Tag Archives: blogs

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…

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

Food…Glorious Food!

Last week’s post on copyright & Creative Commons was a little heavy, so let’s lighten it up this week on Learning for Life Online! It’s fall in New England, the time of year when the scent of wood smoke, crisp leaves…and soups, stews, pies and casseroles is in the air. Are you looking for Thanksgiving recipes, tips or tricks, or even looking to get ahead on the winter holidays? Harvest a few ideas from the online bounty of food-related tools!

Web Sites & Resources

Epicurious, Food Network, Rodale’s Healthy Recipe Finder, Allrecipes.com and Recipe Source all feature searchable databases of recipes. Type in something you have in your fridge and see what you can do with it! Recipes can receive ratings, garner user comments, and be shared and printed with ease. Recipe Source is currently featuring its collection of Halloween recipes if you still need a spooky salad or two. From any recipe on the Rodale site, click on “Add to Shopping List” and you can easily figure out what you need to get before you can cook.

The Joy Kitchen is the online home of the Joy of Cooking. They don’t have the complete contents of the books online, but the site is full of tips & techniques and featured foods. America’s Test Kitchen / Cook’s Illustrated has multiple sites, depending on what you’re looking for. You can start by reading updates to the America’s Test Kitchen feed (there’s a great post about making salted caramels) or watch episodes of the show online, then register for free to read the recipes. If you like what you see and read, you can try a free 14-day trial to the Cook’s Illustrated site, with all the product reviews and advanced recipes.

Cookstr.com is a “collection of cookbook recipes online.” You can browse and search their collection of recipes, or sign up with an email address and have a recipe mailed to you each week. It’s an interesting combination of blog and recipe database, and worth checking out.

Blogs

There are thousands and thousands of cooking blogs out there, but let’s feature just a few:

A Year of Slow Cooking chronicles daily experiments with crockpotting. From crockpot hot chocolate to turkey cutlets in mango salsa, there’s something for every palate and taste. For an added bonus, many of them are gluten-free!

Simply Recipes has a worldwide directory of food blogs, including Habeus Brulee, written by a New York cook and “occasional restauranteur.” Not only does she cook and post mouth-watering recipes, Habeus Brulee also also has an oustanding blog roll of food blogs; skim down the right-hand column to your stomach’s content.

Cooking for someone with an allergy or special dietary need? Here’s just a few to get you started.

Mobile Apps

The most useful place to have a food app is on your mobile device, for checking recipes in the store and on the go. Most of them will both search recipes and help create a shopping list; choose your favorite and give it a whirl!

Introducing….the Cloud

First, a note: Last week, I said that we would talk about buying music online and introduce “the cloud” in this post. As I wrote, I realized that it was too much information and should be split in two. So, this week we’ll introduce the cloud and next week we’ll talk about buying any kind of downloadable media – ebooks, audiobooks, music, videos and more. Thanks, and on into the cloud!

Cloud Computing Explained

What Is It?

The short answer is that “the cloud” is just a group of computers that store information and run software and applications for you, without you having to own or take care of those computers. You can access the information or use the applications from any device with an internet connection, and can upload and download your stuff from wherever you are.

This is what makes the cloud so useful – suddenly, you don’t need a powerful, expensive computer to do some really neat things. If you buy music, videos or books, you can keep them online and have them wherever you need them, but not require a lot of storage space on your own device. If you use multiple computers for work, you can put your files somewhere where you can get to them and not have to keep saving or emailing different versions back and forth. If you’re a small business, you can even rent a part of someone else’s powerful computers just for the space and time it takes you to do what you want, saving on business costs.

How Is It Useful?

Over our lessons, we’ve seen several tools that involve the cloud. All of them are made more useful because you can access them from anywhere. For a few examples, look at:

All of Amazon’s digital services now offer the option of saving either direct to a computer or to their Cloud Drive, so you can access your music and videos from any device you own. (More on this next week when we talk about buying downloadable media.) This fall, Apple introduces its iCloud service: if you use Apple devices, you can move files off of your computer and up to the cloud, where they are stored and easily shared between your Mac computer, your iPad and your iPhone. Everything you need, all in one place, accessible with whatever device you have in hand. Useful, eh?

In our previous post on music libraries, we mentioned that new tools are out there to let you see your home music library remotely. Yup, you guessed it – this is part of the cloud, too, but a private part that you can control.

Services like Subsonic and Spotify can be used like other music library programs, and also let you securely access your home music collection from remote internet-connected locations. (Spotify is also a source for streaming music, as we mentioned in our online radio post.) As long as the computer that stores your music is on and connected to the internet, you can log in to the service you use and play your tunes wherever you are. You can also choose to share your collections with friends and family by inviting them in. Note: You are not making your music collections public, unless you change the privacy settings to make that so.

Try It Out

You’re probably already using part of the cloud and didn’t realize it. Do you have Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or another web-based email service? That’s the cloud – you’re not storing those messages on your computer, someone else is storing them for you. Use Flickr or Picasa for your photos? Same thing. Has someone shared a Google Document with you, a spreadsheet, document or presentation? Also the cloud.

If you have an iPhone or an iPad, you’re using the cloud all the time. The cloud is what makes it possible for the iPad to be so small and lightweight and yet be so powerful. And, in the fall of 2011, Apple is going to officially launch its iCloud service to bring the cloud to all Apple devices.

The next time you use a mobile or web-based service, think about what parts of it might be in the cloud and what parts live on your computer or phone. The answer will certainly surprise you.

Help & Resources

Blogs and Commenting

Learning for Life Online tool #1:
The Learning for Life Online blog (and website)

What Is It?

So, what is a blog, anyway? Blog is a contraction of web and log, and a web log is a series of posts (articles) displayed on a website in reverse chronological order, with the most recent at the top. That’s it — nothing too fancy. This post that you’re reading right now is part of the Learning for Life Online blog.

How Is It Useful?

Originally developed as online diaries, blogs have become a way to share information about almost anything in a format that’s easy to read and follow. Blogs are more useful and interesting than websites because readers can add comments that create a conversation between the original poster and anyone reading along. Blog posts are easily shared by copying and pasting the web address, by sharing directly through social media like Facebook and Twitter, and by subscribing to a blog’s feed (a stream of new blog posts is sent directly to your email or to a service like Google Reader).

In fact, a blog is such a good format for sharing information online that many websites now use many of their features on all of their pages. Newspapers are a great example, where every article encourages comments and sharing. In fact, some websites started off as just a blog and have added other pages as they’ve grown.

Try It Out

There is a blog out there for every topic you can think of: recipes, diy fashion, gadgets, book reviews, opinions and more. Use a search tool like Google, Bing or Yahoo to find blogs on topics you’re interested in. Make sure to look for posts with dates on them to know you’ve found a true blog.

Reading a blog is as easy as finding one and scrolling down the entries. However, some definitions may make things easier:

  • The Home link will get you back to the main page of the blog, where the most recent entries are. You can also click on the title of the blog to get you there.
  • The About page usually describes the who the author is or what the blog is about.
  • Categories or tags are ways to organize a blog’s content by topic. Think of categories as chapters in a book and the tags as posty notes on individual pages — quick ways to find something you were looking for. Click on a category or tag link on the side of the blog to read more entries about those topics.
  • Subscribe will sign you up to have the latest posts on a blog sent directly to you by email or RSS.

Commenting on a blog post or article is as easy as typing in the comment box below the post, but you may also need to prove that you’re a real person by typing in a reply to a captcha. Be patient with these; captchas protect blogs from automated spam comments that may be obscene, selling something, or linking readers to a malicious site.

Starting a blog is as easy as signing up with a blog platform like WordPress or TypePad and writing your first post. Before you do, consider who you want to write for, what you want to write about, and how much time you have for keeping your blog fresh and interesting. Try reading and commenting for a while before you commit to maintaining a blog. In a future Learning for Life Online lesson, we’ll highlight some Best Practices for Blogging.

Easy, right?

Help & Resources

Wikipedia article about blogs
Common Craft video explaining blogs
Technorati, an excellent place to find blogs to read