a little east of reality

Thursday, January 10, 2008

today's post is brought to you by the letters 's' and 'u'

After months of procrastinating, I finally updated my sidebar. My blogroll now actually reflects the blogs I read, rather than the ones I was reading a year ago, and my current distractions are actually current. It was a bit scary to realise how many blogs I read regularly, but it did explain why I've become more of a lurker in the last few months. I enjoy commenting, though, so I'll try to do more of that.

Most of the newly added distractions are cool things I found while using Stumble Upon. SU was in amongst some Firefox add-ons I was browsing, but I've since found it's available for IE, too. You initially select some areas of interest and each time it chooses a random page from those areas you have the opportunity to click (on the toolbar) that you like it or not. You can also click that you like any page you happen to be browsing and if it's new to the SU system it will add it in. The more people who vote for a page, the more likely it is to come up when people click the 'stumble' button on the toolbar. As you go along, it gets more of an idea of the type of pages you enjoy. At the moment I like probably three quarters of what it shows me, and find something really interesting about one in six clicks.

Earth Album is a Google Maps & Flickr mash-up where the top eight photos on Flickr for a particular country are shown when you click on that country on the map. Of course I picked Japan first and the photos were great (two pictured here are Shibuya crossing at night and a Tokyo girl), but then I went more random and found the two photos below of the boys in the sand and some unusual trees, from Madagascar.

Songza is a search engine for songs and jukebox rolled into one. It remembers your playlist automatically and the interface is very simple to use. A current top ten also sits on the page and I have used that a few times to check out artists that I haven't heard before. If I want to hear a whole album I'd just find it in my music folder, but what I love Songza for is those moment where a song pops into your head and you want to listen to that one song without having to go searching through your music collection. Sometimes Keyboard Kid will tell me about some random song he discovered this week and I can find it in about ten seconds on Songza, and play it right then to see what he's talking about. Quicker even than him finding it on his iPod and I don't have to stop and put his earphones on to hear it.

One SU toolbar feature I've made a lot of use of is the option to email a page link to myself (or other people). It can be used for any page, not just ones that I've stumbled. In the past I've cluttered up my bookmarks with pages I found but didn't have time to look at properly. Now those pages end up in the stumble folder in my email and I can browse through them when I have time. And if I never get time it's just an email to delete, rather than a bookmark I have to cull at some point (more trouble). I think it's going to make it easier to keep my bookmarks relevent and few, which is just how I like them. And it's quicker than opening gmail to send myself a link.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the distractions as much as I have. My SU blog (just super short reviews of pages I really liked) is here. I've clicked lots of pages I like; the blog is a way to indicate my real favourites.

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