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The me.dium is the message

Biswajit.HD

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There is news, viral videos, new music, beta versions of softwares, e-zines and books that have not yet been printed. Today the Internet is the ‘in thing’, bombarding the surfer with the latest, hottest and fastest bits of code ever created by humanity. From social networking to video sharing, it is by far the best place to hang out. Unfortunately, it has two problems: it is too vast and is also a solitary activity. The frequent updates, endless RSS feeds and Atom links make it impossible for one person to know all the alleys and back streets of the information highway. On the other hand, even though Web 2.0 has engulfed the net, most conversations remain in the friends-only domain of things (random Orkut messages are not counted here). Yet there is a way of discovering cyberspace, with buddies.


How Me. becomes the me.dium

Me.dium, a browser side bar, tackles these problems head on, boldly takes you where no Firefox add-on has gone before. The bar collects your web-usage information right from the sites visited, to the applications download. It then compares this information with that of other users, and creates a surfing pattern. Collectively, it uses all this information to suggest sites that might be of interest to you. While computer generated suggestions are nothing new, there have always been users who search for these and are also interested in lists that plague sites from Amazon to eBay—there is a major difference here. The bar creates these suggestions by showing you the number of people flocking to a particular site.

For example, if a hundred people go to a technology blog, Me.dium will check if you are interested in technology and then suggest the blog to you. All this happens in real-time, so when people find something hot, you get to know of it instantly, keeping you updated to the Pico-second.

Not only can you see what others are raving about, but you can also talk to them. Me.dium lets you set up your own identity, and gives you various privacy settings. When you enter a site crawling with other users, you can chat with them, through the side bar. Thankfully, these chats are public, hence no one user can trouble you on a one-to-one basis. While this does help in the discovery of new gems being uploaded on to the web, this is essentially on-the-go communication with strangers. ‘Community surfing’ comes to town.

For friends there is a whole new set of options. The side bar lets you invite your friends like the multitude of social applications out there; all you do is, send them a message requesting them to download the application and join you. Once that’s done, your friends can see the sites that you’re currently viewing, and can instantly join in. Similarly, you too can join your friends by viewing the listings on ‘quote for the day’, and chat with them while doing so. Although surfing and using a messenger together isn’t really rocket science or new, this ability to see what you’re friends are watching, creates a sense of walking down a common path, while carrying on your usual conversations.


Setting Me. up

Getting the me.dium side bar is quite simple. All you have to do is go to their website, me.dium.com, and download it. Unfortunately, me.dium is only supported by the latest version of browsers: Firefox 2, Windows Explorer 8, Songbird and Flock. Older versions will not allow you to see what’s happening in real-time. If you don’t have these, the site will inform you of it and give you the option of downloading any one of them. Once downloaded, the website gives you clear and simple instructions on the settings in the browser that will allow you to use it. For example in Firefox, you need to enable me.dium and allow it to set up.

The next step as usual, is choosing a username, setting up a user-ID, uploading a picture and even linking your me.dium ID to your blog. This is where it gets interesting. Apart from just a side bar, the site also gives you a variety of widgets that can help spruce up your blog and attract more traffic to it. There is a ‘Me.dium Map’ widget, which tells you about all users flocking to your blog, and pinpoints the post that they are spending their time on, all while they are doing so. The best part is that this widget can also be linked to your social networking profile, so that you can find out who is stalking you on Facebook. ‘Rock Me’, another widget, does the same thing, although it sticks to the guitar-god ethos by calling the blog readers a ‘mosh-pit’. Other widgets let you see the new things that are being discovered by other users, this can be focused on different genres, from gaming and technology to music and pop culture.

The Me.thodology

Once the installation is complete, the browser needs to be restarted; this causes Me.dium to take over the left side of your surfing window. This is where you can see the action unfold; the me.dium bar acts like a moving map, it tells you your location on the net, and builds a web of related sites around this. The side bar does this by representing all related websites with a gray rounded bar, with their logos perched on it. Your personal user is identified in bright orange with a self-explanatory arrow that says, quite obviously, ‘me’. Other users are represented in blue. These are drawn out like slightly well-built stick figures. The sites that have many users as a crowd of figures huddled on their bar, while vacant ones are represented as deserted bars. The best part is that, as you surf this configuration of related sites keeps changing dynamically.

‘Social Surfing’ isn’t just about watching the crowds but actually getting immersed into them. To do this, the lower half of the side bar is taken up by a ‘Talk’ section, which is Me.dium’s version of a messenger. This opens up and displays all the group chats in progress. Any message you type is visible to all users on that page; but if you surf away, the window changes to a new page. So if you want to see the responses of other users, while you were away, you have to back track to the original site.

All your friends are neatly arranged right next to the talk window. Quite like chatting with other surfers, a click reveals a list of all your friends that are currently online. Although you can chat with them directly, you can also click on the logo to go the sites. These chats are private, and no one can see them or even intervene.
Since the number of users and your personal interests are two very different things; the side bar arranges the most popular sites according to their genre right on top of the bar. So instead of looking for the most popular sites on music, all you have to do is click on the headphones icon and it does the rest. Me.dium has created ten such tabs, which range from news to technology-related sites. A tab is simply represented with a flame, it takes you to the hottest sites; these are web pages that have the most number of me.dium users.

Why Me.?

Although me.dium does open a whole new web experience, there are a few things that need clarification. Since Me.dium helps to discover sites that appeal to your tastes, it also brings about fears of privacy. This site assures users that it keeps all the tracking data in encrypted formats, which aren’t very easy to crack. For most users this promise is enough. But there are further methods that can be adopted to ensure your privacy. The side bar offers you three settings, ‘visible to all’, ‘visible to friends’ and ‘visible to no one’. The meaning of each one is self explanatory.

Yet this social surfing does have some helpful settings built in. It doesn’t allow friends or other users to see your personal information or pages. For example, if you log on to your e-mail, others will see it as a blank sheet. This feature is useful when you surf through various profiles on social networking sites. Although your friends will know you’re on Facebook, they will not be able to see the page that you are viewing. All these setting ensure that you can have fun with friends without compromising your privacy.


Me.et up

This side bar offers a whole new experience, while the user base will need some expansion in the future, for now it brings a whole new perspective to the web. Go meet up with your friends.

source : Chip magazine.
 
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