The changes that the Internet has made, and is continuing to make, in the ways we communicate with each other continue to amaze me. There was a video making the rounds last week of a Today show clip from 1994 of Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel totally clueless about what the Internet was. Today, it's hard to remember life without it. The same could be said of mobile phones.
But the ways in which we use the new technologies continue to change and evolve. It's been a while since I've passed along any new web sites from the terrific "Netted by the Webbys" mailing list, but within the past week I noticed two that attempt to fine-tune the process.
GroupMe ( http://groupme.com ) is a way of using cell phone text capabilities to reach a number of people at once. You set up a group of cell phone users -- your project team from work, or all your BFFs from middle school -- and GroupMe creates a sort of virtual phone number which you (or any other member of the group) can save to your cell phone contacts and use to text everyone at once.
Your group can be as large as 25, but the company recommends groups of between 4 and 10 as the optimal size to take advantage of the service.
The service is free, and currently identifies itself as a beta test.
Meanwhile, The Fridge ( http://frid.ge ) allows you to create your own small, invitation-only social networks -- not unlike Facebook, but open only to the people you choose. You can post messages, share photos and videos, and what have you.
The company says your networks are "disposable" -- you could create a group for the purpose of planning a big event and then dissolve or forget about it once the event is over.
This is not exactly a new idea -- it's similar in purpose to things like Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups which have been around for years. I think in this case, the difference is in the marketing. The Fridge is positioning itself as having some of the benefits of Facebook without the privacy concerns.
Technology has even impacted one of America's most beloved and traditional fund-raising programs.
Little Brownie Bakers, one of two companies licensed to produce cookies for individual councils within the Girl Scouts of America, has released a Girl Scout Cookie app for iPhone and (coming soon) Android platforms. The app lets you search for cookie sales in your neighborhood or sign up for e-mail alerts of future sales; get information on the various cookie varieties; and even determine your personality based on your favorite variety of Girl Scout Cookie.
If you have another type of phone, you can go to http://mobile.littlebrownie.com or just dial **GSCOOKIES (**472665437) from your mobile phone.
For more information about Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, go to http://www.gsmidtn.org .
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is http://lakeneuron.com .