Archive for April, 2008

According to the New York Times [1] the makers of The Sims have now sold 100 million copies of what has become an iconic computer game. This is a game which is more popular with girls than boys and, according to its makers, is now being included in therapy sessions.
As the Head of the Sims Studio says in the NYT, many adults use the game like a diary, building an electronic version of the world based on their on own lives. “You get to tap into this wonderful childhood imaginary game, which is ‘What if I could create my own little world and all the people in it and watch them go through their business and jump in and change things when I want?’ That is a pretty personal fantasy.”
With the boom in Second Life and other avatar-based virtual worlds people are increasingly immersing themselves in versions of shared reality, which in some way reflect their frustrations with their real lives. According to the article, however, The Sims has failed to move online because people want to keep these fantasies to themselves.
This isn’t a huge community-based environment but 100 million different worlds. Perhaps that’s a better reflection for our fragmented communities and self-centred lifestyles? And maybe we’re all set to become self-medicating therapists?

The Sims Series Explores a Player2019s Fantasy Life - New York Times
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

[1] Story spotted on locomatrix.com


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Swicki is a new collaborative search engine, with one or two features that I like a lot, although it is still not the perfect customisable search engine for me.
Firstly it lets you select which websites it is searching. Rather than the whole web you can select up to 50 sites to get your results form – helping to focus on specific information, as well as helping to weed out the spammers and other search engines which can clog up search results.
Unfortunately it doesn’t only bring results from your selection – it drops other results from the web beneath the first ten or so from your selections.
It is highly collaborative because anyone who uses the search engine can rank the results they get – and the higher ranking results start to move up the results for the next people who use the search engine. With many searches you can find too many similar references appearing – but using this ranking system can help sift through multiple results using other people’s knowledge and preferences.
You can also add comments, which appear with the results. This is a good way of adding signposting to areas of particular interest, or warning of resources which don’t deliver what it says on the box.
I’ve used it to make a search engine to help people from the voluntary and community sector find useful information about ICT. It searches key resources such as the ICT Hub Knowledgebase, TechSoup and similar sites. You can view it at http://community-ict-swicki.eurekster.com/
Not only does it work on it’s own page but I’ve also added it to my blog – take a look on the right hand menu.
It’s not the perfect customisable search engine yet. Ideally it would search only the sites you include, rather than the whole web as well. And it doesn’t seem to have any keyword matching function which helps deliver specific results to match key words. But the comments and ranking features are very nicely done and show the way ahead for the next generation of knowledge management style search tools.
Take a look at other uses in the Swicki directory Swicki Directory

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Marcus Pennell at SCIP prepared a Naked Computer for the Community Base Open Day on 17 April – an old PC stripped to the bare bones and running WIndows. Just to show how it all works.
click here to see it in the altogether

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TB Alert is a charity based in the same building as SCIP. We had an open day here yesterday, with loads of people roaming around chatting to the 40 or so charities and voluntary organisations based here. We also had a film show all afternoon featuring various videos and films made by and about people from the building.
Two of the TB Alert staff are out in India at the moment so they broadcast their greetings via YouTube – a bit like This is Your Life. This was a great way of particpating in the day as well as teaching people more about their work.
Sadly the only technical glitch of the whole day happened when YouTube went down at the critical moment, leaving people here to use good old fashioned face-to-face presentation to fill the gap…
YouTube – TBAlert’s Channel

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This upcoming event from NCVO and Microsoft UK is free to registered charities – registration opens next week.

Improving your productivity through technology
Opportunities for the voluntary and community sector

10th June, London

NCVO and Microsoft UK are hosting an interactive conference combining case studies, workshops and keynote speakers to explore the potential of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) for small and medium sized charities.

Understanding that complexity, resources and finances can hold technology development back, Microsoft and NCVO aim to introduce you to ways of accessing the latest technology through the help of a special donations scheme, enabling your organisation to achieve more.

The conference will include case studies from charitable organisations that demonstrate how they are already reaping the benefits from using the latest technology. The event will close with an informative session on ICT funding and how you can access technology donations through Microsoft UK.

This full day event is free of charge to all charity employees on a first come first served basis.
Workshops include:

Workshop 1: Costing and Funding ICT in your organisation

Workshop 2: Managing finances effectively using new technology

Workshop 3: Tips and tricks for setting up and managing an online community

Workshop 4: Managing a remote team – How technology can bring you together

Workshop 5: Finding your niche – how new media options can help you stand out to your supporters

Online registration will be open from 23rd April 2008 at http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032376570&Culture=en-GB <http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032376570&amp;Culture=en-GB&gt;
Louise Brown

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How can faith groups use ICT to support their work? this workshop is aimed at people who are active as staff, volunteers or trustees in any faith-based group form the south east.

FREE WORKSHOP: Faith groups and ICT

Brighton, Friday 28 April 2008, 2-5pm

Venue: Community Base,Queens Road, Brighton BN1 3XG

This free workshop is aimed at staff and volunteers who work as part of a faith-based organisation. It is not a technical session but is aimed at managers and decision-makers who want to know more about how computers and the internet can help their work.

The session will be delivered by Mark Walker and Lucian Borcanescu, who are the ICT Champions for the South East of England.

It will include:
– How can ICT help faith groups?
– Where to get help with ICT
– Budgeting and fundraising for ICT

For bookings please contact either Mark on 01273 234049 or by email at mark.walker@scip.org.uk or Lucian at Lucian@clusterit.co.uk

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I ran workshop last week for museum staff and trustees about how they can use the web. As well as being a way of sharing their collections every one of them saw it as a way of increasing visitors to their museum and wanted to know how to use it in their marketing activities. The pressentation is posted below.
The museums ranged from small independents, run for free entirely by volunteers, to a large visitor attraction which houses one of the largest collections of vintage cars in the world. The people attending ranged in age from 17 to 70 with a mix of Trustee, manager and student volunteer.
The general position was that the people in the room felt very little control over what was on the site or what it looked like, felt confused by how to update it and were at the mercy of techies about what they could and couldn’t do on their website.
Having discussed the advent of the content management system we looked at everyone’s sites – screengrabs in the presentation.
This revealed the usual ragbag of designs and styles. Some were more elegant than others, some were more complete or up to date than others. One was designed by the Chairman’s son, whilst another cost about £20k, including a first version rejected at the last minute which had cost £10k!
Everyone had an excuse for something not being right on their site, or what they wanted improved, but few felt confident enough to comment on anyone else’s site. I was happy to roll through, making positive and negative comments, and suggesting improvements, but it was a far from particpative part of the session.
I realised that many people feel alienated from the web as a medium – they were all regular users of it but lack a language with which to interact fully with it. These are people who have adopted to pseudo-business language of the current voluntary scetor – happy to talk about outputs and objectives and mission – but are feel unable to say that a site looks ‘old-fashioned’ or is ‘basically okay but needs a few more pictures’.
The closest they got was at the start when I asked what they wanted from the day. Amongst various individual issues all agreed that their site needed a bit more ‘wow’ – and I soon realised that was about as articulate as they could be about what makes a website work.
It made me think we need to include similar discussions in all workshops – helping to build confidence by leading discussion as an ‘expert’ whilst making sure that people learn a language in which to express their ideas and begin to take control.

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