Category Archives: This Week on LLO

Facebook – Privacy Settings

Facebook Timeline

Note: We’ve moved the short look at Timeline that was here to a later post, with more details and suggestions. Check it out!

Facebook Settings

That said, with Timeline and other new features Facebook has developed, it’s more important than ever to understand the security and privacy settings on your account. So let’s walk through some of these settings and explain what they mean. We can’t cover every single setting, but we can look at the most important ones.

Facebook Settings menuUp in the upper right hand corner of every Facebook screen, you’ll see your name, the word “Home” and a triangle pointing downward. That triangle means that there are more menu choices. Click the triangle and you’ll see options for Account Settings, Privacy Settings, and the links to Log Out and get Help. [My account has a few extras, for Pages that I manage for other groups.] We’re going to skip Account Settings for the moment and look at Privacy.

 
Facebook Privacy SettingsPrivacy Settings. When you click on Privacy Settings, you’ll see a page that starts by reminding you that you can set the privacy level for every single post you make on Facebook. This is good to remember – you get to choose whether something you post is only visible to Friends, to a list you’ve created, or to the Public. Underneath that, you can set a default setting for all posts; I’d recommend by limiting everything to Friends to start with.

Underneath that are the more specific settings that you can control. Next to each one, click on Edit Settings to see what you can change. For most of these settings, you can choose to let different things (posts, tags, etc.) be visible to No One (but yourself) or Only Me, to your Friends, to all the Friends of your Friends, or let it be Public. I suggest you work your way slowly through the How You Connect and Timeline and Tagging settings, because they’re pretty easy to make decisions about.

Facebook Privacy SettingsNext are probably the most important settings to understand. The Apps, Games and Websites or Apps and Websites settings control what kind of information that sites and apps other than Facebook itself can see and use about you. These are called third-party apps and they include any app created by some company other than Facebook. Most of the games and ‘fun stuff’ in Facebook are actually these third-party apps, and you want to make sure that you only let them see the bare minimum of information needed to use them. A game doesn’t need to know your hometown and an app for the Washington Post doesn’t need to know what your address is.

Click on the Edit Settings link for Apps, (Games) and Websites and READ THE WHOLE PAGE that comes up before you click anything. Then, if you don’t use any games or other apps in Facebook, you should Turn off all apps. Once you click Turn off apps, many of the words on this page will turn grey and the settings will say, “This is disabled because you turned off all apps.” That’s good – this makes your information as secure as it can get. Nothing has access to it unless you permit it.

You might find that when you click on links that other people share, it asks you to let that app do something. THINK CAREFULLY before you click Yes. See the example of a Social Reader app that wants to know an awful lot about me before it will let me read an article someone posted. Do you really want to let this app work, and give it access some of your information? If you’re okay with that, go ahead and click yes. You can always change your mind later by visiting the Apps section of your Account Settings and blocking specific ones. Sample of Facebook App asking for permission it doesn't need

The last two Privacy Settings sections let you make your past posts more or less public (now that it’s easier to see them using Timeline), and to manage Blocked People and Apps. This is another good section to spend some time with, so you can stop getting those game invitations and friend requests from people you don’t care about. You can also add people to a Restricted List, so they can only ever see your public posts. You don’t need to unfriend them, but you can limit what they can see of yours.

[Note: This post has gotten very long – we’ll cover Account Settings in another post later this week. Take your time with the Privacy Settings for now.]

What’s the Big Deal?

So, why do all these apps want access to your information? Because they are businesses, and they are trying to make money by analyzing you and figuring out what you might want to buy from them. Yes, it’s all about advertising and selling information and stuff. We’ll talk more about this later on this month, but for now, just remember that any time you use a tool for free on the internet, it’s because You are the product being bought by advertisers and other companies.

Yes, there are a lot of settings you can change to manage your privacy in Facebook. It seems overwhelming, but it’s really a good thing. You get to keep as much control as possible over what information about you is shared on this social network, with and without your knowing it.

As always, the best way to learn about something is to play with it: take your time, read everything on the screen, and make sure you get help when you need it. For the rest of this month, we’ll look at other types of settings you should find and understand in all of your online accounts. If you have a Facebook account, start with learning these, and next week we’ll look at more places to keep yourself safer online.

Help & Resources

On “Knowing Enough”

For the month of April, Learning for Life Online will show you how to learn more about the settings and features of the tools you use online. We’ll start by exploring the new Facebook Timeline and the security and feature settings Facebook uses. After that, the next two sessions will cover finding and changing the settings on any online account, then finding and using Help for an online account or a real-life product you use. On the last Monday in April, we’ll wrap up any loose ends from the previous weeks and maybe have a spring surprise or two.

But before we start looking under the hood of all these online tools, let’s think about just how much we really need to know about these tools in order to use them.
 

Photo courtesy of Flickr user stephenliveshereFor most technology, you only need to know as much as the driver of a car. Get it started, send it in one direction or another, stop when you need to, get it fixed when it’s broken, understand the safety features and rules of the road.

That’s all, and that’s enough.
 
 

Photo courtesy of Flickr user therealkeltonSometimes, you might need to know as much as a mechanic. More about what’s going on under the hood, more about how it really works, more on fixing most of the everyday problems.

And that’s certainly enough.
 
 

Photo courtesy of Flickr user aero_gopherIn a few cases, you might even want to know as much as people who build cars. You’re thinking about how to create new features, solve complex problems, make improvements, get the most out of your tools.

That’s absolutely enough.
 
 
 

Photo and design courtesy of Flickr user smallritualThen, maybe – just maybe – you want to know as much as the designers of cars. You want to get the science behind it, understand the math that makes it go, create the art and beauty
of design, and learn the physical mechanics of construction.

This is more than enough, and more than most people would ever think of trying to know.
 

The point is, you don’t need to know exactly how a particular tool works in order to use it well. You may not understand everything about your car or DVD player, but you know enough to use it safely and well. The same is true for online tools – the more you know, the more efficiently and securely you can live life online. However, just by learning the basic rules of the road and understanding a few safety features, you can get pretty far. That’s what Learning for Life Online is here to help you with.

Next up, Facebook Timeline and the privacy and account settings.

I’ll Tumblr For Ya…

This week, we’ll finish this month’s ‘social finding and sharing’ theme with a look at Tumblr, a social sharing site that mixes blogging and image linking with great results.

What Is It?

Tumblr‘s tagline is Follow the world’s creators, and this visual feast lets you do just that. Tumblr is somewhere between a blog and a microblog (like Twitter): each tumblr site lets you share text, photos, videos, links, or whatever else you’d like smoothly and easily. It’s not meant for long, thoughtful posts (though there are some of those); it’s to help you quickly and easily share neat ideas and the inspirations you find online.

Each Tumblr has a different theme or subject, and all of the posts are about that theme. One stunning example is Things Organized Neatly, full of images of items and parts of things organized into groups or rows. There’s no “point” except to show off some beautiful photography and look at very ordinary things in a whole new way. Check out Dark Silence in Suburbia for an showcase of new and exciting artists, or Revolt Factory – “a collection of ideas that inspire change in culture, commerce and community.” The New York Times is even using Tumblr to repost older images from their archives.

Tumblr also has a simple “reblog” button that lets users quickly share things they find on other people’s tumblrs on their own. “The average Tumblr user creates 14 original posts each month, and reblogs 3.” says Tumblr’s About page.

How Is It Useful?

For people creating Tumblr blogs, it’s a simple way to share your own ideas or reblog other people’s posts. Artists can show new work, race car enthusiasts can share photos, photographers showcase their images, fashionistas offer makeup tips and reviews, and restaurant management students can show off the simple ingredients and meals they prepare. Anything you can imagine, you can put together a Tumblr about.

For groups, Tumblr has an easy submission feature to let the audience submit links for future posts. The submission page for the blog Eat Sleep Draw shows how easy it is. If you’ve got artwork made by you, you just upload the file, give it a caption, enter your contact information and click Submit. Now, you get more visibility for your art and images, and they get content for their site. Check out Designers of Tumblr for another gorgeous example.

If you don’t have an account, you can still search Tumblr for interesting ideas and beautiful images. Just visit Tumblr.com, type a word or phrase into the search box on the right and see what happens. You might find posts about libraries, recipes, football (or soccer in the US), trees, interior design or anything else that strikes your fancy.

Help & Resources

Just a little Pinterest

One of the hottest new tools for sharing online is Pinterest. It takes everything we’ve seen about sharing so far and makes it all visual.

What Is It?

Pinterest describes itself better than I could: “Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.”

Pinterest is based on an old-fashioned pinboard, used by designers and artists and anyone who works with images. You ‘pin’ images you like to your Pinterest page and organize them into whatever groups you like. Then, the images are always available for you to see and for others to discover.

How Is It Useful?

Since it focuses on images, Pinterest is good for any project or subject that is visual. Redecorating the house, planning a wedding or party, improving your wardrobe, planning travel, organizing recipes – if it’s got a picture, Pinterest is a good way to compare and keep track of it.

Imagine you’re decorating a room. As you visit websites and choose paint, pick furniture and find snazzy storage, you can pin pictures of what you like to your Pinterest board. Then, take a look at your board and see what you think of it all together.

Or, you’re a student writing a term paper on the history of another country. You need to create a visual presentation to go along with your paper, and you can use Pinterest to keep track of all the images you find while you’re doing your research. Then, when you’re ready to make your presentation, visit your pinboard and pick the pictures that work best together. Remember to give credit to the websites or photographers you got your images from!

This is what it can mean to live life online – everything is at your fingertips, ready to discover and compare. Fun, yes?

Try It Out

The best way to understand Pinterest is to browse through other people’s pinboards. Visit Pinterest.com and start looking around for things that interest you. See how other users have chosen and organized their pins, and what sorts of things work best for pinning.

Then, if you want to, sign up to get an invite to Pinterest. It’s still a new tool, and you need an invite to set up an account. Don’t worry, they’ll give you one – they want people to use it! When you get the invitation, follow the link they give you to create your account.

Once you’ve got your account, you can either add the Pin It! button to your browser’s toolbar (scroll up on the page for the button) or, if you have an iPhone, get the Pinterest app from the App Store. Then, whenever you find an image you want to add to your pinboard, you just click Pin It! and you’re done – move on to the next one.

Help & Resources

Finding Jobs & Careers Online

While we’re on the topic of finding things online, let’s look at some of the better job and career resources out there. From mechanic to teacher to nurse’s aid to architect, there are employment resources and job finding sites for every career.

What Are They?

Job listing/career sites tend to fall into three categories:

  • Job ads sites just have job listings – an online classifieds section.
  • Career resources may have some job listings, but they’re mostly there to help you with the skills of finding a job: writing resumes & cover letters, interviewing, networking and more.
  • Combination sites have lots of job listings and some skill-building resources, especially resume and cover letter tips.

Each type of site is useful, depending on where you are in your career and what your needs are right now.

Job Ads Sites

These online classifieds will give you tons of possible opportunities…and that’s it.

  • Craigslist.org – one of the most well-known places to find local job listings. There’s a special Craigslist for cities around the world, such as boston.craigslist.org. You can also find volunteer opportunities, internships and other non-primary employment listings.
  • Online newspapers – Most major newspapers have an online version and they still have their job classifieds.
  • Simply Hired – a new database of job listings, they also have average salary and job trend information.
  • Indeed.com looks and works like Google search, extremely simple to use and to save search alerts to be sent to your email.
  • USAJobs.gov is the official US government site for Federal jobs and employment information.
  • You can also look for job listings from organizations and associations. LISjobs is a national library job listing site; HCareers (Hospitality Works) covers any hotel or hospitality field, including cruise ships and resorts.
  • Different kinds of careers and fields have their own sites, like CoolWorks.com (“Jobs in Great Places”). Use a search engine to find sites for the jobs you’re looking for.

Combination Sites

Each of these sites has job listings, but they also have many articles on writing resumes and cover letters, interviewing dos and don’ts,

Career Resources

  • LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. It’s one way you can develop the connections you need to get recommendations and find jobs using those personal links.
  • About.com Job Search offers articles and resources for every part of the job search, from listings to acceptance letters.
  • Your local public library has many books, DVDs and online resources available to help you in your job search, and they may offer resume writing and interviewing workshops.
  • One of those resources may be Career Transitions, a career resources database that uses Indeed.com to find job listings as well. If your library has Career Transitions, definitely check out the Interview Simulator, where you answer questions and get feedback about your answers.

For Employers

If you’re not looking to find a new job, but to hire folks into your jobs, nearly every single one of these resources has something for you. Check out the listings sites for tips on getting good applicants using their site, and the career resources sites for thoughts on retaining good employees.

Help & Resources

Finding and Sharing…and Being Social

Last week, we took a look at using more traditional sources of news online to find neat stuff to share. Now, let’s look at the social news sites that make finding and sharing news a much more interactive experience.

What Is It?

Social news sites are places where users – anyone in the world – can post a news story that they’ve found online and share it. Then, other users get to vote on that story, making it appear higher or lower on the list of news items. In this way, the reading community decides what is more interesting or relevant. The same goes for any comments on a story – they can be voted up and down, depending on how interesting they are or what they contribute to the conversation.

Digg was the first general social news site to be well-known beyond the computer industry. It was also one of the first to introduce the “voting” feature. Digg now has Newsrooms specifically tailored to different topics. Read more About Digg.

Reddit (say the name out loud to get the joke) has been around nearly as long as Digg, and it still has the very personal feel it had at the beginning.

Slashdot was one of the first social news sites, focused mainly on science and technology. It’s still one of the go-to places for geeks to get their news, and the conversation in the comments is usually as good or better than the posts.

Fark is a social news site with the motto: “We don’t make news. We mock it.” Try Fark out if you’re a fan of sarcastic humor and weird news.

Now Public is a website for citizen journalists – everyday folks who actively try to find news near them and report it, especially when it doesn’t appear on big media like newspapers and television.

Newsvine was originally focused on political news, but has expanded to include any sort of news from around the world.

Social to Personalized

StumbleUpon is a site that lets you you vote on what you find, and then the site will suggest other stories based on what you tell it you like and dislike. It’s a great way to discover things you would never have known to search for on your own.

Pulse is a social news app for iPhone, iPad and Android that makes news visual. You can choose news sources to create your own personalized news reader from around the web. Read more about how Pulse works.

Digg has also added a customizeable section: the Newswire lets you fine-tune your Digg experience according to your likes and dislikes (not just the community’s). Get more of what you want by choose filters or seeing what’s Trending. (More about Newswire)

How Is It Useful?

Even on the web, major news outlets like newspapers and television news programs can only cover so much, and they don’t often point to all the fun and interesting things in blog posts, on image sites, and in little-known corners of the internet. Social news sites show that by distributing the work among millions of readers (otherwise known as crowdsourcing), much more information can be found and shared than if a single organization tries to do it all by themselves.

Help & Resources

Finding Neat Stuff Online

Last week, we described many of the ways you can share the interesting links, images and videos you find online. Before we look at some places to find that neat stuff, let’s answer a reader question first:

Why Share?

What’s the point of all this sharing? Who cares, and who has time?

Remember: the internet and the world wide web are just another form of communication, like a telephone conversation or a billboard. Just like you’d share tidbits from the news or a little bit of celebrity gossip with your friends and family on the phone or in a letter, you can do it online via email, a blog or in a social network. The chitchat hasn’t changed much, but now we can share the original works with audio and video, too.

Where to Find It

Searching for topics using a search engine like Google or Bing can give you hundreds of links to choose from. Fortunately, there are many sites out there that have gone through them and found some of the niftier ones.

Technology News – The New York Times has a great Technology section that covers new tools, gadgets and some of the culture of life online. The Personal Tech section and Gadgetwise blog focus on things important to regular folks, while the Bits blog talks about tech business. For everything mobile, check out the Mobile Apps index to articles.

Wired has been reporting technology news for nearly 20 years, and is still one of the best places to find what’s new. It and CNET are also fantastic places to get reviews of that new gadget you’ve been thinking about buying. (And then you get to play with your new toy!)

General News – Every major newspaper and news station worldwide has a website, but there are some web-only news sources. Search engines like Google have news searches built in to offer a wide variety of news sources. The Huffington Post calls itself “The Internet Newspaper,” and it is one of the biggest and longest-running, and Five Thirty-Eight is a political analysis blog focusing on election results. The Daily Beast is the online home of Newsweek magazine, and the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) is a good first stop for international news. Finally, BuzzFeed pulls hot news from hundreds of sources on the web, and it’s a great place to see what resources out there.

Interesting and Fun – There are more good sources of nifty things online than we can name, but here’s a shortlist of favorites:

  • Boing Boing is a geeky source of news and neat things (Note: occasional strong language)
  • Neatorama, also geeky, but without the edge. Just good fun.
  • This is Colossal showcases amazing images and videos of art and design. Highly recommended.
  • I Can Has Cheezburger is an extremely silly site, full of pictures of animals with funny or ironic captions often in LOL-speak.
  • And, best for last: Cake Wrecks, “When professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong…”

This is only the very tip of the “neat stuff” iceberg online. Next week, we’ll look at social news networks and “placeblogging” (blogs focused on places rather than people). In the meanwhile, please share any other sources that you enjoy.

Getting Social – Sharing the neat stuff you find online

When the internet began, the only way to share interesting information online was to copy and paste it into an email, or forward one email message around and around.

Nowadays, the web is built for sharing neat stuff. From social networks like Facebook and Google+ (G+) to video and photo sharing sites, it’s easier than ever to share the interesting links that you’ve discovered.

Copy and Paste

The easiest way to share a link is still to just copy and paste. At the top of your browser, you’ll see the address bar. Inside of that field is the web address or URL, usually starting with “http://www.[something]”. Click into that address bar and highlight the entire URL. Then, either click on Copy (under the Edit menu at the top of your screen) or use Ctrl-C or Command-C to copy the item.

Next, just paste the URL wherever you want to share it from – into an email message, into a Facebook status update, into a comment you’re writing, into a blog post of your own. Click on Ctrl-V or Command-V, or Paste from the Edit menu and the full URL will appear. No need to type it all out yourself; let the computer do the work of remembering all the numbers and letters.

If you’re a bit more comfortable with a mouse and are on a web page, you can right click on the link you want to share and choose Copy Link Location. This avoids the possibility that you don’t highlight the entire URL in the address bar before you copy it.

Sharing in Facebook

Sharing a link in a Facebook status update can be as easy as pasting a URL into a status update, but do get a few more choices. First, when you paste that URL into a status update, Facebook knows you’re linking to a web page and will add a little preview of that page, including the title, a bit of text and an image. You can get rid of the image by clicking the box next to the words No Thumbnail, and you can click on the preview text to delete or change any of it. You can also share to the public or to just your friends by changing the Audience drop-down on the post.

Sharing something that a friend posted on Facebook is even easier. At the bottom of the post, click on Share. Facebook will ask where you want to share this item – your Wall, a friend’s Wall, or in a private message to someone. Pick the destination you want and follow the steps until you’re done.

Finally, all it takes to share a photo or video via Facebook is to upload it. Click on Add Photo/Video at the top of the page, then either upload a single photo/video or Create a Photo Album to add many photos of the same event or thing. Walk through the steps and when you’re done, your photos or videos will be shared on your Wall or Timeline.

Sharing from Flickr or YouTube

There are two ways you can share a photo or video that you find online. Just above the image (in Flickr) or just below it (in YouTube), there’s a small Share button. Click that and either:

  • Copy the link that they offer you, just like you did in the address bar. Now you can paste that link into a status post, email message or as a link on a page.
  • Get the HTML/Embed code. This small bit of web page code will let you actually paste the video itself into a blog post, blog comment, or web page you create. If you’re not using one of those tools, don’t worry about the Embed code – just copy and paste the link itself. But if you are using a blog or working with your own website, try embedding the video instead. Copy the code they offer you and paste it into your blog post or comment. It should look like this:

Sharing Anywhere Else

Most websites and tools will let you share items in one of the ways described above. Before you just cut and paste the URL, look around on the page and see if you see a Share button to click. Try clicking and see what happens – the service will probably just walk you through the steps you need to share using either a link or by embedding an image or video.

A word of caution: If the service requires you to create a new account with them before you can share something, stop and pause for a minute. Ask yourself if you really want to create a new account just for this, or if just copying and pasting the URL is fine. You don’t need to create accounts just because a website tells you so. Remember that you get to choose what you do and don’t want to do online, including signing up for a new service. Pause, and decide what you want to do next.

Help and Resources

Next week, we’ll take a step backwards and look at how to find neat stuff online. Stay tuned….

Playing With a New Gadget

Welcome back to Learning for Life Online, the Boston Public Library’s self-directed learning program about online life. We’re starting up again after a brief hiatus by getting back to basics.

Courtesy of Imamon on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed
When you’re trying to live life online, it’s important to know how to play with a new online tool. It’s also important to know how to start using and playing with the gadgets that connect us to those online tools. Some gadgets are so easy to use that it’s no problem, and others require a little more work.

Here are some suggestions for getting started with a brand new gadget:

  1. Read the manual, but don’t try to read it all at once. Start with the list of What’s in the Box and the Getting Started or Quick Start sections. Go slowly, and look up any words that aren’t familiar. Read as much of the manual as you can before you turn your gadget on.
  2. Push the buttons Follow along with the manual, step by step. Learn what each button and setting does when you press it, one by one.
  3. Do the ‘driving’ yourself. If you let another family member or friend ‘set up’ your gadget for you, you won’t understand how it works. Try to at least get the basics, so you can troubleshoot any problems yourself. Do ask someone to go through it with you, if that helps, but push your own buttons.
  4. Be patient with yourself. You’re learning a new skill and a new tool. Don’t rush, and take breaks when you need to. The more time you take now, the more you’ll know from now on.
  5. Have fun! This isn’t school, and you aren’t getting graded. Learning how a new gadget works gives you the freedom to play, and gives you the power to make it do what you want it to (rather than the other way around).

Remember, like online tools, similar gadgets often work in similar ways. The Power button always turns it on and off. The volume controls will be the same everywhere, as will Play and Stop. Menu button will almost always get you back to your main menu of choices. Yes, some of these gadgets have a lot of buttons, but the basics tend to look and work the same way on all of them. If you knew how to operate a cassette Walkman, an iPod or other mp3 player will feel very similar.

Help & Resources

There are too many kinds of gadgets out there to list, so here’s a few good ideas for finding help about your gadget online:

  • Go straight to the company’s website. Type the full website address in at the top of your browser and hit Enter. Then, look for a link on that says Product Information, Support, Help, or Troubleshooting. Click on it, read the screen, and click the appropriate link.
  • Use a search engine to find information. Type in the full name of the gadget and the word ‘support’ or ‘help,’ then click Search. Lots of results will come up – look for ones from the company that made your gadget first, then try others. The first page of results will have the most popular links, which might be most helpful (if they’ve helped other people).
  • Ask someone else who owns one. A friend, a family member, someone you know from work or school. Even if they don’t know the answer to your question, the two of you might be able to sit down together and figure it out. That answer might be useful to them one day, too.
  • Use a search engine to find discussion forums about your gadget; search for the name of your gadget the word ‘forum’ or ‘discussion.’ This is a little more advanced, usually, because the conversations on these forums are often technical.

Learning for Life Online is Offline (until February)

First, Happy New Year, LLO readers! I hope that the holidays have been good to you, and that you’ve entered the new year ready to gear up your life online (and off).

Due to a variety of circumstances, Learning for Life Online will be on hiatus for the month of January 2012. On Feburary 6, 2012, we’ll return with a new look and even more tools for living a better life online. You’ll see the announcements on Facebook and Twitter, or just visit our site here.

Thank you for staying with us, and for your patience as we revamp LLO for 2012. Cheers!