Tag Archives: wordpress

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.

Plugging into Moodle

So where is Moodle going, listening to Martin Dougiamas at the Ireland and UK Moodlemoot, we see how he (and Moodle HQ) want to take Moodle over the next few years.

Virtual Keynote #mootieuk12

Martin was pretty honest about how the use of plugins in Moodle are not as user-friendly or simple as it should be. I have always thought that Moodle needs to come with core modules and blocks as it does now, however administrators have the option to add blocks and modules via a web browser rather than installing files on to the server. If Moodle plugins were more akin to how WordPress (as in WordPress.org not the .com service) it would make it much easier to work with plugins.

On WordPress you search for plugins from a plugins repository, and then install the files. Once installed, you can then “activate” the plugin and it will then work across your WordPress blog. Such plugins allow you to add media players in your blog, make it easier to add third party services into blog entries, also how users can interact with your blog.

I think it would make as huge improvement to how many people view Moodle if the plugin process worked like WordPress. You as an administrator could choose which plugins would work across a whole site, it would make it much easier to add third party services. For example rather than using the Slideshare embed code, think how much easier it would be if all a user needed to do was paste in the Slideshare URL and Moodle took care of embedding the presentation. Moodle 2 does this already with YouTube videos, so it’s not “impossible”.

I also think it would be nice if plugins could be installed, not just globally, but could be installed and then made available to courses on a course by course basis. Add this plugin if you want it, otherwise leave it well alone. Would it be beyond current thinking to allow course creators to install plugins?

At the moment adding plugins to Moodle is not a simple task and can cause issues, especially if an older plugin is installed on a newer Moodle installation (and vice versa). I do hope that one day we can see a simple web based plugin installation with flexible permissions.

Is this possible?

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.

Podcast Workflow

I have been asked about my podcasting workflow. This article outlines how and what equipment I use to record the e-Learning Stuff Podcast. This is only one way in which to record a remote panel based podcast, and I am sure there are numerous other ways in which to do this. I have also changed how I have recorded over the two years I have been publishing the podcast due to changes in equipment and software.

Key lesson is that there is more to podcasting than just the technical stuff…

Continue reading Podcast Workflow

Top Ten Web Tools of 2010

This is the third time I have posted my top ten web tools, I did the same in 2008 and 2009.

So what else did I use, but didn’t make the list.

Feedburner is a great tool for keeping track of my podcast feed, but that’s all I use it for and not much else.

Twitterfeed is another good service for taking RSS feeds and feeding them into Twitter and Facebook, reliable and effective, once configured you rarely need to touch it again.

I do look into Facebook and LinkedIn, but don’t really engage with them, so they aren’t in the list either. I still like Prezi, but still haven’t used it for a live presentation yet….

Though I used Cloudworks a lot in 2009, I actually used it less in 2010 so that didn’t make the top ten again this year.

I am still unsure about the value of Foursquare (and other similar services) so likewise though I am “checking in” a fair bit on Foursquare it isn’t in my top ten.

I use to have strong reservations about Wikipedia, until I realised I used it on almost daily basis. No it’s not my only source, nor is it really an authoritative source, however it is a useful, quick and easy source of information.

Some key services that were in my 2009 list didn’t make the list this year.

I did use Ning a lot in 2010, on an almost daily basis and found it an extremely useful service. Since the summer, when the free version disappeared, I have hardly even noticed it been used and haven’t used it myself at all.

Ustream was another service in the 2009 list, however due to sheer quantity of advertising on the free service, I have stopped using it. I can understand the need for advertising on a free service, but not to the point where people stop using it!

Audioboo would probably have been in the list if I had used it as I planned to for 2010, however I didn’t. Most of my Audioboo recordings were about what Audioboo was and how it could be used. Maybe something to think about for 2011 perhaps?

Shozu was number five in 2008 and number eight in 2009, and it’s not in this year’s list, in the main as I “replaced” my Nokia N95 with a Google Nexus One.

Etherpad is not in this year’s list either, despite the original site going offline, I haven’t again used it that much in comparison to the other tools and services in the list. The fact that Google Docs now encompasses live collaborative editing, also means I am using Etherpad less.

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.

Anyway onto the top ten for 2010.

10. Slideshare

I did use Slideshare a lot more in 2010, not just for uploading my own presentations, but also for viewing other people’s. It was this dual purpose that took Slideshare into my top ten tools.

9. Delicious

Though I have used Delicious for years, in 2010 I used it a lot more for both storing and sharing links.

One of the reasons for using it more was integrating the feed into my GCILT Twitter account via Twitterfeed. As a result not only was I saving my bookmarks I was also sharing them via Twitter. I did consider adding one of the many Twitter tools that allow you to share links you find on Twitter automatically to Delicious, but as yet have not made that leap.

Despite the possibility that Delicious will be no more in 2011, the export function has allowed me to both back up my links but also import them into Diijo.

8. TinyGrab

For sharing screengrabs on Twitter or Facebook, I have found TinyGrab to be a great tool. Press a couple of keypresses and the app captures and uploads the screengrab to a server before passing over the URL to your clipboard. I have found this a great app for sharing what I am seeing, dialogue boxes, etc…

7. Evernote

Despite using Google Docs a lot, I still find a need and room to use Evernote. The reasons are varied, but the main ones I can think of are the mobile applications on the iPhone and the iPad and the organisation of my notes on the Evernote platform. I like the fact I can take photographs and make audio recordings as notes too.

6. Instagram

I did wonder about Instagram when I first used it, though the more I use it the more I like it. This interesting iPhone App and service allows you to take photographs with your iPhone (or use a photo in your library), apply a filter and then upload them to a website. It can also post links to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare and other sites..

Unlike other photo apps on the iPhone though, Instagram is also a kind of photo social network too. Within the app you can follow other people and see their photos, you can be followed. You can view a feed of photographs, you can comment and “like” photographs. There is a feed of popular photographs and some of these are really good.

The fact that is an iPhone centric social network has both its upsides and downsides.

5. Posterous

Though WordPress is my main blogging platform, there is something I do like about Posterous. The fact that I can just e-mail updates andall the hard work is done by Posterous is so nice.

I can attach images, audio recordings or video files and Posterous will very nicely encode and add them as Flash playable objects in my blog posts.

Posterous also added some really nice new themes this year making my blog much more personalised and individual.

From a learning perspective it has a lot of potential and everyone I demonstrated it too, could also see that potential.

If I wasn’t using WordPress I would use Posterous.

4. Google Docs

The main way I use Google Docs is to write a document that I know I will be working from on multiple computers. Now I know I could use a USB stick, but it assumes I have the same application on all machines, which is not always the case. For example my work machines have Office 2003, fine, but my Mac has Office 2008 (the newer version), my home Mac only has Pages, my Samsung Q1 only has Open Office as does the Asus EeePC. Sometimes the PC is running Office 2007. Using Google Docs allows me to have a single copy of a document, share that document and export or print in variety of formats. For example I can download my document as a PDF. I have used Google Docs many times throughout 2010 to work on documents with other people from across the world and that has proved how useful this service is to me. This collaborative way of working with documents is so much better and easier than sending multiple versions of Word documents about by e-mail.

Learners will find that using Google Docs as the service to use in writing their assignments (especially group assignments) will avoid the headaches of different versions of Word, losing USB sticks, inability to access network drives from outside college, etc, etc…

3. Flickr

I have over 3500 photographs on Flickr covering a range of topics and events. From an events perspective I think Flickr adds so much more to an event. It can capture the event in ways that can’t be caught in any other way. Flickr is not only a great way of storing photographs, also a great place to find photographs, and many images on this blog are from photos from Flickr which are creative commons licensed to allow me to use them on the blog.

2. WordPress

This blog is powered by WordPress and this year I moved from WordPress.com to a self-hosted version of WordPress. However I still have a WordPress account that I pay for ugprades for allowing me to use video on Videopress and domain mapping so links on the old blog map to the new one.

I like Videopress for the ease of use, ability to use HD, unlimited length (within upload limit) and the quality of encoding. The VLE is Dead is one such movie, I don’t think could have worked on any other video hosting service without incurring either lots of costs or lots of adverts.

For blogging there is a combination of familiarity and ease of use that makes WordPress my number two web tool of 2010.

1. Twitter

For the second year running, Twitter is my number one top web tool.

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

I am not really a Facebook user even though I do have an account, the same can be said for LinkedIn. These two social networks are very popular with people in my community, however I find Twitter is my preferred tool for engaging with them.

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.

So why do I use Twitter?

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. One of the key points

I made this year was that it isn’t necessary to read all the tweets I post, nor everyone else’s. It’s the same with RSS feeds.

But Twitter is not just a broadcast medium, a key part of Twitter is the conversation and I have discussed this many times before, I do think Twitter is about the coffee.

Twitter is a key tool for me with the conversations I have with my fellow learning technologists, e-learning specialists and library professionals.

So that’s my top ten tools of 2010. Are your favourite tools in my top ten? What am I missing?