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.

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