Tech Tip Tuesday: Constitute

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.52.32 PMDamn you Google, you’ve done it again.  Well, it wasn’t all Google, but Google Ideas did provide the seed money for the Comparative Constitutions Project  to develop Constitute.  Frankly, it’s just awesome.  What makes it awesome?  160 constitutions.  Yes, 160 of those documents from around the world.

You can read them. You can search them. You can analyze them. You can even refer to a specific one, such as the US Constitution, when you want to challenge some crazy liberal idea that appears to have complete disregard for that constitution.  Print or download constitutions, or even pin sections of different constitutions and download those in one document for comparative purposes.

The site provides a variety of different ways for you to research constitutions, such as browsing by country, date, or topic.  For example, say you are interested in proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America and want to know what that procedure would include:

Constitute Search

Or perhaps you are interested in finding where ‘God’ is referenced in the US Constitution:

Search for God in US Constitution

Hmmm…no results.  Good thing they also allow you to report errors, right?

How could this get even better?  Perhaps a Google Docs plug-in so that when you pin the sections you really like from various constitutions, those sections can then be added directly to a Google Doc to be crowd-edited by all.

Seriously, though.  160 constitutions from all over the world.  Very nice.

 

Tech Tip Tuesday: Texting Tip

I have been surprised to learn that several people didn’t know there is a keyboard shortcut on your phone that allows you to be grammatically correct with ease!  So here it is.

When you start a text on your phone, your phone is quite helpful and will capitalize the first letter for you.  As we know, when we finish a sentence, the next letter of the new sentence should begin with a capital letter as well.  Here is a quick tip to end one sentence with a period and start a new sentence with a capital letter. 

Just hit the space bar twice.

That’s it.  So if you’re typing along like so:

Hey, tomorrow is the middle of the week [space] [space] that makes it hump day!

You’ll get:

Hey, tomorrow is the middle of the week. That makes it hump day!

Some things in life are just that easy. 

Tech Tip Tuesday: Read Faster

Readfa.st

Last week I gave you DailyLit, a service that sends you bit of a book to your email, the only place we tend to spend a lot of time reading.  This week, I will keep with my reading theme.  With the amount of information we consume each and every day through reading, there still seems to be so much to read.  Because of this, many people are often looking for ways to improve their reading speed.

The deluge of online and electronic texts did not create this need for reading faster.  There have long been speed reading programs such as the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics, as well as speed reading tips.  There have also been many web-based programs to help you improve your reading speed, such as ZapReader and SpreederReadfa.st is my personal favorite, it highlights the text and greys out the surrounding text (compared to some other services that either show one word or sentence at a time), you can adjust the text size or the background color, it scores you and makes it easy to adjust your speed, and you can install a bookmarklet to easily pull text into readfa.st.

To get a quick overview of how it works, check out their video then head over to Readfa.st and give it a try:

Tech Tip Tuesday: DailyLit

DailyLit

I like to read, it’s true.  Many people assume that is why I became a librarian.  Many people also assume, that as a librarian, I get to read books all the time.  I do read a lot, but since becoming a librarian, I certainly don’t read as many books as I would like to.  What I do read a lot of is email.  DailyLit offers a way to combine the things you want to read with the thing you spend a lot of time reading already.  Now you can read books an email at a time in three easy steps:  find a book, enter your email, subscribe.  You can determine what time you want to receive your installment.

I’ve been wanting to re-read Anna Karenina for a while now.  I’ve started to a few times, but I never have enough time to get through it.  Now I can schedule my readings an email at a time.  The emails are kept short and only take 2-5 minutes to read.  For example, Anna Karenina will come to you in 423 easy to read installments.  War and Peace (another classic I need to read one of these days) will come to you in 663 easy installments.

At a library I used to work in, I used to grab a book before I got on the elevator because this particular elevator was prone to breaking down.  With DailyLit, I don’t need to grab a book because I can read it on my phone.  If you want to read more than one installment, you can just request the next one.  I use Gmail, too, so I can label my emails and easily retrieve my books as well.  Stuck in traffic?  Waiting in line at the grocery store?  In a never ending meeting?

Another plus is that it is completely free.  The only negative (minor one) is that it does not have the selection of an Amazon or a Barnes&Noble, but it has enough offerings to keep you reading for a while.  Especially in the classics.  Perhaps now I can actually read all those classic novels that everyone expects me to have read already!

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Fun

GoogleI’ve been somewhat of a Google Geek since about 1998, when I read a paper by Brin and Page while I in still working on my M.I.S.  I knew they were going make something big, only I didn’t have a good business mind back then.  If I did, I might be much better off financially today!  Even though I didn’t get rich off Google, I do make sure I stay up on what they are doing and admittedly I really like a lot of what they do.  One thing I find very cool about Google is that they like to have some fun and have a pretty cool sense of humor.

Here are some fun things you can do with Google (you may want to select ‘Do Not Use Google Instant’ under your search settings)  Things that you should type are put in single quotes and you do not need to include the quotes in your search.  Most of these searches will also work best if used from the main Google search page rather than from the results pages from your first search.

Some ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ searches:

  • type ‘search‘ and click on the I’m feeling lucky Google search option
  • type ‘google gravity‘ and click on the I’m feeling lucky Google search option
  • type ‘google gravity‘ and click on the I’m feeling lucky Google search option
  • type ‘google hacker‘ and click on the I’m feeling lucky Google search option
  • type ‘epic google‘ and click on the I’m feeling lucky Google search option
  • type ‘google goth‘ and click on the I’m feeling lucky Google search option
  • type ‘search‘ and click on the I’m feeling lucky Google search option

Calculator Fun:

  • type ‘the answer to life the universe and everything
  • type ‘loneliest number
  • type ‘once in a blue moon’
  • type ‘baker’s dozen

Fun Search Results:

  • type ‘tilt‘ or ‘askew
  • type ‘do a barrel roll‘ or ‘Z or R twice
  • type ‘recursion
  • type ‘ascii art
  • type ‘anagram

What fun things have you found in Google Search?

Tech Tip Tuesday: Productivity and Time Management Tips

Life is busy and seems to keep getting busier.  We have meetings, events, projects, tasks, interests, and much more.  How can we better manage our productivity and time more effectively and efficiently?  Two tools that work for me are my calendar and my to-do list, specifically I love my Google Calendar and Remember the Milk (RTM).   I prefer using online tools, but the good old fashioned paper and pencil method work very well too.  The key is finding what works best for you.

There are also processes or methods you can use to work more productively.  GTD or Getting Things Done has a huge following.  With GTD, the goal is to free your mind to focus on important things by externalizing your tasks.  How often do we walk around trying to remember that one thing that we have a feeling we just have to get done?  Another popular technique is called the Pomodoro Technique where tasks are broken into pomodoro increments.  In this method, you set a timer for 25 minutes and completely focus on a task for that time, then take a 3-5 minute break and continue the process until the task is done.  Both of these can be started with just a pencil and paper (and a timer for the Pomodoro Technique).

Back to what works for me!  I like Google Calendar and RTM because I can access them anywhere online and because I can integrate them.  I need Google Calendar to keep my life, my work, my family, and even the library hours in order.  I use RTM to get things done because I too often walk around trying to remember things.

I read an interesting article a while back that said what we really need is a goal calendar and not an appointment calendar.  While I agree with a lot of what the article says, I disagree with part of it.  It’s probably more due to the nature of my job, but I’m in the business of helping people, so people need access to my calendar and my time.  That being said, I do borrow a bit from what he says and will block out some time on my calendar that are merely appointments with myself to focus on a particular task.  For me it helps me stay focused.  Granted, there will always be distractions and interruptions, which is good because those often result in other interesting projects.

Calendar Tips
So, get out there and explore a few of these tools.   By the way, another cool to-do list tool is LazyMeter, which contrary to its name is geared to show you how productive you are and can be.   Explore these tools, try a few, and then pick what works best for you and develop your own productivity process.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Visual.ly

Many years ago, before I became a librarian, I worked in the Registrar’s Office at Indiana University (*the* Indiana University in Indiana and not Pennsylvania).  I spent my days having fun with college enrollment data.  Exciting stuff, I know!  While I was there, though, I was introduced to Edward Tufte, one of the pioneers of data visualization.  I was hooked.  Prof. Tufte also has some interesting things to say about PowerPoint as well.  Data visualization helps tells a story about data rather than just providing a data dump of numbers, facts, and figures.

Jump forward a few years to today and data visualization is all the rage.  A news day doesn’t go by with some interesting and some not-so-interesting graphic depicting data in a very visual way.  If you’re really good with Google you can search for some of the very data rich infographics that are out there.  Or you can use Visual.ly.  Visual.ly has not only partnered with some of the better names in data visualization design to offer a searchable data repository of these graphics, but they are also developing tools for those of us who are missing some design genes.  In the meantime, check out Visual.ly and see what interesting data representations you can find, such as the one below on ‘The Evolution of the Noble Librarian’.

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