Tag Archives: google

Opening the algorithms: Could we use open analytics?

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Do you remember when the Google algorithm wasn’t that good, well it was good, but today it’s better!

Many years ago if you searched for a hotel on Google, so you could find out if there was car parking, or to find the website for the restaurant menu, the search results most of the time were not the hotel website, but hotel booking sites offering cheap hotel rooms. Pointless if you already had a room, and all you wanted to know if you had to pay for car parking, or what time you could check out. The problem was that the hotel booking sites worked out how the Google search algorithm ranked sites and “gamed” Google search.

Today, the experience is very different, the algorithm usually results in the actual hotel website being the top hit on any search for a specific hotel.

Google had worked on the algorithm and ensured what they saw as the correct search result was the one that was at the top.

One thing that many people don’t realise was that Google not only worked on the software behind the algorithm, but that they also use human intervention to check that the algorithm was providing the search results they thought it should be. If you wonder why Google search is better than search functions on your intranet and the VLE this is probably why, Google use people to improve search results. Google uses people to both write the algorithms and to tweak the search results. Using people can result in bias.

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So if we are to use algorithms to manage the next generation of learning environments, the intelligent campus, support for future apprenticeships and data driven learning gains, how can we ensure that we recognise that there is bias? If we do recognise the bias, how do we mitigate it? Using biased algorithms, can we make people aware that any results have a bias, and what it might mean? If we are to, like Google, use human intervention, how is that managed?

The one aspect of Google’s search algorithm that some people find frustrating is that the whole process is secret and closed. No one, apart from the engineers at Google really knows how the algorithms were written and how they work, and what level of human intervention there is.

So if we are to use algorithms to support teaching and learning, could we, by making the algorithms open, ensure that, we remove some of those fears and frustrations people have with a data approach? By making the algorithims open could we ensure that staff and learners could see how they work, how they learn and why they produce the results that do?

Could we go one step further and allow people to edit or even create their own algorithms? Allowing them to make suggestions on how they could be improved, creating new analytics that could benefit the wider community.

Is it time for open analytics?

Thank you to Lawrie Phipps for the conversations we had after the Digital Pedagogy Lab: Prince Edward Island conference and this blog post.

Top Ten Web Tools of 2013

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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?

Top Ten Web Tools of 2012

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.

Top Ten Technologies of 2012

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.

So what’s in the top ten for 2012 then? Well these are technologies that I actually use, they exclude web tools and services which I do a separate top ten for. They are generally tools that make my life easier, more efficient and more productive.

10. BT Infinity FTTC drops seven places to number ten, not because it wasn’t great and useful, but I moved in June and my new place couldn’t get FTTC so I couldn’t use it anymore. This is a top ten for 2012 and for the first six months of the year it was great and since moving back to ADSL I realise how much I depended on it. It is looking like there is very little chance of our cabinet getting upgraded in 2013, so I expect not to see FTTC in the top ten next year.

9. The Blue Snowball Microphone would probably have been higher this year, if I had used it more. I use it for recording podcasts, for doing online presentations and voiceovers. I love the way it records sound and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a decent, but not super expensive microphone. The main downside is that the size of the microphone makes it less than ideal for taking to events and carrying in a bag. However the quality of recordings means that I am more keen to use this then any other microphone.

8. The iMac is my workhorse computer, the one I do big things on such as movie editing, managing my photography collection, writing, large spreadsheets, desk top publishing and so much more. It is very much my truck when it comes to computing, but it isn’t that portable… The main downside with the iMac is the size of the hard disk, and I might replace it with a larger drive, but I am quite intrigued by the newer model, the one with the fusion drive.

7. My Google Nexus One is now three years old and is in terms of phones quite an old phone, almost an antique… however I do use it all the time. Mainly for tethering, I am grandfathered into an unlimited tethering plan from T-Mobile so loathe to get rid of that SIM… However it is also a great phone, and most of my Android apps work just fine on it. The big change for my was Froyo, that turned the Nexus One from an interesting phone to an useful phone. Sadly it is now stuck at Gingerbread, and Google have said that they won’t add any future updates. I think I will be replacing it this year, with what though I am not sure. One of the reasons I haven’t upgraded it was purchasing the Google Nexus 7.

6. iPhone 4 drops to number six, the main reason was iOS 6.0 which thought brought many useful features, also removed some too (looking at you Maps). I kept thinking about upgrading the phone to initially the iPhone 4S and then the iPhone 5, but though there were some nice features, to be honest none were really “outstanding” enough to make me upgrade. The iPhone 4 is still a great smartphone and was what the iPhone should have been from day one. The camera is excellent, and great for taking stills and video. The retina display still astounds me in terms of the visual quality. It’s fast enough and apps open smoothly, for a phone that will be three years old this year and I still think of it as a modern phone! Using the iPad and the Google Nexus 7 a lot this year however has made me appreciate the larger screen space that is severely lacking on the iPhone. If I have a choice then I will not use the iPhone and move to a tablet. The key question is will I upgrade this year to the iPhone 5 or the 5S, it might be time for a change.

5. Google Nexus 7 comes straight in at number five. If I didn’t have an iPad and was ensconced into the iTunes ecosystem of apps, music and films, then I think this would be much higher, possibly even number one. I didn’t think I would like the form factor, but it just works, in the main as it fits in my jacket pocket. As a result when going out I have access to a tablet device and don’t need to carry a bag, which I would need to do if I took the iPad. When the iPad mini came out and was available to play with in the Apple Stores, you would have laughed as I went to have a play and then tried to fit it into the inside pocket of my jacket, so see if it would fit in the same way that the Nexus 7 does. Was challenging as the iPad mini was cabled to the table! The main downside of the Nexus 7, well the version I have, is the lack of 3G, so I need to use wifi; it’s not too bad as I then use the Google Nexus One for tethering or free wifi in coffee shops. The screen is great and movies, books and apps look really good. The main downside for me is writing on the tablet, as the on screen control buttons are at the bottom of the screen, when I type I find that too often I hit the “home” button and drop out from what I was typing.

4. Apple TV wasn’t in my top ten last year, what made a real difference this year was AirPlay. Though I liked using the Apple TV for playing and streaming my iTunes content and showing photographs on my Mac, what I liked more was been able to stream content from my iPad and the MacBook Retina to my television. Having lost FTTC one aspect of the Apple TV I do miss was the ability to stream content I had purchased direct (again) without having to download it again, or move it back into iTunes. I think the Apple TV could do with apps, where is BBC iPlayer for example? Also no 4OD or ITVPlayer. If the Apple TV had these apps then it would be even better than before. There was a new Apple TV released in 2012 which plays 1080p content, mine is the previous model to this which does 720p content. Not sure if I would notice the difference, so didn’t upgrade.

3. The 15” MacBook Retina was almost an impulse buy to utilise the remaining part of a budget. My existing 13” MacBook Air that I use at work was then reallocated to another member of staff. I did miss the thiness and lightness of the MacBook Air, as the 15” MacBook is much bigger and heavier. However though I was expecting the screen to be good (having used retina displays on the iPhone and the iPad) I didn’t realise how good it was going to be. The retina screen is incredible and I was really really impressed with it. In my job I do read a lot of text and often I would print it out, I now read a lot more on the MacBook then i did on the previous model. It’s incredibly fast and very powerful. Part of me thinks maybe I should have waited for the 13” MacBook Retina, but I actually like the larger real estate of the 15” screen.

2. The 11” MacBook Air I have is now a couple of generations behind now, but it is still a really superb piece of kit. It’s fast, well it has an SSD inside, it’s light, the battery still lasts a decent amount of time (the 13” had a much better battery life, but the 11” is a lot more portable). It is the laptop I take with me to events and conferences. I think I probably could survive with the iPad for most events, however on the train and at the events I find I am typing a lot more. I did a fair bit of conference reporting last year and having a reasonably decent keyboard made it much easier. I have used a Bluetooth keyboard with the iPad, but even then the challenge is moving the content back to the desktop computer. If I had all my devices running the latest versions of OS X and iOS then I might be able to take advantage of iCloud, however they’re not, some are running Lion, one is running Snow Leopard! I do use Dropbox, but that doesn’t work in the same way on iOS as it does in OS X, as a result I would get multiple copies of files, something that adds to administration. The other reason for using a “proper” laptop with a “proper browser” is that some websites, including my WordPress blogs, don’t work particularly well on mobile Safari, and I’ve still yet to find an iOS app that works the way I need it to for WordPress. So though I really like the iPad, it doesn’t always do what I need and how I want to do it, for those reasons I use the MacBook Air.

1. For the third year running the iPad is my top technology. Well not quite true. The first iPad was my top technology in 2010 and 2011, even beating the iPad 2. This year’s top technology is the third generation iPad, the one with the better camera, faster chipset and retina screen. I certainly feel silly taking pictures or video with the iPad, it certainly lacks the ergonomics of a camera device. However the quality of the video on the iPad is pretty good. I was quite surprised that Apple released a fourth version of the iPad during 2012, but it’s not an upgrade I think I will make from the third generation iPad I have. I do like the retina screen, but when I first saw it, I wasn’t that impressed with the screen, but once I had one and used it everyday I was totally won over. I’ve always preferred paper for reading, until I started using the iPad retina for reading. Even I am surprised by how I now much prefer the iPad for reading over paper. Combined with the MacBook Retina my use of paper as declined considerably. If you read my reasons for making the MacBook Air number two, you might think why and how did the iPad beat it. It’s true the iPad is not a perfect device, and there are shortcomings when it comes to writing and file management. The file management side of things is awful, in theory that is solved when you use iCloud, but the reality is that, that can’t be a reality for me, well not yet. I have too many legacy items of kit I use for my different workflows. Some applications don’t work on Lion or Mountain Lion, so I need an older operating system, and of course iCloud doesn’t work on them. Also using various web systems such as WordPress and Moodle means that you need a proper browser, also there are various websites that I use that just don’t work as they should in mobile safari. Having said all that there are lots of reasons why I find the iPad such an useful device and has a real positive impact on how I do stuff. For example, I find the iPad one of the best devices I have to deal and process e-mail, it’s fast and very effective. I also like how the Calendar works and integrates with the e-mail; this is all through Exchange by the way. The browser (despite some shortcomings) is perfect for that quick browsing you do on the sofa, in meetings or at conferences. Using Chrome as well means that I can sync across various machines, well I know I can do that too with Safari and iCloud, but I think I have explained why I don’t do that, well not often. I do like the app ecosystem, I use a variety of apps for lots of different things. The apps I use on a regular basis include Flipboard, Evernote, Keynote, Pages, iMovie, iPhoto, Snapseed and then there are the games too. I have found it, using iPhoto and Snapseed a great device to use alongside my Canon DSLR, using the camera adapter I can import the photographs into the iPad and then edit them in iPhoto (or Snapseed) before uploading them to Flickr. I much prefer doing that on the iPad then on my Mac. That’s often the reason I take both the iPad and the MacBook Air to events and conferences.

Overall the iPad has and continues to be a device that changed how I worked and makes my life easier and more efficient. That’s why it’s my number one technology for 2012.

There are a few things that aren’t in the list, in the main as I don’t have them, the iPhone 5 and the iPad mini are two examples. I did seriously consider getting an iPhone 5, but haven’t got around to buying one. I think it’s the thought of having to go into a phone shop. I do like the iPad mini, but would I use one having got both the iPad and the Google Nexus 7, I think not. Also it doesn’t fit in my jacket pocket!

My workhorse of a printer, the Canon MP600R also isn’t in the list, but that does get used an awful lot. I would probably have put the HP B110a in there as initially I was very impressed with it, from both a print our perspective, but also how mobile friendly it was for scanning and printing. However after putting in new print cartridges, which killed it, I had to throw it away. So as you might expect, it’s not in the top ten.

So what were your top technologies for last year?

Top Ten Web Tools of 2011


This is the fourth time I have posted my top ten web tools of the year. Looking back over 2008, 2009 and 2010 it’s interesting to see what new web tools I am now using, which old ones have been left on the shelf and the web tools I still use.

There are still a few services that I like or use irregularly that didn’t make the top ten. I used Foursquare for a while, I then did a podcast with David Sugden and after that I never used it again….

Facebook and Linkedin I just don’t use and so aren’t in the list, but I hear they are quite popular…

I did use Prezi this year to demonstrate it, but have not yet used it in anger so it’s not in my top ten either.

Delicious has had a few upheavals this year and drops out of my top ten, I do still use it, but it had lost some of the core functionality that made it so useful in the past.

I still like Screenr, but don’t use it as much as I think I should and I would like too. The same can be said for Audioboo. These are two tools that I really like, but don’t use much or use them effectively. I may use these better in 2012.

TinyGrab which was in my top ten last year also had problems, so that got dropped and I went with another tool.

Posterous dropped out too, however the only reason was that I decided to host my own blog on my own server, it’s still a great service. Spaces is pretty interesting too.

Google Docs dropped out of my top ten after been in for the last three years. Looking over the documents from the last year I realised how little I was using it. It’s a great collaborative tool and that was my primary use, but for lone document working I realised looking back that I now had a different workflow, so Google Docs dropped out.

There are other web tools I do use now and again and I am sure there are some peoples’ favourites I have missed off, so let me know in the comments what web tools you are using.

10. Evernote

I really do like Evernote and I use it a lot for making notes. I really like the mobile applications on the iPad and the iPhone (and Android) and I really like how I can make audio notes and photographs of notes. I am sure it would be much higher if I used it more effectively and my plan for 2012 is to become more organised and systematic on not only how I make notes, but how I use and share notes.

9. SlideShare

Though most of my presentations (as in the slides) rarely make sense on their own, the use of SlideShare does allow me to easily show them on my blog alongside the audio recording. This is often quicker and easier than trying to match the two up myself and I can let others choose how they want to listen and view the presentation.

8. WordPress

I have been using WordPress for a fair while and though I swapped to my own host over a year ago now I still think WordPress.com is a great starting place for a blog. My own blog is self-hosted, in other words I bought a web hosting service on which I have installed the WordPress software. This has given me flexibility in how I manage the blog. Having said that I still subscribe to various WordPress.com services including VideoPress and storage. Much easier for example to have the podcast files on the WordPress.com server from a bandwidth perspective than to have them on my own server. I do like the VideoPress service, but I think other video services have now caught up, but I like the fact that I have much more control over the videos on VideoPress than say on YouTube or Vimeo.

7. Skitch

My main screengrabbing software use to be TinyGrab, it allowed me to quickly grab parts of the screen, upload them to a website and copy the URL to my clipboard, making it very easy them to paste a link to a screen grab in Twitter or Facebook. However problems with the TinyGrab software meant that I looked for an alternative. I had forgotten that I had an alternative already installed on my Mac, part of a MacHeist deal or similar called Skitch. This is a great piece of software that not only allows you to grab part of the screen, but you can also annotate it with text, arrows and other shapes. Really quick and easy to use, you can either then save the image, or upload it and share the link. I really do like it and it has made explaining stuff easier because I can do it visually.

6. Instagram

I have been using Instagram since it came out in 2010, well I started using it about a week after it was released. Over 2011 I used it a lot more and have posted nearly five hundred images to Instagram. One aspect that I do like is the social aspect. With any social app the key is the community, now that many more people I know are using Instagram, the social aspect, even though it can only be accessed from the phone is much better and more social. I do like the multi-posting ability, so usually not only will I post to Instagram, I also post a link to Twitter and upload the image to Flickr. As for the photographic effects, I know it is possible to do much better with PhotoShop and even Snapseed on the iPad is superior, however the filters on Instagram are not there to be the perfect photorgraphic filter they are there to add a little something to the photographs you take and to have a bit of fun with. To think that Instagram is a serious photographic app really does miss the point of the app; it’s fun and it’s social, enjoy it for that and not as a photographic app.

5. Flickr

I now have over 4,500 photographs on Flickr and though (in total) Flickr does not come anywhere close to the number or quantity of photographs uploaded to Facebook, I still much prefer using Flickr for uploading, but also for finding photographs for use on the blog or in presentations. It is so easy to find great photographs and so many are CC licensed making it also legal to use them too.

4. Flipboard

Flipboard has become 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.

3. Twitter

Twitter was my number one web tool for the last two years and this year it has dropped two places. It is still a really useful tool.

I usually access Twitter via Osfoora on the iPhone and on the iPad. On my computer I will generally use the web interface.

So what do I get from Twitter?

Well the key thing is a community of practice from which I can get curated and useful information from. I can ask them questions and offer points of discussion to see what they think. I also find it a useful source of news and links, much easier in some respects than RSS feeds, a more personalised approach.

I post lots of stuff to Twitter, yes I do feed into Twitter posts from my blog, photos from Instagram and other stuff. This is stuff I do want to share with my community and my view is that if you don’t like this then don’t follow me. However I do try and keep my posting of links to my stuff to a minimum, I try whenever possible to only post links to my blog only once to my Twitter stream. I know that this means people may miss that link, but I also know that clicking on links to blog posts I have already read are annoying. Twitter is a key tool for me with the conversations I have with my fellow learning technologists, e-learning specialists and library professionals. However one of the reasons it has dropped a couple of places is that I don’t think the conversations I am having there are as good as I am having in a different place…

2. Google+

Straight in at number two for me is Google+ and the reason is the quality of the conversation. I never really found Buzz or Wave useful, but Google+ seems to have worked well for me in 2011, much more so than Twitter. I am unsure if this will continue, a lot will depend on how the community use and continue to use Google+ as a service. I think the main reason I like it, is that it reminds me of Jaiku, which was my number one web tool back in 2008 (back then it beat Twitter). I like the fact that I can have a threaded conversation and people can easily join in. I hope it continues to work and be useful, but we will have to wait and see.

1. Dropbox

Well my number one web tool has been one that 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! 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.