The THING Project identified two broad areas of project activity which it felt would benefit from the utilisation of Web 2.0 services.
- To stimulate networking and knowledge sharing between project members, and interested end users, including the regional authorities and regional development agencies, regional and international mentors and other regional and international knowledge providers.
- To promote and support the protection, management and interpretation of the thing sites, and to facilitate mobilisation and networking of interested end users.
Broadly put these areas can be defined as resources relating to the successful delivery of the project, and those resources relating to the promotion and dissemination of the project outputs.
A number of services were therefore identified as being suitable for testing by the THING Project.
- Internal Communication and Project Management Tools
A one-stop shop for dissemination of information about the THING Project, constructed using Drupal 6, an open-source content management system (CMS) - www.drupal.org. The website includes a forum facility for the discussion of project activities, document sharing and scheduling facilities. The site can host invitations to project meetings, updates on project activities and events, and also contains an online repository for all documents and other materials developed by the project for use by interested parties.
For real time meetings the project utilised a number of different methods. Skype (www.skype.com) offers free online calling facilities, plus messenger services. Videoconferencing between two accounts is available for the free version, while premium subscriptions support up to 10 individuals. To use Skype simply download the software onto your machine and install it. Calls require the use of a microphone (either built in or plug in), and it is recommended that when using any online calling or videoconferencing software that headphones are used rather than speakers as this prevents feedback loops and extra noise on the line.
- Google Hangouts
WP4 meetings explored further web 2.0 conferencing options by working with Google + and Google Hangouts. Unlike Skype Google Hangout does not require software to be downloaded or installed. Instead users must sign up for a Google + account. Once an account has been created users can add other members to their ‘circle’ and then can initiate a ‘Hangout’ or web-chat with them. Unlike Skype it is also possible to undertake videoconferencing between 10 individual users providing these users have a webcam. As with Skype, use of this service requires a microphone, headphones and also a webcam.
Arranging meetings around the schedules of individuals in different time zones with varying working hours and other commitments can prove to be challenging. To tackle this problem the THING Project trialled the free online scheduling service Doodle (www.doodle.com). The site simplifies the process of scheduling events, and does not require registration or payment, either by the initiator or responders. The initiator simply constructs a doodle schedule with a range of available dates for the event which needs to be scheduled, and then emails a link to participants asking them to express their availability. Users can then access the schedule, enter their name and select the times and dates on which they are available, allowing the initiator to select the most convenient time for all involved.
- Google Documents
In some cases it may be desirable for multiple individuals to be able to work on and edit a document. Rather than have multiple copies of the same document, which risks duplication and confusion, the THING Project trialled Google Documents (https://docs.google.com). Google Documents is a cloud based document storage facility. Documents are stored online and can be edited within the browser by multiple users. Use of Google Documents requires a Google account, however it is possible for people to view the documents produced without this. Google Documents supports document, spread sheet, presentation and drawing applications.
Due to problems encountered using the forum system on www.thingproject.eu (see ‘Testing Services’ – below) the THING Project decided to trial an online project management service. A number of different project management software solutions are available. The THING Project chose Basecamp (www.basecamp.com) an online solution which would allow project partners to log on and work on material wherever they are in the world.
The site offers discussion boards, document uploads, calendar and scheduling, to do lists, project milestones and task assignment. A page will be created for each project output or workgroup in order to facilitate discussion on the material being worked on. Partners can upload working documents, or download material to work on themselves, share images and other files, as well as keep track of individual tasks to be completed. A forum based message service allows partners to discuss work being undertaken, and engage other interested users in the work of the project. All information on individual ‘pages’ or work-tasks can be viewed together on the project dashboard, making it easy to achieve an overview of the progress of the project as a whole.
- Engaging the Global Community – external communication, promotion and marketing
A wiki based encyclopaedia which encourages public contribution, editing and updating.
A social media site which enables sharing of activities, photos, and other similar information via a profile page to ‘friends’ or ‘followers’.
A real time microblogging site and information network which provides a continual stream of updates of no more than 140 characters.
A photo sharing service which allows images and videos to be uploaded and shared within individual profiles and wider groups.
Flickr offers two types of account, Free and Pro. With a Free account you may upload up to 300MB of images and two videos to the site per month. A Pro account allows for unlimited uploading and sharing of photos and the hosting of HD video. It also allows images to be shared in up to 60 different group pools, as opposed to the 10 offered by the Free account. A Free account will only show the 200 most recent images uploaded, whilst a Pro account will show all images at all times.
Images can be tagged and grouped according to content. Some images from the project were uploaded to a private group for sole use by project participants, these included images of project partners and documentation from project meetings. Each image can be tagged by place, as well as by theme to allow for greater visibility by users.
An online video uploading service which allows users to upload their own videos and to comment on and share other users’ material.
- QR Code enabled guiding service
A QR Code (Quick Response Code) is a 2D barcode that allows for greater storage of data than the traditional 1D barcode. While a traditional barcode can store up to 30 numbers, a QR code can store up to 7,089. This amount of data allows the codes to be used to link to websites and social media, such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter.
QR codes are accessed by scanning them with a QR reader application. These now come pre-installed on many smartphones, and a variety can be downloaded for free on Android, Blackberry, Windows and IOS platforms.
Although not strictly a Web 2.0 service, QR codes will require the development of a mobile platform for the website, and will link in with other web 2.0 services.
- Geocaching GeoTour
Geocaching is a global treasure hunt played using GPS enabled devices. Using coordinates downloaded from websites, such as www.geocaching.com, players navigate to cache locations. They can then log their finds on the website, comment on their experience, and even hide their own caches for others to find.