Most importantly I no longer suffer from blogger envy caused by friends having cool toys on their blogs which I haven’t been able to embed. Trouble is I may have become “widget crazy” and need “widget addiction therapy”. Worst still I may have totally cluttered my blog sidebar, which is detracting to readers, so I’m hoping if I list the changes I’ve made my readers may give feedback as to their thoughts i.e. good widget, bad widget or no opinion yet on widget.
I’ve been jealous of Martin Weller having Lijit search on his blog for a long time. The reason I like the idea of Lijit is because I have my content located across lots of websites and this search allows readers to search content on my blog or all my sites (by clicking on the My Content Tab). Plus it provides some really cools statistics on how readers interact with my blog that are emailed weekly or I can check them out online in my account.
Unfortunately when readers click on My Content tab the search will also shows results from other websites – which is really bad. You want readers to stay on your sites not go to other peoples sites.
The Lijit search widget can be customised to your preferences. I’ve set mine up so that it displays where all my content is located whereas Martin Weller doesn’t display his content. To be honest displaying my content like this may be increasing sidebar clutter and I may have been better using another widget or my blog roll to link to my other websites.
I also still have my Edublogs search widget in my sidebar while I testing Lijit search.
Okay I can compromise (although maybe my hubby wouldn’t agree ). I still prefer subscribing to comments on other bloggers posts using co.mment because its RSS feed into Google Reader is better. However I’m intrigued by the community aspect of cocomment which isn’t an option with co.mment. So I’ve installed my cocomment widget to this blog; not sure if anyone really wants to read my comments on other blogger’s posts in my sidebar? Let’s be honest it is creating clutter.
Still need a guide to getting more out of using CoComment if anyone has seen one.
Blogroll Created Using Google Reader Shared Folders
Benefit of this method is your blogs subscriptions are automatically updated whenever you add or delete a blog subscription without you having to adjust your blogroll within your blog dashboard. Apologies to some bloggers –I’ve used two folders to create the blogrolls — Edubloggers and Non-Profit. Some bloggers in the Non-Profit don’t exactly fit that category.
I’ve also add a Shared Google Reader widget; it’s right at the bottom hidden away — not fussed if it stays or goes. Plus haven’t been able to part with MyBlogLog widget; I like the pretty pictures even if I’ve not got into using MyBlogLog effectively.
I like the FeedJit widget on Frank’s blog that shows where readers are visiting from but think adding it will just make the sidebar clutter even worse.
So besides “widget addiction therapy” what are your thoughts on the new widgets i.e. good widget, bad widget or no opinion yet on widget. Is there an important widget I’ve missed that needs to be in my blog sidebar?
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.
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.
3. Technorati Tags and Google Blog Search Tags
Subscribing to Technorati and Google Blog Searchtags 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!
Technorati and Google Blog Search will give you different results for the same tag term — which is why I subscribe to both.
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.
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.
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?
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!
Depending on your love of Google Reader you will either be grateful that Google has given us an early Christmas present or be concerned, like me, that you may need to change your sharing habits. For those who don’t use Google Reader, or who have no idea what I am talking about, 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.
You will have the option to choose which friends you link with and to invite more. Plus the option to clear your shared items.
This is definitely one of the biggest changes that Google Reader has made and it will impact of how we use our Readers. Not everyone in the blogosphere is impressed with this feature with posts warning of further information overload and duplications of posts. from friends.
My thoughts are I will need to seriously rethink how I use the Sharred feature of Google Reader because it is a feature I have totally ignored because I have not been interested in using it. Now I have to make the decision:
Do I want to start caring about my friends and and making sure I share really good posts
Or share nothing using Google Reader instead use blogging to link to posts I really want to share
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).
Drop and Drag
Google 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.
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 theme — always get very nervous when I do this. Your thoughts would be appreciated. Better or worse?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Folders in Google Reader are like folders on your computer. Some people like to create 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.
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
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.
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.
Vicki also encourages us all to take the time to share our most useful tools because we should be welcoming people newto using the Internet by sharing our tools — so here is my post — hopefully it will be of help for other educators wanting to get involved with elearning.
Yes I am a bit addicted to blogging because it helps me reflect on my thoughts and interaction with others helps this process in amazing ways.
I like both blogger (easy to use) and edublogs for blogging. If I have interpreted what Vicki is saying regarding Google Blog Search and Blogger I disagree — both Technorati and Google Blog Search look for keywords within the text of the post — I subscribed to tag feeds (e.g. mlearning and mobile learning) from Google Blog Search and my posts always appeared with the feeds (and this blog is not hosted by Google).
Here is my information for those new to blogging and for those more advanced bloggers. Towards the bottom of each page there are some tasks that you can work through to improve your blogging skills — let me know if you decide to work through them so I can drop past your blog and give you encouragement.
Why? Because for no other reason than it is fun!!!! I like to use ToonDoo because it is really easy to use (as they made it easy for kids to use) and they have lots of great characters, backgrounds and props that you can use. These are my instructions on how to embed ToonDoo comics into an edublog blog.
Other comic tools I use are Comeeko and Picnik which both allow you to create comics from your own photos. Please note that Picnik is an online photo editing tool that allows you to do a lot more than just create comics.
I use del.icio.us to bookmark websites online so that I can refer back to these bookmarked sites from any computer — which for me is a life saver because I use lots of different computers. It also means on any computer I can add bookmarks to my del.icio.us account. Here is my information on how to get more out of using del.ici.ous.
I use Google Talk and Skype for instant messaging (chatting with others) and talking to people (VOIP) using the Internet. If you don’t have a VOIP application, like Google Talk or Skype, on your computer this is a definitely a must – you can talk or chat to anyone, anywhere, using the Internet, at no cost. The benefit of Google Talk is you can search gmail and chat messages for previous conversations — check this out for more explanation.
Ning is good for those less tech savy, for encouraging discussions, it allows easily embed videos and pictures, and is a place for people to feel comfortable to start out with blogging. etools community is a Ning site I set up for educators to share their etools and tips with each other. Here are my tips for using Ning. Please feel free to join us at etools community.
My advice to people on creating videos is it can be time consuming and with so much video content already available on the Internet it may be more effective to use other peoples videos. My favourite sites to search are Google Video, YouTube and VideoJug (VideoJug has lots of great how-to-do videos with written transcripts of each video — thanks Philip Nichols yet again for telling me about this site ) Please note even though Google owns YouTube you will get different search results from Google Video and YouTube which is why I search both. Here are my instructions on embedding videos into wikis and into Ning.
Most of my online videos are created using MovieMaker (here is how) and mostly uploaded to Googlevideo. My rule for video is less than 10 minutes whenever possible.
JumpCut is definitely worth using if you need an online video editor – it is like having MovieMaker or iMovie online! You can add titles and effects. Very easy to use (says she who makes movies all the time).
I use Flickr to share my photos online and to locate photos that I can legally use on my websites (I use flickr creative commons photos which allows me to use the photos provided I acknowledge the original source). fd’s Flickr toys is my favourite tool for doing fun stuff with photos from Flickr — of these toys I use mosaic maker the most because it makes it simple to put together a set of photos.
My audio podcasts are edited using Audacity (here is how) — I do have a Mac now and Garageband is really good but I still find if you have lots of edits then Audacity is still better.
Most of my video podcasts are edited using MovieMaker (here is how) then converted to .mp4 format using Super C (great for converting from any video format to another video format — here is how) and occasionally use iMovie on my Mac.
I use SnagIt on a daily basis – this is my favourite tool! Yes I know there are free tools like Jing that do similar but SnagIt is definitely better. Don’t care that it costs money – was worth every cent – they let you download and trial this software for a month – give it a go. Thanks Evil Sue for putting me onto this great screen capture software. This is how I create all the great “How-to-do” images for my web sites
A screencast is a digital recording of a computer screen and use these to show how to use online tools. My personal favourite screencast tool is CamStudio — yes I have used Jing but feel Camstudio is better (note I could use SnagIT) — here are my instructions on how to use CamStudio.
I do use Slideshare to host my powerpoints online but Alan Levine’s use of Slideflickr.com is way more powerful — if you click on the photo in his slide show it displays the notes that he has written under each photo at Flickr and you can read these notes as you watch the slides — if a URL interests you then you can click on the link to open it.
To create slides like Alan has done — instead of saving your powerpoint as a powerpoint you save it as jpeg. Upload the photos to Flickr, add notes to each slide, organise them into a set at Flickr and then use Slideflickr.com to create the slide.
My favourite web browser is Firefox — hate having to use Internet Explorer (also use it on my Mac as well). Best aspect is there are lots of cool add ons like a del.icio.us add on that makes my life easier.
I love using wikis for my personal learning because I find it a great place to pull all the information together concisely and they are also excellent for encouraging collaborative learning between students. Wikipaces is my favourite because their wiki is very easy to use and they provide excellent customer service. Here is my information on getting more out of using wikis.
Long post — sorry! Blame Vicki but it is not the type of post that suits being broken up. Also I encourage all my readers to take up Vicki advice and share your tips (remember to tag with bestoftheweb).
Yesterday 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:
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.
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!
When I see Read more!I normally do not read more – hence frequently don’t bother reading your post. With the number of blogs I read I just don’t have time!
If you are really unlucky – your formatting (e.g. paragraphs, bullet points) is lost – dramatically affecting the appeal of your post.
Look what happens to slides from Slideshare! This looks like a blank post when in reality there is a SlideShare here. Unless you let me know there is a great Slideshare here that I need to look at I will not realise that I need to go to your blog!
If you have a podcast site you should also do the same. It was not until I put the feed of my podcast site through iTunes that I realise several of my episodes would not download in iTunes. Why because the name of the episode must be less than 64 characters (with spaces) .
Thanks Gary for all your help and taking the time to give us assistance – and explain what is happening and why – when feeds go through feed aggregator – we do appreciate it. And thanks Tama it looks like I do need the Any key.
In the last couple of days I have noticed people blogging on tools that I have been using for quite awhile – I assumed that everyone knew about them – wrong assumption. So I thought today I would post about tools that I use all the time:
Don’t care that it costs money – was worth every cent – they let you download and trial this software for a month – give it a go. Thanks Evil Sue for putting me onto this great screen capture software. This is how I create all the great “How-to-do” images for my web sites (check out “how to create instructional videos” must transfer this to Mobile Technology in TAFE wiki).
This site has so many excellent toys that you can use to create posters, badges , mosaics etc from Flickr photos. Thanks Robyn for putting me onto Flickr toys and Storm.
This is a magazine cover that I created using Flickr Toys. Yes – we can all agree that I am not that creative – so I shall not be leaving my day job yet – tip if you want the photo to work it needs to be 619 pixels wide by 800 pixels high.
If you have time, please give me your opinion on which tool to use – screencasting software, Photostory or MovieMaker (definitely worth time to read this post and the comments because of the differing in opinion by my readers).
I use Skype, Google Talk, Twitter, iGoogle, Google Reader and del.icio.us to manage my world online. My preferred method of communication is now through chat – have to admit Google Talk is now my favorite because you can search gmail and chat history to easy locate information you discussed.
If you liked this post on My Everyday Tools then I suggest you read my post on Tools of the Trade (about Web 2.0 tools such as wikis, delicious, blogs that I recommend every lecturer should use and why. I also suggests ways they can use these tools with students).
Definitely a bookmarking site is a must. It is so great to be able to bookmark a website online that you can then view from any computer. I just love the fact that where ever I am I can go yes I remember reading an article on a particular topic and pull up my del.icio.us site and locate the articles I want to read without having to relocate the article again (and normally I fail to locate the original article). You can also set up del.icio.us sites with students so that they can collaboratively bookmark sites to select the top sites for information on topics.
However if you are going to bookmark using del.icio.us I suggest you:
Use tags that have meaning e.g podcasting, PodcastingEquipment (if you put a space between Podcasting and Equipment you will have two separate tags and Equipment to me may also mean aquaculture equipment. Alternatively you could separate with an underscore Podcasting_Equipment)
Sort your tags by setting up bundles and put your tags into the correct bundles – this way you can located the articles you want to read easier)
If you are using Firefox as your browser there is a new cool Add-on for del.icio.us. If you are not using Firefox then think about installing it because it is a great Browser, I now use it more than Internet Explorer.
I like using wikis as a quick and easy web site to share information with others. They are also excellent for encouraging collaborative learning between students. Personally I like using Wikipaces because their wiki is very easy to use and they have excellent customer service. If you want to know more about using wikis check out my information on getting more out of wiki.
I use Podomatic for podcasting however occasionally use Odeo. I prefer podomatic because it gives me a great podcast page which Odeo doesn’t. There are things about podomatic that I don’t like. For ideas for setting up a podcast page check out my podcast site aquaculturepda.podomatic.com
I have used two different free comic makers ToonDoo and Comeeko. No reason other than it is fun!!!!
ToonDoo is really easy to use (as they made it easy for kids to use) and they have lots of great characters, backgrounds and props that you can use. Basically anyone can easily create nice comics using ToonDoo – great fun for all ages – my 8 year old really enjoyed using ToonDoo as do I. The only issue I have had with ToonDoo is embedding my comics into my blog posts, these are my instructions on how to embed ToonDoo comics into an edublog blog.
The difference between ToonDoo and Comeeko is that with Comeeko you can use your own photos to make the comic. Comeeko is considerably harder to use than ToonDoo however a lot of fun because you use your own photos (which is very appealing).
Finally started to appreciate the value of photosharing and now am using Flickr.
I am definitely a Google addict. Here is my list of Google MUSTS:
I have set up my own personalized google homepage. If you haven’t give it a try. All you need to do is set up a Google account and then click on “Personalize this page” at the top of Google. You can add lots of little cool gadgets to the page (e.g. “to do list”, news feeds, Weather information, world clock, Google video) and whatever computer you are on you can sign into your personalized Google and access the items on the page (if you become too addicted you can add extra tabs – yes I know I need a life).
I use Google reader to subscribe to blogs and podcasts feeds. It is really easy to use, and I can put a gadget for it on my Personalized google homepage that shows me the latest 9 blogs and podcasts. Also I love how people are embedding Google Reader in their blogs and sharing their items that they like from their reader. I was totally unable to get into blogging until I started appreciating the value of blogs by subscribing to blogs using Google Reader
I use Google Talk for chatting with others but prefer Skype for VOIP. OOPS occassionally with Google Talk I have sent the wrong chat to the wrong person. If you don’t have a VOIP application on your computer. Definitely a must – you can talk or chat to anyone, anywhere, using the Internet, at no cost.