Category Archives: "Focus On" Series

Social Media Connection

Focus On: Social Media – What’s all This about Twitter, Blogs, and RSS?

Background:
Social Media ConnectionEveryone has probably heard the term Social Media in the news lately.  Social media means different things to different people, but the term is basically used to describe internet-based technology that enables a group of users to communicate and collaborate on ideas.

Popular forms of social media include; blogs, wikis, micro-blogs, and social networking websites.   I’ll give a brief breakdown on each of them.

Types of Social Media:
Blogs:
The term blog is short for weblog. Blogs are basically a collection of diary-type “posts” that cover a particular topic – much like a web-based news article.  After a blogger posts an article, readers have the option to comment on the article and provide input on the topic.  Popular blogs include The Huffington Post, a news media & political blog, and TechCrunch, and tech-based blog.  There are also literally millions of other blogs that cover niche topics like personal finances, sewing, and biking.

Wikis: Wikis are web-based collaboration tools that allow users to create the content.  One of the most popular wikis in the world is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that is created by users.  Wikis basically work like this: users create pages on a subject and then allow other users to add and moderate the pages and subjects.  It’s a self-policing model that works remarkably well and provides great information.

Micro-Blogs: Micro-blogs are similar to blogs, except that you are limited to a set number of characters (usually about a sentence worth of words) for posts.   Microblogging has become quite popular in the last couple of years due to its ease of use and ability to reach a large audience quickly.  The most popular microblogging site is Twitter.  Other popular microblog web-sites include identi.ca and Tumblr.

Social Networking Sites: Social networking sites integrate several features into one platform that enables users to connect with one another.  Key features typically included in social networking sites include the ability to post photos, instant-message with each other, and provide short posts similar to micro-blog posts.  The giant in this group is FacebookMySpace is also very popular but has been losing market share over the last few years.  LinkedIn is another popular social networking site that is focused on developing professional relationships.  Video sharing web-sites, like YouTube and Vimeo, also share many attributes of social networking sites.

In Summary:
Social Media has become increasingly popular over the last few years.  As online communication and collaboration becomes more popular for business and personal use, expect to see more of social media applications on the market.

[Image Source: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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Open Source Software

Focus On: Open Source Software

Open Source SoftwareThe term Open Source Software refers to computer server and software applications that are developed for the free private use of individuals under varying circumstances.  There are two main concepts associated with open source software; 1) the software is distributed free to end users and 2) the source code is available to anyone and derivatives of the software are allowed to be created and distributed based on the source code.

Open source applications can be financially backed by all large or small companies, be developed through a community of developers, or some combination of both. There are several methods for companies to make money through open source software applications, including offering consulting support services for their application, offering technical support for the applications, or through the offering of advanced add-on features to the software.

The open source philosophy promotes sharing, collaboration, and accessibility for all software programs.   A formal definition of open source software was developed by the Open Source Initiative in the late 1990s.

There are several successful open-source applications on the market today including:

Linux: The term Linux is the generic name given to operating system applications that use the Linux kernel.   It was originally developed as a derivative of the UNIX operating systems in the mid-1990s.   Linux has established itself in the business server market and is used widely by many industries.   Distrowatch is a great resource for researching and downloading Linux distributions.

OpenOffice.org: OpenOffice.org is an open source office productivity application that is financially backed by Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle).  It is a robust office application that includes a word processor, a spreadsheet application, a presentation application, a drawing application, a database application, and a mathematical function generating application.

Mozilla: Mozilla is an internet software suite consisting of a web browser, Firefox, and an email program, Thunderbird.  It is financially backed by Mozilla Foundation. Recent market studies have shown that Firefox has up to a 25% market share of the web browser market.

Other examples of successful open source software applications include the Apache Server Software, MySQL, PHP, and Ubuntu.

For more information, check out the following links:
Open Source Initiative
OSAlt – Open Source Alternatives
Open Source Windows

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

Focus On: Cloud Computing

The basic premise behind cloud computing is that software applications and data will be stored on large centralized data centers instead of the user’s local machine.  Instead of accessing applications and data from the user’s hard drive, they will be accessed from someplace remotely via the internet.

Cloud computing can be quite a complex idea, and there still is a lot of discussion amongst experts about exactly how to characterize it.  It obtained its name through the metaphor of a shared source of data that anyone can access as a cloud in the sky.

The four components of cloud computing are:

Data: This includes personal files (such as pictures, documents, etc.) as well as any other data that is required to run your applications.  Some companies that currently use this technology are Google, Dropbox, Box.net, and Drop.IO.

Applications: Applications are the software that allow us to achieve the productivity we require from computers – think Microsoft Office.   Google Docs is a great example of a cloud computing application that combines cloud data and applications into one framework.

Hardware: As high-speed internet becomes more available, the way we access the applications and data of the cloud will continue to become easier for everyone. Instead of relying on desktop or laptop computers, we now and will continue to have more access top data via a wide variety of smaller, more flexible computing devices, including  smart phones and netbooks.

High-Speed Internet: Without high-speed internet, cloud computing would not be possible.  Accessing data and applications can only be accomplished through a robust broadband network.  Expect to high-speed availability improve greatly in the next few years.

Cloud computing has become and will continue to be an important concept in computing.  Watch for computing technology to continue to shift towards “the cloud” in coming years.

Image Source: Saperaud under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License