Quizr: Quizzes 2.0

Quizr – AKA “The reason this blog has been sparse for the past couple of months” – is online now. It’s a site I developed to allowing making, taking, and sharing of quizzes … making the most of Ajax and the assorted Web 2.0 technologies. At the heart of it is user-generated content – anyone can make a quiz and anyone can take a quiz. I always found old-school quizzes to be frustrating because: (a) you either do one question at a time, and wait 10 seconds for the page to reload to see if you were right or not; or (b) you do all questions at once, and then get all the answers at the end. Quizr gives you real-time feedback.

Features include Ajax-style editing and quiz-taking; searching and tagging of quizzes; RSS feeds for recent quizzes; tracking of results; embedded video, audio, and images.

To make it easy to make content, it uses Lazy Registration, so you can get started creating quizzes without having to sign up.

It’s currently in closed beta, but here’s a screencast – mail me with “quizr” in the subject line or sign up on the homepage if you’d like access to the beta. I’ve set up a Quizr Blog, so I won’t mention it much here, other than some technical notes at some stage.

Wishlist: A Skype Recorder in the Cloud

Conspicuous by its absence is a recording function in Skype. However, Skype competitor Gizmo has it and there are lots of third-party apps too. But what we really need is a skype recorder in the cloud.It’s pretty obvious when you think about it. Most of the time when a conversation is recorded, you want to stick it somewhere and the best place to stick it is on a server where you can share it among all the callers, podcast it, etc. I call you and then I call a third party, an automated software agent I’ll call Ace (“He’s Ace, Ace the Recording Dude, and he Records all my Skype calls. Ace, you’re so Ace.” If you want an acronym we’ll make him Ace the Artificial Call Entity).

Now Ace is a congenial guy, so the moment I call, he picks up and starts recording. The resulting MP3 (or Wave if I paid for the premium service) includes the names of callers and the date in its name and/or metadata. Furthermore, when the call ends, Ace initiates a chat to grab some extra metadata. The first question might be if it’s for a podcast? Then what genre is it? Any album art?

One objection may be what if Ace goes down? But Ace could easily output a waveform to tell you what he’s recording, using Comet, Flash, or an optional desktop widget.

Some of you are thinking “but I need it locally to edit it”. Well that argument doesn’t apply if it’s just a business conversation you need to keep on record for instance, but okay if it’s a podcast, then you might want to. Me, I can’t stand editing audio…I can record two more podcasts in the time it takes me to manually tweak an individual episode. And it must be said that Audacity is dog-slow even on a Macbook Pro, and it doesn’t output to MP3 last time I checked as there’s no lamelib for Intel or something. Having it on the server makes it easy to run an automated cleansing script against it. It also makes it nice and easy to outsource the tasks of cleansing and publishing (and transcribing too if you like) for a buck or two using MechTurk or ELance type sites.

Current process of recording a 2(+) way podcast:

  • Co-ordinate things so you record the call.
  • Chat
  • Cleanse
  • Restart audio editor after it crashes
  • Cleanse
  • Remember to add meta-tags
  • Import to ITunes, add album art
  • Transfer file
  • Publish it

Ace way to record a podcast:

  • Call your mate, then call Ace.
  • Chat
  • Answer Ace’s questions
  • Ace publishes it or passes it on for post-production

PS There’s a lot that could be done along these lines. A lot of stuff should never have to leave the cloud and a lot of creative software should be providing options to FTP, upload, scp, whereever possible; not just hooks where you have to write your own script to do the upload. I realise it’s hard, requires standards, security, privacy, but the main thing to note is this: even with current technology and no further hardware advances, there are big gaps between our current usage and our potential usage.

PPS I’ve been busy. I’ll be releasing 1+ sites soon. More info to follow. I’d love to hear from any beta testers who have the time to check out a new Ajaxy/Web2y site and provide some feedback.