Archive for the ‘Social’ Category

Flickr, Science Come Together to Bring New Species to Light

Semachrysa jade, new lacewing species. Image: Kurt/Flickr

Photo sharing giant Flickr may not be the internet hipster favorite it once was, but the site remains not just popular, but useful as well — Flickr recently helped connect a scientist with a photographer, making it possible to classify a new species of green lacewing.

Photographer Hock Ping Guek, whose Flickr stream is full of gorgeous macro images, was photographing in a state park in Malaysia when he snapped an image of an unusual-looking Green Lacewing. Guek then uploaded the images to Flickr.

That’s where Shaun Winterton, a senior insect biosystematist at the California Department of Food & Agriculture, happened to see the somewhat odd-looking green lacewing with its distinct wing pattern of black markings and white spots. It didn’t match anything Winterton had ever seen before. He sent the image to fellow scientists, but no one was familiar with it.

Winterton then got in touch with Guek, who returned to Malaysia, this time collecting a specimen that was then sent back to Winterton. Winterton then collaborated with Stephen J. Brooks of the London Natural History Museum to describe the new species. The two, along with Guek, share credit for the new species, which is named Semachrysa jade.

While the three share credit, the paper outlining the new species (available on Zoo Keys) also credits the web for bringing Semachrysa jade to light:

New species are increasingly being discovered by the general public with interests in the natural sciences long before they are recognized as new to science by professional taxonomists and formally described. With the rapid development of digital photographic technology, professional and amateur photographers are unknowingly discovering and informally documenting new species of animals and plants by placing images of them in online image databases long before taxonomists can examine them.

If you’d like some more background on how it all came together, be sure to check out Guek’s blog Up Close with Nature.

GitHub Changes Make It Easier to Track Your Favorite Projects

Image: GitHub.

Code sharing giant GitHub has rolled out some significant changes to the site’s notifications system, making it easier to keep track of interesting projects without being notified of every single change.

GitHub has always made it easy to “watch” a project, which means you’re notified whenever there are any updates. Now the company has added another level of watching, dubbed “stars,” to the mix. As GitHub’s Kyle Neath writes on the company blog, “stars are a new way to keep track of repositories that you find interesting.”

When you star a project you can keep track of it, but you won’t be notified of every change. Think of starring a project on GitHub as a more casual way of watching, the equivalent of bookmarking it for later. To make it easier to do that, every repo now has a star button next to the familiar watch button.

The big difference between watching and starring a project comes down to notifications. If you are watching a repository, you will receive notifications for all discussions — project issues, pull requests, comments on commits and any other comments. If you’re not watching a repo you’ll just receive notification for the discussions you participate in.

The other main thing worth noting is that any repositories you were previously watching can now be found on your stars page. If you want to go back to watching them, you’ll need to change them over yourself. There’s also a new auto-watch feature; when you’re given push access to a repository GitHub automatically adds it to your watch list.

GitHub has a few other changes rolling out along with the new stars feature, including improved notification e-mails. Be sure to check out the GitHub blog for the full details on everything that’s new.

File Under: Social

See the World Through the Eyes of Instagram

This is Now New York. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

This is Now offers a real-time glimpse of life in cities around the world as seen by Instagram users.

The site pulls updates from photo sharing service Instagram and uses the image geo data to cull images by city. This is Now then streams photos as they’re uploaded, creating a photomosaic of each city. There are five cities represented at the moment — New York, Sydney, London, Tokyo and São Paulo.

If you’d like to see more images from a particular person, each photo links back to the photographer’s Instagram profile.

This is Now was build by developers Marcio Puga, Mauricio Massaia and Per Thoresson.

[Update: If you like This is Now, you may also like Fourist. Fourist is a similar project — aggregating Instagram photos by city — but focuses on photos from the weekend so you can peek in on what the rest of the world does on the weekend.

File Under: APIs, Social, Web Basics

One Foot on the Platform…

There’s an old and wonderful Little Feat song.

Lowell George’s girlfriend can’t make up her mind. How he describes it is what’s so cool. “She’s got one foot on the platform, the other on the train.”

And that’s the best strategy, right now, for a reporter or blogger using Twitter.

You can’t get off the platform, that’s where everyone is. But you need a Plan B, just in case you have to get off the platform. That’s the train.

You need a tool that allows you to publish to Twitter, and at the same time publish to an open system that can be connected to other open systems. So users can create their own Twitter, the same way they use Twitter to follow many sources, without having to go through Twitter.

Twitter is the platform. The feed is the train.

It might sound complicated, but it’s not.

If Twitter were to cancel my account, I would keep posting, and people who followed me on the train (following the analogy) would continue to get my updates. The people on the platform, however — would not.

It’s how we develop strength, and the power to choose, without leaving Twitter.

If Twitter Corp plans on being nice to us, then they should not have a problem with this approach. Their API permits it. It’s consistent with Dick Costolo’s edict that we should put stuff into Twitter, but not take stuff out of it.

It’s a way to preserve journalistic integrity even if Twitter hasn’t yet figured out if it’s in the business of providing a platform for journalism.

This post first appeared on Scripting News.

Dave Winer, a former researcher at NYU and Harvard, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software. A former contributing editor at Wired magazine, Dave won the Wired Tech Renegade award in 2001.
Follow @davewiner on Twitter.
File Under: Social

Reborn Digg Starts Over From Scratch

The new Digg: Now with 70 percent more photos. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

Digg is back. The social news site that coulda been a contender — or actually was a contender for a while — has risen from the ashes of its recent sale to Betaworks.

The current version is not, however, the Digg of old.

Not only has the site been completely rewritten from the ground up, but it’s far from complete. In fact, as the announcement notes, the site was rewritten in a mere six weeks. That’s impressively fast, but it has definitely left some rough edges on the initial release.

Today’s release is best thought of as a work in progress — it’s still buggy and feature incomplete — but it does give a glimpse of Digg’s future. This time around Digg is more visually focused — think one part Pinterest, one part Flipboard.

Old school Digg users may not like what they see in this release. The future of Digg is not the sequential, river-of-news approach that the old site used (something like that exists for the Popular and Upcoming sections, but it’s definitely not the focus) and at the moment in order to submit stories you’ll need to login via a Facebook account.

As with so much of this initial launch, the Digg FAQ says that the Facebook requirement is temporary — see the above bit about it being rebuilt from scratch in six weeks. Some Digg users have also complained about the missing old content, though we’re not sure why since, as they say, nothing stinks like yesterday’s news. Still Digg’s new owners say eventually all that old content will be brought back online.