Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sharing your To-Do lists

The power of the web today is the ability to collaborate with others. Another tool to put in your box is a to-do list.

I just found a couple that I thought were worth of mentioning. Ta-da List and Voo2Do

Ta-da List is a very simple to-do list manager that lets you create multiple lists, each with tasks. This way, you can separate your tasks by projects. The number one feature of this is that you can share a list - or have several people working on the same list. Each list can be shared with different people or not shared at all.

My second favorite feature is the ability to subscribe to a list via RSS feeds. This way, when others edit the list, I'll know about it.

Voo2Do has more features than Ta-da List, but it is lacking the two most important ones - Collaboration & RSS (they are working on the collaboration feature). But, if you don't want to share with others, it is a very good option.
Some of the features that I like are the ability to put notes with each task, divide tasks among projects and due dates.

If you are looking for a "To-Do List" tool, get an account for each of these. It is free and only takes a minute.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Do You Blog? or Why Blog?

Lee and Sachi LeFever of The Common Craft Show have produced Blogs in Plain English an easy-to-understand introduction to "What is a blog?"

Anne Adrian blogged "What is a blog" and added more to that - and amplified the message by spreading the word. I'm taking what Anne wrote, adding to it, and amplifying the original message. Everyone benefits. Perhaps you will start blogging about something in which I'm interested and I'll benefit.

I see a blog as everything the LeFevers and Anne say it is and more.

  • A vehicle for self expression.
  • A time saver - answer that question you are going to get 100 times this month once and for all. The next time someone asks, just point them to your blog.
  • A great replacement for 'newsletters' (and cheaper to deliver).
  • A way to help others.
  • Payment to those I read. Sort of a "Pay it forward" type thing.
  • A learning tool - I definitely learn more about what I write by blogging about it. If you want to truly learn and understand something, try explaining it to someone else.
  • If you write well enough about a topic that enough people are interested in (see Long Tail) you might even be able to make some money by becoming a "ProBlogger".

Kevin Gamble blogged about needing to "Be the Ball" in order to 'grok' or fully understand something. Blogging is one of those things you must "Be the Ball" before you can figure out what's in it for you.

Are you ready to start? Don't you have something to say? Everyone has something they can contribute to mankind.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Blog numbers

One of the first questions I get when talking to people about using a blog for professional reasons is, "How can I measure it?" Usually, they are familiar with numbers like the number of newsletters mailed or the circulation of a newspaper. With blogs, this can be more difficult - but not impossible.

Anne Adrian and I talked last week about this topic I guess it spawned a blog post for each of us. Her article on measuring your blog has some excellent tips for bloggers and recommends using the tools discussed below. She's a faster (and better) blogger than me.

By using a combination of FeedBurner and Google Analytics, there are ways to count the number of people who subscribe to your feed or look at your pages.

Let's start with Google Analytics.

Go to: and create an account if you don't already have one.

  1. Click on "Add a domain".
  2. Enter the URL of your blog.
  3. Copy the code snippet and paste into the body portion of your blog template (before the "/body" tag at the end of the HTML code).
    • If you are using Blogger, add an HTML/JavaScript element to the footer of your page template.
  4. Check back to view the traffic reports for your blog.
This will count the people visiting your blog. It does not count the people who subscribe to your feed using a feed reader or get it via email. To collect that data, you need a tool like FeedBurner.

Configuring FeedBurner to collect data.

First, you'll need to create a FeedBurner account and add your blog.
  1. Go to:
  2. Create your account.
  3. Add your blog in the "Burn a feed this instant" box.
  4. When editing the feed details, enter a url for your "Feed Address" (avoid spaces). This is what you'll need later.
  5. Save the Feed Details.
Finally, change change your blog's RSS server to use FeedBurner.
FeedBurner has step-by-step instructions for the following blog services:
If you are using other blogging software and have figured out how to use FeedBurner's RSS redirection, please let me know.

FeedBurner also gives you a way for people to receive your posts via email. (Under the Publicize tab, click on "Email Subscriptions").

Looking at the data

After you've configured your blog with these tools, you'll want to periodically view the reports. Use these numbers with caution. They show trends and not absolute numbers of people reading your content. I subscribe to lots of feeds that I never get around to reading and I visit lots of pages only to realize that it isn't what I wanted and leave.

But, if you need to report a number to your boss, these tools will give you some good and useful numbers to report.

Disclaimer: I have no financial or other interests in FeedBurner other than as a user of their services. I'm sure there are other services available that offer similar tools. I just don't know about them.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Using twitter as a 'microblog'

Most of the people I follow on twitter use it more to share what they are thinking, feeling or doing. Momku does it in a very interesting and entertaining way. All of her 'tweets' are in haiku style.

I'm being followed by a couple who I can only assume follow me in an effort to increase their number of followers (hoping that I'll follow them in return). Their mistake.

Usually when I'm notified that someone is now following me (I receive an email), I'm curious enough to go to their twitter page to see if it is someone I know and would want to follow or try to figure out what is their motivation for following. This usually gets their web site hit one time by me and I move on.

Today, I got notified that I had a new follower "21st Century Citizen". I was curious to see who it was and found that they are using twitter - very effectively - as a microblog. While sometimes some of those I follow use twitter as a microblog, that is the minority of their tweets. "21st Century Citizen" is using it as a way to promote environmentalism by sharing links to related web sites and articles. Of course I clicked on their home page link as well. If I were interested in this topic, I probably would have followed them in twitter and subscribed to their blog (using my RSS reader). But, I'm not, so I won't.

I don't respect their spam like method of marketing. However, I do respect how they are using the tools and can see this as a quick way to share information - with those interested. would be a better tool for sharing links with brief descriptions, but they would lose out on the 'spam marketing option'.

What I did learn from them is that twitter could be a good way to share lots of small pieces of information with a large (or small) audience. Maybe a way to share a 'tip of the day' in your area of interest. If there were someone who shared one short (twitter limits you to 140 characters per tweet) tip each day (or just each week) on a topic I was interested in, I would follow them. Hey, that sounds like a good idea. I think I'll try it. Are you interested in an IT Tip of the Day? Follow me at: and we'll see how long I can keep it up. (you can help me by sending me tips to use) Maybe several of us could use post to this - contact me if you are interested in 'co-tweeting'.

What do you know? Maybe a micro-blog will be easier to maintain than a regular blog. I'll let you know.

One nice thing about using twitter as a micro-blog is that I'll easily be able to see who is subscribed (following). Which is a great lead in for my next article - how to count who's reading your blog.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Finding Feeds

A week or two ago, I wrote "Blogs of interest to Extension Agents" where I collected a handful of blogs that I know about and thought Extension agents might find useful in getting started with an RSS Reader.

Last week Brain Webster wrote an article "Finding Feeds in Google Reader". I had seen this feature, but never used it. This is a great way to find feeds of articles in your areas of interest.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blogs of Interest to Extension Agents

A good first step into the world of blogging is to start following some good feeds. Subscribe to them in an RSS reader of your choice. (See: RSS For Beginners)

This article was started months ago and I just kept adding links to blogs and categorizing them. Then Anne Adrian's (from Auburn Extension) PageFlakes sparked an idea. A better way to share feeds that might be of interest to the people I work with. So, I created my own PageFlakes page for you to use to find some feeds to get started. As you surf the internet, look for the RSS Logo icon on the page or in the location panel or button bar. When you see this logo, look at the page and ask yourself, "is this the type content I want to keep abreast of?" If so, then add it to your feed reader. Before long, you'll be keeping up-to-date in your field and know more about what's new and what's going on than most of your peers.

If you know of a feed that would be of interest to Extension Agents, please add a comment to this article or email me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Google Docs

Google Docs is a GREAT way to share documents (word processing files, spreadsheets and now presentations) and work with other people. If you haven't used it yet, you owe it to yourself to take a look! All you need is a Google account.

The key to working smarter is working together. Today, there are lots of tools that can help you do this more efficiently and Google Docs is one of them. I'll write about others I use in future articles.

I have been using Google Docs for about a year now. Now, I save very few, if any, documents to my hard drive. They all go into Google Docs. The straw that broke the camels back and pushed me into using Google Docs for just about everything I do happened one day this spring. I needed to see the budget my secretary kept on her computer and she was out of town for a week. There was no way I could get to that file (legally). When she got back, we put that spreadsheet into Google Docs where we could both access it and work on it. I've heard of many others having similar experiences.

Reasons I love Google Docs:

  • I can access my files from any computer connected to the internet. Very nice if you use more than one computer.
  • Other people (I choose who) can be invited to edit - this is the REAL power
  • Other people (I choose who) can be allowed to view
  • Documents can be published to the web to share with a lot of people with two clicks
  • Every change is recorded - along with who made the change
  • Integrated with Google Mail (if you use gMail)
  • Post directly to your blog
  • FREE
  • EASY
  • FAST

Reasons Google Docs is not perfect:
  • It is not a desk top publishing (DTP) application. For the rare occasion when I need to format a document for paper beyond the capabilities of Google Docs, I save it to my computer and use the appropriate application for DTP. I use Google Docs to create, get others' input and help and then do any final layout using a DTP app on my computer.
  • I find it easier to move around and edit a spreadsheet using Excel or Calc. So, if I'm going to be doing some major work on a spreadsheet, I'll work on it locally and then upload it when I'm done.
  • Presentations doesn't allow me to edit the background or add animatation.
  • Presenations doesn't allow me to save as a PowerPoint file.
  • It does about 95% of what I need a word processor to do, about 90% of what I need a spreadsheet application to do and about 80% of what I need a presentation application to do. What I lose in functionality, I more than make up for in other ways.

Over the last year, Google Docs has made a lot of improvements and new features are being added at a fast pace. If it doesn't do what you need today, keep watching.

For a quick overview of Google Docs, see: Google Docs in Plain English.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

In BSA WoodBadge Training they taught us to teach the youth leaders how to teach using the "EDGE Training" techniques.

This is a simple four-step process used for teaching any skill.

  • Explain—The trainer explains how something is done.
  • Demonstrate—The trainer demonstrates while explaining again.
  • Guide—The learner tries the skill while the trainer guides him through it.
  • Enable—The learner works on his own under the eye of the trainer.
From The Youth Leadership Training Continuum
A more detailed explanation at the October 5 Scoutmaster Blog

This applies to teaching adults as well as youth.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Paradigm shifting tools

The world is changing. I really enjoy finding or identifying tools, trends, etc. that I think will effect the rate of change. Finding those things that have the potential to cause global paradigm shifts.

I saw several this morning. All in a 20 minute talk by Hans Rosling.

1. The obvious one was the topic of his talk. How money and political leaders have changed and are changing the health of their countries. Making the public aware of these trends is a great first step towards making changes.

2. Less obvious: new software (at least new to me) can be used to present complex information in easy to follow and understand formats. I had never seen animated graphs like his before. He used it to show global trends, but it won't be long before it will be used in K-12 classrooms to show how much food is wasted in the cafeteria.

3. He concludes his talk about freeing and making understandable the information that is paid for by the public. This requires that the information be ANIMATED, LIBERATED and SEARCHABLE. Gapminder and Google are working towards this end. Reminiscent of Kevin's article "Open Access In Scientific Publishing".

4. PowerPoint presentations (or Google Presentations) will become better (less boring and more infomative) in the future (woo hoo!!!)

5. Social networking tools work. I found out about this when reading my RSS feeds (subscribed to rconlon's feed) You are discovering it by reading this blog directly at in your own feed reader or it might have been delivered to your email by FeedBurner or other similar service. Those who aren't using at least some of the new social networking tools are getting left behind.

What's really cool - is that you can play with the same software and dataset that Hans Rosling used in his presentation at:


Just ran across this site today - LifeSmarts -

Looks like it would fit in with 4-H perfectly. Competition started 9/17/07, so you need to hurry.

"LifeSmarts… the ultimate consumer challenge is an educational opportunity that develops the consumer and marketplace knowledge and skills of teenagers in a fun way and rewards them for this knowledge. The program complements the curriculum already in place in high schools and can be used as an activity for classes, groups, clubs, and community organizations. It is free and open to all teens in the US in the 9th through 12th grades. LifeSmarts competitions are run as gameshow style matches. Teams of four to five teens compete in district and state matches with the state winners going to the national competition to vie for the national LifeSmarts title. LifeSmarts is a program of the National Consumers League."
LifeSmarts is operated by the National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is a national nonprofit organization that identifies, protects, represents, and advances the economic and social interests of consumers and workers through education and advocacy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More on Presenting

QOTD: "(powerpoint) bullets don't kill people, people kill people"
I saw this same quote in both Visuals In PowerPoint by Rowan Manahan and in Death By PowerPoint by Alexei Kapterev.

I found these on this is one of the playgrounds of the Knowledge Worker 2.0 Great stuff here!!! Great place to share your stuff!!!

I don't create many PowerPoints, but the ones I've used recently are there. But, what is even more important are the ones that are in my list of favorites. Those are the really good ones.

I've got to start blogging more... Sorry, I haven't been keeping up my end of the bargain. However, I have been using, SlideShare and Twitter for sharing information, links and my thoughts. If you aren't using these, please look into them!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hospice Management for Old Media?

In Jim Langcuster's from Alabama Cooperative Extension post Hospice Management for Old Media he thinks about how all media has become demassified and how Extension should deal with it. I think he summarizes it well when he says:

"Newspaper, radio and television now are only small parts of a considerably larger picture — valuable, yes, but only elements of a much larger mosaic. Likewise, there is no such thing as an Extension audience but rather an infinite variety of micro-audiences that are still amenable to Extension knowledge, provided it’s disseminated in the right way."
There are numerous ways content providers should be getting their content out to the public. If you are still relying on the old media (newspaper, radio and television) as your primary means, start looking at other methods.

If you are still using the old media as a way to get your information, please learn more about RSS/Atom and feed readers like Google Reader or any of many others.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Presentation Tips

Here are some tips for giving a presentation when you want to show some web pages or other applications.

Quickly Switch between PowerPoint and a Web Page (or other application)

In Windows [Alt][Tab] will let you switch between any open windows. If a window is minimized, it will open.

On a Mac, [Command][Tab] will let you switch between running applications. If you have more than one window for an application open, you will need to click on the desired window or use [Control]1 (or the appropriate number) to bring the correct window to the front. If a window is minimized, it will NOT be opened. SO... be sure to have only the applications you want to show during your presentation open and set up as you want them to be shown before starting your presentation. Also on a Mac, be sure to Quit any unused applications so they won't appear in the list of applications to open.

Save Your Presentation as a PowerPoint Show

If you save your presentation as a PowerPoint Show, you won't have the ugly editor window as an application/window option. Just start the show and you are ready to go.

If you will be giving your presentation on a different computer, you will want to package it. Jeffrey SoRelle wrote a great set of instructions at: Package PowerPoint for Removable Media.

Make it legible from a distance

Before you show a web page to your audience, increase the text size to where they can read it from a distance. Showing a web page with the fonts at the same size that you use when working will not be legible from the back of the room. In Firefox you can use [Ctrl]+ or View ([Command]+ on a Mac) -> Text Size -> Increase to increase the size of the text. This may distort the layout of a page. Images will not be increased. In MSIE, [Ctrl]+ Zooms the page, including images.

In Firefox, I recommend getting the PageZoom add-on. This enables you to zoom all tabs and increases the size of images as well.

In MSIE 7, you will want to use Page -> Zoom rather than Page -> Text Size because many pages don't change their text size with this option and it doesn't increase the images' size.

Show only what you want them to see

On a PC, show your browser in Full Screen mode (View -> Full Screen) or [F11] in both Firefox and MSIE.
On a Mac, Firefox and Safari do not have this feature. On a Mac, you will want to hide the toolbars you don't want to show (View -> Toolbars).

Make it easy to go to the next web page

Before you get up in front of the audience, open all of the pages you want to show in new tabs and position them in the order you want to show. Rather than clicking on a link, move to the next tab. Unless you are very confident that there won't be ANY problems with the internet connection, connection speed or the web site you are going to show, I would strongly recommend having all the pages already loaded. More than once, I have lost an internet connection when giving an important presentation. Which brings me to the next tip.

Have a backup plan!
This works if you won't have an internet connection or if you have one and you lose your connection. Save the pages you want to show to your hard drive (or flash memory stick, CD, etc.). In Firefox 2, use File -> Save Page As and choose Web Page Complete for the file type. In MSIE, use File -> Save As and choose Webpage Complete for the file type. This will create an html file and a folder with all the graphics and other necessary files. Be sure to keep both the html file and the folder together.

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Practice giving your presentation on another computer to make sure that ALL of the files you need are on your backup flash memory stick or CD. To make sure your backup web pages are all there, test it on a computer that hasn't visited the sites you are showing (or clear your browser's cache) and is disconnected from the internet.

Practice giving your presentation using the same equipment with which you will be presenting. Become familiar with the mouse, pointer, remote, etc.

Practice in the room where you will be giving the presentation. Become familiar with your surroundings and all the equipment. Know where you will be standing so you won't be blocking the audience's view. Look at your busiest slide from the back of the room. Look at it as though you were the most visually impaired person in the crowd.

Oh yeah, did I mention that you should practice your presentation?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Follow up on using Gmail

It's been a month since I switched to Google Mail. All of my mail accounts are forwarded to my gMail account now.

Overall, I would say the experiment has been a success and I don't plan on moving back to using desktop clients (i.e. Thunderbird or Outlook).


  • I REALLY like having my address book available from everywhere and not have to sync it.
  • It is a much better interface than the university's "WebMail" (squirrelMail).
  • I like the gMail Notifier (mac or windows) and needed it to make gMail my default email client.
  • Tagging took a little getting used to - slightly different than using folders but similar enough to not be a problem. Has more advantages than using folders - i.e. a message can be have several tags.
  • Very fast "Search" capabilities.
  • 2GB of FREE storage space!!!
  • Tons of keyboard shortcuts.
  • Good spam filter - only a few spam messages have passed through and I haven't found any good messages in my spam folder - which automatically deletes messages after 30 days.
  • It's cool how it displays all the messages in a thread when a new message is delivered.
  • Overall - VERY easy to use.
Until something changes, I plan to continue to use gMail as my only mail client.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Useful Site of the Day

The University of California - Irvine
Online course - "Fundamentals of Personal Financial Planning"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Moving Online - GMail - the final frontier

I work from too many computers to be able to successfully keep my email address books on all of them up-to-date. I add an address on this one, then delete an address on another one. Before long, I have several different (and all incomplete) address book.

I tried Plaxo, but could never get it to synchronize.

So, it's time for a Kevin Gamble type experiment. I'm going to try using Google Mail as my only mail client. I've imported my address books and have all of my mail accounts being forwarded to my GMail account. I've been using GMail as a storage place for all of my Sent mail for several months now (BCC all messages to that account and set up a filter to automatically archive messages from my other accounts). I've resisted using GMail as my primary because I felt it just lacked the features I 'needed' in order to work efficiently. But now my frustration from working from different computers has just gotten the best of me - time to make a drastic change in the way I work.

It will be an interesting experiment. I'll let you know how it comes out.

A couple months ago, I stopped saving files to my hard drive (and using the flash memory stick only for backups) and started using Google Docs almost exclusively for my word processing and spreadsheets. There have only been a few features that I've missed. Otherwise, I've been VERY happy with that experiment. I even used ZoHo for creating a presentation.

I have also stopped (mostly) using my browser's bookmarks in favor of and have been THRILLED with that move.

My pictures are going either into my Facebook account or into Flickr.

I'm storing my presentations on Slideshare.

What's left?

Would you like to join me in this experiment? What are you liking or missing?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Making Impacts

Last week I talked to the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware Associations of County Agricultural Agents about collaborating online, web 2.0 and using wikis (there division between all three of these is very hazy). I had a great time visiting with the agents up there and enjoyed their hospitality (and crabs).

During the presentation on wikis, we created a PACAA wiki using PBwiki. Ken Balliet started the home page with a great introduction. I especially like it where he asks, "Who is the webmaster of the PACAA wiki?" and answers, "YOU ARE!" (referring to the PACAA members).

They have some great agents doing some great things up there.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Presence technologies

Twitter, Jaiku, Facebook, Kyte, Plaxo, etc.
These are some new applications you might want to learn more about.

The only way to 'grok' these is to get in there and try it for a couple of weeks. Find some friends and do it together.

My id on Twitter, and Delicious is "jdorner".
On Facebook, just search for John Dorner. One of the advantages of having an uncommon name is that there are only two of us on Facebook - so far.

Robert Scoble has a good intro to some of these.

I'll be blogging about these and some others when I have some time to blog. Right now, I've got to go catch my plane.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"My audience doesn't use the internet"

I've heard more educators say - "My audience doesn't use the internet" or they "don't have email". If your audience isn't extremely poor (i.e. living in assisted housing or homeless), maybe you could do them more good by teaching them about the benefits of using the computer and the internet than anything else you can teach them. Teach them how to learn and the best tool to do that with is a computer connected to the internet.

If you are dealing with business people (farmers are business people) and they aren't computer literate - they won't be business people (or your clients) very much longer. In today's world, if you aren't keeping up, you're falling behind.

Diane Ducharme (an Extension Agent who works with vegetable producers) and I were talking about this after lunch today and brainstormed about how becoming computer literate could help a vegetable farmer. Some thoughts we came up with:

  • weather info
  • pesticide data sheets and labels
  • access the most current Ag Chem Manual
  • comparison shop for equipment and parts - save money by finding the cheapest sources
  • buy equipment, parts, anything else - and have it delivered to the farm
  • parts manuals (that the hard copy that came with the piece have been lost)
  • follow the markets
  • reduce accountant costs by using accounting software
  • keep field records - production, inputs, pesticide applications, etc.
  • keep up to date with the news - including the production magazines
  • communicate more easily with the Extension Agent
These are just a few - how many more can you come up with?

Wouldn't some educational programs teaching those who aren't computer literate about these tools be more beneficial than teaching them about the most recent advances in production technology?

Which is going to help them keep the farm or stay in business longer? Teaching them about the latest advance or teaching them how to find out about the latest advances from now on?

Reminds me of the saying about teaching a man to fish.

More thoughts on Twitter

I've been using Twitter for a month or so now and have come to like it. When I start my day, I usually check my Twitbin or Tweetbar, then on to my 'a-list' folder of RSS Reader (currently I'm using Google Reader). If I find something interesting that prompts a post, I'll post a blog article - like I'm doing now. Then I check my e-mail. That reminds me - let me go look at the subject/senders and see if there is anything that can't wait another 5 minutes - nope there isn't.
Slacker Manager put it this way, "Some have called Twitter a form of microblogging and I think that’s a helpful way of looking at it."

Some of the people I follow occasionally post useful links or mention topics that will direct my learning. Others I follow for their humorous comments. Some I follow to develop or improve a relationship. Most of the people I'm following now are people I might see or even talk to just once or twice a year. Twitter let's me keep up with what's going on in their lives on a daily basis, so when we do meet, we can have much richer conversations.

I'm looking forward to the day when I have more of my co-workers in my friends & followers lists. Then - we could ask questions and carry on psuedo asynchronous conversations in Twitter space. - sort of like an archived chat room that we could all keep check on - without cluttering email boxes. My biggest frustration is the frequency that twitter is 'down'. I suspect this is the price of success - growing faster than they had imagined.

If you are interested in getting started with Twitter, here's a good read. "The Several Habits of Wildly Successful Twitter Users"

Friday, May 18, 2007

Evaluating Educational Blogs

It's hard to know the impact of your blog. If you're lucky, 1% of the readers leave a comment - maybe more if you are wrong or writing about things based on opinions. How many of my readers actually learn from what I write? How many people read what I write? I can't count page hits or user sessions - they can give me trends and who knows how many bots and spider hits are there as opposed to real eyeballs. Or how many of the real eyeballs landed here and said 'this isn't what I wanted' and left. Another problem is that they don't count the people who read the posts in their RSS reader or have it emailed to them via a service like FeedBurner.

One tool I recently came across (still in beta) is RateItAll. You can get a widget to put on your blog that lets readers (assuming they come to your blog page) rate your blog. Come to this blog's page and rate it. Ideally, something like this would be on every article - so I can get some feedback on each article. But still, I miss all the people who don't come to the blog's site to read the blog.

So, I'm left to judge the effectiveness of this blog by the comments I get from personal conversations with the people I'm writing this for (like Anne Adrian said - "Write to a particular person or a small group with similar interest"). Do I see references to my writings in other's (those for whom I'm writing) blogs? Questions I get related to things I've written about are also another indication of its success.

Based on these measures, it is successful. But, are these measures quantifiable? I guess, theoretically, you could keep count of all those comments and questions, but not realistically. How can you justify to the bean counters that posting to a blog is beneficial to the company?

If your measure of success is the number of widgets sold, then you could use Google Analytics to count how many clicked through to the "Purchase" page. But, if your objective is to change people's behavior through education, how do you measure that?

I'm still searching for answers to these questions. If you have any, PLEASE share them!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Can Blogs Replace Newsletters

For several months I've been thinking about whether hard copy newsletters should be (and could be) replaced or augmented with blogs. Many send out periodic (monthly or quarterly) newsletters with information for their clients. I used to write a monthly newsletter and have abandoned that for a couple of blogs - this one for non-EIT supported topics and I contribute to Tech Talk for EIT supported stuff. Is this the right thing to do for newsletters whose target audience is the general public or a more narrow group such as dairy producers?

Can a blog replace the newsletter? Today, I would say yes and no. There is a part of most audiences that can't or won't read the blog, so you have to continue sending the hard copy newsletter. But, you can start weaning those who receive the hard copy version over to the blog version.

Make your blog better than the hard copy issue - put more in your blog articles than your hard copy articles - because you aren't limited by the size of the piece of paper. Use photographs and links to related information - because you can. In the hard copy newsletter, be sure to mention that there is more in the blog and where to find it. This will encourage your clients to opt for the method that is better, faster, easier and cheaper for you to deliver.

In your blog, post 'Right Now' articles along with the same articles you put in your hard copy newsletter (get all the mileage you can). If they read the same article weeks sooner and more, and better articles, eventually they'll drop the hard copy preference.

I think more of your audience is using these technologies than you think. Technorati is currently tracking 81.2 million blogs. That means that a significant portion of the general public is reading blogs and technologically competent enough to be using tools like RSS readers to get their information. If they aren't, perhaps this is a training opportunity for you to really help your clients learn how to get information.

If they aren't doing so today, they will be soon! Do you want to be 'established' before a critical mass of your audience is ready? Do you want to be seen as 'out of date' with the percentage of your audience that is already using RSS readers and wonders why they can't get your information that way?

If your clients are running a business and aren't capable of using these tools, they won't be in business much longer. Do them a favor and help them learn.

I often hear "My clients prefer hard copy newsletters". I wonder if they were asked 'would they prefer receiving it via email for free or paying $1.00 per issue for hard copy' - (it costs near that or more if you figure postage, copying and staff time printing, labeling, preparing for mail and mailing) how many would still opt for the hard copy?

I also wonder how they would answer if they were informed that the online articles would be delivered as they were written rather than waiting weeks for them to be collected, formatted and mailed?

Another bonus of blogging is that it is easy for multiple people to contribute like Tim and Diane are doing with Master Your Garden.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Using a News Reader

Why use a News Reader (i.e. Google Reader, Newsgator, Netvibes or 100's of others)?

The web is changing. You may have heard the term Web 2.0 - what does this mean? It means that the way you use the web should change. One thing to change is how you get your information. There is so much new information being generated in your field - no matter what your field is - that you can't keep using the old way of browsing to keep up. You have to use the tools that bring what's changing to you. That's where an news reader (aka feed reader, RSS reader, agrigator) comes to your rescue.

Whenever you are looking at a page that changes frequently, check to see if it offers a feed that you can add to your feed reader. In Firefox 2, there will be the familiar feed icon in the location panel. In MSIE 7, there is similar icon on the toolbar.

Clicking on it in Firefox 2 will give you options for subscribing to this feed.

MSIE 7 will add it to your Favorites Center. You can copy the URL from any page where the feed icon turns orange and subscribe to it in your favorite feed reader.

Anne Adrian posted an excellent article "How to use a news reader" that includes step-by-step instructions and examples of Extension blogs that demonstrate how blogs can be used by Extension professionals.

For more information on comparing agrigators go to:

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A graphical dictionary

Scouting around, I found this site: Visuwords. It is a graphical dictionary. It's hard to describe, you just have to go there and try it out. Look up a word with multiple meanings like "network" to get the full effect. I can see this easily replacing the thesaurus I use.

Position your pointer over the word to get the definition.

Pretty cool looking - and useful.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Why Twitter???

Anne (aafromaa) asked for a reason to try twitter. Kevin (k1v1n) answered - because it is fun.

Like Anne, I couldn't see a compelling reason to use Twitter. But, after a couple weeks of using it and a late night discussion with Robert Neely, I finally figured it out - at least a reason for me.

I don't have much face-to-face contact or even telephone contact with most of the people that I work with. Usually it is IM, email and I might see them a couple times a year. When we do get together, I don't know much about what's going on in their life - either personal or professional outside of the project or problem we're working on.

Twitter lets me maintain or improve a connection with my friends. It is a social networking tool. It's amazing how nice it is to know what my friends are doing or thinking right now. It's like a little reminder to think about them and make a mental connection. I hope that when they post, they occasionally think of me.

Another neat use of Twitter was when Beth (bnr1) twittered that she was getting ready for an online class she was leading. It reminded me (I hadn't forgotten Beth) that it was almost time to connect. So, this can also be a marketing tool! Beth uses it effectively to remind me that she is working on the next class - a week or so out.

I was trying to explain Twitter to my wife - she looks at me like I've lost my mind. But she works in an office and has that social network in the face-to-face environment, so she doesn't need twitter - yet. When more of her friends that she hasn't seen in years get on, then I'm sure she'll join in too.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Social Computing Graduate Program

Adding to my post of yesterday where I quoted Karl Fisch's statement, "The top 10 jobs that will be in demand in 2010 didn't exist in 2004."

Today, I found this item from the University of Michigan's School of Information:

SI adds six new specializations to master's program

(Mar 2007) The University of Michigan School of Information is responding to fast-paced changes in the information professions by offering students six new specializations, including social computing, incentive-centered design, and community informatics.

They say "Social Computing specialists will be highly qualified to step into positions such as these: Online community manager; Product manager; Social network analyst; Community organizer; Management consultant; User experience analyst; e-Marketing associate; Web analyst". How many of these jobs existed in 2004?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Future is Coming Fast!

This 6 minute video - Shift Happens - based on a presentation by Karl Fisch is thought provoking and scary! In it he talks about globalization in the information age. Well worth the time to watch.

Some quotes:

The top 10 jobs that will be in demand in 2010 didn't exist in 2004.
We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist using technologies that haven't yet been invented in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet.

I ate Chinese today and my fortune cookie said "The wise thing to do is to prepare for the unexpected." This was very apropos because during lunch, we were discussing this video and the only way I see to prepare for the unexpected changes that will come from what Karl talks about is to increase your basic knowledge gathering and learning skills. Learn how to stay up-to-date! Learn to use the tools as they come available - one at a time - rather than trying to learn everything after everyone else is already there.


Slideshare offers you a way to post your presentations (PowerPoint, PDF, and OpenOffice) - up to 30MB - and share them with the world. Of course, I don't care about sharing with the world, but there are times I want to share my presentations with more than a couple others and this is a great repository for you to use to do just that. Think of it as free web space for hosting your presentations.

It is also a cool place to find presentations on topics you are interested in teaching or learning - (i.e. Teaching Excel or Animals and Disaster). Once you find a presentation in your area, you've also found someone who knows about the topic you are interested. You can see other presentations from that same individual.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

PBwiki has gone AD FREE

PBwiki recently made all of their wikis ad free. They are making their money by selling extra features like customizing the design or more file space. The 10MB that comes with the free account is plenty for thousands of pages - you'd want the additional space if you were sharing files or had lots of images.

Their tag line is, “Make a PBwiki as easily as a peanut butter sandwich” and it's true! It's hard to imagine that it could be any easier.

This fits perfectly with all kinds of groups of people working together. There are just so many times a wiki would be the perfect tool for all types of projects. I recently started one for our boy scout troop to be able to post the minutes of all our leader meetings and to develop the agendas for our camping trips -

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

RSS for beginners

Lee LeFever posted a video that does an EXCELLENT job of explaining RSS in Plain English

There are two types of Internet users, those that use RSS and those that don't. This video is for the people who could save time using RSS, but don't know where to start.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What not to do with PowerPoint

Start your week with some humor.
Comedian Don McMillan hits the highlights of what not to do with PowerPoint in the video:
Life After Death by PowerPoint

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Legal Guide for Bloggers

The Legal Guide for Bloggers by the Electronic Frontier Foundation answers several legal questions that bloggers need to be aware of. Here are just a few of the questions they answer that I found interesting. There are lots more on their site.

  • I found something interesting on someone else's blog. May I quote it?
  • What is fair use?
  • May I freely copy from federal government documents?
  • Am I free to copy facts and ideas?
  • How does a Creative Commons license help?
  • I'd like to let other people copy from my blog. Can I license it?
  • If a reader comments on my blog, does she license the rights to me?
  • Can I "deep link" to someone else's website or blog post?
  • When can I borrow someone's images for my blog post?
  • Can I use a trademark in my blog's name or in the title of a blog post?
  • What is "Libel Per Se"?
  • Can I be sued for publishing somebody else's private facts?
  • What is offensive to a reasonable person?
It's a site worth looking at if you blog. The good news is that as a blogger, you are allowed an awful lot of latitude - mostly under the freedom of speech laws.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Guerrilla Gardening

Talk about 'random acts of kindness'. These guys are doing something really nice for communities.

Maybe this is something that might catch on with the Master Gardeners program. Guerrilla MGs???

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Blog Readership survey

Vizu and AdAge conducted a "Blog Readership" survey and it had some interesting results.
The report leaves out some important information, such as who was surveyed and how many.

I didn't see any major surprises in their conclusions (some of which I quoted below).

• Community is a primary driver of readership within blogosphere
- search engines are secondary to links and recommendations as a way to find blogs
• Quality of writing is a very important driver of how people perceive blogs
- Personal opinion oriented content is the defining characteristic of blogs
• Personal interest and entertainment drive more readership than business or education
See the complete results.


Here's another useful tool for collaborating! Amazingly simple to use.

Keep track of a to-do list, notes, writeboards, and links. For a fee, you can share a calendar, upload files and images and have more pages.

I think this could be a pretty simple project management tool.

But, I ask myself "What can you do here that you can't in a wiki?" And I answer myself, "mmm... Maybe it has a better interface for doing what it does - easier for a novice - maybe." Not really sure. I think I'll stick with my wikis for collaborating. I'm sure it's the right tool for something and someone. Certainly worth looking at and creating an account - just to play with for a few minutes.

Friday, March 30, 2007

PBwiki for Educators

I've been a fan of PBwiki since I first found them in 2005. They live up to their promise that creating a PBwiki is as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich.

It has all the features I need in a wiki - GUI editor, optional password protection, several templates make it easy to create pages for different purposes, the ability to upload files and did I mention that it is FREE! Of course, if you want more features or more than 10MB for your files, you can get those for a fee. I also love the fact that you get a nice URL i.e. "".

PBwiki is specifically targeting and developing tools for educators - Check out their Educator Videos and see how other educators are using wikis and what they like about them.

Update: Check out Now you can create an account that allows easy access to all of your PBwikis.

(Full disclosure: I have no involvement or ties with PBwiki other than being a passionate user)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Google Guide

Want to make your time using Google more efficient? Take a look at Google Guide

If you want to go even farther, check out YubNub. I've installed the YubNub search extension for Firefox and now I don't have to select where I want to search with the mouse, I just type "wp" at the beginning of my search phrase and it searches WikiPedia. Type "d" at the beginning and it searches Start with "y" and it searches Yahoo!. Start with "g" and it searches Gooogle. There's lots of others and you can customize it too!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Subscribe via Email

FeedBurner has lots of 'tools' available for bloggers. One of these is a widget you can put on your blog to allow your readers to subscribe via email (rather than feed reader). While personally, I think feed readers are the best way to go, I realize that many readers prefer email. By adding this feature to the Scouting Around blog, you have your choice - and that is the most important thing - you choose how you want to get the information you want delivered to you.

Look on the sidebar of this page, there is a link "Subscribe to Scouting Around by Email". You can enter your email address to receive the posts to this blog the day they are posted. If more than one post is made in a day, then they are collected into one message so you receive no more than one email a day.

Let me know what you think of this feature. How's it work for you?

Multitasking - Is It Good or Evil

A couple days ago, I read Anne's Thoughts article on multitasking where she quoted Kathleen Melymuka's, Computerworld report on how IT multitasking affects individual productivity. The bottom line I got out of it was that multitasking was a good thing and something we should strive to become proficient at by improving our IT skills.

This morning, I read a 43 Folders article referencing a New York Times study NYT: New data on the problems of “multitasking”. The bottom line I got out of this one was that multitasking is a bad thing for getting things done. They cited human brain activity studies.

Both articles are good reads and link to references for even more reading. I've got more reading and thinking to do before I can decide for myself just how much mutitasking I'm going to set as my ideal level. If you have any thoughts or facts on this topic please share them.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Name change to "Scouting Around"

I really hate to change the title of this blog, but...

It was time to differentiate my personal blog from my 'work' related blog. I wanted to make it perfectly clear that topics, ideas and opinions voiced here were my own and not necessarily supported by EIT. You might see some more 'Scouting' stuff creep in. Most of the Scouting items would be of interest to anyone working with 'youth development'.

Who knows how it will evolve. Certainly not me :)

Remarkable Customer Support

It's funny that today, I've read two articles on customer service that 100% contradict each other. I don't know what's more remarkable that I ended up reading two articles on customer satisfaction when I wasn't looking for that at all or that they contradict each other. Both are excellent reads and I hope I will put into practice some lessons from each of them.

Alexander Kjerulf's "Top 5 reasons why "The Customer is Always Right" is Wrong" and

Joel on Software's "Seven steps to remarkable customer support".

Both make good points and give good examples. I think the right answer is somewhere between the two - or maybe a combination of the two. If I had to choose, I would favor Joel's steps.

Just what I needed, two more blogs to subscribe to...

Zamzar - Free Online File Conversion

Have you ever wanted to convert files without the need to download software ?
Someone send you a file and you don't have the right application to open it?
Want to convert a PDF to Word so you can type in it?

Zamzar is a free site (supported by advertising) that lets you email or upload a file and then be emailed when it has been converted.

You can convert many different document formats (CSV, DOC, ODP, ODS, ODT, PDF, PPT, and PS) to your choice of many formats including DOC, HTML, MDB, ODS, ODT, PDF, RTF, CSV, XLS, XML, PCX, PNG, JPG, THUMBNAIL, TIFF, PS, TXT, PPT, and SWF depending on the original format.

You can also convert audio and video files to other audio/video formats.

The only two negatives I could find are that is wasn't 'instantaneous'. It took a few minutes between uploading and receiving the email with the link to the converted file and it doesn't convert MS Publisher files.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Making sense out of web statistics

Using web statistics as an indicator of how many people you have reached is just wrong.

Larry Lippke has an excellent explanation of what the web stats mean. Here is a snippet of his conclusions:

Given the nature of web statistics, Extension cannot, and should not, be trying to equate anything about web delivery to its old paradigm of seeing or communicating with people in person. Web statistics can only reflect the information that is kept in the log files of the web server. And, when dealing with various accountability agencies and auditors, we find they are typically interested in "just the facts". They want you reporting the facts in a consistent manner. And, they want those facts to be conservative, defensible, auditable, and replicable. The facts are that the log files tell you how many files the server delivered, which files it delivered, how many kilobytes were in those files, what IP numbers the server delivered the files to, and when it delivered the files. The logs files contain no information about where the users of these IP numbers are geographically located. IP numbers cannot be equated to people. Multiple people can be assigned the same IP number by an internet service provider. The same person may come to the website from multiple IP numbers.

For all those who want to use these numbers, this is a MUST READ.

Larry explains what the different numbers mean and how they can and should be used in reporting.

TimeSelect University Free to University Faculty and Students

From the New York Times:

TimesSelect University is a special offer for college students and faculty that extends to them a free subscription for TimesSelect, the online service from The New York Times.
For more info:

To subscribe:

Monday, March 19, 2007

Undoing links in PowerPoint

In PowerPoint 2003 you can turn off the AutoCorrect feature that makes URLs hyperlinks. In PowerPoint 2004 (Mac) I have not been able to find a way to do this. If you know where this setting is, please let me know.

Good news - There is a way to undo the hyperlink after it's been automatically added. As soon as you type the space or return after entering a URL, press Command-Z on the Mac.

This also work in PowerPoint 2003, except it is Control-Z in Windows if you have not disabled this AutoCorrect feature.

Another way is after typing the space after the URL, use the left arrow key and then Backspace, then right arrow key to continue working. This works in both PPT2003 and PPT2004.

Learn how to type

In today's world of word processors, web browsers, email and instant messaging, if you can't type well you don't have a voice. If you can't type fast, you are wasting a lot of time.

Any time you can invest in improving your typing speed and accuracy will repay itself MANY times over. To help you there is a great site: Peter's Online Typing Course at:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Meals Matter

Here's a site that may be of special interest to the Extension Family and Consumer Science agents out there - as well as anyone who eats.

They have tips, planners, substitution guides, and more on fitness and nutrition. Of course they have lots of recipes!

Recognizing E-Mail Scams

Every now and then I come across an interesting email scam. You have to admire these guys for their creativity and understanding of human nature. This one looked almost good enough to fool me, but there were a couple of tell-tale signs that gave it away.

First and most importantly - Thunderbird flagged this as a Scam and when I clicked on the link it popped up a message that said "Thunderbird thinks this site is supicious! It may be trying to impersonate the web page you want to visit. Are you sure you want to visit"

A little information here - domains work from right to left. is controlled by - not! If it had been, then I would have felt a better about the information presented.

Second, there was no indication who this card was from. I've received enough cards from Blue Mountain to know that they indicate who is the sender. Normally, I don't like receiving these type greetings - and often don't even open them. If you aren't my wife or kids or someone very special, chances are I'm not going to bother opening the card unless I think there is something special you want to say to ME. To me, the ability to automatically have cards sent to a list of people is too impersonal. If you want to wish me a happy birthday, send me an email message, IM or phone call - or facebook, or any other number of ways. I like knowing that you are thinking of me on my birthday - not some day two years ago when you added my information to the BlueMountain Calendar. But, I digressed...

After having my suspicions raised, I looked at the status bar when I positioned my pointer over the link and noticed that it pointed to a site different than that shown in the message. This ALWAYS throws up big red flags for me.

When I clicked on the link I got a window indicating that I have chosen to open "postcard.jpg.exe" from If I wasn't sceptical yet, now the warning alarms, bells and whistles are screaming "CANCEL NOW! GET OUT OF HERE!"

There are several red flags in this window.

The filename - postcard.jpg.exe - is an old way of fooling people to open an executable file because some applciations don't show the file name extension - they would just show "postcard.jpg" which many users would assume the extension is JPG and it is a photograph. Big red flag!

Next, the "from:" tells me that this is not a registered server. HUGE red flag!

Finally, even if I knew who this was from - and wanted to get it, chances are very good that I'm not going to install any application in order to get it - even if I thought that Blue Mountain had started doing business this way - which they haven't.

Just stay alert because these scammers are getting smarter and smarter about how to trick you into installing programs like key loggers or worse or getting you to give them information they can use to take your money and identity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Picassa Web Albums

Picassa Web Albums

Picasa is free photo software from Google that helps you manage all the photos on your computer.
This is the first photo editor that allowed me to actually improve a photo.

Now Picasa is also the easiest way to put your pictures online. Just download the latest version and you'll be sharing in seconds.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Posting from Google Docs

Today, I played with Google Docs & Spreadsheets "Post to Blog" feature. This makes it worth leaving my old blog.
I never was happy with the editor (Roller) that Wolfblogs uses - I could never figure out how get the formatting to work. Maybe it's just me...

With the ability to use Google Docs to edit and post I decided to revisit my first blog - which I only made one post to in 2004 - on blogger.

It was really easy to edit the templates.

Another reason I decided to 'move' was because my 'technology hero' Kevin Gamble (HighTouch) moved. I figure if I follow in his footsteps, I won't go wrong. Sometimes it takes me too long to discover that he's right, but so far he hasn't led me wrong.

The more I use Google Docs & Spreadsheets, the more I like it. I haven't used Word for quite some time now. The only thing I use Word for now is for formatting a document for printing on paper - which I don't do very often. I used Word today to send a Word document that someone else sent me to some others and as soon as I did, I regretted it. I apologize to those I sent the document to earlier today. I should have uploaded it to Google Docs and then Published it and emailed the link. I'm sure they would have appreciated it.

Cool Marketing Ideas