For untutored online adventurers like myself, Google has always been the gateway to exciting things. I always wanted to publish my own writing and when I was growing up it involved carving out a career in journalism. That’s a load of work experience, a degree, a load more work experience and then, if you’re very lucky, landing a job where you’ll actually be able to write something you’re vaguely interested in (I did manage to do so for a few years before packing it in to try and earn a living a little closer than 250 miles from home). Blogging tools cut out all those years of toil in one fell swoop. All you need is time, computer access and you are your own editor.
Google’s LocalGov day was a great insight into how the engineers use their own tools. For the hyperlocal blogger this is really useful. I don’t know who you are or what you want to do, but chances are a few of these powerful tools will help you do it really easily – and, of course, for free.
Build a hyperlocal map
There are growing numbers of mapping tools out there and if you like exploring places through photos Flickr has a library of 83 million. However, My Maps on Google has more flexibility and the crossovers to Google Earth and Street View. Create your own little empire or collaborate with others.
This is very clever. You know when you go through a load of Google searches to compare different fast cars? No longer necessary. I’m looking forward to the chance to impress any small child with my encyclopedic knowledge of beetles, too.
Collaborate with other people
Google Docs is so obvious, so *there*, that you can forget about it. But I’ve played with many different types of collaborative wikis and normally got back the email equivalent of blank looks – apparently the majority of people who visit Wikipedia never realise they can edit it. They’re easy once you know how, but if you want to skip the explaining bit, Google Docs has plenty of ways of sharing and collaborating in familiar environments to most computer users.
Tell the stories of your place in live action
One of the bits that really got me at Google was a video from Sweden. The man pointed at a mountain and bam! the mountain started telling its own story via Wikipedia! It’s not magic, it’s called “augmented reality” – and its cheaper and cooler than breast surgery. (?)
This is the sort of thing developers are building for open source Android phones and if you want to create a handy guide to your own local area for residents and visitors, you can add hyperlocal content for inclusion on Wikitude.
Make videos interactive
Just an easy addition to Youtube that could have really powerful uses and don’t forget you don’t need expensive equipment to create videos, most mobile phone will give you something reasonable enough for a small video. You can use annotations to turn videos into a trail, with choices, do clever things with the navigation or link to other types of content. Here’s an example:
Translate between languages
Google has a range of language tools, from simple copy-and-paste boxes that let you get the gist of what your Chinese cousin is saying to you, to clever little bots that help you look multi-lingual in chat without embarrassing yourself. For those who really want to make sure they’re getting it right, the Google Translate Toolkit enables collaborative human translation with plenty of assistance from machines.
If you’re interested in all the shiny things I picked up at the Google day, follow my linktrail here. I’ll leave you with one more video, the one I’m sending to *everyone* at the moment. If you liked what came before, you might like this…
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