Monthly Archives: May 2009

Tuesday Two.Oh! Tools for Research.

Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂

Today on Tuesday Two.Oh! we will be taking a look at a tool that can aid in research as well as provide comparisons. We have lived in a world dominated by search engines for years, and words like “Google” have entered our common lexicon. With this vast popularity, Google has inevitably become the golden standard. The buzz about todays tool is mixed, partly because it is not an internet search engine, but a tool with static results as opposed to links.

Let’s take a look at Wolfram Alpha.

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From the site:”Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.”

What this means, generally, is that this is not a typical search engine. In fact, Wolfram Alpha does not search the open web at all, but rather relies on its internal database of facts and figures. This means the results you get in return after a search has ended is the raw data, rather than a list of links. For instance, if you Googled “Muskogee, Oklahoma” you would receive results ranging from the city page to maps links. In Wolfram Alpha you will receive raw data, such as population, median income, and other relevant facts.

What I would like to do today is show you a couple of the features of Wolfram Alpha. That said, I highly suggest that you take walk through, provided by the site. It’s an excellent look at the power of this tool.

Please take a minute to watch the Wolfram Screencast: it’s well worth it.

When you first come to the homepage of Wolfram Alpha (http://www.wolframalpha.com) you will see a basic search screen, similar to what you would see when looking at Google.

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Any number of things can be entered into this search box. When you watch the screencast, you’ll see that you can enter anything from simple to complex mathematics equations to what the weather was like on a specific date in history.

When I first started using the site, I took some time to take a look at their examples. When you’re looking at the homepage, there is a menu bar on the right side of your screen. It looks like this:

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This is a great place to start when using Wolfram Alpha for the first time. It’s true that this site isn’t Google, but there is still a learning curve.

Wolfram Alpha provides many search examples in order to give your browsing power as well as instruction as to how to use the site. If you prefer, you can browse example search results visually:

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If you would rather browse by topic, there is also a feature to help you do that.

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Now, let’s take a look at a results page. As I mentioned before, the results that come back will be the raw data as opposed to a collection of links. It will look like this:

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The above result is for an element of mathematics. But Wolfram Alpha can do more. A search for a musical chord is also possible:

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The last search example I would like to share with you is a comparative search. In Wolfram Alpha you can compare lots of things including stocks, drugs, companies, and to a lesser extent (for just basic facts) historical figures:

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Once again, I want to urge you to watch the screencast in order to get an in-depth tour of Wolfram Alpha.

Please take a minute to watch the Wolfram Screencast: it’s well worth it.

In closing, I really think that Wolfram Alpha has the potential to be an incredibly powerful and useful tool. One of the first features that I really enjoy is the “Download as PDF.” The portability of a PDF which can be saved to your hard drive or jump drive is very useful. As a researcher myself, I have found that duplicating Google searches can be trying, and change over time due to the algorithm used. In Wolfram Alpha the results will be static in a PDF. Another immediate feature I enjoy is the relative permanentness of a result; the result is easily linked and shared, which will always be a plus.

One of the major drawbacks I see is the fact that there is a learning curve. I found myself typing in phrases that Wolfram Alpha did not understand. Trial and error is always a part of research, be it in a database or on the open web. However, the ease at which a search can be conducted often reflects the popularity of the tool. I do think that with use the learning curve can be overcome, and I hope it doesn’t deter too many users.

In the end, though, I find that Wolfram Alpha is quite a useful tool. My first impression is that it is different than Google, and comparing it as such can leave a false impression. However, a search tool is a search tool, and using what works for you is always a good rule of thumb.

If you have an opinion, I invite you to leave a comment and let us know how you feel!

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Tuesday Two.Oh! Tools for Group Projects.

Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂

Today on Tuesday Two.Oh! we’ll be taking a look at a tool that allows group annotation and editing to documents online. Many of us are often in need of tools to help us collaborate with colleagues and coworkers who may or may not share the same physical workspace. The internet is changing the way we collaborate; being able to share and get feedback online enables quick edits and changes allows for quick and painless completion of many projects that may have taken much longer with conventional collaboration tools.

Let’s take a look at A.nnotate:

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From the site: “Realizing that databases could add to but were very unlikely to supplant written text, the developers of A.nnotate started from the other end. They began working on ways to let authors enhance texts with a structured annotation layer that would enable some of the results to be processed automatically while keeping references back to locations in the original text for each assertion. Sidestepping efforts towards automated natural language processing they focussed instead on how the author interacts with the system, with the aim of enabling authors to add structure and value, rather than just mechanically re-expressing what was already there.”

This tool has a wide variety of potential uses: scholarly articles may be uploaded and annotated to enhance research, documents may be collaborated on by receiving feedback in real time, and photos and artwork can potentially be critiqued in minute detail.

A.nnotate has a free element to individual users, but with greater us of the site, group rates and site licenses might be required. The prices vary from just over $5, to over $2,000 for a site license. Deciding which account you would like is simple and straight forward:

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Once you have decided on an account type, you will sign up using your email address. A confirmation email will be sent to the entered address, simply click on the link and your account has been validated. I did not have to wait for my confirmation email, and the whole process was simple and easy. The email you will get provides you with a password. I went back to A.nnotated and chose my own specific password using the “account” tab once I had logged in.

After you have logged in, you will be brought to your personal Homepage. Once you have uploaded a few documents, all of your current activity will appear on this page. It will look like this:

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Navigation on A.nnotate is very easy. They simplify site links into 6 basic links that are present on all pages if you are logged in. This makes clicking between site elements simple. The six links are:

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Clicking on documents will take you to the page in which you upload, organize, and sort all of your A.nnotated documents. The organization here is the familiar “folder” system in which you can create unique folders and subfolders. The page will look somewhat similar to the home page:

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Let’s move on into the more detailed features of A.nnotated. When you’re in the folder view, you have two options: upload or snapshot.

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“Upload” refers to documents that you upload to the site. These can be Word docs, pictures, PDFs, and Excell documents. “Snapshot” refers to a snapshot of a webpage. This means I can enter a link into the snapshot menu, and I will be able to make observations and annotations on any webpage. This would be useful when collaboratively building a website.

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For example:

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This is an interesting and highly interactive feature that has a lot of potential uses.

For a brief tour of the site, I invite you to watch my guided walk-through here.

The final element of A.nnotate I would like to draw your attention to is the sharing feature. This option will appear when you are looking at a document.

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You can click on “Share” and invite as many people as you would like to look at a specific folder. The share option looks like this:

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In closing, one of the things I find most intriguing about this site is the level of interactivity with any document. I can envision myself conducting a search in an Ebsco Database and uploading the PDF for annotation as I read the article. I think that this tool could be very useful in education, both for teachers making observations on students work, as well as for students who are involved in research.

The addition of a webpage snapshot feature only increases the appeal of this site. My professional life often involves sharing documents with colleagues and collaborators state-wide. I find that my inbox gets crowded rather quickly, and a 2.0 tool like this will enable phrase specific editing.

The draw backs that I see would involve pricing. I know that many of the groups that I am professionally involved in might not have the money to spare for a product like this, and at this point in site exploration I am unsure what the sharing capabilities are of users that are not signed up for the service.

I have to say that the potential of this tool is extensive.

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Tuesday Two.Oh! Tools for Presenters, Students, and Teachers.

Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂

This Tuesday’s Two.Oh! is all about PowerPoint. I realize that when most of us think about PowerPoint, we’re not exactly thinking of the future. But, the truth is many of us still use this powerful tool in order to display information during a presentation at a conference, as an aide during teaching, and as a school assignment. The problems in the past always seemed to revolve around PowerPoints excessive file size. They’re hard to email and difficult to publish as a webpage using the given software.

There are several sites out there offering support for web-based PowerPoints. The site we’ll discuss today is SlideServe. Click the banner below to go to the site:


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Creating an account with SlideServe is very easy. You will be asked to choose a username, password, and enter an email address. An email confirmationwill be sent out with a link for you to follow, and once that is done you will have an account with SlideServe. As with most of the sites we’ve looked at, logging into SlideServe is simple, and will look like this:


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Once you’ve logged on, you are looking at your homepage. Here’s where you will find your “stats.” This reflects how many presentations you have uploaded, how many views those presentations have gotten, and what your friend numbers are. This site acts socially, like many other sites you can choose to be friends with other SlideServe users. However, if your presentations are public, then you can share them with anyone by providing them with a link or embedding the slide into your blog or webpage.

The homepage looks like this:

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Similar to other sites, your profile on SlideServe is customizable. You can upload a picture and fill out your professional and personal data. As I have not filled out my profile, the following picture will represent what it will look like when you edit your profile. This process is easy and straight forward.

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One of the things I especially liked about the site was the navigation. I felt that the tabs were easy to use and easy to understand. Clicking on ‘Community‘ brings you to a list of other users of the website. Likewise, if I clicked on ‘Categories‘ I would be given a page of the different types of presentations uploaded to the site.

There is an option to make your presentations private. When you’re setting up your profile, you can choose for any presentation to be private. Also, when uploading you have the choice to privatize. One of the things you might want to keep in mind is that unless you disable your presentations from being free to be embedded on other websites, your presentation can be grabbed by anyone. Now, a lot of us like to share our information, but we also want to make sure that authorship is represented. Make sure that your preferences reflect your comfort levels.

You’ll notice that the post below this one is a PowerPoint presentation that I uploaded to SlideServe. When you’re on the SlideServe site, you can choose to share your presentation in many social media sites, including MySpace, Facebook, and WordPress.

If you’re curious, please take a minute to take a look at my brief SlideServe tour.

PowerPoint will continue to be a method of sharing information: but now the opportunity to share your work on the web with sites like SlideServe is growing. Sending large files won’t be necessary if you can just send a link, and in my opinion that could save a lot of trouble.

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SlideServe Tutorial

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Tuesday Two.Oh! Tools for Students and Professionals.

Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂

If you’re anything like me, you have a lot on your plate. I am constantly looking for ways to keep my schedule, assignments, duties, obligations, and other various time related flotsam in order. Today we’ll talk about a tool that may possibly help you keep your life organized. The site is mostly geared towards students and is assignment and course driven. I was able to take it and mold into my professional life easily. Let’s take a minute to talk about:


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Click on the logo to go to the site.

From the website:

What is Soshiku?

Soshiku is a simple but powerful tool that manages your high school or college assignments. Soshiku keeps track of when your assignments are due and can even notify you via email or SMS.

Many of us are looking for programs and websites that will sync to our mobile phones. This site allows to SMS updates as well as email reminders.

Logging into Soshiku is easy, and will look like this:

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Once you’ve logged in, you will be brought to your home screen. This is where you can add and edit assignments, add and edit courses, and also edit your task list. These are all customizable to your situation, whether you’re using Soshiku for school or for professional reasons, the assignment and calendar are all accessible from this screen.

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For a brief tour of Soshiku, please click here.

In my own world, trying to balance professional and personal duties has always been a challenge. I want a easy interface that’s simple to understand and is also available on my mobile phone. Some people might be less interested in the SMS features of Soshiku, but would utilize email updates of assignments. In my opinion it’s all about what keeps you organized.

Soshiku is geared towards todays student, but it’s usefulness seems to stretch far beyond those with assignments due in class.

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Quick Update!

My apologies for my late two.oh! post today. I will have it up as soon as I can. Keep checking back!

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