Useful Information: How To on Grovo

There are lots of sites out there with collections of how-to instructions and videos.  From the wild west of almost anything on YouTube, to the extremely professional and in-depth software guides on Lynda.com, it’s usually easy to find something to help you out, if you’re willing to spend the time searching.  Grovo is a new how-to video site that is unique in that it focuses exclusively on guides to online services, and doesn’t focus on software or OS.

They offer both a free and a premium service, and it is split primarily between what is useful to individuals (free) and what is useful to businesses (premium).  The premium service is $19 a month or $190 a year, though you can earn free premium months by submitting how-to videos that they approve.  The videos are broken down into very short chunks, just a couple minutes on one very specific subject. This is great because you can focus on what you want to learn and you don’t get bored by the time the video is over.

Another great feature that it offers is a quiz on different sites.  I took the WordPress one and actually learned that I didn’t know as much about WordPress as I thought.  So, I’d say that this site is useful for people who are already comfortable with the services they use, if only to learn features that they haven’t been taking advantage of.  I watched a few of both the premium and free videos, and I was impressed with the quality of the animation and voiceover that they used.  I would be surprised if any of them were user created.

Some of the sites it offers free videos for are FacebookTwitter, ChromeeBayMeetup and Craigslist.  The Premium guides include WordPress, ZillowGoogle AppsRetargeter and Amazon.

Cross posted from Social Axcess.

Group Texting is so hot right now

SXSW is known as a geek battleground, where apps and ideas compete with one another for dominance.  Last year, several location based apps likeFourSquare and SCVNGR fought, and FourSquare came out the industry leader.  This year, the focus has been on Group Text applications.  The first big Group Text application was from GroupMe, and most of the other companies offer a very similar service.

Basically, these apps allow you to create private groups on your mobile phone, even on not terribly advanced ones, and then send texts to everyone in the group.  Sort of like yahoogroups for text messages.  You can also send pictures, videos and do conference calls and it has a location based check-in system, sort of like FourSquare.  And it’s free.  GroupMe is the undisputed king of this realm, doing over a million texts a day, at less than a year old, but there are other Group Text services as well.

Another star of the Group Texting world is Beluga, which was founded by some ex-Googlers and was bought by Facebook.  It offers basically the same service as GroupMe, but now that it’s owned by Facebook, it may be integrated into their site rather than a stand alone product.  And users hate having to transfer their social data network to network, meaning that the start ups are now fighting the giant of Facebook.

Kik is an app that just got $8 million in funding, and launched in October.  It’s an instant messaging app that has incorporated SMS just recently, meaning that like the other apps listed here, you can use it from a “dumb” phone or computer.  The difference is that unlike the group messaging, you can create groups, but you don’t have to send them all the message — you can use the service for individual messaging, partial group messaging, or entire group messaging, much more like email.  You can also join or leave conversations in progress.

There’s also Ask Around from ask.com (remember when it was Ask Jeeves?), which functions as sort of a local twitter/FourSquare feed – you see updates based on your location, or any location you give it.  So it’s group texting, where the group is people close by.

And there are others that offer services almost identical to GroupMeGroupFlier (which has public groups), Brightkite,Fast Society, Text Plus (which has advertising or a fee, and has 20,000 groups dedicated to Justin Bieber), Grouped{in} (which offers some integration with Facebook and Twitter), PingChatEZTexting (charges a fee),groupflierRabblyprotexting, WeTXT, and undoubtedly a dozen more.

Cross posted from Social Axcess.

Secular Coalition for America Blog

I thought, you know, being a semi-regular contributor to 3 blogs just wasn't enough.  Sean Faircloth, who I have a total atheist political crush on, got in touch with me a few months ago to ask me if I wanted to help with his new project, creating a blog on the SCA site.  The help I ended up giving was just being a contributing blogger, but, you know, it's something.

The blog just launched this weekend, and today my first post went up.  So go be like, hey, there's that blogger I knew back when she wasn't cool enough to write for Secular.org

Oh, and it mentions Columbia and the local AU meeting, if you're interested in that.

Deep Thought

Why is it easier to be proud of something you’re absolutely no good at than it is to be proud of something you are actually good at?

Today, with writing money, I bought a sewing machine and made a skirt. It’s pretty crap, but whatever, I love it.

WOOO 3:30 AM SKIRT

75 Books: 21-25 Collins, Diamond, Lewis and Abignale

21. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

This is the 2nd in the Hunger Games trilogy and it isn't quite as strong as the first, but it expands on the universe that allowed the first one to happen.  Weirdly, I had more suspension of disbelief issues with this one than I did with the other two in the series.  The main character, Katniss, is thrown into the Hunger Games again and has also become the unintentional center of a resistance movement that threatens to break into genuine rebellion.  Her struggle with the ideas and consequences of rebellion are interesting and it is a fairly rewarding tale, especially if you're already attached to Katniss.  A-

22. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

This si the final in the trilogy and is the least satisfying of the three, but still an engaging read.  Katniss is now working for the rebellion, though the character tends not to actively make decisions but rather allow others to force her to do as they want.  She is also trying to determine her feelings for two different leading men, in a storyline that reminds me more of Twilight than I'd prefer.  She is more talented and has a personality, so she's not anything like Bella, except that she doesn't take control of her life or her choices very often.  I felt like this book came apart as it went and the motivations were murky or not presented at all.  B

23. Guns, Germs, and Steel – Jared Diamond

This Pulitzer Prize (Pull It Surprise!) winning book is a surprisingly gripping explanation of why society and civilization looks like it does now.  The basic premise is that civilizations destroy/take over others because of technological advances and the rate of advancement is based, not on genes or race, but on natural resources — particularly the availability of domesticable plants and animals.  Fascinating and brilliant, I've already passed it on to others. A

24. The Blind Side – Michael Lewis

Aside from the World Cup, I'm not really a sports person, but I love sports movies, and I loved this one.  That is at least partially due to my love of Ms. Bullock, but it was also a great movie.  The book has a lot more than just the story of Oher's rescue from the Memphis ghetto and delivery into upper class white America, it also has a history of the NFL and how different sorts of tactics and strategies came to dominate the game.  It follows what the changing coaching styles did for different positions, and the players who were good at those positions.  I'd always figured winners were the teams with the best talent on the field, but apparently there's a lot to the art of coaching.  A-

25. Catch Me If You Can – Frank Abignale, Jr.

Another movie I enjoyed and another charming con man.  My unbridled love of "I Love Phillip Morris" made this a bit of a let down.  It's not that Abignale didn't pull of some ballsy tricks but no single one of them had the overwhelming cajones and audacity of Russell's.  The main thing I got from the book is that I never want to go to France because their prisons are disgusting hellholes of prisoner abuse and I may fly to Sweden and commit a crime so I can live in their prisons which sound awesome.  B

25 books in 10 weeks, holy crap, that's a lot.  Maybe it should be 100 books?

Dear Universe: Best Idea Ever

Alright, I have no idea how one takes two songs and mashes them up into a coherent piece, but I do know how one edits together pictures into a coherent piece and I do know two songs that were born to go together.  Someone DO THIS.  SERIOUSLY.  It’s the Best Idea Ever and I will offer you… um, I dunno, you will get the trillion zillion youtube hits of me watching it over and over again.

Look, I’ve even already put them in the YouTube Doubler Machine which lets you watch them both at the same time.  I dare anyone to watch these two songs and tell me that out of the ashes of such cliched and awful early-nineties power/soft-rock ballads a Phoenix cannot be born!

And I would do anything for love, it’s all coming back to me now by Meatloaf/Celine Dion

Hitchens on 60 Minutes

I'm a member of a cancer elite. I rather look down on people with lesser cancers.

I went to my mom's house for dinner last night and, as luck would have it, Hitch was on 60 minutes.  My adoration of Mr. Hitchens is well covered on this blog, but suffice to say that while I don't agree with all of his opinions, I have a not insignificant admiration for his incredible intellect and his willingness to be wrong and correct himself.  He has never sought perfection, except perhaps in being a scoundrel, and I respect that.  People who are willing to look human in front of others are rare, people who can do that and still be a towering intellectual asshole, well… what's not to love?

The piece was pretty good, even though I have some issues with Mr. Kroft from the way he handled the interview with Assange.  I don't mind biased reporting, but hostile reporting is a bit much.  It was ultimately probably good for Assange, because Assange stayed calm in the face of some obnoxious questions, but it still rankled.  Kroft seems to be madly in love with Hitchens, though, so there was less of that.

They mentioned a book by Hitchens called "Monarchy" which was released in 1990.  It is apparently out of print because to buy it online I can only find prices from $122-$270.  I'm trying to convince my library to get a copy.  I've got to call them in a minute to see if there's any library they can get it on loan from.  Why aren't all books available digitally yet?  Isn't it the future already.  My library will lend books digitally, but mostly just really bad ones and not on the kindle, which I'd be upset about if the book quality was more convincing.

Also, Christopher Hitchens has grown a sweet beard, it makes him look 90% healthier than he did 6 months ago.

Testing Postling

Do any of you use social media management tools?  I'd never even thought to look into them until the company I write for, Social Axcess, asked me to create some profiles of a couple SMSS sites.  Right now I'm looking at Postling.  I'm mostly looking at Postling because it's free, which is a huge draw for someone like me who isn't really selling a product so much as selling themselves.  I will say, it seems like the biggest benefit to using Postling isn't just that it links your accounts, though it does do that quite nicely, but also that you can easily keep up with all the accounts that you've created and let fall by the wayside.

For example, I have a LinkedIn account that I visit about once every six months.  I didn't even realize that you could update it almost exactly the same way you update Facebook.  If I decided to replace my normal perusal of FB with Postling, my Linked In account would suddenly have activity, which I think is a good thing.  I would also probably update my Twitter more often, because it's really easy to write something and then decide which places you want to post.  In other words, unlike the tools that can automatically link your FB and Twitter account, it's both simple and necessary to dictate where all something you write gets published.

Of course, the only reason I'm writing this right now is to test out the blog writing tool within Postling.  Next… I'm going to see if they've got an Android App.

Oh, the other cool thing is that I could write like 30 articles and have them post at different times.  Which you can do with other things too, but this is free and I'm looking at it!