July 18, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I have been a professional researcher and information wrangler since 1994, so I know a thing or two about finding information. However, there is no doubt that search has changed, and search engines have redesigned their functionality and user interface a lot over the years. I think it’s fair to say that search has significantly evolved since 1994.
Frankly, it’s hard to keep up.
So, when Google announced it Power Search class, I signed up without hesitation. As I write this, I am half way through the course, and even this well-seasoned researcher is not disappointed. I have learned a thing or two that will sharpen my search skills.
I’m smug enough to say that I knew most of the class offers, but what is really nice about this class is Daniel Russel’s teaching style. He reveals the intuition behind the design of the search tools, and he challenges the student to think critically about the search. The tools will help you, but your instincts and ability to read and further filter your search results will truly help you to focus in on the results that you’re looking for. The genius of Google’s design is that it is, at least by my estimation, very intuitive.
In Lesson 2 you are challenged to think more deeply about your search and the terms you use to isolate precisely what you’re looking for, as well as to think critically about your results and how the links might lead you through a “six degrees of separation” kind of process to the unexpected, or seemingly unconnected, like six links from the Mona Lisa to the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a skill that researchers intuitively acquire with experience, and I think it’s particularly valuable for this concept to come across in these lessons.
The Google Power Search online class is a good investment of time for novice and seasoned researchers alike. I say this having only completed half of the class so far, and I will write another post about the entire class when I have done the whole thing.
July 15, 2012 § Leave a Comment
What Is Good Search Practice?
I have found myself saying to people more and more how Google-centric I am. It is no secret that I am an information professional, hound, aficionado, and addict, among other things. I love information and the tools and processes associated with managing it. Google happens to make some of the best. And they’re free! Sort of, but that’s a topic for another post.
To justify my Google-centricity, I look to numerous things that I like about the products and the company. It doesn’t hurt that, in honor of Pride Month, Google launched the “Legalise Love” Conference at Google London, partnering with organizations to identify ways to decriminalize homosexuality and eliminate homophobia around the world…but I digress.
Basically, it comes down to this: Google tools make it easy for me to manage most (but certainly not all) of my personal information. Do I worry about privacy? Like everyone else, yes, I feel some anxiety about all of the information I keep online, and certainly I am anxious about keeping all of my eggs in my Google basket, so to speak. But convenience and good design trumps all of that.
Don’t get me wrong: I have a healthy suspicion that they are trying to sell me stuff, and truly, I don’t have a deep understanding about what they can do with the data they are collecting about my online activity. But I have drunk the Google Kool-Aid, for better or worse (and mostly, I like to think, better).
I used to observe a cardinal rule that when you use one search engine, you should use one or two more that may garner different results. At one time, anyway, it was considered best practice in research. However, I now admit that I don’t often use any other search engine besides Google out of habit more than conscious decision. Google has become so ubiquitous, in popular parlance it has become synonymous with “research”. People use the word “Google” as a verb when they talk about looking something up.
In truth, it comes down to the bottom line of time. It takes significant time to take the extra step of doing an additional search with another tool. And frankly, I find that I don’t get any more interesting results when I use another search engine. Back in the day, that problem was resolved by using Dog Pile, which aggregated results from different search engines. That became problematic when I realized that the different engines interacted in different ways with the search string, so I stopped using it.
Occasionally I look to other search engines like Blekko or Duck Duck Go. I harbor a prejudice against Bing, but I must admit that their latest marketing campaign and model sounds pretty smart. I haven’t used it yet because it’s not applicable for the professional research that I do, but the move to use social media to help you prioritize your results seems like an effective way to search. Jury is still out on that one, however.
So, I’m concluding this post with questions for my readers:
- Do you still believe it’s good practice to use multiple search engines when you search?
- If so, do you practice this habit, and what search engines do you regularly use?
March 18, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This week I acquired a new business intelligence tool, and I am geeking out! This tool is going to be a game-changer for how we perform data analysis, and it will also allow us to build dashboards to show activity in our prospect and donor pool in a whole new way. I’m super excited.
As I begin to dip my toes into the world of data visualization, I am seeking and finding some very interesting resources to help guide me through the process and give me ideas. Here is my attempt to collect them.
Visua.ly: Tools and guidelines for creating infographics and data visualizations (which are not the same thing). They even took a stab at drafting a Code of Ethics for Dave Visualization Professionals. Nice.
Storytelling With Data: to help rid the world of ineffective graphs, one exploding, 3D pie chart at a time
Spreadsheet Analytics: Resources and guidelines for spreadsheet analysis
Visual Literacy: e-learning tutorials for data visualization.
Information Is Beautiful: A blog by David McCandless, a journalist and information designer based in London.
The History of Visual Communication: An interesting perspective of human beings teaching and learning through visualization.
I have been collecting resources for data visualization for a while, and you can access them on my Pinboard page. If you know of others, please share them!
September 1, 2011 § Leave a Comment
My favorite recent yoga resources
I don’t know where the summer went, but here is September! And September is Yoga Month! To celebrate and motivate (myself and others, if you are so inclined), and to honor work/life balance for information professionals (and everyone!), I am sharing some more of my recent favorite resources.
If you have never done yoga before, I highly recommend that you attend an in-person class in your neighborhood when you get started. Nothing really beats a live class. But to keep up a solid practice, doing it at home is really important, too. I have found over the years that the growing resources online have really helped me establish a solid home yoga practice. Yoga resources on the Interwebz are growing in leaps and bounds, I am happy to report, so here are some really great ones:
- YogaGlo - http://www.yogaglo.com/
Unlimited yoga videos for $18 a month
- Yogis Anonymous - http://yogisanonymous.com/
Free livestream classes, and unlimited yoga videos for $15 a month. They also have four classes available for free any time. These don’t change frequently, but they are great classes and are worth repeating! I recommend Charlie Samos’ classes.
- MyYoga Online - http://www.myyogaonline.com/
A nice variety of levels, styles, and class lengths here. Many videos available for free, unlimited availability for $9.95 a month. There is an online community and some programs for yogis/yoginis to accomplish specific goals.
If you search for “yoga” in the iTunes Store, and look at the available podcasts, you will find numerous choices. And the selection grows every day.
- Yoga Visions with Teri Leigh - http://www.terileigh.com/podcasts2.htm
- Live, Love, Teach wit Philip Urso - http://www.liveloveteach.com/
August 26, 2011 § Leave a Comment
On thithing, philanthropy, taxation, and sharing wealth
“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have been lurking on a LinkedIn discussion about Warren Buffett’s op-ed piece in the New York Times about taxing the wealthy. The posts have been within a group for fundraising professionals. Someone raised the question of what this post has to do with philanthropy, and asserted that it seems too political in nature for this group.
I do try to stay away from politics when I’m in the professional sphere, but when one tries to live an integrated life the way that I do, it’s hard to maintain a strict boundary there. Actually, this discussion presents a good opportunity for fundraising professionals like myself to state why it is we do what we do.
As a fundraising professional, I have always thought of my work as encouraging a culture of philanthropy. I believe that as citizens of the world, people have a responsibility to give back the communities where we live and create the world that we want to live in.
While they are not exactly the same concepts, I do believe that philanthropy, tithing, and taxes are similar ideas. They all relate to giving and responsibility. If we want the world to be a certain way, we need to make contributions to make it so. Whether that is time, talent, or treasure, each of us is responsible to pay into the systems that make our communities they way we want them to be.
And we all benefit from doing so, directly or indirectly. Whether it is your own child who goes to public school, or if it is the nurse who was educated in public school who is now taking care of a sick relative, the taxes that are needed to support public education benefit all of society.
Likewise, when a family is struggling to put food on the table, they go to their local food pantry to get groceries or to the local soup kitchen to get a hot meal. ABC News did some amazing coverage recently about poverty and hunger in America, reporting that more and more families who once identified as middle class are struggling to make ends meet. People who used to give to the food pantries are now turning to them for help.
Tithing is a concept that is mostly used by churches. It is a word that some shy away from because traditionally it implies an obligation to contribute at least 10% of one’s income to the church. For most people, that is more than they feel they can afford. However, when I encourage people to be philanthropic, I simply encourage them to give whatever they are able.
I like the concept of tithing because of it’s implication of responsibility. I believe that we all have a responsibility to pay in to make our communities and institutions strong. The government needs our support to maintain our schools, roads, and bridges, and to keep our communities safe and thriving.
Warren Buffett is speaking as a citizen an as a philanthropist. Wealthy and poor alike benefit from philanthropy, taxes, and tithes.
When people give, I hope that they are philanthropic out of the true sense of generosity and wanting to help make someone’s life better. When people pay taxes, I hope they think about the kids in their neighborhood who have access to public education. And I also hope that they are mindful of the fact that they benefit directly from these public services and charities that they support.