Tag Archives: traffic

Scooping up the blogosphere

MYSCOOP: South Africa’s new blog aggregator with promise

WHEN the blog was born it was met with mild curiosity in the online world. Suddenly every web user had the means to voice their opinion and views and, in effect, have their very own website. Needless to say, the idea caught on, and there are now thousands of bloggers fighting for popularity and page rank on an ever growing blogosphere.

What was needed was an effective method of categorising the huge influx of blogs and creating order out of chaos. The result was the development of blog aggregators — websites that could track certain blogs and make them more accessible to readers.

These have become the height of entrepreneurial endeavour online, as well as some of the most popular stops for web browsers and bloggers alike. In South Africa we had the emergence of Amatomu — a South African blog aggregator started by the keen minds of the Mail & Guardian online. Amatomu fell in and out of use before officially becoming null and void toward the end of last year. The creators stated that the site had become too much to handle and are currently trying to sell the website.

Then we saw the birth of Afrigator — a uniquely African aggregator founded by a man named Justin Hartman. Afrigator has shown great promise and has spawned several digital offspring, such as Gatorpeeps and Adgator — a micro-blogging service and a South African advertising service respectively. Afrigator has proved to be extremely popular — winning a bronze award in the Publishing Integrated Campaign category at the second annual Bookmarks awards ceremony in November last year.

But with the untimely death of Amatomu there was a large, online shoe to be filled by a new, uniquely South African blog aggregator. Thus came about the emergence of my­Scoop — the latest blog aggregator to take to the rough waters that is the blogosphere.

myScoop logo

What is myScoop?
myScoop is the latest addition to the SA blog aggregator family and also operates as a social bookmarking tool. Created by 25 year old South African web entrepreneur, Nicholas Duncan, myScoop is showing great promise within the blogging arena.

“I use a lot of social bookmarking sites and noticed that South Africa is lacking in this department,” says Nick Duncan. “It was never meant to be a blog aggregation tool at all, but, when I noticed the downfall of Amatomu, I decided to give it a bash and out popped [myscoop.co.za]”

myScoop is also a great example of how the multitude of social networking websites available today are starting to integrate and merge. myScoop specifically makes use of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, OpenID and Blogger accounts — all of which can be used to join or sign into the site.

Nick Duncan is constantly improving myScoop and recently created a badge and ranking system. The site now has the ability to keep track of blog hits, as well as provide information as to what specific pages users are accessing on your blog.

The ranking system keeps track of what blogs are the most popular and which posts receive the most traffic within a day or a month. There is also a dedicated stats section that shows users how many hits their sites had on different dates.

“Right now we offer “live stats” (which is still a bit buggy, but all problems will be ironed out in due time). Once sponsorship is found for hosting, I will be able to develop greater tools for myScoop,” explains Duncan.

myScoop features:

  • Blog profile: Each blog entered has a profile displaying its latest posts.
  • Blog aggregator: myScoop has a blog aggregator that allows you to create a profile and add your blog.
  • Topic stats: There is a very easy-to-understand stats page for each article that shows users the daily clicks for the topic.
  • Community: The overall vibe of myScoop is informative and friendly, which is what all social media platforms strive for.
  • MyPage: Each member on myScoop gets a myPage area where they can follow others blogs and keep up-to-date with what is happening in their areas of interest.
  • Social bookmarking: It has a very easy-to-use social bookmarking platform that categorises and rank submissions according to the number of unique clicks each topic gets.

Unique features and future developments?
The development and functionality of blog aggregators rely heavily on user feedback, which is something that myScoop both encourages and is doing a great job of — by implementing ideas and suggestions offered by its users.

“I would like to make myScoop more community-driven … user input is absolutely vital in any website and I would like to let the actual users steer the ship as to where they want myScoop to go,” says Duncan.

In terms of future developments, Nick Duncan is constantly creating and implementing new features and aims to create a unique user experience: “The ultimate goal is to create something “unique” in a sense; it’s no good having two or three of the same websites floating around … I’d also like to create a platform where users are able to develop their own programs by pulling information off the server. [However] this can only be possible once stable hosting is found,” explains Duncan.

myScoop challenges
A major challenge concerning South African blog aggregators is becoming overwhelmed with online traffic and maintaining connectivity speeds. This is largely what led to Amatomu’s early retirement. Tied in with these issues is local bandwidth — specifically the costs of bandwidth and the lack of it in SA.

“There are a number of factors that hamper the snow-balling effect we all would like to see when it comes to our new startups, such as advertising, hosting and bandwidth costs, says Duncan. These all can limit potential growth, but I feel that, as a young web entrepreneur, staying positive and keeping the momentum, while keeping your ear to the ground and listening to your users, can ultimately lead to your success.”

I personally foresee great things ahead for myScoop and would encourage all South African bloggers join in on the debate and follow its development. myScoop is also a great example of a good South African online service and Nicholas Duncan is one of the most reliable and decisive web entrepreneurs I have come across on the Internet.

About Nick Duncan:
I started playing with PHP about three years ago, but have been into HTML since I was about 12 years of age. I am engaged to a beautiful woman and recently experienced the birth of my boy, Logan. (This of course hampers development time, but is absolutely worth it)! I have two good-as-gold step kids aged five and eight that keep me on my toes. I welcome all feedback regarding the myScoop project, which can be directed at nick@myscoop.co.za. You can also follow @Nicholas_Duncan on Twitter.

Related article: A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging

Make way for Shweebways

SHWEEBS: personal pedal-powered pods

TRAFFIC jams. Being stuck in traffic has got to be in the top five on the list of peoples’ most hated things in the world – right after Bob Mugabe, taxes, Telkom and getting toffee stuck on the roof of your mouth.

I have seen murder develop in the eyes of the calmest looking drivers when caught between throngs of cars. It’s hard not to get slightly ticked off and lose it – suddenly finding yourself bashing your way through the metallic queue, foot flat on the pedal, with a criminal reputation mounting up, and laughing hysterically.

No. We need to restrain ourselves from doing that. I find that the best self-therapy is to turn up the air-con (or heater), wind up the windows thus blocking out the sounds of hooting and swearing, and listen to Bob Marley.

The Shweeb monorail system consists of two 200 metre long overhead rail circuits that vary in height between two and four meters above the ground. Under the tracks hang high performance pedal powered vehicles. Between one and five vehicles can be loaded onto each track enabling teams to race each other or race against the clock.

The Shweeb monorail system consists of two 200 metre long overhead rail circuits that vary in height between two and four meters above the ground. Under the tracks hang high performance pedal powered vehicles. Between one and five vehicles can be loaded onto each track enabling teams to race each other or race against the clock.

However, our traffic nightmares may soon come to an end thanks to an invention known as the Shweeb. And this is not just some fancy new swearword, but the world’s first human-powered monorail.

“Shweeb” means “to float” in German, and is a self-enclosed, pedal-powered pod which is already in use at an amusement park in New Zealand. The team of designers who developed the Shweeb not only see the pod as a vehicle of amusement, but as an environmentally-friendly replacement for personal motor vehicles in traffic congested cities.

The idea was conceived by designer Geoffrey Barnett while on holiday in Tokyo – one of the world’s most heavily conjested cities. Barnett implemented the idea in his adventure park – Agroventures – in New Zealand, which is partially a proof-of-concept for an ingenious, high efficiency, no emission urban transport system.

How it works
The Shweeb uses a monorail system to guide users along a pre-determined path, with each pod being powered by the rider. According to the official Shweeb website, to travel in a Shweeb takes only half the energy required to ride a regular bicycle, and only 1/3 the energy of a mountain bike to pedal (since it is enclosed and there isn’t the rolling resistance of the tyres to compensate for). For even greater efficiency, Shweebs can be linked together for less air resistance and more pedal power.

Speeds
The pods are far more aerodynamically efficient than a bicycle too. Most riders see speeds of around 45 km/h, but on a longer circuit with a much longer straight, the Shweeb can reach up to 70 km/h.

Shweeb insideSuch speeds are rather impressive when considering that the average speed of a car in London these days is a mere 13km/h (due to traffic). This is the same speed that cars could reach 100 years ago – before the demonic birth of rush-hour.

What’s more, when taking tight corners the pods can swing out as much as 60 degrees; but unlike a bike or motorcycle, there is no danger of losing traction and crashing.

Barnett has spent six years developing how to efficiently transfer pedal power to drive wheels enclosed within a monorail track while allowing the vehicle to swing freely underneath. The hard wheels on the steel rail mean that there is very little rolling resistance, and riders have shown that you do not have to be an Olympic athlete to power the pedals.

The future
Shweeb futureBarnett foresees the future use of his high efficiency, no emission urban transport system: “Here’s how it works. You get up in the morning; descend to the second level of your apartment building where there’s a Shweeb port and empty Shweebs waiting for you. You cruise over the top of the traffic jams. You don’t pay parking. You’ve produced no pollution. You arrive at work fit, healthy and ready to go!” says Barnett.

An exciting aspect of the Shweeb is how it could address problems of health and fitness relating to lack of exercise in certain nations. Of course you will always get lazy Shweebers who don’t pedal, hold up the traffic and simply get taken for a ride; but any ticked off, speeding Shweebers won’t be able to knock others off the rails.

“Shock absorbers between the vehicles ensure that vehicles come together smoothly. When a fit rider comes up behind a slower rider, the impact is cushioned and they act as a single unit. The rider at the rear is sitting in the slipstream of the leading rider and is able to put all their power into pushing the lead vehicle,” says Barnett.

So it appears that road rage would no longer be an issue in a Shweeb world. In fact, two Shweebs acting together will always travel faster than either rider separately. Even if the lead rider were to stop pedaling, the energy required to maintain a vehicle’s momentum on a flat track is minimal.

Make way for Shweebways
The logistics of getting Shweeb systems up and running in countries around the world is not as difficult as one might think. “The urban Shweebrail network is inexpensive, has a tiny footprint, and each Shweebway requires only a square meter of airspace,” says Barnett. “It’s safe, silent and sustainable.”

Not only are Shweebways inexpensive to build, but the pods come cheap too. In fact, you would never even need to buy one. “You don’t own the Shweeb,” says Barnett, “you use it like a shopping cart. Empty vehicles are restocked to wherever they are needed.”

Imagine it now: climbing into a slick Shweeb after a day’s work, laying back and sailing above congested traffic during rush hour, getting a daily workout with gentle pedaling, enjoying a great view of the city, all while listening to Bob Marley… Sign me up!