Category Archives: flickr

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 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.

100 ways to use a VLE -#50 Showing a photo album

A photo album is merely a collection of photographs (or images). They may be connected they may not. A series of photographs is a useful way of displaying how to undertake a particular activity or as a way of showing instructions.

For example showing learners the techniques for a recipe can be enhanced with a series of photographs that shows the different stages within the process.

The learner can then click an image to see an enlarged version.

This example made use of the Lightbox Gallery plugin.

By placing a photo album on the VLE it makes it very easy for the learners to find and see them, but also unlike an online photo service such as (the free version of) Flickr won’t have restrictions on the number of albums (sets) you can have and therefore could potentially confuse the learners about which images they should be looking at.

Having said that if you have a Pro Flickr account or are using another service such as Picasa then embedding a collection of images into the VLE can be done easily using the provided embed codes that these services provide. This is a set of images I have on Flickr that makes use of the iPhone Paper Camera App.

The disadvantage is that, of course clicking the images takes the learner away from the VLE, but they could probably find their way back.

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?

FlickStackr – iPhone App of the Week

FlickStackr – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone and iPad Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will work on the iPod touch or the iPad, some will be iPad only apps.

This week’s App is FlickStackr.

FlickStackr brings Flickr photo sharing to the iPad. Designed from the ground up for the larger screen, it allows you to BROWSE photos in the Flickr universe. UPLOAD photos and EDIT your photos’ metadata.

£1.19

There is a free Flickr App for the iPhone (which I do have) however when I came to look for a Flickr App for the iPad, I wanted something that used all that lovely screen rather than the x2 of the Flickr iPhone App. I came across FlickrStackr and decided to try it out.

Now before you start shouting at me that the “iPad doesn’t have a camera” let me just remind you that there are quite a few photo editing Apps available for the iPad and you can also get a camera connector kit for the iPad that allows you to upload onto the iPad, photographs from a “proper” camera!

FlickStackr is an universal App and therefore if you get it for the iPad it will also be available on the iPhone in an iPhone version. This is (as you might expect) similar to the Flickr App for the iPhone. It allows you to go through Flickr as you would on the website through a standard browser, but is a much better experience than using mobile Flickr through the mobile Safari browser and that is the main reason to use the App over just using the web interface.

I can browse my photostream and find images. These I can then download onto the iPhone if needed.

I might be doing this if wanting to send images to another service, or attach to a blog posting using the WordPress App.

I can also go through my sets, this is useful If I was wanting to show some of my photographs to someone, I have sets of my Library and of the facilities in my college for example.

I can also use the App to upload photographs, and with the much better camera in the iPhone 4 I suspect I will be taking more photographs with it than I did with the 3GS.

The original reason I bought the App was that it was a dedicated iPad App and it does work very well on the iPad. I can view my photostream.

I can view individual images.

Browsing images is easy and quick.

Overall if you take photographs with the iPhone, or you have the camera connector on the iPad, and you have a Flickr account, it makes sense to have some kind of Flickr App on your iPhone or iPad.

The free Flickr App is going to be fine for what most people need, however if you want something a little better and £1.19 is not exactly going to break the bank, then I would recommend FlickStackr.

Get FlickStackr in the iTunes App Store.

Flickr Advanced Search

I like Flickr, not just for a place to upload my photographs, but also as a place to find photographs. Regular readers of the blog will know that I use images often to illustrate my writing. Some of these are mine, but many are creative commons licensed images from Flickr.

It’s very easy to search for creative commons licensed images on Flickr, but getting to the advanced search is not the easiest route (or if it is I haven’t found it). So I usually add the direct URL as a bookmark or a favourite.

http://www.flickr.com/search/advanced/

Another way to search for creative commons licensed images is to use the search box on the creative commons website.

No more Ning

No more Ning

Well that’s not factually correct, what the title should be is “No more free Ning”.

It would appear that Ning are phasing out the free service to allow them to focus on those customers who pay for the premium service.

So, we are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity.  We will phase out our free service.  Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning.  We will judge ourselves by our ability to enable and power Premium Ning Networks at huge scale.  And all of our product development capability will be devoted to making paying Network Creators extremely happy.

A mistake I think on Ning’s part.

Now I am not opposed to paying for premium services, if I like a free service and the Pro or premium version offers more and I perceive it as value for money I will pay.

On this blog for example I pay for the VideoPress and extra storage. I have a Flickr Pro account. I pay for the premium version of Remember the Milk. If I reached the limits I would probably pay for the premium version of Evernote.

If there are limitations on the free account or added features on the premium account then I will happily pay out money. It would appear that many others do the same.

However in all the examples I have given, as well as the paid Pro version there is also a free version. People will try out free services, if they like them and want the added functionality they will upgrade.

As Ning have decided to phase out the free version, I think this is where they are making a mistake. With no free version, you will find that key individuals won’t try the service and upgrade later… Well maybe Ning is already well known enough that this won’t be an issue. Hmmm I am not so sure. Anyone remember Gabcast? Originally a free service, went paid for only and now having checked recently it is hardly used compared to services such as Audioboo or iPadio.

Without a free version that can be upgraded I wonder if people will start using Ning or even continue using Ning if other services offer more for the same sort of cost.

So now I need to think about what to do about the Ning sites I have created. If there is a demand (and I can get funding) I may upgrade to the premium version, but I know this won’t be the case for all of the sites I have.

So what alternatives are there?

One that is been talked about on Twitter is Elgg.

Elgg is open source social networking software that provides individuals and organizations with the components needed to create an online social environment. It offers blogging, microblogging, file creation and sharing, networking, groups, news collection using feeds aggregation and a number of other features.

Wikipedia

Though of course though the software is free (open source) you will need a hosting service and the sort required for Elgg isn’t going to be free. If you are lucky your institution may have the capacity to host an Elgg service for you.

I have mentioned Crowdvine before on the blog, it was one of my top ten tools in 2008. I have used it at conferences like JISC and ALT-C.

As well as their premium services Crowdvine also have a free version.

CrowdVine builds simple and powerful social networks for events and groups to help people connect and meet. Use us for your conference, event, or organization.

Interesting though that JISC moved from Crowdvine to Ning for JISC 2010. Wonder what JISC will use for JISC 2011?

Another one that I have found, but not used is SocialGO.

SocialGO allows you to build a custom social network, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned developer.  No software, hosting or coding required, as our team offers full support for your social networking site.

As with Crowdvine there are cost plans and a free plan.

So Ning is no more, well the free Ning is no more.

Does it really matter that much?

I have  talked before about inappropriate advertising on services and why sometimes a paid for service may be better.

One of the issues with using any free Web 2.0 service is that they may not be here forever. Gabcast is no longer free, but Audioboo is. Jaiku is pretty much dead, but Twitter is alive and well. Etherpad has gone, but iEtherpad is up and running.

At the end of the day this is not about a service disappearing or now charging, it’s much more about how when using these services you don’t think about long term, but have the capability and the technical knowledge to move between different services as and when they become available.

Use what is now and in the future use what is then.

Have you stopped beating your wife?

Have you stopped beating your wife?

Just answer the question, yes or no?

No sorry, just answer the question…. yes or no….

Think about, it, what is implied if you say yes or no.

This is a classic loaded question in which you can not just answer yes or no, without implying that you either beat your wife now or have done in the past.

The problem with some questions, is that there is no yes or no answer, even if at first look there only seems to be a yes or no answer.

The question needs to be rephrased in order to elicit a valid yes or no response. Or you ensure that it is an open question.

The same happens with lots of questions about copyright, as a result the answer is not a simple yes or no, but often a maybe, or depends…

The main reason for this is that questions on copyright too often focus on the act of copying or an activity related to copyrighted content.

This will generally be a loaded question about a specific activity which can not be applied to all and any content, as it is the content that defines what you can do with it, not the activity.

The questions needs to be clarified with the content that you are working with.

For example.

Is using an image found via a Google Image Search in a handout illegal?

You can’t answer that question with a simple yes, or no. So often the answer has to be; that using an image from Google Image Search “may infringe copyright”. The reason is simple some of the images from a search are copyrighted and can not be used in handouts, some images will be licensed under a creative commons licence, some rights holders of images will be happy with you using your image for non-commerical educational reasons, some images will be in the public domain.

The problem with the question “Is using an image found via a Google Image Search in a handout illegal?” is that it implies that either all images are okay to use, or all images by their use would infringe copyright.

You would have to re-phrase the question:

Is using THIS SPECIFIC image found via a Google Image Search in a handout illegal?

Now you can give a yes or no answer. You can’t answer definitely about the activity without the context of the content. It is much easier to define what you can and what you can not do when it comes to content; almost impossible when trying to define what you can by activity.

However this doesn’t really help the practitioner who wants a simple yes or no answer to their original question.

As I said in my last post on copyright,

Those of us who support learners need to provide solutions, not barriers to teachers.

So rather than spend time answering questions about what you can and can not do, or which images you can and can not use, you provide teachers with collections of images that can be used, so the question need never to be asked or answered.

For example there are thousands of images on the web that can be used for teaching and learning, many using Creative Commons licences.

Use Google Image Search and find images you can use.

Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr

Images (and other media) from Wikimedia Commons

Public Domain images from the US Government

Or get your institution to sign up to a licensed image collection such as JISC Collections Education Image Gallery.

Teachers also need to be more creative and willing to compromise over which specific images they want to use. Yes we know that particular picture from  Getty Images is what you want, but why not use a different one instead.

Also remember that under the UK Copyright Act you can show an image in the classroom without needing a licence, so even if there is a specific image you need to use, show the image rather than make copies of it. Link to the page with the image on, rather than put it on the VLE.

The answer as I have mentioned many times before on this blog and during workshops and presentations, is not about putting up obstacles, it is about informing teachers providing them with solutions and removing barriers.

As for the image above, well it was found via searching Flickr for Creative Commons licensed images using the term “judge uk” and as part of the Creative Commons licence I need to attribute the image on this blog via a link back to the photo page on Flickr. I license all my photographs on Flickr under a similar licence.

Top Ten Web Tools of 2009

Here are my top ten web tools of 2009. This is a list of web tools which I have used extensively over the last twelve months. Last year I posted my top ten web tools of 2008, here is my new list from 2009.

There were quite a few tools that I have been using and could have been in my top ten.

I really like Screenr, simply put, it is a free web based screencasting application. It captures what you do on your screen and then converts it a web video format and posts a notification to Twitter. You can then download the video as an MP4 movie file. I like it but haven’t made a huge use of it, so that’s why it’s not in my top ten.

A similar concept is Jing, though this requires you to download an application.

iPadio is a phone based podcasting service which has now been supplemented by an iPhone app. Some of the MoLeNET Mentors have made good use of iPadio, I have really used Audioboo.

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.

I do like Prezi and have seen some excellent presentations using Prezi, however despite liking it, I have never used it in anger! Therefore it does not make my top ten.

I initially couldn’t see the point of Cloudworks, however ALT-C 2o09 and Ascilite 2009 demonstrated the value of Cloudworks as a repository of information, links and comments on conferences and keynotes. I will see how I use it in 2010 to see if it makes the top ten then.

Probably in at number eleven was Slideshare. I used it much more in 2009 than in 2008. However for me the main issue was that my presentations don’t really work on Slideshare as they are mainly pictures and single words, and that’s probably why it’s not in my top ten.

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.

There were others which are very popular and didn’t even come close, the one you probably have heard of is Facebook. I have hardly used Facebook this year and am considering as others are in closing my account down.

In last year’s list, but not in this year’s are Qik, Remember the Milk and Crowdvine. I did use Qik, but nowhere as near as much as I did in 2008. The main reason was that thw quality was good enough for people to go “wow” but that was about it. The “live” bit was okay, but not good enough to use on a regular basis. It was just as easy to record video on the iPhone and then upload to TwitVid or YouTube. I have though just downloaded the version for the iPhone 3GS and that may make a difference to how much I use it now. I still use Remember the Milk, but not as effectively as I would like, so more work needed there from me and them. I also did use Crowdvine at ALT-C 2009 and the scheduling was useful as was the communicating, but there was nothing new there compared to 2008 and therefore it dropped out of the top ten. If the social networking intergration was better I am pretty sure it would have probably creeped in. However it was too slow in picking up Twitter posts, Flickr photos and blog posts; this is very important for a conference networking tool.

Anyway onto the top ten for 2009.

10. Evernote

Now why would you use Evernote when you can use Google Docs? Well What I find Evernote is good for is note taking whereas I use Google Docs for writing documents. With Evernote though, you can use it through apps offline, through a web interface in a browser (useful on shared computers), in an iPhone app (iTunes Store Link). I like how you can add screenclips, screenshots, photographs and audio to your notes too. This blog entry was started on Evernote for example. It has great uses for learning too, learners can use it to store notes and with the ability to have different notebooks and tagging, will make it very easy to find notes when it comes to writing assignments or revision.

9. Etherpad

This is also one of those services which you may think, why not just use Google Docs? Well Google thought it was different enough they bought the company! Etherpad is a simple concept which works really well. Create a pad, share the URL and then everyone can help create a shared document; where it is special is that you can do this simultaneously. So as you type, I can type, you will be able to see what you’re typing and what I am typing too. This is brilliant in meetings and at conferences where you can share links, ideas, notes, comments together. In the past a group in a meeting may have had separate notebooks (real or virtual) now with Etherpad you can share a single electronic notepad. The MoLeNET Mentors have used it with great effect as a shared notebook. Imagine a study group of learners using Etherpad to share lecture notes, links, resources, comments, drafts.

8. Shozu

Shozu was my number five web tool last year, it has dropped a few places, but I still use it on a regular basis. What Shozu does for me is when I ever take a photograph using my Nokia N95 I can immediately upload the image to Flickr. With a little preparation I can add relevant tags (or edit tags on the fly) and it will also add the geo-data using the GPS on the N95. What this means is that when I am at an event I can take lots of photographs and people who want to see what is going on can easily see from my photographs. It also allows me to capture my day in a kind of lifestream giving me a record of what I have done, who I have met and where I have been. I also use Shozu to upload photographs and video to Twitter services such as TwitPic and TwitVid. I have also used it to upload content to my blog.

7. Audioboo

This has been one fun app to use on the iPhone. So what is Audioboo? Well it’s a service I first saw demonstrated at the All Together Now event at Channel 4. To put it simply it is an App (iTunes Store Link) on your iPhone that allows you to record an audio recording, add your location, a picture and upload the lot to a website. This has some real  potential for learning activities. As you have an account on the website (not essential but recommended) your recordings are kept together and also have an RSS feed as well, which people can subscribe to via iTunes or other podcasting applications. I have mainly used Audioboo to show people what Audioboo can do. I hope to in 2010 use Audioboo to do a regular short podcast.

6. Ustream

So you want to create video, live video? You want to share that live video with lots of people? Well yes you can stream from your computer, however if you have limited bandwidth then this can be a problem. Services such as Ustream allow you to easily stream live video across the web to many different users, even if you have limited bandwidth such as over a 3G connection. I used Ustream a few times over 2009 to stream keynotes from the Plymouth e-Learning Conference, the VLE is Dead session live from ALT-C 2009 and also various MoLeNET Live “online conferences”. There is now an iPhone app so you can stream live from your iPhone 3GS. Simple to use, easy for people to interact with, live video streaming from UStream is a great technology with lots of learning potential. Learners in the workplace could stream from their work or access live streams from lecturers in college or in the field (or literally in a field).

5. Google Docs

Last year Google Docs scraped into my top ten at number ten. This year I have put it in at number five. 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 runing 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 2009 to work on documents with other people from across the world and that has proved how useful this service is to me. 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…

4. Ning

So you want to create your own social networking service? Why not use Ning? Create your own creepy treehouse!!! I used Ning a fair few times in 2009 in the main in supporting events I was running or attending. I used it initially for the ILT Champions Informal Conference and the Fringe for the Plymouth e-Learning Conference. It allowed delegates at both events to communicate, share pictures, video, write blog posts and have discussions. I was surprised by how well they worked. I am currently using Ning to work with various communities, and in 2010 it will be the service used by the Becta Technology Exemplar Network to share and collaborate. I don’t actually see Ning as a “social networking” service as such, more as a web site that I don’t need to build! For learning, it has many uses especially when you want students from multiple institutions to collaborate and work together.

3. Flickr

Last year Flickr was number six, this year it has climbed three places to number three. have nearly 2700 photographs on Flickr up from nearly 1500 last year, that means I have uploaded nearly a hundred photographs a month, or three a day! They cover 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. Flickr is a great way to store photographs and to find images.

2. WordPress

Though it’s all about quality I did publish 232 e-Learning Stuff Blog posts last year… I use WordPress.com and have been very pleased with it. One of the key reasons that I like WordPress is that it has made it very easy to post video to the web. Now YouTube is great and all that and I do use it, however with the ten minute limit, this can be quite constraining. WordPress with the (paid for) Videopress upgrade does a very good job of converting my films into Flash Video. The quality is certainly much better than YouTube, and I can embed the video on other sites as well. It handles the bandwith too, with the VLE is Dead video the blog was delivering 40Gb of video that first week! I use a WordPress.com blog for many reasons, the main is convenience. As it is web based all I need is a browser to write a blog entry, though there are other tools such as Shozu and the WordPress app on the iPod touch which also allow me to write. The stats are useful in finding out how people are finding the blog, likewise comments allow feedback. Blogs can be public like mine, or private, restricted to say a group, or a tutor and a learner.

1. Twitter

Last year Twitter was my number two web tool, beaten there by Jaiku, which took first place. As you can see Jaiku doesn’t even make the list this year. For me 2009 was the year that Twitter became even more useful as a tool to converse, collaborate, share and communicate. The reason that Twitter is my web tool of the year is down to a variety of reasons.

Conversations: This is what Twitter is all about, the conversation, the community, the Water Cooler moment, the coffee break.

Backchannel: At conferences, the Twitter backchannel can be fantastic, but can also be a nightmare! I really find that the Twitter backchannel can enhance and enrich the social and networking side of a conference, improve communication and add to sessions taking place. It allows for the converation to continue after a presentation or keynote and can also widen that conversation to outside the conference.

Links: In many ways for me and others Twitter has almost replaced RSS, I find out much more information and useful links from Twitter now then I do any other source.

Mobile: The mobile element has made Twitter a much more effective and efficient tool. The fact that I can now easily access and contribute to Twitter from my iPhone has increased how much I use, engage and interact with Twitter. It’s so easy, I access it on the train, waiting in line for stuff, at events, when I am away. When I was in New Zealand, the lack of connectivity (and the 13 hour time zone difference) made me aware of how useful and important Twitter was to the way I worked.

Twitter also matured this year with the addition of really useful tools such as TwitPic, TwitVid and TweetMic. TwitPic is a simple tool that allows you to post pictures to Twitter. TwitPic really made the news when an airliner was set down on the Hudson River in New York. TwitVid took TwitPic one stage further and allowed you to post video to Twitter. And if you are camera shy then TweetMic allows you to post audio instead.

Though I know that one day Twitter will die, for me 2009 was the year of Twitter and was my number one web tool of the year.

ALT-C 2009 Day #0

It’s day zero of the ALT Conference. Well the conference starts proper tomorrow on Tuesday and I am using today to travel up north like.

It’s a four hour train journey (changing at Bristol Temple Meads) and though Virgin Cross Country trains do have power they have a major flaw in that their construction blocks 3G signals quite effectively. Initially on the Bristol – Manchester route I thought it was down to the geography, but a recent trip on the line using a “normal” train demonstrated to me, yes there are areas with no 3G, but the trains used by Cross Country block the signal, especially when it is a weak signal.

Now I know that this is not a major design flaw (some would say it was a feature) but without on-board wifi, I would prefer to have a decent 3G signal now and again (as I can find when travelling to London).

Anyway back to the conference…

There is some stuff happening tonight, but I am hoping to touch base with a few people and go out for dinner, probably use Twitter to organise this.

I am pretty much prepared for the conference, I have a poster, organising and taking part in a symposium, supporting a workshop and running another workshop. I also have a fair few scheduled meetings during the conference too.

Hoping to enjoy the Gala Conference Dinner which is on Wednesday night.

I expect to be twittering over the conference, and I am also hoping to get a fair few blog entries in over the next few days too. Photographs should appear on Flickr and/or Twitpic. There may also be video too!

I have been preparing for the conference using the Crowdvine site that has been set up for the conference. You may recall that Crowdvine was in my top ten web tools for 2008. This has allowed me to sort my schedule, promote the sessions I am involved in and see who else is coming and what else they are doing. Hopefully this year the delegates will continue to engage with the Crowdvine site once the conference starts proper like tomorrow.

I have also been adding links to the ALT-C Cloudscape “clouds” for my sessions. Not sure at this time of this adds or detracts from the Crowdvine site.

Overall I am looking forward to the conference, it will be a time to share effective practice, learn from others, find out new stuff, network, meet old friends, discover new friends and leave with ideas, inspiration and stuff.