The cheap US dollar (read: weak) has made a lot of people think about shopping for christmas presents online from the US, but the cheap dollar may not be so cheap after all. I too decided to give it a go and bought a couple of t-shirts from an US-based online store. The goods were cheaper than similar goods in online shops in Europe and because of the cheap dollar the goods were even cheaper. But… when the package arrived to Finland I got a call from the customs. First they put a 22% VAT on the goods, then about 10% customs tax and finally about 10 euros for some customs fee. A package that would have been about 100 euros, got up to almost 150 euros because of all the taxes. What do we learn from this? Do not buy anything from the US!
Floobs is an interesting new service from Finland, that unfortunately is only available in Finnish, for now. Floobs provides users with tools to create their own online television channels from their favorite videoclips online or material that they have produced with video cameras or mobile phones. Floobers can view these channels, created by Floobs (or something like that), and post comments or just flip through channels. With game consoles and set-top boxes that can show online videos on your television watching this type of content makes sense. I can’t imagine a family gathering around a computer screen on a friday evening to watch video clips from YouTube, or Floobs, but when the videos can be viewed from your television I can see that happening. So, it will be interesting to see how Floobs evolves.
Lately there have been some blogpostings about the amount of friends people have on Facebook. AllFacebook posted an entry about how many is too much and cited an article in New York Times according to which people with over 800 friends “are perceived as insecure”. Mashable wrote about Mark Cuban that had just crossed the magical (?) limit of 5000 friends on Facebook. I appreciate the fact that some people are collecting friends on Facebook like others collect stamps or old coins or what ever. But I can’t understand how they can cope with the News Feed on Facebook. I have left Facebook (almost completely) mostly because of the fact that my 50 friends generate such amount of News Feed that I get overloaded with information. I don’t care if someone has been bitten by a vampyre or if someone else added another useless application. And I can’t turn the News Feeds off!
Facebook has to do two things before I return to Facebook and I know they would just love to have me back . First of all, users have to have the choice to turn the news feed off or at least choose what kind of news will be posted. I was hoping that the possibility to set “likes” and “dislikes” on the news would have been a selflearning feature that would have eventueally learnt which news I want to see and which I don’t want to see, but no, at least not yet. The second thing Facebook needs to do is to redesign categorizing of friends. Current categorizing by how people know each other is not working very well. The idea is good because I might have things on my profile that I want my friends to see but that I don’t want my colleagues to see, and vice versa. But currently this feature is not working.
Movable Life is the first successful attempt (that I’ve seen) to integrate Second Life into a web browser. Movable Life allows Second Life users to log into their Second Life accounts and chat with their friends, send IM, teleport on the map and so on, but without the 3D and any of the graphics. And this is the problem with it. When you leave out the avatars and all the 3D elements, what do you get? Another IM application.
I’ve been using Second Life in my courses for about a year soon and one of the problems that we have faced is that not everybody has a computer that would run Second Life, at least not without any hickups. It has usually been down to the graphics card. This is especially a problem for Open University students that mainly use their own computers or computers where they work. As educators we can’t demand that students upgrade their computers so that they can take part of the lectures inworld. Or can we? This is why we need alternative ways to access Second Life, alternative ways to take part of the inworld lectures and group assignments. Integrating Second Life into a web browser could be a solution. But the solution is not Movable Life, at least not yet.
Several blogs and news agencies have written articles about the second official embassy to open in Second Life, the Estonian embassy (Sweden was the first). In the article on TechCrunch however, a small error had slipped in to the text. Estonia is not celebrating it’s 90th anniversary of independence this year. Finland is, today actually. Although Estonian have “borrowed” the national anthem from Finland and although the two languages, Finnish and Estonian, have some similarities, they are still two different countries, two different neighboring countries. Estonia is celebrating their 90th anniversary next year, in 2008. But back to Second Life.
In my opinion the interest towards Second Life has tipped over during this fall in Finland and I think the same goes for the other Scandinavian countries as well. A year ago when I first talked about using Second Life in teaching at my university the respons was not very enthusiastic. People found it more amusing than useful. But that has changed now. Every university and every school wants to know more about Second Life, they want to know how they could use it. I think we can expect some very rapid development on that front. Several universities in Finland have already expressed their interest in starting some activity in Second Life. And I believe that Estonian embassy in Second Life is a proof of same kind of development in Baltic countries.
The main purpose of the newly opened Estonian embassy is to provide information about Estonian history, politics, economy and culture to a world-wide audience. Currently the embassy’s only full time employed is a traditional Estonian dog breed, an Eesti Hagija or an Estonian retriever (roughly translated). This retriever is a bit smarter than your average retriever, as it can not only retrieve the news to you but also read Estonian news to you.
Virtual Estonia can be visited through this SLURL.
There are a couple of things I wish for christmas and I hope that in spite of the maybe slightly angry letter you may have received after last christmas when I didn’t get my Aston Martin Vanquish that I wished for you would do something about these.
Number 1. Do something about the news feeds on Facebook. Let people decide which feeds to receive and which not. I’m fed up reading about how A’s vampire attacks B’s vampire and how C has added the fluff-friends application and how D has received yet another Superwall post. Enough! I don’t want to know about this. Currently the best solution for this is to not login on Facebook. A simple way to avoid information overload.
Number 2. Bring back the advanced search terms in Live. Earlier Live was the search engine for webometricians. You could get reciprocal hyperlinks, co-inlinks and -outlinks and all kinds of exciting data (well, exciting to a handfull of webometricians around the world). But now, not so much.
Number 3. This should be a simple one: show me one person that has found a new career thanks to LinkedIn.
Number 4. Could you also do something about the crashes on Second Life? As Philip Linden also talked about in his blog entry, stability is very important for educators using Second Life. I had a workshop about Second Life and partly in Second Life precisely the same time there were some serious login issues. It’s a bit embarassing to try to show how great Second Life is when half of the class couldn’t enter it.
Number 5. And maybe if you have time, maybe you could reconsider the Aston Martin I mentioned last year…