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25 web sites to watch for > III June 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet.

Five Ways to Create and Share

These services help you put your thoughts together and publish them on the Web, whether you’re most comfortable talking, shooting video, or just typing.

Of course your friends and family want to see all of your pictures from your Venetian vacation–but wouldn’t it be better if they could also hear your voice, telling you cool details about what they’re looking at, or narrating a story regarding some gondola hijinks?

Yodio lets you combine photos with sound files to create an audio postcard. To make a recording, call a special Yodio phone number and start talking (or you can record your own MP3 file and upload it). Once you’ve transferred photos to the site, you can add sound and publish your postcard on the Web for others to admire. The site also has a scheme for making money from your productions, though we wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

Meebo Rooms
You may have heard about Meebo, the Web-based instant messaging program that lets you communicate with people over various IM services, such as AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo. (See our review of Meebo.)

Well equally cool is Meebo’s newest launch, Meebo Rooms, which lets you participate in multimedia chats. You’ll find chat rooms on everything from sports to SpongeBob Squarepants, and the rooms support videos and photos that you can discuss with fellow fans. If you can’t find a topic you’re interested in, simply create a new room and post visuals for others to discuss. You can even embed rooms into your site or blog, and use them to lure people to your own Web destination.

Got an obsession or special passion you want to convey to the world? Squidoo is your ticket. Using the site’s simple tools, you can build a “lens” (aka, a Web page) that includes information on any topic that’s close to your heart, whether it’s cats or Kafka.

A lens can be quite different from a blog. With lenses, you share links to resources, book recommendations, YouTube videos, Flickr photos, eBay auction items, and other cool Web content related to a single subject. Even if you don’t build your own lens, the site is worth visiting to see what others have done. You can learn a lot more about lemonade or laptop bags than you ever thought possible.

For anyone who has ever dreamed of becoming a broadcast mogul, here’s a quick (and free) way to get a taste of what it might be like. SplashCast lets you create your own streaming media channel that combines video, music, photos, text, narration, and RSS feeds. A wizard walks you through the steps of building your channel. Start by uploading media files from your hard drive, or point to files on other sites. Add captions, commentary, and RSS feeds, and your channel is ready to go. Once you’re done finessing your channel, you can send it to friends and family, or syndicate it to blogs and social networking sites. So far, there’s no way for you to make money from your channels, but the site plans to start a revenue-sharing model.

To create a video all you have to do is point your cell phone, digital camera, or camcorder at something, press a button, and stay focused. The result: an instant movie. What’s not so easy, though, is organizing, editing, and combining your video clips to create something aesthetically pleasing. Eyespot simplifies this process. Upload your videos to the site, and then use its tools to crop and mix them either with other clips you supply or with free video from the site. You can even add effects, transitions, and titles before publishing your video mix for the world to see.

Sites for Collaborative Work and Play

Whether you’re putting together an important document or an anniversary party, these services will help get everybody involved. Also, check out a snazzy online photo editor and a new way to search.

Anyone who has collaborated with multiple people on a document knows the true meaning of frustration. You have to distribute the file to the entire group, convince every person to review it by a certain date and time, and get them all to sign off on it. Approver.com lowers the pain quotient considerably. Upload the document you want to track, and the site routes it to everyone who needs to see it. It also lets you set deadlines for reviewing the document, and keep track of approvals and comments. Approver.com works with a number of apps, including Microsoft Office, Adobe PDF, and Open Office; alternatively, you can use the site to create documents, and have your colleagues read them online.

Though the whole world seems to know about Wikipedia these days, many people and organizations don’t realize how useful it can be to build their own wiki. In business settings, it’s an ideal way to share information within a group. For individuals, it’s perfect for planning a get-together, organizing a fan club, or sharing memories with family members. Pbwiki makes creating miniature versions of Wikipedia a breeze. The site’s simple, Web-based tools are perfect for building a wiki–you don’t need to have any HTML know-how–and getting others in on the editing action.

Planning a party, but unsure of what date works best for your friends? MyPunchbowl is basically Evite with a little extra kick. Like any self-respecting online invitation site, MyPunchbowl lets you create party invitations and then track who’s coming, who’s not, and who has yet to respond. But the site also enables you to send pick-a-date e-mail messages to see which day works best for people, set up message boards (useful for organizing things like who’s bringing the vino), and produce a map of the shindig’s location using Google Maps. You can also create an after-party message board where people can share comments, photos, and videos–if, um, appropriate.

You probably have hundreds or thousands of digital photos on your PC. And a lot of those photos would probably benefit from a little tweaking. But that doesn’t mean that you have to download and install photo editing software. Picnik supplies a nice suite of tools for editing photos online. All you have to do is upload your photos, or have Picnik grab them from a site like Flickr (which doesn’t have editing features), and then get to work. Picnik offers tools aplenty for performing simple editing–cleaning up red-eye or resizing photos, say–as well as doing more-extensive work, such as changing the exposure, fixing a color cast, or applying special effects.

Quintura provides a new way for you to search for things on the Internet. When you enter a search term, Quintura returns an ordinary list of results on the right-hand side, while on the left it offers a visual map (or “cloud”) of related terms. Click any of these words, and the list of results changes to encompass the new term as well, which can help you narrow your search. The process may sound clunky, but it’s surprisingly effective.

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