Tag Archives: finding stuff online

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.

Copyright vs. Creative Commons licenses

This week on Learning for Life Online, we’ll take a quick look at the idea of copyright, and how the idea of protecting your creative work has been changed by the internet.

What is Copyright?

In the United States, copyright exists to keep people from copying someone else’s work and either claiming it as their own work or making money from selling or licensing that work. There are exceptions for fair use for commentary, criticism, and research and educational purposes, but in general if something is protected by copyright, you can’t copy or reuse that content. Copyright was intended to protect the ability of writers, artists, filmmakers, and other creative professionals to make a living doing what they do.

The U.S. Copyright Office has a great Frequently Asked Questions page to explain the basics; you can also read the entirety of U.S. Copyright Law online. Students and teachers can learn more about copyright and education from the Library of Congress.

What is Public Domain

Creative works that are not under copyright are in the public domain. This means that it is okay to use or reuse any part or whole of that work however you’d like. Most texts or images created before 1923 in the United States are in the public domain and are freely available, but there are many rules about what is and isn’t in the public domain.

What is Creative Commons?

Making text, audio, video and photos available on the Internet has made it easier for creative professionals to share their work, and it also makes it easier to copy and reuse that work. Creative Commons is an organization created to find ways to let creative professionals maintain ownership of their work and give permission for others to use or remix that work in specific ways. They do this by writing up Creative Commons licenses – legal documents that spell out what other people can and can’t do with content. A creator putting their work up on the internet can choose which Creative Commons (CC) license they want to use, and link to it from wherever they’ve put their content. Then, if someone else wants to use that content, they can click through and read the license to know what’s okay.

To understand what CC licenses will and won’t allow, there are a few terms that need explaining. Flickr provides some good definitions:

  • Attribution means: You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work – and derivative works based upon it – but only if they give you credit.
  • Noncommercial means: You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work – and derivative works based upon it – but for noncommercial purposes only.
  • No Derivative Works means: You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.
  • Share Alike means: You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that you released your work under.

You can also watch and hear what Creative Commons means to creators in their own words. For more, check out an entire page of videos that explain Creative Commons and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions page.

Why Does It Matter?

Why does all this matter?
Because ignoring copyright – using someone else’s protected work without their permission – is wrong and illegal in the U.S.
Because getting permission from creative professionals who want to give it should be easy and obvious, to encourage sharing and remixing whenever it’s allowed.
Because some excellent things come from sharing and remixing content online: music mashups combining different songs, video mashups that bring together different television and film snippets (for instance, an alternate ending to Back to the Future), tools like Tumblr and Scoop.It, and more.
Because as you learn how to live a life online, understanding these two points of view make it easy to be a respectful, ethical, law-abiding online resident. Whether you create content, reuse it, or simply enjoy it where it is, it helps to keep everyone on the same page – virtual or not.

Help & Resources

Search and Maps

Now that we’ve covered the main tools used by the Learning for Life Online program, let’s get to some of the other basic tools of the web.

What Is It?

Search: A search engine is any site that helps you search for other websites based on words you choose. Google, Bing and Yahoo! are the three most popular search engines (right now), but there are many others.

Maps & Directions: One of the most useful resources online, searchable maps provide current information and step-by-step directions from wherever you are to wherever you’d like to get to. They’ll even help you get from the Boston Public Library to Tokyo, Japan, provided you can “kayak across the Pacific Ocean” (steps #26 and #42). Google Maps, Mapquest, Bing Maps, Yahoo! Maps and others are part of the major search engines. Rand McNally and National Geographic are two print publishers who also provide searchable online maps.

How Is It Useful?

Search engines are the only way to find anything on the internet. That might be a slight exaggeration, but it’s mostly true. There are millions upon millions of websites out there, and there is no comprehensive “directory to the internet.” What’s interesting is that each search engine uses a slightly different way to find sites and show results, so if you want to make sure you’ve found everything about a subject that’s online, use as many search engines as you can to go looking.

A paper map is great, but online maps have a few advantages. First, they can be updated much more quickly than published paper maps or even map software on your computer. Second, they can provide street maps, aerial views of buildings and landmarks and street-level views for the same location, to help make finding a place in real life extremely easy. Better still, type in the address (or general location) you’re coming from and where you want to go and you can get turn-by-turn directions on how to get there. You can add multiple locations and create a personalized road trip itinerary.

Try It Out

Using a search engine or a map is as easy as typing into the search bar and clicking Search. Try any of the ones below, and remember to click on buttons to see what happens next, especially on the maps. Search for different combinations of words about the same topic or location and see how the results change. We’ll cover some advanced and specific search techniques in a future Learning for Life Online post.

Google | Google Maps
Bing | Bing Maps
Yahoo! | Yahoo! Maps
AOL | Mapquest