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Meshing the virtual and the real world with Google Sketchup

March 22, 2010

Too many people still think virtual worlds are for fun and games only. “Second Life is dead, right?” Wrong. The hype about, for instance, Second Life has died down, but this is only natural and healthy. Those who came there just because they thought they should, or to make a quick big buck, have disappeared. However, many are still exploring and learning about how to use these 3D, dynamic worlds for more serious purposes, such as e-learning or skills building.

3D modeling software is key to virtual world building. One well-known example of this software is Google Sketchup. This (free) tool allows for very precise models to be drawn up. There are a lot of tutorials and many free components to import to embellish the models. Some features are rather complex to use, especially the scaling and moving of complex components needs to be redesigned. Overall, it’s impressive, however, what this tool is up to. There is even a companion tool called Sketchlife to import Sketchup models into Second Life. This is where it really gets interesting as this vastly increases the base of people able to constructs virtual world environments.

Another useful application of Sketchup I experienced myself today. A friend of mine is involved in a legal dispute with her neighbour about a proposed house renovation project. To show the impact on her own situation, I modeled her house and garden and created two views vividly demonstrating the impact of the proposed addition to her neighbour’s house:

Today was the court case. The judge thought the sketches to be very informative and will use them in his deliberations. Virtual worlds are here to stay. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what they might be used for…

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WordPress

March 13, 2010

Well in this WordPress blog I’d like to talk about ….. WordPress.  A fantastic tool than can be used for so many tasks. The hosted version and the installed version each have their pros and cons but whatever you choose, armed with a WordPress, a suitable skin, widgets for hosted as well as plugins  for installed there is virtually nothing one can not accomplish. I’ve used WordPress for Content Management Systems (CMS), pure blogging, Podcasts, Vodcasts, Blogcasts, Media Mapping and a whole lot more.

Tweet walls

March 13, 2010

Tweet walls are used for presentation purposes. They are useful for displaying incoming tweets to audiences of, for example, conferences.  However, there are many different types of tweet walls. Some show incoming tweets in a linear, blog-style fashion. Others display incoming tweets one-by-one in a colourful, artistic way. I was involved in organizing the tweet stream of the PEOPLE Workconference on Social/e- inclusion, which was held in the Noordbrabant provincial building in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, last Wednesday. There was an audience of about one hundred people. Plenary sessions took place in the large provincial parliament hall, while breakout sessions, lunches, and drinks were held in a separate large hall. In both halls, there was a tweet wall.

We experimented with several walls. Originally, we used Tweetwally on both machines. However, this turned out not to auto-refresh, which made it quite useless for our purposes. Next, we tried Another Tweet on the Wall Twitterwall. It refreshed fine, but the (fixed)  font size was way too small to be readable by many participants. In the end, we settled on using Tweetfeed for displaying incoming tweets in the conference hall during the speeches.  The fact that it looks pretty boring compared to many other tweet walls is exactly its strength, as you don’t want attention to be drawn away from the speaker too much. For the tweet wall in the lunch hall, however, we used Visible Tweets (Another Tweet on the Wall being a good alternative). This wall shows single tweets in a very large font with lots of colours and special effects. In a setting where everybody is talking to  each other, this is not distracting, but, on the contrary, very much adds to the experience.

Welcome to Tools That Work

March 13, 2010

So many Web (2.0)  tools, so little time to examine them all. This blog intends to share tips, tricks, and stories of how (not) to use these tools for real-world collaboration purposes. If you work with these tools a lot, and are willing to post about your experiences at least once in a while, contact us to become a co-blogger.