Tag Archives: Writing

Tags for Sale to Fund a Wedding

Lame gimmick or wave of the future? Entrepreneur Launches Web’s First Tag Directory to Raise Money for His Wedding:

 A Canadian entrepreneur wants to raise funds for his wedding by listing websites on his del.icio.us account for $20 per listing. Patrick Ryan, 37, and his fiancée have been dating for 5 years; he hopes that TagDirectory.net will attract advertisers. Advertisers will be able to list their website under as many categories (tags) as they want.

Ryan hopes to raise $250,000 from the site. So far he’s raised, er, $280, according to the ticker at the top of the directory itself. His initiative has already raised hackles among the del.icio.us community who have questioned, among other things, the size of his wedding.  Turns out he’s hoping to marry in Cuba. That would explain the cost.

It seems a tad lame for several reasons. First off, I don’t really see how the idea would work. Why would anyone visit a paid directory of tags? How do you drive traffic to a site that doesn’t differentiate itself from any other website, except that some advertisers have paid to be there? Secondly, the social web is not about grabbing bucks, especially for a wedding (tsunami/hurricane/earthquake victims, maybe. A quarter of a grand would buy a few cold-weather tents, something I’m sure taggers would be interested in stumping up for. But a wedding?

But then again, tagging is a great technology and it would be churlish to abuse someone for trying to make money from it. But we shouldn’t ignore the fact that all those tags are out there because the folk behind these services, and those who tag websites to support them, did it all, initially at least, for free. I wish Patrick Ryan a happy wedding.

Website Annotation Is Back?

Techdirt points to an effort by Slate’s Paul Boutin  to Make Website Annotation Cool Again. As Techdirt points out, this idea — where surfers can add their comments to websites so that others who use the same annotation software can view them, and add their own comments — is not new. (The semi-official term is Web Annotation.)

I went back through my old columns and saw that it was exactly five years ago that I wrote about ThirdVoice, which (according to c2) stopped offering its service, in part because of complaints, a year later.

Others were uTok, Instant Rendezvous and Gooey, all of which seem to no longer be operating.

The Moleskine Multi-Tab Hack

I’ve been experimenting a bit with the excellent Moleskine hack suggested by Jerry Brito for adding Getting Things Done tabs to the notebook. Jerry divides the book into five sections — next actions, projects list, someday maybe list, article ideas, and notes — which I found wasn’t enough for the messed up life I seem to be leading at the moment. I have never quite succumbed to David Allen’s world, and found I preferred to add stuff to specific places, so that I could easily re-read them and follow up on them. So I added sub tabs, which sounds confusing, but isn’t. Well, perhaps it is.

Dsc01638

The basic idea is that there are five main divisions, or colours: Tech (anything tech related, subdivided into notes, ideas for columns or posts, expenses, dealing with the Editor), Personal (moving house, getting married, diary, that kind of thing), Action (the to do stuff, from Now to my Big Picture stuff, which I call 30,000 feet), Dump (anything, from phone numbers to words I want to Google at some point) and Book (for a book I’m writing). Each section is a colour, each subdivision is a tab — actually those sticky labels that are a cross between Post-Its and book markers (which seem to come in five colours anyway).

Now the Moleskine was already in use when I started playing with this, so I found myself just adding the label to wherever I had started one of these lists in the book. I found it better to only allow the tab labels to protrude slightly from the edge of the page, thus:

Dsc01644

To make it easy to find stuff I numbered every right hand page (which takes you up to about 100 in a normal Moleskine) and then used the first page that falls open — the first double page — as an index:

Dsc01643

I know this all sounds kinda messy. But it seems to work. Having the colour coded tabs dotted over a 100–page spread actually makes them easier to find, because it’s very easy to estimate the page you need to jump to — 45 is about half way through, 79 is towards the end, etc. Sure you need to use the index, at least to start with, but I found I quickly got the hang of it. If you liked you could write on the tabs to identify them more easily.

I’m sure this won’t work for lots of people. And one could easily argue that all this extra complexity takes away the simple beauty of a Moleskine. I would probably agree, but this seems to work for me, at least for now.

The Moleskine Multi-Tab Hack

I’ve been experimenting a bit with the excellent Moleskine hack suggested by Jerry Brito for adding Getting Things Done tabs to the notebook. Jerry divides the book into five sections — next actions, projects list, someday maybe list, article ideas, and notes — which I found wasn’t enough for the messed up life I seem to be leading at the moment. I have never quite succumbed to David Allen’s world, and found I preferred to add stuff to specific places, so that I could easily re-read them and follow up on them. So I added sub tabs, which sounds confusing, but isn’t. Well, perhaps it is.

Dsc01638

The basic idea is that there are five main divisions, or colours: Tech (anything tech related, subdivided into notes, ideas for columns or posts, expenses, dealing with the Editor), Personal (moving house, getting married, diary, that kind of thing), Action (the to do stuff, from Now to my Big Picture stuff, which I call 30,000 feet), Dump (anything, from phone numbers to words I want to Google at some point) and Book (for a book I’m writing). Each section is a colour, each subdivision is a tab — actually those sticky labels that are a cross between Post-Its and book markers (which seem to come in five colours anyway).

Now the Moleskine was already in use when I started playing with this, so I found myself just adding the label to wherever I had started one of these lists in the book. I found it better to only allow the tab labels to protrude slightly from the edge of the page, thus:

Dsc01644

To make it easy to find stuff I numbered every right hand page (which takes you up to about 100 in a normal Moleskine) and then used the first page that falls open — the first double page — as an index:

Dsc01643

I know this all sounds kinda messy. But it seems to work. Having the colour coded tabs dotted over a 100–page spread actually makes them easier to find, because it’s very easy to estimate the page you need to jump to — 45 is about half way through, 79 is towards the end, etc. Sure you need to use the index, at least to start with, but I found I quickly got the hang of it. If you liked you could write on the tabs to identify them more easily.

I’m sure this won’t work for lots of people. And one could easily argue that all this extra complexity takes away the simple beauty of a Moleskine. I would probably agree, but this seems to work for me, at least for now.

The Moleskine vs The Alwych

It arrived too late for the column, but there’s an alternative to the Moleskine that has its followers: The Alwych.

Alwych

The blurb on the website describes the notebook thus:

‘ALWYCH’ books have a unique strong, flexible and highly durable ALL WEATHER cover.
The pages are section sewn for strength, before being welded into the cover.
The ruled pages are printed on light cream paper, this increases the opacity of the pages substantially, compared to ordinary white paper.

Indeed, they are well-crafted and worth a look, though they lack the pocket, the elastic band and the bookmark tag of the Moleskine. They are, however, made in Scotland, which has to be good news. 

Offer: Enfish Going Cheap, and Looking It Too

 I’m a tad worried about Enfish. Once the great white hope of computer indexing, I can’t help feeling they’re floundering. I just received an email — about five copies of it, to be precise — which seems to offer a version of Enfish’s Find product at a discount.
 
 
From what I can figure out in the email and on the website, Enfish Find can be bought for $44.95 – 10% off the full price. Fair enough, but why such an incomprehensible email, and why the typos? Enfish is still a good product, but it’s facing stiff competition from the more energetic X1 Technologies. Sloppy promotions aren’t going to help.

Column: the io pen

Loose Wire — The Pen Is Mightier Than The Computer, Too: Check out the io Personal Digital Pen: It’s a pen that can store everything you write and transfer it to your computer; And you don’t have to lug a hand-held device along with you for it to work

By Jeremy Wagstaff
from the 27 March 2003 edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review, (c) 2003, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
This is not the first time I’ve reviewed something that tries to marry your doodling to your computer. Most have been shotgun affairs — forced unions that fail to take into account that you might be away from your computer, or that you don’t swagger about with the iron biceps necessary to lug it around with you. This product, however, makes neither of those assumptions, which is why it’s a gadget I’m actually using. It’s called a pen.

Well, to be exact it’s an io Personal Digital Pen from Logitech. But it really does look and feel like a pen. It writes like a pen, with real ink, on real paper. But it also stores everything you write, and will transfer it all to your computer when you return it to its cradle. I have to say it’s pretty neat, and may mark the beginning of Something Useful.

The nub of it all is a simple problem: Despite typing, despite software that interprets your scrawl on a hand-held organizer, despite Microsoft’s Tablet PC [http://www.microsoft.com/tabletpc], there remains a disconnect between scribbles on a notepad and the computer. I’ve reviewed Seiko Instruments’ SmartPad and InkLink products [http://www.siibusinessproducts.com/], which do a good job of letting you store drawings digitally, but both require some sort of computer, whether it’s a laptop or a hand-held device, which limits what you can do with them.

The io Pen

The technology behind the io pen comes from a Swedish company called Anoto AB. It’s been promising for some time to launch a pen that remembers what you write, but Logitech is the first to bring something to market. [Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications offers a similar looking product called a ChatPen, which also uses Anoto’s technology, but it’s geared to transferring your jottings to the world via hand-phone, rather than your computer.]

Anoto’s technology works like this: The pen writes normally, using normal ballpoint pen ink. But while you’re writing, a tiny camera inside the pen is also taking 100 snapshots per second of what you’re doing, mapping your writing via a patchwork of minute dots printed on the paper. All this information — the movement of your pen on the paper, basically — is then stored digitally inside the pen, whether you’re writing longhand, scribbling notes or drawing complex diagrams. You can store up to 40 pages worth of doodles in the pen’s memory. As far as you’re concerned, you’re just using a normal pen.

It’s only when you drop the pen into its PC-connected cradle that the fun begins. Special software on your PC will figure out what you’ve done, and begin to download any documents you’ve written since the last time it was there. Depending on whether you’ve ticked certain boxes on the special notepad, it can also tell whether the document is destined to be an e-mail, a “to do” task, or a diagram to be inserted into a word-processing document. Once the documents are downloaded you can view them as thumbnails, print them out or convert them to other formats.

It’s a neat and simple solution to the problem of storing, sharing and retrieving handwritten notes, as well as for handling diagrams, pictures and other nontext doodling. Unlike the Tablet PC you don’t have to carry around a laptop; unlike the Seiko InkLink and SmartPad, you don’t have to carry around a hand-held organizer or other device. Just whip out the pen and the special paper and you’re off.

Of course, there are downsides. Those of you hoping to see your spidery writing automatically converted to digital text are going to be disappointed: The best the io pen can manage is to offer a slimmed down handwriting recognition which, with some training, can convert letters entered into special boxes into text for e-mail addresses, document names, etc. [This doesn’t work terribly well, and to me isn’t a selling point.] Others might find the pen a tad bulky: It looks more like a cigar than a pen, though it fits snugly into the hand. It’s also pricey: around $200 for the pen, a pad, and some refills, but expect to pay up to $25 for replacement sets of pads.

I think it’s a great product because it doesn’t try to fix something that’s not broken: It doesn’t force you to work differently — walking around with a screen strapped to your arm, or carting along extra bits and pieces. The pen is light and works like a normal pen if you need it to, while the special notepads look and feel like, well, notepads. The only strange looks will be from people who are curious why you’re writing with a cigar.

It also has potential elsewhere. FedEx, for example, is introducing a version of the pen so that customers can fill out forms by hand — instead of punching letters into cumbersome devices. Once that data is digital more or less anything can be done with it — transferring it wirelessly to a central computer, for example, or via a hand-phone. Doctors could transmit their prescriptions direct to pharmacies, reducing fraud; policemen could send their reports back to the station, reducing paperwork; lunchtime brainstorming sessions could easily be shared with the folks back in the office. It’s not that we can’t do all this right now, of course, but given that most people seem happier with a pen and paper than with a hand-held device, I think Anoto’s technology and Logitech’s pen are a realistic marriage of convenience. Have a cigar, boys.