Friday, January 23, 2009

Speech-enabled Blogging

Today, I received a comment to my last post about Talkr suggesting ReadSpeaker as an alternative. As you may infer from the new "Listen" button under the title of each post, I'm giving it a try. To visit the ReadSpeaker site, you can use the above page link or the ad link which appears when you click Listen button.

In keeping with my "Free is Good" theme, I'm using a "free" edition, the price of which is the ad buttons. ReadSpeaker is available in three other ad-free editions with varying features; costs range between 39 and 149 Euros with ad buttons, significantly more costly without.This an excellent solution for bloggers who want a "barrier free" site. Intended for individuals and small businesses and currently in Beta, ReadSpeaker appears to be a scaled down version of WebReader from VoiceCorp International BV.

After registration, installation was simple: Fill in a short form, choose a male or female voice, and click a couple of buttons.
In my case, using
ReadSpeaker's Blogger widget made editing a gadget in the Blogger Layout--Page Elements quick and simple, no HTML coding required. Saving the gadget put a Title in my sidebar and a Listen button for each post. Installation is much easier and more goof-proof than for Talkr. No feed reader is required, only a sound card with speakers or a headset; three of four minutes of button clicking, a bit of text entry, and you're in business.

The conversion from text to voice is reasonably good, still recognizable as a computer, but understandable without difficulty. The only thing that I don't like about it is that it reads my entire page header text before each post. Obviously, I could shorten this text or eliminate it entirely -- but I don't want to. I suspect I will be hearing from the ReadSpeaker folks shortly with instructions about how to limit the audio output to posts only.

ReadSpeaker supports four languages, with more promised in the near future. With the Listen button clicked, you can both listen to a post or click a link to download the audio file. Since Quicktime is currently my default player, I was given the option of saving it as Quicktime movie. In effect, I can use this feature as an on demand, quasi-podcast or convert and re-publish the file as a true podcast through iTunes.

Since this is considerably more diffucult than the Talkr approach, unless I missed something, for the blowner ReadSpeaker and Talkr serve different needs and listening styles. For the moment, I'll keep both as blog enhancements, at least until someone comes up with a version that seamlessly combines the features of both.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Podcasts Now Available

If you are tired of reading, try listening to podcasts of the blog posts here at Use the below link to open a podcast created in, which converts the text RSS feed from this site into podcast audio files. Try it out and give me your comments, please.

Listen to this Post as a Podcast

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

C4K - Partnering for Success

In 2001 to 2006, I was involved in creating a non-profit organization to reduce the digital divide in Colorado's Roaring Fork Valley - the Computers for Kids Foundation. Although I am no longer directly involved, I want to share with you how a community-based, volunteer organization has gone from a borrowed garage to a community institution. Go to for more information.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Quiz: Sample Quiz - not for public use

If you are interested in posting polls, surveys, and quizzes on your blog or social networking site, using Quibblo is an easy way to do it.If you want to share this quiz from this blog post, just click the Share tab and choose your destination. Quizzes can be placed in a sidebar, too.

Surf Canyon

I first read about Surf Canyon (, a new meta search engine, in the NY Times (Wednesday, January 14, 2009, Section D page 6) groups results based on semantic similarities determined by user preferences. To use it, you must first download it and install it as a browser extension. At the moment, it only works with Firefox and MSIE. The default source settings include Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft (MSN Live Search), Craigslist and LexisWeb.

When a search term is entered Surf Canyon returns a list of results, some of which are marked with a bull’s-eye icon, which denotes other related links which are opened by clicking the bull’s-eye. The new list may also display bull’s eyes, and so on. Surf Canyon is installed as an extension to your browser. The results from any search engine launched from you browser will then show the Surf Canyon bull's next to any search result for which SC has found related links.

Each choice you make modifies the search criteria to limit results to the preferences you’ve shown in choosing a bull’s-eye. As you successively click bull's-eye marked entries, Surf Canyon "learns" from your sequence of selections, and narrows the search result. Successive search results are indented like a subject outline. In other words, Surf Canyon is building you a “concept map,” of web based resources, a process familiar to most teachers.

The second way in which to tailor your version of Surf Canyon is by specifying the sources on which you want your searches made and to blacklist ones to avoid. This feature is likely to be of special interest to educators. You may do this a by selecting sites from a checklist at
Making sources subject specific and blocking popular social networking and gaming sites will will help keep students on topic when using the Internet in your classroom. Parents take note, too -- ah gee, Dad., you're no fun.

For more information about so-called semantic processors, check out Search Done Right.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pageflake Transfer

Talk about the ultimate tool for integrating apps - Pageflakes makes it easy to peel off and move one of its flakes to any web page that accepts HTML. Three clicks and one cut-and-paste and I've got a functional search tool on my blog for any reader to use. Enjoy.