Posts filed under ‘Search Tools’

5 great tools and techniques for developing presentations

Hi, everyone! One of my favorite librarians and open source advocates (Nicole Engard) just Tweet DMed me and asked if I ever shared officially the tools I mentioned in a discussion session on Presentation Tools and Techniques at Pres4Lib at Princeton Public Library. I replied no, with regrets. I figured if she’s wondering about it, maybe you are too!

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I use a pretty well structured, personally vetted workflow for developing presentations and blog posts that involves developing an outline, collecting images, preparing images, research and citations. Let me share some of the tools that I use to accomplish these tasks just about every time.

Google Docs
Image via Wikipedia

Google Docs Presentations

I stopped using Microsoft PowerPoint a few years ago and have not looked back. While I would consider using the open source alternative of OpenOffice.org’s presentation tool, by instead choosing a presentation tool in the cloud, I get the ability to edit and present anywhere where I’m connected, the ability to edit offline with Google Gears installed on Firefox, the common ability to add images, draw pictures, embed my slideshows (!), allow people to automatically see the latest greatest embedded versions of my presentations up to the second after I’ve updated them, allow for collaboration and co-viewing and if I absolutely must, export to a PDF for offline sharing and presentation disaster backup. I can even make a PPT for someone who insists on it.

I typically log in to Google Docs, create a title slide for my topic, and then immediately develop an agenda slide, which I then begin to outline with the topics (and slides) that I want to cover in my talk. My style emphasizes simple broad topics which I elaborate on in spontaneous ways. I try to keep the number of words on slides to an absolute minimum. I usually make a slide for each of my topics, and I then try to look for stories, photos, and illustrations that lead the people in the audience to start thinking about my topics before I introduce them verbally or textually.

Image representing Google Images as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

Creative Commons vetting via Google Image Search

Google Image Search is far and away the best image search tool I’ve come across (with the ability to search for line art, faces, and by color, etc.), especially now, since the recent addition of the license search feature in the advanced image search tool, which allows me to search according to Creative Commons licenses applied by designers and photographers to their images all over the web. This is especially important for me because I don’t just want to just use other peoples’ images in my work without their consent. I want to respect the wishes of image creators. By using the license restrictions, I can quickly find images available for commercial use, images allowed to be modified, images that simply require attribution, and even images in the public domain.

When we respect the rights of creators and innovators, and celebrate others’ work properly, I believe we engage in modeling important aspects of information literacy, if not common humanity.

I’ll search for a topic keyword, often choosing CC-attribution licensing, which allows me the greatest flexibility with which to use the images, to modify them, use them in commercial situations, and promote creative commons licensing, while simply being required to include attributive references to the original image author. I will very often name the file locally with the name of the author of the image, in the format “by username.jpg” or “from nameofwebsitedotcom.jpg” so that I have a built in back-reference.

Image representing Picasa as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Picasa

Once I have the images I want to use in my presentation saved to my local hard drive in a project folder, I often need to tweak, categorize, combine, title, tag, and integrate the images. While I can do this in a myriad of different utilities, tools, and applications, none of them have quite the combination of speed, comprehensive toolset, ease of use, functions, smoothness, or slickness of Google’s Picasa. Once you have downloaded and installed this free tool, you can use a Google account to store images in free named online galleries and keep them synchronized for free. With the number and variety of images I work with in my design and presentation work, I am thrilled that I have Picasa to help me wrangle them all.

I use it to tag, group, move, geocode, describe, upload, tweak, collage, print, and watermark my images for presentations, design work, papers, and everything else. It is a free, versatile, and irreplaceable tool in my personal tool set.

An example of both Zotero and OpenURL referrer...

Image via Wikipedia

Zotero

Zotero is a Firefox extension that allows for the single click based collection, categorization, tagging, editing, and even full text storage of web based database entries, books, articles, presentations, images and other standard citable sources. The amazing thing it that it automatically recognizes and collects metadata when it is present in a form that Zotero understands. This might sound like a difficult thing for content providers to implement, but all I had to do to make my WordPress blogs compliant was to install a single metadata-providing plugin (COinS) that offers my name, the title of posts, the publication date and other automatically generated metadata in blogging to Zotero users. Other sources who provide the relevant metadata to Zotero include major scholarly databases like Ebsco, newspapers like the New York Times, online booksellers like Amazon, and blogs and wikis around the world.

If I haven’t hooked you in to using Zotero yet, did I mention that with two clicks, you get properly formatted bibliographies in APA, MLA, and other citation styles? After I’ve visited books on Amazon and collected their data, or after I’ve found articles on Google Scholar and collected their data, or after I’ve grabbed creative commons licensed images from Flickr and collected their data, I can simply select all of them in my Zotero database, right click, and choose “Make bibliography from selected sources” which I then choose to send to clipboard, then paste right into my final slide, reference area of my paper, or wherever else I need to respect copyright or usage license. It is also a phenomenal way to meet the requirements of CC Attribution.

QuoteURLText

Number 5, QuoteURLtext (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4292) is another Firefox Extension that does one thing, but does it exceptionally well. It copies the highlighted text on a page along with the date and time, URL, and page title to the clipboard so that you can easily paste some casual piece of information (such as a tasty tech tip, a quick statistic, a delicious quotation, or a little known fact) into a slide, paper, or post without having to go so far as to reference it in APA style. It’s like a casual little sister utility to the powerhouse that is Zotero.

Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

<Jeopardy Daily Double Music> Bonus Tool: Zemanta: </Jeopardy Daily Double Music>

Finally, Zemanta (a play on semantic) is another Firefox extension that shows up in a sidebar when you are using supporting applications, such as Gmail, Blogger, WordPress, and other applications (check out their site for more). I desperately wish it worked with Google Docs Presentations, but nothing hints at that yet. Here’s why I care: All of the photos, captions, tags, post story articles, and even some of the links to referential sources were all suggested, generated and placed with a single click each using Zemanta. As I type, Zemanta autoscans sources with CC licensed imagery, content, and resources related semantically to my content. Let me reiterate: As I type.  All I need to do to add it to my post is simply to click. Clickety-clickety.

A pleasure to speak with you as always, I hope you learn to love these great free tools for developing your presentations just as much as I do.

John LeMasney

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November 16, 2009 at 9:00 am 1 comment

Keeping up with Internet Stats: Some of Robert Lackie’s Favorites—What are yours?

Last week, I did a quick presentation at my own Rider University Libraries for the CJRLC Tech Group May meeting attendees, and some of the sites I discussed and demonstrated were sites I subscribe to or visit regularly to keep up with various Internet statistics—that is, where to go to find out who’s hot, who’s not, and who’s got the search market cornered, so that I can invest big bucks. ;)

OK, seriously, I have no real $$ to invest, but I do invest a lot of time on the Web, and when I am interested in knowing more about specific or general U.S. or world Internet traffic and other stats, I consistently go to my favorite Web locations (or have them come to me—I just love RSS!). I continually poll those who attend my sessions to see who they think dominate certain subject or topic areas, including general search engines’ market share of searches. I also am somewhat surprised that many people that I talk to at workshops, conferences, and other librarian and teacher get-togethers do not know about these stat sites, or at least much about them. When I show them how I know what I do about some of this, most quickly jot down the URLs or efficiently add them to their bookmarks or RSS feed readers. And since I just answered three messages about this, I figured—sounds like this could be a good blog post before I head off on a long drive to Arkansas for my son’s wedding! So, here they are, in no particular order of preference:

Alexa – They have a lot to offer, but I love their Traffic Rankings section with it’s “Top 500 Sites” and “Movers & Shakers,” as well as their Directory with its “Popular Categories,” and I like their blog, too.

comScore – They also keep me coming back, and I really like their blog and Data Center, but it is their Press Releases section that I constantly review—I think you will really appreciate these.

Nielsen//NetRatings – Definitely in my top three, I like their Free Data and Rankings section, but I find myself constantly coming back to their Press Releases section (you can do a search or scroll down the page to find previous releases).

So, do you like these as much as I do? Do you have different favorites for keeping up with Internet stats that you would like to share? I am sure that everyone would love to hear from you!

P.S. If you are feeling somewhat nostalgic (life from 15 months ago), look at the current sites above and compare it to a Library Garden post I did on U.S. Web search traffic from Jan. 2007 from comScore.

-Robert Lackie

Technorati Tags: Internet statistics, search engines, site popularity, traffic ranking, Library Garden

May 20, 2008 at 7:56 pm 3 comments

10 plus 1 questions with Boris Simkovich, Zuula.com

Zuula (http://www.zuula.com/) is a newish metasearch engine that I’ve been enjoying. Unlike most metasearch engines Zuula is not an aggregator. Rather, it displays results in a tabbed format which makes it easy to quickly click along and review results from different search engines. You can also limit your initial searches to these categories: Web, images, news, blog, and jobs. It’s a great interface and, like so many good things in life, Zuula is based right here in the Garden State.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Boris Simkovich, Chief Executive Officer of Zuula LLC.

  1. Question: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into the search engine business?

Answer: Well, you probably won’t be too surprised to hear that I didn’t grow up wanting to be in the search engine business!

In college, I studied engineering and economics, and I continued with my study of economics in graduate school, where I got a Ph.D. After that, I spent a couple of years in academia, teaching and doing research in economics, then switched over to the world of management consulting, where I worked for almost ten years.

I finally got involved with the search engine business when the consulting business I was running hired an old graduate school friend of mine, Tim Hunt. Tim also had been working in management consulting, but he had a long-standing hankering to start a software or Internet business. He couldn’t pursue this interest, however, at a traditional consulting firm, so he agreed to come to my firm when I said we would give him the opportunity to pursue a start-up idea while he also was doing consulting work.

So Tim joined the consulting business three years ago, and soon thereafter, we started considering a variety of different new business ideas that might match his interests (and, frankly, my own interests). About two years ago, we settled on the idea that eventually became Zuula.

  1. Question: Why did you name it Zuula?

Answer: That’s a question that gets asked a lot more than any of us at Zuula expected.

The answer to the question surprises a lot of people. We started off considering name ideas that were very, very different from Zuula. However, as we looked at different options, and also took into account what domain names (Internet addresses) were actually available, the search got more and more difficult. Finally, after playing around with different names that were short, easy to remember, and had available Internet addresses, we settled on the name Zuula.

So, in many ways, Zuula is a made-up name. When we selected it, we didn’t think it had any particular meaning. However, we’ve since found out that the word actually means “to take off” in a central African language, and we hope the meaning is a prediction of sorts for what will happen with Zuula.

  1. Question: Why did you start Zuula [as opposed to some other Internet-related business]?

Answer: We decided to pursue the ideas that eventually became Zuula for several reasons.

First, we liked the fact that Internet search is such a large business, and almost everyone who uses the Internet uses a search engine from time to time. This meant that it wouldn’t be too hard to find potential users for our new service, and that the service most likely could thrive even if it attracted only a small share of its overall market.

Second, we felt that the features we intended to offer through Zuula would, in fact, appeal to many people who use search engines. Working in consulting, we used search engines all the time. And, based on our own needs, we felt there would be a lot of interest in a search tool like Zuula.

  1. Question: How long did it take to get Zuula off the ground? What’s involved in launching a new search engine?

Answer: It took a LONG time to get Zuula up and running … a lot longer than we expected.

The basic idea for Zuula came into being in the spring of 2005. It wasn’t until that summer, however, that we decided on the features and functionality you now see in Zuula. From then on, it took almost one and a half years for our programming team to develop and finally launch Zuula.

As you know, Zuula is a meta search engine, which means that it doesn’t have a search index of its own. Instead, Zuula presents search results from a variety of other search engines – Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. – for a number of different search types. This means that one of the key tasks during the development of Zuula was creating the routines that process the results from other search engines and display them at Zuula.

In addition, we had to design Zuula’s user interface and develop the necessary code for it, and we had to create all the help information and other content necessary for a professional site.

Finally, we had to optimize all of Zuula’s code so that it runs as fast as possible, and we had to establish a server network that was fast, reliable, secure, and cost-effective. In retrospect, I don’t think any of these tasks stand out as having taken particularly longer than we expected. Instead, what we learned is that it doesn’t take very long to complete the core aspects of any given task. It does take long, however, to complete each and every necessary detail of a task … and to get everything to work together successfully.

  1. Question: Why should I use Zuula instead of Google or other search engines?

Answer: Actually, the beauty of Zuula is that you can leverage its capabilities without having to give up Google (or whatever other major search engine you’re accustomed to using).

Let me explain.

I mentioned earlier that Zuula is a meta search engine, meaning it displays results from a number of other search engines. Unlike other meta search engines, however, Zuula does not aggregate the results from other engines into a single list.

Instead, the results are organized under separate tabs. Results from Google, for example, can be viewed by clicking on the Google tab. Likewise, results from Yahoo are viewable by clicking on the Yahoo tab. There are tabs for essentially all the major search engines, and five different types of search are possible: web, image, news, blog, and jobs.

Moreover, for each type of search, the user can customize the order of the tabs to match his or her preferences. If a user prefers to have Yahoo as her default web search engine, all she has to do is drag the Yahoo tab so it is the first web search tab.

In this way, Zuula’s users can do most of their searching using the search engines they’re already accustomed to. With Zuula, however, users also get quick access to results from other major search engines for those occasions when their default search engines are not enough. There is no need to re-enter search terms, and all search results at Zuula are presented in a consistent, easy-to-read format that clearly distinguishes between organic results and sponsored results (advertising). There’s even a collapsible list of recent searches which can be helpful for difficult searches.

  1. Question: What developments are planned? What do we have to look forward to?

Answer: We are constantly working on improving Zuula.

For example, we soon will be adding more search engines, and additional search types also should become available in the next several months. Longer term, users should expect to see more customization options and better international support.

And I shouldn’t forget to mention a major upgrade which we’ll be rolling out in the next few weeks. It will involve a unique set of features – based on some innovative new technology – that will make Zuula an even more powerful search tool. Stay tuned!

  1. Question: What does Zuula offer that might be of particular interest to the readers of Library Garden?

Answer: This may surprise many of your readers, but we’ve always believed that library professionals would be some of Zuula’s first fans. We thought that librarians – as professional researchers — would be particularly attracted to Zuula’s ability to streamline difficult Internet searches.

We also thought that librarians would see Zuula as a way to be more neutral when recommending Internet search tools to patrons. By introducing Zuula in their research guides, handouts, and links on public access computers, librarians can leave it up to their patrons to decide which of the major search engines they want to use for their Internet searches.

Thus, your readers may want to consider adding Zuula to the search boxes in the IE7 or Firefox 2.0 browsers on their public access computers. (There is a link on Zuula’s home page to add Zuula to the browser’s search box.)

Also, we’ll soon be posting html code on the Zuula website which will make it easy to add a Zuula search box to any web page. This, too, may be useful for any public access computers your readers may be responsible for. (There probably will be an announcement at the Zuula blog – http://www.zuulablog.com/ – when the search box code is posted.)

[3/2 Update: The code is ready to go at: http://www.zuula.com/help/ZuulaAddin.html]

  1. Question: What is your vision for Zuula?

Answer: To be honest, we’re cautious about having a broad, overarching vision for Zuula. When it comes to the Internet, what’s “visionary” today can quickly become ill-informed and misguided tomorrow.

Thus, we try to focus on things closer to the here and now. For Zuula, that means continuing to expand the power and versatility of its search capabilities. As simple minded as it may seem, we want Zuula to be one of the best ways to find information on the Internet.

  1. Question: I would love to be able to run a search and then subscribe to an RSS feed for that search that brings me updated results in real time (a’la technorati, delicious, flickr, etc.) Any plans to add that kind of RSS component?

Answer: Sorry, but we’re not currently planning any RSS functionality like you’ve described. However, we very much welcome suggestions, comments, and criticisms from our users, and we’ll consider adding this feature in the future.

  1. Question: So what’s the business model here? It doesn’t look like you’re selling advertising—how do plan to stay in business?

Answer: You’re absolutely correct – we’re not selling advertising. And I suspect it will be quite some time before we start selling advertising directly on our own.

Currently, the advertising we display at Zuula is the same advertising that users would see if they carried out their searches directly at the search engines whose results we display. Zuula receives no money whatsoever from the advertisements. Any revenue created by the advertisements is 100 percent retained by the search engines whose results are displayed alongside the advertisements.

Obviously, this approach is not sustainable in the long run. Instead, we expect sometime later this year to begin implementing arrangements to allow us to retain some or all of the revenue generated by the advertising at Zuula. This won’t happen overnight, but it’s certainly the long-term direction of the site.

  1. Question: I love the idea of the Zuula blog, but the posting has been pretty sparse. What do you see as the blog’s purpose and do you have plans to beef up the postings?

Answer: It’s unfortunate but true that the Zuula blog has taken a back seat to other work we’ve been doing since Zuula’s launch late last year.

However, you should start to see more regular postings at the site in the coming month or two. For now, our intention is for the blog to be a way to “highlight and announce.” “Highlight,” in the sense of explaining to our users features that Zuula has, but which they may not have noticed. “Announce,” in the sense of publicizing new features and functionality that we’ve developed for Zuula.

That’s not to say that our plans for the blog’s content are set in stone. Indeed, we’d be happy to hear from your readers what sort of content they’d like to see at the blog.

March 1, 2007 at 6:32 pm 2 comments

Update on U.S. Web Search Market–Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, & Time Warner

In this morning’s USA Today Tech section, a short article was written about the U.S. search market from comScore Networks, showing that in December 2006,…

* Google sites were ranked as #1 with 47.3% of U.S. search market
* Yahoo sites as #2 with 28.5%
* Microsoft sites as #3 with 10.5%
* Ask Network as #4 with 5.4%

Also interesting from the article…

* “An estimated 6.7 billion searches were conducted by U.S. Web users in December, up 1% from November.”

“The number of U.S. Web search queries has grown 30% since December of 2005, comScore said.


Go to the actual January 15, 2007 press release of comScore Networks survey cited for some more detail, which also lists…

* Time Warner Network as #5 with 4.9% of the U.S search market,

and it states there that “Google Sites led the pack with 3.2 billion search queries performed, followed by Yahoo Sites (1.9 billion), MSN-Microsoft (713 million), Ask Network (363 million), and Time Warner Network (335 million).”

January 16, 2007 at 10:59 am

Wikipedia v. Britannica: This time it’s personal

Get thee over to the Wall Street Journal and read this gloves-off (you know, in a genteel way) debate between Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, and Dale Hoiberg, editor-in-chief of Britannica. Here’s a taste:

Mr. Hoiberg: No, we don’t publish rough drafts. We want our articles to be correct before they are published. We stand behind our process, based on trained editors and fact-checkers, more than 4,000 experts, and sound writing. Our model works well. Wikipedia is very different, but nothing in their model suggests we should change what we do.

Mr. Wales: Fitting words for an epitaph… …We are open and transparent and eager to help people find criticisms of us. Disconcerting and unusual, I know. But, well, welcome to the Internet.

Personally, it took me a while to get to the point where I feel a fair level of trust in the quality of Wikipedia. I think Wales has done an excellent job of creating a system that maximizes the benefits of open source collaboration, while minimizing the drawback and dangers of having too much openness. I’m reminded of the brilliant article Clay Shirkey wrote a few years ago, “A Group is it’s own worst enemy“. Shirkey, building off of the concepts expressed by psychologist W.R. Bion in his seminal work,”Experiences in Groups“, wrote,

Group structure is necessary to defend the group from itself. Group structure exists to keep a group on target, on track, on message, on charter, whatever. To keep a group focused on its own sophisticated goals and to keep a group from sliding into these basic [destructive] patterns. Group structure defends the group from the action of its own members. (emphasis is mine, pjb)

I remember being struck by Bion’s work when I first read him in a college psych class, but Shirkey really brings it home. Although Shirkey is mostly focusing on social software, the concepts expressed in “Own Worst Enemy” are applicable well beyond that topic, and you might find yourself reflecting on the structure and health of your library (or your Bridge club, or your — um, make that OUR — government). Geek confession: I keep a copy of Shirkey’s article in a “Ponderables” binder on my night table and re-read it regularly.

But I digress. Point is, Wales has done a great job of keeping Wikipedia from being it’s own worst enemy, and I’ve seriously warmed up to Wikipedia as a trusted source.

September 14, 2006 at 9:27 am 4 comments


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