Top 10 Tools for Learning and Working – 2009

Jane Hart recently posted her 2009 summary of learning professionals’ top 10 tools for learning and working. I submitted my lists in 2007 and 2008, but failed to submit my 2009 list before Dick Clark put the year to bed. Tardiness hasn’t slowed me down in the past. Why should it now? So, without further ado, here’s my 2009 list of top ten tools:

  • Google Chrome: Chrome replaced Firefox as my default browser in 2009. It’s much speedier, particularly when using AJAX-heavy web applications such as Gmail. I conduct nearly all web searches using the omnibox and I’ve even made several Application Shortcuts, which isn’t a terribly useful feature other than the fact that my web applications open within a streamlined Google Chrome window.
  • WordPress: I still consider WordPress to be the best blogging platform available, but I have been increasingly using it as a content management system for more static websites. WordPress plugins provide the flexibility to create almost any type of site, including a reviews system for a library catalog.
  • Brizzly: Brizzly is a web interface for Twitter and Facebook. My favorite feature is how it displays full URLs rather than those mysterious shortened ones. The mute feature is also nice, particularly when you need a temporary break from elearning folks who get tweet happy during lrnchats.
  • Friendfeed: I was really hoping to see Friendfeed become a bigger player in the world of social media in 2009. Those hopes were dashed when Facebook bought them out in August, though I still consider Friendfeed an extremely valuable tool. I’m now feeding my social media content from a variety of websites into Friendfeed. This means that it’s easier than ever to share content with my online contacts. We’re also using it as a collaboration tool in my office to share and discuss online content.
  • Readability: Readability is a browser bookmarklet that makes it easier to read online by stripping away all of the typical distractors from a page. This is highly recommended if you follow wordy bloggers.
  • Google Reader: Google Reader was included in my 2007 list, but I decided to list it again for 2009. It remains my most used web application other than Gmail. I follow news, blogs, web searches, and social networks using Google Reader. I also make heavy use of the share feature, which is fed into Friendfeed, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • Lala: Lala enables me to listen to my music library from any computer. Its interface is very similar to iTunes, which is convenient since Apple recently bought them out. The rumor is that many of Lala’s features, including streaming your purchased music from the cloud, will be integrated into a future version of iTunes.
  • Garageband: Garageband has enabled me to start recording and writing music again. It’s much easier to multi-track with Garageband than with my old 4-track cassette recorder (though maybe not as hip).
  • Adobe Connect: Connect was also on my 2007 list, however a couple new features (or, new to me at least) warrant a second appearance. Breakout rooms are a great way to promote attendee participation in a web conference, though I must admit I have not yet tried to use them in a live class. Also, the third-party plugins available from the Adobe Exchange site are helpful and fun.
  • Handbrake: I have been using Handbrake to convert DVD’s to mpeg-4 files at work. It includes several presets that are helpful when converting videos for ipods, online streaming, Apple TV’s, and more.

Our Newest Family Member

My wife recently found this little guy on Manor Road. Each car that whizzed over him knocked him off his feet. She pulled over, picked him up, and now he’s ours. We named him Orzo because he had a few maggot friends… I’ll never think of her shrimp and orzo dish the same way.

He’s healthy now and is making friends with our other animals. Here’s a couple pics and a video:

Bottle Bed Update

After ignoring this project for a few weeks, I went back to work on our glass bottle planting bed. The back section was created using wine/liquor bottles. We’ll plant succulents in the back… there are already a few agaves and prickly pears.

The front section will be an herb garden and was built using mexican coke bottles (which beats american coke by a landslide)…

Turned out alright… It’s a bit hippie, but not too much. Pictures below…


Adults and Social Networks

iLibrarian links to a recent study that says the number of adults with online social networking profiles has quadrupled since 2005. This is relevant to a couple things I’ve noticed recently in my social networks:

  • Older family members (i.e. aunts, uncles, etc) are joining my networks. A year ago, I’d never have guess that I’d be reading my aunt Janice’s Facebook status on a regular basis.
  • There’s been a rash of old high school classmates joining Facebook recently. This has been good and bad. Good in that it’s fun to see photos of everyone’s kids. Bad in that… well… it got interesting during the Fall presidential campaign.

So, based on my own anecdotal evidence, I already knew that adults were increasingly using social networks. However, it seems that we won’t really see big increases until it becomes easier to create and/or find niche social networks.

I’m sure my aunt would join a social network for her senior center where they could talk about zumba, upcoming trips, etc… But she needs to know how to create her own local network.

My father-in-law would love a retired pilots network… but he needs to know how to find an existing network.

My graduate program desperately needs to create a social network. They’re still using an ooooooooooold school listserv as a tool for lifelong learning…

They could create new networks with Ning or Buddypress, or join existing networks. However, these tools don’t have large audiences, so most adults aren’t aware of them. Once adults learn to find or create their own social networks, these numbers will shoot through the roof.

Monk Parakeets Visit My Yard

After months of ensuring that our bird feeders remained full, the famous Austin Monk Parakeets finally came to visit my yard. Here’s a bit of history on these birds:

These lime-green birds, also known as Quaker Parrots, have been in Austin for at least the last 20 years… According to an urban myth, the birds came from a pair kept as pets… When the birds fly, you might be able to catch a glimpse of blue in the wings.

Below is a blurry photo of our visitors. They’re loud, but pretty. Hopefully they’ll come back!


Watch My Dog

We’re experimenting with allowing my dog to stay out of his kennel during the workday. The last time we tried this, he tore up every magazine, bill, or book he could reach.

This time, I’m asking for help from the Internet. While at work, watch my dog on this live streaming video feed and comment here if you see him acting up. If he does something bad, I’ll reprimand him via the answering machine (which will probably be the most entertaining part of this whole venture).

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