Birds of a Feather

FlockIt seems that every geek worth his or her salt is giving Flock a spin. In case you’re not a geek, or have been buried up to your neck in Ruby code, or (God forbid!) offline for a few days, Flock is a pre-release Firefox-based browser that ties into “social” web-based tools like Flickr,, newsfeeds and various blogging platforms. In fact, it does a great job of tying all these things together. For example, you can tag something as a favourite site, and it appears in your online list, which can appear in your blogroll. Meantime, a click on the built-in blog editor and a special toolbar means you can select one of those Flickr images your posted recently and write a blog post about it, publishing it automatically. It auto-discovers most feeds, lets you read them (or even combine various feeds together) in a nice ad-free environment, and –of course– blog about them. Throw in a nice little tie-in to the new blogging service (a free account!), and you have yourself a handy little tool for wrapping yourself in the interactive glory that is Web 2.0. (For a nice little guide of its features, see a short tour at stream of thoughts.)

So, do I like it?

I’m really not sure. (How’s that for a definitive answer?) I’ve never been a big Flickr user (my stream now has a grand total of two images, one for testing ages ago, and another for this post), and lately I find that I use less and less –I tag sites, but hardly ever return to use those bookmarks. The blog editor is decent; I’m actually using it for this post. The feeds are well done, but I’m not sure it’s going to replace bloglines for me any time soon. And the bookmarking system is, for me, rather clumsy, albeit great if you’re using several different computers and don’t mind sharing all your marks with the rest of the world, seeing you sync these online with (Although, to be fair, you can choose not to share your bookmarks, but you’ll be losing one of the most important –or at least hyped– abilities of the browser.) At least my favourite Firefox extensions work well, including Web Developer Toolbar, GMail Notifier, AdBlock and GreaseMonkey.

I’m giving this a spin for a week. Who knows? Maybe it will encourage me to become more “social”? 😉 2.0 Beta (for OS X!)

I love it when I get a pleasant surprise for the weekend. Now, all things being relative (and keep in mind that I’m a bona fide geek), this is quite a wonderful one for me: I’ve just downloaded and installed a version of the free Open Source office suite 2.0 beta for OS X, a version I didn’t even know existed. (Windows/Linux users can skip ahead a few paragraphs.) It’s not easy to find from any official site that I’ve tripped across, but you can find it here:

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Who Would You Phone?

Back in 1986, during my last year of high school, there was a radio trivia contest to win tickets to a concert. I didn’t have much money, but I really wanted to go see this particular group, so I sat myself beside the radio one Monday morning, phone in hand, and waited. Now, my head has always been overflowing with completely useless information –probably more so at that time in my life– so I knew I stood just as good a chance as anybody else. Finally, they asked the question: “What was David Bowie’s theatrical rock-star persona backed by the Spiders from Mars?” I dialed as quickly as I could, but (hampered by my old rotary phone, no doubt) I was not the first, and so didn’t win the tickets. For three more mornings, I did the same, each time knowing the answer, but failing to be the first to call. On that Friday, however, the question was much harder: “Whose band did Canadian singer Gowan borrow for the recording of his Strange Animal LP?” This time I won the tickets. (The answer, by the way, is Peter Gabriel, who was recording in the same studio around the same time.)

I was proud of my accomplishment, elated by that vindication of the sheer width and breadth of the mostly impractical data stogged tight into my brain. It seems a little foolish in retrospect, but the accumulation of knowledge was –for me– the most distinguishing facet of my self-identity.

Back then, information was far less transitory. I remember reading and studying endlessly, trying to retain every nugget of information I could, whether it was useful or not. Now, I have become lazy. When a question is asked and I don’t know the response, a quick search on the Net will generally take me directly to the right information. The question answered, the details then drop away from my mind, and I usually forget it completely. I suspect most people do this nowadays, relying upon the Net far more than memory. When someone dials a friend from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, are they really choosing their most knowledgeable friend, or simply the fastest with Google? Who would you phone?

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