UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Zapd – Opportunity or Threat?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 April 2011

Introducing Zapd

I came across Zapd whilst browsing Apple’s App store on Wednesday night. It was a featured app, available for free and was highly rated – so Ii installed it on my iPod Touch.  A few minutes later I had created a Web site containing annotated photos of a wedding I went to over the weekend.  The applications byline – “Websites in 60 seconds from your iPhone” – seems to be true.  Zapd seems to provide a useful tool for such social applications, but could it be used in a professional context, I wondered. Or might it be regarded as a threat to Web professions, who might doubt whether it is possible to create a Web site so quickly, and question the underlying technical approaches (does it validate? does it conform with accessibility guidelines?), the legal implications, the dilution of an institution’s brand or the sustainability of the content.  Does Zapd provide an opportunity or a threat?

Using Zapd

Yesterday I attended the launch event of the Bath Connected Researcher series of events which has been summarised in a post by Jez Cope, one of the organisers. The #bathcr event (to use the event’s Twitter hashtag) began with a seminar given by Dr. Tristram Hooley who described how he has used social media in his research and to pursue his academic career. Tristram has written a blog post about the seminar which includes access to his slides which are embedded in the post. In addition a recording of the seminar is also available.

The seminar was aimed at researchers who may be new to social media.  I got the impression that many of the participants had not used Twitter to any significant extent.  I had been invited to participate in a workshop on the use of Twitter which was held after the seminar. As I could only attend the workshop briefly it occurred to be that I could try Zapd to see if I could create a Web site which shows how I use Twitter on my iPod Touch.

I captured screen shots of the Twitter’s mobile client, Tweetdeck and Smartr (see recent post) and added text which showed the benefits of Tweetdeck’s columns for providing filtered views of tweet streams (e.g. for an event which has a hashtag such as #bathcr) and how Twitter lists can be used to provide additional filtering capabilities for the delivery of Web pages from selected Twitter accounts.  It took 10 minutes to create and publish the Web site on my iPod Touch while I was also listening to Tristam’s seminar.

It should be noted that the application had created a Web site with its own domain: (http://1a5c.zapd.co/) .  So this application does seem to provide something more than uploading photos to Flickr.

Discussion

Is this a Web site? After all it’s only a simple single page containing text and a few images. But as it has its own domain name surely it must be regarded as a Web site. But should such Web sites be allowed to be created – aren’t they likely to infringe instituional policies? Aren’t we moving away from a distributed environment and towards a centrally managed environment for Web resources? After all, as was suggested to me on Twitter, aren’t Web sites which can be created in less than 10 minutes likely to be forgotten about a week later?

Perhaps this is true, but for me an important aspect of the Web is in providing a communications environment and not just a institutional tool for the publication of significant documents.  And sometimes the communications may be an informal discussion – and I think that Zapd could have a role to play in that space.

I also think that we should be willing to learn from new approaches. Being able to create a Web site on a mobile device is quite impressive. It was also interesting to observe how the service creates a new domain name for each resource created.  Should this be something for institutions to consider?

For me I regard Zapd as another in my Personal Learning Environment which I’m happy to use if it fufills a useful purpose. And if it fails to do that, I’m happy to throw it away.  And with 100,000 downloads since its launch two weeks ago it seems I’m not alone in exploring its potential.  What’s your take?

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9 Responses to “Zapd – Opportunity or Threat?”

  1. Interesting that the .png images do not have the correct mimetype;

    localhost:~ cjg$ curl  'http://1a5c.zapd.co/pictures/4da6c1882192c97e00000003.png?width=300' -I
    HTTP/1.1 200 OK
    Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2011 09:05:31 GMT
    Status: 200 OK
    Content-Disposition: inline
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: binary
    Content-Type: application/octet-stream
    Cache-Control: private
    X-UA-Compatible: IE=Edge,chrome=1
    X-Runtime: 0.182463
    

    The *know* it’s a PNG because they are scaling it. The reason I was even looking is that when you said a new domain for every resource I assumed that meant even each image.

    I’ve never done it, but it is possible to make a websever treat the domain as just another parameter in serving the request, and the tinyurl-like URLs don’t need to be placed in the DNS you just do something cunning so that *.zapd.co directs to your web server (or cluster).

    The catch is that people do care about URLs, but maybe not for minor ‘disposable’ sites, but I just had to alias users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/cjg/ to also work from http://www.users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/cjg/ because we are not allowed to put http:// on our business cards (!!! branding gone mad, I tell you!) and so it’s useful to allow www. at the start to give a cue that it’s a web address.

  2. Les Carr said

    A day later and your zapd site still hasn’t shown up on Google, while this post already has.

    • Surely unsurprising – this blog has been around for over four years, is updated regularly, is registered with Google and has losts of links to it whilst my Zapd site was only created yesterday. In addition surely being unavailable from Google is an advantage for a disposable Web site – a feature not a bug?

  3. I like the idea of disposable websites. It’s just another way of conmunicating and sharing stuff.

    Stuff has a very broad range. Branded institutional websites are appropriate for prospectuses and corporate messages, but OTT for short-lived conversations.

  4. Interesting stuff Brian, I’ll have to take a look at it. I wonder how it’ll scale onto the iPad. To move your discussion on a little, I really wouldn’t care if what I created was defined as a website, a webpage or anything else. If it contained the data that I wanted, and other people could see it, that’s good enough for me.

    I presume that when you ask ‘should such web sites be allowed to be created?’ you’re talking solely from the perspective of an institution. The institution may well have its own rules on this, irrespective of the tools used to create the resource, and I would assume that a tool like Zapd would be in the same category as a start page or a wiki. The interesting question for me is much more around the institutional policy – if staff find these things useful, why would an institution want to stop them creating such sites/pages? What are their concerns, and surely those underlying concerns are the thing that needs to be addressed, not the use of individual tools.

    Presuming you read a particular newspaper a week ago, could you tell me what was in it? Probably not, and that’s fine. Simply because something is easy and quick to do doesn’t mean that its value isn’t high. I use lots of things very heavily for a very short period of time, and may never go back to them again. It seems a very odd statement for the person who asked the question to make. I think your response there is absolutely spot on.

    Thanks for the headsup on this.

  5. Interestingly I had cause to comment on Zapd from an identity perspective recently too :-) http://access.jiscinvolve.org/wp/eggs-and-baskets/.

  6. I have just received the following email from Zapd:

    Zapd has been acquired!
    The Zapd service will be discontinued on October 7, 2013

    Today I wanted to share that Zapd has been acquired by RealSelf. RealSelf is the leading online resource for elective cosmetic medical procedures. As the new Chief Experience Designer, I’ll be leveraging everything we learned at Zapd to help build a better mobile engagement experience. The Zapd website and mobile apps will stay up until October 7, 2013 and then will be shutting down.
    We know some of you have questions and want more information. Here’s more on what it means for our users:

    Will the Zapd service continue operating in any way?
    No. The Zapd service will not be operational after October 7. While we’ve really enjoyed your support and the entire journey, it’s on to new a new chapter. The Zapd application will no longer be available in the App Store and all Zaps created will be deleted.

    Will RealSelf operate the Zapd service under a different name?
    No. The Zapd service will not be operational after October 7 and RealSelf won’t be using the technology for a service that is similar to what you see now. So, if you’ve got any Zaps that you want to save, you’ll want to do so over the next two weeks.

    Will Zapd be providing a tool to save Zaps?
    No. We aren’t planning on developing any tools to allow for saving of your images and text. However, you’ll be able to save any Zap directly from the browser of your choice.

    To save your Zap via Safari:
    • Load your Zap web address in Safari
    • Choose File from the main browser menu
    • Choose Save As
    • Choose Web Archive in the pop-up menu
    • Select location on hard drive to save your Zap archive
    To save your Zap via Google Chrome:

    • Load your Zap web address in Chome
    • Click on the Chrome “page” icon, located in the upper right hand corner of your browser window. When the drop-down menu appears, select the choice labeled Save page as…
    • Select the exact location on your hard drive or removable disk where you would like to save the current Web page.
    • Click on the Save
    • The current Web page should now be saved to the location specified in the previous steps. Several files have been retrieved including HTML, JavaScript, and images.

    To save your Zap via Explorer:

    • Load your Zap web address in Explorer
    • Click Internet Explorer’s Tools button, choose File, and choose Save As from the overly packed menu.
    • When the Save Webpage box appears, Internet Explorer enters the web page’s name in the File Name text box.
    • Select a location in the Navigation Pane to save the file.
    • Choose how you want to save the page in the Save As Type drop-down list.
    • Consider choosing Webpage, Complete (*.htm;*.html): It is more awkward but more compatible as this option saves the web page in two separate pieces: a folder containing the page’s images and a link that tells the computer to display that folder’s contents.

    Will RealSelf be using my personal information?
    No. Your personal information will not be used for any purpose.

    Will Zapd be backing up any of my photos?
    No. Your photos and text will all be deleted from our servers on October 7, 2013. Be sure to save what you want to keep!

    Thank you so much for your support!

    Zapd has been downloaded over half a million times. We’ve been so honored to have received thousands of notes from our users, letting us know how much they’ve enjoyed using our app. We enjoyed building it too. But it’s time for the next chapter and we want everyone to know that we have appreciated your support over these last few years. We’re excited about the future. Stay in touch won’t you? Follow me on Twitter and we’ll keep you updated as best we can.
    Kelly Smith, Founder, Zapd
    Email: kelly@zapd.com
    Twitter: @curiousoffice

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