Sue Waters Blog

November 30, 2009
by Sue Waters
14 Comments

Using Public Google Waves For Personal Learning

There’s always a shiny new toy– and with it the stampede to use.

Yes that was also me once too :(  Nowadays I’ve learnt very slow, steady saves time and my sanity.

So I’m incredibly proud of the fact that I’ve never watched ANY Google Wave videos, read ANY tutorials and avoided every invite until I stumbled across a reason for investigating.

My motivation was I discovered you can set up public waves that any one can join.

I decided this was a good way for me and other educators to learn how to use Wave, by working together with each other, while also seeing how Wave might be used for personal learning (and with student).

Joining a Public Wave

We’ve called our public wave eduwave.

Joining  it is as easy as:

  1. Search for Eduwave by typing with:public Eduwave into search and then hit Enter.Searching for a public wave
  2. Now all you need to do is click Follow once you’ve found Eduwave to start following it. Following a wave
  3. Feel free to add your own replies to the wave, test different features and send me a tweet (@suewaters) if you want me to log in and join you.

Off course I’m proud of the fact that my friends taught me quickly how to use Wave.

Creating a Public Wave

Big thanks to Rob Wall for quickly locating the information I needed to create the public wave.

All you need to do is:

  1. Add public@a.gwave.com to your contacts lists by clicking on Add new Contact, enter the email address public@a.gwave.com and then click Enter Adding public@a.gwave.com
  2. It should add Public to your Contact list
  3. Now hover your mouse over Public’s avatar and select new wave Creating a public wave

Now anyone in Google Wave can search and add themselves to your public wave.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Please share your thoughts on Google Wave.

Your like(s), Dislike(s), What’s cool? Your tips… and links to any tutorials that I should have read 8-)

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August 26, 2008
by Sue Waters
9 Comments

Using Your Google Calendar To Help Manage Workload!

Google CalendarUsing my email inboxes as my To-Do-List went so well yesterday I even managed to get through work tasks that I really hate and have a bad habit of delaying for weeks. Which made me think “How could my new skills to ensure I complete these tasks more timely?”

My solution ? Create events for my Google Calendar for the tasks and schedule automatic email notification one day prior to the event to be sent to my gmail inbox.

An alternative would be to use Remember the Milk. As Tom Barrett highlighted using Remember the Milk for your To-Do list with it’s GMail plugin to display your to-do list alongside your Inbox is a good method of managing workload — and Vicki Davis uses it effectively to keep her Inbox zero.

Why do I need assistance? Well I manage online aquaculture students who can enrol in our course any time and their enrolment period is based on when they enrol. With students enrolling on different dates means they each need to be resulted by different dates — considerably harder to remember than standard resulting based on school terms/semesters.

Creating Events in Google Calendar

So now I’ve set up events in my Google Calendar with email notifications to me to organise sending email reminders to students and to remind me to enter results into our system.

Adding Event to Calendar

Switch On Notifications in Google Calendar

I have all my Google Calenders set to notify me by email one day prior to events — really handy for ensuring I don’t miss online PD sessions.

My wish is every one would use Google Calendars for event notifications because my calender automatically converts the time of the event into my time zone.  Means I don’t have to waste time trying to work out what time and day the session is on!  Off course my other wish would be that people didn’t schedule most of the online PD sessions for the middle of my night when I’m asleep :(

Email notifications

Image of Google Lego Calendar by Keso.

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August 24, 2008
by Sue Waters
14 Comments

Getting Your Gmail Account Under Control And Working For You!

Inbox zeroI’ve never been able to control my email accounts! Regardless of my actions emails flow in leading to major email infestation.

James’s explanation of how he uses his email accounts as his “to-do-list”; archiving emails that have been actioned immediately and keeping those that need follow up labeled in his Inbox has helped me to take gmail from 3000+, home email from 1000+ and my work email account to ZERO!

Let me show you how to do this with gmail (HINT: Follow these steps before deleting or archiving any emails)!

Step 1: Create Labels

Labels in gmail are a bit like folders in Microsoft Outlook except you can add more than one label to an email and keep the email in your inbox (whereas with Outlook the email is move into the folder). Clicking on a label displays all messages in ALL MAIL with that label.

Look at the emails in your inbox and create labels that separates your messages into meaningful categories which you can use for managing your workload. For example I have labels like “To Do” for those I can’t action immediately but to remind me that I need to deal with and labels for conversations on specific topics or people that I need to be able to easily locate.

Don’t stress – you can add more labels at anytime and removing a label doesn’t delete emails.

Creating labels for emails

Step 2: Create Filters

Filters are great for managing incoming emails because you can set up filters that automatically label, archive, delete, star or forward emails based on keywords, email address etc. For example if I needed to keep track of emails from a specific person I set up a filter with their email(s) addresses which automatically labels them.

Creating filters

Make sure you tick Also apply filter to conversations below to apply the action to all existing emails.

Step 3: Archive All Email In Your Inbox

When you archive in gmail it takes the emails from your inbox and moves them into ALL MAIL. This cleans up your inbox without deleting them making messages findable when you search your email with keywords or click on a Label.

Gmail currently provides 7063 MB of storage space — so lots of room for keeping emails.

To archive just click on Select: All which selects the 50 messages currently display and then click on Select all conversations in Inbox. Now just click Archive — any recent messages you don’t want to archive just untick before clicking Archive.

How to Archive

Step 4: Keeping Your Inbox Empty and Using It As A To-Do List

Now that your inbox is empty to use it effectively as a To-Do List you need to keep the messages in your Inbox really low (less than 50). To achieve this you need to:

  1. Once emails have been responded to, label if necessary, and then archive them immediately!
  2. Any emails that you can’t archive (because they require action in a few days) add a label as reminder of what task you need to complete.
  3. Delete, instead of archiving, immediately any emails you don’t need to keep e.g. notifications from twitter, Facebook. Deleting moves messages across to your trash and gmail automatically deletes them after 30 days.
  4. As notifications arrive that you no longer need immediately unsubscribe from their service or set up a filter to automatically delete them.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In case you’re wondering since I always keep my Google Reader account at ZERO I’m sure the new skills I’ve gained will do the same for my email accounts. Shame I can’t say the same about keeping my house and study tidy — solution(s)?

I’ve only covered some of the features of gmail. What other features are you using in gmail to make your life easier?

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February 4, 2008
by Sue Waters
6 Comments

Tips for Diversifying Your Blog Subscriptions

The best blog posts, for me, are those that make me STOP, reflect, ponder and challenge my own viewpoints!

Take Claire Thompson “How to turn “Me Vision Into We Vision” post where she discusses the need to ensure we don’t limit our learning by getting sucked into group thinking — by restricting our blog reading and interactions to people who think the same way that we do.

There is Need For Some Repetition

My belief is you do need a balance; and there is a need for a certain amount of repetition since sometimes the same thing needs to be said several ways for you to pay attention.

Claire’s “How to turn “Me Vision Into We Vision” post is a classic example of this! The links she provided I had read! But I hadn’t paid enough attention. I had read David Warlick’s Ethan Zuckerman and The Internet is NOT FLAT… post and Michele Martin’s Living in a Blogging Box and How to Get Out of It. Meant to write a comment on Michele’s post as I was laughing soooo much about her FINALLY replacing NetVibes with Google Reader :) .

My Tips For Diversifying Blog Subscriptions and Interactions

There a quite a few effective ways that you can ensure your readings are more diversified without going into information overload with the minimal amount of work!

1. Google Reader

Google has linked Reader with Google Talk so now all your shared items will be visible to your friends from Google Talk, and vice versa. My friends all share radically different posts — all far removed from the types of posts I would normally read.

2. Tweetscan

I’m soooo in love with Tweetscan! So simple! And so great at providing excellent links. Enter the search term, add the RSS to your Feed Reader e.g. Google Reader and you are notified whenever anyone twitters anything using that search term.

How to use Tweetscan

3. Technorati Tags and Google Blog Search Tags

Subscribing to Technorati and Google Blog Search tags is a good way of finding posts on specific topics. I’ve found it a great way to locate new blogs but you do need to accept a certain amount of skimming reading to weed the good from the bad.

Be WARNED: Technorati doesn’t recognise e-learning or m-learning as a search term — it will grab posts that contain the word learning. Instead make sure you use elearning and mlearning. Read more about using Technorati here!

technoratigr.jpg

Technorati and Google Blog Search will give you different results for the same tag term — which is why I subscribe to both.

googleblog.jpg

4. Google Alerts

Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. Really simple to use. Search is wider than blog search as it also searches news sources and the web.

5. Twitter

Many people are now relying solely on twitter to provide them with links to articles worth reading; which I think is a shame as there is a definite risk of group thinking if you’re not careful especially if you have only like minded people within your network e.g. educators only. Personally I like a mixture in my twitter network; educators, non-profits, web designers, programmers.

6. Better Blog Community

My involvement with the 31 Day Blogging Project expanded my interaction with bloggers other than educators. The Better Blog Community was established as a result of this project and is an excellent way of finding/interacting with bloggers outside your niche area.

FINAL THOUGHT

It’s late! Got my first day back with students in the morning…. So will be in trouble if I don’t get some sleep.

Would love to hear your thoughts on balance — how do we achieve enough of the same but ensuring sufficient diversity without getting information overload? What works best for you?

UPDATE

Was so tired last night I gave this post the title “Tips for diversifying your blog subscriptions”. Then this morning changed it to “Tips for Minimising Group Thinking”. Now changed it back as people had already linked to the original title. ROFL as still really tired and can’t make up my mind on a good title – so please choose your own!

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December 2, 2007
by Sue Waters
12 Comments

Update On Getting More Out Of Google Reader

Google has just added some more features to Google Reader so I thought it was appropriate to write a new post to update my post on Getting More Out of Google Reader. Thanks Martin Weller from The Ed Techie for alerting me to how recommendations have now been added to Google Reader (answer to your question — found your blog through Edublog Awards not Google Recommendations).

The two new features are:discover

Recommendations

Recommendations have been added to Google Reader to help with the discovery of new sites to subscribe to by providing personalised recommendations based on your current subscriptions and web history data.

It can be accessed from your Google Reader home page or by clicking on Discover (to browse for feeds – click on the browse tab within Discover).

recommendations

Drop and Drag

drag and dropGoogle Reader has now added drag-and-drop support for your subscriptions and folders which means you can now easily move feeds between folders, as well as reorder things up and down within your subscription list i.e. can re-arrange now with drag-and-drop instead of using Feed Settings or Manage Subscriptions.

FINAL THOUGHT
Don’t forget to check out the Edublog Awards 2007 finalists because you may find some new blogs to subscribe to in the list. You can vote for your favourite blogs by clicking on each Category title.

Decided to change my blog themealways get very nervous when I do this. Your thoughts would be appreciated. Better or worse?

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November 24, 2007
by Sue Waters
16 Comments

Getting More Out Of Google Reader

Managing information using RSS is an important skill to learn however it is an area that people starting out struggle with. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) means that whenever new information is added to a site (e.g. your favourite blog) it comes to you instead of you having to continuously check the site. Read more about RSS here.

My preferred way of managing information is iGoogle and Google Reader. This means all my email (via gmail) and RSS feeds e.g. blogs, Ning Communities, photos from my Flickr contacts all come to the one location, iGoogle, which I have set as my homepage in my web browser. Learn how to set up iGoogle and Google Reader here.

Reading blog posts using Google Reader is part of my daily routine — it is how I get my latest information on topics I want to read. Considering how much I use Google Reader I was surprised to realise that I had missed some key features which would help me be more effective using it — thanks Darren for telling us about your RSS Habits and inspiring me to also investigate how to get more out of Google Reader.

How did I miss Trends?

Must have been blind? Google Reader added this feature in January! Trend gives you a graphical and tabular overview of your blog reading habits which is useful for making changes to feeds e.g. delete blogs that are no longer post or those that you do not read much.

I have not included my subscriptions summary (check out the top of Darren’s post and you will see his). Interesting point during my research of Google Reader trends — top bloggers subscribe and read a lot of blogs (check out Darren Rowse). As they say “Good Writer read a lot”.

% Read is the number of posts from the feed that you have actually read as opposed to clicking on Mark as Read.

readingtrends1.jpg

Subscription trends indicate how many items are posted per day and also shows the % Read. More importantly the inactive tab shows the top feeds that are inactive i.e. hardly posting.

subscriptiontrends1.jpg

Items read is interesting because it shows your blog reading habit which can be displayed for the last 30 days, time of day or the day of week. As you can see I read most of mine in the early morning and evenings.

itemsread.jpg

Using Feed Settings

I normally use Manage Subscriptions (bottom of Google Reader) to manage my feeds but it is quicker to make minor adjustments using Feed settings. I use rename a subscription when a RSS feed is unable to detect the name of the feed e.g. calls it Title Unknown or Blog.

feedsettings1.jpg

Using Folders

Folders in Google Reader are like folders on your computer. Some people like to creategretools.jpg folders for the different types of blogs they read. My personal preference is not to use folders because folders slows down scanning of latest posts from my Google Reader Gadget on my iGoogle homepage. I do however use folders to add locate all my feeds from the same Ning community.

John Larkin was nice enough to let me know that he uses Folders to create his blog roll for his blog. This means as he alters adds and deletes Feeds (i.e. blogs he reads) from Google Reader the changes are automatically displayed on his blog. Definitely a lot easier than inserting the links yourself. Added benefit to your readers is you grab his blogroll by saving as OPML and import into your own Google Reader.

blogrollgr1.jpg

Using Starred, Shared Items and Tags

At the bottom of each post in Google Reader there is Add Star, Share or Add Tags which you can select.

  • Starred items are posts that you highlight so that you can re-read later.
  • You use Share if you want to share a post with others. Normally people do this by adding a Shared Google Reader widget to their blog

sharedgoogle.jpg

  • Tags are Google Readers way of bookmarking. I don’t use tags because my aim is to read through the posts quickly and I know that I can always search Google Reader using the Search option (top of Google Reader). However some people use tags to share specific categories (tag) with their readers. Check out the shared readers that Chris Duke uses on Muve Forward blog and EdTechatouille blog.

sharredtags.jpg

Manage Subscriptions

What I had been missing in Manage Subscriptions was the Goodies — so I have now added a Subscribe as You Surf bookmark to my web browser. This means when I come across a new blog I want to subscribe to I just click on the bookmark and the blog is added to Google Reader.

managesubscriptions1.jpg

FINAL THOUGHT

Always worth subscribing to your own blog post to make sure it looks okay in a Feed reader as this is how most your readers will view your posts. Here is my road test of other feed readers if you want to know about readers other than Google Reader. And don’t forget that blogging is not just about reading — it is also about conversations — here is how I manage my comments on other people’s blog posts.

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider subscribing for free.

August 28, 2007
by Sue Waters
9 Comments

Love iGoogle – Get iGoogle Skins!

Gabriela is an ABSOLUTE LEGEND – she knows what I am an interested in and as a member of my del.icio.us network, she adds bookmarks for web sites to my del.icio.us account that she KNOWS I WILL LIKE. If you are not familar with del.icio.us or want to learn how to use del.icio.us more effectively – check out my Getting Out of Del.icio.us information.

igoogleskin1.jpg

Today she gave me a GEM – Gabriela knows I am a bit crazy about iGoogle (= Google’s personalised homepage – read more about it here!), as I am a self confessed Google-aholic. And she has shared with me the link for Adding “Custom iGoogle Skins” to your iGoogle page. I already use google themes on my homepage, which change during the day but with the Custom iGoogle Skin gadget you can either make your own theme for your personalised homepage OR choose themes (skins) that others have shared, by browsing the most recent or the most popular.

I know it sounds crazy, but the colours and feel of my themes on my iGoogle page do effect my emotions – the right theme has a calming influence. The hardest task with the iGoogle Skin gadget is actually choosing which is most calming.

THANKS Gabriela!

UPDATE

Just discovered that the iGoogle Skins is affecting my Google reader gadget and stripping out all links posts. So I have had to turn off skins – SORRY. However Christine has reported she has installed and is having no ISSUES with it interfering with her Google reader gadget. So I suggest you try for yourself and report back outcomes. If you know a solution, for me, please let me know?


August 18, 2007
by Sue Waters
29 Comments

Why Does Technorati Mock Me?

Admittedly people might question why I should worry about what Technorati thinks of me. To be honest, I don’t care, but I do care that many of my favourite bloggers prefer to read posts by subscribing to technorati tags than to blogs. So if I want them to read my posts I need to understand how this blog search engine works. Also people use blog search engines to locate blogs worth reading – so I need to make sure my blog is showing up in blog search directory for my niche area.

Mistakenly I thought everything was okay since I had seen my posts on Technorati.

Advanced Blog Searches

WRONG – When I did an advanced blog search using the term m-learning my sites were not being listed.

tech

If I want to have my blog to appear in technorati blog search directory I need to join Technorati and then claim my blog (and podcast sites).

techclaim

I also needed to use variations of the same tag term to ensure my blog is easier to locate.

techtags

My blog and podcast site can now be located in Technorati blog search however ability to locate in search directory is affected by which variation of a tag is used in the search.

If I use:

  1. m-learning : both sites rank highly
  2. mlearning : my podcast site ranks and not my blog site

See how Technorati mocks me? Both sites have been tagged on Technorati with m-learning and mlearning, so I have no idea.

Basic Post Searches

My original reason for searching Technorati was for my Day 14 task (Analyze Your Blog’s Competition for 31 Days Blog Project). While I read a lot of blogs I wanted to read more blogs in my niche area (mlearning), and I wanted to work out how bloggers are subscribing to Technorati tags.

So I inserted the term m-learning into the search area. After several frustrating hours, of not being able to work out why all my search attempts using m-learning were giving me posts that had absolutely nothing to do with m-learning I realised that unlike their blog search, their basic search was not recognising m-learning as a search term. Instead it was giving me any post that had the term learning in it. Change the search term to mlearning and now I found the posts I wanted.

technorati

But just to totally annoy me if I change the search term to “mobile learning” my search results were totally different.

Technorati’s basic search appears to search for the terms within posts. So I need to have a good think about terms used for both tagging my posts and words used within my posts or alternatively I could start adding the desired technorati tags into my posts.

techtag

Subscribing to Technorati Tags

You can subscribe to technorati tags by clicking on the subscribe icon and adding to your Feed Reader (or if your Feed Reader automatically locates the feed copy and paste the tag URL into your Reader).

Screencast on Using Technorati

There is no way I can cover all the things you can do with Technorati.. Check out Demogirl’s screencast of How She Uses Technorati. While you are at her site – do a search – she has excellent “How to” screencasts on a range of topics. :)

August 16, 2007
by Sue Waters
22 Comments

Why Didn’t I install Google Analytics Sooner?

There is one very simple reason why I have taken so long to install better statistics on my blog – working out what to do when you first start blogging can be overwhelming!

When I first set up this blog, I did google the topic which gave me lots of articles on all the different options I could use; including the advantages and disadvantages of each. But it was too much information. I just wanted to be shown – what to do, why to do and how to do it!

So I went with Sitemeter – which has been okay for my wiki but hopeless for my blog because it only provides me statistics on number of visitors and no other details (my blog does not support the javascript required to track important information like referring sites, pages viewed).

Thankfully, Darren (Problogger) rescued me by making me dig into my blog’s statistics this week for Day 11 task for 31 Days to Build a Better Blog – and I have now installed Google Analytics. It does have lots of features that are initially overwhelming – so here is my quick guide to help you understand why you should use Google Analytics and how can use it to get information which will help you be more effective!

WARNING – Google Analytics does provide much better statistics but it does takes 24 hours to display the statistics – so if I want to know what is happening on my site today I have to wait until tomorrow to check. Sitemeter displays the statistics in real time – if I have a sudden surge in traffic I know about it immediately.

Selecting a Date Range

This lets you see an overview of what has been happening at your site over a period of time, and you can compare it with a previous date range.

GAnal1

Digging Deeper into Your Statistics

Google Analytics has so many options for you to look at – and different bloggers will be interested in different statistics depending of what they need to learn from their statistics.

Take the time to check out each option – and drill down into specifics (e.g. referring sites, top content) – to start to get a feel for what it all means to you.

GAnal2

When you look into each option in more specific detail e.g. Traffic Source > Referring Sites you will be provided with greater detail. Make sure when you do this to keep an eye on Bounce rate (The percentage of single-page visits i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page. The lower the percentage the better – as it means they are reading more of your content!)

GAnal3

Make sure you view your data in different views – because you will learn different information from each view!!! The option to change views is located about Bounce Rate.

GAnal4

When you change to different views look out for the drop down boxes as they let you change the data type you are analysing!

GAnal7

Check out referring sites!

How visitors locates my sites is important because it tells me how much traffic is coming from this source, how interested visitors being referred from these sites are interested in the topics I write on and occasionally I also learn great information from the referring site.

At the moment – twitter is my highest referring source – which is of no surprise to me as I believe twitter is moving blogging to a new phase!

GAnal5

If I do not recognise the referring article I will often go and check it out.

The following image shows how an article on Google Reader Blog is linking to my site – it was automatically inserted in their article because I linked to this article when I complained about SlideShares being removed in Google Reader. And people are actually following this link to my site ROFL.

GAnal6

Check out Top Content

Remember to keep an eye on Top content – it will tell you what people like to read and what may be attracting them to your site. Interestingly enough my post on UMPCs has the highest traffic – probably because it is one of the first in depth posts written on their use in education.

GETTING MORE OUT OF GOOGLE ANALYTICS

There is no way I can cover all the great information you can gain from using Google Analytics – there is just too much (apologies for the long post!). But I do recommend you watch Beth‘s video on Using Google Analytics! – she has some great tips (thanks to Michele for putting me onto this!).

August 9, 2007
by Sue Waters
16 Comments

What your blog looks like in different Feed Readers

blogreaderYesterday I showed you how your post looks to your subscribers when it is viewed through Google Reader and explained why it is important to subscribe to your own feed so you know what your posts look like to your readers. Today I decided to do a road test of the main online feed readers to show you how different readers can impact of how your post looks!

I tested, what I believe, based on checking various sources, are the top online feed readers (the order below does not indicate their popularity): -

Strictly speaking Netvibes and MyYahoo are both personalised homepages, similar to a Google Personalized Homepage however I have tested them as they are included by many sources as top feed readers for 2007.

Here is what I learnt from my Road test:feedburner.jpg

1. Not all the feed readers were actually able to locate the blog feeds

Regardless of if I used the feed from the blog or used the “Add to” from their FeedBurner feed it was not always possible to subscribe to a blog with some feed readers (MyYahoo could not locate any blog feeds, and Newsgator was able to locate Michelle but no one else’s blog feed I tested).

2. Personalised homepages, like NetVibes and MyYahoo, are not for serious blog readers.netview.jpg

Each blog’s feed is added as separate feeds on your personalised page. This method is ok if you subscribe to only a few blogs, but if you are a serious blog reader – you would not use them. Image shows how posts look using NetVibes

3. Google Reader, Bloglines and Netvibes are all very easy to use.

No need for me to consult an instruction guide. These readers will also automatically locate the feed for your site using your URL i.e. no need to locate the feed for the site all you do is add the blog URL and the reader finds it.

4. SlideShare PowerPoints are not displaying in most of the top readers

The only reader that displayed the Slideshare was NetVibes when you click on the link to view the expanded post. For everyone, like myself, that loves Slideshare, this is a real issue. I have sent an email to Slideshare asking for assistance. But in the meantime I suggest you let people know that there is a slideshare in your post and insert the URL to your slideshare.

5. Adding a FeedBurner feed to your blog looks like a good idea

As readers are subscribing to blogs using different readers, it is a good idea to use FeedBurner. However I do need to do more research into why some readers are having trouble subscribing to blogs.

My favourite Feed Reader

Google Reader remains my favourite reader because I use a Google Reader gadget that brings all posts from every blog (in order of date) onto my personalised Google homepage. This makes it quick and easy to read the latest posts. It is also quickly becoming popular with other serious blog readers – who are changing from Bloglines to Google Reader for these same reasons.

31 Day Challenge Update

Readers and bloggers are now both able to win in our Chocolate Challenge – read how you could win chocolate! Welcome all new bloggers that have joined us – I will update my list of participants tonight!