Monday, 25 March 2013

Thing 21: Google Drive

I asked in our office whether anyone had used Google Drive and the consensus was that I meant the self-driving car that hit the news headlines a while ago and therefore no, they hadn't tried it.

Google Drive is a service that lets you store your files (photos, videos, presentations, spreadsheets and the like) on the web so you can access them from wherever you are, from whatever device you happen to be using (smartphone, tablet, computer) and share them with whoever you choose. Technical terms that you may wish to add into that sentence include 'cloud storage' and 'file synchronisation'. You get 5GB storage for free then can pay for more if you need to.

Although I haven't used Google Drive before I have used Dropbox which works along similar lines; I use it for transferring photos between my lovely android phone to the iPad or computer. As I mentioned in a previous blog post I hated Dropbox with a passion until I worked out how to use it and now I love it.

Google Drive looks to be equally useful with the added advantage that you can create documents/spreadsheets/presentations/drawings within Google Drive as well as uploading them. I tried this earlier by creating a document and sharing it with a colleague who then added to it (thank you Emma!) so I can see how it could be useful for collaborating on work.

Unsurprisingly if you try to use Google Drive in Internet Explorer it comes up with dire warning messages about unsupported browsers and an unsubtle message that it works best in Google Chrome but it did work for me in IE.

Google Drive is one of the 23 Things that I will probably use in future; this has been a useful Thing to explore.

(Photo added from Dropbox!)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Thing 20: Slideshare

Slideshare is another one of those things that I'd heard of but had no further knowledge of. I've seen it described as doing for powerpoints what YouTube does for videos and although I agree that powerpoints can be very useful I don't spend that much time actively seeking them out.

I was very disappointed by the lack of search functionality in Slideshare and after about 5 minutes of trying to find an interesting, recent and relevant presentation on various library issues (open access, institutional repositories, 23 things) I changed my strategy and decided to look for presentations on the Ancient Greeks instead?

Why the Ancient Greeks?, I hear you ask. Well my friends, I am doing a MOOC and so far I am really enjoying it and have learnt a lot. Admittedly I am only in week 1 of the course but the lectures (delivered by video) are very engaging and I have successfully passed the multiple choice quiz that went with the learning for this week. If I have enough time I will create my own presentation about it and upload it to Slideshare but for now I leave you with an existing presentation:

I think that Slideshare probably is a very useful educational resource if you want to share your own presentations with colleagues, or if colleagues send you the link to presentations they have uploaded but the search facility is so basic it is infuriating. Because Slideshare is so popular and so heavily used it is very hard to find presentations on specific topics because it returns so many results which can then only be filtered by relevance (hmm), date of upload or file type. I searched for "University of Southampton" and got thousands of results, most of them seemingly irrelevant, whereas I was expecting to see material obviously relating to this specific university at the top of the list. Maybe Slideshare needs a discovery layer? Or maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


2:30 by Nicki Clarkson
2:30, a photo by Nicki Clarkson on Flickr.

I'm a bit pushed for time this week so in case anyone is longing for a new blog post from me here is a photo I created for the 23 Things Flickr competition. Normal blogging service will resume soon!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Things 19 and 20: Wordle and Tagxedo

I used Wordle in a previous blog post, not realising it was one of the official Things.

Wordle lets you generate word clouds using either your choice of words, or using text it takes from a website. I created the following by entering my blog address as the URL:

It's free, it's fun. it's easy, you can change the font and the colours and the orientation of the words without any effort at all. And best of all:

How generous is that? Thank you, you can come round for tea and cake any time.

On a similar note, Thing 20 is Tagxedo which also allows you to create word clouds in the colour, font and...wait for it... shape of your choosing, such as:


or even

How great is that? Plus:

Mr Tagxedo, you are also invited for tea and cake. I thank you for your work.

Thing 18: QR Codes

Until last week I had never used a QR code. I was kind of against them in principle because they use technology that is not available to everyone (you need a smartphone or a tablet device to read them) and that goes against my inner moral code.

However, I had a flash of enthusiam for QR codes, caused by 2 things:

1) I was mulling over ideas of photos to submit to the Sot23 Things Flickr competition and I had a flash of genius: why not create a photo of a QR code that leads to a hidden page on this blog, to enter into the Technology category. Not being one to let little things like never having used, let alone created, a QR code stand in my way I immediately set about using my trusty iPad to create my (soon to be) awardwinning image:


I then had to download a QR reader app to my smartphone to test it worked, which it did. For those of you without QR readers, this is the secret page if you are interested.

2) I was cackling gleefully to myself about the above flash of genius when I went to collect my children from school and got chatting to the headteacher (I move in high circles). I mentioned QR codes which led to him explaining how they use them in school: they have QR codes next to many of the wall displays and the children use school iPads to scan the codes and find out further information about each topic. He was genuinely enthusiastic about it which must have been contagious because I can now see how QR codes can be a useful tool.

However, I am still a bit dubious about using them in the University of Southampton library system purely because they are not accessible to everyone. I see that they could be a useful add-on but think we need to be careful to ensure that the same information is easily available to those users without the technology to read QR codes.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Thing 17: Creative Commons Part 2

I think it's probably against the law for me to complete 23 Things without posting at least one photo of a kitten, so...

Sleeping baby cat
This photo came from Wikimedia Commons and the photographer has kindly waived all copyright.
Isn't it one of the cutest cat picture you've seen on the internet in the last 2 minutes?

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Thing 17: Creative Commons Images

Marwell by Stephen Burch
Marwell, a photo by Stephen Burch on Flickr.

I found this photo by doing an advanced search on Flickr, using Marwell as my search term and ticking the 'only search within Creative Commons-licensed content'. I love the way giraffes often look intrigued in photos and this one in particular seems very interested in the photographer.

I used the 'share' feature in Flickr to upload the picture directly to my blog, which pulls through the attribution information and allows you to click on it and see the original photo on Flickr. That's the kind of technology I like!

Here is my Flickr photostream

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Thing 16: Flickr

In the Shadows by Nicki Clarkson
In the Shadows, a photo by Nicki Clarkson on Flickr.

I like Flickr a lot.

Thing 16 has given me the perfect excuse to take random photos with my lovely smartphone and play around with editing them; the image above was modified from a photo of a tree with blue sky and the sun streaming through in about 10 seconds using a free iPad app* (called PhotoPad) and that's just the tip of the iceberg -  there is so much more you could do. I could happily spend entire days editing photos on my phone or using free iPad apps then sharing them on Flickr.

Flickr itself is very straightforward (although works better on a computer than an iPad); you can choose whether to have your photos available for public viewing or private, you can arrange them into sets, and you can upload a lot of photos for free without having to pay to upgrade to the 'Pro' membership (although only the most recent 200 will be displayed). You can also connect Flickr to your blog to easily insert photos to blog posts, as above.

The hardest part is coming up with interesting names for your photos!

*From my phone to Dropbox, then from Dropbox to the iPad camera roll, selected within the app, resaved to the camera roll then uploaded to Flickr.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Thing 15: LibraryThing

LibraryThing allows you to catalogue your own book collection online, adding tags, reviews and ratings that the entire LibraryThing community can share.

As with several of the Things, I can see why some people want to use LibraryThing but it's not for me. Although I read a lot I am fairly ruthless at getting rid of books unless I love them so I have a small, managable collection that does not really need cataloguing. I know what I've got and where it is, supplemented with transient additions from charity shops and the library that only stay in my collection for a short while.

I did sign up to LibraryThing, mostly in the hope I could use my mobile phone as a scanner to import books and that it would make a cool noise as I scanned book barcodes. Alas although you can (I think) scan using a phone you need to install stuff* to make it work so I gave up on that plan.

I was disappointed with the 'add books' function; I wanted to add 20 books in the same series (Beast Quest if you're interested) and I thought I would be able to mark a list then add them all at the same time but instead I had to do each one individually. Although this is probably a plus for anyone who is interested in genuinely using LibraryThing because as you add each title you get the chance to edit the bibliographic information, add tags, add a review etc.

I was pleased to see that it automatically grouped my books into series, and also showed which other books in the series I was missing. The 'if you like this you might also like...' suggestions were interesting and came up with a couple of authors I hadn't heard of.

*I've forgotten what exactly. I was tempted to put 'apps' instead of 'stuff' so I sounded like I knew what I was talking about but decided to go with honesty in case it's software not technically classified as an app.