Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Skype 3.8 for Windows goes public with audio improvements

Our favorite, free communications program just got a little better.

The main improvements can be found under the hood of the audio engine. In the real world, this translates to significantly reduced background noise, less delay, fewer call drops, and fewer cut-outs. And if you change your headset, headphones or microphone, there's no need to mess around with sound settings. 3.8 takes care of it behind the scenes.

One technologically minor but user-friendly change is this: by default, we've hidden the users profile image in incoming authorization requests. Some people have been using offensive images, so we decided to put them behind a veil. You can still see the hidden avatar if you click on it.

The release also includes a number of video-related bug fixes... And even if you're happy with an older version of Skype, we recommend upgrading to the latest.

You can find more, including the download link, here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Record setting skyscraper to go up in Prishtina

A four hundred million euro skyscraper is being built in the capital of Kosovo, Prishtina.  Hmm

The complex is located on Bill Clinton Boulevard close to the center of Prishtina on an area of 26,000 m2. With a floor space of 285,000 m2, the complex consists of 100 luxury apartments, a 165 m 42-story-high high-end office tower, the highest in the Balkans, a shopping center, a hotel and six level subterranean garages.

Err...don't get me wrong.  I'm all for skyscrapers and everything, but what kind of generator do you need for a 42 story building when there's not enough electricity as it is?

via New Kosova Report

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Skype to sell unlimited international calls for $9.95/month

Skype is rolling out a new international pricing plan. 

The plan will allow unlimited calls to land-line phones in 34 countries for $9.95 per month, said Don Albert, vice president and general manager for Skype North America.

The countries encompassed include most of Europe, plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Malaysia.

Calls to domestic land lines and cell phones are included as well, as are calls to cell phones in Canada, China, Hong Kong and Singapore, but not cell phones in other countries.

from Yahoo News

Good news for Missions execs.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bloggers get free access to Encyclopedia Britannica

TechCrunch reported yesterday that Encyclopedia Britannica is granting one-year free access to "web publishers."  If you're  a blogger, webmaster or someone "who publish[es] with some regularity on the Internet" you qualify.

If you're interested head over to Britannica Webshare and check out the details.  You have to click on "register" and fill out a short form that includes the URL of your site.  I got a response in less that 24 offers that included an offer code that allowed me to "order EB for one year. 

I'm not sure how often I'll reference Encyclopedia Britannica, but it's a $70 value.  That's access to 44 million words of quality information for free!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

YouTube mini-analytics inform video posting strategy

As part of my work as a missionary I create short, low-quality, low- tech videos for friends, family and supporters back home.  Because of my context I upload some of those to YouTube, others only for my FaceBook friends and others to a server and link to the video in an email  which I send out selectively.  I do this to protect the identity of the participants.

But the folks at YouTube have given me another reason to host my videos there: mini-analytics.  You can now know how many times your video has been watched, when and in which country. 

For example, in December we participated with Samaritans Purse to distribute Christmas giftboxes in Kosovo.  To document that effort I shot a two-minute video at the gift distribution site, an elementary school in a nearby city.  Here is that video which was posted on December 15th, 2007.

videoviews-countIt's easy to see how many times the video has been watch; it's out in front.  In this case, it's 184.  That's about average for my videos; my audience is very small.  That doesn't really tell us much though.  When did those 184 views happen?  My assumption, before discovering the analyitics, was that most of those views came within a few days of the video's original post.  I should have known better and learned a lot from this new feature.

Finding the Analytics

image To find your analytics log into YouTube and click on "my videos."  Find the video you're interested in and select, "about this video" on the right hand side.



You'll be taken to an interactive map with a scrollable timeline on the left and a map on the right.  The timeline can be moved from the video's original post date to the current date.  By scrolling through the view history you can easily find when the most views occurred; the map shows you the view density for that period.


What I found surprised me. I had assume that most people would watch the video within a few days of it being uploaded.  I could not have been more wrong.  In fact, based on the timeline above, only about ten people watched this video within the first three days.  Had I imageknown that then, I probably would have quickly quit shooting video!

But if you look closely, you'll see a big spike about halfway through the timeline.  When I scroll over to that peak and select USA from the map view this is what I see.


Now I can see that on about February 18 about fifty-five people viewed the video.  Slightly less than a third of the total views happened on one day, two months after I posted the video.  They were mostly in North Carolina, but also in WI, NY and a few other states (the shading represents view density).  So what happened on Feb 18?  I have no idea.  But here are a few implications I've gleaned.


  1. Videos have much longer legs than I thought.  Their timeliness isn't determined by the poster, but by the viewer.  Videos are watched months after their posted.  They need to be easy to find.
  2. I cannot predict when a video will attract someone's interest or why.
  3. Because of the first two points, missionary videos should be posted to a service that allows them to be aggregated under the poster's identity.  They should be easily searchable and storable.

I mentioned before that I post some videos to a server and send the link in a prayer letter.  I do that if the video has a lot of church members' faces or other identifiers.  Because I work in a nominally Muslim country I try to be careful.  But that "security" comes at a cost.  Most viewers will watch a video in ones or twos in the months that follow, not within a couple of days of the video becoming available.  A prayer letter with a link will get deleted or forgotten before the video's "long tale" has a change to grow.  Videos I distribute by link alone will be watched much less than those posted to a hosting site like YouTube (there are many others too).

If you're using video to communicate your work or ministry, I would highly recommend that it be permanently linkable, searchable, storable and aggregated under your identity.  People will watch your videos long after you've forgotten about posting them.  Make it easy for them to find.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Great SugarSync demo video

There has been a lot happening in the on-line storage and sync space recently. For example, here, here, here, here, and here.

Back in January I wrote about a new player in sync/backup called SugarSync.  SugarSync, which is new to sync/backup but not to online services, backs up everything (or as much of everything as you choose).  It also syncs with all your chosen devices (Mac, Windows & phone) and makes it all available, through a secure connection, to any Internet-connected computer.

The below video shows a great demo of how the product works which James Kendrik pointed out.

After using it in beta for several months I bought a one-year subscription, which set me back $25.  I rarely buy services or software always preferring FREE.  But this was too good a service to pass up.  [DISCLAIMER: After buying a one-year subscription, the kind folks at SugarSync gave me a free life-time 100GB plan (though they didn't refund my $25 :) ).]

Honestly, I now worry far less about lugging my laptop around knowing that I can get anything I need wherever there's an Internet connected computer.  And while I have a fairly robust backup strategy in place, it's only as good as it's weakest link...which is usually me.

If you're looking for an online backup and synchronization service SugarSync is worth a look.