Commons Connect

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6 Degrees of the iPad

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Last week, the Commons bought a few iPads for the Community Team to experiment with and after spending some one-on-one time with an iPad and reading some great resources I wanted to write a review — 6 degrees style. *This is an overview of my experience thus far, incorporating information from member’s posts as well as outside resources and opinion. 

When it comes to the iPad everyone has an opinion. The last time I used an Apple product, I was a Media Arts student at USC so I am not that familiar with the iPhone and I’m new to the whole Apple App Store thing. Either way, I will try to present a review that is as objective as possible. My first thought as I held the iPad in my hands was this… 

image credits: http://gizmodo.com

Matt Gold (@admin) posted this flowchart on the Academic Commons Project Management Base Camp back in April as a visual resource for creating new help documents on the Commons. Luckily, I’ve been beating the odds of this flowchart, but I often think of it as I eagerly await the back-ordered case! 

Holy Credit Card Batman!

Why does Apple need my credit card information?? I use my Zune and Zune Pass to satisfy my music needs (in addition to Pandora), so I was a little disappointed that I had to download iTunes on my computer again in order to start the iPad. I had to create an account and give my credit card information… which I did … because I didn’t really have a choice. After forking over some personal information I was finally ready to see what this iPad thing was all about and why Obama wasn’t a fan

Apps

There are a lot of them. A lot of apps seem useless, as Obama suggested in his commencement speech at Hampton University. Obama claimed that with new technologies such as the iPad, “information becomes a distraction”.  This is how most headlines read, but what these commentators overlooked is that Obama said they can be used as “tool(s) of empowerment… the means of emancipation”. I’m going to give Obama the benefit of the doubt here about his understanding of technology, especially after @kdelorenzo said: 

“…during the inauguration Obama is reported to have greeted Aretha with “You’re on my iPod!” so maybe he was fibbing a bit. Or maybe his younger daughter programs and syncs it for him.” 

On this topic, I would have to agree with Bill Maher’s take that Obama is putting on a cutesy political act. Obama says he doesn’t know how to use an iPod because “Americans conflate out-of-touch with adorable”. Lest he forget the power of the Internet during his presidential campaign! OK, back to iPad apps… 

In addition to @omanreagan’s ipad posts from his blog about Apple technology, Michael has also written a blog post about “religion applications available for the iPad” from his blog about interdisciplinary studies in Religion. Talk about a ‘tools of empowerment’ – good stuff Michael, thanks for sharing! 

Other apps that I consider to be tools of empowerment include: 

  • Calendar (pre-installed) This is your basic calendar. I’m able to keep myself on a tight schedule with reminders and repeating events. It’s not as customizable as I was hoping for (no task organizer).
  • Mail (pre-installed) I’m able to sync multiple Gmail accounts as well as my CUNY email. Bonus.
  • Videos>Podcasts (pre-installed>downloaded via iTunes)  I’m currently learning how to fix redeye from the Photoshop//Power Tips & Tricks Podcast. I wish the iPad had the ability to go outside of iTunes… non-jailbreaking style.
  • Notes (pre-installed) I’m able to quickly take notes from a meeting. I can tag notes to find them quickly and email them to myself, but there’s no ability for bold, italic, color, underlining, etc…
  • Todo ($4.99)  While I was hoping this app was going to be free (or included within the Calendar app) I am glad I downloaded it! Todo helps me keep track of multiple projects both at home and at work and can send reminders via email. Highly recommended.
  • Pages ($9.99) Mac’s version of Microsoft Word. You can use templates and have greater control over the layout and font style than you can with Notes.
  • Keynote ($9.99) Syncs great with Mac Keynotes. I am able to edit presentations (with limited capabilities). 
  • iBooks (free) I was able to download a lot of free books by typing “free” into the search bar.
  • Free Books (free) The name says it all — good stuff!
  • Pandora (free) I can  listen to a custom generated mix (unfortunately not while doing anything else on the iPad… without jailbreaking it).
  • Pocket Pond (free) Watching goldfish swim and interacting with them is extremely calming after a long day at the office.
  • Disney Digital Books: Toy Story (free) I am able to multitask – I can some work done at home while providing interactive entertainment for my pre-schooler!
  • Siri (free) Possibly my favorite app thus far! (see video below). The speech recognition and overall intuitive nature of this app is incredible! My favorite part is when you say “remember,…” and it will send your speech to your email… or saying “tweet” and your twitter status update bar is brought up for you to do just that. This was originally created for the iPhone.

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Thanks to Adam S. Wandt’s post we also now know how to shop for our groceries in under two minutes using the Fresh Direct app!

In non-iPad app related news I also share @awandt’s feelings of disappointment that the iPad has no forward facing camera and wouldn’t be surprised if AT&T network-related concerns were at the root of this decision. This camera (or lack-there-of) news was also revealed in @jugoretz’s post: Early iPod Thoughts.

There are some great aspects of the iPad and the overall intuitive nature is very user-friendly. There are also many features that fall short of what a truly innovative tool the iPad should be.

Lastly, the question that everyone is asking … or perhaps just @brianfoote WILL IT BLEND???

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Yes, yes it will.

Upgrade Changes For Groups

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Greetings to all Groups on the CUNY Academic Commons! As promised, @boonebgorges has delivered a major upgrade to the Commons which leads us to the inevitable question, how will these changes affect us? Well, I am here to help you better understand our new group features and how to use them.

Group Wire —> Updates & Replies

As I’m sure most of you now know, where once there was a group wire now there is no more. Some of you may have had your Settings>Email Notifications set to receive an email when a member posted to the wire and while that option no longer exists (see *UPDATE below), it has been replaced with something very similar… only more customizable — Updates. This is much more similar to Facebook than the Wire and I will demonstrate via these screenshots below.Group administrators and moderators can post an Announcement to the Group Page, which can be used to quickly connect information to the entire group. Group members can “Reply” to any update, much like leaving a “Comment” on Facebook. When someone replies to a conversation you are involved in, you will be sent an email notification. Replies are no longer limited to Forums — yay!

*UPDATE 5/6/10 -  developer @boonebgorges has just Added an “email to members” checkbox to the BuddyPress group activity stream. This means that administrators and moderators now have the option to push out a specific announcement to all group members via email. Thanks Boone!

@Mention System

There is also another way to include particular members via email notification. You may have noticed in both the screenshot from Facebook and the Academic Commons that a “friend/member” was hyperlinked in the update. While the “tag/@mention” process is done somewhat differently, it has the same effect — it links others to the profile of the individual while notifying the individual of the mention via email. This @mention system was first implemented by Twitter, but has been adapted by Facebook and now us!

If you are trying to reach out to specific group members, simply put the @ symbol in front of their username and it will send a notification to their email address. This is a great way to bring members into conversations that can otherwise be easily overlooked in the frenzy of Web2.0 information overload. Don’t know a member’s username? Just go to their profile page and their @handle will be listed directly below their name.

Filters

The Buddypress upgrade has also made it easier to navigate through Groups via the new filterable Recent Group Activity stream where you can choose to view: Updates, New Forum Topic, Forum Replies, New Group Memberships, Wiki Edits and my personal favorite… No Filter! The main landing page for groups is No Filter, so members can see everything at a glance. If you prefer to view group activity without necessarily being logged into the Academic Commons, there is also the option of subscribing to the group’s RSS Feed.

Reply, Reply, Reply

Another great thing about the new Reply feature is that it’s not limited to Updates. I can welcome members to a group and organize conversations in ways that used to be impossible — as seen by my reply below to a New Group Membership.

Being able to reply to a specific comment or activity allows the conversation to continue in a structured way and hopefully makes it easier for members to keep track of different conversations throughout the Commons.

If you have a request or suggestion for your group please let us know.

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