Friday, May 30, 2008

A fellow traveller's guide....

The weather is finally turning warmer and my thoughts, at least, are starting to turn to that all important Canadian institution -- summer vacation!!! The possibilities are endless, festivals abound, the mountains beckon, undiscovered country awaits!! How do you decide? Where will you go? Who will help you discover that undiscovered country? We turn to guide books, websites, friends and family to find the next best place that will fit our family perfectly.

There are problems with this method. Family is great but I doubt the kids will enjoy the Kimberley World Accordian Festival as much as Great-Aunt Phyllis does (or maybe they will -- from experience it is kind of a hoot!). The Enchanted Forest website makes it seem worth the stop but how can you tell if it is just another tourist trap (trust me it's fabulous!)? Which guide do you choose -- are you a Frommer's, Lonely Planet, or Rough guide kind of person? Each is written with a specific traveler in mind. Wouldn't it be great if you could connect with a family just like yours who share your same interests and ideas of what a vacation should be and share your experience, great finds and must see spots?

Now thanks to Social Bookmarking sites such as Diigo and we can come close to creating that experience, and for a lot more than just vacations. Take a look at what Social Bookmarking can do for you :

Diigo takes social bookmarking past just sharing tags and bookmarks. It allows you to highlight passages in a website just as you would in a book and add a sticky note with your thoughts about that passage. When you return to the website days or weeks later it will remind you what you found so interesting. Secondly you can add comments (public or private) to any web page and also read the public comments other's have made. So if you have a Diigo account you will see that I have made a comment regarding the Enchanted Forest when you are on their website. A personal recommendation is worth more than a thousand tour books!

Really great travelers often don't carry guidebooks. They rely on the experiences of those who they meet along the way to guide them and enjoy the thrill of stumbling upon something undiscovered that they in turn can share. Really great Web 2.0 travelers are no different. They move beyond what the "guidebooks" tell them are great sites and rely on their fellow travelers to point them to places that are relevant, peer-reviewed, fantastic resources. So fellow travelers let me know -- where are we off to next?

Friday, May 9, 2008

And now we pause for a little fun..

Wow -- I had no idea it had been so long since I last posted anything to my Blog. Ooops. Anyway, I promised long ago that somewhere along the line we would have some fun. So far it's been like being on vacation in Germany during Oktoberfest and only seeing churches and museums. Well pull out your lederhosen and get ready to party!! Disclaimer -- I do have 3 kids 7 and under so "party" is a relative term.

What does a parent love more than looking at pictures of their kids? Looking at pictures of their kids set to sappy music!! Granted this is kind of a mom thing but as Mother's Day is upon us I thought I would lead with this amazing site. Animoto is quite possibly the easiest way to put together a slideshow I have ever seen. Just drop in the pictures, choose a music track (from their library or your own collection) and voila they email you as soon as they have put it together. If it's not quite right you can send it back for remixing. 30 sec trailers are free but full length shows are $3 each or $30 for a year's unlimited use. Check out this example....

This next little gem will somewhat give away my age as it reveals my nostalgia for "mixed tapes". You remember the painstaking process of FF and RW to the perfect spot in the tape -- trying to sync the record and play functions (unless you had a dubbing option on your stereo--now that was technology!!). Well you can relive some of those days on Mixwit. You can choose your play list, customize your "tape" and even post it on your Facebook profile or ..........Blog!!

And then there is YouTube, I know it seems like an odd thing to add for parents -- I have to say I resisted the YouTube pull as long as possible but once I started digging it is great for some fun. Some is complete rubbish, some is mediocre and some really worthwhile -- kind of like real TV right? Looking for an episode of a long-lost TV show that was a favourite -- you might find it here. Like I did for our kindergarten teacher who loves using the "Letter People" to introduce kids to letters but never knew there was an old TV show to augment the program -- cheesy but effective....

So we now have pictures, music, a little video -- what else could a party need? Oh yeah -- people!! Using all these Web 2.0 tools by yourself is only half the fun, you now have to invite people to your party!! You can achieve this by emailing your creations and finds out by email but now the preferred way is through a social network. The most well known social network right now has to be Facebook but there were many that came before (such as myspace and secondlife) and there is sure to be many to follow. This is the spot on Web 2.0 to meet up with friends -- old and new -- to share information, post pics of the kids, kick around a joke or two, arrange real life parties and so much more.

Well these few spots are really the tip of the iceberg for what Web 2.0 has available for you to mix, remix and share all types of media. Have fun playing with all the applications and when Uncle Joe and Aunt Martha thank you for the amazing slideshow you put together for their 50th wedding anniversary I hope you think of me.

However there is more to gain here than Joe and Martha's undying gratitude (and possible inheritance). Web 2.0 is fast becoming the "Soda Shop" of the 50's or "The Mall" of the 80's. It's where kids connect, express themselves, do homework and share ideas. Unlike the Soda Shop or Mall it is a place not many parents have been. So as you have fun and use these spaces you will also be gaining an understanding of the space kids are occupying. The more you understand the more you can help your kids fully utilize the amazing resources that are available in a safe, responsible way. So while Joe and Martha's inheritance would be nice, the legacy of teaching "digital natives" how to be good "digital citizens" is worth so much more.