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Online calendar keeps families in Cozi harmony

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I use my smartphone, synched up to Google Calendar, to keep up with my appointments and meetings. But I'm just one person, living by myself. In today's world, families have additional challenges as they try to coordinate with each other's schedules.

The web site Cozi ( http://cozi.com ), which I learned about through the Netted By The Webbys mailing list ( http://netted.net ), is meant to be a family-friendly version of an online calendar, with messages, appointments, shopping and to-do lists for every member of the family.

Assuming that everyone in the family has a minimum comfort level with the web, the site can be used to coordinate and communicate. Each family member has a unique color on the site, so that all of Billy's appointments or tasks are in blue, all of Sally's are green, and so on.

There are mobile apps for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry platforms, as well as a mobile version of the site for other phones, so you can look things up or make changes even if you're not near a computer.

Those of you with wired families will have to try it out and give us some feedback about its usefulness.

Facebook misses mobile money

Facebook is preparing for an initial public offering which commentators and analysts say could bring in up to $100 billion from investors.

The statistics are staggering, as Facebook has quickly become a part of 800 million Internet users' lives around the world.

But there's a problem: smartphones.

As publications like the New York Times and the Financial Times point out, Facebook generates ad revenue for its free service when you view it on a desktop or laptop computer. But more and more people are using smartphones for their social media.

The smaller screens and different layouts of Facebook's mobile web page, Facebook's web app, or the way Facebook is integrated into mobile phone operating systems make it harder to find a place to put ads without inconveniencing the user, and so many people right now are seeing ad-free versions of Facebook on their mobile devices.

Also, according to Financial Times, ad rates for mobile media are lower than for desktop media because people are less likely to make an impulse purchase while surfing on their phone than they are while surfing on a computer. That may change over time -- it almost certainly will change over time -- but right now it means that the ways people use Facebook on their phones aren't as profitable as the ways people use Facebook on a desktop or laptop.

Facebook will no doubt find ways to monetize mobile use of its platform, especially now that it will have a huge new crop of shareholders looking over its shoulder.

High-tech Google glasses

The website http://9to5Google.com , linked to by Time magazine tech blogger Doug Aamoth, reports that Google is developing a pair of sunglasses that will function as a smartphone. There's a small screen on one side of the glasses, attached earbuds, a camera, and a navigation system that lets you control the screen display with subtle head movements.

Broad consumer use may be a ways off, says Aamoth; in the shorter term, the glasses might have more specialized uses. For example, a technician could have an operating manual displayed on the screen while he or she works with both hands on a piece of equipment, and in case of a problem could use the camera to show co-workers at the home office exactly what he or she is seeing.

There are already "augmented reality" smartphone apps such as "Google Goggles" that allow you to hold your GPS-enabled phone up, point its camera at a building in a big city, and see a display with annotations like nearby restaurants and how to get to them. The virtual first down line in TV football telecasts is an example of augmented reality as well.

Perhaps one day we'll wear glasses that will function in that same way. If you see an acquaintance whose name you've forgotten, the glasses-phone could look it up for you using facial recognition software.

--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.

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John I. Carney
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John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.