Tag Archives: cool tools

Catching Up with Google+

Today I (finally) posted an article about Google+ over at Inside Online LearningGoogle+: New Social Media for Education?

I just set up my account last week and have been experimenting a bit. My second post asked:

So, are you using Google+ in addition to the rest (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…) or is it replacing your efforts in these networks?

I was thrilled to get a bit of conversation going with three folks from my fledgling Circles. A lot of people are also writing about this and the reviews are mixed. There’s no consensus, but everyone seems to be watching it closely and experimenting with the various tools.

My take so far – Google+ looks like it might turn into something, and there are some interesting new features and functions, so what not give it a try? If you already have a Google Profile, you’re halfway there.

Now to find the time to manage the account and really explore…

I linked a few resources to the other article, focused primarily on use in higher ed, but here are a few more that might be helpful from the instructional design, freelance perspective.

As always, your thoughts are welcome. Let us know about your early impressions, reviews, and predictions.

Image credit: Creative Nerds

Social Bookmarking with Delicious

My previous post on Feedly sparked a question about Delicious – just one of the many social bookmarking tools available right now. It took me a while to get organized with Delicious, but since I “got it”, the system has been a lifesaver. While there was a brief scare a couple of months ago when Yahoo put it on a short list of tools to shelve, the latest word is that Delicious will continue (whew!) under new ownership.

In my current role as an education writer I read about and research a lot of topics related to online education, current trends, etc. and need a way to catalog what I find, the useful bits anyway. More importantly, I need a system that allows me to locate these finds at a later date, when I really need them. Delicious has become that system for me.

Set-up and Access

I realize Delicious isn’t new, and maybe not as feature-rich as some of the other options out there, but it works for me. Here are a few reasons why…

  • Browser Add-ons: For this tool, any tool really, to be helpful it needs to be easy and convenient to use. I am currently using the browser add-ons for both Firefox and Chrome. Installing these adds Delicious icons to your toolbar – when you are on a site you want to bookmark, click on the ‘tag’ icon, enter your tags (keywords for search later) with the pop-up window, and save. This takes a little set-up time on your part, but it’s quick.
  • Network Privacy: You can select whether or not you want to share your information and collection with others. (Go to Settings>People>Set network privacy.) At first I kept my account private, but eventually found opening it easier as I started sharing some of the information – more on that below.
  • In the Cloud: Having this kind of account, where all of my links/bookmarks/favorites are “in the cloud” is great for moving around. I have access to everything, and the ability to keep adding new things, from any computer or location as long as I have an Internet connection.

Developing Your Tag System

Part of “getting it” is figuring out a way to label and categorize. Your way will be different from mine, but plan for this a bit before you get started. You’ll need to decide how to label things – a taxonomy of sorts. I’ve gotten better at this over time, but need to do a little housecleaning. A few ideas for planning your tagging taxonomy:

  • Levels of interest – Much of what I save is related to education, but I try to narrow that a bit by using, higher education, K-12, for-profit, etc.
  • Nouns or verbs – For example, blog or blogging? Sometimes one makes more sense than the other and there may be a place for both. Just think about your approach so you can find it later on.
  • Singular or plural Blog or blogs? Developing a rule like this will help you keep your list tidy and prevent you from having to search for both versions when you are looking for something.
  • Multiple words – If a single keyword is actually two words, Delicious will save it as two separate tags unless you link it together somehow – highered, highereducation, higher-education, higher_education
  • Abbreviations – This is another option for keeping your list neat and retrieval easy – ID for Instructional Design for example.

A classic example of where I could have done better is aggregate. If you look at my list of tags you’ll see all of the following: aggregating, aggregation, and aggregator. At the risk of sounding a little obsessive compulsive, this bothers me. You’ll also find aggreating – since Delicious doesn’t provide a spell check and will accept as a tag, pretty much whatever you type in.

A few other ideas for tagging that might be helpful:

  • Author’s name
  • Publisher
  • Source – if I found the link on Twitter, I might add @username as a tag.
  • Type of site – I use .gov as a tag.

Remember – the goal of all of this tagging is to be able to find the item again later when you need it. What about the piece will trigger your memory? Maybe that will be the topic and author, or that it was in the New York Times, or even that it was a list of things. Try to find the tags that will allow the item to surface when you search your collection.

The “Social” Part

Consider using your bookmarks for conference presentations. Tag all of the links that are in your presentation slides with something (a hashtag perhaps?) and invite attendees to access the links that way.

Use Delicious to collect all of the reading you are using in a course. If it is available online, you can tag each item with your course number and make your list available to your students.

Answer a request for help! If someone in your network is looking for resources related to X, you can send them a link to your Delicious account with the relevant tag.

Delicious badges are available for your website and I just added a widget to this blog in the sidebar that links to my account. You can also link your Delicious account to Twitter so that you tweet your new additions.

Other Options

While Delicious is my favorite, there are other applications you might want to try.

There’s more to Delicious, and social bookmarking in general, than what I have described in this post. This is just where I am finding value. The goal is to find something that has the features and functions you need, and an interface that works for you so that you’ll use it and keep coming back. Once you get it going, your bookmark list will be your first stop.

What about you? What additional features and functions are you using? What other bookmarking tools are your favorites?

Photo credit: chrisheuer, Flickr

RSS Reader Review: Feedly

If you are like me, you’re trying to stay current, to manage the flow of information, and it seems like an uphill battle. After several failed attempts at Google Reader I decided to try Feedly.  I’m about two months in at this point and am glad I made the move. Feedly isn’t new, but if you are looking for something to organize all the stuff you want to read online, you might want to check it out. Here are a few of the reasons Feedly is working for me.

Cover page format – Advertised as “magazine-like” I have found this to be true, and I think this format is the key to me coming back to actually read. It offers a nice, simple layout and combination of headlines, text, and images. On this main “cover” page, and in the other views as well, you can view the details of each post, many in full text, before deciding whether or not you need to go on to the site. This page also gives you a quick look at the headlines.

Categories – You can assign each new blog or website you add to your Feedly account with a category. This works well to keep the work related streams separate from other interests for example. This feature also allows you to view just the feeds related to a specific category you’ve created.

Tie-in with Twitter – It’s extra easy to send a link out via Twitter within the Feedly page. You need to link your accounts then you are ready to share. Feedly offers several social networking elements that might be interesting to you. You can also share via LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Reader, Instapaper, Tumblr, and others.

Tie-in with Delicious – I am a diehard Delicious fan and Feedly allows me to quickly add a link to my collection there. You can also add to Evernote, Pinboard, Diigo, and others.

“Latest” view – Probably my favorite view at this point. Gives you a long list of what’s been posted most recently – one line per entry with the blog or site it came from and the title of the post. Checking this view has become part of my routine at the end of the day.

Apps for iPad and iPhone – When I first started using Feedly, I didn’t find an iPad  app and was a little disappointed. But that has been remedied! The app interface is a little different, but you still get that magazine like feel and the “latest” view option and tie-in with Twitter.

Firefox Add-on – Another component that adds to the ease of use is the add-on. Use this to quickly open your Feedly account at any point and to add a feed to your account from an open blog or other site.

While I still have many, many unread entries, I am able to quickly identify a handful each day to read in full. The format allows me to scan for issues that are important to me and to easily share what I find.

Building a Reading List

Deciding which feeds to read is an ongoing process of adding and deleting. If you try Feedly, or any other RSS reader, give yourself the flexibility to continuously fine tune and stay on the look out for new sites and authors. Here are just a few of the feeds I am now following and recommend:

What about you?

What sources should we all add to our lists? Your recommendations are welcome! Suggest a few of the blogs and websites that you follow to stay informed.

If you have tried Feedly, please consider sharing your experience here. If you are hooked on another reader, let us know which one! What are the features that make it helpful to you?