Monthly Archives: June 2012

Try One New Thing – Our 1st Anniversary Post

As we finish out June, we are also finishing up the first year of Learning for Life Online. For anyone who’s been reading along since the beginning: thank you. I’m going to work hard to make the second year of LLO as fun and fascinating as the first.

For our 50th post, I’d like to challenge you to choose one of the tools or services we’ve looked this past year and sign up for it or try it out. Pick something that intrigued you but you never got around to it, or something that looked ridiculous and you want to see if you were just missing something. Doesn’t matter how big or small a thing it is – just do it. Review the basics of playing with a new online tool or playing with a new gadget and remember to have fun!

Try One New Thing and play around with it for the month of July. As you try it, comment on this post with your experience or thoughts, and any suggestions you have for using it.

Rather than make you go back through the past year to look for your one new thing, here’s a quick reference list:

It takes time to make a social tool a part of your life, including your life online. Whatever you choose to do, give it to the end of July and then see what you think of it. Let us know here if your opinion has changed, and how.

Thank you all again for following along, and enjoy your One New Thing! See you in July…

Listgeeks – for people who love lists

Sometimes, the simplest tool is the most interesting. This week on Learning for Life Online, let’s look at Listgeeks a social sharing tool that’s all about lists.

What Is It?

Listgeeks logoListgeeks is just what it sounds like: it’s a social network make up of lists. That’s it – you create lists, share them with others, and follow other people to get ideas from their lists. Nothing fancy, and that’s okay.

To start saving lists, you do need to create an account or sign in with your Facebook or Twitter username and password. Then, you can just start making your own lists, or you can make your own version of someone else’s list. No, it’s not stealing their idea – this is a social listmaking site, and one of the ways it’s social is that the lists are collaborative.

Let’s say you find an interesting list, like Random Things I’m Into Lately. You look at it, and it’s pretty neat. You know from the little numbers next to the list name that 26 other people have made their own versions of this list, so you can click on the Next or Prev buttons on the right to see those other lists.

As you click and read, you realize that you’re into some interesting stuff yourself, so you can start creating your version of this list by either typing into the spaces next to the numbers in the left-hand list or by clicking and dragging one of the items from someone else’s list onto your own. You’re not “stealing their idea” – you’re adding your own voice to the crowd.

To see what the average set of results for this topic is, click the word Average just above the right-hand list. You’ll see the most commonly added items to this list, up to the top 99. See how popular your random things are by finding where they are on this average list.

How Is It Useful?

Featured List from ListgeeksFirst, just by searching through other people’s lists, you might be inspired to try something new or find a new book/movie/TV show/artist/song you’ve never heard of before. Think of it as a way to search all those lists of recommendations people scribble on scraps of paper to each other. If you check the averages for a topic, you’ll find the most popular suggestions for it.

Secondly, if you create an account and save your lists, you’ll have access to them wherever you can get to the internet. This includes a smart device or tablet, as well as a standard computer. Create a list of “Books I Need to Buy” or “Stuff to Do While Waiting in Line” – with links to things to read or websites to visit – and you’ll always be able to get to it quickly while you’ve got a few minutes to kill.

Third, like Pinterest, you can use these online lists to share your interests and ideas with other people. Make a list of things you need for your new apartment and send a link to the list to your mom, or post a list of things you want for your birthday to your Facebook timeline. Share a list of movies you want to see this summer and see if anyone wants to go with you. Create the list in one place and share it everywhere you are online.

Try It Out

Let’s go back to that Random Things list to play a little bit. Once you’ve found the Random Things I’m Into Lately list, try clicking on and dragging the second item – “Planning the production of a feature film” – into your list. Simple, yes? Use the Next button to find another list with another interesting item on it, and click and drag that item to your list. Keep doing this, or type your own ideas into your list at any point.

Let’s try finding another set of lists to play with. Type a topic or thing into the search field at the top right of the screen and see what lists are already in there. Get wild – try to find something a little bit different. Here’s a few ideas to get you going:

You can practice finding, clicking, dragging, and typing without ever signing in, but if you decide you enjoy working with Listgeeks lists, you do need to create an account to save and share your lists. Just sign in with your Facebook or Twitter account information, or make a brand new account just for Listgeeks.

Share

Did you make a list you really like? Add it to the comments below, or post it on the Learning for Life Online Facebook wall.

Help & Resources

Spotify – Much more than radio

Much earlier in Learning for Life Online, we talked about Internet radio – the ability to listen to radio stations or services like radio stations over the internet. Click back and read that post for a quick review of what online radio is and why it’s useful (spoiler: because it’s as easy to listen to music or talk online as it is on a radio).

Since then, I’ve gotten to know one particular online music service very well, and it goes far beyond internet radio. This week, let’s look a little more closely at Spotify.

What is It?

Spotify is, for starters, a great source for streaming music over the internet. Millions of songs from around the world are available to find and play whenever you’d like. It also will let you create playlists, subscribe to playlists other people create, share what you’re listening to to Facebook and other social networks, send suggestions to other users, and start a ‘radio station’ based on any song, album or playlist you find. On top of all of that, you can use Spotify to play and share the music you’ve saved to your computer, just like other music library services we’ve looked at.

Try it Out

In order to use Spotify, you need to a) sign up for an account and b) download the Spotify software onto a computer. (This is different than other internet radio services.) From the computer you want to have Spotify, visit the Spotify website. Click on Get Spotify at the top, and then on Get Spotify Free. Spotify will start to download – follow the directions to download and install it on your computer.

Once Spotify has been installed, open it like any other software – by clicking an icon or finding it in your applications folder. Spotify will ask you to log in with either your Facebook account or to create an account just for Spotify. If you don’t have a Facebook account, or you don’t want to connect your Spotify account with your Facebook account (you don’t have to), just create a Spotify account. Choose a username and password, type in your email address, and you’ll be good to go.

Spotify menuNow the fun starts! There are many things you can do with Spotify – we’ll cover some of the basics here. Check out the complete list of features to see everything you can do with this great online music resource.

Search for music. At the upper left, you’ll see a search box. Use this to find artists, songs, albums, or genres of music. You’ll get results separated out into categories; click on a title or artist to get to more information and to play music.

Playing music. When you’re on a page for a song, album or artist, you can just double-click on a track to play it. The playback controls are at the bottom of the screen. The wiggly arrows to the far right let you Shuffle and play things randomly, and the circular arrow Repeats a track until you move to the next one.

Put together a Play Queue. You can set up a play queue of music so you don’t have to search and play songs one a time. To set up your queue, search for music using the search bar. Once you’ve found a track, click and hold on the title and drag it over to the words Play Queue on the left. That adds the track as the next thing to play. Keep searching and adding to stack up hours of music at a time. Note: Your Play Queue is emptied every time you close Spotify. To make a more permanent list, create a Playlist.

Share! At the top of the screen for every song, album, artist or playlist, you’ll see the Share button. Click on that and choose whether to share to any Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr accounts you have. Log in with your social network username and password (don’t worry – Spotify doesn’t keep track of it) and share your music.

Start a custom radio ‘station.’ Look at the top of any page for the Start [a] Radio button to create a temporary radio station based on the music you like. Spotify will play music that it thinks matches the song or artist you started with. You can see all the stations you’ve started by clicking on Radio in the left menu; click on any of those older stations to play them again.

Play your Local Music. Click on Local Music to see everything you have on your computer. You can play these songs, add them to playlists, and share them to others just like all the other music in Spotify.

Playlist instructions on Spotify: The playlist is currently empty. To add to this playlist, drag a track to the playlist title in the sidebar, or right-click on a track, select Add to and select this playlist.Create Playlists. Playlists let you permanently collect music by theme, artist, genre, or any other category you want. To create a playlist, click on + New Playlist on the left, then type in a title. Follow the instructions on the screen to find and add music the same way you do for the Play Queue.

Subscribe to other people’s Playlists. You can also listen to playlists made by other people. Use the search bar to find playlists, then click on the playlist title to see the tracks on it. Click on Subscribe at the top to add the playlist to your list of favorites and listen to it whenever you want.

Neat stuff, huh? And this is only the beginning: check out the full features list and read the articles below for more.

Help & Resources

Scan It! – Mobile grocery shopping

Grocery shopping seems like the last place you’d be living life online, but new mobile apps are making it easier than ever to pick a few things up from the store.

Mobile shopping inside the store

Stop & Shop's ScanIt! appStop & Shop’s ScanIt! mobile app (iPhone & Android) lets you scan and check out using your smartphone, expanding the existing service using a store-provided scanner. With the smartphone version, you need to type in your Stop & Shop loyalty card number when you set up the app. Then, show up at the store, grab a basket or cart, and just start walking around. When you see an item you want, take a picture of the barcode with your smartphone and it’s automatically added to your virtual cart. Put the item in your real cart and continue until you’ve got everything on your list.

While you’re walking around, you’ll also get notifications of special deals available for items nearby on the shelves. Yes, it can feel a little creepy, but it might also give you a reason to actually try that new mustard that looked so tasty while you were grabbing the relish next to it.

To check out, go to a self-service checkout station and scan another barcode there. The app sends your virtual cart over to the checkout station, lets you add any items that didn’t have barcodes or need weighing, and then finish up and pay. You never have to take the items out of your basket or cart, which is a real time-saver for big trips.

Mobile shopping outside the store

Most supermarkets now have some kind of online shopping service, either for delivery or to pick up in the store. You visit the store’s website, place your order, pay for it with a credit card, then set up a time to get it.

Earlier this year, Peapod & Giant Foods combined the mobile scanning and online purchasing tools for an ad campaign in Philadelphia. At commuter rail stops and bus stops, they put up billboard ads that featured photos of popular items, with QR-style barcodes next to each one. While standing and waiting for your train, you scan the items you need and set up a time to have them delivered to your home or office. Simple, and brilliant.

In May, Peapod took it one step further and opened an entire virtual store in an unused subway tunnel in Chicago. I’m sure they got that idea from international supermarket company Tesco’s virtual store in a major downtown subway station in South Korea. Rather than just a few items, entire sections of the store are available to scan and buy.

List-making and coupon-information only

Peapod / Stop & Shop seem to be the only store in the US offering a full mobile shopping experience, but other stores have apps too. These apps send you weekly or daily deals, let you create a shopping list, and sometimes put that list in the order you’d find the items as you walk around the store. Definitely useful, but not quite as cool as doing the whole thing online.

How Is It Useful?

Stop & Shop’s ScanIt! streamlines the entire shopping experience by making you touch every item just once: you take it off the shelf, scan it, put it in a bag in your cart, and you’re done. One of the biggest hassles of grocery shopping – loading, unloading, and reloading a cart – is reduced from three steps to one, saving you lots of time on each trip.

Using your mobile device to order grocery deliveries lets you do that wherever you are, whenever you have time, not just when you’re sitting in front of a computer. Imagine combining two errands: waiting at the doctor’s office, you set up your grocery delivery for the following night. Especially if you often buy the same products, app-based online shopping is a breeze.

The other mobile apps still help speed up shopping by letting you create your entire shopping list ahead of time (maybe in that same doctor’s office), so that when you get to the store you’re ready to go. All that, plus the automatic notices of coupons and weekly specials, make for a much easier time all around.

Help & Resources