(minor warning upfront: the contents of this post wanders off into different, but related, directions)
With all the cross-linking across websites and little widgets around these days, I have tested a few that made it to good or mildly entertaining use, such as ClustrMaps in the menu bar on the right, the LinkedIn tag to show also some of my WordPress blog posts on my LinkedIn page, and the 25th of November one in an earlier blog post, and some that are—from the user perspective—of no use. Regarding the latter, e.g., the SocialVibe widget is more about companies seeking your data and building a customer profile than actually donating money to your chosen charity. I tried it, but to contribute to the charity for education of girls in Africa (which I selected from the list offered through the WordPress widget set up), a keetblog visitor (you, but I experimented with it and removed the widget) first would have to fill in “a message of encouragement” for the charity of dressing to impress, help Nestle’s “coffee mate” product and choose one’s preferred Nestle coffee flavour, and that six times with different companies to “donate without paying money” a measly few bucks to the charity of preference. If I may suggest: a standing order with UNICEF and the like works fine, you receive updates on what they’re doing, and you do not have to sell out your customer behaviour to industry (if you are clueless about what is being done with your data, read Database Nation and then multiply by 10 to make up for the 10-year gap between now and its publication date). But maybe some people are willing to sell out their privacy for a schoolbook and pencil.
Continuing with the widgets, I have considered slideshare sharing, but, thus far, prefer to keep the slides under control on my homepage (of which I know it is a stable location for over 6 years already); what exactly are the compelling arguments to put it there as opposed to one’s homepage?
I also came across the LinkedIn widget to yell around which books I am reading and that are also offered through Amazon (the one that I am reading is not even on sale there). If a book is worth the space for one reason or another, I will ‘announce’ so, such as with the reviews I wrote about Insurmountable Simplicities, the Handbook of Knowledge Representation, and about Cuba’s civil society (here). Or am I just being grumpy and missing the point?
More generally, which widgets are really useful, compared to being time-consuming yet cute or funny add-ons, or a veiled big-brother type of widget?
Anyway, the secretariat of the faculty recently suggested us to use TripIt, which perhaps is useful for them keep track of our whereabouts. However, I see no reason why I should announce that to all Internet users, or even only all my online contacts. For instance, I think the majority could not care less to be informed by an automatically generated LinkedIn+TripItwidget message that the next couple of days I will be attending AI*IA’09.
I have been traveling quite a bit though, and I like doing it a lot for the experiences I gain by visiting different places and to increase my understanding of the societies and marvel at the nature in the world—while they are still there. At some point, I intend to write more about that. As a first step for now, I am adding intended to add an (ego?)tripping widget that shows which countries I have visited over the years (intended, but did not do, because the website I found for country-level annotation, world66, was too cumbersome and not Web 2.0-like). I have included only those countries where I’ve stayed for at least a couple of days, did some sightseeing, interacted with the local people, used public transport, ate local food, etc. Put differently, I am not including flight stop-overs (e.g., Singapore on the way to Australia), countries that the train merely passed through (e.g., Lichtenstein), that by accident I literally walked into (Colombia), or where I have not had the opportunity to go beyond transport+hotel (Montenegro). So, graphically with manually Paint-ed world map and ‘the world I visited’ (…) in yellow, it looks like this:
countries I've visited, marked in yellow
For the geographically challenged and to annotate the countries a little, here’s the list of the countries (i) in alphabetical order, (ii) with the name the country had at the time of visiting, and (iii) the ones where I did not only travel to for holidays or conferences, but where I also stayed for study and/or work (paid or voluntary) are marked with an asterisk: Australia, Austria, Belgium*, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Czech Republic*, Denmark*, France, Germany*, Hungary, Ireland*, Italy*, Lebanon*, Luxembourg, Netherlands*, Peru*, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, South Africa*, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom*, United States of America, Yugoslavia (stock-taking on 7-12-2009).
Maybe a finer-grained marking could, or should, be in order, because, say, visiting Bolzano and ‘marking it off’ has having visited Italy is stretching it a bit (I have visited most other regions in the country though); to address this, I will give the more fine-grained, but still limited, MapBuilder a try when I have a little more spare time. Likewise, a beach holiday in an all-inclusive club-med holiday resort is quite different (I suppose) from going on the off chance to some place (which can be a lot of fun). And, at least for some countries, the experiences can make a big difference on repeat visits, especially when there was a significant change in the meantime, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Apartheid regime, or an economic boom.
Last, but not least, one may be led to think that this kind of thing is a rich-people’s widget, but all travels I did were either for work, i.e., mainly paid by the employer, were done with entirely my own savings from the bursary/salary I made while studying/working, or I managed to get it funded in part or in whole from, among others, a funding agency. So, no, I do not have a money tree growing in my garden; in fact, I do not even have a garden.
There are choices one makes: on the one hand, which study one does and which (type of) job one has, and on the other hand, what one does with one’s income, like which slice to allocate for structural expenses (rent or mortgage, Lidl or health-shop food) and which as disposable income, and then if one spends that disposable income on goods (a house, car, plasma screen, fashion clothing, and whatnot), children, or other activities with experiences. Why do I bother writing this paragraph? Well, some people do indeed get jealous about my traveling or look at me with envy regarding my experiences and bucket-full of anecdotes, or think I am clueless about ‘how difficult it is to save money’ or ‘how dangerous it is to travel’ outside the confines of package holidays. What they do not want to or cannot see, however, are (i) the choices they have made about their finances and/or daily life that limit traveling around, and (ii) the opportunities they can create for themselves to see, observe, and experience the diversity and richness of this fascinating planet.