Tag Archives: play

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

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

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.

The Only Constant is Change

We’ll be taking a short break from ebooks this week to talk about one of the skills necessary for living life online: being comfortable with change.

“Nothing but change endures.” Whether we know this quote from Heraclitus or Isaac Asimov, it still rings true…and nowhere more so than online. Everything we’ve seen about online life so far – the flexibility, the social nature, the connection to technology, the possibility for innovation – are things that encourage change, and occasionally require it. Even more than with cars or electronics, the internet makes rapid and continuous change not only possible, but relatively easy to do.

For those of us used to a world made of bricks and mortar, this kind of change can be surprising and uncomfortable. When you visit a store every day, you don’t expect to walk up one morning to a completely different storefront with doors in new places, a new way of ordering, changed packaging, and brand-new (and maybe younger and faster) employees. You walk in the door and realize you don’t know where anything is, don’t know where to find what you want or how to even begin looking for it, and you feel that the staff don’t understand why you’re confused. In these brick and mortar stores, you can usually see the changes as they happen: the scaffolding and construction, the “big change coming” signs, employees saying goodbye to their regulars before they leave.

And yet, that’s precisely what it can feel like to have an online service you use all the time change its website overnight. You wake up one morning and everything you finally have gotten comfortable with has changed….again. It can be frustrating, can make you feel like you don’t know how this stuff works after all, can cause you to throw up your hands and walk away from the machine.

Don’t.

Don’t walk away, and don’t give up.

Take a deep breath, remember that you do know what you’re doing, and go back to basics. In our very first post on Learning for Life Online, we talked about playing with new online tools. These same skills are what will help you now.

  • Read the screen and see if the site has a link to a list or a video about “What’s new!, or maybe a new help section to walk you through the changes.
  • Once you’ve found that list of what’s new, push the button and watch the video or click on the link to the new features list. Then, try out one new thing at a time and see how it works.
  • Take your time and don’t be afraid. Yes, things have changed, but rarely does a website or service change absolutely everything all at once. You’ll recognize what’s familiar from the previous version and can focus on how it works differently now.
  • And a new one: don’t panic. It took you time to learn the old features, and it’ll take some time to learn the new ones, but probably not as much time as you think it will. All those changes will probably make the site easier to use and help you do what you want to do, so give them a chance.

Also, don’t believe the myth that the “younger kids who’ve been doing this forever” are any more comfortable with change than you are. They aren’t, and every time a service they use and have customized to be just the way they want it to be changes, they complain and get frustrated just as much as the rest of us. And then, like the rest of us, they get used to the changes and keep on going.

So, why have we taken time to talk about being comfortable with change this week? Because several major websites/services have announced updates and new features in the past two weeks that will have an effect on millions of people.

Facebook changes a little, then a lot

In late September of 2011, Facebook users woke up to yet another series of changes: their Most Recent feed choice was replaced by a Top Stories feed that missed half of what they wanted to see, their lists of friends and acquaintances were different, the login and stuff on the left side of the screen had moved around again, and there were different choices and settings that needed to be updated. That morning, most Facebook posts seemed to be about how much they hated the new look and feel, but that anger died down by mid-day and now, two weeks later, it’s all but gone. (For some history, the same thing happened in 2009.)

What many Facebook users didn’t realize is that these changes were the first step towards a much, much larger change, coming later in October. You can watch the full announcement and demonstration of the new Facebook Timeline, but in short, it’s a visual way to display all of your posts, photos & videos, apps, and anything else you want to share on Facebook. You can customize the look and there are new features that let you “curate the story of your life.” Mashable.com has several articles summing up the little changes and the big ones to come.

Amazon Kindle ebooks finally available through your local library

Ever since public libraries began to offer downloadable ebooks through their online branches, users have been asking, “…but can I get some books for my Kindle?” For a very long time, the answer was No, but last week, that changed. Now, Amazon Kindle users can check out library ebooks if their local library uses the Overdrive ebook and digital audiobook service. Once you find a book in your library’s ebook collection (check out the Boston Public Library’s for example), you check it out using that system and then seamless move over to your Kindle account to download it. This is a huge change because now the millions of Kindle ebook users can now check out library books. Awesome.

Boston Public Library’s online catalog gets personalized

Earlier in 2011, the Boston Public Library got a new online catalog, and overall the response has been really positive. Just today, the company who manages that online catalog updated the page you see when you first log in, to make it easier to see the important information (what’s checked out & when it’s due) and recommendations and ratings made by the people you follow. Check out this short video about all the changes to the online catalog for more information.

Summing Up

One of the greatest strengths of life online is that it’s easy to update and improve on the services and tools that we use there. However, this means that those services and tools will change, and we must change with them….or find new tools. Change isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard or scary or frustrating. We can learn to roll with changes and maybe find that the new, improved thing is actually better. But you’ll never know if you don’t give it a chance.

Help & Resources

Playing with online tools

Just like any other tool, the best way to learn a new online service or website is to play with it. Push the buttons, click the links, enter some information – it’s by using a tool that we figure out how it works and how it might be useful to us.

Here are some guidelines to work with:

  1. Read the screen. Most times, all the information you need about using a site is right on the screen. Even if the page is cluttered, take your time and read from top to bottom and left to right. If something big jumps out at you, read that first and then start at the top left. No, you many not know what all the words mean now, but you’ll figure it out by using the site and looking up a few things later. Keep a notebook or paper handy to write down words to look up later.
     
  2. Push the buttons. Just reading the screen alone won’t teach you anything about how the tool works. Carefully, deliberately, push a button or click a link and see what happens. Did the page change? Did a new box or choice show up? Did you go back to a page you’d been on before? Take a moment and read the new screen to see how it relates to the previous one. Work your way through different pages and options one by one.
     
  3. Take your time. If you’re learning a new tool, find 15 minutes or a half hour to slowly work through it. Don’t rush, and don’t click blindly — that won’t help you learn.
     
  4. Don’t be afraid. You can’t really break anything on the internet. Even when you accidentally delete an email, there’s often an Undo option right there, so you can change your mind. You also can’t share any information that you don’t type in, so don’t worry too much about your privacy. It’s by slowly learning a tool that you also learn how to use it safely and well.
     
  5. Do the ‘driving’ yourself. Watching someone else navigate through a site is good, but doing the clicking yourself is much better for learning. Work with a partner if you’d like – someone else who’s learning – and take turns at the keyboard and mouse. You’ll both benefit from the workout.

When you get a new car, phone, or refrigerator, you use what you know about how these things work and figure out what the buttons on this model does. It’s the same with online tools. Once you’ve seen how one works, you’ll learn the next one more quickly, and the one after that even faster still. The goal of Learning for Life Online is to make using those first few tools a little less intimidating, and then to introduce you to the best of the rest that’s out there waiting to be found.