Monday, January 05, 2009

Open platforms

Like many of the people who are more likely to be taking this text in on a screen rather than a page, I find that so much of my reading is done online these days. No complaints, obviously, it's my choice. The downside however, is that I hardly ever seem to get through a good book any more.

Before I got hooked on the Net, I was a voracious reader and even spent four years working in a couple of bookshops - heaven for a bibliophile. Once I got my first broadband connection in Japan, it was like a behavioural quantum shift. Books were still suitable for a while on long or packed train journeys into the heart of Tokyo, but even then they got superseded by cooler gadgets (a first iPod, a PDA, various Japanese mobiles).

Although it has taken me something like six months to finish it, I have recently completed 'Wikinomics', by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. Yes, yes, it was a book about the Net, but give me a break here, it was an actual book again! It was first published in the US in 2006, making the book two years old - an eon in Net terms. Nevertheless, when I skimmed over the reviews of the UK paperback edition earlier on this year, it caught my eye. Although I assumed that it wouldn't really tell me a great deal that I didn't already know about this 'brave new world' I spend so much time in, I might have a chance to pick up some extra titbits.

It turned out to be not only a fascinating read but a really useful guiding hand through this terrain I wander through daily. The book explains 'how mass collaboration changes everything' and that the internet (both in use and in potential) challenges existing business models in every single industry, from gold mining and motorcycle manufacturing to the culture sectors and genetic science. There is a slew of new vocabulary within and a vast array of pointers for hundreds of other potential discoveries.

This post, however, is not meant as a book review. It's more intended to share some of the wonders I've come across recently that wouldn't have happened without the 'wiki world'.

I shared one such discovery in the last post, the mashup video I created with an old Zamora song and some clips from the BFI archive. There's a few more treats I've discovered recently that I've had to either bookmark or download. I know that I'll come back to them eventually, when ready, but delving in now would require far more time on my hands than I actually have.

Having traded PhotoShop a year or two ago for the GIMP, an open source program that does pretty much the same thing, I occasionally wondered if there was something similar out there that functions as Illustrator does. Lo and behold, I found one. Inkscape is a free drawing and graphics package that allows me to have yet another piece of software sitting on my hard drive waiting for the time I eventually get round to figuring out how to make good use of it! One day, I will, but for the meantime, I merely post about it here to alert others to it.

Along similar lines, I also stumbled across Google's SketchUp program. It's a marvellous piece of software (again free, as it comes from Google) that enables users to create 3D models of just about anything their imagination allows them to come up with. I've dabbled with it a little already and it's certainly very simple to use. I haven't quite figured out how to successfully create animations in it yet, but when I do, that's another tool to add to the video maker's digital kitbag I'm gradually building up.

Finally, I've also found Mogulus, a company that allows you to easily create your own online linear TV channel. That's a whole other world that will take a very large amount of in-tray clearing to be able to get round to being able to make use of. Stay tuned for long enough though and you might find me launching my own station!

Before I close this post, I'll just mention a couple of other additions to this blog that I'd like to draw a reader's attention to. Now admittedly I'm not the most regular blogger. It can sometimes take weeks or even a month in between posts. Inspired by my wife, who seems to manage to maintain two daily blogs (although they are both in Japanese so I can't really read them), I intend to try and keep this up a little more often than I have been doing.

Over the past few months, I've been tweaking and adding to the additional features here. It's far from over and there is much to overhaul, but some of the groundwork has already been laid. I have an RSS feed at the top now, so visitors can subscribe more easily. There is an option to 'follow' this blog too, which so far has only one follower (thanks, idleformat!). I've also added a ClusterMap, meaning that I can see where my readers come from. In the last day, I've had my first visits from Brazil and Nigeria, which I'm delighted to see!

The only thing is, it's always nice to get a little more feedback on what's here. So, if you like what you find here, please feel free to subscribe to it, follow it or even drop me a comment on one of the posts.

Here's to building a community around this little hub. Happy New Year!


idleformat said...

Hah! And there I was thinking I was the only ex-bookseller now unable to read a book! Relieved to hear I'm not the only one - there seem to be far too many competing distractions these days. I just finished reading Kem Nunn's excellent surf-crime Dogs of Winter having started it in August. To be honest I dip into plenty of non-fiction - books on food, photography etc. - but novel-reading has all but ceased so I've set myself a target of reading ten novels this year. I find it easier to go to bed a bit earlier than usual & read for a bit. Doing it during the day seems impossible nowadays...

Thanks for the software links too - I've known about GIMP for a while (tho not used it) but knowing there's an Illustrator alternative out there is extremely useful.

Finally, now that you've finished your book there might be some suggestions for what comes next here:

Oh, & Happy New Year mate!

Globalism said...

You're not the only one mate - but it does help to have these platforms to bounce off and realise that we're not alone! I see Rowan's finally left the trade, so somebody else who might just have time to read a few more books again.

Good luck with Inkscape (should you get round to using it) and a happy new year to you too.