Links Roundup #12

western saddle with a lasso on it


Meta Articles on Choosing the Right Tools:

How to Make Prudent Choices About Your Tools. EXCELLENT post from the ProfHacker blog that is not about specific tools for academic workflow (though it does mention a few), but how to go about choosing the tools you use. Very timely for new graduate students and faculty this fall.

Paradox of Powerful Tools – makes the excellent point that the more decisions a tool requires you to make, the longer it will take to be productive with that tool.

Play to Your Strengths:  Adapting Your Writing Software to Your Writing Style. GradHacker and ProfHacker are starting to publish again after their summer breaks and coming up with great posts for the new grad student and/or faculty member. This GradHacker post mentions a variety of different tools for writing and citing, as well as suggestions for choosing these tools, and gives the example of the author’s workflow and tools used.

Focus, Attention, and Time Management Updates:

Balancing Work at Home with PomodoroProfHacker post from a professor on using Pomodoro to keep on track with tasks while working at home.

What Happens to the Brain When You Meditate (And How it Benefits You) – Lifehacker post that discusses the parts of the brain affected by meditation and the beneficial effects of even short periods of meditation.

Start a New Habit with – ProfHacker post on a new web and iOS app that helps visualize Don’t Break the Chain idea for creating a habit.  Also mentions other ways of tracking adherence to a habit.

Ok, now I’m just amused.  When WebMD has a slideshow on Top Concentration Killers, you know that attention management has hit the mainstream.  And for a slideshow, it is well done, handles the material in concise blocks of text, and offers a concentration killer followed by a fix for that particular problem.

IFTTT Updates:

Several IFTTT updates (If you are new to IFTTT, please see this previous post.):

(1) The service now has a New York Times channel.  There are suggested recipes.  If someone plays around with adding their proxy server ID to a recipe, please note it in the comments.

(2) BIG announcement from IFTTT – they now have a way to embed recipes anywhere that you can place an embed code.  Since I’m betting a large number of you design and create web pages, LibGuides, or both, this could be big news and really increase the usefulness of IFTTT for librarians.

(3)  Twitter triggers are back.  Twitter had pulled them, but has apparently relented.

Evernote Updates:

(1)   8 Pro Tips for Evernote Power Users.  Post from Mashable on tips and tricks to use with Evernote.  I spotted one error, it says reminders haven’t rolled out to Android users, but they have.  Good post otherwise.  Mashable is one place for great updates on technology, especially mobile and social media, but it has so many posts it is hard to keep up.

(2)  Take a Minute to Collect Your Thoughts with Evernote.  This post is from 2010, and Evernote has many new features since, but there aren’t a lot of articles about how academic researchers use Evernote and this is a good one from ProfHacker.

(3)  Experiments with an Electronic Lab Notebook.  GradHacker post by a PhD student in Chemical Engineering who is using Evernote as his ELN.  We are always looking for posts about how Evernote is used by academics, and this is a nice addition to that “genre”.

(4)  How Students Use Technology Outside the Classroom.  Discusses mostly free apps like Evernote, Google Hangouts, Google Drive and social media tools to advance their classwork.  Includes graduate students using Google Hangouts to work collaboratively.

(5)  Going Paperless: 5 More Tips for Speeding Up Productivity with Evernote Using Third-Party Tools.  Whew, long title!  Good tips on increasing productiivity with Evernote.  I particularly want to try KustomNote.

There are, of course, a plethora of articles now about best apps for back to school, and all the ones I’ve seen include Evernote.  PC Mag has a good one, divided into apps for elementary, intermediate, high school, and college/university – though I thought even some of those for primary/secondary useful for collge students as well.  And of course my gripe with the article is the author doesn’t look hard enough for Android alternatives to iOS apps.

Miscellaneous Updates:

Eight Thoughts After Trying the Samsung Chromebook – first review I’ve seen of the Chromebook for academic work.  In sum, if you use the Chrome environment including Google Docs, this is very reasonably priced.

Twitter Update Makes it Easier to Follow Conversations. Would think this would be particularly useful for academic conversations.

464 Digital Learning Tools to Sift Through on a Rainy Day – given how much rain there has been in Atlanta this year, I might make it through this list at some point…

30+ Mind Mapping Tools – from Mashable, divides them into free and subscription/purchase.

Google Play Hits the Books in Time for Fall Semester.  Discusses the availability of college textbooks in Google Play, both for purchase and for rent.

SECURITY TIP:  Two Factor Authentication.  Another good post from Bob Rankin, this one an explanation of two factor authentication (2FA), and why it is useful.

Year for Productivity: Session 18: What is a Learning Network?


Happy Labor Day!  Hopefully most of you are busy firing up the grill and enjoying this fall holiday Monday away from work.  This day also marks the beginning of our third and last section of posts in the Year of Productivity program.  With this third section we leave somewhat the focus on the academic workflow to turn our attention to the idea of Learning Networks.

We are quite familiar with the concept of a Learning Commons, and chances are that your academic library has at least one of these productive areas for students.  Learning Networks, however, might be a little fuzzier for many of us; and, actually, this is one area where we can turn to our colleagues in the K-12 world because they have been actively talking about and developing Learning Networks for some time.

Many of us have been traveling through various stages of learning throughout our lives. Most have experienced formal classroom learning through elementary, middle and high school, followed by a varied number of years and degrees in higher education institutions.  At some point, that wonderful time of learning was supposedly complete and we joined the workforce, only to find that learning is a continual activity that merely has changed forms.  Some of us had formal training “workshops” where we were taught a particular skill or computer program, but employers began to find such training budgets were attractive places to obtain funds to cover shortfalls in decreasing budget times.

Learning, we also discovered, was a part of our annual performance evaluation, and we were encouraged to identify, with the assistance of our managers in some cases, specific areas of learning and development that we were to pursue over the coming year.  While formal training was sometimes a part of this objective, increasingly we were expected to develop our own plans of learning and discover ways to increase our knowledge and expertise outside the formal training arena.

Jane Hart of the Learning in the Social Workplace blog comments on this state of affairs:

“Being “proactive” or “taking charge” of your own learning isn’t just about engaging in formal professional development activities though, or even participating in a few MOOCs (massive open online courses) or watching some inspirational videos from time to time, it’s also about recognizing that most of your real learning takes place continuously  – and frequently unintentionally…by being active in the fast moving flow of ideas and new resources being exchanged in your professional networks.”

Employers began to see mentoring as a low-budget solution to their training budget woes while still being a personal way to develop employees.  As a result, formalized mentoring programs became increasingly popular within the workplace, and professional societies also created mentoring programs. The mentoring program of the New Member Roundtable of the American Library Association is one excellent example of a mentoring program that allowed an individual to reach outside their workplace and their local environment and establish a meaningful, sustained dialog with a professional in another city or state who has been identified as having similar professional interests and experience in areas that the mentee particularly desired to develop.-

One of the challenges for self-motivated learners has always been finding a group of people who shared their learning goals and interest.  While some large metropolitan areas might provide enough opportunities for developing local groups, many individuals face the challenge of connecting and desire a large pool of like-minded learners to share with and grow from.  The internet has greatly facilitated this process and today, people from many different countries, different time zones and different levels of expertise can all connect with one another sharing resources, advice, techniques and experience.

Personal Learning Networks are also sometimes referred to as Communities of Practice.  The Creating a PLN wiki defines PLNs:

“Personal Learning Networks are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to:

  • set their own learning goals
  • manage their learning; managing both content and process
  • communicate with others in the process of learning
  • and thereby achieve learning goals

Simply put: A PLN is a system for lifelong learning.”

This wiki goes on to explain the stages of creating a PLN:

Stage 1: Immersion:  This stage embodies the excitement and exploration of jumping into many networks, trying new social software and getting overwhelmed trying to keep up with everything and feeling like you can’t miss a thing because that might be the most important nugget of all.

Stage 2: Evaluation:  At this stage, you have begun to understand and become more comfortable with the different networks you have joined.  You are now able to pick and choose which network(s) fit your learning goals the best.

Stage 3: Know it all:  At this stage you deep dive into your chosen networks, trying to learn it all.  This stage reminds me of the avid video gamer who can’t leave the virtual world and its inhabitants behind in order to interact with the real world.

Stage 4: Perspective:  Perspective can occur when you finally surface from your virtual networks and gain some space from them and reconnect with the real world and people around you.

Stage 5: Balance:  Once reaching that perspective, you can then begin to understand that your network is there to support you, and the collective knowledge of the network means that you do not have to be expected to know everything, but that, instead, you and your network colleagues can each share your knowledge with each other when there is a need.

Do you recognize yourself in these PLN stages?  Where do you fall? And what might be the next step for you?


For Further Exploration and Insight:

1. Take a few minutes to explore this incredibly rich resource called a PLN Starter Kit.  The target audience is the K-12 educators population.  Brainstorm how you might create a similar tool for the academic arena.  What would be included?

2.  Steve Wheeler is an Associate Professor of Learning Technology at Plymouth University.  Watch this video of Steve describing his personal learning network.  How would you describe your own PLN after watching this?  What is necessary to succeed?
(My Personal Learning Network by Steve Wheeler:


Selected Resources:

Chatti, Mohamed Amine.(2012) Knowledge management: a personal knowledge network perspective. Journal of Knowledge Management Volume: 16 Issue: 5, 829-844.

Communities of Practice:  This is a detailed bibliography on building communities.

Cooke, N. A. (2012). Professional development 2.0 for librarians: Developing an online personal learning network (PLN). Library Hi Tech News, 29(3),1–9.

Creating a PLN wiki:

Developing Connectivity: a PKM path for higher education workplace learners
Blanca C. Garcia (pp. 276 – 297)

Hart, Jane. “The future belongs to those who take charge of their own learning,” Learin the Social Workplace blog, October 2012.

Tools for Building your Personal Learning Network, a LiveBinder compiled by Tim WIlhelmus

Waters, Sue.  PLN Yourself!,   The aim of this site is to help you gain the skills to build your own personal learning network (PLN)

Wenger, E., McDermott, R. and Snyder, W.M. (2002), Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.

Book Review: The Element by Sir Ken Robinson

book cover of FInding Your Element

We’ve heard about being “in the Zone” or more recently, experiencing “flow.” Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D, introduces us to “The Element.”  The Element, like experiencing Flow, or The Zone, is that magical place where your intrinsic talent is paired with the explosive power of following your passion.  This is where we experience the highest levels of our success and where we feel the most inspired.

I had the treat of listening to the audio version of this book, which was read by the author. Besides enjoying his distinctive English accent, I also was able to experience his delightful wry humor all the more because he was delivering it himself.  If you’d like to get a peak into both his skilled delivery and message, check out one of the TED videos that he has recorded:

The most inspiring part of the book to me was the fascinating mix of stories that Robinson told of how many familiar personalities found their Element.  He recounted stories of Paul McCartney, Arianna Huffington (of Huffington Post fame), Richard Feynman, Mike Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac), gymnast Bart Conner and Vidal Sassoon to name only a few.  It is one thing to discuss a theory and quite another to see how many diverse ways individuals discover their Element.  And don’t worry, Robinson assures, if you haven’t found your Element yet — it can happen at any age, and you might even discover more than one passion too!

I loved seeing how creativity and imagination fueled great discoveries and advancement in so many varied fields from physics to math to journalism to music and art.  The author makes an impassioned discourse on how modern school systems are moving in totally the wrong direction with their focus on standardized test scores and No Child Left Behind.  These movements resulted in the removal of arts programs and many of the more creative and organic ways of learning through discovery in order to make time for extra teaching targeted specifically on teaching the material on standardized tests so as to boost test scores.

Robinson also does a good job of explaining the importance of finding like-minded individuals to support and stretch you.  They don’t necessarily have to share your particular passion, though that is ideal.  Individuals in complementary fields can often offer a broadening of the applications of your Element.  Robinson calls this important group of people your Tribe.  I really liked this discussion because I could relate to my personal experiences of having Tribes in my life.  Not only is it more fun to talk to others who share your passion, your tribe offers support and inspiration.  It was, in part, looking for a PKM librarian ‘tribe’ that led us to creating this blog in the first place, so that concept is near and dear to my heart.

Robinson closes, as do I, with a wonderful quote from the great Michaelangelo:

     “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

Year for Productivity Session 17: Cloud Storage: Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Terabytes

year_productivity_graphic_17Discussing software, hardware, apps, or Web services is difficult as new players, programs, devices, and features appear daily.   The target moves so fast it is impossible to hit – what one writes is out-of-date almost immediately.   The topic of cloud storage is one example.

So this discussion will be fairly brief, provide links to some recent articles, and focus more on factors to consider while choosing cloud storage services.   Factors to consider include cost, security, reliability, integration with other services, and features.

Cost is a no-brainer.   Since the audience for this blog are primarily librarians and academics,  we will not discuss enterprise cloud storage.   So you will want to look at the services that are free or have reasonably-priced tiers for individuals.   There are plenty of these to choose from, see some of the comparison articles for examples.

Security is another factor to consider,  and the most well-known services are not the most highly rated for this feature.  Will your account be vulnerable to hackers?   You are better off not putting files in the cloud that must be secure.  Some services pay more attention to security than others,  including the lyrically-named Spider Oak.  Crystal Renfro covered the security issues and related resources well in a previous post.

Is there one information ecosystem you are particularly comfortable working in?   Most of them now have their own clouds,  including Skydrive for Microsoft, Google Drive, and iCloud for Apple.  However,  some of the ecosystem-agnostic services such as Dropbox are easy to use as they show up in your list of folders.

For a deeper level of integration, there are Web services such as Hojoki that allow you to work across your personal cloud.   Hojoki currently can work across Box, Delicious, DropboxEvernote, Github, Google Drive, RSS, Trello, and more.  With Hojoki you can keep track of your accounts and activities on the different web services.

Features offered change frequently.   What service you choose depends partly on what you are looking for.   Using a free cloud storage service makes sense if you want to quickly backup files you use often and want to access from different devices.   If you need a lot of storage,  for example if you want to backup and access a lot of large multimedia files,  you will wind up paying for more gigabytes.   In that case, given how cheap storage devices have become,  you might want to just buy a terabyte or more portable hard drive that is both accessible and more secure.

Since cloud storage is an ever changing topic,  what sources should you follow most?   A blog we have recommended before,  Ask Bob Rankin,  has good coverage of this as well as other technology topics and is written for the layperson rather than the computer professional.   At least one friend who is a computer professional has said Rankin knows his stuff.   Wikipedia, as usual, has the most comprehensive comparison of online backup services.   PCMag and CNET,  among others,  have daily emails as well as searchable sites one use to useful items.   And of course a web search will turn up lots of articles/blog posts on the topic.   I often use Duck Duck Go as my search engine of choice.   It doesn’t index as many Web pages as Google,  but tends to produce more relevant results at the top and clearly labels as such any official sites matching the search.   For specific articles please see below.

Have not heard of any providers that specifically focus on features geared towards academic providers in the US, although Knowcations seems to be such a network being developed in South Africa for African and European academics.  Many of the research and reference management tools have web storage attached, however, such as OneNote and Skydrive, Mendeley, Zotero, Evernote, and many more.

For Further Exploration and Insight:

1.  Do you use cloud storage for backup?

2.  If so, comment on which service you chose and why.

3.  If you do not have cloud storage, look at some of the comparison articles below.  Choose a service to try and comment below on why you chose it.

Selected Resources:

The Best 10 Cloud Storage.  Despite the name, this site reviews 50 or so cloud storage services, allows you to filter by storage amount and price, has tips and reviews, and more.

Comparison of Online Backup Services.  Wikapedia article mentioned above.

Nine Free Cloud Backup Services.  One of the articles from Ask Bob Rankin.  See also his Is Cloud Storage Secure.

Personal KM: Searching My Clouds.  Article discusses two services for managing multiple cloud accounts.  Neither of them are Hojoki and neither handle as many services as Hojoki.

Best Cloud Storage Services that Protect Your Privacy.  July 2013 LifeHacker article.

Five Best Cloud Storage Services.  June 30, 2013 LifefHacker article that polled readers on not just free storage, but  features such as availability, multi-platform support, security, app integration, and more.


Link Roundups #11

western saddle with a lasso on it


Evernote for Scientists: Mastering the Electronic Lab Notebook. One of the few posts I’ve seen on Evernote for the sciences and for academic research.

Microsoft Unwraps Big OneNote Update for Android, iPad and iPhone.  Look and feel the same across devices in the new OneNote – which is one thing I wish Evernote would do better.

Secure Android Smartphone on Public Wi-Fi Hotspots with PureVPN Android App.  Posting this mainly as a reminder that public Wi-Fi hotspots are really insecure and can be used for identity theft.  Please make the effort to be more secure with this or a similar app.

Researching the sessions for the Year of Productivity course has opened my eyes to the importance of attention and how finite a resource it is.  There is a series on TNT called Perception, about a neuroscientist who is himself a paranoid schizophrenic.  The July 9th episode was about cognitive blindness, how people can miss something important, including murder, if their attention is distracted.  I was amused at the topic because I have been paying so much attention to the concept of attention!

My Google alert on IFTTT today was full of articles about the new iOS app for the services.  A good example is Automation Startup IFTTT’s New iPhone App is Beautiful, Simple, But Still Limited  from TechCrunch.

8 Essential Tools for the Digital Hoarder – nice article from MakeUseOf.  Covers Evernote, Pocket, Pinterest, Calibre, Plex, Synology Disktation NAS, TrueCrypt, and 1Password.

Power Up Your GMail! Another good post from Ask Bob Rankin, with useful tips on using the Settings in GMail.

How Good Are Your Communication Skills?  Quiz follwed by a discussion of communication skills, how to craft a message to clearly and concisely communicate as well as how to actively listed to other people.  From the Mind Tools site, which offers both free and premium content oriented towards business and career skills.

Office Comes to Android, but Microsoft Leaves Tablets Out in the Cold.  Subscribers to Office 365 living in the U.S. can now edit Office documents on certain phones, but not yet on tablets.

Evernote + Hootsuite = A Sweet Collaboration – if you need to disseminate information across social media platforms, this could be really useful.

10 Reasons to Love Microsoft OneNote – She hearts OneNote!  Many of the features she mentions are also available in Evernote, but it is nice to have two such full-featured products available for people to choose from.  Many people prefer OneNote for its infinite levels of hierarchy.

Absolutely brilliant and right-on-target cartoon.

Use Google as a Timer with a Simple Search Command. Brings up the question of how many tools exist out there that no one ever heard of?

Roll Your Own RSS Reader with IFTTT – another article on using IFTTT to handle your RSS feeds. I am using a couple of recipes to send feeds to my email, not a good idea, I found, for high traffic feeds. ;-).

Year for Productivity: Session 16: Mindmapping Revisited


Elisabeth did a wonderful job introducing mindmapping and concept mapping in her post on January 14, 2013: .  I will not reinvent that wheel and suggest that everyone takes a second look at her article to supplement this entry.  Instead, I will offer limited comments and place most of my efforts into providing an extensive bibliography that will point readers to books, articles, blogs and websites that focus exclusively on mindmapping and the various software options out there on the web today.

My personal mindmapping experience is limited to one software program at the moment, though I hope to explore alternatives in the not too distant future.  I first tried mindmapping several years ago with the application called SciPlore.  I liked SciPlore because it was targeted to the science community and was an open environment that asked individuals to join them in offering enhancements.  SciPlore is no more; it transformed itself into Docear. Docear is still academically focused, currently being enhanced significantly by several German academics who have grant funding for their work.  I’m impressed by the comprehensive plans they have to make Docear a one-stop shop for supporting the academic research process.

The more I create mindmaps in my work, the more frequently that I see further applications where mindmapping would help me.  I have used them to organize the recruitment process for graduate students for our library board, to capture the brainstorming comments from a meeting, and to compare the benefits and limitations of several different software options that another committee was investigating.  All I needed to understand was how a parent node, sibling node and child node all related to one another and I was able to create a simple map within minutes.  But there is much more power in mindmapping that what I am using with my simple maps.

Power mappers tend to map practically everything in their paths.  They have several techniques that are useful to keep in mind when we begin creating mindmaps for our projects and tasks.  One helpful tip that I’ve seen in several collections of mindmaps is to create one master mindmap that can act as an index to all your other maps.  This can take care of the problem where you can’t quite remember the name of the mindmap you are trying to locate.  Along the same lines, mindmaps can be used to index all the other files and links you have for a particular project.  Take a look at the mindmapping software you have chosen to verify which types of files can be linked to nodes as software capabilities do vary. The more powerful products will allow you to create a project index map and then link your spreadsheets, word documents, articles, images, web links, emails and meeting notes to it for an easy, organized overview of the project.

For Further Exploration and Insight:

  1.  As you go through this week, be aware of opportunities where mindmapping might be used.  Make a note of the situation.  At the end of the week, review your list.  What kinds of features would you need of a software application in order to successfully create maps for your tasks of the week past?
  2. Investigate one or more of the mind mapping applications listed in the Selected Readings.  Does it offer the features that you needed to complete question #1?  Install one application and create a mindmap.


Selected Resources:

Concept Mapping:

The Concept Mapping Homepage

Concept Mapping Resource Guide (doesn’t appear to be updated since 2006)

Concept Mapping Bibliography. (2005)

Novak, Joseph D. and Alberto J. Canas. “The Origins of the Concept Mapping Tool and the Continuing Evolution of the Tool.” Information Visualization (2006) 5, 175-184.

Novak, Joseph D. The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How To Construct Them.

MindMap Libraries:

Biggerplate: is a free library of mindmaps uploaded by mindmap creators in business and education.  With registration, any mindmap can be downloaded and your mindmaps can be uploaded for others.  This is a great resource and a great place to start getting an idea of all the ways mindmaps can be used.

Mind Map Inspiration

Mind Map Art

Mappio: Mind Map Library

Topicscape Mind Maps Directory


Eppler, Martin J. “A comparison between concept maps, mind maps, conceptual diagrams, and visual metaphors as complementary tools for knowledge construction and sharing.” Information Visualization (2006) 5, 202—210.

Okada, Alexandra, Simon Buckingham and Tony Sherborne. Knowledge Cartography: Software Tools and Mapping Techniques. Springer, 2008.

WikIT: An excellent source of information on all types of maps

Best Tools:

Five Best Mindmapping Tools, Lifehacker,  April 21, 2013.

The Mindmapping Software Blog:  Frequently updated reviews of mindmapping software and great blog entries that discuss some of the best ways to maximize their usefulness:

MindMapping Software Reviews

Free/Low Cost Software Options include:

  • FreeMind :  Free Mind Mapping software (writtten in JAVA) for PC or MAC.
    Can only be used by one person at a time. (no simultaneous collaborative work)
  • MindMeister:  Limited free version. Complete version for Academic use only $18/yr.
  • :  A free web application to use for brainstorming with mindmaps
  • Exploratree:   A free web resource where you can access a library of ready-made interactive thinking guides, print them, edit them or make your own. You can share them and work on them in groups too. [beta site]
  • Webspiration :  The online visual thinking, learning and collaboration tool for students, teachers, and thinkers everywhere. [beta site]
  • XMind : Free Open Source mind-mapping tool.
  • Mind42 :  A collaborative browser-based online mind mapping tool.
    ” No installation; Accessible everywhere; Intuitive interface;
    Many node attributes (icons, colors, images, text styles, links);  Collaboration (simultaneous editing);  Easy publishing and distribution of maps”
  • DRichard’s Mindmaps (HTML5 beta) : “This is a prototype of an HTML5 based mind mapping application. It lets you create neat looking mind maps in the browser. Be aware that it is under development and does still lack some essential features. ” (
  • MindManager :  One of the most powerful options, this professional grade product is on the pricey side but has a 30 day free trial.
  • Mindjet Connect : Free, web-based product from the makers or MindManger.
    Allows hyperlinks & fairly extensive notes to be added to nodes.  An export to EverNote is also a nice feature, and a community forum is available.
  • Personal Brain :  The free version provides pretty extensive mindmapping.
  • Visual Understanding Environment  :  Open source from Tufts. ” The VUE project is focused on creating flexible tools for managing and integrating digital resources in support of teaching, learning and research. VUE provides a flexible visual environment for structuring, presenting, and sharing digital information.” (per site)
  • MindNode Pro (for MAC):  Apps available for purchase for iOS and MAC with sync through iCLOUD
  • Mindomo: Tool for both ipad and android.

MindMapping Communities:


Calendar Image courtesy of ammer/