Becoming a Mozillarian – Popcorn and Thimbles and Goggles, oh my, with mashups long into the night

After spending most of this HOT Sunday, one way or another, with Mozilla’s Webmaker, I’m feeling a little (lot) loopy. Which is appropriate, since most of the time was with Popcorn, which loops and stretches and jiggles various media sources every which way you want, once you figure out how it works.

It’s fairly easy once you figure it out, but the first couple of hours (AFTER watching the how-to videos AND reading all the how-tos about it) were extremely frustrating. Nomatter what I did, I never could get Popcorn to import anything from Flickr. This was a bit disappointing since my first idea involved photos from our just-ended Summer Reading program. I kept getting the message “unacceptable media” and so assumed either Popcorn didn’t like jpgs or wants only very small files (it could be a size issue; jpgs did import later).

I also could not get Popcorn to import anything from Wikipedia – all the urls I copied into the search box produced an error message. (After I FINISHED my first mashup, I noticed the Wikipedia link on the EVENTS list.)

So, two hours into the project, it still had no contents. I took a break by watching a lot of the sample Popcorn mashups. My favorites were the one about the cat foster home (which did not seem to be made from web images but from specially made video) and the one about climate change.

I decided to start with music instead of a video, and quickly discovered that Popcorn does not allow (I think – maybe it does but I never did find a preview link or tool) any meaningful previewing before importing. So I went to the Soundcloud site and did some exploring till I found a cheerful instrumental (bluegrass); then I typed the name of that piece in the search box and imported it. Somehow an image associated with a different musician came in with the music as the first image of the mashup, and I can’t figure out how to replace it, as it doesn’t show up separate from the music.

I was delighted to discover that images do NOT have to be on the web in order to use them in a project. “Image” under “Events” lets you import them from your computer. I made sure the files were small enough and then dropped jpg files from my computer into the “drag and drop here” box so I could start with pictures of the library exterior and the bookshelves. I added the gifs of book covers in the same way. It took a little more time than it should have, because it’s easy to erase an image you want to keep unless you make sure you’re selecting space on the line ABOVE where you want the new image to go, which means you have to move the new image down to the correct spot after importing it.

Adding pop-ups and text was easy. So was finding and adding animated gifs – except I did have some trouble when placing them. The double click required placed two copies of the gif most of the time; the easiest fix was to delete the zero layer, then do any resizing needed. I could not figure out how to delete individual images or text boxes or pop-ups.

You can see my first mashup at https://mariacfromval.makes.org/popcorn/2588

Popcorn is fairly new, so I’m hoping Mozilla improves it. I’d like to see much more complete how-to and help info, written as well as in video: documentation of the meanings/causes of the error messages; clear statements about the format and sizes required for importable files; clear statements about how to make searches for Flickr photo tags work or if the Flickr import is only for video; and clear statements about the requirements for url imports. I suspect that the overall process works best if one first imports either an audio file or a video file and then adds layers of still photos or gifs or text or whatever. If so, that fact also should be in the documentation.

Popcorn mashups do provide libraries yet another way to handle publicity and/or education, and they do seem useful as a tool to educate young and old about the internet. I’d like to feel confident about hosting a Webmaker party for our teens and then for older adults, to provide general internet education, but I’m not there yet. I’d have to be a lot more proficient user of all the tools.

Also I’m not there yet because I can’t answer some basic questions about the Webmaker tools that I know our teens AND adults are going to ask:

So you use Goggles remix a web page to create a custom homepage or some humor, or you make a web page using Thimble. Does the page continue to exist in your Mozilla “Maker space” where you can find and use it? Can you use it someplace else, like on your own website? How? Why not use WordPress, instead?

I’m glad Mozilla has undertaken this project. I’m going to keep plugging away with the Webmaker tools and the entire “Explore” section and try to become far more internet literate than I now am.

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