Wednesday morning at the Demofall conference, held this week in San Diego, was not about breathtaking technology or cute gizmos. Rather, the standouts were simple to understand (but likely not all that simple to implement) solutions to common problems. And some of which (at least the Mac-friendly ones) Iâ''ll probably find myself using soon, particularly because, at least for now, theyâ''re free. Thereâ''s Tungle, that lets people coordinate meeting scheduling across multiple calendar platforms; Vello, a web-based interface for setting up conference calls that call the participants instead of vice-versa; and Yuuguu, a simple tool for letting someone in another location look at your computer screen and, if you choose, take control of your mouse and keyboard. (Memo to Spectrum Art Director. We are seriously using this next time we try to discuss a diagram!)
Most interesting to me this morning were Tubes and FeedHub. Those of us in the publishing business have for years wrestled with various complex and expensive document sharing systems, that make sure documents are updated appropriately and multiple versions of the same document arenâ''t being circulated simultaneously. Tubes solves this problem for traditional and multimedia files elegantly, using a pneumatic tube metaphor. Create a tube that connects to one or multiple people and drop files into the tube. The system replicates the file, and any updates go out to all copies of the file. Bad news for us Mac users, though, at this point tubes can only be created by Windows users (though we can view and update files through the companyâ''s web site). The company promises a Mac version down the road.
Iâ''ve avoided getting heavily into subscribing to RSS feeds because of the guilt factor. (Same reason I donâ''t Tivo.) That is, if I have time to read news or blog sites, I figure I can always go to the sites and read them, but news and blog feeds piling up would just make me feel stressed (at which point Iâ''d have to take a 10-minute break and pick up the PiP tool demonstrated here yesterday). So I really liked FeedHub from mSpoke, a tool that studies your RSS feeds to figure out what youâ''re really interested in, filters them, and condenses them into a single feed with just the good stuff. At least thatâ''s the promise, try it and let me know if it works for you.
And one last mention from this morningâ''s demonstrationsâ''Matchmine, a recommendation engine intended to work with multiple sources of content, including blogs, music, and movies. The companyâ''s intent is to sell the technology to sites that provide the content; they recently signed Peerflix on as a customer. The heart of their technology is a mathematical array that captures a userâ''s media profile and adapts ad it learns. Iâ''m not sure how well it works, or if it will ever get enough customers to make any sense at all. (After all, I doubt Amazon or iTunes are going to be willing to cede control of their recommendation engines.) But the visualization of this mathematical array, a virtual gizmo the company calls the MatchKey, is gorgeous.