Tag Archives: finding stuff online

Ravelry, a DIY knitter’s paradise

A short but important DIY post this week, LLO readers. This one’s for the fiber artists out there.

What Is It?

Ravelry logoRavelry is a social network and online community for fiber artists: knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers. Once you set up an account, you can post your projects from pattern to finished piece, and get all sorts of suggestions on yarn, technique, and great resources.

You do need to be a member to use Ravelry, but setting up an account takes only a minute or two. Just visit their main page and click on Join now!. Enter your email address and click on Send a signup link. In a few minutes, you’ll receive a link from Ravelry to finish creating your account. Click on the link and then enter all of the information they ask you for.

For more information and Ravelry news, check out their blog.

How Is It Useful?

My usual answer to this applies – “You can keep everything about your projects in one place, online, accessible at any time from anywhere” – but there’s more to Ravelry than that.

  • Connect through comments and discussion forums with other fiber artists from around the world
  • Find technique help, pattern suggestions, and yarn recommendations
  • Get encouragement and support for your projects – post updates and photos as you work and when you’re done
  • Use the growing number of mobile apps that work with Ravelry to update and work with your account wherever you are
  • Check out Ravelry’s video tutorials for more walkthroughs of their features

Next week on Learning for Life Online, we’ll take a look at some DIY sites for musicians, sound engineers, and special audio effects artists of all sorts. See you then!

Etsy, a DIY Marketplace

Let’s take another look at a resource we introduced in our Supporting Small Businesses, Online post.

What Is It?

Etsy logoEtsy is a crafter’s dream come true, an online craft fair with artists and suppliers from around the world. Everything from handcrafted jewlery to dollhouse miniatures, from custom dresses to funky towels for your bathroom – you can find pretty much anything crafty on Etsy.

Etsy was created to help individual artists and crafters sell their work online. Etsy provides the online store and conducts the payment transactions, letting the crafters focus on making their work and shipping it to the people who buy it. Later, sellers started offering supplies like yarn, beads, fabric, patterns, and even vintage pieces for altering. It’s truly a DIY one-stop extravaganza!

Buying and Selling on Etsy

In order to buy or sell anything on Etsy, you do need to sign up for an account. Signing up is easy – just choose a username and type in your email address – and free. It’s only when you actually buy or sell anything that you need to enter credit card information or use your PayPal account. (Make sure to check out our Tips for Safe Online Shopping.)

You can find things to purchase in a few ways:

Once you’ve found something you like, read through the notes from the seller to see the details. Sometimes they need measurements to make something custom to your size, sometimes you need to let them know what colors you’d like, sometimes you need to pick and choose from a variety of pieces listed in the same place. Read everything, give them the information they need, and then you can purchase your item and enter your shipping information. The seller will ship directly to you, usually within a week for ready-made items and longer for custom work. Once you’ve gotten your item, you can leave feedback about the seller about how wonderful (or not wonderful) they are.

If you’re crafty and want to set up an Etsy shop to sell your stuff, it’s just as easy as setting up an account to buy. You can set up your store for free, then Etsy will charge you fees as you list items for sale and as people use the site to make purchases. You do need to choose what kind of payment you can accept – PayPal and credit card purchases are the easiest for your potential buyers.

How Is It Useful?

Etsy isn’t ‘just another place to buy crafts online.’ They are trying to help independent crafters and small businesses of all sorts to be part of the global marketplace, pushing their reach around the world. As Etsy’s About page says, “Etsy is the world’s handmade marketplace. Our mission is to empower people to change the way the global economy works. …We are bringing heart to commerce and making the world more fair, more sustainable, and more fun.” If how and why an item is made is important to you, then Etsy is the place to go.

Help & Resources

Mmmmm….Yummly

Happy 4th of July!…a little early. For the month of July, Learning for Life Online will higlight tools that help with party and travel planning. From holiday BBQs to potlucks to block parties, from a day trip to a two-week vacation, online tools can make organizing people and things easy as pie.

For those last-minute recipes for 4th of July cookouts, let’s start with the best recipe-finder I’ve seen: Yummly.

What Is It?

Yummly logoYummly is a specialized search engine just for recipes. You type in words to search for – “avocado salad” – and then let Yummly deliver you hundreds of recipes that match those terms.

Limits for searching on Yummly.comThat would be useful enough, but Yummly uses limits – called facets – to let you narrow the list of results down to exactly what you’re looking for.

Use the top two fields to find recipes that do or do not have specific ingredients by typing next to the minus or plus signs. Click on and slide the grey dots under Taste to choose the flavors in your recipes. Like salty food? Slide the Salty facet over to the right. Hate Spicy food? Slide the Spicy facet all the way to the left. Leave any that you don’t care as much about in the middle at No Preference.

Blow these facets, click on the boxes next to Allergies and Diets to find recipes that are good for people with those needs, and use the sliders under Nutrition to find healthier options. Other limit options include specific budgets, courses, time you to prepare, holidays and more.

For all of these facets, click on the box or pull the slider to change the option, then click again or pull the slider another way to change them back. You don’t need to redo your search or use the Back button to get back to where you were.

The search results down the middle of the screen list the ingredients for easy choosing, and each recipe has a star rating for quality. Click on a dish to see the whole recipe with instructions and nutritional information. Email yourself the recipe for later use, or print it out.

Each recipe has a suggested number of servings, but if you need more or fewer, just change the number in the box and click on Change. The recipe quantities [should] change to make the new number of servings. [Note: as of post time, this feature wasn’t working quite right. We hope it comes back soon!]

You can do all of this without signing in or creating an account, but if you set up a Yummly account, you can also Favorite and Save recipes, add ratings, and do many other things.

How Is It Useful?

Just imagine: you’re cooking dinner for 6 friends, one of whom is a vegetarian and another who has a gluten allergy. You are allergic to tomatoes. You’re serving roast chicken, but you need help with the side dishes and an entree for your vegetarian friend. Search on the word “pasta” or “salad,” then use the facets to find vegetarian gluten-free recipes to complete your menu. Add any ingredients you have already, and exclude anything with tomatoes in them. What would have taken many searches using different recipe sources online (like Epicurious or Food Network) happens in minutes using Yummly.

Try It Out

Cooking for the 4th? Or just looking for some new ideas? Search for your favorite kind of food and use the facets to quickly limit the results down to exactly what you’re looking for. If you find a great recipe, share the link in the comments below! If you really want to use Yummly as an online kitchen helper, sign up for an account.

Help & Resources

Two Neat Google Tools – Street View and Art Project

For our last May post, let’s look at a pair of online tools that could be useful if you’re traveling over the summer: an online map that shows you not just the streets, but the view as you drive down them; and a series of guided tours to a variety of art museums and galleries from around the world.

What Is It?

Google Street ViewGoogle Street View is a feature of Google Maps that will let you see what would be around you as you drive a route you’ve plotted out on a map. Several years ago, Google began driving vans with 360-degree cameras on top through major cities and towns, recording the view from the street. Then, they connected these street views to Google Maps, so that travelers could see what was around them as they drove or walked from place to place. Now, all you have to do is visit Google Maps, type in an address or get directions, and then use Street View to see what the route will look like when you’re there.

Google Art Project menuGoogle Art Project takes the technology created for Street View and brings it inside a growing number of art museums and galleries. Using the Google Art Project, you can “visit” a gallery from the comfort of your computer screen, wherever you are.

How Is It Useful?

When you’re planning a trip, it’s easy enough to find out what roads you need to take, but what if there’s a hidden entrance or a missing sign? By using Google Maps, and then looking at the Street View for your route, you can see landmarks and other useful details that no road map would ever show you. It’s like taking a practice drive before you have to do it for real, and can help prevent frustrating mistakes.

In order to decide where to visit, get a preview of a museum’s collections at the Google Art Project site. Walk through the galleries and see what sorts of art and sculpture are on view, then decide if you want to visit. Students can use the art project’s views to find out more about different artists or specific pieces of art, to help with projects or to study techniques to try on their own.

Try It Out

Getting to Street ViewStreet View: Go to Google Maps and type in the address of a location near you that you know well. (Or, take a look at the Boston Public Library’s Copley Square location) Once you’ve found your location on the map, click on the icon of the little orange person on the left and drag it to a street on your map. That activates the Street View, and you’ll see what that section of street looks like.
 

Navigation circle in Street ViewClick on the white arrows at the bottom of the screen to move forward and backwards, right and left. Click and drag the image to “turn” the camera and see what’s around you. Use the small street map in the lower right corner to keep track of where you are. You can also use the circle at the top left of the map to look around – just click on the arrows or grab the N (for North) and drag it around the circle to change direction.
 

Google Art Project sidebarArt Project: Go to the Art Project website and just start exploring. You can click on Collections, Artists, or Artworks up at the top left to view all of the images, organized differently, or you can click on that little orange person in the top left to only see the museums that have Museum View available. Try out the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City and walk around its galleries for a while. Again, click on the arrows to move forward and backwards, and click and drag on the image to see what’s around you.

Use the icons on the left side of the screen to discover more art similar to the piece you’ve found, to add an image to your own gallery, to share what you’ve found out to social media, and to view a slideshow of art in the collection you’re in. Click on the plus sign on any piece of art to find out more about it, or click on the word Details.

Help & Resources

Where’s My Bus? How’s the Traffic? – Transit Information Apps & Websites

As the weather gets warmer and we spend more time outside, more people are out on the roads and on public transit. There are many tools to help keep tabs on when the next bus or train is due, and on traffic conditions everywhere. Some are websites you can visit from any mobile device or a regular computer, and others are apps for iPhones, Android phones, iPads and more. Since Learning for Life Online is based in Boston, we’re going to look at Boston-are resources, but there are similar tools for most areas of the United States and around the world. See the Help & Resources section at the end for more information.

Public Transit Apps & Sites

If you’re in Boston, the main public transit system is the MBTA, known as the T. Here are some tools to help you track buses & trains, or to figure out the best way to get somewhere by T.

    MBTA app center

  • First, start out at the MBTA website from your computer or smart mobile device. They’ve got a good trip planner, alerts about problems on the different lines, and a list of apps you can use to see bus & train schedules or to track them in real time. We’ll list a few of the apps below, but there are many more at the site. (Website, free)
  • Where is the T? is a mobile-friendly website (not an app) that gives real-time information about the Red, Blue and Orange lines of the subway system. Just visit the site on your phone or tablet, choose your line, and you’ll see icons for each train and when it’s due into the next station. Tap on a station name to see all the trains due into that station in both directions. Simple and easy. (There’s no information for the Green line because it doesn’t use the same tracking system as the others. Boo.) (Website, free)
  • NextBus is a website that does the same for all the bus lines. Visit the site, then choose the MBTA from the list of transit systems. Pick your bus route number, direction and stop, and you’ll get predictions for when the next two buses will arrive. You can also see them on a map. Each prediction page can be bookmarked for easy access later. (Website, free)
  • TLeave is an extremely simple and mobile-friendly site for the Commuter Rail (services from Boston to other cities in eastern Massachusetts). Select your commuter rail line, a starting and ending stop, and what day of the week it is, and you’ll get a list of all the trains that will get you where you need to be. Note: this is not real-time information, just a schedule list. (Website, free)
  • Catch the Bus is an app for any smart mobile device. You can see a list of routes, a map view for any particular route, get predictions for stops, and save stops to a list of favorites. (App, costs $0.99)
  • Boston Bus Map is an Android app that you can download to your phone and customize for the buses you take most often. Choose the route, set your favorite stops, and then just tap on a stop to see the arrival time for the next bus. (App, free)
  • Pocket MBTA is an iOS (iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch) app that works the same way for Apple devices. Pick your route, pick your stop, and get predictions and real-time information with a tap of the screen. (App, free)

Traffic Apps & Sites

  • Mass511 is a website from the MA Department of Transportation (MADoT) that has real-time traffic information across the state. You can visit the website and see a color-coded traffic map, or use the Android app or mobile website on your smartphone. (Website & app, free)
  • SigAlert (formerly SmarTraveler) is a website that shows real-time traffic speeds for all major roads in Boston and many other cities around the country. Just visit the site on your computer or mobile web device and choose an area by city or by road/route number. If you go by road number, you need to know what exit ramp you’re nearby to find it on the list. Note: This site now has banner ads at the top. Don’t click on them. (Website, free)
  • Google Traffic

  • Google Maps has a traffic option that lets you see how fast or slowly traffic is moving on your route. When you use the site to get directions, just click on the Traffic menu on the right side of the map to see traffic speeds in red, yellow and green. (Website, free)
  • Bing Traffic

  • Bing Maps has the same feature, right on their main page. (Website, free)
  • Both CBS Boston and Fox Boston have apps for Android and Apple products that include traffic updates from these local news sources. (App, free)
  • Traffic Boston is an Apple app that uses the MA Department of Transportation traffic cameras to actually show you traffic conditions at locations around the city. It doesn’t give you speeds or additional information, but it does give you a live view for right now. (App, costs $0.99)
  • Once you’ve gotten where you’re going, PrimoSpot will help you find parking for your car or bike. Visit the site or download the app, then choose what kind of parking you’re looking for (on-street, garage or bike rack) and type in the address you want to be near. (For the app, you can just find what’s nearby.) See nearby places to park, and tap on a location for more information and useful photos. Highly recommended, and also good for New York City and Seattle. (Website & app, free)

Help & Resources

Finding and Using Online Help

Out in the wild world online, getting help using a particular tool is often up to you. However, using help centers, support pages, live chat, and discussion forums, there are many ways to figure out how to make things work the way you want them to. These suggestions are good for using online tools, but also for using the help resources available online for home & personal electronics, appliances, tools, and other gadgets we use.

Getting Help from a Website

Where’s the link? — The link for a site’s help section is usually in the upper right or lower right corner. Sometimes, it might be along the bottom edge (with links to About Us, Contact Us, etc.) or very occasionally in the regular menus at the top or left. The link to the help section is frequently near the links to the account settings, which we found last week.

LG products knowledge baseOn the site’s home page, take a look for links to Help, Help Center, Support, Support Center, Customer Care, Getting Started, or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). A site might use any of these to link to their help section. If you see the words “Knowledge Base,” that’s a fancy way of describing a way to search by a product name or number to find information about that one thing.

What will I find in the help section?
The first way that a website usually offers help is through a Getting Started or Setting Up Your Account page. These pages give you step-by-step instructions for creating an account, changing the settings, and learning the basics of using the site. Many sites include a video that shows you how things work in real-life.

After you’ve used the site for a bit, you probably have a few questions. So do many people, and websites usually have a list of Frequently Asked Questions to offer answers. As the title suggests, these are questions frequently asked about how to use a site or tool, and often include problems that users frequently run into. Each question is answered briefly, with examples or screenshots when needed, and occasionally by linking to another section.

For more complex questions, or ones that aren’t asked as often, the help section will list other topics, arranged by category. These sections are often organized from signing up for an account, through using the basics, to more advanced features and troubleshooting. Work your way through the categories as you learn to use the site or tool

While you’re there, take a look to see if the site offers tutorials, training or other suggestions for learning how to use a site or a real-world gadget. For examples, see Microsoft Office training and DIY videos from Home Depot and Lowe’s.

In most help sections, there’s a search field just for the help section. When you’re searching Help, try to use the same words to describe things that the site or tool does. If you need help on Facebook Pages, type “facebook pages” into the search field. Be specific, and use just a word or two to get started.

Zappos.com live chatFinally, some larger companies will offer live chat with a support person through their help pages. If you’d prefer to talk to a real person, at any point, try turning it on and asking your question. When you’re using chat, you don’t have to worry about misunderstanding what someone says on the phone, and you can occasionally save the chat for later.

If I Can’t Answer My Question There, What Next?

Search the web, especially if you have a strange error code. Copy the error code and paste it into a search engine like Google or Bing – make sure you include the software you’re using or the website you were on. Then click search. Read through the results list and look for words like answers, forum or discussion. These indicate places where people go to talk about software and technology, and often ask each other questions to get help that way. Also, look to see if anyone else has had the same problem and written about their solution somewhere, in a blog or Facebook post.

Use discussion forums to ask your question and get answers. If you’re really getting stumped, look on the service or tool’s website for customer discussion forums, or look for other ones online using a search. These forums are places where users get to ask questions, search to see if someone else has already asked their question, and hopefully get some useful answers. Take a look at any of the Google product forums or Apple product communities for an idea of how these work.

If you have a blog or a Facebook account, post your question where other people can see it. Again, other people might have had the same problem and might have found a solution for it. You never know until you ask, right?

Help & Resources

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