I’m alive!

Hi All

In case you are wondering where have I been in the past few months, here is a quick update of what I’ve been doing. In short I’ve been doing some work to News Anchor and researching new product opportunities for Basil Salad.

Cartoon #1710 - (Sign next to Santa Claus reads 'Tell Santa what you want - Courtesy of the Funcorp Toy Product Research & Marketing Division')

With the recent release of Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion”, I’ve been fixing up News Anchor so that it still works fine on both Lion and Snow Leopard. As always with every operating system release, Apple tends to break something. I don’t have a dedicated test machine so I have to boot Lion from an external (USB) drive for testing and development. Yes booting off USB makes everything slow and painful, not to mention I don’t have all my day-to-day apps installed on the drive. I also had to dual-boot back-and-forth between Lion and Snow Leopard to make sure that News Anchor works great on both machines.

Frankly I haven’t really upgraded to Lion. I have an HP scanner that requires Rosetta (it only works with an old version of HP Scanning Software that runs on PocketPC), which unfortunately is no longer supported in Lion. I thought of installing the scanning software inside Windows XP and run the whole thing on a virtual machine, but alas my copy of Parallels Desktop 5 doesn’t work under Lion. I’m not keen of upgrading Parallels “again”, since I seldom run Windows nor use the scanner. That’s also the reason that I’m un-keen to buy a new scanner. But every now and then I need to scan something. This is on top of some other unknown 3rd party applications that may break under Lion. Probably I’ll wait until 10.7.1 before upgrading. Or I win Toto and can buy a new MacBook Pro.

Lion aside, the other thing that’s been keeping me busy is finding a new application concept for Basil Salad. That is what is the “next app” for us. There were a number of ideas but the most promising ones are SparklingSheet and Resonate. SparklingSheet is a time-tracker application whereas Resonate is a Twitter client. Which one will materialize? I’m not sure yet. It depends on your votes — you can open the respective apps’ landing pages and then vote by registering your e-mail address.

SparklingSheet is a time tracking application based roughly on David Seah’s Emergent Task Timer series. I used to use his forms to track my time when I was doing Application Support for a Big Bank. Those Task Timer sheets works great for jobs that consists of mostly ad-hoc tasks. In other words, fire-fighting type jobs that you can’t really plan what will happen within a day’s work.

Instead of entering tasks and selecting the number of hours you work on each task, you strike-off a series of check-boxes to mark time spent doing a task. It brings the paper time sheet metaphor in its entirely into electronic form. If we live in Harry Potter’s world, the paper would be interactive, but since our world is a bit more boring, a tablet computer should be a good approximation. Furthermore there will be some elements of gamification thrown in — that is you can see your time expressed as scoreboards and productivity points.

Resonate is a Twitter client meant for discovering interesting people, tame information overload and keep spammers away. The idea came from my own information overload on Twitter and how most Twitter client that I see doesn’t really help in this matter. Originally Resonate was pitched as “Twitter for Thought Leaders” but as I learn more about the problem domain, it looks like high education may be a better vertical to start with. Thus Resonate becomes “Twitter for Teachers”.

In high education it looks like Twitter is used mostly for these three things:

  • Augmenting class discussions, to help shy students to “speak up” more.
  • Extending consultation hours beyond the regular one (or two) hour class sessions.
  • For teachers/professors to contact other people in education to expand their personal learning network.

There is one professor, Rey Junco, who looks very dedicated in applying online social networks (Twitter included) into education. One of his research even show that Twitter has a positive impact to student’s grades.

Twitter use in education is mostly experimental. One study made in the US in 2010 shows that about half of educators doesn’t use Twitter (half of the respondents, to be exact). Some even say that Twitter may be detrimental to education since it encourages students to divide their attention between the instructor and their mobile phones. But then again it’s good enough for if the other half of teachers, professors, and other educators use Twitter to expand their personal learning network and would find Resonate useful for them.

So that’s what I’ve been doing so far. Probably I’ll post some more details about those two applications either here or in Basil Salad’s blog when I have more to say. Comments? Ideas?

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