Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quick testdrive and review of Sprixi.com

I learned via Lisnews.org, of this dedicated image search service called Sprixi - www.sprixi.com
Sprixi - Free images to choose and use!

"The inspiration for the name "Sprixi" came from the words "picture" and "wiki". We can't remember how it evolved from there but it had a lot to do with what domain names were available! We think Sprixi sounds fun and a little magical :) "
source: www.sprixi.com/faq

I was curious. And I had time. I decided to do a quick testdrive and review of the service.

First impressions
What's immediately apparent is that the search interface is simple and intuitive (Google's influence is clearly there, I thought).

The results display page is also intuitive and easy to navigate. You can "teach" the Sprixi, on the degree of relevance of the image to the "topic", by rating the image:
Singapore images - Sprixi - Free images to choose and use!

At the bottom of the image, you see information like its title, the owner's URL via their Flickr profile (I wonder what's the treatment for images from non-Flickr accounts), and the license.
Singapore images - Sprixi - Credits display

Downloading images
To download the images, click on the green "Use" button (not shown in screenshot, but you're not likely to miss it on your browser).

It's smart of Sprixi's developers to make it as hassle-free for the user to credit the content owner. You can download images with or without credits appearing on their downloaded image (i.e. "image without credit"). There's an option for users to copy the pre-formatted acknowledgment text.
Singapore images - Sprixi - download/ credits options

If you click on the Download "image with credits" button, Sprixi would automatically include the credits at the bottom of the downloaded image:
Downloaded image - credited

I've a question though: the "link to image" -- and this is an image hosted on Flickr -- brings the user back to the Sprixi page (i.e. link says "http://www.sprixi.com/i/0191351928?link=direct&size=4").

According to Flickr Community Guidelines, it says if we post a Flickr image on an external website (like Sprixi.com is an external site), the photo must link back to its image page. Either Sprixi has an agreement with Flickr, or its developers have overlooked this.

Personally as a user, I think the issue can be easily resolved with Sprixi just linking back and displaying the Flickr page.

Contributing to Sprixi
Sprixi allows users (you have to be registered) to either upload their images to Sprixi or link to a Flickr image.

If you're uploading your own image, you're required to choose a Creative Commons license. Question: why not provide a CC Zero option?
Sprixi - upload your own image

To let Sprixi know of a Flickr image, just submit the URL of the Flickr page.
Sprixi - contribute via Flickr

More on contributing images to Sprixi - submit Flickr image
I was curious on how the submission process worked.

To test it out the "Submit a Flickr Image" option, I tried:

Here's how my Flickr image appeared upon submission:
Wetland Egrets Drawing Sketch Art images - Sprixi - Free images to choose and use!

The accompanying image information was automatically retrieved from Flickr, so I didn't have to provide any details.
Wetland Egrets Drawing Sketch Art images - Sprixi - Free images to choose and use!

I might have been over-zealous in inputting the "topic". Actually I didn't have any reference on how many keywords were considered appropriate.

Another observation was that there wasn't a way for me to edit a submission. For instance, I'd mistakenly included "Egrets" for the above image, which clearly didn't have any birds.

Question: Does the number of submitted keywords/ topic-words improve the image's chances of being retrieved, or would it make the image less findable? And how much that would be off-set by user ratings?

I think it depends on how fast the system learns. At first, there were no results for "wetland mangrove". But as I tried different combinations of the topics I submitted, the system was able to offer my earlier submission as a suggestion:
Sprixi - Free images to choose and use!

I discovered I could rate my own Flickr image (hmm... would this lead to some contributors trying to game the system and make their image appear higher in terms of relevance? Or maybe other raters would ensure a proper check and balance -- would be interested to learn how this feature pans out).
Wetland Egrets Drawing Sketch Art images - Sprixi - Free images to choose and use!

As for Flickr images that belonged to other people, Preetam's image appeared right away:
Japan City Lights Night Street images - Sprixi submission

But not Kenneth's image though (a bug?):
Sprixi - Free images to choose and use!

What if I submitted the URL for Flickr images that weren't licensed under CC?
It's a good thing I'm not a cat (nevermind...) so I found another friend's non-CC licensed Flickr image which anyone can view.

Result: "Image was not added".

I immediately submitted a CC-licensed image (also for public view) and got the same "image not added" message. Maybe the Flickr CC license verification process was buggy. The Flickr image submission process wasn't consistent.

Uploading my own images
I seem to have encountered some bugs when I submitted images from my computer (they were the acceptable file formats JPEG and PNG). The submitted image didn't appear, and I don't recall seeing any messages indicating problems with the submission:
Music Album Cover images - Sprixi - Free images to choose and use!

I tried again, using another image, and this time it appeared to work. Though the image didn't appear right away (what's happening backend -- moderation?):
Musicians Singapore images - Sprixi - Free images to choose and use!

Sprixi is Learning
I think Sprixi will need some more time to populate certain topics/ keywords.
Sprixi - "No results" message

Album Cover images - Sprixi - Free images to choose and use!

Suggestion: maybe the system could provide a way for users to browse through topics that have no results, and/ or areas that Sprixi needs to "learn" more. Actively crowd-source. Especially when half of the Sprixi idea was based on a Wiki idea. Hmm... the Wikipedia equivalent of a image-repository/ search engine.

Based on what I could briefly cover, overall I'd think Sprixi has potential to be a resource for royalty-free, public domain and CC-licensed images.

It's not the first image search engine, for CC-licensed images, that I know. For instance, there's www.behold.cc
Behold | Search High Quality Flickr Images

But Sprixi is the first I've come across (not that I actively looked for such purpose-built search engines) that allows for contributors to build up it's database.

Seems to me Sprixi was designed for people searching for images to use, more than for people to contribute. At least, the contribution feature performed inconsistently, at least the way I saw it.

Not to say the contribution feature isn't well designed -- it generally is. I think most contributors would find the features adequate. But personally I'd like to be able to:
  • Edit the topics for images I've contributed
  • Delete/ remove a Flickr image whose URL I've submitted
  • Be able to provide more item details, e.g. a text box so that I can input more details as part of the credits. For instance, I've an image that incorporated other CC-BY images. According the the CC terms, I'm required to credit the sources. At this point, Sprixi doesn't have a way for me to do that. Which means I cannot upload my original content that contains other people's CC images. I probably have to use Flickr instead.
So Sprixi isn't a CC-sharing platform in that sense.

I suspect that Sprixi would have to introduce a "Community Flagging" feature. I saw some images whose copyrights might be questionable.

Still, I'm not complaining.

My feeling remains that there will be more purpose-built search engines for CC-licensed materials.

It's all good.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My 2009 'Social Media' related publications in IFLA and Emerald

Two of my professional publications, relating to social media, that were accepted and published in 2009.

1) Title: Librarians 2.0: sowing padi in (the) SEA.
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited - LINK.

This came about from my speaking at the Bridging Worlds conference organised by NLB in 2008. After the conference, my paper was selected by Emerald for consideration. It was accepted and published in their special conference issue.

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present an exploratory survey as part of a presentation for the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference. It seeks to understand how library institutions in the South East Asia (SEA) region have implemented Web 2.0 technologies – blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, or the use of services like Flickr, YouTube, de.lici.ous.

Design/methodology/approach – Libraries surveyed were in: Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, People's Republic of China, Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan. The survey relied on references in published papers, internet searches and personal contacts.

Findings – The survey found that more academic libraries than public libraries were using Web 2.0. technologies. Blogs and RSS feeds were the most common. Blogs were used mainly as web publishing tools rather than as a means to engage library users.

Research limitations/implications – The survey is not comprehensive. The search relied mainly on English publications and keywords, while the native language of most countries surveyed was non-English. Future research could comprehensively cover each country, by the type of library or language.

Practical implications – The paper contends that Web 2.0 does not rely on technology, but more on practice and participation. The emphasis should be on relationships rather than transactions. Suggestions are offered on how libraries can adopt a Library 2.0 mindset without focusing on technology. A call is made to establish an East Asian Librarians 2.0 directory.

Originality/value – The paper offers a non-technological perspective to institutions and practising professionals who are reviewing their Web 2.0 implementation.

2) Title: Web 2.0 and Library Services for Young Adults: An Introduction for librarians.
Publisher: IFLA, Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section.
78 pages, PDF - LINK

As explained here, this came about because on the last day of my 2008 speaking trip in Croatia, Dr. Ivanka Stricevic asked if I could write -- at least 22-pages (double-spaced, Times Roman 12) -- on how librarians can use social media in serving Young Adults. It was to be written in English, for translation into Croatian.

My final draft was a whopping 78 pages. Thankfully, Ivanka didn't ask for it to be edited down after she read it.

BTW, the copy published at the IFLA Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section page is under a CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0. license.
[Excerpt from the Introduction]
"The document is an introduction for librarians new to Web 2.0 and Social Media, and who are interested in using publicly accessible social media tools to serve Young Adults in any types of libraries: public, school, special or academic.

The aim is for you—the practicing librarian--to understand and ultimately decide for yourself what is the best approach in using social media as part of your Young Adult service. This document does not dictate the best way to attract teens to your library (there is none!)

For each section, we will cover the "What is it" and "How to use it" so that you know "Why use it" and "What to look out for in using it". With the focus for practitioners, specific services are also elaborated."


P2. Introduction
  • Why Web 2.0 and Services to Young Adults?
  • Managing risks
  • Web 2.0 + you and your library
  • More about this document
  • Terminologies used in this document
  • Disclaimer
P7. Acknowledgments
P8. Blogs and Blogging
P14. Online Chat, Instant Messaging and Video-conferencing
P18. Creative Commons
P24. FaceBook
P28. Flickr
P32. Google Docs
P37. Music & Audio
P40. MySpace
P43. Podcasts & Podcasting
P47. RSS & RSS Readers
P53. Slideshare
P56. Social Bookmarking
P61. Twitter
P65. Video
P68. Virtual Worlds & Machinima
P73. Wikis
P76. Conclusion
  • Which tool is most suitable, and how much time would it take to learn?
  • The “Art of Social Networking”
P77. Appendix
  • Web 2.0 and Library 2.0, in brief
  • A suggested approach when adopting Web 2.0 tools

Monday, December 21, 2009

Book: Blogging Heroes

“Blog for readers, not to get readers”. (p.200)

If you're hoping for tips to make your blog into an overnight success, forget about this book.

ISBN: 0470197390

This book certainly has a catchy title. Though it wasn't what I initially expected. It's not about bloggers who overcame adversity and controversy to emerge triumphant over Evil (my imagination tends to be a bit wild).

If this were a graphic novel, it would be an "Origins" story, where each superhero share his/ her tale of "how they came to be".

In a way, you might see this as a book on "Who's Who in Blogs", from the author's view. BTW, in the Preface, author Michael A. Banks explains more on how he decided to write about the selected 30 bloggers who "stand out as influential, ground-breaking, and singularly successful".

There is no hero-worship though. The book is a very readable, insightful and honest report of the bloggers -- how their blogs got started, their motivations, thinking, and even problems with regards to their blogs.

The recurring themes, to me, were:
  • To blog well, you have to write what you care about. Or, care about what you write.
  • It’s about consistency in what you feature in your blog. Your blog should have a focus or mission, purpose, theme -- but not necessarily a narrow focus or to limit your blog to certain topics per se.

One of the best quotes for me is on P.197, where Scott McNulty (TUAW) has this to say to bloggers who wonder why no one comments on their blogs:

“… It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s the same as everything else: If you work hard and stick to It,s eventually you’ll grow your audience. People will start commenting, a little community will grow, and from there, (you) just keep it going.”
He also adds:

“Blogging is a public discourse… don’t write anything that you wouldn’t say to someone face-to-face. So take accountability for your actions and never be ashamed of anything you write. The best way to accomplish that is to think about it before you write.”

In putting the book together, Michael Banks personally interviewed each of the 30 bloggers by phone -- not email, as that would have been lazy, in his opinion.
  1. Dave Taylor - The Intuitive Life Business Blog
  2. Chris Anderson - The Long Tail
  3. Gina Trapani - Lifehacker
  4. Ina Steiner - AuctionBytes
  5. Mary Jo Foley - All About Microsoft
  6. Dave Rothman - TeleRead
  7. Frank Warren - PostSecret
  8. Mike Masnick - Techdirt
  9. Mark Frauenfelder - BoingBoing.net
  10. Robert Scoble - Scobleizer
  11. Peter Rojas - Engadget
  12. John Neff - Autoblog
  13. Ken Fisher - Ars Technica
  14. Deborah Petersen - Life in the Fast Lane
  15. Joel Comm - JoelComm.com
  16. Brian Lam - Gizmodo
  17. Kristin Darguzas - ParentDish
  18. Christ Grant - Joystiq
  19. Scott McNulty - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)
  20. Philipp Lebsseb - Google Blogoscoped
  21. Brad Hill - Weblogs, Inc.
  22. Steve Rubel - Micro Persuasion
  23. Rebecca Lieb - ClickZ
  24. Deidre Woollard - Luxist
  25. Gary Lee - An Internet Marketing Website
  26. Richard MacManus - Read/WriteWeb
  27. Eric T. - Internet Duct Tape
  28. Victor Agreda - DIY Life
  29. Steve Garfield - Steve Garfield's Video blog
  30. Grant Robertson - Download Squad
Whether you're new to blogging or you've been blogging for years, I'm sure one you'll be able to gain some insights from what these Blogging Heroes have to say.

The 30 featured bloggers are smart but ordinary persons, as I found out.

Heroes, by definition, achieve great things or have noble qualities.

But heroes are not made overnight. Even if they gain their powers instantly (I can think of Spider-man and Captain America), they perfect their craft through consistent efforts.

That, I think, is the point of the book.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Post workshop reflections: Using Wikis for communication (Round 2)

Completed the second run of the "Using Wikis for Communications" workshop at the Civil Service College last Friday. As before, my segment was a 1.5 hr segment during the 2-day course organised by CSC.

Learning from my earlier round, this time in addition to revising the handouts (with a more detailed step-by-step guides), I prepared more scenarios for participants' to work on. For instance:
  1. Share your favourite recipe (e.g. Ingredients, Preparation)
  2. Provide directions to your favourite eating places in Singapore
  3. Create a website to publicise your seminar/ talk at Civil Service College. The site should allow participants to RSVP their attendance, and also directions to the venue.
  4. Construct an Educational website (please decide on a topic/ theme, e.g. Learning to Play the Guitar). Each page should have links to text and multimedia content. Include a Discussion section.
  5. Your boss has asked you to plan a trip to a deserted island, where you have to stay for at least TWO weeks. Create a site to help plan your adventure.
Item 1 and 5 was a result of bouncing off some ideas with Kevin and Julian. They happened to be online and obliged me with a quick discussion on possible hands-on activities for the workshop.

Interestingly, no one took up #5. The most popular activity was the one on sharing one's favourite recipe. I wonder if this would be the same in the next run.

Before that, I wanted to manage the participants' expectations. I drew this on the while board:
CSC wiki workshop, 10 Dec 2009

My explanation was this:
  • 50% of the workshop will be on "How to create a Wiki/ edit pages/ How a Wiki works".
  • The other 50% has nothing to do with Wikis, or any social media platform; it's really about planning/ creating what you'd like to communicate to your audience.
  • 80% of you would probably never edit/ create a wiki after the workshop.
  • Finally, the Bicycle Analogy: Some one may show you how to built a bicycle and how to ride it. But ultimately, only you can decide where you want to go.

p.s. shared this at Facebook, if you can see it.