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Second Life
Counter to the parental "just be yourself" advice you likely received growing up, Second Life encourages you to be someone else. Open to the public since 2003, Second Life is a three-dimensional virtual world completely built and owned by its residents. "Some new concepts that appeal to information professionals are mirrored in Second Life, most notably the library itself," says Marydee Ojala, editor of ONLINE magazine. To access the community, a user registers for an account, chooses a surname, and creates an avatar, or a persona in the virtual world—something completely different than the user in the physical world. While there is a recreational function to Second Life—for example, walking around and meeting other users in clubs or around town—there is also an economic function. Residents can buy and sell items, including land, design, and inventions using Linden dollars, the currency of Second Life. People can also buy and sell Second Life items using actual money. "For some, Second Life is a form of escapism," explains Ojala, "but for others it's a way to test theories, products, and content in a non-threatening environment."

(http://secondlife.com)


Socialmeter
Remember those high school surveys that asked questions like, "Who is the most popular boy/girl in your class?" Socialmeter—as you might guess—capitalizes on this tenet by scanning major social websites to analyze a web page's social popularity. "Vanity searching has to be one of the web's most popular pastimes," says EContent editor Michelle Manafy. "At Socialmeter, all you have to do is paste a URL to get a sense of where you—I mean, your site—rates in the digital hierarchy." In September 2006, Socialmeter was acquired by adaptiveblue, whose motto is "the web your way"—an obvious advocate for personalization. In late September, adaptiveblue launched its blueorganizer out of beta, a Firefox extension for social bookmarking. At this writing, adaptiveblue plans to re-launch its site with a new look and features within a few months. While it may be difficult to predict what the future holds for Socialmeter under the helm of adaptiveblue, social bookmarking and measuring website popularity may earn this site a varsity letter.

(www.socialmeter.com; www.adaptiveblue.com)


Squidoo
In the past, your best bet for ingesting vast quantities of trivial information was tuning in to Jeopardy!. These days, those with a need to know should focus their attention on Squidoo, a website that harnesses the collective wisdom of seemingly random information, and allows users to search for answers to very specific questions. "Everyone is an expert in something and Squidoo is the place to show it off," says EContent contributing editor David Meerman Scott. "The free site has tons of widgets for people to create a lens that focuses on an area of expertise and through links, viral effects, and search engine marketing, people find the content." Marketing guru Seth Godin (who founded Squidoo in June 2005) got the idea for Squidoo nearly 10 years ago when he founded Yoyodyne, later acquired by Yahoo!. In addition to its community-building concept, another aspect of Squidoo allows users to monetize content on their lenses, which provide a person's view(s) on a particular topic. Through PayPal, users can earn money from their lens or have money sent to a particular charity. Either way, Squidoo informs its users every month if their lens has earned money and if so how they can receive payment. "You use the lens as a starting point to link out to other interesting content," says Scott. "A lens is not an end but a beginning."

(www.squidoo.com)


The Apache Software Foundation
These days, Ant, Beehive, and Cocoon mean just as much to open source software developers as they do to entomologists. Ant, Beehive, and Cocoon are three of the 34 open source Apache Projects developed by The Apache Software Foundation. The Apache Software Foundation is a non-profit organization created in 1999 whose primary purpose is to support collaborative software projects by supplying hardware, communication, and business infrastructure. "Apache's membership consists of individuals (not companies), although clearly individuals working for companies can belong to the ASF," says Robert Boeri, EContent contributing editor. Among the ASF's other projects are the Apache Forrest Project ("Forrest"), which is a publishing framework that transforms input from various sources into a presentation with several output formats, and Apache Gump—a continuous integration tool. "Apache projects run from those you've heard of such as HTTP server and Tomcat to some you may not have," continues Boeri. "The focus on Java also makes them a good choice since it is a popular web-based, platform-independent development environment and delivery system."

(www.apache.org)


World of Warcraft
"If you think ‘online community' is getting up a good discussion among fellow professionals in a message board," says Steve Smith, EContent contributing editor, "try arming them with scimitars and having them go at it virtually for hours at a time." Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft gives online gamers something to get excited about since Final Fantasy debuted online in 1997. This self-proclaimed "MMORPG," or "Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game," enables thousands of users worldwide to play in the same quest, at the same time. World of Warcraft picks up where Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos leaves off, taking gamers through thousands of quests at their own pace. But does incorporating an online community into a video game with a violent nature necessarily negate the often publicized detrimental effects that violent video games have on young minds? In Steven Johnson's book Everything Bad is Good for You, he argues that with the amount of time children today spend playing video games, they are actually "learning valuable problem-solving skills." Smith thinks highly of World of Warcraft primarily for its Web 2.0 aspect and says, "The real takeaway from a good swordfight session in World of Warcraft is its masterful community-building."

(www.worldofwarcraft.com)

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