Posts Tagged ‘lifehacker’

In celebration of fee and open source software…

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Lifehacker has just released its list of “61 Free Desktop Applications, Webapps, and Tools We’re Most Thankful For.”

If you are new to the world of free and open source software, take a look at the list – you may be surprised how many excellent free applications there are out there. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are many others that I would have liked to see included (Drupal, Wordpress, Inkscape, and Scribus for starters) but it is a good introduction to the potential of free and open source computing.

If, like me, you are a free / open source enthusiast, you may find some new tools, or just smugly count how many of them you either have used or currently use. My total was 39 out of 61. It may also remind you to check for newer versions of software or tools that you haven’t tried for a while.

I’m off to see if Songbird has figured out how to deal effectively with podcasts yet…

Google Wave and History

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I am in an odd place, technologically speaking. I have at my disposal one of the most interesting, exciting and potentially useful pieces of new technology. And it is for the moment completely useless to me.

The technology I am talking about is Google Wave and it is at the same time fascinating and infuriating.

Why do I think Wave has so much potential? Because it can be used to collaborate, to communicate, to create, and to share ideas, documents and conversations in a way that has never before been possible.

Why is it completely useless to me at the moment? Because not one person I know is currently using it! This means that I can play around in Wave, add and remove extensions (I especially like the mind-mapping and whiteboard potential!) and wade into the sordid world of public waves to which every registered user can contribute. But thus far I have not been able to actually do anything productive or remotely useful with it, and this is simply because the people I would like to collaborate with are not yet using Wave.

But what would I like to use it for? Here are some ways in which I think Wave has great potential for the historian, author and editor in me:

  • collaborative organization. I would love to organize a conference on medieval concepts of time, and I think that a tool like Wave would be ideal for bringing organizers together to share ideas, and collect our documents in one secure central location
  • essay feedback and discussion. Once Google has added more and faster servers to the Wave service (there is a pretty bad lag at the moment) I believe it has the potential to be an excellent tool for any service where feedback and discussion of a document is necessary. As historyhelp.ca teaches students how to become better at research and writing, this could be an excellent fit. It is not there yet, but there is definitely potential
  • online tutoring. Not only would Wave provide a secure and private forum for tutoring, it would also provide the student with a permanent record of the tutoring session. As any number of people can be invited to join a wave, this opens the possibility of group tutorials that would previously have been completely unwieldy in a text-based setting (i.e. dozens or even hundreds of emails bouncing between participants)
  • Collaboration on articles or books

How can it benefit you as a student?

  • collaborative note-taking. For as long as students have been taking notes, they have been sharing notes. This can be a great way to learn as you are able to benefit from multiple ears and brains – all of which may have picked up something completely different than you from a lecture/book/whatever. If you have a group of friends who regularly share notes, you could start up a wave with all group members invited, and collaborate in real-time on note-sharing
  • Project management. If you are part of a group assigned to complete some kind of project, Wave might be an ideal solution

To be honest, I have only just begun to think about ways to use Wave. These are just some initial suggestions about ways to use it, and I am certain many, many more will follow. But this all depends on assembling a critical mass of Wave users. Right now Wave is restricted to invited users. You have to apply to join the preview, and once you have joined, you are then given a number of invitations that you can use to get your friends/family/whoever started on Wave.

So how do you get an invitation?

  • I still have a few invitations to share: the first five people to email me will receive one: kris@historyhelp.ca
  • go to wave.google.com and add yourself to their waiting list
  • visit the good folks at Lifehacker who have been generously sharing their invites for several weeks now. If you receive your invitation from the Lifehacker community, please do the right thing and share some of yours there as well. Remember, the more users there are, the better it will be for all of us!

And finally, once you are up and running with Wave, look me up: ktowson@googlewave.com

Get your school brain back in gear: ideas from Lifehacker

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

It is getting close!

The time has nearly arrived when students & educators will once again be hitting the books and returning to school, college, and university. While I hope you are all enjoying what is left of the summer, it might be time to start getting that brain back in gear and getting ready for the start of class.

One of my favourite sites – one of the very few that I check every day – is Lifehacker.com. Started by Gina Trapani, and now edited by Adam Pash, Lifehacker is a wonderful resource for anyone who is interested in increasing their productivity and improving the way that they get things done. Last week, they ran a series of articles intended to help students who are either returning to school or attending college/uni for the first time this year. Not only are the articles themselves well worth a read, the comments that follow are a great source of debates, arguments, and rants that should help get you thinking about back-to-school solutions that can help YOU.

Click here for the Lifehacker ‘Hit the Books’ special.

Having taken a break from updating this blog, it is time to get to work on it again. I have some ideas for upcoming articles, but if you have any suggestions, please send them to me!