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Google Maps makes commuting easier

Saw today that Google Maps now has a Traffic layer, which color codes congestion around 30 major cities, Washington DC included.  If you zoom in close enough, you’ll also now see markers for Metro stations.  HT: Gizmondo and Google Blog.

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Politics

OpenCongress in beta

Someone does Government 2.0 style – OpenCongress is live, complete with "Beta" sunsplash thingy and a few gray gradients.  This, along with The Open House Project, seem to be built on top of the data provided by govtrack.us.  Will it make a difference?  Will you use it to track any issue, industries, or your local representatives?

OpenCongress is a free, open-source, non-profit, and non-partisan web resource with a mission to help make Congress more transparent and to encourage civic engagement. OpenCongress is a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation.

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Keep track of blog comments

What are some strategies for keeping track of comments you leave on other people’s blogs?  Knowing when someone replies to an interesting comment encourages discussion and participation. 

Some feeds provide comment feeds, for the site as a whole or for individual posts, but before long you might end up with dozens of feeds in your aggregator.  Another approach is to allow users to receive notification via email, but then you’re giving your email address to yet another website.  A third approach is to use a service like Commentful, co.mments, or coComment, which promise to track comments across blogs and other social sites.

Commentful tracks comments after the user has added them to their tracking queue and provides a firefox plugin for notifications, but not a syndication feed.  co.mments also requires you to add  URLs to be watched for comments, and provides handly bookmarklets to simplify the process, and most importantly, you can get comment updates in a feed.  coComment, on the other hand, apparently makes a copy of your comment and then you "track the ensuing conversation without having to check back on the original site."  The latter sounds like hijacking someone else’s hard-earned participation. 

For that reason, I’m going to give co.mments a try.  If you follow any number of blogs, I’d encourage you to do the same and post about your experience here.

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Unpatched IE Flaw exploits in the wild

If you’re using Internet Explorer, or are forced to use it at work, you should seriously consider switching browsers until Microsoft deems it time to release a patch to the latest Internet Explorer security hole. This one is pretty serious as it does not require any action on the user’s part beyond visiting a compromised website. Once you visit such a site, spyware and keyloggers can be installed on your machine to steal personal information. From the washington post article linked above:

Rather than download a “beta” (read: potentially unstable) version of
IE or wait around for Microsoft to issue a fix, a far better idea would
be to ditch IE altogether (or only use it only when absolutely
necessary). I use Mozilla’s Firefox for everyday browsing, but your mileage may vary. There are other options, of course, such as Opera and Netscape, to name a couple.

More details and interesting links on Asa Dotzler’s post titled Just think of it as an executable.

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Blogging and Organizations

Via Network-Centric Advocacy, I had a small “aha” moment, from a piece they linked to on AlterNet, Blogging While Black. To me, it resonates with why many communications folks within an organization don’t know what to make of blogging. Being the Communications Director somewhere means your supposed to be crafting , filtering, and controlling the org’s message and outreach. Blogs can be a threat because anyone beyond the anointed can have a voice.

So if anyone can have a voice, how do you control what they say, or how well they say it? In my opinon, you let your experts loose to write about issues you care about, like the Center for Global Development has done (full disclosure: I work with them), and connect more frequently, transparently, and informally, with supporters.

But blogging is not exclusively or primarily about reporting the
news; it is fundamentally about grassroots communication between
individuals and groups without the filter of government agencies,
political parties, corporations and other such entities.

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Firefox 1.5 released last week.

I know I’m a bit late to the game, but some of you may not know that Mozilla Firefox 1.5, was released last week. If you are still using Internet Explorer on your Windows machine, you should install and start using Firefox because its more secure, faster, and extendable. This Introduction to Firefox is a great starter’s guide for making the switch form IE.

If your a web developer or designer, you should be interested in what’s new in the browser. Simon Willison has an overview of new CSS tags, and other feature, that Firefox supports.

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IE developer switches to Firefox

Scott Berkun, who designed and worked on the development of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer versions 1 to 5, explains why he switched to Firefox.

He has great praise for the design team, particularly those who have kept the browser focused on appealing to the mainstream user.

“Firefox feels to me like what IE 6.0 should have been (or what i
expected it to be after I left the team in ‘99). It picked a few spots
to build new features (tabs), focused on quality and refinement, and
paid attention to making the things used most, work best.”

He also has some helpful critiques for improving the browser, to which Asa Dotzler responds.  The comments to Asa’s post are very informative too, Scott has even replied there.

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IE7: Don’t belive the Hype and FUD

It seems Microsoft is trying to stem the tide of users ditching the security hazard that is Internet Explorer for Mozilla Firefox. They just announced that Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 Beta Due This Summer. Why wait until this summer for a preview version of their next browser when you can get Firefox today? Not to mention that If You are Not Running XP It Will Only Cost You $100 and may only be available for the latest Windows version – sorry win2k users!.

Firefox 1.0 is better right now than IE 7 will be when it comes out. Don’t wait. Get Firefox now. 25 Million Downloads can’t be wrong.

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Can MS count on IE’s dominance?

At least in sales pitches? From DivaBlog: What if Mozilla were to win in the end?

Anyway, the presenter was doing his pitch in a polished way and at one point he said he wanted to show us a “really cool” feature and he looked up into the audience and said “Show of hands…How many of you use Internet Explorer?”.

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Phishing might be helping Mozilla

According to broadband reports, phishing scams which exploit Microsoft Internet Explorer’s bug that allows scam artists to hide the real url of a link while displaying a legit looking address.

While the story itself is interesting, theres an interesting thread evident in the comments posted by readers. A lot of them wrote about how they’ve moved to other browsers, mainly Mozilla or Thunderbird – which is great! It has been months since this exploit was discovered and Microsoft has not fixed it yet. Meanwhile, users are switching away from IE, learning that Mozilla is a perfect replacement for it, and will be telling their friends about it.