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September 30, 2008

Still No OS, But Google Takes Over My Desktop Anyway

The Google Mac team seemingly doesn't get to play with all the fun toys its Windows counterparts do. While the Windows team got to use Desktop long before we Mac users did, and thus far, holds a monopoly on the Chrome Web browser, it looks as if their hands weren't completely idle - as on Monday, they announced the release of a tool called Top Draw, which creates complex imagery and has the option to replace users' desktops. While an automatic background refresher isn't exactly innovative, as Apple has had this capability built into its system preferences for years, the new tool offers up compelling images that had me checking out my new desktop time and again.

Top Draw comes with integrated scripts with many preloaded image types, from Grid to Plasma to WavyGlow, for example.

The small viewer simply lets you select what Script type will run and how often it will refresh. For me, I have it running on randomly chosen scripts, every two minutes.

While not all the resulting images are postcard-perfect, a great deal of them surpass the bundled desktop patterns and pictures provided by Cupertino. A few examples are below:







It's one of those small products that piques the interest throughout the day. Also piquing the interest is wondering just what the Google Mac team is working on that would require this kind of engine, and if we'll soon get to see some serious Mac software and not just flashy toys that hearken back to decades-old screensavers.

September 29, 2008

This Financial Scenario Says There Are No Experts

The go-go days of the 1990s stock market, combined with the ease of online brokerages like eTrade, brought the world of Wall Street home for many people who previously saw it as a world outside their own, with high-priced brokers and a busy exchange floor. Along with the debut of CNBC, and the consumerization of financial news, including TheStreet.com and CBS Marketwatch, the potential world of day trading was brought home for millions. While the dotcom crash killed off many people's hopes at retiring rich from behind their computer monitors, most everyone has at least a passing understanding of the stock market, and many see themselves as experts - offering advice to any who will listen, even as we enter what looks like a scenario never seen before in our history, a time that will bring new challenges. Some "tried and true" solutions could work again in this trying time, and others will undoubtedly fail.

Today, after using the same methods I've used in the last seven years following the dotcom crash, I saw my personal portfolio take a hit of almost eight percent in one trading session. I've always typically invested in stocks where I feel I know the companies well, which typically sees me overweighted in the technology sector - Apple included. Of course, Apple took more than its fair share of the dive today, losing almost 20 percent of its value - which didn't help matters.
  • To some, today's dive marks yet another milestone in a long, steep drop downward. The word "depression" is even being thrown around.
  • To others, today's dive is a buying opportunity, giving you a chance to get stocks for cheap, down ten or twenty percent from where they were just a few short weeks ago.
  • To some, buying stocks on the way down constitutes trying to "catch a falling knife", a move fraught with risk.
  • To others, buying falling stocks allows them to "average down".
So now, we get advice from all sides. Buy stocks before Congress passes any version of the bailout bill, which is sure to raise stocks. Sell all your stocks and go to cash, as it's the only "safe" place. Get your cash out of the bank and into gold. You name a theory, and it's out there.

After being bitten by holding stocks long term around the beginning of the decade, I changed my methodology, holding stocks for days, or only weeks, tops. While others worried about taxes for short-term sales, I just tried to make a small portfolio larger. Often, this trading has worked, like it did when I bought AIG at $3.10 on September 16th and sold it for $4.84 on September 22nd, or when I bought Sirius Radio for 74 cents and sold it for 95 cents on those same dates. But, many other times, it hasn't, as the expected bump hasn't taken place. My bull-headedness typically sees me holding onto those losers for way too long, until those losses approach the accumulated gains from winning trades. So, despite my experience, I know I'm no expert. And the current market situation is unprecedented.

The fact that so many factors are coming into play at one time means that no single person has all the data. It's not clear who will be bailed out when, how much it will cost, how the presumed crisis will effect consumer or enterprise spending, and how it will change things in the short term or the long term. But it's not too uncommon for people to give advice without qualifications. You can see it when they say "buying on the way down will be profitable in the long run", or "get ready to buy, buy, buy" or that "smart investors (will) clean house and get ready for this amazing buying opportunity". I've seen every single one of these comments just on FriendFeed alone - which in theory wouldn't be where I'd head for investment advice.

The very tenets of what many of us have used to guide our buying and selling should always be in question. Even the concept of making a profit on every single trade is flawed, as it could make sense to sell one lot of shares at a loss to free up cash to make even more on another stock. And while I look at today's portfolio and see a bunch of red, it's not clear if tomorrow will be the beginning of a turn-around, or more of the same. With twins now, and my wife not working, at least this year, the idea would be to accumulate as much cash as I can, to prepare for tomorrow's expenses, but when I see an entire year's college tuition evaporate in a week, it's got me thinking I need to start making new approaches to guide my behavior in a time when nobody has the rule book. This could be a long learning process for all of us.

BackType Launches Widgets and Alerts to Extend Comments Tracker

At the end of August, BackType launched an interesting tool to track individuals' comments across the Web - no matter the commenting platform and no matter the blog, and letting you subscribe to other BackType users to see their comments, wherever they were. In the last few weeks, BackType launched alerts, letting you follow search terms, and today, they launched widgets which enable you to show the places you are commenting around the Web from a single place, most likely your own blog.

As the world of blogging is changing, tweets on Twitter and comments on blog posts are becoming nearly as important as dedicated posts themselves, and BackType has served as a way to find out what other blogs people you follow read and comment on, or to show who is more likely to launch a new story, yet not participate in the following discussion. The service also serves to show if bloggers tend to only participate in the comments on their own site, and not around the Web - something I myself have been guilty of in some weeks.


BackType's New Alerts and Widgets


Alerts

After logging in to BackType, go to http://www.backtype.com/home/alerts to see how you can follow individual words or search terms, and have them deliver e-mail alerts each day, each week, or in real time. You can even choose to follow terms but keep them on your dashboard, without spawning an e-mail.

Widgets

Just about every service has widgets these days, and the new challenge as a blogger can be which ones to install at the expense of others. If you've got the real estate, BackType's new widget shows you comments you've made across the Web, with a favicon of the blog, and its recency - showing how fresh the comment is. Interestingly, clicking on the widget takes you to the actual comment within BackType, and from there, you can click through to the blog post in question.

In case that wasn't enough, Christopher Golda of BackType says more features are planned. BackType has been expanding their coverage through scouring more and more blogs, has been improving the service's search engine, and they're developing an API. Hot on the heels of Disqus' launch of their own public API. it should be interesting to see how innovation in the comments space is developing.

You can find me on BackType here: http://www.backtype.com/louisgray

September 28, 2008

Five Creatively Obnoxious Things to Do With Social Media

We're all too familiar with trolls or people who spout nonsense to get a rise out of you. The art of trolling is one much-perfected by few, and typically, despised by all. But there are less "in your face" ways to have someone scratching their head, trying to figure you out. Some are undoubtedly amusing, and I've been tempted to do them myself, if I didn't unfortunately have an inner moral conscious crying out for me to stop. This list is by no means inclusive, but none would be all that difficult to pull off, if you're in an incendiary mood.

1. Respond to very old e-mail as if there were no issues.

We've heard many people espouse the idea of "in box zero", but for most of us, it's not realistic. I've got e-mails I never answered in my in box going back a good part of two years. Sometimes, I think it'd be fun to start at the top, and respond to the old e-mail, without apologizing for my lateness, and continue the conversation from where it left off. Imagine the hilarity!

2. Pick somebody random on Twitter who is fairly active. Follow them, and then block them immediately.

Most Twitter users will give a new "follow" at least a cursory glance, and many will reciprocally follow. They'll likely be scratching their heads when it turns out you've blocked them and it's impossible for them to follow you back.

3. Use Twitter or FriendFeed to shout out someone's name with no context.

I've seen this happen a few times, when people accidentally post a name instead of searching for it. (For example: here) If you saw somebody post your name to Twitter without any reason or follow-up, wouldn't it drive you a little nuts trying to figure out what they were thinking?

4. Put somebody on a custom FriendFeed list that contains profanity or an odd name.

Earlier this month, resident crank and good friend Steven Hodson of WinExtra noticed somebody had added his data to a custom feed called "curmudgeons". As you can set up any names you wish, and there are no known filters, you can let your imagination run wild with just what you can name the lists. Then put people you know obsess over their stats and click through like mad.

So far, I haven't thusly been abused. Some of the referrals I've seen have me in "gurus", "noisy", "personal", "thetechnologylife", "professional", "sm-bloggers", and "pay-attention". So far, so good, but there's no doubt this could change. I'm just trying to stay off Mark Hopkins' "irksome" list, myself. (See also: Hutch Carpenter: How to Mess with Bloggers’ Heads Using FriendFeed Lists)

5. Set up a custom e-mail account for Disqus with an auto-responder.

If you have a Disqus account, leave a comment on a blog, and get a reply, you should receive an e-mail notification saying the conversation has continued. If you create a new e-mail account just for this, say from OtherInBox, you could set up your e-mail to reply to all new messages, saying you're out of the office, or something akin to "I receive a lot of e-mail and will answer yours in the order it was received".

This response will itself be placed in the comment thread of said blog, and be the owner's responsibility to delete, or could even lead to them responding to your out of office and have it continue. Heck, if you make the auto-responder creative enough, they may think you actually typed it yourself!

These are of course just scratching the surface. What other annoyances have you seen, or done yourself, that can be pulled off without being too destructive in nature? Have you done any of the above, and will you start now?

Is Your iPhone Ready for Some Football?

For much of the United States, and increasingly, other countries, Sundays in the fall and winter months are dominated by one thing - football. And just because you happen to be of a geeky mentality doesn't mean you can't nurture your jock side through using your iPhone to get updated in near real-time to all the happenings in the NFL. One of my favorite free apps on the iTunes application store is "Pro Football Live", which provides score updates, play by play, current game situations, photos, news, and even the ability to talk back to other users through a feature called "Smack Talk".

Apple's most recent iPhone ads have highlighted the application store, and specifically, some of the games that have been developed for the nascent platform. But there's more to entertainment than video games and high scores.


You Can See Updated Scores from Around the League


With Pro Football Live, I don't need to go to ESPN.com or Yahoo! Sports to get all the scoring updates, and even if I'm away from the TV or radio, I can get the feeling of watching a game, by seeing the current game situation, including who has the ball, yard markers, downs and yardage.


You Can Talk Smack And Check Current Standings


And while I'm not getting streaming video, by using the Pro Football Live app, unlike TV, I have access to all the games at once, not just those being broadcast in my area. So if you're a fantasy football junkie, like me, you can toggle between today's Raiders/Chargers contest, and that of the Texans/Jaguars or Jets/Cardinals. You can, with a couple clicks of the phone, be on top of your game, and you can jump into "Smack Talk" to share your thoughts with other fans.


You Can View Recent Photos and News from the NFL


Pro Football Live also features "News" and "Photos" feeds from the leading sources, letting you get updated on which starters are expected to play or which players set personal records.

iPhone applications like Pro Football Live and MLB.com's At Bat have helped me be closer to all games when away from home, taking pro sports mobile. It's all part of how products like the iPhone can better reach across the digital divide and get into America's living rooms, or at least, entertain those who would rather be in their living rooms, instead of slogging along behind their significant other who won't let them watch the game.

September 27, 2008

Will Future Information Consumption Be In Nested GUIs?

As Web technologies evolve, new, innovative ways to absorb information via the Web browser are being created. Some, like Google Reader, and blogs on SportsBlogs Nation are utilizing keyboard navigation, letting you type letters to jump from one new item to the next, while others let you move between screens by using the arrow keys, instead of clicking the mouse. An enterprising developer, Michael Buchanan, is hoping that nested GUIs, which he calls "Microspaces", will be a new way to approach navigation - letting you view a page within a page, within a page, all without opening a new browser window.

While he's just getting started with Microspaces, an initial trial site, called StoryLinez, has been posted, that brings top news sources for business, entertainment, health, news, sports and tech in one place. While that in itself is not new, the way the site operates is.


StoryLinez.com Wants to be a Hub for News On All Topics

Instead of clicking on an item, and getting a pulldown menu with multiple options, the nested GUI technology is triggered via mouse-over. For example, having your mouse over the "Business" section opens up a smaller window within a window, with sites ranging from CNN to Fox News, Yahoo!, Forbes and BusinessWeek, surfacing.


The Nested GUIs Technology Shows a Site Within a Site

Rather than send links off to a new browser window, as most sites do, putting your mouse over these news sources, and their resulting headlines instead shows the story in a section within your same window. And when you're done reading, move your mouse back to the listed options and get more stories. The goal? As Michael wrote me, "One of the things I wanted to accomplish was the ability to navigate everything without clicking." (See the blog for more)


You Can Click Through to Articles but Not Leave the Site

We've gotten used to flooding our Web browsers with new windows and new tabs. New Web 2.0 technologies are helping us to see the Web as a foundation for applications, which will need new ways to approach data. Could nested GUIs be one of the future ways we'll consume media? The StoryLinez site is fairly raw, but it's an interesting experiment. Could you get your news this way in the future? Michael hopes you will.

(Also See: TechCrunch: Microspaces: Playing With Nested GUIs from August 19th)

September 26, 2008

Disqus' API Launch Extends Commenting Possibilities

At Blog World Expo last week, I said that those services which "played well with others" would do better in a collaborative, cooperative Web 2.0 landscape over those that instead held tight to their walled gardens (See tweet from @drewolanoff.) It is through the launch of an API and extensive developer activity that services like Facebook, FriendFeed and Twitter have grown, often at the expense of those that didn't. Tonight, the popular Web commenting service Disqus joined the fray, launching a full public API.

The API (outlined here) lets services and tools write custom comment import and export tools, or to develop unique plug-ins for their platform. (see the announcement and coverage by The Inquisitr.)

Disqus comments are already among the most portable, enabling syndication through RSS, and into lifestreaming applications of all sorts. But what I found most interesting was the note on custom plugins for customer platforms. What's to stop developers from making a custom Disqus-enabled engine that is secure, and for the enterprise, essentially the comments equivalent of Yammer (versus Twitter)? What I see happening is that many of the social tools we may be using for community and entertainment in our world are now on the verge of making it to the enterprise. With an open development platform, and possibly, the idea to customize the comments engine for services that have enterprise capabilities, this could be one way to break on through to the other side, so to speak.

This week's big commenting news was Automattic buying up Intense Debate, something many thought would make Disqus' world a whole lot harder. Tonight's announcement shows they aren't sitting still and playing the part of victim. I'm eager to see the new services and tools that get developed as a result of being Disqus-powered.

After Monkeying Around, I'm Not Going Bananas for Chi.mp

Personal feed aggregators with social elements have been one of the more popular services to gain traction in 2008. With services like FriendFeed, Social Median, Strands, SocialThing, Profilactic and others all finding a niche, some larger than others, it's clear that people are looking to consolidate their online activities, and share the results with friends. One of the more odd attempts is that of chi.mp, which lets you have your own .mp "domain", and helps you build a personal page, connect with friends and add services. While it can be fun to think of interesting names that end with .mp (du.mp, clu.mp, pi.mp, ru.mp, bu.mp, bli.mp, stu.mp, thu.mp, ca.mp, sta.mp, pu.mp and forrestgu.mp all come to mind), the end result isn't all that compelling. Unless we are being measured by the sheer quantity of online services we register for, and by how many places we can connect to the same people, I don't really see the point.

Chi.mp calls itself a content hub and identity management platform. While its site is clean and its marketing well-intended, offering a "dashboard for your digital life", the end result turns out to be much less. While its user profiles look like they borrowed a page from Facebook, and the idea of aggregating feeds sounds like FriendFeed, it ends up instead being a cartoony version of an online business card that calls out only the most basic social services.


Adding Services Via Chi.mp Is Easy, But Limited

From the chi.mp dashboard, you can add some of the standard services, but not a huge number. And just because you add a service doesn't mean it's pulling in your data. I added Twitter when I signed up, and despite posting a few tweets, my new chi.mp site, hiding at techpu.mp, hasn't figured that out.

Looking at the chi.mp sites built by others shows pictures from Flickr and Facebook, and headlines of their RSS feeds. But there's no question that the service isn't going to take on the larger players. The pages are static and don't enable discussion. And no matter how many friends you discover on the site, you don't get alerts if you visit their pages. So now, I find myself getting hit with invitation requests from folks to become contacts on the site. It's clear I don't know why I would do it, and just maybe, they don't know either.

No wonder CNET quoted one observer back in April as saying, ""I'll tell you what Chi.mp is. It's venture money getting set on fire." Now, I'm usually happy to give new Web services a chance and see potential, but unless there is a major overhaul here to chi.mp, which would deliver greater service support, faster RSS pulls, and real social interaction, there's just no point. Now I feel like a monkey for even signing up.

September 25, 2008

Google at 10 - a Decade of Innovation - But Challenges Ahead

By Charlie Anzman of SEO and Tech Daily (FriendFeed/Twitter)

Yesterday, Google posted a fascinating timeline of the past ten years.

For those of us that have been around since the days when Yahoo! dominated search (and Google wasn't 'here' yet), the timeline brings back a lot of memories, and also causes some pondering about the future.

Google's juice has always been their corporate culture. I've written about it before. A few weeks ago, Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, commented that they try not to buy a lot of companies because it's easier to innovate from within, rather than to try and change the way a company does things. (Paraphrased).

Others are complaining about Google's stock price. A careful look at insider trading over two years showed many (current) employees cashing out in the 300's per share. Was 700+ in 2008 ever really in the cards? Did Wall Street expect a little too much?

Now we see Google literally firing on all cylinders. A new Web browser (Chrome), a significant upgrade to Picasa (and Picasaweb), and lots of other upgrades, APIs, additions and announcements made over the past two months.

There's little disputing the fact that Google (and the Internet) have literally created and/or eliminated exisiting business models (or significantly changed them). Not just Internet models but brick and mortar businesses as well. They've also created opportunity for those who continued to read, learn and took advantage of it.

Now, people don't Yahoo-it, or MSN-it (even though they do), the vernacular is Google-it ... and that alone is HUGE.

Interestingly, for you advertising buffs, Google has no tag line. There is no 'what we are' or 'what we do'. Obviously, someone recognized very early on, that the Internet (and the world) was changing so fast, it was difficult to predict exactly where Google's strengths would emerge. That continues to be the case.

I find I now have the same reaction to Google's success that I did to Microsoft's many years ago. Both serve as an example of how just a few people can create something BIG in just a few short years and set an example for those thinking about doing just that.

Like Microsoft, and many others, Google is a role model of sorts for entrepreneurs everywhere.

As they grow and mature, it will be difficult for Google to maintain their corporate culture, but not impossible. The perks of working at the Googleplex make complete and total sense. Help people forget about their mundane day-to-day worries so they can think, be creative, and work.

So …. Happy Birthday Google! One can only imagine (or better yet vision) what the next ten years will bring.

Read more by Charlie Anzman at SEO and Tech Daily.

Outbrain to Extend Blog Recommendations With Third Party Content

Outbrain is best known for its easy to install blog widget that allows readers to rate posts on a one to five star scale, from "Bad" to "Excellent". I've been running it myself the last few months, and have seen some consistent, if not overwhelming, activity on the widgets each day. Outbrain is looking to extend their service by adding stories they believe you may like in addition to the current post, both from the site you own and from third party sites who are fellow Outbrain users. The idea, in their mind, is to deliver a wider range of content to readers, no matter the source.


Outbrain recommends other posts you might like and lets you rate posts.

Today, those who install Outbrain's blog widget also see stories "You might like", but they are limited to the blog on which the widget is installed. The new extension will, in effect, act like the "Web rings" of old, by syndicating your content on similar sites and extending the potential audience. Outbrain also is a big fan of Scott Karp's recent article on Publishing 2.0, which showed that sites which have the highest reader loyalty also are heavy linkers outside their own blogs.

This change is expected to roll out in the next few weeks, Outbrain told publishers late Tuesday night.

While the most visible aspects of Outbrain are the stars on users' blogs, there is actually a good set of statistics being tracked on the back end today, including a record of all blog post ratings, including the score, the post and the rater's country, the ability to sort all posts by total number of ratings, average rating and total popularity score (tabulated by the number of votes and average rating), and how many page views you have gained from the Outbrain network at large.


The most recent ratings on Outbrain.


The most popular posts, by rating, on Outbrain.

Given I'm not a high-traffic destination site, I doubt I'm exactly lighting up the Outbrain leaderboard. Most of my posts get a couple votes, and the most popular posts have received from 12 to 15 votes apiece. This could be due to people's unfamiliarity with Outbrain, reluctance to use the widget, or my low visibility.


My most active post on Outbrain got 15 votes.

Tonight, I logged in to my Outbrain account, and turned on story recommendations, both from my own site, and from third party sites. Over time, we'll see if Outbrain can deliver customized, quality, suggested links, and if this will increase the reader experience. Keep me posted on your thoughts.

September 24, 2008

Identi.ca Users See Service as Choosing Cause Over Community

With Twitter having largely overcome its many issues that made it a long, hot summer for the leading microblogging service, traffic to smaller competitors has stalled, if not decreased, across the board, at Plurk, Rejaw and Identi.ca, which leverages the open source Laconi.ca microblogging software. But a hard core group of users clings to Identi.ca's mission as an open, developer-friendly alternative to Twitter, with many using both services in parallel. Yesterday, I asked the Identi.ca community to spell out why they were using the service. Some of their responses are below.

Candrews echoed many of those on Identi.ca around the frame of freedom, saying:
    "I'm here for the Freedom. I want my data to be mine, to be able to leave when I chose, hack as I wish, and share all I want."
The issues of "freedom" and "openness" were cited much more than anything about community, which is what I would have expected to get if I polled Twitter.

Csarven wrote, similarly:
    "Universality of the Web. For the collective good, information should be accessible to all."
John Metta wrote:
    "Initially, I focused on Identi.ca because I've been an Open Source Software programmer for nearly 15 years. I appreciate the possibilities of an open, federated system- specifically when it comes to extending that system to work natively with other applications. For those applications to use Twitter, they would have to work around the closed nature of the system."
Jesse Stay, a frequent blogger here, and staunch Identi.ca supporter, wrote, "identi.ca is more of a cause than a community. We're all here to see that more open features are included in micro-service SW. OpenMicroblogging services like this are more about building a horizontal platform of meshed microblogs that all interoperate."

You can see that message echoed through the dozens of responses I received:

Metajack:
    "I use #identica because I believe in the cause. Open trumps walled gardens every time."
danyork:
    "I use Identi.ca mostly because I believe in the promise of a distributed, open source microblogging service and I want to see it."
hochmann:
    "like others, I use #identica because it uses open technologies, and it's open like good net technology always is."
From what I could tell, most of the Identi.ca users hadn't flat-out abandoned Twitter, but instead, added Identica to their outlets. In fact, a good number of the responses I gained on Identi.ca also hit my replies tab in Twitter. This is due, in part, to Identica's enabling you to cross-post to Twitter from the site, but also due to the rise of products that let you post in multiple places at once, including Posty, which I use to hit Twitter and Identica in parallel myself.

As services start to cross-populate, more savvy users are even using Identica as a tool to reach people in a new way. Tibor Holoda of Slovakia wrote to say he planned to use it as his "native language (non-english) channel" that hooked into FriendFeed. As he wrote me, "It's easy for my english-speaking followers to just hide my identi.ca tweets and see everything else i'm posting," adding, "I'm trying to persuade and evangelize the use of microblogging in our country, as its not very common among folks in here yet (just a handful of geeks is using it as of now)."

Metta added, "In the long-term, as better bridges develop allowing more seamless cross-posting and aggregation, I really feel as though Identi.ca federation can excel, and am using the system as a fundamental building block to my next business endeavor's design both in anticipation and in support of that."

Twitter is winning the public microblogging battle because of its large installed base, and its built-up community that has largely forgiven them after months of trials. While the Identi.ca user community isn't the largest today, it is one that clearly believes in its underlying foundation of open source, friendliness with developers, and the hope that through open source and extensibility, that it can make inroads outside of the niche which is using it now, but possibly, be adopted in the enterprise. If you are a big fan of identi.ca, you can of course find me there, at http://identi.ca/louisgray.

September 23, 2008

iPhone Application Review: Mobile Fotos

By Phil Glockner of Scribkin (FriendFeed/Twitter)



Author's Note: Louis and I share an interest in the iPhone / iPod Touch platform, and all the new applications being developed for it for release on the iTunes Store. Realizing this, I offered to write a series of 'mini-reviews' on applications I really like, and if applicable, their impact on the social media space. I'm going to start with Mobile Fotos, an application developed by Karl van Randow, a freelance New Zealand developer who has (according to his blog) been actively working on a 'web debugging proxy' called Charles.


Mobile Fotos

Mobile Fotos, like several others in the iTunes store, specializes in connecting the iPhone and iPod Touch to Flickr, a popular photo-sharing web site. While I tried several others but I found Mobile Fotos to be the most feature-complete and easiest to use. The application costs $2.99, and there is no 'free version' available. However, I believe it is well worth this small price, considering its functionality.

Features
  • Mobile Fotos Uses the Flickr API and supports authentication with the Flickr server.
  • Flickr sets, groups, favorites, tags, contacts, photo search and explore by most recent and 'interestingness' are supported. Collections (groups of groups) and historical display are not supported.
  • Uploading from the iPhone 'camera roll' archive and from a live picture are supported.
  • Photos taken from within Mobile Fotos are also stored in the camera roll.
  • Adding a title and description as well as adding a new photo to an existing set (or creating a new set) are supported at time of photo upload.
  • Geotagging of photos after upload is supported, and controllable for each upload.
  • With the 2.1 firmware update, uploading from the camera roll at full resolution (1200x1600) is supported.
  • Easy-to-use interface follows a rigorous 'drill-down' methodology that, once learned, makes navigating through all the different browsing options very easy.
  • Portrait and landscape modes.
  • Searching for nearby photos using GPS is supported.
I should also mention some drawbacks I have encountered.

First, when browsing through photos at full size, the interface does not support 'sliding' a finger to navigate. You must click on a right or left arrow to move forward or back. Second, there is no batch upload feature. Photos can only be uploaded one at a time.

Usage

In practice, the one photo upload is not as much of a limitation as you might think. First, when you are out and about, you generally only need to take a photo, set a description and get it started. By the time you are ready to set up another shot, it is ready.

As for using the application as a mobile gateway to Flickr, the developer has gone to great pains to preserve the sort of free-form exploration that makes Flickr such fun to waste time in. You can search for a tag, for example, then bring up details on the photo, click on the photo's owner and then browse through their photostream, favorites or even their contact's photos. Each level you delve down is pushed on to a stack so that you can back up whenever you like.

Performance on both WiFi and 3G is very snappy. Uploading only takes a few seconds and pulling up photostreams and images is almost instant. If you use the app on the slower GSM network, be prepared to wait a while, especially for full-sized photo uploads.

Upshot

Mobile Fotos has become a valued tool for me when I only have my cell phone on-hand to take a picture and I want to get it on Flickr right away. Sure, there may be a few free apps will do this without geotagging. But, considering all the other features that are in this app, it is worth the three bucks.

Update: The latest version of Mobile Photos (version 1.3) adds support for 'swiping' through a photostream, as well as support for uploading from the full iPhone photo library. There also seems to be double the number of options that can be performed when viewing an image fullsize, and new even on a thumbnail, including assign to contact, open in Safari, email a link, and even Twitter support!

Read more by Phil Glockner at Scribkin.com.

Is There a Long Tail to My iTunes Library? The Stats Tell All.

Having long ago passed the point where I could realistically listen to all my music on my iTunes library in a matter of days or weeks, I set up a number of smart playlists that help me to rediscover old music, sorted by the most recent time I played the song. (See: iTunes: Old Music Is New Again from March of 2006) By solely listening to this constantly re-generating playlist, I find myself avoiding repeated songs, and am constantly finding great music that's fallen by the wayside.

But as this playist has continued to expand, and I can't keep up, despite avoiding new purchases, for the most part, we now can further break down the list to see if there is a long tail to iTunes. Am I getting to every song, and what percentage of my songs have been listened to over specific time periods? Also, given I only have a finite amount of time, how many of the songs have been listened to only once?

Let's find out.

First: As of Midnight PDT on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008:
There are 5,773 items, representing 23.7 days and 35.42 GB.


My iTunes Library, Songs Sorted by Last Played

Of these nearly 6,000 songs, I've managed to get to over 1,000 of them in the last three months, and an additional 500 or so in the prior three months (with no overlaps). But that means more than 4,000 songs have not been touched in the last six months, representing more than two and a half weeks of solid music.

While I've tried to get to every song with some regularity, there's still almost a day's worth of music that hasn't been listened to in more than 10 months.


My iTunes Library, Songs Sorted by Play Count

Additionally, of the almost 6,000 songs in my iTunes library, about 1,000 songs have been listened to greater than 12 times each since iTunes started counting. This compares with about 3,200 songs that have been listened to between 5 and 12 times apiece, and more than 1,500 that have been listened to between 1 and 4 times.


Using a small utility called iTunes Timer, the accumulative play totals for the songs in my library suggest that I've listened to iTunes for more than 195 days and 2 hours. Surely, if I stay connected to the laptop or my iPhone with some good regularity, I can power through those songs I haven't heard in more than six months, or listen to those tracks that haven't gotten enough airplay. But realistically, I shouldn't be letting the statistics drive my listening habits. It's common for people to find their favorite songs and play them a whole lot more than those that don't quite strike their fancy. But with iTunes, and the power of Smart Playlists, I can actually dive in and find out. And to watch me try and catch up, check out my Last.fm page.

What do your iTunes stats show?