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Archive for May, 2009

“Open Internet” tools series – Chapter Three: bit.ly

The following is the third in a semi-irregular series of posts on Internet tools and utilities.  Today’s tool is truly one of my favorites!  It will help you both communicate and track information (as well as make Web addresses shorter):  bit.ly

It’s hoped that these tools will make your “screen time” hours more efficient and productive, rather than more numerous.   All the tools featured in this series have the following in common:

  • They are available “free” on the Internet (although an initial sign-up, also free, is usually required)
  • They have some utility in the world of the Internet, education, and libraries
  • I, personally, use each of these tools regularly

3:  bit.ly

  • Example of how I use it: http://bit.ly/nbm7P
  • My first use: February(?) 2009
  • How and why I use it: If you want to make a URL shorter, there are many options.  First, though, why would you want to make a URL shorter at all?  Well, there’s Twitter and other instant messaging/microblogging services that only allow you a limited number of characters; a long URL can easily take up an entire Twitter post (140 characters max).  Also, sometimes long URLs “wrap” in e-mails, making it difficult for the recipient to re-create your link.
  • How:  Using any of the URL-shorteners is simple; you just go to the site (tinyurl.com is the “granddaddy,” and still very popular) and paste your “long” URL into the window, and click on a button.  I find bit.ly to be superior for this purpose because a) it keeps track of all your links (once you’ve setup an account, which takes maybe 15 seconds), b) most importantly, it tracks how many clicks(!!!) each link gets, as well as when and where they came from, in real time, and c) it seems to keep getting better and better!  (Just one example:  In the short time since I started using it, they’ve added the total number of clicks for each URL to your “main” page (see my example above) as well as “previews” of where the links lead).  At a certain level, I could see a personal bit.ly account serving as a “poor person’s delicio.us,” that is, an easy way to keep track of where you’ve been on the InterWeb, while sharing selected sites (it has a direct interface with Twitter and other 2.0 utilities) with your online buds.
  • Drawbacks:  Not too many (and they may have fixed these by the time you read this) but, it is occasionally (certainly not regularly, like Twitter!) unstable, especially as it has to do with “metrics,” i.e., the numbers, timeline, and demographics of your links.  (It would also be nice to get more systematic metrics, e.g., the TOTAL number of hits all your links got, but that is probably asking a lot for a free service?!?)

Previous tool:  Netvibes

Tool for next time:  drop.io

“Open Internet” tools series – Chapter Two: Netvibes

The following is the second in a semi-irregular series of posts on Internet tools and utilities.  Today’s tool will help you both organize and communicate information:  Netvibes.

It’s hoped that these tools will make your “screen time” hours more efficient and productive, rather than more numerous.  The posts in this series give info and background on a few common “open” Internet tools.  All these tools have the following in common:

  • They are available “free” on the Internet (although an initial sign-up, also free, is usually required)
  • They have some utility in the world of the Internet, education, and libraries
  • I, personally, use each of these tools regularly

2: Netvibes http://www.netvibes.com

  • Example of how I use it: http://bit.ly/8h24b
  • My first use:  early 2008
  • Purposes for which I use it:  Netvibes is free “portalling” software, that is, a utility to bring together resources and web pages and so on, and store and display them all in one spot.  Once you create an account, it has both a “public” and “private” side, so if you want to organize some private pages and resources and bookmarks, you use the “private” side (visible to only you), while the “public” pages can be used to easily share and showcase information with others. Netvibes is so versatile and easy to use, that, for the course linked above, I basically used it in lieu of a course management system!  Most of the student’s work was posted there, although I couldn’t, of course, post grades.  Also note, that I gave the students perhaps five to ten minutes of instruction on how to do the basics (click on “Add Content,” then “Essential Widgets” gets the basics)
  • Biggest drawback:  It IS one more thing to remember to check, but, if you have a specific Web communications purpose (such as creating a rudimentary personal e-portolio) you will remember…

Have other thoughts?  Other tools?  Post your comment below.

Previous tool:  Google Docs

Tool for next time:  bit.ly

 


“Open Internet” tools series – Chapter One: Google Docs

The following is the first in a semi-irregular series of posts on Internet tools and utilities.  We’ll start with a well-known, yet oft-misunderstood tool:  Google Docs.

I hope one or more of the featured tools might be of use to you.  These are written from my particular professional vantage point, i.e., that of a librarian, teacher, and manager.  Note that I do NOT necessarily view myself as a technophile; rather than spending hours pounding on the computer, I’d really rather be reading a book or baffing golfing balls.  Thus it’s hoped that these tools will make your “screen time” hours more efficient and productive, rather than more numerous.

The posts in this series give info and background on a few common “open” Internet tools.  All these tools have the following in common:

  • They are available “free” on the Internet (although an initial sign-up, also free, is usually required)
  • They have some utility in the world of the Internet, education, and libraries
  • I, personally, use each of these tools regularly

  1. Google Docs http://docs.google.com
  • Example of how I use it:  http://bit.ly/RO6Kd
  • My first use:  late 2007
  • Purposes for which I use it: Post syllabus, shared editing of documents, easy net-based display of documents (especially good for presentations, a.ka., “powerpoint”)  Good for students sharing their work with me or with each other.  If you have a Netbook, or other laptop, you could easily replace MS Office with this far-reaching set of tools.  Way easier to use than a Wiki!
  • Biggest drawback:  Well, you are storing your work on Gooooogle… if you have qualms about this, that’s fine, but I’m amazed by people who rail about the evil Google owning the world, while they carry laptops with $500 copies of MS Office… and they’ve never sent Google a dime.

Have other thoughts?  Other tools?  Post your comment below.

Tool for next time:  Netvibes!

 


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