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How I Will Move Forward After Deactivating My Facebook Account [pt 2 of 3]

If you missed the first part of this series explaining why I deactivated my Facebook account in the first place, go check it out now.

I can’t stay off of Facebook forever, I don’t think. For one, I do actually have work responsibilities that require me to update Facebook Pages. Second, even in the one week I have been off of Facebook, there have been contests I have wanted to enter or posts I’ve been linked to from Twitter that require me to use Facebook*. I could do with out the second, but the first reason is enough to make me consider how I will use Facebook post-deactivation. Finally, the are some specific parts of Facebook that I find useful and which generate positive emotions, like Facebook Groups**.

I see three choices. Continue reading

WordCamp Kansas City 2012 Review #wckc

I just got back from NerdCamp, er, WordCamp Kansas City, and it was a blast! My only complaint was the venue: last year we met on a college campus, so there were conference tables for easy note-taking, reliable wifi, and plenty of plug-ins for charging our devices. OfficePort KC is a cool venue in a cool part of town, but I still prefer the JCCC campus from last year for this sort of event.

With that said, I don’t have anything else negative to say, except that it’s always over too quickly! My sincere thanks and congratulations to the speakers and organizers for a successful, engaging, and productive WordCamp KC 2012!

Here’s a quick run-down of the sessions I attended. Continue reading

Google+ Twitter Integration: How to Send Posts from Google+ to Twitter

This post is for Nathan. :)

Google+ Twitter Integration is something I have sought after for almost as long as I’ve been using Google+ (I’d even be happy with the reverse!), but I never found a method that worked. Until IFTTT. There is a Recipe (user-created triggers and actions), but it didn’t work. I was determined! So I Googled a bit and found exactly what I needed from Google+ user Henrik Ekenberg. I’m posting the Google+ Twitter integration process here so hopefully it is easier to find in the future. Continue reading

How to Get Started with Google+

Google+ is the latest entry to the social networking race. I’m going to stay out of the “Is it better than Facebook or Twitter or Orkut?” game and just stick to the basics: How does it work? What does that mean for you, the beginner who wants to check it out? How should you precede? Because you should tread carefully as you begin, like with any new website that puts You online, I’m going to give you some strategies for getting started efficiently.

How Does Google+ Work?

Google+ is an interesting mix of Facebook and Twitter. Like Twitter, there are no mutual follows required. You can add someone to a circle (more about that new bit of terminology in a little) and they will receive a notification, but they don’t have to add you back.

However, like Facebook, no one can see your posts unless you let them. You can either make your posts Public so anyone can see them, or they are only visible to people you have added to a circle.

So that’s it: add people you want to follow to your circles. When people follow you, add them to a circle or ignore the notification.

One final word about how Google+ works: each time you post, you can choose–among the other requisite options, like adding an image or location–in a couple clicks, which circles you want to share each status update with. It’s very easy.

How to Start with Google+

The circle is the main social unit in Google+. I started off haphazardly creating circles, but then it got too wild. I had to stop, re-think how I would be sharing, and change my circles around. So before you get dive into Google+, take a few minutes and list the groups of people you want to share  things with. Try to think generally at this point. Here’s what I did, for inspiration.

  • Following: these are people who post really interesting updates, famous people, influential people. I want to get their updates, but I probably won’t share a lot with them.
  • Family: I think this one is self-explanatory. I have all of my family in one circle right now, but as more of them join, I will consider splitting family into family groups.
  • Outer Circle: Everyone I follow that isn’t in the Following circle is either in this group or the Inner Circle group. This is for people I want to share things with, but not personal things. These are definitely people I know.
  • Inner Circle: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory too, but there are often posts that I want to share only with people I’m close to, so I have this circle.

I have several other circles, too, like for the Springfield Bloggers Association members and students, but to cut down on how many circles I need to select each time I post a status update, every one I add on Google+ goes into either my Following circle, my Outer Circle , or my Inner Circle. Putting your connections into too many circles quickly becomes overwhelming, trust me.

How does Instant Upload work, and why is it better?

For Android phones, Google+ makes it about as easy as it can be to share pictures. All of the other apps make you leave their app to select pictures. And if you want to upload pictures that you took on your phone when you’re on the computer, too bad, go find your phone. But Google+ will, if you allow it, upload pictures you take on your phone to your Google account so that you can upload pictures from anywhere.

Dead simple photo sharing. I love it.

What is a Hangout?

This is a really cool feature of Google+! A hangout is a voice and video chat with anyone on Google+, as many people as you want! I haven’t actually had a Hangout yet… anyone want to play around with Hangouts with me?

I think that’s enough to get you started. Go, explore Google+ and add me to one of your circles! If you have questions, post them in the comments and maybe you’ll inspire a future post!

2 Great Services for Monitoring Twitter Follows and Unfollows

If you’re a stats person* like me, you’ll love these tools, which help you find out who unfollowed you, who is or isn’t following you (more targeted), and track favorites.

Who.Unfollowed.Me

This is a free service with a $4.99 Pro version that tells you who you’re following that doesn’t follow you back, who is following you but you do not follow, and it let’s you follow/unfollow from within the service (Pro). After playing around with Who.Unfollowed.Me Lite, I was impressed enough to pay the 5 bucks to support the developer and get some extra features. You should try this service out if you suddenly suspect that someone you thought would follow you through thick and thin might have stopped following you. If you want to maintain a good following/follower ratio**, then you’ve gotta try this, and then you’ll probably want to spring for the Pro account.

DoesFollow

The only big difference between DoesFollow and Who.Unfollowed.Me is that DoesFollow will check if one specific person is following another specific person or not. You can use this to check if someone is following you without wading through their following list, or you can check to see if your niece is following Justin Bieber.

This site has a nice short cut. You can type doesfollow.com/user1/user2 into the navigation bar and load the result without loading the page first. You’ll want to make sure you fill in the blanks this way to see who is following who: “Does USER1 follow USER2?” I got the order wrong the first time I used it, but there is a “swap” option to see the reverse relationship with a single click.

What tools do you use to make the most of your Twitter? Share them in the comments.

Notes

* By “stats person,” I mean that I enjoy knowing things about stuff. I don’t know much about standard deviation or… or… well, “standard deviation” is the only Stats phrase I know, so I think that makes my point clear.
** Following lots of people without having many of them follow you back looks spammy, and it might also make Twitter think you’re gaming the system. As to the perfect ratio? You should have more followers than people you are following, ideally. Here are two good article on the Twitter Golden Ratio and a great, simple explanation of this concept.

What Are Your Top Android App Must-Haves?

We’ve made the switch. That’s right. We’re moving from 2 dumbphones + 2 iPod Touches to Android phones. We are so looking forward to only having to carry around one device for tunes and texts (who makes phone calls anymore, seriously?). Daniel, my brother, recommended a few strong Android devices, and after research, we’ve settled on the Nexus S. It’s Google’s very own Android phone, and ours will arrive sometime Tuesday afternoon.

I’ve been using iOS since December 2008, and I love the variety of apps available. In the past two years, I’ve used my iPod Touch for everything from a running stopwatch to a mobile attendance list for my classes to a creative writing notebook to a ToDo list to a synced-with-Rob’s-iPod grocery list, and much more.

So here’s the purpose of this post: Android fans and fellow iOS-to-Androiders, what apps are must haves for a new Android user? I’m not asking how to translate my iOS usage to the Android platform, but I want to know what the best and brightest Android apps are. Productivity, writing, Twitter, Facebook, gaming, weather, health stats, RSS feeds, clocks/timing, photography… you name it, I want to know. Tell me in the comments, or write a post of your own and link to it in the comments. I’ll add a list of these posts to the end of my blog.

Thanks to The Pop Herald for giving me permission to use the above image, two skateboarding Android robots, an homage to my little brother who used to skate all over Neosho and who is a huge reason we’re going Android.

3 Best iPhone Apps for World Cup Fans

On Friday, the biggest world-wide sports event, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, opens with host country South Africa challenging Mexico. American soccer fans don’t have to wait long to see their team play; on the second game day, a much anticipated clash between England and the United States starts at 1:30 CST. The 2010 World Cup is one month of nearly daily soccer, filled with exciting match-ups and probably with more than a few surprising upsets.

What’s the best way to follow your favorite team? Or at least to stay in-the-know so you’ll have something to discuss with your footy-obsessed friends between June 11 and July 11? With an iPhone app, of course! But which one? Here are my recommendations, for everyone from serious Fußball fans with office pool standings to keep track of, to soccer fans who want to know what’s going on. I’ve even included an embarrassing entry in the World Cup iPhone arena.

Best All-in-One App:  ESPN2010 FIFA World Cup

I have a feeling that this strong, well-balanced app from sports behemoth ESPN will be my go-to app for World Cup 2010.The app is free, but to get all sorts of cool options, like live audio, play-by-play commentary, and alerts for all 64 matches, you have to buy the World Cup Premium Package for $7.99. I don’t know that I’ll pay 8 bucks (!) for those features. They do sound nice, but for 8 clams? Hmm. We’ll see.

Unlike a couple other World Cup apps (who shall, for now, remain nameless), ESPN’s news section stays current (nice feature, right?), and this is an absolute must-have for a sports event with up to three games a day during the group stage.

There is a small news ticker along the bottom of the app, but unlike the Fox Soccer Channel app (honorable mention, below), it is minimalist and well-designed. It doesn’t detract from the main function of the app, which is to share World Cup info.

This app also features your chosen favorite teams front and center. (In case you’re wondering, mine are, in no particular order, England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, and Brazil.)

In the spinner below your favorites is where all of the other useful information is located, including Scores & Schedule, News, Video, Tables, Stats, and Teams. All of this information is just a finger slide away. Great design.

Best True Footy Fan App: World Football Tracker

Warning: This $0.99 app is for serious fand only! Or for people who really like entering numbers into boxes.

This app lets you plug in your predictions for every game, then figures group stage tables. Based on group stage scores entered (and maybe on world standings, which can be updated with a single click from the Options menu), it predicts round of 16, quarter finals, semi-finals, and final stage face-offs! Rob and I usually make predictions and compete for highest score (3 points for a spot-on correct prediction, 2 points for the right spread, or 1 point for correctly identifying the winner), so this will really help me to see the effects of my predictions and adjust as necessary. Shh, don’t tell him my secret.

But the app isn’t just useful for score predictions. It shows the time, date, and location of every match, includes a knockout table, and lets you choose a favorite team (although I can’t quite figure out how to do that, and there aren’t instructions in the Help section).

For a buck, it’s a great app for serious footy fans.

Best Year-Round App: iFooty (and iFooty Plus for $2.99)

This is the soccer app that I use year round, and even though I can’t see any World Cup-related stats yet because the app displays results and game breakdowns, I am sure that it will be as useful during the World Cup as it was for checking Champions League, Premiere League, Bundesliga, La Liga, or whichever world league(s) you want to follow. It offers push notifications for any teams you specify. As a fan who just can’t watch all the games I want to live, I really love this feature.

Honorable Mention: Fox Soccer Channel

Wow. This one was disappointing. While it supplies the basic, expected features, like displaying group tables and team information (in a style that I found overly difficult to navigate), the news ticker is flashy and distracting, news items were almost two months old, and the gallery images? There are some “fun” galleries, like World Cup of Hair and Hunky Soccer Players Gallery. The captions in this one sound like they were written by a dude whose women told him which players were hot but not why. Now, I am not one to disagree with anyone who says soccer players are hot. But I think serious commentary is expected. I get the impression that some of these galleries were created ahead of June 11 just fill out the gallery section.  They are entertaining, that’s for sure, but junk food when I’m looking for meat and potatoes. Check out the hormonal captions Fox Soccer Channel subjects users to.

Michael Ballack: The Chelsea midfielder and Germany captain makes them swoon. And no, that is not a photo of Matt Damon.

Thanks. Because I was confused. Since, you know, Matt Damon regularly moonlights as a Chelsea player.


Landon Donovan: The face of U.S. soccer is a good looking one, indeed.

[Insert picture of chiseled soccer player here]
[Insert generic comment about how hot said chiseled player is]

Yawn.


Cristiano Ronaldo: The Real Madrid star and leader of Portugal has taken over from David Beckham and the sport’s preeminent sex symbol.

What whack job thinks Beckham has lost his sex appeal? Don’t get me wrong, Ronaldo is one fine specimen. But Becks still has it. Am I right, ladies, or am I right?


See what I mean? Believe me, we don’t need Fox telling us who’s hot. Just show us the shirtless pics and we’ll drool on our iPhones all by ourselves. :)

Have another great soccer app? Share it in the comments! If you feel like writing about it, email it to lam (at) lindenamueller.com; I’d love to feature it as a guest post!

Two New Ways to Hold Office Hours

This semester, I’m teaching Composition I for OTC online. It is an adventure for sure. I’m just now starting to get used to answering the varied and informal questions I’ve been getting in my OTC inbox, and I’m taking a professional development course that shows instructors how to make the most of multimedia like images, screencasts (using Jing and Screenr), videos, automated narrated PowerPoint presentation, and flash. It’s really making me think of new ways to bring audio-visual elements into my comp classes.

I’m enjoying learning all of these new methods, and I will slowly begin integrating them into my teaching methods. But I am about to make a change that I will implement immediately, and it’s a bit unconventional.

Yesterday, I met with three other instructors and had a Wimba Playdate. We logged into Blackboard and entered the Wimba Classroom. What’s Wimba, you ask? Yeah, I had no idea until yesterday at 10:30 either. Wimba is an online tool that allows for synchronous discussion, presentations, instant messaging, link sharing, and whiteboard use. It’s a really fascinating tool and I wish I had learned about it sooner, but the semester isn’t even half over yet, so I’ll have plenty of time to use it.

And today, all OTC faculty and staff received an email sharing various mentions of OTC in the news. One that caught my eyes was a News-Leader article about a professor who has moved his office hours to the Border’s cafe. I love it. He’s getting more students because, he conjectures, they feel more comfortable in that environment, they feel less like they are bothering him.

I definitely see his point. I have always had students visit me during my office hours, then apologize for bothering me. I don’t get it.

Currently, my office hours are from 10:00 until 2:00 and 7:00 to 9:00 Monday through Friday. I offered so many hours because I have many students who work full time jobs and have families to take care of. They need alternative times to reach me. But, like always, no one is really taking advantage of my current office hours. So I’m going to change the way I do office hours.

Starting next week, I’m cutting way back. I’ll offer two daytime options throughout the week and two nighttime options. One of each time frame will be in Wimba and one will be at Barnes & Noble (gotta support the hubby, right?). Because I teach online, many of my students are not in this area, so I don’t know how successful the Barnes & Noble office hours will be, but I’m willing to give it a try and re-evaluate later. At the least, I’ll get to enjoy a skinny Chai latte and work around other people, outside my home office.

I’ll remind students that they may of course call my Google Voice number anytime, which I have set to DND during certain hours. We’ll see how it goes. I’m hopeful about these unconventional options, and I hope my students will use them, partly so I can play with Wimba and have a legitimate excuse hang out at a coffee shop and enjoy fancy drinks.

Twitter Q&A: Hashtags

Edit: Check out the end of the post for an update regarding a third-part application that makes dealing with hashtags much easier.

Ever since Sarah (@sarahjoaustin) and I (@xgravity23) published our series on the True Beginner’s Guide to Twitter and the corresponding free eBook, I have been getting questions about Twitter. Some are easily answered in a tweet or quick email, but this one from @lorraR I thought deserved to be a blog post. If you have any questions about Twitter, feel free to DM me or send me an email at lam(at)lindenamueller(dot)com!

Question: How do I create a hashtag?

Well, technically, all you have to do is tweet it to create it. I usually do a Twitter search before initial use of a hashtag I plan to use over and over (like #09creowksp) to make sure no one else is using it.

You can also check Hashtags.org or Tagal.us. I have found Hashtags.org fairly unusable, though, up until the latest redesign. For now, though, I check Tagal.us first, then Hashtags.

You have to create an account before you can start defining hashtags on the Tagal.us site. Once you’ve set up your account, you can see if your desired tag is in use and define it or add your own definition (remember, words often have more than one definition–think “table” which can be a noun or a verb) or comment on a tag.

One drawback to Tagal.us and Hashtags.org: that information isn’t accessible to Twitter users who aren’t using those sites. For this reason alone, Sarah and I came up with the #define hashtag.

Recommended: define new hashtags

Recommended: define new hashtags

The first time you tweet with your new hashtag should be a tweet that begins with “#newHashtag #define”–even if you’ve defined your tweet elsewhere–so that if a user uses Twitter search to see if a hashtag is in use, they will still find a definition. (Hopefully. See below.) That way, they’ll know if that tag is the one they want, and you won’t run the risk of have your tag used for some unrelated event, idea, or purpose.

Interesting fact: Tagal.us can also be useful for other sites, like Flickr and YouTube. See their About page for more info.

Twitter’s Much Touted Search is Broken?

I wrote the bulk of this post almost a month ago, and I let it fester because I could not explain why Twitter search and Hashtags.org can’t find my 20 some-odd posts from the 2009 8th Creolistics Workshop, which I taged with #09creowksp (here’s the tweet where I used #define to tell others what I that new hashtag would be referring to). You  Ican find it at Tagal.us, but only because I defined it myself–it actually show any Twitter results, though (no surprise). I just went back through all my tweets and tagged the #09creowksp ones at Diigo so there is hard proof that they do indeed exist, despite what Twitter search says.

Just today I stumbled across Louis Gray complaining that Twitter’s much-touted real-time search is broken, and I felt relieved. I wasn’t crazy, but I have found yet another very broken part of Twitter, one that they are proud of, one that is at least part of the attraction from potential buyers like Google and others (including Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple). Why doesn’t it work as far (not-so-far??) back as April? I like Twitter, obviously, but this is, in my book, more serious than the recent @ reply debacle.

Update: WTHashtag

Thanks to Mike at WTHashtag (see comments below), I can tell you about another service that makes defining and searching hashtags from within Twitter. They offer many services similar to Tagal.us, but offer some sweet stuff on top, including a live-stream of top hashtags, a chart of who is using a hashtag most frequently, and a bot on Twitter, @wthashtag, who you can DM to find the definition of a hashtag (if it has been defined in their system).

They automatically track top trending hastags, so if you are creating your own, be sure to log in and define it before using it so that the system will track it for you (regardless of whether or not Twitter’s search will remember it!).

Trying to Figure out Twitter? Try Our Free eBook!

a-true-beginners-guide-to-getting-the-most-out-of-twitter-300If you are new to Twitter, you might be overwhelmed with all of the ins and outs of this popular service. If you have time, you should check out the blog series that Sarah (@SarahJAustin) and I (@xgravity23) wrote several weeks ago. The four posts break down Twitter into manageable bird bites: Twitter basics; making the most of Twitter’s advanced features; how to get the most out of Twitter on the web, at your desk, on the go; and our favorite tools and resources.

Maybe you have time to read all four posts (or already have!). Or maybe you want to get all of this great Twitter info in one place. Well, have I got a surprise for you!

Today, we are releasing an eBook, “A True Beginner’s Guide to Getting the Most Out of Twitter” (PDF), which puts all of the great guides, links, and resources in one nifty PDF file for you take with you offline and share with others as much as you’d like. Sarah and I have had so much fun putting it together, with the expert and gracious design work of Sarah’s husband Chris, so we hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

If you want to link to it on your blog, all we ask is that link to our blogs or Twitter profiles. Enjoy, and let us know if you have any question at all.