Watchful eyes, thoughtful mind

Earth and us ….. past, present and future ….. connected?

Sunday Spotlight: Social media and Web2.0 October 11, 2009

Filed under: computer,sunday spotlight,technology — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

socialmedialandscapeThis time the Sunday Spotlight is focused on a very different kind of subject. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you will know that I usually focus on science or ecological topics. However, this blog itself and the ease with which I can use it to spread science and eco awareness are products of the social media revolution. Hence I thought of dedicating a blog post to this whole affair that has come to be known as Web2.0.

Media for a long time has been a one way bridge. Various people used the media, TV, radio, cinema, theatre, newspapers, pamphlets and other printed material, as a means of putting forth their ideas, issues, solutions, news etc. However the proportion of “givers” of information has been far less than the “receivers”. And that was probably the power of conventional media. The advent of internet and the social media changed this to a large extent. People are interacting on one-to-one bases and anyone can be the “giver” and the “receiver” of information. Of course, this boon of freedom of expression in true sense comes with a bane of misuse to spread information detrimental to the human race in mere seconds all over the world. So, IMHO, one should take the whole Web2.0 explosion with a pinch of salt.

I am one of those people who try their best to keep abreast of the new developments and trends in social media. Albeit I don’t require doing that professionally I do understand that it is for my own benefit. After starting my blog about a year ago, I’ve especially taken interest in Web2.0 as I could clearly see its wonderful potential in promoting my blog and hence my ideas and passions with millions of people who are internet savvy. Among many other social media platforms, Twitter helped me get my blog posts out there and also make new connections with people from my niche. However, I realised very soon that tweeting and RTing can become a job in itself if not automated. A bit of Google search brought me in contact with a fabulous service called SocialOomph (then known as TweetLater). This service (free version) lets you set a date and time in future for your tweets so you don’t have to be online at some ghastly hour, trying to keep feeding your Twitter. The RSS feed lets you feed your tweets into RSS feed readers of all sorts and lets others subscribe to it. However, the Pro version is the real showstopper (or rather show-runner). This paid service lets you do much more with your tweets and your network. Besides all features of free version, it lets you setup criteria for automatically following and unfollowing fellow tweeters. You can vet this feature if you like or set it in autopilot with SocialOomph. When someone follows you, you can have SocialOomph send them a DM (with your Twitter ID of course) with a welcome message. But what I like best are, bulk upload, recurring tweets and spinning of tweet text. The first one, as name suggests, lets you upload as many tweets as you want in one go. The second lets you set a recurrence frequency for any number of tweets and forget about them for as long as you wish. Spinning tweet text involves you giving as many different versions of a given tweet you like and SocialOomph will randomly chose a version to tweet when you’ve told it to. This is really a great feature because let’s face it, it get boring to see same old tweets recurring every so many days on the same account. People are going to ignore you! So all in all, if you haven’t already done so, I will definitely suggest you try out the Pro SocialOomph for their trial period. I’m sure you’ll want to upgrade for the cheap value that offers so much more freedom to do your real work.

Twitter started as a simple idea of sharing 140 character updates with your friends and family. Of course the end users themselves have evolved it to something much more. It is now a leading platform on web2.0 to stay updated with latest news (e.g.: Iran elections), to promote your product (e.g.: Amazon Kindle), spread the word about your campaign (e.g.: climate change) or even make some money out of your tweets (e.g.: Magpie). Monetisation using web2.0 and social media has become a big obsession with a lot of bloggers or anyone involved in the cyberspace in any capacity. And a lot of services like Chitika, Sponsored tweets, Nuffnang (currently only for Asia-Pacific) have sprung up like mushrooms to provide you ways to make some dough out of your cyber-investment.

Affiliate marketing is another big avenue that many bloggers, including yours truly, have taken in order to make their blogging profitable. Writing was once upon a time considered a talent that came naturally. However, now a lot of cyber-gurus have taken upon themselves to teach others how to write a blog, promote it and monetise it. One such person I myself learn from is Problogger Darren Rowse. I participated in Darren’s 31 days to build a better blog (31DBBB) workshop online and gained tremendously from it. Darren’s own insights on various topics related to blogs, which stem from his own experience of past 5-6 years as a blogger, were definitely the highlight of this workshop. And I loved the little tasks that we were assigned everyday to complete and improve pur blog in the process. These insights and assignments, along with other useful material are now on sale as a book (Click here to view more details). Even though I participated in the workshop I felt this book was worth buying (especially for the price its being offered) as a reference for future. If you’re getting serious about blogging and pursuing it as more than a hobby, I suggest you buy this book.

There have been millions of items written on the topics of social media, web2.0, monetising, affiliate marketing and the likes. This was my little take on the same. I’m still a newbie in this world of web2.0 and I sometimes feel like a kid in a candy shop. There are too many things that I want. But lately I’ve learnt to focus on what my goal is and then trying to look for tools that I’d need. Because it is very easy for the web2.0 to take control and lead you astray if you don’t keep strong hold on the virtual steering wheel.

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Sunday Spotlight: Rockford’s Rock Opera September 27, 2009

Filed under: acoustic,animation,extinction,nature,sunday spotlight — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Rockford

A cute little dog called Rockford gets lost and ends up in the Land of Infinity. There he meets lot of fascinating creatures who, to his surprise, turn out to be the last one of each that has gone extinct from our planet! They sing and dance and tell Rockford the stories of their extinction. Sounds like a great way of teaching your kids about ecology, extinction and their role in preserving the nature? It definitely is!

Rockford’s rock opera is a unique adventure in sound for adults and children. With narration, sound effects, songs and videos, it’s a totally new kind of musical experience. Its Facebook page describes it with words “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy meets The War of the Worlds, or Jungle Book meets Jurassic Park…” The members of this “musical experience” include Matthew Sweetapple, Steve Punt, Elaine Sweetapple and Jess Hodge along with others. Each one of them has contributed to this musical in their own capacities as producer, script writer, narrator, singer, voice-over for characters, illustrator to name only a few aspects. The first part of the story (52 minutes long) is available as mp3 audio for free download on their website. They also have a YouTube channel which lets you sample some of the animation videos that are part of this incredible story. I have listened to the audio book and watched the videos and cannot praise the creators of them enough. The music is catchy, lyrics are simple to understand and the animation is fascinating.

The first work of the Sweetapple label that I came across wasn’t the Opera at all. I saw their video Distant Generation on YouTube which was favourited by a friend and instantaneously fell in love with these folks. I then decided to dig a bit deeper and found a treasure trove of creative works in form of Rockford’s Rock Opera audio and video. Ever since then I have shared these works with people whenever I’ve gotten a chance. But I’ve always wanted to do a Sunday Spotlight on them and today seems to have been the fateful day. I am going to share the words directly from the website as I think they best describe the Opera and its purpose and scope.

Rockford’s Rock Opera is an amazing adventure in sound for adults and children. Part One of the story (six chapters: 52 minutes) is free! It features narration, read along text, characters, sound effects and music and is available as a free mp3 download and an audio stream. Great to listen to on your computer, your ipod or burnt onto CD, this is a free audiobook like no other. The website also contains useful background information about the story (including key information and free downloadable teaching resources about extinction and ecology), how the story was made and the facts behind the fiction.

Once you’ve sampled the story, you can buy it as an unabridged book on compact disc, together with illustrations and animated digital videos. Rockford’s Rock Opera is more than an electronic book, it’s a Musical Story about animals and an adventure about life on earth. It’s an original tale about extinction, but it’s also a story of hope. Created by Sweetapple and scripted by comedian and writer, Steve Punt, Rockford’s Rock Opera’s book on CD is funny, thoughtful, magical and like nothing you’ll ever have experienced before. Also, included are useful free Lesson Plans for teachers. Just press play to enjoy it online, click for Free Downloads – as an mp3 or iPod Story – then visit the shop to buy the specially enhanced discs that come with 24 page colour books, illustrations and videos. Truly a collectors’ audiobook on CD.

Much more than an adventure story, with animated videos, amazing sound effects and music, this is a children’s talking book like no other, available in a variety of easy-to-enjoy formats. It’s great for adults too and includes our own audiobook blog. Perfect for learning, great for storytelling in the classroom or for a wonderful, relaxing bedtime story treat, Rockford’s Rock Opera is first in a new generation of best children’s books. From the very young to older kids and adults, you’ll never have heard anything like this before. Edutainment at its very best for parents, teachers and especially, children!

Rockford’s Rock Opera has received rave reviews from the likes of WWF, BBC radio, The Independent, The Observer and more. And the great news is it is coming on to the stage in 2010. That’s going to be fantabulous! So now learning about our ecosystem and our role in it is really all song and dance.

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Sunday Spotlight: The Age of Stupid September 13, 2009

Filed under: earth,extinction,future,sunday spotlight,technology — Radiance @ 1:34 PM

Age-of-StupidThe Age of Stupid: Promote and win!

“’The Age of Stupid’ is the new cinema documentary from the Director of ‘McLibel‘ and the Producer of the Oscar-winning ‘One Day in September’. This enormously ambitious drama-documentary-animation hybrid stars Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite as an old man living in the devastated world of 2055, watching ‘archive’ footage from 2008 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change while we had the chance?”, says the synopsis of the film on its official website.

“The Age of Stupid is a 90-minute film about climate change, set in the future, which had its world premiere in London on March 15th 2009 and was released in UK cinemas on March 20th 2009. The film will be released in Australia & New Zealand on August 19th, the global premiere will be live from New York to 45 countries on September 21st 2009.
Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite (In The Name of the Father, Brassed Off) stars as a man living alone in the devasted world of 2055, looking back at archive footage from 2007 and asking: why didnt we stop climate change when we had the chance?”, says the YouTube channel of Spanner Films that is responsible for making of this documentary.

As you would have read above, the documentary is being premiered globally on the 21st (in US) and 22nd (in rest of the world) September, 2009. That’s next Monday/Tuesday. Hence I thought this was an appropriate time for me to focus the spotlight on it. Even though the documentary has been premiered in Australia in August, I haven’t yet gotten a chance to see it. I’m hoping to catch the live online broadcast from NY during the global premier. However, from the trailers I’ve watched and reviews I’ve read it seems like a very different take on the climate change issue. It weaves together 6 stories recorded in present day to make a fabric of human psyche. These are real people and not actors posing as someone. Fernand Pareau, 82-year old French mountain guide; Jeh Wadia, starting a low-cost airline in India; Alvin DuVernay, Shell oil man who rescued 100 people after Hurricane Katrina; Layefa Malemi, living in Shell’s most profitable oil region in Nigeria; Jamila and Adnan Bayyoud, two Iraqi refugee kids trying to find their brother and Piers Guy, a windfarm developer fighting the anti windfarm lobby in England … all show us different aspects of human mentality. The documentary does not set out to show us what we’ve already done to the planet because the assumption is we already know that. It, however, gives us a peak into the future that will be if we continue on our merry (?) way.

Another difference of this documentary from many others is that £450,000 of its budget was raised by “crowd-funding” – selling shares to individuals and groups. Film is therefore completely independent. The people’s contribution does not stop here. Even for the global premier people from various participating countries have organised their own “Indie screenings” to make it truly global. So for me this documentary also serves as a great example of how one can make a difference on a shoestring budget with support of other people who’re probably living on a shoestring budget themselves. I would strongly recommend all my readers to spread the word about The age of stupid and try to get as many people as you can to watch it. You can do your bit in many ways, organising your own screening, spread the word on social media, write a blog or at least watch it yourself.
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Sunday Spotlight collection August 23, 2009

Filed under: sunday spotlight — Radiance @ 4:48 PM
5th July: Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s documentary Home
12th July: Jason Martell and Xfacts network
19th July: Devavision Productions
26th July: The Virtual Telescope
2nd August: The Genographic Project
9th August: Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff
16th August: CPAK 2009 conference
 

Sunday Spotlight: The Virtual Telescope July 26, 2009

Filed under: astronomy,optics,space research,sunday spotlight,technology — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
A few days back I got an invite to join a group on LinkedIn. It was called The Virtual Telescope Project, a name that interested me enough to go ahead and check out what was this all about. And once I was on the website, I knew I had to write a Sunday Spotlight on this particular service provided by the Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory.

The homepage beckons you to enter the website with the message, “Enjoy the real Universe from your desktop, live!”. It is available in English and Italian. This project/telescope is a participant in the IYA2009 activities. The website is created and directed by Gianluca Masi. Here you will find out what makes Virtual Telescope a unique case in the world. The Virtual Telescope offers live shows and astronomical Labs, in real-time or with archived material (the latter being free).

I am very much looking forward to participate in their next live show on Monday 3rd August, which is in Italian. But … the fascinating beauty of the deep space is beyond spoken word.

 

Sunday Spotlight: Devavision Productions July 19, 2009

Filed under: ancient knowledge,india,science,sunday spotlight — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Some time back I came across and watched the video Scientific Verification of Vedic Knowledge on Google videos. This video is made by a group of people who call themselves Devavision Productions. The website homepage spells out their moto to be “Revealing the hidden treasure of India’s ancient Vedic wisdom and culture”.

I was really impressed with the research these people have done and the efforts they are putting in to get the word out there. I believe that there is a lot of ancient knowledge (not just in India but in other cultures as well) which is still “hidden” from us because we infact haven’t reached the spiritual, scientific and cultural maturity that is needed to comprehend it. So I’m delighted to see someone put in some serious effort towards “uncovering” that knowledge. Hence I thought I would do my bit of “publicising” this commendable effort and write a blog entry about them. Check them out if you are interested in ancient Indian knowledge!

 

Sunday Spotlight: Jason Martell and Xfacts July 12, 2009

Filed under: ancient knowledge,astronomy,sunday spotlight,ufology,unconventional — Radiance @ 12:00 AM
Jason Martell is a researcher and lecturer specialising and interested in connections between ancient knowledge and contemporary science. He has extensively studied the work of Zecharia Sitchin on Sumerian culture and the advanced technology mentioned therein. Jason has also given numerous lectures and presentations on the topic of Planet X (which has been reportedly spotted or at least its presence acknowledged by NASA), the 10th planet in our Solar system and the belief that this is the “Nibiru” of ancient Sumerians. The sites created by him, and collectively represented as Xfacts network, include AncientX.com, Xlectures.com, UfologyExpert.com, UfoStream.com, Mars-Earth.com and Alienscalpel.com.
  • AncientX.com is a collection of the video of and slides shown during the presentation given by Jason at MUFON, LA. Here he talks about various evidences provided by the Sumerian literature and artifacts that Sumerians knew about people of higher intelligence, originating from outside the Earth, whom they called Anunnaki. He goes on to show how planet Nibiru of Sumerians and its influence on the inner Solar system described by them could make it a very plausible candidate for Planet X that our astronomers are looking for today.
  • Xlectures.com is one-stop-resource to all the lectures and interviews given by Jason Martell to the date on various topics of his research, Nibiru/Planet X, ancient astronauts, Sumerian culture and artifacts, the Mars-Earth connection to name a few.
  • UfologyExpert.com tells you on its homepage that, “By watching the videos contained on this site, you will learn about some of the most substantial cases in Ufology. Evidence that can prove UFO’s are real, and intelligent extraterrestrials have made formal treaties with various governments around the world.”
  • UfoStream.com, as the name suggests, is a channel to watch innumerable videos concerning the UFOs and aliens. It also gives links to other similarly inclined channels, websites.
  • Mars-Earth.com took me to a page very similar to the “site map” page of Xfacts.com so I’m not sure if there’s some problem with the link. However, the tab “mars research” on the top navigation bar takes you to a page which contains some really interesting articles and links about structures on Mars (the face on Mars, the pentagonal pyramid complex of Cydonia etc.) and how its been shown that NASA has been altering the images obtained from Mars to make the planet look hostile.
  • Alienscalpel.com greets you with the message “This website is the only website dedicated to the victims of the Alien Abduction Phenomenon.”

So all I have tried to do in this blog entry is to give an overview of this vastly spread and informative network of sites and research generated by Jason Martell. In few of my blog entries earlier, I have picked some topics connected to Sumerian cosmology, which interest me and written my thoughts on them in some detail. I might write something about the structures on Mars some day. However, I’m not as keen on his other research interests such as UFOs and aliens. I do believe that there are a lot of thigs out there that need to be researched. But as for UFOs and aliens, I think its not the right time yet and hence we’re taking it in the wrong direction of sensetionalism.