So who made it Create Your Own Infographics week and didn’t tell me? Well, there might not be any reason why they’d think to tell me, but I would still be kind of interested if there WAS some group with the power to decree a Create Your Own Infographics week.
Anyway, a whole bunch of these have cropped up on my radar in the last couple of days.
From the website: “Content is still king. Venngage’s tools make it easy for anyone to create beautiful infographics and data visualizations for their blogs and websites. Watch your audience grow with compelling and beautiful content.”
So I haven’t really played with any of these yet? Looking at the main pages and descriptions – it seems clear that they are looking for a commercial writer/blogger/content producer market, not the educational market. Which doesn’t mean anything in particular, but it’s interesting that that is where the demand is perceived.
I suspect this means that we will soon get reminded of just how difficult it is to make good infographics; it would be nice if a proliferation of DIY infographics would spark a conversation about what makes a good one. Obviously, these conversations are happening, but mostly among those who make them for a living. If everyone starts making them, that conversation would hopefully get broader – like the conversations about what makes a good slidedeck or presentation.
It has been ages since I talked about a new tool/service like this but Shaun came home talking about Storify the other day and it sounded good so I got myself an invite.
Basically, it lets you pull content from the dynamic web, including all of the social social media suspects plus search results, into a timeline-like interface. You add text (or not) and you have a story.
Reading the “one year out” iPad posts that have been popping up, I have been thinking about how I use mine — especially how I use it differently than I expected. One thing I didn’t expect was the extent to which I have used it to replace some of the paper in my life. Not all of it, but some of it. And one of the most interesting pieces of that story, to me, has been the extent to which some of the papers being replaced are the reams and reams of paper worth of article printouts I used to create.
Those printouts were totally outside my workflow in so many ways – but I had to be able to:
Take them places (even my laptop is so much less mobile than a folder of paper and a pen).
Read them (which I could technically do, but not really do on my phone).
Take notes on them (typing doesn’t count for me. I wish it did. But it doesn’t).
There are definitely some glitches – the integration with Flickr wasn’t working at all for me, for example. But it was quick and intuitive and I like the output a lot. I have some more interesting ideas for using it than this one.
I decided before the start of this term, the first term in which I would be teaching a credit class in almost eight years (and I’m teaching 2!) that my Library Skills for English Majors class would collaboratively create an annotated bibliography in Zotero for their main group project.
I want them to develop some facility with Zotero, and this seems like a good way to do this. The ins and outs of working with metadata on Zotero connects back to a lot of the course themes, making even those that are a little abstract seem more concrete. At least I hope so.
I’ve barely explored the Zotero group settings for all that I have been there for a while (and for all that I have group libraries and everything) so I was not at all sure how well it would work or even if it would work for students in this class. I’m still not sure because I’d like them to do a lot of the work in-class, and they don’t have their own computers there. It should be possible for them to sync what they do on library machines to their online libraries, but until we try it, I just won’t know.
So yeah, that’s the reason why I was so happy to find that I’m not the first person to try this -(Profhacker author) Brian Croxall at Clemson did it before and he did it for English and he wrote about it extensively which is so amazingly awesome. I drew heavily from it even when it didn’t directly – it’s amazing how working with someone else’s assignment online is like talking it through, having someone to get you thinking about the stuff you’re forgetting.
Anyway, so the theme they’re building this bibliography around is the scholarly and creative output of their own faculty, This is only a 1-credit class (more on the challenges of doing anything meaningful in a 1 credit class later, I promise) and they don’t have a common research assignment in other classes (or any research assignment, in many cases) so it’s really hard to make it relevant. I am hoping that this focus will add a note of relevance to a kind of abstract skills-for-skills-sake class. I am also fascinated by what our faculty are producing and will enjoy what the students find and choose to add in any event.
via Erin Ellis (facebook) plus then via a bunch of other people — proof that, in the age of social media, an awesome title can boost your impact factor. But the content stands on its own as well – I’ve been thinking a lot about different information seeking style, and how different people gravitate naturally towards different approaches. By Karen Janke and Emily Dill: “New shit has come to light”: Information seeking behavior in The Big Lebowski
via Cool Tools (blog) Longform to Instapaper. Long Form by itself is pretty cool, it aggregates some of the best long-form (mostly magazine) writing on all kinds of topics. But what makes it really cool is that it integrates seamlessly with Instapaper, meaning that I can find something there, push a button and have it available on my iPad to read offline the next time I am stuck somewhere boring.
via Cliopatria (blog). Obligatory history-related resource — London Lives: 1690-1800. Pulling together documents from 8 archives & 15 datasets, this online archive asks “What was it like to live in the world’s first million person city?”
It became quickly obvious to us that there was no way we could examine the female fashion on Mad Men without looking at ALL the females. Costume Designer Janie Bryant deserves every bit of acclaim and applause that has come her way since she started work on the show. Think of this series of posts as a mini-retrospective. We’ll work our way up to Joan and Betty by looking at each of the other characters first.
Here’s the thing – I love the posts for the big 3 characters – Joan, Betty, and Peggy – but in some ways, I love the posts about the secondary characters more. In the first group, the conversation is very character-driven, what different costuming choices say about different characters, which is fun and interesting. In the second group, though, there’s just as much about what the costumes AND characters say about the time and place in which they’re set – which is right in my analytical sweet spot.
Using social networking visualization tools to visualize the letters that scholars wrote to each other way back in the early days of scholarly communication.
Forged in the humanist culture of learning that promoted the ancient ideal of the republic as the place for free and continuous exchange of knowledge, the Republic of Letters was simultaneously an imagined community (a scholar’s utopia where differences, in theory, would not matter), an information network, and a dynamic platform from which a wide variety of intellectual projects – many of them with important ramifications for society, politics, and religion – were proposed, vetted, and executed.
You can check out their case studies, or do a little bit of playing with their tools.
In the next two days, I’ll be giving a series of talks as part of this workshop in Seattle. Here are the supporting materials for one of them – a short technology demonstration about our Flip video project…
For an example of how we used the Flip video camera we bought — we didn’t use it to demonstrate research processes or to show things in the library. Or, I should say, we did do some of those things but not in the project I am describing.
But we did use the videos in tutorials. Basically, my colleague Hannah and I had to do some work revising a set of tutorials. And as is the case with all tutorials, we had these context-setting pieces that had to go in, pieces where the tutorial explains why the student should take an interest in the process or tool the tutorial will teach them to use. We didn’t want to write up a set of “here’s why you should care” pages to include in the tutorial, but we weren’t sure where to go from there.
And then one of us – I don’t remember who – had the idea to ask our OSU students to talk about research, with the hope that we could then pull out “clips” that would illustrate what it was we were going to talk about.
It turned out to be a fantastic project – so much fun to work on. We worked with our office of Student Leadership and Involvement to identify students who were here in the summer and willing to participate. Then we did a quick 15-30 minute interview with each one. We recorded the whole thing with a Flip camera, and then used iMovie to pull out useful clips. The clips are stored on YouTube, so all of our librarians can use them in tutorials, course pages and elsewhere.
This one is one of my favorites – Emmanuel on how librarians are helpful!
Well, I don’t actually know. But I know the answer is “maybe” which is something. I was pointed to this tool this morning (still in beta, first area of concern is that I can’t tell if its going to stay free) — eyePlorer.com.
It’s a way to visualize Wikipedia information, which is something we’ve seen before. But there’s something kind of fun and compelling about how it works. And there are some add-on tools within the interface that could be really, really useful in the topic exploration phase of the research process. Still, there are a couple of things that are giving me pause – I’ll get to those at the end.
First, the good. It’s got circles. No, seriously, I mean it. It’s a fun interface to browse around in.
When you start the tool, you get an empty circle with a search box. It does okay at figuring out the topic you want. My first try was the topic of a student paper from a while ago. I remembered this one because I had been pleased at the time that Wikipedia had a page for this student, specifically on their topic – orcas san juan.
EyePlorer wasn’t able to figure out what I meant by that search, but when I backtracked broader to just orcas, it did. And better yet, one of the clusters of additional information was about places – and I was able to click and connect to information on the specific topic.
There’s a tool at the bottom of the screen that lets you zoom in to see more connections:
or out to see fewer:
If you click on the topics, you get a snippet from Wikipedia, and the option to get a little more. The snippet is a link which will take you to the wikipedia page. You can drag these snippets over to a notebook space, and move them around.
(Note – you have to have popups enabled for these things to work)
The note book thing in particular seems really potentially useful during topic exploration.
So why am I hesitant? Two things. First, I don’t really get the being able to click through to the Wikipedia page thing, because all of these subtopics and broader topics took me to the same page – the killer whale page from which they were all drawn. It didn’t even take me to the part of the page the snippet was on, which would have put me closer to being able to click to another page — but I kept expecting to do that, to switch topics, within the tool and as far as I could tell in 10 minutes, I couldn’t.
This connects to the notebook as well – unless you do another search on another set of keywords, the notes that you pull over and rearrange are really just rearranging an existing Wikipedia article. That’s not very useful. Your notes do stay on the notebook from search to search, so that’s good – but I think you would need to build in specific guidance about research as an iterative, back and forth process, and make it clear that to use this tool to its fullest they should expect to search on multiple keywords.
That’s fine – research is like that and they should be prepared for back and forth and trying different things. But when the term you want is right there, and you know that it is a hyperlink in the initial article, it is a little frustrating to have to re-search to get it.
The other, and more important hesitation is the clustering. Much of the informational material on the site is in German, which I don’t read, or in the form of videos, which I don’t use. So the answers to this might be there and I was too ignorant/lazy to figure them out. But I don’t really understand how these different clusters (like slices of pie – color coded? These areas are representing some kind of clustering) work. If you mouse over the edge of the pie, you get a label – and some of those made sense (like “place”) but others – not so much.
Check this one out –
That refers to the little blue snippet – mean of transportation. The Hudson Strait, that I can understand (though I’m not sure how it is different than the other bodies of water which go under “infrastructure”) – but Squid? If you click on the dot, the snippet tells you that squid are a food source, so it seems like they should be below, in purple, with “milk.”
This might be a beta issue, right now it looks like the same categories attach no matter what the topic – at least I saw the same ones for peak oil and orcas. And it also might be a language issue. But I think this is worth keeping an eye on as a tool to encourage broad topic exploration.
This blog will never die. It will never die because of this post. Written in, I think, in about 15 minutes this post was just a quick thing to share a new tool that I was (and still am) really excited about. And I’m not the onlyone.
So I never expected that this post would have more legs than any other post I’ve ever made – it doesn’t have the highest hit count, but of all of the posts on this blog it is the tortoise-est one. Every day it picks up one or two or three views.
Unfortunately, those views come from people who are looking for something else. Well, I shouldn’t say “unfortunately.” I suspect a decent number of those people have never seen Wordle, and think it’s pretty cool. So it’s cool by extension that they see that post here. But they come here looking for (and this is almost always the exact wording of the search, it’s weird) – “words that mean pretty.” So, they want synonyms for the word pretty. I’m thinking that they know what pretty means, and that they want some other words that mean that same thing.
So there are a couple of information literacy issues here, right? The first, and probably most obvious, is that entering keywords into a search engine is not the best way to answer this particular question. There are better tools out there.
Information Literacy issue #1
Using Google, the Wordle post comes up #8 on the result list for the words that mean pretty search right now. So I assume that this is where most of the hits are coming from. It doesn’t appear on Yahoo (though there is a result about “how do I increase my dog’s understanding of words” which I find really intriguing). Anyway, sometimes it’s a little higher on the Google list, sometimes a little lower. Always on the first page. The reason why people click on it is clear – most of the other results are obviously not relevant. We have:
#7 – we finally get a result that might work. It’s a WikiAnswers question that just says – “words that have pretty much the same meaning.” But the description says “other words for pretty, same meaning as pretty” and so forth. But when you click through to the page, you don’t see those questions. Instead, you find out that the initial question was looking for a definition of the word “synonym.” Still, asking the question on WikiAnswers would probably work.
And then my post at #8. Not that I really have to convince anyone who reads this blog that a search engine isn’t the place to find synonyms and antonyms. So the first information literacy issue is a tool issue – there are things called thesauri and they can be really useful! Check them out.
Information Literacy issue the second
Which connects to the more subtle information literacy issue here. Which goes beyond how search engines aren’t a great starting point when you’re trying to find or generate synonyms – to finding and generating synonyms is a pretty fundamental part of effective keyword searching in search engines. If you understand how keyword searching works, you know that the search words that mean pretty will bring back anything with the disconnected terms words, mean and pretty. Which as the result list above indicates, is a whole lot of stuff you’re not interested in, including a random blog post about Wordle. So when you get that result list, if you know how keyword searching works, you can troubleshoot that search and say “hey, I think I need a more specific term to get at the concept words that mean.” If you’re really savvy at that point you might get the word “synonyms” from the WikiAnswers result and re-search using the terms synonyms and pretty. That search works – you get result after result listing other words that mean the same thing as “pretty” does.
But here’s the thing – a lot of people don’t know how keyword searching works, in search engines or elsewhere. Or they maybe kind of know, but they don’t really think about it. And they don’t know how to troubleshoot that first failed search, or to find synonyms that will work better. So I went looking – what would work better? Because, as it happens, I’m working on a new keyword assignment – that I started talking about a few days ago, and that Sara talked about here – for beginning composition that will try to get at some of these issues about keywords and how they connect to critical reading, writing, thinking, as well as searching.
So, if you are wondering where you can find some information about other words that mean pretty – checktheseout:
Lexipedia: Where Words Have Meaning: This one is interesting – it is based on the WordNet project at Princeton, and it creates, fairly quickly, cool webs of related words — synonyms, antonyms, fuzzynyms and more. The webs are color coded so that you can glance at them and know that synonyms are olive green and antonyms are dark red. The site looks a little bit messy, and it is hard to find. While it has the domain “lexipedia.com” – a search on “lexipedia” brings back a lot of references to another project, about Wikipedia and handhelds. Still, this one works pretty fast, provides a lot of terms that might be useful, and I like the glanceability of it.
Similar to this is Visuwords – an online graphical dictionary. This one is prettier, but the resulting display isn’t as complete, and I’m not sure as a tool for finding additional terms and synonyms it would be more useful
And for the more textually oriented, there’s Definr, that also uses the WordNet project data. Interestingly, it’s main selling point seems to be speed. And it does define words really, really fast. Not surprisingly, given the source data, it also provides some synonyms and related terms.
Both definr and lexipedia are user interfaces on top of the data generated by WordNet at Princeton. This project, which groups words into “sets of cognitive synonyms” has about a million related projects listed on its website. And the idea of cognitive synonyms is interesting, right? For thinking about connecting terms to concepts and troubleshooting searches?
And now, as a bonus librarian answer – according to the OED, the first definition of the word pretty (adj.) is “cunning,” “crafty” (originally), and “clever,” “skillful” or “able” (later). It was first used in this way in 1450. “Aesthetically pleasing” is the second meaning, and it was first used this way about 10 years earlier.
“Sitting pretty” dates back to 1915, in Lincoln, Nebraska and “pretty please” dates back to 1891.
I don’t have an iPhone, so there are many web sites I’d like to use on my phone that just don’t look very good. Delicious has always been one of those middle-ground sites that looks okay because there just isn’t much to it, but that isn’t really optimal. There’s always been a lot of stuff to navigate through before you get to your bookmarks – like your list of tags. And if you have a crazy long tag list like I do, that’s a real hardship.
So I was pretty happy to see that there is a mobile delicious option now.
I’m not sure it’s 100% awesome. It’s basically, login, list of bookmarks, and the ability to filter by tag (if you know the tag you want). I think for most of what I want to do, this will do.
But I don’t see an option to search my bookmarks and as someone who frequently makes the case in presentations that the searchability delicious offers is one of its best features, that might be a problem. Still, as a friend of mine just said to me on another topic – “progress – yay!”