2.28.2009

Putting the “Me” in Homepage (Thing 28)

In my perpetual attempt to integrate the scattered factions of my digital life, I had pretty much run the gamut of customized homepages and widget engines.  However, I did not get much use of out of customized homepages and am using Google Desktop instead.  While iGoogle and other customized homepages are compatible with more widgets/gadget than is Google Desktop, I like being able to access the gadgets from my desktop, without having to open an internet browser; some gadgets are even usable offline.  In particular, I love being able to upload documents to Google Docs by simply dragging & dropping files onto my Google Docs gadget.  In other words, I think widgets/gadgets are great, just not on a webpage…at least for my personal use.  That said, I think there are a lot of ways for schools and libraries to use customized homepages.

What I found most interesting from Thing 28 were the articles Creating a librarians' info portal with Netvibes and RSS and Creating Web 2.0 Style Textbooks.  Using public customized homepages could be a great way to aggregate information for patrons or students, by presenting information that is relevant to them; each library serves a unique community with different needs, especially with regards to school media centers. Text books are limited in scope and quickly outdated, making the vast and dynamic Internet an excellent resource for an array of current information.  However, students need help culling useful information from all the crud, which could easily be done with a customized homepage of teacher-selected sources.  I liked the idea of “Web 2.0-style” textbooks so much that I recently presented the idea to teachers in my building…which became a learning experience itself.  The idea of using customized homepages as a research tool was also a very innovative idea – I wish I had thought of that during college, rather than having to submit myself to the embarrassingly outdated books in my school’s library.  Overall, I think that customized homepages are worth exploring.

2.26.2009

Lessons Learned from Masochistic Beetle Sex

Beetle Sex

Beetle Sex:

What doesn't kill you, just plain hurts.

Yes, you read that title correctly, and no, this blog has not been hacked, nor have I taken a strange interest in insect copulation; until yesterday, I didn’t even know that beetles had sex, much less that they were into S&M. What brought my attention to the painful mating habits of beetles was National Geographic’s article “Tortured” Penises Give Beetles Reproductive Edge*, which they were nice enough to post shortly before I was to demonstrate RSS Readers to several staff members in my building, using an RSS reader that I had subscribed to the National Geographic feed, because I assumed it was a safe educational resource. (Yes, I know what happens when I assume…I’m a slow learner.) Imagine the surprise of the staff when the webpage loaded and that was the first item listed; imagine my surprise when we figured out that it was indeed a legitimate blog post and not a virus (my computer has been possessed this week, so malicious forces propagating my RSS Reader with smut was not far-fetched). The teachers had a good laugh, I had a good blush, and we moved on with the lesson.

The beetles, however, were not done with me yet.

As I demonstrated how to utilize NetVibes to aggregate dynamic information for students (ala Joyce Valenza’s 2.0-style text books), we remembered the beetles. What if a sixth grader had opened a teacher’s web page where such an article was listed? I’m sure that would have spawned many interesting conversations - for both parents and school administration – as well as a subsequent eschewing of any new and innovative technology being used in the classroom. After all, the most damage a text book can do is to give a student a paper cut…right?…Anyway, the beetle incident was not without value. It showed that while dynamic content is useful for keeping current in this rapidly changing world, it is also unpredictable…sometimes unpleasantly so.

The other lesson I learned? (Other than to stop assuming, which you’d think I would have learned by now.) Females of all species are indeed getting the short end spiny end of the stick.

*The title has since been changed using the term “phalluses”; I must not have been the only one who encountered this article in an unfortunate situation.

2.18.2009

Read Meme

Questions are from Booklist Online (with a few spelling/grammar corrections).

  1. Which book has been on your shelves the longest?
    The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood

  2. What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?
    Current:The Meq by Steve Cash. Last: Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Next: Shibumi by Trevanian.

  3. What book did everyone like and you hated?
    The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

  4. Which book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?
    Twilight by Stepanie Meyer

  5. Which book are you saving for “retirement?”
    The original Dao De Jing by Lao Zi

  6. Last page: read it first or wait ‘til the end?
    Always wait!

  7. Acknowldgements: waste of ink and paper or interesting aside?
    Acknowldgements are boring, dedications are more interesting; everyone acknowledges their publisher, but dedications tend to be more telling.

  8. Which book character would you switch places with?
    Lirael (From Lirael & The Abhorsen by Garth Nix). She works in a magical library, has a smart-ass dog for a best friend, and fights the undead & other evils with her special powers – what’s not to want?

  9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time)?
    The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards will always remind of the 4th grade, because it was that book that inspired me to write a 42-page adventure story for my creative writing assignment. Also, Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss will always remind me of Lake Itasca, because it was there that I read my first book (i.e. Hop on Pop) by myself.

  10. Name a book you acquired in some interesting way.
    There are a few that I’ve accidentally stolen from libraries (seriously, unintentional). I’ll give them back…eventually.

  11. Have you ever given away a book for a special reason to a special person?
    Well, not gave away, but rather gave as a gift - my siblings and I gave my mom Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch (along with a box of Kleenex) for Xmas one year. She used to read it to us all the time when we were little, and always needed a tissue afterwards…she needed them at Xmas as well. :)

  12. Which book has been with you to the most places?
    The Giver by Lois Lowry - it was the only book I brought with me to China.

  13. Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad ten years later?
    I never read the required reading in high school, so no. That, and it hasn't been 10 years since I was in high school...

  14. What is the strangest item you’ve ever found in a book?
    A lock of hair.

  15. Used or brand new?
    Used. Even if I could afford new, I prefer the character of used books, especially ones with notes or signatures on the inside covers.

  16. Stephen King: Literary genius or opiate of the masses?
    Wouldn't know; I've never read any of his books.

  17. Have you ever seen a movie you liked better than the book?
    The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

  18. Conversely, which book should NEVER have been introduced to celluloid?
    Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg or the Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

  19. Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?
    Katie.

Got Style?

Wikis, multi-author blogs, shared documents, and other collaborative tools are an effective means of creating content; however, problems can arise when collaborators have differing opinions concerning presentation.  Should a tutorial contain flowing paragraphs of complete sentences or a hierarchal outline of phrases?  Which level headings, fonts, colors, etc. should be used?  A great solution to this problem is to create a style guide, designating how content is to be presented; if all contributors follow the same style, not only will the users will be rewarded with a consistent interface, but it will prevent time-wasting & relationship-straining arguments. An excellent example of a style guide for electronic content is the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library Digital Branch style guide, available via David Lee; it is a very comprehensive and well-written guide.

Templates are another great solution to ensure consistency in style, and many online tools offer options for using templates or themes.  PBwiki, for example, has several premade templates available and users can create their own. Offline, Microsoft Office allows users to save modified templates for future use or for sharing with others. Formatting Microsoft Word documents using styles is also a very effect tool; in addition to ensuring consistency, styles enable you to format every instance of an element at once, e.g. changing the font & size of every section header without having to individually select each one.  Using styles in Word has enabled me to spend more time writing content and less time formatting.

2.15.2009

If Only Someone Would Invent the Un-send Button

I'm a fast person.  I walk fast; I drive fast; I talk fast; and (most of the time) I think fast.  While being fast has it's benefits (I get a lot done in a day), it has also lead to many occasions of my leaping before looking, especially when sending emails; I am prone to hitting the send button before I really should.  While I've never truly regretted sending an email, I often wish I had taken a few extra moments to check my grammar, rephrase my response, or even make sure I'm sending the email to right people.  I also tend to answer my own questions shortly after asking them of someone else – at times, email is actually just another form of my talking to myself and processing out loud, unfortunately for those at the receiving end.  Perhaps I could make an effort to slow down, but I’d rather not; doing so would be like trying to stop the Road Runner…just ask Wile E. Coyote how that turned out.  Instead, I've decided to take the advice of the How-to Geek and set Outlook to delay sending all of my emails by a few minutes.  This should cut down on the number of "oh shit" moments I have after sending emails...at least at work; I'm still hopeless when it comes to emailing from my Gmail accounts.

2.14.2009

Confessions of a Computer Geek: I Could Help you, but I Won't

I have a confession to make: I play favorites. Having worked in two tech support/help desk positions, along with playing geek squad to friends, family, and even design clients, I have helped a lot of people with various technology problems, but admittedly they have not all received the same level of service. There are people for whom I will bend-over backwards to make life easier for; likewise, there may be a few for whom I may drag my feet a bit, or do the bare minimum that I have to in order to fix their problem and make them go away; if not a coworker or a paying client, I may deny service outright. The latter groups of people are on what I call my naughty list.*

84259674_e24bffadb9_m

Are you on the naughty list?
Photo by Stillframe

The offenses that can earn a person a spot on my naughty list vary, but it is actually very easy to avoid being on this list (although less easy to get off off - I tend to hold grudges). Does your tech support have a naughty list? Probably. If you've ever treated any sort of support staff poorly, your not likely to receive good service in return. That's Karma for you.

Therefore, I would like to make a few recommendations for people dealing with any sort of tech support or IT staff. The following list is your golden ticket to making nice with your IT department; gifts of coffee and chocolate don't hurt either.

  1. Have Patience

    Technology does not always work; computers are human fallible too. If technology were perfect, there would be little need for tech support (except for maybe the entertainment value of our sharp wit and wardrobe choices). While this means good things for our job security, it also means than eventually your various gadgets will cease to function properly and you will have to put in a call to tech support. I realize that by the time people call me for help they are usually frustrated and angry, however, I don't appreciate it when the anger is projected toward me; the negativity disturbs my chi and in order to maintain balance in my chi, I will avoid such negativity in the future. Also, remember that although it may have only taken a few seconds to break your computer, it will probably take longer to fix, if it can be fixed at all. It will take even longer to fix if a higher priority (read: nicer customer) comes along.

    Moral of the story: Don't yell at or be short with your tech support; be flexible and reasonable.

  2. Tell the Truth

    Few people like to admit their mistakes; even fewer like to admit they made a mistake when they should have known better. Students are particularly guilty of this (damn those under-developed frontal lobes), but adults can be just as guilty. It is amazing how often I get the "it just stopped working" explanation when I inquire as to what a user was doing when their computer broke. In general, I found that the more times a person says "just" in their explanations, the more they are hiding. Were you really just doing a Google search on educational podcasts, or were you searching for free (and probably, ahem, illegal) music and downloaded a file that was loaded with malware? (For the record, Limewire does not install itself and then download virus-infested copies of Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits). If you want your computer to be fixed, your tech needs to know what went wrong in the first place. We tend to be intelligent people and will figure it out eventually, but it helps speed up the process if you tell the truth, the WHOLE truth, about what caused your computer to go bad.

    Moral of the story: Don't plead the 5th. Give tech support all the details (no matter how juicy) as to what you were doing when your computer went haywire. Your computer will get fixed faster and you'll feel better too.

  3. RTFM, a.k.a. Follow Directions

    For those unfamiliar with geek speak, RTFM stands for "read the fucking manual". It originated when noobs (newbies, the unskilled) would frequent technology forums asking previously answered questions. If a person calls me several times a week with the same exact problem, I get very annoyed. (If the last five times you called I asked you to login again, what do you think I'm going to do this time?) If you don't follow directions, you really can't be helped; you will continue to make the same mistakes, and tech support will eventually give up.

    Moral of the story: Follow directions. If instructions are lacking, ask for them, then follow them.

  4. Be Willing to Learn

    Not everyone groks technology, and no matter how hard some people try, they will always have technical difficulties. But really, I don't care how many times I have to explain something, as long as a person is willing to learn (admittedly, I tend to technobabble and need to repeat myself in English anyway). However, if you lack the initiative to help yourself, why should anyone else make an effort to help you? I once had a person ask for help importing contacts into Outlook, so I said I would forward to her the instructions on doing so, as it was a quite simple task. Her response:"Couldn't you just do it for me?" She didn't want me to show her how to do it or to help her do it, she just wanted me to do it for her. Sure, I could have, but then where would she be the next time she needed to do this and I wasn't around?

    Moral of the story: Don't ask for a fish, inquire as to how best to fish.

  5. Say Thank You

    If you are anything when dealing with tech support, you should be appreciative. For me, being thankful and showing genuine appreciation trumps all else. There are some who are constantly needing help and often with just the little things; some even realize they are high-maintenance and apologize for being "a problem child". However, many of these frequent fliers are some of my favorites. Why? They are incredibly thankful for everything I do for them and they show it. They may even violate all other items in this list, but if they admit their mistakes and are nice about it, I am very forgiving. I have found that a nice thank you will warm even the most curmudgeon of support staff.

    Moral of the story: Be nice and say thank you.

*This is merely a metaphor referring to how I feel about those who have scorned me somehow. There is no actual list, so don't go sifting through my stuff to see if you are indeed on my hit naughty list.

2.13.2009

Let Your Computer Do the Work: Creating Multiple PBwiki Accounts Using iMacro

PBwiki has a nice feature that enables teachers to create accounts for their students, without requiring email addresses. However, if one doesn't want to use PBwiki's randomly-generated usernames and passwords, each student's data needs to be manually entered. This can get real old real quick when a teacher needs to enter several classes worth of students (or an entire grade level as the case was for me). So why not have the computer do the work for you? By utilizing the iMacro add-on for Firefox, you can do just that.

iMacros was designed to automate the most repetitious tasks on the web. If there’s an activity you have to do repeatedly, just record it in iMacros. The next time you need to do it, the entire macro will run at the click of a button! With iMacros, you can quickly and easily fill out web forms, remember passwords, create a webmail notifier, download information from other sites, scrape the Web (get data from multiple sites), and more.

From the iMacro Download Page

iMacros can be created either by recording a users actions or by hand (i.e. a user writes the code herself). The iMacro I used to create PBwiki student accounts was a combination of methods; where recording failed, I coded. Also, recording is limited to actions performed in the browser, so pulling data from an external source (e.g. database of student login information) always requires manual input of code.

So you don't know how to program, huh? Don't despair. Head over to my tutorial, Creating PBwiki Student Accounts Using iMacro, for a sample script that you can customize for your own wiki. Easy peasy. After all, teachers don't get paid the big bucks so that they can waste their time doing data-entry or debugging scripts...that's why I get paid the big bucks.

Tutorial:Creating PBwiki Student Accounts Using iMacro
PBwiki Blog: Classroom Accounts for Students

2.12.2009

Tweedle Me Dum (Thing 27)

Until Thing 27, I had successfully avoided the grasp of Twitter. I already send status updates to friends via Facebook, and even that is a pretty limited group of people - I have no desire to tell the entire world what I'm doing (yes, one can make Twitter updates private, but then that wouldn't have been any different than Facebook).  Several times a day my reader is full of blog posts about the wonders of Twitter; those in the design community are particularly worshipful of the networking power of Twitter.  Still, the thought of Twitter made this introvert's skin crawl and I told myself I really didn't need another thing to keep me in front of the computer.  My books are already feeling neglected as is, not to mention the art supplies that are gathering dust.

I joined Twitter anyway and I have to admit, I see a lot of potential for Twitter.  I decided that Twitter would not just be another way for me to share "status updates" with friends & family; instead, I decided I would use is as originally intended: microblogging.  Twitter will be my tool for publishing those thoughts that are important enough to share but not substantial enough for a blog post; for sharing interesting links with others; and for the occasional (work-related) status update.  Hopefully, it will one day also be a way for me to collaborate with others, but I think I need a few more followers before I can crowdsource.

Twitter @ OMS?

Twitter now has a place in my life (the permanence of which is still undecided), but will it have a place at my school?  Maybe.  Probably not.  At most, I could see Twitter being used as a collaboration tool among a few staff members.  Twitter is like having the directness of an email conversation, with the ease of instant messaging, and the added ability to receive public feedback and support.  The social nature and inherent conciseness (Tweets are limited to 140 characters) of Twitter are conducive to brainstorming and collaboration. 

My experience with Twitter accounts as mini-news feeds has not been very good (I'm looking at you HCLIB & CNET); I do not think that Twitter is the best tool for organizations wishing to publish information.  Blogs with RSS feeds are much better tools for this purpose.  News-feed type twitter accounts are more akin to the websites that fills your inbox with too many emails that should have been combined into one, with information your don't really care about anyway, but from which you can't figure out how to unsubscribe.  Yeah, those.  As such, I don't foresee using Twitter to share information with students.  To be honest, I don't think middle school students would use Twitter very well, if at all.

Details, Details

I'm still finding my way around twitter, particularly I'm struggling to find people I actually care to follow, but I'm going to stick with it...at least until my fellow More Things bloggers give a try too.   Currently, I primarily use Tweet Deck, an Adobe Air Desktop App, to tweet & follow my fellow twits.  I especially like the feature where I can group those whom I follow, which allows me to pull more interesting tweets into separate columns, preventing them from becoming lost in The Conversation.  I also have the Gmail TwitterGadget installed, as well as the TwitterBar add-on for Firefox, which enables me to send tweets directly from The Awesome Bar (a.k.a. URL or Location bar, for those not fluent in Mozilla).  Also, my Twitter username is CCahillMN, and my five most recent tweets can be found in the Twitter widget located in my sidebar.

2.07.2009

Just Another Social Network...or Maybe Not (Thing 26)

Stubborn Child

I don't wanna!

My knee-jerk reaction to Thing 26 (and the voice in my head actually said this) was, "You can't make me, na, na, na, na, na," which is often my reaction to others' attempts to force me to socialize. Then I realized that it was childish and contrary to the purpose of the More Things program, and I headed off to join the 23 Things Ning. I will always be a child at heart, but I do try to act like an adult...at least while in public.

There's no debating that social networks are a powerful communication tool. With 24-hour access to messaging, blogging, photo/file sharing, and other tools, social networks are natural facilitators for sharing & gathering information, which is what a large part of what education really is. Not to mention that most students already spend a good amount of time on these websites, so why not put information where the students already are.

Personally, one social network (Facebook) is enough for me, but I think that Ning could be a very useful tool for teachers. In my school district and in many others in the area, social networks such as Facebook and MySpace are blocked or students are otherwise forbidden from using them. While I recognize the trouble that could be had by students using these sites inappropriately (as they normally do when not in school, IMO), I think that this is even more of a reason as to why schools should be allowing students to use such networks at school, i.e. we need to teach students to use them appropriately, safely, and even effectively. For those interested in the topic of banning technology in school, Doug Johnson's "A Proposal for Banning Pencils" is a wonderful commentary on the matter.

Anywho, with mainstream networks being out of the picture or perhaps not the best choice for an educational social network, I think that Ning could be an excellent alternative. Teachers could customize a Ning to their liking and it would be separate from a students personal networking sites (add even private, if necessary), but all the benefits and familiarity of a social network are there. One hurdle I do anticipate, however, is the fact that an email address is required to join Ning. Not all students have an email account, and being a middle school, it is not possible to require students to have one, as many are technically to young to signup for email services (many sites require users to be 13 years old). Now if I could only convince our district to use Google Apps, all problems would be solved. Seriously. But, that's a topic for another post.

2.06.2009

Make It Work (Thing 25)

The first thing I focused on was the design of my blog. I wanted the design to coordinate with the title of the blog and to be unique, i.e. I was not about to use any public templates. My design process began with a search on Flickr for pictures with a creative commons license thus allowing me to use the images on my blog; Flickr's advanced search options and integrated licensing (on the artists' end) made this very easy to do. Teachers and students who are looking for pictures that they can (legally) use for lessons and projects should definitely utilize Flickr as a resource. The pictures I chose to use in my design are Scribble by armeck1 and Orange Cupcakes by chocolate monster mel; both are cited beneath my footer. In the spirit of sharing and encouraging creative commons licensing by others, by blog also has a creative commons license...not that I really expect anyone to use any of my content. As a final touch on my design, I also created a favicon via favicon.cc.

Google Analytics

Moving on to the backend of my blog, I turned my focus to use usability. One of the best ways to judge the usability - or usefulness, even - is to track your visitors; so, I installed Google Analytics (GA) on my blog. Besides the fact that I tend to use Google applications whenever I can, GA is the best tracking application I have ever used. GA can tell you not only how many visitors you blog receives, but also how they got there (direct vs. referral from another website vs. search engine), how long they stayed, what pages they visited, and even what browser they were using; the amount of information GA can tell you about a visitor is almost creepy. To be honest, with the amount of information Google knows about me, they could probably produce a better psychological profile than the FBI could...I think I need to go reread Google's privacy policy again. Also, by routing my RSS feed via Feedburner (now a Google product as well), I am able to track my RSS subscribers as well. Feedburner also gives me more control over how my content is published via RSS; although, I haven't really done much with Feedburner other than set it up and add a subscription button to my sidebar.

As for frontend usability, I wanted visitors to be able to easily share content from this blog and to discover more information about topics I discuss. As such, I integrated AddThis buttons--> to both my blog and each post. These enable a visitor to share content on almost any social website (e.g. Facebook), to bookmark (locally or via a social bookmarking site ala Delicious), or to even just email content. I also added a gadget that transforms Google's boring label gadget into an awesome, interactive, 3D tag cloud. Want one for yourself? Head over to Blogger Buster to get the code.

Last but definitely not least, I am using Apture to add interactivity to my hyperlinks. Apture links are designated by icons preceding the links; the icon specifies the type of content available. By hovering over an Apture link, visitors will see a pop-up with additional media and other related content that I have chosen to be displayed. For example: if I were blogging about dogs, I could link to Youtube videos with cute puppies or Wikipedia articles on dog care, post a map of local dog shelters, or even link to any document I've created - all this via one link, without making a visitor to leave my blog. There is a wide-variety of content available for linking, and only the content I choose is shown. I only wish that links were interactive on my RSS feed as well. Apture also makes it very easy for a blogger to embed content in a post. I highly recommend trying out Apture.

Needless to say, I've spent too much a lot of time setting up my blog. I won't admit how much...to be honest, I just lost track.

2.05.2009

Google, My Enabler

I love Google for so many reasons; one of them being they facilitate my almost OCD-level need to organize, catergorize, label, and color-code my world. Their latest trick: multiple inboxes in Gmail. At first, I thought this meant I would be able to view more than one Gmail account in one window (I have seven five-ish Gmails, not including the emails I run via Google Apps);alas, for this purpose, I must continue to forward all my accounts into one. Instead, Multiple Inboxes allows a user to have multiple panes of emails based on a search query.

For example, the top pane in my inbox contains only unread emails located in my inbox (as opposed to unread but archived emails); it is based on the search "is:unread in:inbox". Another pane displays emails in my inbox that I have labeled "todo" or have starred, not including the unread emails in the first pane ("in:inbox (label:todo OR is:starred) -is:unread"). Sorting my inbox this way prioritizes my emails by how I feel the need to see them, putting the most important ones up top, rather than merely listing them in chronological order. I'm hoping this will prevent "todos" and other priority items from getting lost at the bottom of my inbox. There is also the option of putting additional inboxes to the right of the main inbox, however I don't have a wide-enough screen for this...and it made my Gmail visually unbalanced....like I said, slightly OCD.



[image courtesy of the Official Gmail Blog]

Multiple Inboxes is a Lab feature and must be enabled before you can configure it. For more information, see the Gmail blog post New in Labs: Multiple Inboxes. The list of Gmail search operators can also be very helpful in setting up your inboxes.

That's Cool: Ubiquity

I would like to share a "That's cool!" moment that I had this morning, while reading Lifehacker's article about the Mozilla's Firefox addon called Ubiquity. I've used Ubiquity for some time now and have found it to be very handy. So what is it? Ubiquity is a collection of commands that act as mashups of web services. It allows users to get information from various websites & services and relate it to the webpage they are viewing. Confused yet? Watch this video:



At first, I didn't quite grok the concept of Ubiquity, but as I tried it out, it all made sense. Ubiquity has not only helped me be more efficient on the web, but it has cut down on the number of add-ons on I need to have installed. Examples of how I use Ubiquity include: defining words, translating in-page, mapping addresses, emailing pages to people, and looking up domain information.

The actual moment that led me to blog this was when I read that I can check my Google calendar using Ubiquity, regardless of what web page I am viewing. I've used Ubiquity to add events to my calendar, but I often ended up opening my calendar anyway, to check availability or to ensure that the event was added. I love that I can now check any date from my calendar; Ubiquity will not only show any events I have that day and the days following, but even displays them in all their pretty colors (each of my calendars is color coded). The best part is that the command does not need a specific numerical date, but can run off of conceptual date such as "tomorrow" or "next Saturday".

If you use Firefox, you should try out Ubiquity...if you are not using Firefox, why aren't you?

2.04.2009

Long Time Coming (Thing 24)

More Things

When a coworker of mine mentioned participating in More Things on a Stick (MTS), I didn't give it a second thought - I missed out on all the fun the first time, I was not about to miss out a second time. I already spend a lot of my time testing out new technologies, and figuring out how it all fits into my life (if it does at all) or how a new technology could benefit the staff or students at my school. Whenever I discover something useful or just plain cool, I share it. I want others to enjoy technology as much as I do. At times I do pity those who inboxes I've flooded (you know who you are), but I can't help it; these days, it is too easy not to share.

My Blog

I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog for work, as a sort of technology newsletter to share tips and information with staff. I think I will eventually use this blog as a springboard for that, and will not limit my blogging to just the MTS activities. Afterall, I spent tool much time designing my template to use it for just 20-some blog posts.

Originally, I thought I would go with a WordPress blog, since WP is such a wonderful blogging platform with unlimited customization. However, that customization costs more time than I have right now; so, in the need to get up and running, I went with Blogger. Due to my previous experiences with Blogger combined with my need for control, I was bracing myself for frustration. However, I have been very pleased with Blogger thus far. The interface is very intuitive (I love drag & drop editing), but the option to edit a template's code or add custom HTML & Javascript gadgets still allows me to fine-tune my blog. Blogs/websites with poor usability and ugly design irritate me, and I would hate to be considered as such. I take my web presence very seriously (nerd alert). One feature I wish Blogger had was the option of font styles in the editor, e.g. designating a section of text a Level 2 Header. Yes, I can do this under the 'Edit HTML' tab, but I would rather not spend my time styling my text.

The name of blog came from the fact that I always run out of coffee right in middle of a project...and to be honest, I could never have enough coffee. On the list of my favorite things in life, coffee is certainly near the top. While I did design the template myself, the two photographs I've used were found on Flickr, and both have a creative commons license. As for my profile, I know it is lacking. If you want to know more about me, you need to work for it. Actually, the information is all out there, scattered in the digital abyss; you just have to know where to look for it.

Other Blogs

I love reading blogs. Blogs are like interactive books for the ADHD generation - short, entertaining, and clickable. I currently subscribe to 85 blogs and have a slight addiction to Google Reader...which is really just a fraction of my love for Google as a whole. Most of my information intake is from blogs. I've added a few of my favorite tech and book related blogs to a blog roll in my footer. I've only ever commented on a handful of blogs (usually anonymously at that), but I do love the lively conversations that often occur in a posts comment section. Sometimes the comments are more interesting than the post.