Things I learned this week – #8

If you create a service that people actually find useful then I suppose you’ve got a right to charge for it. Still, it annoyed me that FeedMyInbox has gone paid-for. $5/month is $5 more than I expect to pay simply for the privilege of getting email updates from blogs that haven’t provided the feature themselves. For those in a similar situation, I’m trying out Blog Alert and Reblinks at the moment… 😀

Top 3

  1. A stereotype was a printing plate case from movable type. A cliché was a phrase that, because it was used often, was cast as a single slug of metal. Thanks for that nugget, Seth!
  2. Toward a grand theory of n00bs. Seriously, you couldn’t make up some of this stuff!
  3. Why ‘serious games’ work (via OLDaily):

Lifehacker

I felt compelled to devote a section to Lifehacker this week, just because so many of their articles/posts were top-notch:

Tech.

  • I auto-tweet from this blog when a new post is auto-published. It makes me smile that I could be asleep yet people think I’m active online. The Make Me Social WordPress plugin takes this one step further, auto-posting to services such as Delicious (via @durff)
  • Google Docs now has a web clipboard that remains over sessions and between computers!
  • RealPlayer SP allows you to trim videos ready for posting to YouTube, etc. I haven’t tried it (yet) but it looks like it could be a basic alternative to Windows Movie Maker. And it’s cross-platform!
  • Published blog posts now appear instantly in Google Reader. Which is nice. 🙂
  • How many oranges does it take to charge an Apple iPhone? About 2,380 slices apparently (via TechXAV)

Productivity & Inspiration

Education & Academic

Data, Design & Infographics

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

Misc.

Quotations

A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes (H. Downs)

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. (Henry David Thoreau)

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it. (Edith Wharton)

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak. (Anon.)

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen Keller

(image at top CC BY-NC Brandon Christopher Warren)

 

Embracing the future: why I’ve ditched MP3s and signed up to Spotify Premium

Spotify logo

Image BY-NC Rsms @ Flickr

I like music. A lot. I listen to as much as I can as I believe it makes me more productive.* As a student I worked in HMV at Meadowhall in Sheffield and bought a prodigious amount of CDs. When I did my MA in Modern History I sold many of them to fund my living expenses, but still many remained. I hadn’t ripped them all to MP3 but still had around 100GB of my 250GB taken up with MP3s. I deleted all of that today, leaving only my downloaded podcasts:

iTunes data

After my week of divesting the only CDs that aren’t in boxes ready to be sent off to Music Magpie or Amazon customers are those (nine) that I’ve decided to keep as artwork.** I signed up for a Spotify Premium account the day after their iPhone app became available. It costs £9.99 per month to upgrade from the Free account. For that you get, amongst other things, the usage of their iPhone app (which doesn’t work with a Free account), a higher streaming bitrate and no advertisements.

That’s not to say that Spotify features every album and every piece of music that I’ve ever listened to. But I reckon that they’ve got about 90% of the stuff I search for. That’s good enough for me, especially given my eclectic, ever-changing taste in music and the fact they add thousands more track to their library every week – check out their blog!

The streaming model makes sense. Now that a decently-fast internet connection is available to me pretty much everywhere I go, there’s no need for me to manually sync and carry around with me a partial collection of music I like. Much better to have access to a much bigger collection everywhere I am. 🙂

Of course, there are times when your internet connection isn’t so good (or even non-existent). It’s for these times that Spotify has made playlists that you create available offline. Up to 3,333 tracks can be cached for offline play at any one time. That’s certainly enough for me!

Finally, then, there’s the problem of making Spotify’s vast library user-friendly. A start has been made via SpotifiTunes (see my library here) which takes your iTunes XML file and creates a list of Spotify links. Wanting an up-to-date version of this, I’ve created a workspace on my wiki dedicated to this. To access this, click on the ‘Music’ link at the top of this blog or click here!

What do YOU think about Spotify and the like? Will you be signing up any time soon? 😀

* I recommend you read Lifehacker’s The Best Sounds for Getting Work Done

** See CD wall tiles @ IWOOT)

 

5 productivity tips/hacks I’ve come across recently.

I’m always on the lookout for ways in which I can be more productive and increase my creative outputs. Time is precious when you’re a teacher, husband and father! Whilst I recommend you subscribe to blogs like Lifehacker and Lifehack.org directly, I’d like to share with you some of the tips and ‘lifehacks’ I’ve found useful recently:

1. FriendFeed

If you’re not using FriendFeed yet, you should be! I’ve been using it for a couple of months and find it very useful. It’s like the river of news and updates you get on Facebook (or at least last time I checked). The difference is that it’s people in the edublogosphere so it’s things related directly to professional learning. The quality of links, recommendations, etc. I get through FriendFeed means that I actually check my feed reader less often now (and use Feedly instead of Google Reader when I do…)

2. Firefox Extensions

I’ve already blogged about Stylish and Feedly, but it’s amazing how much Firefox extensions (addons) can improve your productivity. Take a couple recommended by Lifehacker recently:

  • Tree Style Tabs – allows you to hierarchically organize tabs in a vertical manner in your sidebar. Much more useful than it sounds!
  • Picnik – allows you to capture and edit screenshots online.
  • Zemanta – adds features when creating blog posts like related articles, suggested tags, links to Wikipedia articles, etc.

It’s worth trawling through the Mozilla Firefox addons site and/or doing a Google search for recommended extensions. There’s some great one out there! 🙂

3. How Priorities Make Things Happen

I know from experience that I work much better and in a more focused way if I’m working to a deadline. In fact, I purposely don’t start things until, for example, I’ve only got 24 hours left to complete it. Otherwise, I procrastinate and then, when finished, endlessly tinker to make things ‘just right’.

In a Lifehacker post about a book entitled How Priorities Make Things Happen, this is put into a more structured and easy-to-understand (and follow) form:

The easiest way to make a goal meaningful is to use ordered lists and a high priority one bar. These two simple tools force you to make tough decisions early. An ordered list simply means putting your goals in priority order, most important at the top, least important at the bottom. Divide that list in half: the top are things you must do, or die (Priority 1). The rest are things you hope to do, but can live without (Priority 2). Make your priority 1 list as small as possible: set a high bar. The smaller your list of must do’s, the easier they are to achieve. You will face waves of conflicting emotions as you decide what is truly important, but once you settle on priorities the hard decisions will be behind you.

4. Share Your Secrets To Be The Change

I’ve always shared pretty much everything I’ve ever produced – from my university essays/theses to resources I use in the classroom. Others have been flabbergasted by this approach, finding it strange that I should give away for free what I’ve put so much work into. I have the opposite approach – I get back so much more than I give. I’m sure others reading this have found the same.

It’s for the above reasons that I found Share Your Secrets To Be The Change, a post on Lifehack.org, to be so affirming. I especially liked the bits about sharing ‘making your life happier’ and making you into a ‘hero’. Knowing that I’ve got an audience certainly makes me more productive.

5. Top Ten Modern Life Survival Skills

It’s all very well these websites that show you how to start a fire using a Coke can and a piece of chocolate, but how many of us will actually ever need to do that? Really useful ‘modern survival skills’ can give you more control over your life; ergo more time and therefore productivity.

A post on Lifehacker entitled Top Ten Modern Life Survival Skills includes this gem:

Ever notice how putting your hand on your clock radio tends to clarify and boost the signal? You can use that same body-as-extended-antenna trick to locate your car in a stuffed parking lot. Hold your remote opening fob against your skull, hit the alarm (or beep-beep locking button), and you’ll locate your vehicle from farther away.

Have YOU got any productivity tips/hacks you’ve come across recently you’ve found useful? Share them in the comments section! 😀

(Image credit: branching out by shapeshift @ Flickr)

Zemanta Pixie
 

To-do v2

For the last 26 years and 275 days (yes, I worked it out…) I’ve approached ‘To Do’ lists in a very old-school way. We’re talking bullet points here. Obviously, given my ability to procrastinate and the number of things I don’t cross off my list each day, it’s not an amazingly successful system. I was delighted, therefore, to come across this post on lifehack.org with the following graphic:

Urgency vs. Importance Continue reading “To-do v2” »

 
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