Since Google announced in April that they would be archiving Twitter tweets, they’ve been rolling it out in phases, first making it accessible only in the additional tools menu in the left sidebar (as Updates), and then in August making it available separately as Realtime Search. I’ve been finding it quite useful, and here’s a little example:

As I often do when a new person retweets me, I was recently looking over the tweets of @sarahebourne, to see what she’s tweeted on that looks interesting, that I might retweet and repay the favor. I do this by combining the person’s Twitter name with different subjects of interest. With Twitter search going back only 4 days, it doesn’t work well for this, so lately I’ve been using Google Realtime search — Here’s the search I did: sarahebourne ebooks – I found one particularly interesting tweet from two weeks ago linking to an August 5 Library Journal article on eBooks and accessibility. I found that several people liked  the article enough to retweet it, and figuring it might be of interest to my followers, I tweeted it, and sure enough, it got several retweets.

So, a little example of a useful tool — With the limited back-searching available in Twitter search, it’s been frustrating that good tweets and good discussions have disappeared very quickly — If a tweet didn’t get retweeted in four days, it was seemingly gone forever. So now tweets are given a new life. Conversations that happened a while back — like during summer, when many people were otherwise occupied — can be brought back to life, like the little conversation above.

Google Realtime Search is still  a work-in-progress! – It’s a great improvement on Twitter’s four-day search, but be aware that it doesn’t find ALL old tweets. From my short experience, it seems to give emphasis to tweets that have  been retweeted.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Good writing relevant to a broad topic is often buried in a discussion of a more narrow topic — By its title, Zoe Rose’s recent article is about the Monocle eReader, which works in the Safari browser. But in fact much of the article is a good narrative about why networked eBooks are better than downloaded, device-tethered eBooks.

Rose’s article caught my attention for several reasons — It resonates with Hugh McGuire’s recent article about the future of connected books on the Internet and my commentary suggesting that Google Books gives a hint of this. As with McGuire, Rose’s writing on Internet-connected eBooks suggests what I’ve written before about Google Books as the new eBooks. Also, recent discussions of the Safari browser on the iPad outshining Apps for reading are much in tune with Rose’s emphasis on the appeal of browser-based eBooks. Here are her words:

Monocle is a new development in eBookery. It could be revolutionary, for one reason: it works in browsers. Which is to say, you access your eBook content through the Internet.

Fundamentally, there are two ways to access content using machines:
1. Content lives on the user’s own device. This is a download-based model. Example: iTunes.
2. Content lives on external servers which are accessed by the user’s device. This is a web-based model. Example: Spotfiy.

There’s a user-facing difference between the two, and I think the no-download model will eventually have the upper hand. For content users, the download model is the more annoying option, because it’s tethered to a device. To  use my husband as an example: At work and at home, he uses different machines. They’re powerful desktops, so physically lugging them about is not a good option. Because of this, a device-tethered eBook is no use to him. But he always has an Internet connection. He can always log on to a website.

There’s a developing trend of people using multiple machines to access their content, instead of the trusty old family PC. My household isn’t unusual – it has two people, a desktop, two laptops, an ipad, and an iphone. Matching that trend on the other side, we can also see Internet access growing exponentially – it’s quite likely (if not inevitable) that ubiquity is just around the corner.

Which is more likely? A future where people use the same device all the time, or a future where people have Internet access all the time? In choosing between browser-based and download-based content models, these trends point to an access-it-through-the-Internet model as being where the smart money is.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

“The browser platform wars are over. WebKit won. Gecko & IE lost” – Ian McKellar

As I wrote recently, one of the important effects of the iPad is that it’s shown that the WebKit browser platform is important beyond the world of mobile devices, with its use on Safari for iPad and also for Google Chrome. “WebKit” will likely soon become part of vocabulary of the wide Web-using world. Now, though, it’s talked about mainly by geekish tech people, so it’s hard to sift out non-geek talk about it that can inform the rest of us. The article by Gecko and WebKit developer Ian McKellar (@ian) that I’m excerpting below does a good job of this. McKellar states strongly his view that the programming environment of Mozilla/Firefox is outmoded and that the browsers of the future will be WebKit-based.

About the sub-title above: “The browser platform wars are over …” — This is from a tweet by McKellar, in response to my tweeting a link to his article. Although his tweet includes IE (Internet Explorer), his article is only on WebKit and Mozilla.

Gecko (in McKellar’s quote) is the browser platform for Firefox. Mozilla (in the excerpting below) is closely associated with Mozilla Firefox.

Excerpts from McKellar’s article [boldface added]:

In my experience (8 years building Mozilla based products and playing with WebKit since 2003) there are a few clear technical and social differences that can make WebKit a more attractive platform for developers than Mozilla.

The scale and complexity of the Mozilla codebase is daunting. Mozilla advocates will say that that’s because Mozilla provides more functionality, but the reality is that even if you don’t want all that functionality you still have to dig through and around it to get your work done. Much of the Mozilla platform is poorly documented, poorly understood and incomplete … while WebKit is smaller, simpler and newer.

The scale of the Mozilla organization is also daunting. Mozilla’s web presence is vast and is filled with inaccurate, outdated content. Their goals are vague and mostly irrelevant to developers. By contrast WebKit’s web site is simple and straight-forward.

Perhaps I’m short-sighted, but I don’t see a clear path forward for Mozilla in competing with WebKit as a platform for web content display. The long history of Mozilla have left them with a large, complicated codebase that’s not getting smaller. The rapid growth and defensive attitude of the organization (probably brought on by the Netscape / IE wars) has left it without a culture that welcomes friendly competition. … I’m just glad we have an alternative web content platform.

So, where to to from here? As iPad-like tablet devices nudge into the world of desktop computing, it seems likely that WebKit browsers are the future. Though FireFox and Internet Explorer will probably continue to dominate the desktop for some time, the WebKit future is available now on the desktop in Google Chrome — I’ve started using it regularly, and I find it superior to FireFox in many ways. So consider giving it a try.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

“The browser platform wars are over. WebKit won. Gecko & IE lost”

When I wrote on the WebKit Revolution in August, I didn’t find the good graphic below, I think because of the way it was titled and placed in excellent articles by Jason Grigsby (@grigs). So, thanks, Jason, and I hope you don’t mind that I’ve tweeked the text accompanying the pie graph, to show more clearly the platforms involved.

The graphic is a bit dated, since it doesn’t include the iPad, and no doubt a more current version would show a larger share for iPhone and Android. Also, the recent introductions of a WebKit browser on the Kindle 3 would make the WebKit dominance even more noteworthy. But the graphic still does a good job of showing the strength of WebKit browsers on mobile devices. Note >> All the pieces of the pie in shades of BLUE (all but Windows/Others) are based on WebKit.

[Text: 2009 Smartphone Market Share (Gartner). Phones currently shipping or projected to ship using WebKit ... Symbian (Nokia) 47%, Blackberry 20%, iPhone (Safari) 14%, Android 4%, WebOS (Palm) 1%, Windows/Others 14%]

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Twitter is notorious for having a short attention span – Trending topics tend to last for just a few days — The iPad has been a remarkable exception to this — Since it was introduced in April, its popularity on Twitter just seems to continue on and on. I experience this clearly myself because my tweets on the iPad are invariably the most popular ones.

With so much being written on the iPad, I often search in Twitter by combining “iPad” with another word — libraries, librarians, schools, learning, healthcare, medical etc. I’ve been surprised that combining iPad with library-related words consistently retrieves very little. So I did a little survey, counting the number of tweets retrieved in Twitter searches for some of these words, as shown in the graph at left (details on method below).

I don’t want to read too much into this quick-and-dirty little survey — Maybe it’s just a matter of time before the iPad surge filters down to libraries. But I still have to wonder … The apparent lack of interest in the iPad in the library world is especially surprising in view of the search figures in the chart for books, magazines, newspapers, and ebooks – the content of libraries.

As I was writing this post, I happened upon Brian Kenney’s article encouraging libraries to join the party and get into the “eBook game” like their patrons are quickly doing. The advice about libraries and eBooks in his catchy title fits the iPad also: You have to be in it to win it! – With the iPad having quickly established itself as the most popular device for reading digital books and magazines, and with its booming sales predicted to hit 28 million in 2011, isn’t it time for librarians to join the iPad party?

Methods — The numbers in the chart are the average of two searches done on Thurs, Aug 19 and Fri, Sept 3, each of the searches going back four days. I counted the number of pages for each search and multiplied by 10, assuming 10 tweets per page. For library related words, how about “library”? — I didn’t include it because of the varying contexts of the word — in particular iTunes library and iPod library — which are unrelated to libraries that are run by librarians. I did do a close examination of the 172 hits for library (on Sept 8th) and found that about 22 seemed to have some connection to the desired context, which would have raised the numbers in the chart a bit, but not enough to change the overall impression that the iPad is not mentioned much in connection with libraries. So I’ve chosen to stick with simple unambiguous words, especially so that the test can be easily repeated over time.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

With the new possibilities for multi-media storytelling brought by the iPad, Jean Gralley’s 2006 essay gains new relevance. I haven’t seen Gralley mentioned in recent talk on the eBook revolution, maybe because she writes as a childrens’ book illustrator. But I think many of her ideas resonate with recent commentaries on digital books more generally, so I’m excerpting extensively from her vivid language. Here are her words, with screenshots from the accompanying Flash video  > >

> >  I love everything about the traditional picture book art form. But when I discovered a hidden world of picture book artists who are creating traditional books in radically nontraditional ways, I was fascinated and hooked. As I played with these new computer programs, it dawned on me that my very thinking was being re-wired. Story ideas came that didn’t work well on paper.

It’s ridiculous to make a monitor do what paper does better. But the problem is not that things have gone too far but that they haven’t gone far enough. Let digital be digital. Let the digital medium create stories that can’t be told as well on paper — or told on paper at all. Imagine a story progressing not by page turns but by proceeding up, down, to the right, or even to the left. … Recognizing that our commitment is to the story and not to paper is powerful fuel for picture book creators; it’s all we need for liftoff.

Imagine words and pictures appearing, receding, and gliding into place. Envision stories that might proceed by unfolding like a flower, or sinking as if into a black hole in space.

As illustrators are loosening our paper bonds, so, too, can picture books. We’re able to create digital books because we’re becoming technologically and psychologically ready to create them and because our imaginations are lifting off the page.

The reader should be the prime mover. Just as in a traditional picture book, no matter what the digital book is capable of, the reader should direct the experience, determining the pace, backtracking or even skipping ahead. The reader should read. Unlike watching a video, the child won’t passively watch pictures while a text is being “told” via an audio file.

E-Books, with their fantastic ability to cross-reference, layer, and update information with ease and speed, are already being embraced, especially in academia. But developing their unique promise as a visual medium could make us re-think what a book is, in truly revolutionary ways. It makes sense that we children’s book illustrators would be the ones to take this step. We love to play with materials and forms. … Now some of us are thinking of leaving the page altogether.

For me, the concept of digital picture books is less about “embracing the future” and much more about our now. If we once framed the cosmos with a black-and-white sensibility, we are now swimming in a vivid Technicolor reality. If we once perceived the world as flat, it is now understood to be dimensional. Why shouldn’t our art and our stories reflect this?

The printed book is a beautiful, ancient, enduring form that will continue to exist. But these new tech tools are exquisitely appropriate for our time. To resist them seems to me to be not quite present. Although different tools may produce different kinds of tales, we are simply furthering the narrative of our one long tale. We are still moving along the age-old thread of storytelling. > >

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Meta-story (How I came upon Jean Gralley’s article) – Recently Roger Sutton (@HornBook), the editor of the childrens’ book magazine Hornbook, followed me on Twitter. As I often do when I get a new Twitter follower, I poked around doing some googling on his website to see what there is about the digital thing, and came upon Gralley’s article — A real hidden gem, that confirms my idea that childrens digital book people have a lot of good things to say on digital books more generally.

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Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey