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    Top Ten Web Tools of 2013

    January 6th, 2014

    oldtools

    This is the sixth time I have compiled a list of the top ten web tools I have used during the year. I am finding it interesting looking back over 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and 2012 which tools I still use and which have fallen by the wayside. My 11th tool would be Delicious, which I have started using more, but certainly not as much as the other tools listed below.

    10. Dropping one place to number ten is Speakerdeck. I replaced my usage of Slideshare with Speakerdeck in 2012, and in 2013 I continued to use Speakerdeck as a platform for sharing my presentations. It drops a place, mainly as I did fewer presentations in 2013, so as a result used the service less than I did in 2012

    9. Dropping one place from 2012 is WordPress which is number nine. I still use the blogging software for my blogs. I like the flexibility it offers and it certainly works for me. However as I did less blogging in 2013 than in did in 2012, though still a useful tool, I was using it less. I still think the only thing that is missing for me is a decent mobile client or iPad app.

    8. Flipboard falls a couple of places to number eight. The main reason it falls is more down to Google than Flipboard. Google retired Google Reader and I was using that service to feed Flipboard. Though I did manage to import my Google Reader subscription into Flipboard, I am finding it slow to refresh and of course much more difficult to add new sites to the feed. I do need to spend some time working out how to maximise my use of Flipboard as a news reading tool, as when it works well, it works really well.

    7. Climbing three places to number seven is Evernote, the online note taking tool. Since changing jobs in the Autumn, I am using Evernote more than ever. A really useful tool for making notes and syncing them across devices.

    6. Instagram drops three places back to number six and I know that part of the reason was that in 2012 I used Instagram everyday as the main way of posting a photograph a day. I didn’t do that in 2013, so used Instagram less. I did try though and improve the quality of my images in 2013. I have decided to return to the photo a day thing in 2014, so will now be using Instagram much more than I did last year.

    5. Dropping three places to number five is Flickr. Whereas in 2012 I added 1300 photographs to Flickr, in 2013 it was a measly 635. I also used Flickr extensively for finding photographs for the blog and for many of the presentations I gave this year.

    4. Climbing three places is Chrome, which is now my default browser on my main computers. Even though I use it a lot, I do use it alongside other browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer. What I do like is that I can now sync my browsers across different computers and different devices. Using the Google Nexus 7 I can now see and open the tabs I was using on the iMac or the laptop. I also like how I can do the same with Chrome on the iPad. Great when you want to refer to a site, but either can’t remember the URL or how you got there.

    3. Climbing one place to number three is the Twitter. I use Twitter almost every day for checking out news, links, travel reports and interesting stuff. I certainly don’t have the conversations on there that I have on Google+, but when they do happen they are useful and interesting.

    2. Dropping one place to number two is Dropbox. It isn’t social, but I use it every day and in some cases all day. Dropbox is a fantastic tool, in the main because it works! It was interesting switching to a Windows PC for a few months in the new job how my usage of Dropbox stopped and I was using an USB stick of all things! In the previous nine months though I did use Dropbox extensively and it was a really useful tool. It just works, to the point it is transparent and it never gets in the way of me doing my stuff, which is as it should be.

    1. In the top spot for 2013 is Google+ climbing four places from number five. There are two core reasons for the rise of Google+, mainly more people used in in 2013 than they did in 2012, but in my new job it’s an integral communication tool for sharing links, news and views across the group.

    So that’s my top ten web tools for 2013, what were yours?


    The Real Generation Gap

    August 27th, 2013

    So how do people across different age groups use social media? An infographic that explores the differences in how various age groups use social media. As you might expect the teens do dominate social media, but it’s interesting to note that it is in the main adults who are using Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest.  This is certainly something to consider when using social media to support learning in a college environment.

    The Real Generation Gap


    Experimentation and Exploration – ocTEL

    April 9th, 2013

    Google+

    Activity 0.3 of the ocTEL MOOC asks

    Experiment with and/or reflect on different ways of communicating with fellow ocTEL participants.

    I have been using most (if not all) the different ways to communicate and chat with fellow ocTEL participants. I have posted and responded using the ocTEL JISCMail e-mail mailing list. I have posted to the Twitter and replied to other participants. Similarly I have done the same with the ocTEL forums. I have posted links and discussed using Google+. Finally I have posted blog posts to my blog (this one) and responded to blog postings from other participants.

    What forms of reflection, challenge and learning do each of these do best?

    How do they support relationship forming and community building? Is that important for learning?

    Which do you prefer and why?

    Each form of communication for me meets different needs.

    For me the blog is an ideal place for reflection, well more posting my reflective thoughts. I actually do most of my writing in a word processor (Pages) on my Mac and then copy and paste into the blog. I have also made an effort to add an image to my blog posts. Partly so they stand out when linked to from in Google+ (and Facebook) but also so they add a visual identifier to those reading the blog posts and then trying to find it again.

    I wonder if the ocTEL course reader would pick up the images in a similar manner to Google+ and Facebook.

    Though people can post comments to the blog, one of the reasons I have posted the links to Google+ is that I find the discussion on Google+ is much more of a level playing field. My blog is mine and as a result I see it as a one to many form of communication. It’s not a place for community discussions, its a place for me to share my thoughts with others. What Google+ allows is a many to many communication. The Google+ community that was formed (sorry not sure who did that) makes it much easier to manage.

    I have never felt Twitter is an ideal tool for conversations, it’s so much more of a broadcast medium. However it has worked for me as a discover tool using the #ocTEL hashtag. It is possible to have a chat with Twitter, but the 140 character limit makes more meaningful conversations much more of a challenge. This is where Google+ comes in, as there is no character limit.

    As an active member of the ILT Champions mailing list and ALT-Member list, I would have anticipated that the ocTEL JISCMail e-mail mailing list would have been an ideal mechanism, and it would feed direct into my e-mail client. However the huge influx of e-mail to the list resulted in lots of people complaining and asking to be removed from the mailing list. The fact they were adding to the problem was completely missed by them! I found so many of the postings were “complaints” that in the end I stopped reading the mailing list. I am hoping that after the dust has settled that it becomes more useful.

    I think one of the real challenges is using any form of communication tool to build a community. Very often the 1% rule comes into play. I am seeing similar engagement on this MOOC.

    From my initial observation the rule does seem to be applying on the ocTEL course. The tools are been used, but not by most of the course participants. Will that impact on their learning? Well they will certainly lose a lot of the value that the interaction and engagement that these tools bring to learning, which will be a pity.

    I am disappointed that we’re not making more use of video and audio, we’re not seeing participants creating short videos or podcasts.

    Of all of the tools I use, I much prefer using the blog for posting and sharing information, however for conversations the winner for me is Google+, it works and is much more useful and flexible than the Twitter.


    Top Ten Web Tools of 2012

    January 30th, 2013

    Imaginarium in Bristol

    I did mean to post this back at the beginning of January, but missed my own deadline. However I have found my previous top tens from 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 useful so decided to get this article done.

    This is the fifth time I have done this, it covers the web tools I use on a regular basis and it’s those that make a difference to the way that I work. These are not necessarily tools that I see as important for learning technologies, no these are the tools I use.

    This is an e-learning blog and I should really mention Moodle, I use Moodle everyday as part of my day job, however I see this more as an institutional service rather than a web tool. I use it every day, but in a management perspective, rarely if ever, use it myself for the purpose it is intended for. Help lots of people though to use Moodle. Anyway onto my top ten web tools of 2012.

    10. Evernote stays at number ten, I do use this very regularly, but certainly not as effectively as I would like. Having said that I do like how I can access my notes on any of my devices. I like how I can make audio notes, and use the camera on the iPad and the iPhone to capture handwritten notes. One feature I didn’t like very much this year was the integration with Skitch, I didn’t really want my Skitch captures in my Evernote notebooks. Another feature I think is missing from Evernote is a clever way of doing “to do” lists. I am using it in a smarter way now and I will usually look at it on a daily basis.

    9. Coming in at number nine is Speakerdeck, replacing Slideshare. Slideshare in a slightly foolish in April brought in a 10MB limit on uploaded files. Most of my presentations, which I do in Apple’s Keynote, use a lot of images and are often quite large and often nearer 100MB than 10MB. So I looked for an alternative and was reintroduced to Speakerdeck. I found that I actually preferred Speakedeck (less advertising for example) and the online embedding and interface seemed to work better. I wasn’t actually that bothered about my presentations been on the Slideshare website, as I in the main used the service so I could embed the presentations on my blog and in the college VLE. Speakerdeck to me is now the better option for putting presentations online and for embedding. Should be noted that Slideshare backtracked and changed the limit back to 100MB. I also like how you can add an mp3 file to Slideshare, something that is “missing” from Speakerdeck.

    8. Holding at number eight is WordPress, I still use the blogging software for my blogs. I like the flexibility it offers and it certainly works for me. I think the only thing that is missing for me is a decent mobile client or iPad app.

    7. Chrome enters at number seven. I do use Chrome on my Macs and (now) my Windows PC at work. Even though I use it a lot, I do use it alongside other browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer. What I do like is that I can now sync my browsers across different computers and different devices. Using the Google Nexus 7 I can now see and open the tabs I was using on the iMac or the laptop. I also like how I can do the same with Chrome on the iPad. Great when you want to refer to a site, but either can’t remember the URL or how you got there. Safari does something similar via iCloud, but you need Mountain Lion and iOS 6, which I don’t have on every device.

    6. Flipboard falls two places, this iPad app makes it so easy to read RSS feeds and engage with social networks. It’s not that I use Flipboard any less, more likely I am using it more, but other tools have climbed the list because of changed or extended use. Flipboard is my primary RSS reader and in many ways I also use it to browse Twitter and Facebook. The iPad app has made it so much easier to flick through and browse the news, the social news and even images. I’ve not really used the iPhone version yet, but the iPad is a key way in which I can keep up with what is going on.

    5. Google+ drops three places to number five. I do like Google+, it reminds me so much of Jaiku, however as with any social network, the key and the value is the community. Though there is a great community there and I have had some great conversations, it doesn’t have the spread or depth that you find on Twitter. I find it a great place to share ideas, links and stuff; it’s just a pity that not enough people think likewise.

    4. Twitter, which was number one for a couple of years, drops a place to number four. There are days when I use Twitter all the time and days when I forget it even exists. It was also the year that Twitter finally allowed you to download your archive of Tweets, which was an interesting experiment. As with all social networks the key is the community and the conversations, they are still there on Twitter, there is certainly a lot less spam then there use to be.

    3. Instagram climbs three places to number three. I made a determined effort to use Instagram with my #366photos project, where I took a photo a day using my iPhone and Instagram. I did managed to do that so now have a nice collection of 366 photographs. I do like the social aspect of Instagram and I enjoy seeing the stuff that other people post. There was a little bit of a glitch with the proposed change in terms of use, but I think I will still continue to use Instagram.

    2. Flickr, also climbs three places. Even though I was using Instagram more than I was the previous year, I was also posting those photographs to Flickr too. I see Instagram as much more a social network than a photography tool, whereas I use Flickr more as a tool than a network. I did add over 1300 photographs to Flickr in the last twelve months. I also used Flickr extensively for finding photographs for the blog and for many of the presentations I gave this year. For 2013 though I expect to use it a little bit more, in the main with the update to the iOS app which makes it much easier to upload to Flickr from the phone, pity there isn’t an iPad version of the App.

    1. Dropbox is again my top web tool, making it two years running. It isn’t social, but I use it every day and in some cases all day. Dropbox is a fantastic tool, in the main because it works! I use to really love the concept of Apple’s iDisk, but it never worked for me, either it was too slow to be a useful cloud storage, or if syncing seemed to sync either really slowly or would forget to sync! Even it’s replacement iCloud hasn’t managed to get anywhere near the usefulness of Dropbox, fine with Apple apps, but it’s less useful when using other applications. What I like about Dropbox is that it is fast and reliable. So much so that if I have to move files from my laptop to my desktop on my home network, I usually use Dropbox as it “appears” to be faster than trying to move a file between shares across the network, and Dropbox moves the file via the internet… Virtually all my working files are now on Dropbox and I have it installed on my home and work machines. I use it for sharing files across my mobile devices and for sharing files with others when e-mail doesn’t cut the mustard. The main reason Dropbox is my number one web tool is that it just works, to the point it is transparent and it never gets in the way of me doing my stuff, which is as it should be.


    Standards and Formats

    October 25th, 2012

    Not quite the venue, but quite close....

    Today I delivered a presentation at The 12th Annual Ebooks Conference in Edinburgh in Scotland. Flying up from Bristol, just for the day, I gave a 40 minute talk (with questions) on a layman’s guide to ebook standards and formats.

    One thing I wanted to get across, was that many of the problems that causes users to have problems with their devices is because of wider issues. These wider issues impact on format problems.

    EPUB, Mobi, PDF, iBooks – what does it all mean for readers of digital content? This session takes a layman’s look at proprietary formats and standards in ebooks helping us to make sense of it all.

    Obviously in 40 minutes it was challenging to cover everything in detail, but one thing I did do (which I hadn’t done for a while) was live tweet references, URLs and pictures as I was presenting.

    I used Keynote Tweet 2 which is a little Applescript that tweets the text from the notes field from a Keynote presentation. I used it for the first time when I delivered the Ascilite 2009 Keynote.

    When Twitter moved from basic authentication to OAuth this broke Keynote Tweet.

    Using this guide, I installed Ruby, used twurl instead of curl and today it worked.

    What I like about Keynote Tweet is that it is perfectly timed with the presentation timings, no need to set up or automate tweets in advance.

    Overall I was pleased with my presentation and the rest of the day was interesting and there was a fair bit to think about as a result.