Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Polls are getting really interesting

Polleverywhere have come up with a great new way to get people to participate in your presentation. Here's an example. It will be pretty empty to start with but add your comments, suggestions or whatever and see them appear on this page! To vote using the web click here.

Smartphone users should browse to poll4.com to avoid text messaging fees.

There's also a twitter interaction that I haven't figured out yet - this post is also for me to play with to find out how it works.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Here and there

Nice example of the internet at work. I received a request from someone who wanted to add some comments and links to the webtools wiki the other day. Checking the credentials of the person making the request, I noticed that she was based near Milan in Italy.

Replying to confirm I had authorised the new contributor, I mentioned in passing that my children were on holiday there at the time. A few minutes later the lady wrote back to say that as they were close by she would be delighted to show them around some of the best places often missed by tourists. Now, she didn't know that I had had a series of text messages from my daughter, 13, to the effect that she really wasn't enjoying things very much, visiting non-Italian relatives and not actually seeing the sights or tasting the local food which she had hoped to do.

So the offer from someone who seemed also to have a good affinity with children was pretty cool. I sent her e-mail address straightaway and hoped they might find a way to contact her. The lady in Italy then sent me her telephone numbers which I sent via a text message to be sure they reached them.

Within a matter of hours she wrote again to say that they had called her and would visit her and I hope as I am writing this that they are all having a bit more fun, eating some great-tasting pizza, pasta and seeing how beautiful that part of the country is.

The Italian lady is fairly new to using web tools but at Creative English Labs she has written about several simple ideas and I shall be working with her on some new projects in this field too.

It is just a simple little story of serendipity. Certainly made my day. Which also happened to be my birthday!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Live Mesh because I'm lazy

England. Summer. Working outside with a laptop isn't too bad when the sky's grey. At least I get some fresh air. It was one of those jobs that I'd been putting off for ages, well, actually hoping someone else would do it as it was going to take a while and wasn't particularly enthralling. I had to find literary agents that might be interested in my novel by looking up details on the internet and then copying and pasting their addresses into a document that would ultimately finish up as a database for a mail merge, envelopes and all that jazz.

Without thinking, I just copied and pasted the information into Word, where I knew I could tidy it up and turn it into a data table without too much hassle. You know how text from the internet comes with a load of garbage and an assortment of fonts, colours that can quickly be removed that way (or via Notepad if necessary).

After about three hours in a strong breeze I had about 30 potential names, addresses and contact details in a respectable-looking and usable table, ready to send to the person who will be sending the stuff out.

Coming indoors, I was delighted to find that the document was already available on my main pc where I could continue to work on it with some other bits and pieces I had there. No copying to USB drives or e-mailing to myself, it was just there. Great.

Then I realised that there were probably a host of web tools I could have used to do the job - and certainly something like Google Docs would make the future collaboration on the data easier. The thing is, there were so many other ways that I couldn't quickly decide on any one in particular and I wasn't sure that my partner would have Google Docs ready to go and the thought of explaining everything and her not getting on with the task as quickly did put me off a bit. So I just went with the comfortable option. I bet lots of the people we describe wonderful new e-learning techniques to often do the same!

Monday, 20 July 2009

17 new additions to the web tools site!

Quite a few changes to the webtools site today. The main one is a nice simple rating system for some of the tools in each category. Thanks to ZohoPolls for making that so easy.

I'm particularly keen to get some examples of the recent additions in action so if anyone has used them and doesn't mind sharing the results somehow do let me know.

The new pages are yet to be created on PBworks wiki but I'll get round to that before long. If you want access then please contact me.

I'm sure there are lots more out there I haven't featured yet. I do trawl various lists whenever I see them and do remember that I'm unlikely to feature 30-day trials (although there are exceptions) or sites that hit people with adverts (again, with some exceptions). The whole idea is to help people, not sell them stuff. Many of the free tools are brilliant and, in my experience, better than some of their ££ licence alternatives. Naturally, the developers hope that someone will come along and pay them lots to turn their application into a product you have to purchase or subscribe to. Good feedback will help that process but often those who signed up at a beta stage will be able to continue using applications for free. Some do disappear completely but that's unusual. I've found that many of the individuals behind these products are happy to talk to you so even if you do find you've got data on a distant server and the free access has been changed they'll help you out.

As always, let me know if I missed something. Hope you get some ideas.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Google Chrome OS


Well-written article on what I think will be big changes in the way we use applications and our computers.

http://zenhabits.net/2009/07/what-google-chrome-os-means-for-computing/

Well worth a read, especially if you have no idea what Google Chrome OS is!

Here's a link to the Google updates blog to keep up-to-date:




Thursday, 2 July 2009