Monthly Archive for December, 2009

What I’ve starred this week: December 29, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

What I’ve starred this week: December 22, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Festive fun: Embedding and interacting with web2.0 in MS Outlook 2007

warning [Just to warn you this post is more technical than my usual offerings and is perhaps not that practical either. Hopefully some of you will still find this useful. I’m shoehorning this post in under the ‘festive clause’ ;)]

If you are running Microsoft Vista with Outlook 2007 you may have noticed that you can preview certain email attachments in Outlook (this isn’t native functionality for XP users. A workaround is highlighted in the ‘how-to’ below). Last week I was trying to using this functionality to view an embedded Google wave. Unfortunately, despite installing Chrome Frames, it didn’t work (I think because either Microsoft wasn’t caching the JavaScript locally for wave or security prevents JavaScript writing an iframe).

While embedding Wave doesn’t work, interacting with a lot of other social tools (Etherpad, Mindmeister, Google Docs, Facebook, Flickr, Ning … ) does! Don’t believe me watch this:

How to do it

If you are using XP and Outlook 2007 you’ll first need to install some custom preview handlers. These basically allow you to preview email attachments in Outlook’s reading pane. Fortunately Gil Azar has already made a package of preview handlers. Gil’s instructions and download are here.

All we are doing is:

  1. creating a local web page which embeds your chosen site
  2. creating a new email
  3. attaching the file
  4. saving the message as a draft
  5. moving the draft to a folder (in my case I created one called ‘MyStuff’)

Then when you want to access your chose site just click on the attachment to view it. This video demonstrates the process:

Creating the web page attachment

For the example in the video above I used iframes. These basically allow you to place another website within a webpage. The code I’m using is below. For the different sites you want to include you just need to change the iframe src, which in the case below is Some sites provide specific instructions on how to embed elements (etherpad for example). If you are wondering what the rest of the code does it just resizes the height of the frame to fill the window. Here is a compressed folder (*.zip) of some of the pages I created for the video.

<title>Test Page</title>
<iframe id="frame" src="" width="100%" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0"></iframe>

<script type="text/javascript">
// From
function resizeIframe() {
var height = document.documentElement.clientHeight;
height -= document.getElementById('frame').offsetTop;
// not sure how to get this dynamically
height -= 20; /* whatever you set your body bottom margin/padding to be */
document.getElementById('frame').style.height = height +"px";
document.getElementById('frame').onload = resizeIframe;
window.onresize = resizeIframe;

Enjoy – Seasons Greetings!

Festive fun: Auto tweeting your Google Reader shared items using Yahoo Pipes and twitterfeed

Using the festive period to stray slightly away from my core remit I thought I would document a little mashup which allows you to automatically tweet items you share in Google Reader.


I’m a big fan of Google Reader and its the main way I consume RSS feeds (unsure about RSS? Here it is explained in plain English). Already I use the  Shared Items Post Plugin to automatically post a digest of my shared Reader items. The idea is I’m acting as an intelligent filter, sifting through almost 150 subscriptions to pull out items which might be of most relevance to staff at our supported institutions. The nice thing about Google Reader is I can share items making a personal note or comment. This has parallels to micro-blogging sites like twitter. 

The emergence of twitter, and similar status update sites, is changing the way many people tap into information streams and for me it makes sense to make sure information I produce or find useful is disseminated through as many channels as possible.

How to do it

Go to your Google Reader Shared page (if you haven’t set-up a public page or can’t remember where it is login to Reader, click on ‘Your stuff’, then ‘share settings’, shown below).

Google Reader Screenshot

On the page that opens there should be a link to ‘Preview your shared items page in a new window’, on this page you need to copy your ‘Atom feed’ link.

At this point you can go to straight to an automatic tweeting service called twitterfeed and paste this link in as a new feed (Twitterfeed is a free service which allows you to submit a RSS feed. New feed items are then ‘tweeted’ on your behalf). Unfortunately doing it this way means that any notes you’ve written about a post are lost.

Not satisfied with this I decided to create a Yahoo Pipe which extracts my notes, if any, and tweets this instead. If you’ve never tried Yahoo Pipes its a great free service to take existing RSS feeds, do some tweaking and output a new custom RSS feed. I’ll explain how the pipe works at the end of this post. For now:

  1. open this ‘Tweet Google Reader Shared’ yahoo pipe
  2. paste your ‘Atom feed’ link from Google Reader and click ‘Run Pipe’.
  3. copy the ‘Get as RSS’ link into

Now when you share an item in Google Reader with a note, the note will be tweeted via (if you share an item without a note the existing item title will be used).

To see an example here is a tweet posted via twitterfeed which was pulled from the Google Reader Shared page shown below:

Google Reader Shared Page Screenshot

How the pipe works

Below is a screenshot of the pipe I created (click here to see it in Yahoo Pipes). The pseudo code is:

  1. Fetch Feed from Google Reader Shared page
  2. If feed contains annotation copy as title else do nothing
  3. Sort by date (new first)
  4. Remove <a href> tags from title 

Yahoo Pipe Screenshot  

Enjoy (and Seasons Greetings)!

JISC Winter Fayre: Voting and Google Wave Presentations

Things have been quite on the blogging front as we dug out the tinsel to celebrate all things JISC at our Winter Fayre. We managed to squeeze almost 30 different keynotes, workshops and sessions into the day, including two by yours truly.

I had the honour of presenting a short overview of electronic voting present and future in ‘Ask the Audience’ and an opportunity to showcase, what has become a highly honed, Google Wave intro and overview.

I’ve attached both PowerPoints I used below which you are free to pick over and reuse if you like. Just to remind our supported institutions I am available for weddings, birthdays and staff development events (if you are not supported directly by us we are open to offers particularly if they require going to warmer climes ;)

[Both these presentations embed Flash into PowerPoint. To view when prompted you need to enable the content]

Ask The Audience *.ppt (3Mb)
Google Wave 101 *.ppt (1.4Mb)

What I’ve starred this week: December 15, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Educational Extensions (Robots and Gadgets) for Google Wave

google_wave_logo_final640 I was creating an intermediate guide for staff exploring Google Wave and as part of it I’ve put together a list of Wave extensions which might be of use to educators. This list was taken from the Google Samples Gallery and a unofficial list of robots/gadgets. If you want to try these out to add a robot to a wave add it to your wave contacts (click ‘+’ button bottom right of the contacts panel) then add the robot address [email protected] Robots can then be added to a wave in the same way to add human contacts. To add gadgets I recommend following The Complete Guide to Google Wave - Wave Gadgets guide


  • watexy - [email protected] - Use LaTeX mathematical language in your Waves!
  • WaveAlpha - [email protected] - It empowers the user with the ability to query Wolfram Alpha’s Computational Knowledge Search Engine right from a “wavelet” and retrieve the results right into the “blip”.
  • Wikify - [email protected] - Replaces specific marked up text with a link to Wikipedia or a description relevant to the marked text.
  • Emaily Robot - [email protected] - Robot which can email waves as they are updated
  • Robot - [email protected] - Creates a drop and puts the info into the wave whenever the robot is added as a participant.
  • Rssybot - [email protected] - Turn google wave into an RSS reader! Add Rssybot to a thread, then enter the URL to the RSS feed you want watch and press subscribe. When a new post appears on the feed Rssybot will put it into the wave for you! Clicking on the post will expand the feed.
  • Tweety the Twitbot - [email protected] - You can access your Twitter account.
  • Aunt Rosie - [email protected] - Aunt Rosie will automatically insert a language drop down into your blip when you’ve typed enough for her to recognize your language. Select the language you’d like to translate to and she’ll reply with the translation.
  • Taggy - [email protected] - Recognize #hashtags and add them as tags to the wave.
  • Treeify - [email protected] - Treeify is a multi-wave robot which lets you connect waves into tree structures. With it you can build and navigate trees of waves
  • Invity - [email protected] - save all current participants of the wave as a named group. When you create a new wave and add Invity, you are able to select a group and Invity automatically adds all members to the wave
  • Graphy - [email protected] - Collaborate on flow charts and graphs.
  • Embeddy - [email protected] - Generates code to embed a wave in your webpage


If I’ve forgot any you think should be included please use the comments to make suggestions ;-)

What I’ve starred this week: December 8, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

If Outlook was my idea …

If MS Outlook was my idea I would make it easy to read and edit all my social networks, VLEs, PLEs from my inbox.

Email 2.0
Email 2.0 – App friendly by mhawksey (click to enlarge)

Perhaps not a completely original idea but recent developments might this happen sooner rather than later. Google are already exploring what is possible from with Google Wave. The model they are developing not only makes it possible to interact with other sites from your inbox (like reading searching and posting twitter updates), but also makes ‘waves’ embeddable elsewhere.

Mozilla, the developers behind Firefox, are already looking at a new communication platform, codenamed Raindrop, and if you look at some of the prototype sketches a similar theme of ‘one app to interact with them all’ is evident.

Raindrop sketches

Currently, MS Outlook is the first application I fire up in the morning and the last I switch off at night, but for how much longer …

RSC-MP3: HE Update Nov 09

Logo for RSC-MP3Welcome to our third episode of RSC-MP3 for this academic year. RSC-MP3 is a monthly audio podcast highlighting some Higher Education focused e-learning news, interviews and resources brought to you by Kevin Brace (JISC RSC West Midlands) and Martin Hawksey (JISC RSC Scotland North and East). As ever we have summarised links to the various topics we discuss and indicate the timestamps so you can jump straight to our insightful repertoire. You can listen to this podcast on your computer, or when “on the move” by adding it to your ipod playlist. Here is an archive of our recordings, which is also available on iTunes.

“For the love of money, not learning!” So say some responses to the new Higher Ambitions framework announced by Lord Mandleson.  This month Kevin runs through his latest blog posts which  cover reports connected with the importance of Higher Education to the UK economy, focussing on research. Innovative e-research projects, funding and bidding, and UK drivers are covered. Topics such as open repositories, knowledge sharing, and research based communities of practice, also feature.  Providing advice and support to the community in the form of second life “sandpits” and new eportfolio publications add to the e-learning mix this month.

Meanwhile Martin has been immersing himself in Google Wave. Wave enables real-time collaboration over the internet and whilst not full released yet educators are already exploring its potential impact in a number of areas of teaching and learning. Building on last month’s discussion Martin highlights the flexibility of Wave including how it be embedded into different websites, including the institutional VLE, enabling students to have greater choice over their personal learning environment.

As part of this month’s RSC-MP3 we also have an interview with recognised ‘recognition of prior learning’ expert Ruth Whittaker. As government policy continues to place emphasis on ‘lifelong learning’ and the ‘knowledge economy’ institutions have an important role in recognising and accrediting prior formal and informal learning. We discuss existing frameworks and legislation already in place both nationally and internationally, touching upon how technology is being used to support the process. Click here for the interview with Ruth Whittaker.

HE Update 
Download Link
Duration: 32 minutes
Size: 22 MB

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Links from Kevin’s subjects: Timestamps represented as [minutes:seconds]

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Intro/Outro music: 1-2-3-4 from stream of unconsciousness by Jeremy B. Northup


This blog is authored by Martin Hawksey e-Learning Advisor (Higher Education) at the JISC RSC Scotland N&E.

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