Sunday, October 4, 2009

Real Sophia Vembo on Youtube!

I have been pretty slack about keeping up with my Greek course on LiveMocha. I know the trigger for that was when the Greek course, like the others, added an oral component that was required to pass. I had been going great guns there until then - and surprising myself by being ok with the aural. However, the oral element was added and I slacked off using as an excuse that I need to get a new microphone for my PC. And I got that weeks and weeks ago but haven't quite got to the Greek again.

Today through a fairly circuitous route which will not add value by description I ended up on Youtube and happened to go to my subscriptions which I am equally slack about checking. And there were two little Greek gems there. They are both quite short scenes from a 1938 film, I prosfugopoula, and show Sophia Vembo actually performing songs, Poso i zoi ine orea, and Zito na se xehaso.

I have long been a fan of Sophia Vembo and have her on many vinyls and one CD but had never seen her perform in the flesh in her prime. There is a bit of footage on Youtube which has her performing in the 1976 which I had seen and favourited before and dates to the time when I first started to know about her and really when she was experiencing a revival. Finding these two clips today makes me realize, as if I hadn't before, just what gems are hidden on Youtube and also continually being added. I need to be vigilant!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Brizzly interface for Twitter

Thanks to @ladymidnight I have been spending time this afternoon experimenting with Brizzly, yet another interface for Twitter. Brizzly has some cute features: you can view full urls in tweets, see videos and photographs immediately without clicking and can divide your followers into groups. The extended url, and immediacy of photos and videos works well.

I got quite excited about dividing my followers into groups as you can then click the group and get only their feeds. As I have been struggling recently with the number of Twitterers that I am following I thought this would be great. And it is a great feature - but alas one is limited to five groups only! I wish I had known that before I started setting them up and I would have made the groups broader. So it's back to the drawing boards for me now with that feature.

Another interesting feature is that you can temporarily make people you are following "mute". I can see that this could be quite useful when people are live-twittering something that doesn't really grab me. The DM function seems quite useful too as you get threads and can see what you have sent. You can also favourite and retweet and there is an easy interface to allow you to work with more than one Twitter account. No, I don't have multiple Twitter personalities. However, I do post tweets to both my personal account and to the City of Boroondara Library Service one.

There's an introduction to Brizzly on Youtube:

And here's a short grab on the key features:

There is a lot that I really like about Grizzly and I think that Thinglabs have done a great job with this interface. It is interesting to play with all these interfaces and speculate what impact they will have on Twitter future development.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cat solves printer-problem(with subtitle)

Now this is much more like Heccy!

Molly the cat, meet the printer...

This is such a familiar story!! Only Hecuba's paws get into the printer and jam it!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Learning Languages Using Social Media

People who follow my blog know that I am interested in learning languages and have recently been going back to try and re-learn some of the Greek and earlier the French that I have forgotten. I have been using Web 2.0 skills for that and primarily have focused on Livemocha, though I do feel some inadequacies in the site which I have described elsewhere.

Laura Gomez over at Mashable recently did a guide to learning languages using social media. She looks at three categories of sites: Community, Video/interactive, Blogs and Twitter. Most of the examples she gives for Blogs are really general stuff about language quizzes, language learning and not really about intensively learning an individual language. The video/interactive category includes a range of things from BBC languages to plain Youtube, with a number of them being paid courses.

Twitter was an interesting newcomer to the field with a range of sites to follow which give words of the day etc. Examples Laura gives are of Linguick, I kinda like languages, Learn Japanese, Learn Spanish, and French language. I have signed up to follow these (excluding the Japanese one) and I'll report back on how I find them.

I am particularly interested in those that fall into the category of Community as I think that that is where social media has its strengths. How good is it to be able to get in touch with native speakers who are happy to help you learn a language in an unthreatening, sharing environment! I already use Livemocha, of course but was keen to explore the other five: Babbel, Busuu, SharedTalk, iTalki, and xLingo.

Babbel is a site where you can learn French, English, German, Italian and Spanish. There are free vocabulary and phrases packages but the actual online courses are charged for. Though this is essentially a business, there is a community element to it with learning partners, chat, messaging etc.

Busuu whose image heads the post also focuses on four main European languages, English, Spanish, French and German and was established as a project of UNESCO's Year of Languages. It is free and provides online interactive courses as well as a learning community. There's vocabulary, dialogues, interactive exams as well as community elements. Check out an introduction to Busuu at Youtube. It looks quite good, so I might give it a burl for my slack French some time, but it's not much help for my Greek given the limited number of languages it offers.

Shared Talk by Rosetta Stone (cool image that if nothing else!) is a place for practising what you have learnt, according to Gomez. It is also an adjunct to paid Rosetta Stone products. There's voice chat, text chat, language partners and all in about 30 languages, ranging from Afrikaans to Yiddish with a lot of minority languages in between on the list. Presumably this list is dependent on whether anyone is signed up on the site for a particular language. I checked out Greek and discovered a potential pool of 99 people who were interested in Greek. They were listed by name, native language, practising language, country, and age. I am not sure what relevance age has, but maybe some people only want to form communities with people their own age? I also checked Amharic and found 15 possibilities. This might be a site worth checking out - it is certainly worth knowing about.

iTalki is more of a learning exchange: it helps you find a teacher, find a language exchange partner, ask questions and discuss in groups, and find resources. They seem to cover most languages, though there is more focus on the more populous European languages. Resources seem to be submitted by members as well as by links to other resources. The teacher marketplace puts one in touch with paid tutors. Again I checked out Greek and found resources and nine teachers. Amharic wasn't on offer, so I tried Latin and came up with resources and eight teachers.

The final site, xLingo, is also a language exchange where you can find language partners to chat either one on one or in forums, make resources and share. I checked out what was available in Amharic and came up with three possible language partners: you can choose by age, gender and country. Then I checked out the Greek and found a page and a half of possibilities. I tried Latin for fun and came up with 12 people. So here's another site where I could practise my lost language skills.

Use of social media for language learning is an interesting topic and probably an area that is going to grow. I was interested in a comment I received on my blog about a new site It's not up yet but it says it is about learning a new language anytime, anywhere and with language partners and teaching others yourself. There was an offer for pre-launch signups to become VIP members though I don't quite see the benefits of that if it is all free as stated.

It has been interesting to do this survey but I think that I'll stick with LiveMocha for the present. I want to do free, actual online courses specifically in Greek and LiveMocha has that for me. I am happy to participate in the Livemocha community by helping others to learn English, though I don't do much of that. If I want to pursue my French further (and I have done some French on Livemocha too) I can see that there are other options out there for me, as indeed there are if I want to practise Greek rather than doing an actual course.

PCMag's Top 100 websites of 2009

I've just been browsing through PCMag's Top 100 sites for 2009. They have divided the list up into two sections Classic and Undiscovered, and then divided the Classic into Apps, Fun, Info, News, Shopping and Tech and the Undiscovered into the same categories excluding News. I'm not sure why there's no News category in the Undiscovered as I would certainly be adding a few news sites to their Classic ones.

I was interested to browse them and discover that I regularly use 20+ of them (mostly the Classics like Facebook, Twitter, Picnik, Google apps, Youtube etc but some so-called Undiscovered like the World Digital Library) and I have played with others. There were half a dozen that I will explore personally and also some that I thought might be worth exploring for Web 2.0 classes either for the staff or the public, eg for travel.

However, I must say there were quite a few that I know I will never look at because I don't live in the US. I might be interested in restaurants in NYC if I were travelling there, but I really am not interested in US real estate or where to get a pet from a shelter in US. It would be interesting to see what an Australian list of 100 best websites for 2009 looked like, but maybe it's just too many to be focusing on for anywhere.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A retake on LiveMocha!

Well, I am still sitting at my PC and I haven't dusted off any of my Greek grammar or poetry books. But I did go back to an earlier post on this blog and check out LiveMocha again. When I tried LiveMocha last time there was a very limited range of languages available and the site was very new. From the choice available I chose French, not because it was new to me but because I feel it was a lost skill.

I worked my way through quite a few lessons but found some of it a bit frustrating. I felt the course needed clearer instructions and some components to the course did not add value for me. There also seemed to me to be mistakes in corrections made to my work but I was too slack to chase these up. A reason for that could well have been the voluntary, social networking type of learning approach and that's fine.

LiveMocha has regularly kept in email contact with me since I slacked off with my French last year so I knew that there were new languages available and somewhere in my head was a memory that Greek was now available. So today I checked it out! Three hours later I have completed the six lessons in Unit 1 of Greek 101, including optional sections and quizzes! I have two more units to go to complete Greek 101.

Greek 101 is for absolute beginners, so given the fact that decades ago I did complete Modern Greek 1 at University level it wasn't too hard for me and it really wasn't until Lesson 6 that I found I had to bother about some vocab. I thought LiveMocha had improved: there were good instructions for each lessons and the components of lessons were useful and clear. It was good to have revision exercises.

I will try to continue with reviving my lost (and never very good) Greek and might even go back to my French. However, I do wonder with Greek how an English first language person with absolutely no knowledge of Greek would go at starting the Greek. There is an assumption that you know the alphabet it seems to me, but maybe I am wrong. One day I will try out a language I know nothing about but for the moment sticking with Greek will be a good learning exercise for my brain.

Mikis Theodorakis in East Berlin 1987: 22 Sto Perigiali (Arnisi)

My sister tells me that practising another language is a great way to exercise my brain. Today I decided to try to mash up my Web 2.0 skills with language learning to help me with this. And I found this absolutely fabulous little gem on Youtube: it features Mikis Theodorakis himself singing his own composition based on Giorgos Seferis's poem Arnisi (Sto perigiali). As this is one of the few Seferis poems that I understand the words for, I was overjoyed to find it.

I have previously done some Sophia Vembo hunting on Youtube but must remember that Youtube is a great source of assistance for language maintenance and language learning. Now to dust off my Seferis and try to read some of his poems in printed form? And I could see if one of the onlines tools I experimented with earlier in this blog now does Greek? They didn't before.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

#69 Postscript to FeedMyInbox

On Saturday I did the Thing that related to FeedMyInbox. I was fairly frustrated by my attempts but ultimately it all worked out. I am now getting daily feeds from Canberra Times into my inbox, though I will change that to my newspapers folder. The feeds are in one post that is clearly laid out and here is an option at the bottom to stop the service at any time. I'll experiment with getting it for a little while, though I am not sure that I need any more feeds either in Bloglines or in my email inbox. But it is a good little tool that appears to work well.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

#69 FeedMyInbox

FeedMyInbox is a supposedly simple interface to allow RSS feeds to be sent straight to your email inbox. This looked simple enough and I hunted around for something I didn't already subscribe to either by email or via Bloglines. I hit on the Canberra Times, typed in the url of website as specifically asked for and an email address! The site accepted it and said it had sent me a confirmation email that I needed to click to confirm. No email. I tried again a couple of times. I changed my email address to another. Still no email.

I had noticed another bit where it said "create your own form" and clicked to that: there it was clearly stated do not paste the website url, paste the RSS address. So presumably I had been correct in pasting the website address where specified. I went back to my original place and even tried with one of the examples they gave. Again, I was told I was getting a confirmation email. No email.

Maybe I will get a flurry of confirmation emails when the US wakes up? Well, I don't care. I use Bloglines regularly and have enough stuff clogging up my email inboxes. I don't know if the problem is that I didn't use the RSS address. However, it accepted what I typed and made a clear distinction between what it wanted in this place and in the place where the RSS address was asked for.

Well, maybe I should try it with the RSS url. Eventually I found the Canberra Times RSS feed url and tried it again. Again FeedMyInbox accepted what I had put in. I went to one of my email inboxes and lo!! there were three emails from FeedMyInbox: one from Canberra Times from the straight website url, one from Apple from the straight website url and one from the Canberra Times RSS feed url. So obviously the instructions were correct. The emails just aren't very instantaneous. I have confirmed one of the Canberra Times ones and the site accepted it. We'll see what I get. But I still think that I'll stick to Bloglines.

#68 Filtering Flickr

I don't know how many images Flickr has now or indeed how many are added every day but I am sure that both are quite unbelievable numbers. This Thing provides information about two sites that can be used to help searching for images on a particular topic - FlickrCC and Tag Galaxy.

FlickrCC, as you might guess by the CC, only searches images with Creative Commons licensing and does so by a keyword search. It brings up a window of photographs and you can then click to get the attribution link, editing link etc. Tag Galaxy lets you search Flickr again through a keyword initially but you can narrow down the search through other visual cues. When you decide you are there, the images appear on a sphere and you can rotate and search until you get the one you want.

I explored both of them with the "churches" as had been done by HCPL Technical Trainer. Then I started playing around with some other keywords: Greece, Cats, Polyxena, Xena and Hecuba. Greece always brings up far too many images so with Tag Galaxy I tried narrowing the search by sunset, Athens etc. This narrowing didn't work too well as I got a lot of sunsets on Santorini as well as Athens. I got some very nice cat photos using both and then tried Polyxena, Xena and Hecuba on Tag Galaxy to see if I could get some of my own photos. Sure enough with Polyxena as I spinned the Tag Galaxy sphere around there were my photos of Xena and Hecuba and even Xena Warholized! While searching Xena I was amazed at the number of cats apparently called Xena! Tag Galaxy doesn't limit its photos by Creative Commons so that is something to be wary of if you want to use photos that it throws up. You will need to check copyright.

If the point of using these sites was for something more than curiosity, I thought I should try their practical application and try to load the photos into the blog. I tried FlickrCC first and searched on Hecuba. From this selection I chose a photograph of a performance of Euripides' Hecuba. I was given the Flickr address which I could have posted here as a link and also asked if I wanted to edit it inhouse or using Picnik. I tried inhouse but couldn't work out how to save the changes I had made and ended up losing the image. Then I tried with Picnik, made changes and was given the normal choices of loading to my PC or Facebook or Flickr. I loaded to my PC and then loaded up here.

I think the easiest way to load would have been simply to right click and save a copy in the first instance. But this did allow me to edit first (the text box) and potentially to save in a range of ways.

With Tag Galaxy, I tried again with Polyxena and quickly found some of my photos. I couldn't right click to save, so I went to the Flickr link and was then able to use all the normal Flickr options. I took the embedded code and loaded it here.


As Flickr had immediately recognized me as the owner of this photo, I wondered what would happen if I loaded someone's else's photo. I tried a few but they were in copyright so I haven't uploaded them. Nonetheless I could have imported them. I tried one of mine again, a colour photo of Hec and Xena. I opened it in Flickr and chose to edit it in Picnik. I cropped it and changed it to BW and then saved it on Flickr before grabbing the code and embedding it here.

BW Alert Hecuba

Both of these sites are potentially useful and allow editing, either directly or once you get to Flickr. Tag Galaxy has the disadvantage that it searches everything regardless of copyright, but its potential usefulness will depend on your reason for searching.

Friday, January 9, 2009

#67 Stress Savers

Bad Polyxena hasn't done any Learning 2.1 tasks since October! However, fortunately there were only three Things between then and now so hopefully she'll be able to get up to date. Stress savers is the theme for Thing 67 and the idea is to introduce things that will save time.

The Dial A Human site takes one to a list of service providers and gives telephone numbers and tips on how to get to a human being. The site is very US based so I didn't actually try any of the numbers but I noted some of the strategies. For example, the advice on the AMEX number was to press "0" repeatedly to get an operator. I noticed that this was the case with a number of other companies. So it could be worth a try here next time I get stuck on a great long line of possibilities that seem never to end.

Custom Guide is a great little tool. The website provides free computer training tip sheets on a number of programs: Microsoft, Mac, Adobe and a few other extras such as Lotusnotes, Quickbooks and Firefox. We've recently moved to Outlook 7 and there are still some issues with it. So I had a look at that cheat sheet and printed it off for future reference as it seemed a good summary. A double-paged A4 tool is provided. They seem clearly laid out and I can see a great advantage either for staff who have just had training or for printing off and keeping near the public PCs. is a little site that checks whether your preferred user name is available or in use. The idea is that you can use this to ensure that you lock in your preferred name if it is available. You type in the name and the site immediately checks a range of sites from Blogger to tinyurl, via Stumbleupon, LinkedIn and Delicious. I tried Polyxena, Polyxena2, Hecuba and Hecuba's Story and got very mixed results. Some of the accounts I found were me, some weren't, some were quite inconsistent and some were just plain wrong. It's an interesting concept but I don't think that I really need it. The site also suggested that it was a quick way to get to all the sites without delays: in some cases this was very true but in other cases I found access very slow. Maybe it was a slow day at our end?

So all in all, I come away from Thing 67 with a good tool that I can see real benefit in using with staff and the public. I'll have to see about getting that implemented next week.
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