Zoho Teacher

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No, we haven’t released another product, nor do we promise a weekly product release. ;) While tracking back the blogs that mentioned Zoho, we came to know that there were a good number of teachers who use Zoho for various class-room related activities. Alan, a Zoho user compiled a post on how he uses Zoho tools for teaching or other tasks. As an addendum to that post, here are a few more ways in which teachers can use Zoho effectively as educational tools:

(1) Zoho Creator with its form-building capacities can be used to survey, or gather comments from people. A form can be embedded in your blog or you can provide a URL to the form. Here’s a sample.

(2) Zoho Planner can be used to plan lessons over a period of time, provide homework- reminders, assign a to-do list for students. You can then share it by e-mail or publish it as a public page.

(3) Zoho Chat can be used to encourage conversations and discussions.

(4) And with our recent Zoho Writer update, more than two students can simultaneously work on a homework or a project report. Or a teacher can work alongside the students and guide them. All this online! 

Coming soon: Team-Planner which will be an extension of Zoho Planner for teams working on projects. Stay tuned!

Making 2.0 tick

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What makes Web 2.0 tick? Sample this:

As I’ve said in previous posts, it’s their direct contact with the users that makes 2.0′s so much greater than the “old school” way of taking care of users. I know that as their user base increases that won’t be so easy for them, but their blogs and forums are another way for users to interact with them and with each other, and help each other along.

Another user wrote:

This kind of touch is exactly what more tech companies should have, regardless of specialty. I understand, yes, busy people can’t respond to all their email, but even getting back to some—especially if it’s on an external blog and wasn’t sent in directly—is really warm and sends more good vibrations than 100 clones of Brian Wilson in a marching band on a midspring’s dusk.

Usually, we have seen companies respond by saying, “We’ll get back as soon as possible”. At least in the 2.0 days, “As soon as possible” is measured in hours, not days. I’ll be damned if I post a query and don’t get a reply in a few hours, either in a forum, or a comment in a blog. After all, the user could be working on a presentation at the office a few hours away and requires to embed a chart. It would blow up everything if the application doesn’t respond or gets buggy; worse than that, you report the problem at the company’s forum or blog and they don’t get back soon.

Usually at Zoho forums, we reply queries and work on bug-fixing within hours. However, at times, things to go wrong (as Zoho Writer had log-in problems recently). Worse, it might happen on a weekend or a holiday (as it did), so that it might not possible to receive user feedback immediately. At times like those, we hope the users bear with us. Ofcourse, the solution lies in embracing more stable technology and we soon expect to do the same. Oh yes, unlike “Old-school”, it’ll be really soon. ;)

Web Identity

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Om Malik’s blog carried a guest column on The Power of URLs.

As we all know, the URL is a powerful and extensible concept… it represents the most fundamental element of the web and it continues to grow in breadth and depth of its utility.

People rely on names or URLs in the blogosphere. And it doesn’t end just with blogs, for, podcasts, photos, videos, and as the writer mentions, profiles on social networking sites of a particular blogger too are being followed by readers or readers.
As a tangent,

Aggregation can now be customized, and it can be done by machine.

Most bloggers link their Podcasts, Videos, Comments, Tags pertaining to them and just about anything they’ve contributed to the web, and so blogs really aren’t just what blogs were intended to be; they are more like Portals.

So there is News, Commentary, Opinion and Links that stand testimony to arguments, Audio, Video and a whole community of several readers who religiously follow those. Astonishing what a few random alphabets are capable of!

New Addition to Commentosphere

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Sometime back, Steve Rubel wrote this. And then, co.mments appeared. It is true that comparisons to coComment are inevitable. They both track conversations, they both support RSS, they both begin to function as soon as a bookmarklet is added, they both have minor glitches when it comes to integrating with a blog and they both promise a lot.
Until coComment entered the Commentosphere, the state of a blog hopper reading and commenting in several blogs was mostly clueless. Like many bloggers pointed out, there were several conversation killers that ruined several potential “interesting conversations” to merely an unattended comment which the blog owner missed. With additions like these, the good old commenting system gets a face-lift.

So now it is possible to display the comments you made elsewhere in your blog, track the conversation and get alerts in your feed reader. If these two services were to become popular, which they most likely will, it will mean R.I.P. for primitive commenting systems and Comments that open in pop-up windows. Bloggers who still use those, it’s time to part ways and move on.

Battle of Media

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The age old argument of Blogs Vs. Traditional Media. Only this time it’s from Kottke. Head over here. The fight is between Blogs/ Citizen media/ “Traditional” media and NY times. Clear winner in 6 out of 8 trials: Blogs.
Couple of days back, I remember discussing with a friend about Wikipedia. “It’s a sort of an everyday affair, looking up things in Wikipedia; traditional encyclopedia or reference material is now synonymous with dusty yellowed books in bookshelves that no one bothers to look at”. Although the argument that Kottke bothered to verify is old, it is relevant now, considering the significant increase of blogs in the blogosphere.

Approximately three years ago, when I started blogging, it was an obscure thing to do. Probably the number of blogs could be counted – or listed by a blog directory. I had to painfully explain what it was to people, who wished to know what made me sit in front of the computer always. “It’s a sort of an online journal. You can put in any content you want”. They’d then curiously ask, “But who would read it? What use is it to people?”. That is not the case anymore. Many traditional media now cite blog references – Digit, a monthly tech magazine carries the best of tech blog references. And after the Tsunami help blog and (more recently) Hurricane Katrina help blogs that were widely publicized, people do consider them seriously.

That is a healthy trend because, far from being “an online journal” where one can write about how they cleaned the cage of their pet rabbit, blogs now carry stories that appear in papers only after a couple of days. It’s become rather habitual to see someone quote from the morning paper, a story of a turtle that befriended a hippopotamus and reply with a smug look on the face, “Oh that! That appeared in ‘Boing Boing’ a couple of days back”. There is variety, and there is little room for mis-information. Most bloggers double and triple check their facts before posting them, because in the present days of what I call “Superior Search Engine Technology”, it’s impossible to lie or deliberately provide wrong information. Blog readers, clever as they are, tend to check for accuracy of the information. I was once told by a reader of mine that she thought I’d got my facts wrong and correct me. She searched prior to correcting me, and found that it was not so. Several other times, I’ve not been so lucky. People bother to find factual inaccuracies or gaping voids in arguments. I read several comments regularly where blog readers conspire to trash some poorly written posts or posts which lack content, but nevertheless are widely read.

Newspapers aren’t ready to let go easily, too. They have enabled RSS feeds for their editorials. One newspaper recently went to the extent of creating a new position – that of an “Ombudsman” whose responsibility is to try to enhance the credibility among its readership and maintain the high ethical standards involved with traditional media. However space constraints and Pointy Haired Bosses restrict the depth and the width of editorials; and so, to get an unbiased opinion of what the journalist thinks, people resort to their blogs instead – which is “Free Press” in the truest sense.

Having said those, I don’t think Blogs will “replace” traditional media altogether. Nor will they be called “alternate media” anymore. Traditional media’s reach is enviable. Several people still swear by editorials that appear in the print form. Blogs can never reach to that level. There may be a day when people start to rely upon blogs for their source of news or gossip. Then too, I don’t think people will stop their subscription of the daily paper. Even if it gets dusty and yellowed over time.