Seven Projects to Stretch Your Digital Wings: Part One

9/4/09Follow @wroush

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share and store online: writings, photos, videos, audio, documents, bookmarks, tweets, Facebook status updates, and the like. If you’re a creator, setting up a lifestream can be a great way to gather all your digital creations in one place, and to make sure that all of your online friends know what you’ve been producing.

At the moment, there are two approaches to lifestreaming that roughly mirror each other; my guess is that they’ll soon merge, but for now you need to use different tools to experience both types. The first type of lifestreaming tool, which I’ll call an aggregator, basically pulls things in from elsewhere. It automatically watches for the content you post to other online services, and gathers them into a central stream or feed. The second type, which I’ll call a broadcaster, ingests your content directly and then pushes it out to everywhere else.

Friendfeed, built by a group of former Google engineers who now work at Facebook, is the leading example of an aggregator. Once you’ve set up a free Friendfeed account and linked it to your other online accounts, it will suck in everything you publish to your favorite social media services, including your Tumblr or LiveJournal blog posts, your Flickr or Picasa photos, your Delicious or StumbleUpon bookmarks, your Facebook or Google Talk or Twitter status updates, your YouTube videos, and your Digg or Google Reader or Reddit news feeds. In other words, you never need to post anything directly to Friendfeed. Your Friendfeed personal page is just a convenient place for you and your friends to see all of your other online activities. (It can even track which movies you rent from Netflix, so be careful!)

Steve Rubel's Posterous BlogPosterous, the creation of former Apple programmer Sachin Agarwal, is the leading example of a broadcast lifestreaming service. When you send material to Posterous via e-mail, it gets added to your lifestream (e.g. http://waderoush.posterous.com) and simultaneously auto-posted to the social media services of your choice, including Blogger, Facebook, Flickr, LiveJournal, Movable Type, Tumblr, Twitter, Typepad, WordPress, and Xanga. Every Posterous lifestream also has an associated RSS feed, which is useful, among other things, for podcasting: if your friends set up iTunes subscriptions, they’ll automatically get the MP3 files that you e-mail to Posterous.

Rubel, who tracks new-media trends for a large public relations firm, says he gave up blogging for lifestreaming because he was attracted to the simplicity and informality of Posterous, which he calls “something in between Twitter and a blog.” He also cites Posterous’s ability to handle multimedia content, which is impressive. I think a lot of other busy users of social media services will feel the same attraction—but Posterous is also great just for sharing the occasional photo or essay. (Your latest Brushes digital painting, for example.)

3. Document a Space with Photosynth

If you’re used to viewing your digital images in old-fashioned file folders on your computer, or on photo-sharing sites like Flickr or Photobucket, then you’re in for a shock with Photosynth. When Microsoft first rolled out the technology a year ago this week, I was so bowled over that I wrote a whole breathless column about it. As I explained then, Photosynth is like a cross between … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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