Digital Communications

Historians have often been accused of being behind the times in terms of digital applications. This may be true in some instances, who hasn’t seen a historian fumble with a simple PowerPoint presentation. However, there are also a number of historical organizations and professionals who have embraced various forms of technology. Many of these technologies are focused on making tasks easier, including the trouble and cost of long distance communication.

One of the simplest communication focsed applications is Skype. Skype is free software that allows you to “talk” to anyone else who has Skype without a charge. You can also pay a nominal fee to use Skype to call land lines. Providing you have high speed, this is a very economical choice in lieu of long distance calling.

In addition to Skype, Dimdim is a great application for long distance group projects. Having a problem with a program? Want to share ideas? Dimdim allows you to share screens, so you can easily compare work, which ideal for anything involving groups. Dimdim is frequently used for web conferences allowing for a more open sharing of ideas than a mere conference call.

I was also recently exposed to near-time. This application is a file sharing, collaborative workspace. It is very similar to the collaborative nature of a wiki and hosts many similar features. Near-time is a bit more ascetically pleasing than the average wiki. However, the major near-time is not an open source application and may not be a practical application for many smaller organization.

Continued Evolution of Google Applications.

The tools provided through google have evolved once again. Recently google launched a new beta version of the google earth application. It is now possible to explore oceans on google earth. This feature allows users to explore the oceans, examine melting ice caps, and use a feature called shipwrecks. The shipwreck feature allows users to explore more than forty shipwrecks, through educational videos. The shipwreck section contains some historical information, and may be a neat way to introduce the more historical side of mapping to the public.

Similarly, google earth now includes a historical imagery feature. This feature lets users explore a variety of satellite images from various periods, which highlight how certain areas have changed over time. The user can also select the time span they want to examine for a particular location. Currently this feature is only available for select locations, but despite this limitation, google earth is moving towards providing more historical context, which is never a bad thing for the history buffs.

Dropbox sharing.

I came across a neat application the other day that is designed to make file sharing easier. The Dropbox application allows ‘easy’ sharing between computers and users, even if the computers are running different operating systems.

Essentially the program designates a folder on your computer as a dropbox, and copies the contents of that folder to a web-accessible account and to any other computers connected to that account. The option of having the files accessible online without accessing one of the computers connected to your dropbox is kind of neat, as it allows the accessibility of accessing your files from any computer in addition to those specified as part of your dropbox group. You also have the option of making your dropbox contents available to the public and completely open access.

If nothing else this application could make sharing files from a work computer to a home computer a bit easier. It also has the potential to be useful to those working on collaborative or group projects, and be a lot more efficient then constantly sending out mass group emails.