Smarter Googling

By popular request I am going to start posting occasional pointers on approaches I use to make my life easy.Valentine google

Ever wanted to get more out of Google? Forget Boolean search, Google’s Matt Cutts left a slew of tips for us via DL.TV these tips may be found in podcasts 137 and 138, or direct from Google.

To search for an exact word or phrase use “word or phrase” …. “GlobalNomad101”

To exclude a specific word, prefix with -, for example …. “Global Nomad101” -Microsoft

Place a hyphen for an exact phrase match …. global-nomad101 .or. once-upon-a-time

Of course Google Search helpfully conducts its own spell check on words clearly spelt incorrectly, but if that is exactly what you are looking for prefix with + to avoid spelling correction errors …. +gryme

Very helpfully Google does its best with any specific number, so search for specific flight numbers, model numbers of hardware, you maybe surprised by what you find.

Are you looking for conversions? imperial to metric or currencies, just type it in …. 56 pints in litres .or. 152 dollars in euros

Can’t find the definition of a word in your dictionary, use …. define:
Apply the same approach to a phrase and it provides one with links to definitions and near alternatives …. define: once upon a time

If you are looking for subject matter in a particular filetype, just request exactly what you need, though it won’t work with music (que pena!) …. global nomads filetype:ppt

It appears one of the secrets to really getting the most out of Google is not to ask questions! apparently we need to think like an intelligent webmaster who is classifying information. “mind the gap” or “fill in the blank feature” technique is a good way to work with this, write a statement and put * where the missing number would be …. Mount Kilimanjaro is * meters .or. Population of Brazil is *

The same approach works well for a search by using a number range …. DVD players $100 … $200

Probably one of the least known and most handy tips is to search a site or domain for specific information. This will work on both high level domains such as .eu .gov .co.uk .uk .fr .com as well as specific websites.

To search for information on NGO’s on British University sites …. site:ac.uk NGO
or specifically on London School of Economics website …. site:lse.ac.uk NGO

I hope you find these handy, keep Googling!

World Changing… creative ideas to curl up with!

world changing bookWorld Changing is a stimulating book with numerous creative and fascinating ideas or soutions on multiple different subjects from politics and housing to design, technology and business. Check out Regine’s blog we make art not money for an interesting review.

World changing… i don’t think so and there are only fleeting comments on much hyped humanitarian or shelter issues sadly they didn’t call on Tom Corsellis at Shelter Centre or Paul Currion at Humanitarian.info for advice… mores the pity… but take some time out you shouldn’t read about work all the time.

Seriously though it is a stimulating read, and as Stanford Ovhinsky likes to say “invention comes to the prepared mind” (The Edison of our age?, The Economist); this is a gentle way to keep the creativity flowing. It is unusual for me to recommend a book on leisure, but we do have the holidays (and for some) long winter nights ahead of us! Enjoy.

Second Life, the UN and living like a refugee

Second Life enters the humanitarian and development workers sphere of interest!


“The Stand Up Awareness Campaign” is being supported by the UN on Second Life. The Stand Up For Awareness Campaign is part of the larger Millenium Campaign to remind governments of their commitment to the eight Millenium Development Goals (MDG) that they agreed to in 2000, each of the eight 2015 targets are critical to reduce global poverty. This is a far from Bureaucratic excercise, if we can’t measure we can’t manage… by catalysing development organisations, donor governments and recipient governments the MDG indicators and targets, truly provide measures of success or failure that will have to be explained away if they are not met… keeping up the pressure world-wide is important.

DarfurThere is also a simulated Darfur refugee camp on Second Life, “Living Like a Refugee” was built to inform and educate … “An awareness and action camp spotlighting today’s genocide” and even patrolled by hooded avatars. Behind this seemlingly ‘geeky’ awareness approach, after all how many people really use Second Life, is a larger possibility of bringing the complexity, intricacies and daily catastrophe of humanitarian disasters to a increasinly well networked and socially aware next generation.

second lifeTeens Second Life is an interesting development by Linden Labs, visited by BBC’s Digital Planet, yes you guessed it Second Life for teens, governed by community rules, no parents or adults allowed, only screened adults from Linden Labs. Special institutions such as schools can feature on the game but are restricted to the island they create where the teens can choose to visit.

Clearly only the privileged (bandwidth, computers, high quality of life) are using Second Life, currently it acts as an interesting advocacy medium for the humanitarian and development world. But perhaps we should be more creative… why not a self concious training medium for students around the world, an advocacy platform. At the very least it offers an interesting way to capture the interest of youth and techie’s to increasingly support real life humanitarian needs, if only by applying their technology interests and genius to global advocacy and bridging communication gaps with the elite in southern countries.

Its a doddle to schedule a meeting with Doodle

Probably the only site you need to check out if you want to improve your efficiency is Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders. Being an advocate I am sure he won’t object to me spreading the word…

Doodle

Doodle… yep this very simple web tool helps folk check on times and set up meeting times without having to phone or mail around, once, twice, three times!

“A very clever and satisfyingly lo-fi way to find the best date for an event based on several people’s schedules. By passing around emails with an ASCII, monotype text representation of the possible dates and times, each person uses a symbol to indicate their preference and availability. Very clever stuff.”

       December
       0                 1                   2                   3
       1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
       t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f
Janne  + + - - + + + + + ? ? + + + + - - - ? ? - - - - - - - - - +
Ville  + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + -
Kalle  - - - - + + + + e e e - - - + - - - - - - - - - - - - - - +
Sanna  - - e e - - - + ? ? ? + + + + + - - + + - - - - - - + + + +
                     * *           *

From this table courtesy of ButtUgly, it’s easy to see what would be suitable dates for everyone (marked with “*”). The initiator of the sequence suggets Thursday 8th, and everyone agrees. And while they were at it, they agreed on holding the 15th as “tentative”, so that they get to continue the game if it’s not finished in time. One of the advantages of this calendar is of course that you can immediately see who might not make it – and while everyone is equal, missing someone might not be.

I may well bring you other favourite tips from Merlin Mann, many simple practical tips!

Hot tips for bloggers!

Remembering this is a niche blog for humanitarian and development workers overseas, here are some of my tips for contributors, though this cannot compare with those professional bloggers tips like Harvey at Bad Example!

1. Provide valuable reference to other sites, the more interesting the better.

2. Link to any blogs relevant to the topic at hand and try to personalise it using the name of the author if possible, but please not at the expense of content.

3. Make the title interesting … especially to people online, Sex always sells but may not be relevant!

4. Use intelligent categories or tags assigned to an article, it will help others find information they need, provide flexibility for cross referencing and support search as the site develops.

5. Content is KING… back up comments with facts and reference them. Content really drives referrals and repeat visits to the site, but more importantly help stimulate others creative juices.

6. Global Nomad101 will develop as a ‘magazine’ community site, variety is important, we need a x-section of like minded international fools to contribute and value the site if it is to have a future.

7. Be controversial and critical… we have a demanding target audience, bland is uninteresting, unique, stimulating, challenging will gain attention, court criticism and debate.

8. The most popular blogs to-date have all been work or learning related… that isn’t neccessarily a guide to the future but it is a clear indicator of why they currently value Global Nomad101.

9. Content is KING … consider links to earlier blogs so people are referred back to useful content… currently it is not intuitive for people to find relevant posts from the past, this is something we shall address.

10. Simple, short, direct… better to break a longer article into bite size pieces, preferably thematically. Primarily because most people do not read through long texts, but scan articles. Do refer to next and previous relevant posts, indeed update past posts with critical new links to ensure they act as a good reference. Alternatively such posts can be published as content on the site, another future development!

There is a huge amount of advice online not least from tips for blogs online, and a wealth of knowledge at tips central registrar. As a newbie I have a lot to learn not least on Search Engine Optimisation and blog technology. Indeed as a luddite in the unmaking, I should simply spend time learning how to use WordPress, ultimately I should be heeding my own advice which somehow means improving my ability to read blogs and find time to experiment with the technology.

The Renaisance, Apple Mac Apps & News – favourite podcasts!

Escaping into a reality you never were aware of! … ok, so that is over the top, however I must confess I have become a podcast addict since leaving Afghanistan recently and rediscovering the delights of broadband, (sorry again guys!), all downloadable from i-Tunes at no cost.

1. History 5: European Civilisation from the Renaisance to the present. University of Berkley.

French Revolution… Top marks to University of Berkley posting many of its lectures at last count 59 Audio podcasts and through the web site many as Video casts. The quality is very dependent on the lectururer however Professor Thomas Laqueur brings it to life, openness about his German Jewish roots adds to the value, full marks for a fascinating, insightful and entertaining account. This series illustrates what is missing or rather could be achieved with high resolution enhanced podcasts!

2. Jointly goes to Neat Little Mac Apps and ScreencastsOnline!

… sadly not for the Windows majority out there. Apple is renowned for having a broad supportive community of users and amazingly useful add on apps and widgets, I was surprised to find it really exists and they are incredibly helpful! NLMA presents enhanced podcasts on free or very cheap apps that are not only extremely useful but are a pleasure to use and often fun! Screencastsonline provides high quality full screen video tutorials on how to use Apple software with extra content available on subscription. But windows folk should not despair, with the advent of VISTA (replacing Windows XP) Microsoft has adopted a far more sophisticated front end and not a few Apple approaches so it should become a pleasure to use, your widgets are called Gadgets :-).

3. BBC Newsnight (video podcast feed)
… this was a tough call, but they just squeezed in! with excellent content on a variety of topics (sure a UK bias) not available on BBC World, recently they started releasing short format news casts more regularly, with a weekly show as usual… short and focused… like home from home. Of course the BBC seem to publish as many audio (ripped from radio) podcasts as they can, I find most of it uninteresting, but I imagine they are working on the longtail principle.

In truth podcasts are not that popular with surveys implying that pick up is not increasing dramatically. However niche markets such as humanitarian and development users such as MSF and Christian Aid are seeing sharp increases in usage because they have specialist application.

Of course I have access to broadband in Brazil… no doubt a trusty developer could easily configure content delivery software and package it with an i-Tunes like content aggregator to ensure that broadband doesn’t continue to be the bugbear it is for the populace of less developed countries and their frustrated humanitarian techies.