Seth’s Blog
This is the blog of business author (All Marketers Are Liars, The Dip, and so on) and marketing guru Seth Godin. He’s a great writer and and he updates daily with fortune cookie-style Godin-isms. Cool fact: he checks almost all of his emails; I remember asking him a business question and getting an awesome four-paragraph response.

Freakonomics: The Hidden Side of Everything
Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner are the two authors of the book Freakonomics, a title which (ironically enough) may have led me to pick this blog’s name (I have no clue, but it could have played a role). I’ve been reading for a few months, and the topics they pick tend to be fascinating. Posts are generally about psychology, economics, or a combination of the two.

BONUS: All of these authors (except Stephen Dubner) have spoken at TED (Techonology, Entertainment, and Design), a conference of some of the world’s most influential people. Past speakers include Bill Gates, J. J. Abrams, and Bill Clinton. Here are the links to their videos. Unfortunately, I can’t embed video, so this is all I can do without my own hosting. Sorry.

Tim Ferriss (Some language) on beating fear

Seth Godin on standing out

Steven Levitt (language) on crack’s economics

Are You a Racist?

To find out, check out the Implicit Association Test (IAT), made by Harvard. While you obviously shouldn’t let the results guide how you behave, they are found in a very interesting way. The objective is to discover how easy it is for you to subconsciously associate different people, races, and other categorizations with certain positive and negative qualities. Instead of asking you questions that could lead to a sort of Bradley effect, it shows you two pictures, one of one a face belonging to a person of race and one belonging to another. In other versions, it will test your preference of one famous person over another, one time period over another, etc. For example, I guess I view Bill Clinton as moderately more honest than George Bush and have no automatic preference for 1950 over 2050 or vice-versa. There is also a test for Obama vs. McCain preference.

To try the test out for yourself, go to implicit.harvard.edu. To take another test of your choice, either click “Demonstration,” then “Go to the Demonstration Tasks,” or click the link I’ve made above.

BONUS: If answer-the-questions-in-plain-English questionnaires are more your thing, check out Blogthings.com. They have a plethora of quizzes, all of which can be shared with friends via Facebook or copy-pasting of HTML.

Hunch.com

I’ll start with a condensed description of the website I’ll be talking about in this post. Hunch is a sort of high-tech 8-ball, except it should be more accurate than “Yes,” No,” Maybe,” and so on. Instead, it’ll give specific answers to your specific questions, assuming somebody has already made an answer.

If that explanation wasn’t enough, the rest of the post should help. The basic premise of Hunch.com is a user-built automatic version of Yahoo! Answers. You ask it a question, it asks you a few questions, you answer them  to help it determine the answer, and you’re done.

The best way to illustrate that short of having you try it yourself is to share my experience with it. I recently bought a pair of earbud headphones after the ones I had started malfunctioning. I was looking for something durable with reasonable sound quality and wanted a middle-of-the-road price. I found a question like that, answered accordingly, and ended up buying a pair of V-Moda Vibe earbuds. No word yet on whether they’re definitely great or terrible, but I haven’t had any problems with them in the week I’ve had them for.

Another example is more relevant to you. As I wrote this post, I was looking at the front page of Hunch.com to make sure I had all the information I needed. I saw a question along the lines of “What URL Shortener Should I Use?” and clicked it, as I’d been looking at Su.Pr (Stumbleupon’s new data gatherer). I “told” Hunch I wanted to be able to find statistics, didn’t care much about this, cared about that, and less than a minute later, I had my answer. Tr.im is my current URL shortening service. Hopefully it’ll work as well as I’ve been informed.

In some ways, this is a lot like Wolfram|Alpha. You ask a question, then it finds you the answer without all of the extra information. The difference here is that while Wolfram|Alpha mostly deals with pure data, the human input Hunch.com has allows you to ask much more abstract questions and get all sorts of (good) answers. You can think of it as Wolfram|Alpha meets Wikipedia or eHow in some ways.

Again, the URL is Hunch.com. I’ve linked it to the Tr.im version, but you’ll end up going to the same place.

Heads in Freezers

I remember seeing this when using StumbleUpon a couple of weeks ago. I saw some FAIL picture, a site I’ve already been to, and then this. It is a new, pretty bizarre meme involving web users taking and uploading pictures of somebody sticking his or her head in a freezer. The pictures are uploaded to any site that supports tagging. It’s important that the image be tagged because to be part of the “movement”, the picture must be tagged with 241543903. I’m pretty sure that the number means nothing and has probably never been used before, but those familiar with the idea get it.  The main site, and ground zero for the concept, is 241543903.com. Check it out by clicking the URL.

This is an image from another site dedicated to this meme.

This is an image from another site dedicated to this meme.