Razan Khatib's commentary on life on/off the web

Archive for the 'Tools' Category

Office 2010: the movie 0

Just watched this video on CrunchGear, what’s more hilarious than the video is the imaginary conversation at Mircrosoft posted under it.

folowen: find people/organizations' social web 2

Wonder why I haven’t been blogging that much lately? Yes, was busy for the past month and a half working on our new web application whom proudly I have codded my self :D yes, after 10 years of not coding complete applications, its has been so much fun!


So, what is folowen?

folowen is a social media search tool that aggregates social profiles of people and organization’s on several social media sites into one search result.

It simply makes it easy for you to follow a person or organization’s social web; be it a Facebook profile, page, group, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile, a YouTube channel…etc.

By simply entering the name of a person or organization you will be able to find their social links across 19 social networking sites!

We are currently in a private beta testing stage, trying out the search and getting feedback on its accuracy as well as getting to know what users want more out of the service in the near future.

I am giving out invitations for the beta for the first 30 people who comment on WEBsessed!

Thank you Gaith from ArabCrunch for writing about us :)

Thank you Mohammad from StartUpArabia for writing about us as well :)

Wolfram|Alpha launches tonight! @ 7pm CDT 0

Ok it is one hardcore WEBsessed post. it even has a geeky name.

Wolfram | Alpha, the new product out of Wolfram Research labs (world known for their Matmatica product) is promising to be the real deal search engine. I think Google finally has the prospect of a real competitor.

wolfram-logoThis search engine is smart, is semantic and promises to use natural language search something we’ve always wanted to have. Most people in semantic search talk about RDF (restructuring the Internet) so machines as people can talk to each other. Wolfram team thought no, that would take a long time. Lets code smart algorithms to get the answers we want.

Well they say its here. Watch the introductory video to understand more and watch a demo.

Watch the countdown video and later live broadcast  here.

Latitude, the jealous girlfriend/boyfriend's best friend! 0

The latest tool from Google, Google Latitude sounds partly very very cool and partly very very scary. It seems to me as location-based mobile social networking at its best. You use your Google Maps enabled phone and you get to see where your friends are and what they are up to!

Here is a cool introductory animated video from Google:

Warning: video ID not specified!

Too bad it doesn’t support Jordanian operators yet :-( But I was able to add it to my iGoogle homepage where you set your own location. Not that fun since Amman Map isn’t so advanced.

Some are calling it the jealous girlfriend/boyfriend’s best friend!  But I think like all technologies, if used well and you are able to set your privacy settings you will have so much fun using it.

Blogging 3.0 3

Yes, it has come! Some call it Lifestreaming as well.

Two great tools to turn your blog into a lifestream of everything else you log on the web are here, Swurl and Storytlr.

In both with -some differences- you can aggregate your online life being your blog, twitter account, facebook status, or any RSS feed of any service you choose into a blog like website.

And soon I will move thewebssessed.com domain into one! I’ve tried both but I seem to like storytlr more, simply because they allow you to group different posts from different services into a story which is a very powerful tool Swurl doesn’t have. Also, with storytlr you can import any other RSS feed as well not just stick to the supported services available with storytrl/swurl. However, swurl looks up your friends where people visiting can see what they are up to, also they provide a calandar looking timeline of your online life.

See for yourself:





On the future of books 2

I have stumbled upon two new developments that tackle the future of books and of course the two have the web at the center of the experience.

The first is Amazon’s Kindle, the wireless reading device is more like the iPod for books, where you can buy a book at a cheaper price and get it delivered wirelessly to the device it self so you can read it.  You can also read magazines and newspapers.

The second is the Unbook experiment by Jay Cross and Dave Gray (who I know of), the concept lies in trying to make books into living objects and not timestamped into versions that become obsolete when the next one comes along. Books that evolve.

The concept is explained better in this slide show:
[slideshare id=569866&doc=theunbook0012003-1219747524880688-9&w=425]

(Jay’s book is called “Learnscape Architecture“)

The Kindle enables me to take as many books as I want anywhere without worrying about weight I have to carry. mmmmm but i love the feel of real books, turning the pages…

While the Unbook enables me -the reader- who’s interested in the subject help bring the next version through discussion over blogs and still be able to read the paperback version!

Anyway, being the web 2.0 geek I am, I had to Google “Books 2.0″, and found a blog -shockingly- called The book is dead with a post about Books 2.0! Turned out to be the online blog associated with a book called “The book is dead” by Sherman Young. The post is about an article on BusinessWeek called Book Publishers: Learn From Digg, Yelp—Even Gawker where the author talks about how publishers need to embrace Web 2.0 concepts.

Guess I am going to buy Jay’s and Sherman’s books before I go and say anything more on this subject!

The power of webware 1

I got a new laptop last week and it was just amazing how fast I could transfer all my stuff to it, it was fully ready in less than 3 hours. Nope it didn’t have to do with what “transfer” method I used or what was pre-installed on it.

It was simply how the move into webware instead of software made things much easier.

Things I didn’t have to move:

  1. My emails were all stored on Google Apps (except for SYNTAX since it has 20MB limit)
  2. My project data was all stored on Basecamp
  3. My tasks were all listed on HighRise/Basecamp
  4. My RSS feeds were all on Google Reader.

In the old days, you had to worry about installing all the software you use over again, but thanks to webware that also speeded up how fast I set up everything I needed which came from two main suppliers Microsoft and Adobe!

The things I had to move were:

  1. Pictures, which I could put on Flickr or Ikbis but i still worry about privacy issues.
  2. Documents, which I could have put on Google Docs (Part of Google Apps) or acrobat.com. But still I somehow can’t make the move to web office tools yet.
  3. Music, which I could have Synchronized with my iPod (had i had one).
  4. Contacts, will since my i-mate (mobile) can’t sync with my laptop anymore I had to copy them.

Yep, you can tell very easily that I love webware :D Wonder when will I be able to use the term more often like we say software!

Viewzi.com, a visual search engine 0

Viewzi.com is a great new experience in searching the web, that is very engaging, visually attractive and cuts browsing time.

You simply type in your search query, and then you get to select a specific view to see your results, for instance the Web Screenshot View will look like this:

You can browse easily from one search result to the next and view a screen shot of the resulting page, right from where you are, instead of the back and forth you do with the regular search interface.

Even their Simple Text view includes thumbnails of each search result, the more you scroll down the more results they fetch!

Another amazing view is 4 Sources view, where they bring search results from Yahoo, Google, Ask and MSN in one screen! You can filter between  the 4 sources and select which ones to show…

I personally enjoyed checking Site Information View that gets you traffic information, recent tweets, search results…etc. associated with the site you are inquiring about

It seems that each view was made by a different person, but I couldn’t find information related to any API or tools that enables outside developers to create a view, maybe they just want to share the product team identities who worked on each view.

Try it its fun!

Wordle, cool looking tags of text 0

I just checked Wordle.net, a service that allows you to create cool looking tags of any text you post, also you can type in a URL of a page or an RSS feed.

Its powered by a Java Applet that allows you to print the resulting image, or save it to their gallery .

here is a link to the tag picture of the WEBsessed feed:


API to upload on YouTube! 1

Google’s YouTube announced the creation of an API to allow developers to upload videos directly to YouTube for free! This will enable lots of sites to save on storage/bandwidth and use YouTube’s platform. The videos will of course be viewable from YouTube’s site as well. Bad news for video sites everywhere especially those that bank on selling their platform-as-a-service (PaaS). I think we will explore this further with Questler in the next few weeks. More analysis on TechCrunch

Yamli.com, anglo arabic? 7

I’ve been playing for the past 30 min with this new web app called Yamli. Which enables users to type arabic using roman characters, like we usually do within emails, our official language being arabeezi. So instead of sending an email containing arabic words in roman characters like this one:

Hi Diala? Keefek? shoo el akhbar?

you will type it the same way you typed the above but will get the following text instead:

هاي ديالا؟ كيفك؟ شو الأخبار؟

This could enable more people to communicate with each other in Arabic, since most of us are really slow typing in arabic characters.

Also the service enables you to search Google in arabic as well by again typing how the word sounds in roman characters.


I am impressed!

If they allow us in the future to use their editor in third party web apps that would mean wonders to the arab web.

I can hear some loud voices out there saying that we should learn how to type faster in arabic, but since that isn’t happening that fast for some of us i think this web app might be just the solution. They have a Facebook app as well!

Google Alerts, keep being posted 0

Just in case some didn’t discover this great tool yet.

Google Alerts is a great tool to keep your self posted with whatever people are talking about on the Internet on a specific word or combination of words. For example you can use it to send you weekly, daily or as-it-happens alerts for anything posted with your name on it, or your company’s name or a specific topic you want to keep being posted in new developments on.

A friend of mine suggested I use it to keep a watch on my comeptitors so as to keep being updated on what they are doing and who they maybe are a year ago and now I get an email every week or so with a digest about learning/informal learning with news and blog posts that are mostly useful! Thanks Hussam :)

Google Trends 0

Want to know how much a certain word of phrase been searched for on the Internet the past 4 years? Check out Google Trends a web trend analysis tool from Google; it will give you a chart-based analysis on that phrase.

If you tried to search trends for “Lebanon” you will get the following chart:


Which from looking at it you will see that there is a base level of search about lebanon eveyday, and a two main spikes, one earlier in 2005 around with Rafiq Hariri was assassinated, and in the summer of 2006 around the Israel invasion of Lebanon.

Try another search, lets say “Global Warming”:


A seen above, in 2007 a lot of people got more aware and searched for information about Global Warming. Which in my own observation was about right.

“Facebook” got more than a trend more of a hike in 2007 and still on apparently, we will see until when will it keep that hike:


Try it your self for whatever phrase, be it a country, a web app, a person, or a topic!

Funny video about Web 2.0 "bubble" 0

I just came across this video at OnStartups.com , its so funny but sadly it has some truth to it! Titled “Here comes another bubble” sang by The Richter Scales.

Being the founder of a Web 2.0 web app, I still found this video funny, but here is why I don’t think we are building a bubble! why? I am going to do exactly like what Dharmesh did on his blog! Watch the video then read why!

Warning: video ID not specified!

1. We are building a learning network that will help people learn from each other, not just poke each other…hint hint!

2. We are building a toolset that will empower people to take charge of their own learning, not wait for formal programs to to keep doing that for them.

3. The product vision for Questler is to enable organizations of all types both cultivate and capture informal learning that is already happening in their organizations.

4. We want organizations to balance their spending between formal and informal learning to get performance results not just keep on spending 80% of their budgets on formal training programs.

5. We are talking about one industry only not two.

6. We are using Web 2.0 concepts but we are trying to focus their use in learning, not socializing and i think that should win us a point!

7. I am 33, Eyad is 32 and Alma is 29 and we don’t think that Web 2.0 is only for people in their early-mid twenties!

Thanks for that video, its good to be able to blog this!

AdBrite – An alternative to AdSense 2

3 weeks ago, Google AdSense team decided to block my account which I opened more than a year ago. Why? Because a friend of mine kept clicking on ads thinking she is helping us make more money on Questler! Anyway, after I submitted an appeal, they still refused. As an AdWords user as well, from one hand I somehow respect their decision to stop seemingly fishy accounts, but still having had the account for one year should stand for something in my opinion and if they really bothered to look at Questler they would have known that it’s a “serious” site.

Anyway, since then I’ve been looking for an alternative that as easy to setup and get approved. I didn’t run into anything until 2 days ago while browsing Alexa.com (the web information website) and found AdBrite (adbrite.com). It’s too early to give an assessment, but setting it up was as easy if not easier than AdSense. They do have critical mass that would justify using them. But they still don’t offer per page related ad serving; they make you select as many keywords as you want yet upfront when you setup the account.

Will give a more detailed review in the next coming months once I can see its value!

A whole new Questler 2


Yes, we did it! We launched the wide beta at midnight yesterday or today, sometime in the middle of the 4th and 5th of November!

The whole new Questler is up and running, and its just too exciting to be part of such project. A learning network that engages individuals in their own learning management through connecting them with others who share their interests to learn, collaborate and share ideas.

In addition to tweaking the Quests tool, we launched a new one called Discoveries.

Discoveries, a mini-blog that enables individuals to share a piece of information they have just learned or unlearned as it happens. They can also, add their comments or even challenge discoveries made by others.

All to exciting, we will start working on a facebook application that will enable users to extend their Facebook experience into one that focuses more on their learning.

Check it out at questler.com!


Tool: Google Notebook 1

An idea came to my mind a couple of months ago when I was overwhelmed with the amount of research I’ve done on Questler and how even del.icio.us (a bookmarking social site) won’t even help me make sense of all the information I have logged. So I thought what if there was a research-mate-like tool installed on my browser which will open a window within it and let me log the links as I am browsing, add my comments on the same text I am copying as well as of course having several research sessions?

Few weeks later I stumbled on Google Notebook , which to some degree has met the above . It’s still in Google Labs (Not even beta) but I’ve been using it ever since and the experience has been extremely beneficial. Once installed, you will see a notebook icon at the far right-bottom of your browser, click on it and it will open a small window that area of the browser.

Let’s say you are starting a research session about Museums, as you browse some sites; you stumble on some text you want to take note of – not just the link of the website you are browsing; so you highlight the text and right-click, you will have an item in the right-click menu that says “Note This (Google Notebook)”. Once clicked the text is automatically copied into the notebook you have opened and you can continue reading/browsing. Brilliant right?

Google Notebook 1

And now after visiting few sites; you are ready to add your own notes (Text) to everything you have notebooked. You can open the notebook in a full browser window and go on adding your own notes. Just like that!

Google Notebook 2

As known, adults learn by doing so do check it out and tell me if it makes your life easier :)



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